Marks of a True Christian 2
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Marks of a True Christian 2
1 John 3:9
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Last Sunday I tried to talk about the marks of a Christian, the marks of a child of God. And we said that a basic mark of a child of God is a great gratitude that they have to Jesus; a personal gratitude that they have to him for dying for them in a way that no one else could. And I think it’s very possible in groups like our own, or in groups to which we’ve all belonged, to assume things. I think it’s very easy to assume, “Of course I’m a Christian. I believe what Christians’ believe. I believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world. I believe in what we’re doing. Of course, I’m a Christian.”
But yet, there has not been what Luther called, “A work done in the heart.” And it seems to me very important that all of us grasp clearly that becoming a Christian is not simply a change of mind. It is not saying, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe that he is the Savior of the world. I believe that he died for the forgiveness of all our sins, and I believe that we should tell people what has happened.” It is not simply a mental belief.
And I’d just ask you to look at that verse that is startling in James that mentions that belief, the ‘mental belief’ itself has nothing to do with being born of God. It is certainly not the basic condition of being born of God. In James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.” And of course the point that James is making is that, the demons believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world and they shudder, but they don’t change their will.
And I think it’s possible for many of us even to have a fear of God, and to have a fear of hell, and yet to continue exercising our own will in our lives. And while we do that, God is not able to send the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. And so there is no basic change in our hearts. We take on the beliefs of Christianity; we take on even the works of Christianity, but our hearts themselves are not changed. John Wesley said, “Faith is not a speculative rational thing, a cold, lifeless assent; not a train of ideas in the head, but a disposition of the heart.” And it’s very possible for us to regard belief or faith as a speculative, rational thing; a cold lifeless assent, a train of ideas in the head. But the disposition of the heart remains as it was before we ever heard of Jesus.
And I say that to us this morning because sometimes, if it’s said to you, “The basic mark of a child of God is a tremendous gratitude to Jesus,” you will know in your heart whether that is there or not. You will know whether that is the ruling – Pope, Alexander Pope, the 18th Century poet, talked about a ‘ruling passion’. What is the ‘ruling passion’ of your life? You know whether that is the ruling passion of your life. And I say ‘ruling passion’, because all of us have a gratitude to Churchill, we have a gratitude to all the great men that went before. We have a gratitude to teachers, we have a gratitude to all the great men that went before; we have a gratitude to teachers; we have a gratitude to all the great people who have benefited the world. And so we have a gratitude to Jesus in a way. “Of course; I mean, he brought me my parents, he brought me my church, he brought me my upbringing, I’m grateful to him for many things. But do you see that this is a gratitude to Jesus that is – Wesley called it a ‘recumbency upon Christ’, a falling back into his arms; there are no other arms to fall into. I am going to hell for my sins. I am dead, and I can do nothing about it. I cast myself into Jesus’ arm in desperation. That brings a love relationship
between you and him that is like nothing else on earth. And that becomes the ruling passion of your life. And that is what governs everything. And that is what disposes your heart in a certain way.
And if you don’t have that, you can be – well, you can be one of the people that are mentioned, you remember, by Jesus in John 3. It’s actually – he talks about the new birth in John 1:12, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood…” And so some of us are born of Christian families; born of Catholic parents; born of Baptist parents; born of Methodist parents; born of Brethren parents; born of Mennonite parents. And we think, “Oh well, of course, we think the way they do; we believe the way they do; we like going to church; we’ve been going to church for years; we’re born of their blood.
But, it says, “Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh.” And so it can be the ‘will of the flesh’. “Well, I became a member of the Methodist church; I became a member of the Baptist church; I became a member of the Brethren church; I became a member of this church, I became a member of this organization, and I will…” That is a will of the flesh; I willed it. But, do you see that we can will many things in our flesh which do not form the condition for God sending the Spirit of his Son into our heart? So, we can be Pharisees, and we can try to obey the Jewish law, but that does not enable God to send the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.
Only one thing enables God to send the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, that is, an absolute conviction in our hearts that we are lost and finished. That because of the anger, because of the pride, because of the selfishness in our lives, because of the things we have said to people, because of our attitude to others and our attitude to God, we are dead in our sins; we are going to go to hell; we’re going to burn forever in the lake of fire, in something like our own lust, our own selfishness, and our own pride. And we are there, forever done and finished, and we sense that there is no hope for us; that we cannot do anything to save ourselves from that. And we come into an absolute place of repentance before God. And we say, “Lord, I am sorry that my sins have caused you to send Jesus to hell for me. I am sorry Lord.”
