If there was only one area of a person’s life that I care most deeply about it would be this one area – if they are true born again believers. And here’s why…
From September 2021 until March 2023, I removed myself from all social media. No Facebook. No YouTube. No Instagram. No Twitter. Nothing. And the reasons behind that decision were deeply personal. During that time, as the Lord’s providence would have it, I discovered several men who’s teaching and preaching were all so expository that I couldn’t get enough of it! What is expository preaching? GotQuestions.org explains it perfectly:
Expository preaching involves the exposition, or comprehensive explanation, of the Scripture; that is, expository preaching presents the meaning and intent of a biblical text, providing commentary and examples to make the passage clear and understandable. The word exposition is related to the word expose—the expository preacher’s goal is simply to expose the meaning of the Bible, verse by verse.
As a method, expository preaching differs from topical preaching and textual preaching. To prepare a topical sermon, the preacher starts with a topic and then finds a passage in the Bible that addresses that topic. For example, for the chosen topic of “Laziness,” the preacher might refer to Proverbs 15:19 and 18:9 and touch on Romans 12:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:10. None of the passages is studied in depth; instead, each is used to support the theme of laziness.
In a textual sermon, the preacher uses a text as a springboard for discussing a particular point. For example, someone could use Isaiah 66:7-13 to preach on motherhood, although motherhood is only peripheral in that text, being merely an illustration of the true theme, which is the restoration of Israel during the Millennial Kingdom.
In both topical and textual sermons, the Bible passage is used as support material for the topic. In expository sermons, the Bible passage is the topic, and support materials are used to explain and clarify it.
To prepare an expository sermon, the preacher starts with a passage of Scripture and then studies the grammar, the context, and the historical setting of that passage in order to understand the author’s intent. In other words, the expositor is also an exegete—one who analyzes the text carefully and objectively. (See our article “What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis?”) Once the preacher understands the meaning of the passage, he then crafts a sermon to explain and apply it. The result is expository preaching.
G. Campbell Morgan, pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel and known as “the prince of expositors,” taught that a sermon is limited by the text it is covering. Every word from the pulpit should amplify, elaborate on, or illustrate the text at hand, with a view towards clarity. He wrote, “The sermon is the text repeated more fully.” A sermon’s primary function is to present the text.
While exposition is not the only valid mode of preaching, it is the best for teaching the plain sense of the Bible. Expositors usually approach Scripture with these assumptions:
1) The Bible is God’s Word. If every word of God is pure and true (Psalm 12:6; 19:9; 119:140), then every word deserves to be examined and understood.
2) Men need divine wisdom in order to understand the Word (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).
3) The preacher is subject to the text, not the other way around. Scripture is the authority, and its message must be presented honestly, apart from personal bias.
4) The preacher’s job is to clarify the text and call for a corresponding response from his hearers.
An expositor cares little if his audience says, “What a great sermon” or “What an entertaining speaker.” What he truly wants them to say is, “Now I know what that passage means,” or “I better understand who God is and what He requires of me.”
During those couple of years off social media, I examined my own faith.
Some of what I had been taught all my life to believe and practice was not what the Bible teaches.
It was such a special time of really devoting myself to one pursuit … the truth. Leaning my entire salvation on what I had always believed, had always been taught to believe and had truly thought was ‘right’, was now being challenged through some of the teachings I was hearing and studying, all the way back to the time of the Reformation. Being off social media gave me time back, time to invest so intentionally on wanting the Holy Spirit to open my eyes and ears to see and perceive what was God’s truth in Scripture…. as it specifically pertained to being born again; being a child of God; having been born from above. And what I learned was not what I had been taught. It was not what I had ‘practiced’ for many many years of my life. And I am deeply grateful for those years off social media and entrenched in my Bible so that I now know … the truth!
So, as we approach April 9, Resurrection Sunday, I would like to ask you to do as Paul instructed the church in Corinth in testing and examining ourselves to know if we are truly in the faith, truly born from above. There are two tests, according to Scripture, for a person to determine whether or not he or she is a true believer. There is first of all an objective test, which asks, “Do I believe?” Ask yourself if you affirm the Scripture’s record of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Do you believe that He is God manifest in the flesh? Do you believe that God saves sinners solely through the merits of Jesus Christ’s obedient life and substitutionary death on the cross?
