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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Friday, March 10, 2006

Testing Our Faith

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - 2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

Daily Scripture Reading - Acts 7

Puritan Catechism
Question #19 - Did God leave all mankind to perish in the state of sin and misery?

Answer: God having, out of his good pleasure from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life (2 Thess. 2:13), did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the state of sin and misery, and to bring them into a state of salvation by a Redeemer (Rom. 5:21).

Confessing Our Faith- NEW Feature!
This section of the daily devotional will be devoted to a reading taken from our church's Confessions of Faith - The First (1646) and Second (1689) London Baptist Confessions of Faith. Just as we study the Puritan Catechism to reinforce the truth of Scripture, so to it is helpful to remind ourselves of the standards of faith that we have confessed together as a local body of believers.

We will start with a daily reading from The First London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1646. For the history of the writing of this confession, visit the "Baptist Documents" section of the Reformed Reader site.

The First London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1646
Chapter 9 - The Lord Jesus Christ, of whom Moses and the Prophets wrote, the Apostles preached, He is the Son of God, the brightness of His glory, etc. by whom He made the world; who upholdeth and governeth all things that He hath made; who also when the fullness of time was come, was made of a woman, of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David; to wit, of the virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her, the power of the most High overshadowing her; and He was also tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Genesis 3:15, 22:18, 49:10; Daniel 7:13, 9:24; Proverbs 8:23; John 1:1, 2, 3; Hebrews 1:8; Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 7:14; Revelation 5:5; Genesis 49:9, 10; Romans 1:3, 9:10; Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23, 26; Hebrews 2:16; Isaiah 53:3, 4, 5; Hebrews 4:15.

Devotional Thoughts
In the book of Acts, chapter 7, we read the account of the stoning of Stephen. One of seven men chosen to serve the church and the first New Testament martyr for Christ. As he proclaimed the truth to those accusing him he preached a message about the history and heritage of Israel. That message reads very much like Hebrews 11.

Stephen starts with the call of God to Abraham. He recounts the history of Abraham's journey from Ur and tells about the prophecy regarding Israel's stay in Egypt, and he talked about the promises that God had made. He mentioned the Covenant with Abraham and the sign of that covenant, circumcision. God had separated a special people for Himself.

It was significant because those listening were Jews. They were descendents of Abraham. They knew this history. But Stephen was making a point. For as he continued to preach, he told of the story of Jacob and Jospeh and the burial of Joseph's bones in Shechem. He kept going back to the promises and faithfulness of God just as we have been studying.

He went on to talk about Moses and the Exodus (still to come from our Hebrews 11 study). And then he made the point that the nation of Israel, though chosen by God, had continually been rebellious to God. They were a stiff necked people - a people who just like their ancestors persecuted the prophets and rejected the message of the gospel.

Stephen says that they resisted the Holy Spirit! For all that God did for them and through them there was only ever a remnant of faithful in Israel. The nation depended upon their ancestry for peace with God. They thought it was enough that they were Abraham's descendents. But Stephen made the point - they had rejected the truth, rejected God, and while the Patriarchs had been faithful, on the whole the nation had been rebellious and had displeased God time and time again.

Here we learn that as we study the faith of the Patriarchs, it is never enough to rest on the faith of others. For those who came after them were for the most part unfaithful. The "Hall of Faith" we find in Hebrews 11 is really a very short chapter when you think about it. How many more were not faithful?

Often we fall into this trap. We depend upon the fact that we might have been brought up in church, or that our parents are believers, or that we have always gone to church and tried to do what is right. But faith is more than that. Faith is not something handed down from generation to generation. It is not something bestowed by birthright. It is not something we can give our children or grandchildren. Faith is a gift from God, given to whomever He choses to give it.

So when we look at the faith of the Patriarchs, and our parents, and at our family and our church, we need to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith! The Bible is clear. If we are in the faith there will be clear indicators. Likewise there will be evidence if we are not in the faith, too.

Sadly, many in the church today are deceived. They think that they are in the faith, but they are not. Their faith is not true saving faith. It is an illusion, fake and false. It is faith in self instead of faith in Christ. It is faith in works instead of faith in Christ. It is faith in heritage instead of faith in Christ. And faith that is placed in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ is only deceptive, dead, and false!

We are told, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified." What do we look for when we examine ourselves? How do we know if we are in the faith?