And we break before him, not in sorrow for ourselves, because it’s popular today to say, “Look, I came to a place in my life where I just — I couldn’t handle it anymore. I couldn’t handle it. I had too much.” And it’s full of self-pity. We just mean we couldn’t handle our drugs, or our drink, or we couldn’t handle ourselves or our selfishness, or the mess that we had made of our lives. That’s not repentance, that’s just self-pity; that’s sorrow for yourself. But repentance is, “Lord, I stand before you as a person who is condemned to death, rightly and justly, because I love myself and I don’t love you, and I want my way, and I don’t want yours, and I am due death and death alone. And I am due that now. I have said that, and Lord I am sorry. I repent to you for the pain that I have caused you.” Repentance is a sorrow to God for what pain you have caused him, and then it’s a ‘falling into the arms of Jesus’.
Wesley says – I couldn’t find the piece in the sermon. He says, “There are people who say, ‘I know nothing of that repentance. I have no need for that repentance. I’m not a bad person. I’ve done some wrong things; I realize that I ought to try better, but I don’t need that kind of repentance. Indeed, it repels me. The whole idea of ‘humbling myself before God’ and calling myself a ‘miserable wretched sinner’, it repels me, and I don’t like it. I don’t need it. I don’t need it. I’m prepared to believe in Jesus, prepared to believe in God, prepared to believe he’s the Savior of the world.’” John Wesley said that. Peter Boehler [1712 – 1775, German-born Moravian missionary in the Americas and England] said, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world?” Wesley said, “Yes.” Boehler said, “Do you believe that he’s your Savior?” Wesley didn’t answer him.
So many of us are in that position where we’ve never known a real repentance. And so I’d ask you, “Have you known a real repentance in your life, a repentance where you fell before Jesus in desperation?” Now, if you do that, then there comes within you the Spirit of the Son. And that brings great gratitude and a great devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, a personal devotion. And the Holy Spirit begins to change your heart. And what happens actually is, God sends the Spirit of his Son into your heart. And it’s like a new spirit; and people notice it. They notice it in the way your face is softer; the way your smile is gentler; the way the tone of your voice is more kindly. They notice a change that comes into your life.
It’s not just a “Marty is now on fire for the Lord.” That so often can mean, “Well, he’s on fire for the cause of the Lord.” It could be for the cause of conservatism, or labor, or communism, but, “He’s for the cause of the Lord.” It’s not just that people say that. That people say, “Oh yeah, she’s really enthusiastic; she’s at church every Sunday.” No, it’s a disposition of the heart. There comes a Christ-likeness into your sentiments, into your feelings, into the way you express yourself; a kindliness, and a softness, a concern for Jesus and for those who do not know him.
And loved ones, where that is absent, we may — this is why I urge this upon you; we are great deceivers. Wesley said, “Our great problem as human beings is, we have a tendency to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.” And it doesn’t matter; it doesn’t matter, as Paul said, “If I give my body to be burned…” It doesn’t matter what you’ve done for the Lord, if there is not in you a gentle softness towards Jesus, a gratitude to him, and a love for all mankind, and a desire for them to know him too, and a readiness to bear anything; to bear any kind of insult for him, any kind of offense from them, in order to bring them into a relationship with Jesus, then you are not a child of God. You may be born of the will of the flesh, or born of blood, or born of the will of man. But you’re not a child of God unless the Spirit of Jesus governs your life, and draws you along.
Now, that brings us to the mark of a ‘child of God’ that I’ll ask you to look at today. It’s 1 John 3:9. Just one simple verse! The first mark of a child of God is an overwhelming gratitude to Jesus. The second mark of a child of God is 1 John 3:9, “No one born of God commits sin.” That’s it. God is so good to make it plan to all of us ‘cavaliers’ and ‘chancers’. The King James verse says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” You know how we go to work with our little Swiss Army knives; and by the time we’re finished with it there is nothing left. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” Does not commit sin; does not ‘do’ sin.
What is sin? It’s plainly stated in James. It’s not complex. James 4:17, “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” That’s it. Not talking about unconscious sin, as was discussed in the Old Testament. Not talking about things we don’t know about: mistakes that we make, all those that we make because of our imperfect minds. Not talking about even weaknesses, infirmities that we have. No, but ‘conscious disobedience’ to God’s will. “Whoever knows what is right to do and does not do it, for him it is sin.” And, “No one born of God commits sin.”
If you have heard Jesus’ word, “You have heard how it was said by them of old time, ‘Whosoever kills is in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you whosoever is angry with his brother is in danger of the judgment.” If you have heard that word in here [indicates his head], and in here [indicates his heart], and in your conscience, and you are angry with your brother, or your sister, or your husband, or your wife, or your child, and you’re angry with them; anger stirs up your heart, rankles in your heart, and comes out – even sometimes it will come out in words, and it comes out in words:
a cutting word, a sarcastic word, a cruel word, a harsh word, then that’s sin.
