From time to time, I feel the importance of emphasizing the value of our members attending all the services of Berean Baptist Church. We are studying the last part of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians which speaks of sanctification and the evidentiary change in a believer’s life. Someone said, “Two things are at stake here. One, your own soul is at stake, so you need to understand whether you’re a real Christian or not. Secondly, the church needs to be observant about this so that we deal with the people for their own sake and for the protection of the church.”
What issue is so important that your soul is at stake because of it? What is so important that the church must be protected from it? The issue is sin and the belief that a person may profess to know Christ and yet continue to live in sin. Your soul is a stake because there are many in fundamental churches today that teach it is not necessary for a believer to submit to the Lordship of Christ, but may assent to the bare facts of the gospel, believe in Christ, and yet continue to live the same lifestyle of sin that was lived before. The problem with this preaching is that it gives false hope to those who believe their souls are safe from hell, when in fact, the lack of a radical, demonstrated change in a person’s life reveals the person has not actually been saved by the grace of God.
The apostle John makes this very clear with his arguments in 1 John concerning the nature of sin, the work of Christ, and the contrast between believers and unbelievers. Sin is the character of the devil, and habitual sin could not be the character of a person who has become a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Those who are born again have received the indwelling Spirit of Christ. They have a new nature with new desires. John also argues from the standpoint of Christ’s work. He tells us in the third chapter that Christ was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. Christ’s power over Satan is demonstrated immediately upon a believer in the work of salvation. The power of Satan to blind the sinner’s heart against the gospel must be broken. This is accomplished in regeneration when the sinner is brought to spiritual life in order to repent of sin and believe the gospel. Christ’s power does not stop upon initial belief. When the individual becomes a child of God, the sustaining power of God’s grace enables him to persevere in the faith. We are in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ. If a Christian could continue living the same life as before, at least three biblical doctrines must be denied—the new birth as a new creation in Christ, perseverance of the saints, and progressive sanctification. In effect, Christ’s present work in the believer is completely nullified.
Also, in 1 John 3, the apostle makes this statement in verse 10: “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God…” This is the King James translation which we advocate at Berean. But in addition to the KJV, the ESV, NIV, NEB, RSV, CEV, NASB, and the Amplified Bible among others, all translate this to the same effect. All of these are very clear that a life of righteousness is evidence of the new birth. The preceding verses are emphatic in making the point that a true believer will demonstrate his salvation by a life of holiness.
Your soul is at stake over this issue. Receiving the Lordship of Christ is evidence that you have been genuinely converted. The health of the church is at stake because an increasingly unregenerate membership will be death to the preaching of the gospel. I am afraid many that miss church could be greatly benefited by such teaching. Often, they are the ones who need it most. Examine your life. Are you one of them?
Pastor V. Mark Smith