Some would say it is remembering your conversion - when you prayed a prayer or made a decision or asked Jesus into your heart. Some would say it is remembering your baptism, that public profession of faith made as you submitted yourself to the ordinance of the church. Some would say it was when you were confirmed before the church, or some other ceremony that is used for assurance.

But what does the Bible say? What do we look for to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith? Today we will quickly look at 4 things that we need to examine our lives for to see if we are in the faith!

Fruit

Jesus says that we can know about any person and their faith by looking at the fruit that their lives produce. "A tree is known by its fruit." Interstingly we often have the wrong idea about fruit. We think of leading people to Christ or doing good in the community as fruit. Giving, praying, witnessing, volunteering, etc. We think fruit is being successful and friendly. But in the Bible fruit is more about the inside than the outside! It is a matter of heart and motive. The fruit of the Spirit is the fruit we need to look for if we are going to see if we are in the faith.

As we have discussed before, there is bad fruit (works of the flesh) and good fruit (fruit of the Spirit) listed in Galatians 5. An easy summary shows us that if we are always bearing bad fruit then we are not in the faith! If on the other hand we bear good fruit consistently, then we can have assurance that we are in the faith. Here is the list again to refresh your memory:

Bad Fruit - adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.

Good Fruit - love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Which fruit is evident in your life?

Good Works

Secondly we look at works. James 2:14-26 is clear, faith that does not produce good works is dead faith. In other words, the proof of the reality of our faith is seen in how we act toward others!

This is convicting but think about this scenario. What would you do if you knew that a member of your church was suffering with some financial struggles? Perhaps a member of the family was out of work, bills were stacking up, maybe even someone in the family was having health problems. All of this piles up on a family and they are desperate and lonely. (Does this happen? Well if you do not know take your eyes off of yourself and look around - true faith sends us out looking for those in need in the Body of Christ so that we might help!) In this case, as bad as it sounds, what would you do? Notice the question. I is not "What would you think, pray, or say?" It is "What would you DO?" For it is not saying or thinking that matters - it is DOING!

The example given in James 2 is that a person who has FAKE faith, dead faith, faith that cannot save, that person acts like this: "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" They say, "Be Warm! Be Filled!" But it is all just words. They do nothing at all to actually help. Why? Because they are focused on self instead of Christ and His Body!

The Apostle John goes further. He says that to act like this when there are people around us in the church who have needs and we see it and ignore it is to not even know the love of God! "But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?"

This is but one example. The church today is just too full of itself - self centered, self absorbed, self gratifying. All around us people have needs and yet we do nothing. Love and faith that does not count the cost of following Christ is neither true love nor saving faith!

Love

It is true, love is a fruit of the Spirit and a mark of knowing Christ. Beyond fruit and works we need to see if we are truly living a life of love for God and our neighbor! If we say we love God but in actions and attitudes we hate our brother then the Bible says we do not love or know God! This is tough truth isn't it? But as we have studied the Patriarchs and have seen their faith we see that true faith pays the price - true faith is built on love. Again, in 1 John 3 we see an example given of Cain. We are not to be like Cain, but like his brother Abel. Who was accepted? Who was faithful? And who was full of hate and murder?

Love is a mark of maturity and an indicator of the genuineness of our faith. Not love in words - but love in action! What have you done recently to show those around you that you love them?

Obedience

Love as a mark of true faith leads us to obedience. If we constantly disobey the Word of God then we cannot claim to have faith. Jesus said that if we love Him we will keep His commands. Obedience is fruit, works, and love all wrapped into one package. We love God and believe God and so we obey God. If we live in consistent and willful disobedience then we prove for all to see that we are not in the faith. You see, proof of salvation is not years ago where we prayed a prayer and "nailed down a stake" to remember our conversion. No. Proof of salvation, evidence of faith is seen in how we are living right now!

The Bible defines love for God as obedience to Him. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments." As you examine your faith, what do you find? What are the test results that you get when you look at works, fruit, love, and obedience in your life right now today? Think of it this way - if you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you of the charges?

Think about your relationships in the church. Look beyond yourself. Look to how you treat others. Are you bearing fruit, doing good works, loving others, and being obedient to God?

If not, repent! And get in the Word and ask for faith. If we fail this test we have no hope and are in great danger! For this is the test that reveals the nature of our faith. Are we really trusting Christ? Are we saved? Are we in the faith? Our lives will tell. What is your life saying today?

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

Abraham's Faith, and Ours by Lig Duncan
The Activity of Faith by Thomas Hooker
Dead Faith and Living Faith by John MacArthur


Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship


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