You know that’s sin. You know it’s wrong, and if you continue to do it, that sin, you’re saying, “Lord God, I know you said this is wrong, but I am continuing to make it part of my life.” No one born of God does that. No one born of God does that. The Bible says why? “Because God’s nature abides in him; the Spirit of Jesus is in him, and the Spirit of Jesus will not tolerate that. The Spirit of Jesus will react against that, will resist it. Wesley would say, “Whatever has been your ‘second experience’, or no ‘second experience’, whatever you have experienced in life, the Spirit of God is sufficient to enable you to keep your mouth closed.”
No one born of God commits sin, does sin. No one born of God expresses anger to each other, or to their loved ones. The word ‘habitually’ is not in the Bible. I mean, it’s no in the verse; it’s not in the Greek. Some of them say, “No one born of God habitually commits sin.” Well of course it is terrible, because I mean, even an out and out sinner doesn’t habitually commit sin; he commits it once in a while. So, the ‘habitual’ isn’t even in the verse. But even if you like to say ‘habitual’, no one born of God keeps on doing something that they know is wrong. He does it this week; holds it in for seven days; then does it again; holds it in for 10 days; then does it again. No one gives a vent to a spirit that is not like Christ, gentle, patient, kindly love; no one born of God does that.
Now, why I preach this so strongly just today is, the answer is, “The new birth.” The answer is to receive the Lord Jesus anew into us. That’s why I said, “If you see that the disease is there then you can go for the cure.” But if you keep thinking, “Well, I mean I’m a different kind of Christian than them,” or, “I’m a different kind of Christian to him or her. I just run it a different way.” Then you’ll keep on trying, and you’ll keep on patching forever, until you patch yourself into hell. But the Bible is very clear, “No one born of God commits sin.”
And loved ones, if you want it more clearly, look at Galatians. The best thing if you ever suspect you have cancer, the best thing is to get the symptoms as clear as you can, before you have to examine yourself in the light, if you really want truth, or want help. It’s Galatians 5:19, “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication,” we all say, “Oh, that’s not a problem.” “Impurity,” impurity is impure thoughts towards another person, thoughts that are not pure love towards another person. Thoughts that are critical; thoughts that are hostile; that’s impurity. “Licentiousness,” we all tend to say, “Oh well, I’m not licentious.” “Idolatry,” “Oh, I don’t have any idols.” “Sorcery, enmity.” Enmity in the heart towards another person; a feeling of antagonism towards another person.
That’s where I would urge us to be honest about this thing, because it seems to me there’s great dishonesty — not only in the States, but here in our own England, there’s a great dishonesty about a thing like enmity. I mean, the fact is, “Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaketh.” And so, if you say to somebody, your sister, your brother, or your fellow worker, your husband, or your wife, and you say, “Do that now.” [Pastor says it in an impatient tone of voice.] That’s enmity. I mean, that’s enmity. Believe me, that’s enmity. You may have a strange definition of enmity, but that is enmity. That, coming over to another person, comes over as enmity. If I were a man, and you were a woman, and you were speaking to me those words, I would say that’s enmity. And I don’t think of myself as a little weakling who has faced no difficulties or opposition. But that is enmity. The tone of the voice is filled with enmity, you see.
If you say to me, “Well, well now, you can’t be ‘lovey dovey’ all the time.” No, you don’t need to
be ‘lovey dovey’. But I know that I can say to my wife, “Love, would you do that?” And there’s not enmity in the voice. So enmity is a thing that comes in the tone of voice. And see the Bible is so good, “Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh.” See, what is in the heart comes out. God has arranged it so wonderfully so that we can’t die in our sins in secrecy or in ignorance. It will come out. And what he’s saying is, “Enmity is a ‘work of the flesh’, it’s a sin.”
“Strife:” strife where you kind of stir it up. ‘What’s that person thinks he’s doing?” “What do they think they’re doing?” “Why do they do that?” That kind of thing. Complain and kind of whispering, mumbling: that sort of thing. “Jealousy,” well that stands for itself. “Anger, selfishness,” looking out for yourself; thinking of yourself; thinking what will benefit me and mine, not what will benefit the Lord Jesus and his blood; what will benefit for me and mine. And I think that’s what so often happens. I think we find ourselves so easily, in operations like this, but we ourselves are unchanged and all the time we’re looking out for the main chance. Kind of guiding our little ship through the shallows, “Yeah, well they want us to do that. Okay, get her around. Well, they want us to do that. I’m not going to do that unselfishly. Well, I’ll get this through, and eventually I’ll either outlive them all, or I’ll kind of guide myself out of this, and I’ll keep my little ship safe, and I’ll get my own selfish way.”
That can so often be the case. And that’s what they’re talking about here you see, “Selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” You know, it couldn’t be any plainer, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love.” So when the Bible says, “No one born of God commits sin,” it means those things. It means you do not do those things. It means a lot more than that, because of course, what the Spirit of Jesus brings within you is a love for those who do not know him. So, it brings an outgoing desire for other people to come to him. So it begins to fill your life with prayers for others that they may find Jesus. And it begins to fill you with a love of his word.
And I don’t where you are in your own ‘quiet times’, but it seems to me it’s not a case of, “this is something you ought to do to keep yourselves alive.” This is something that a child of God can’t do without! There’s a love for his word; there’s a desire to study his word, to know his word, to receive comfort and strength from his word every day, and there’s a desire for morning prayer. So, really I would ask – in a way, that’s what God has called me to do, to step right in into the middle of all your lives. Into the middle of Dan and Andrea’s life, into Peggy’s life, into Dee’s life, into Trisha’s life, and say, “Look! Have a look! Have a look at what’s happening. Do you love to get up in the morning to seek him in prayer? And do you love to read his word?”
Please, I’m not saying you ought to do that if you’re a Corps person. I don’t care what you do as a Corps person. I’m saying if you don’t do that there is not the Spirit of Jesus in your heart yearning for his Father. That’s it. I’m saying you’re not born of God. I’m saying this is emergency time! Ring the bells; wave the red flags; put the red lights on. This is a sad, serious time in your life. Ask yourself, “Do I have the marks of a child of God? Do I have a desire to be with my Father as often as I can each day?”
Now, if you haven’t, that’s sin. You see that? See, sin is not just getting into bed with a girl to whom you’re not married and fornicating. That’s not it. That’s not it. That’s immorality; it’s wrong; it’s an outcome of sin. But sin is something that you could be doing right there, sitting there. You could be thinking, “Well, well, what does he think about where I am, or what I am
thinking, or what is right for me?” That’s sin. A proud kind of independence of God that resists his Spirit, that’s sin. Sin is independence of God. It’s anything that is not the gentle submissive Spirit of Jesus towards the Father. That’s sin. And no one born of God commits sin, you see, because the Spirit of God, the nature of God is in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.
So, a second mark of a child of God is that he doesn’t sin. I mean, there’s no difficulty. There’s no difficulty. If you look at 1 John, it deals with what Satan, of course, loves to bring up. 1 John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” So that we have to do; we have to accept we are sinners, and we need him. Verse 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So, if we do sin, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous.”
If I say to Dave, “Dave, when you’re driving the Sierra you ought to watch for that oil light. I mean, you’re okay as long as that’s off. But if that ever comes on, stop; you’re out of oil, and you’ll damage the engine.” And Dave drives along, sees the oil light coming on and says, “Oh well; OK, I’ll just carry on. I’ll just carry on.” That’s the situation. The norm is that you drive with enough oil in the car and with the oil light off. But, if the light does come on, then stop and get out.
The normal is, no one born of God can sin. If we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father. But, do you see what happens? The ’emergency’ becomes the ‘norm’ for many of us. So we live a life of sin. So, we’re rough with somebody; we’re harsh with somebody; we’re critical of somebody, “Well, we just confess our sins…” It’s just as bad as the prayer wheels. It’s just as bad as the Thai people; they just burn money. They burn money to the demons. “Sin today; burn money the next day! Sin today; burn money the next day!” We’re like that, except, our Savior has a sword going into his side every time we sin. So it comes to the point where it’s daily, “I sin; I sin; I sin.” Until eventually you come to the point of indifference. You’ve stabbed him so often that your conscience becomes seared, and it becomes the norm in your life.
So that’s why it’s so vital to be real with God, about this business of what sin is, and this business of what being Christian is. It’s a disposition of the heart that is like Jesus. That’s why I think – that’s why I think a family like this is the norm. This is normal living for children of God. Children of God are intended to be a boon and a blessing to each other, because they all have the Spirit of Jesus within them. And it comes out, not only in their words and their actions to each other, but it’s in their hearts even when they’re asleep to each other. It’s in their hearts. And so it’s a restful place to be, because you know each person only wants your best, and is looking out for you. And so it’s a kindly and a gentle place to be. But it takes real Christians. It takes ‘heart’ Christians, people who have had their heart changed by a work that God has done, through sending the Spirit of his Son into them.
Now, if anyone feels, “I’m falling short of that.” Then the remedy is right now! The remedy is right now! You don’t even need to come up to the altar or anything. The remedy is right now, as we bow our heads. Let us pray.