Second is the subjective or experiential test of assurance in which you ask yourself, “Is my faith real?” The apostle John’s purpose in writing the epistle of 1 John was to give true believers assurance of their salvation. Open your bible to 1 John 5:13 and ponder on what it is saying. Then, …
Watch these two messages with your Bible. After watching them both, please come back to this post and work through the small bible study I have provided for you.
Please watch both messages before working through this bible study.
In that small epistle of John 1, we find seven marks or rather distinguishing signs that allows a person to know if they are a true believer.
- True believers walk in the light. Read 1 John 1:6-7.
Here are those same scriptures from the Amplified Bible –
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness [of sin], we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we [really] walk in the Light [that is, live each and every day in conformity with the precepts of God], as He Himself is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another [He with us, and we with Him], and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].”
The light here means both intellectual and moral truth. When we read these verses, they are beckoning us to ask, “Do I affirm the truths of Scripture, and desire to obey them?” In other words, the first mark of a true believer is this – to agree that all Scripture is truth and to “want to” obey Scripture. That “want to” is one distinguishing mark of someone who possess the Spirit of God, because it is the Spirit of God who is putting the “want to” in a person’s will.
- True believers confess their sin – Read John 1:8-2:1 – As you read these verses, jot down words or phrases that are jumping off the page to you. Underline and circle those words that, as you read, they are wanting more of your attention.
Confess here doesn’t mean to recite every wrong that we have ever done. Rather, it means to agree with God about our sin. That means that true believers hate their sin; they don’t love it. They acknowledge they are sinful, and yet they know they are forgiven.
- True believers keep His commandments – Read John 2:3-4; 5:2-3 – Again, jot down from these verses the words or phrases that seem to be reaching for your thoughts.
The term here refers to a watchful, observant obedience. Here the believer desires to obey truths they deem as precious. It involves a proactive approach to obedience – the Christian studies Scripture in order to understand and obey it. There is a sense of hunger to know, understand and apply the Scriptures.
- True believers love the brethren – Read 2:9-11; 3:10, 14-15; 5:2 – Ask yourself the question, “Do I love God’s people and desire to be around them?” Write down what you’re thinking and talk with God about it, too. As He knows your heart and thoughts so perfectly, it’s the safest place to be when you are expressing such intimate trust in Him regarding your true feelings.
- True believers affirm sound doctrine – Read 2:20-23; 4:2,6 – John here teaches that no true believer will fall into any serious, Christ-denying error or heresy.
- Assurance of salvation is based on the absolute trustworthiness of sound doctrine – the Holy Scripture. Throughout the New Testament, we read God’s promises to save all who will believe upon His Son. The Bible says, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”(1) This is a promise! All who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ may have the firm confidence of salvation based upon the infallibility of God’s Word.
- Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”(2) If you come to Jesus with genuine repentance and faith, He promises that He will save you. We can know Jesus has received us because, quite simply, He said so! When the Bible speaks, God speaks. And what God said, He will surely do. He will save all who call upon Jesus Christ. You have His word on it.
- True believers follow after holiness – Read 2:29; 3:3-4, 6-9 – What thoughts come to your mind as you read those verses? Jot them down –
These verses certainly aren’t talking about sinless perfection, or even the frequency or duration of sin. The term sin in these verses describes one who lives an immoral, ungodly, unrighteous life as a matter of continual practice, and carries the attitude of hardened hate for God’s righteousness.
- True believers have the Holy Spirit – Read 4:13; 5:10-11 – When you read these verses, what do you feel? Try to describe your feelings as specifically as you can. Read them again if you need to, but after you do, what do you want to ask God right now? If you don’t want to write it as a prayer that’s fine. But as you read those verses, did something come to your heart and mind that you want to confess or maybe ask God to do in your life?, or simply pray to Him?
This is an over-arching test summing up all the others. Is there evidence that the fruit of the Spirit is present in your life (Galatians 5:22-23)?
In summary, one’s assurance of salvation does not need to be based on a past decision or an experience. It should rest first of all on one’s faith in the objective truth of God’s Word, Jesus Christ, and the gospel. Secondly, it should rest on the reality of a changed life marked by obedience, a love for Christ and His righteousness, and a hatred for sin. Assurance of salvation rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, He bore our iniquities, enduring God’s wrath, and cried out, “It is finished!”(3) By this, He meant that the full atonement for all our sins-past, present and future-has been made. His work of redemption now completed, our entire sin debt is paid in full. Just as salvation comes from believing in Christ alone, so does assurance. As we trust in Christ’s perfect sacrifice for our sins, the certainty of eternal life floods our hearts. No matter how great your sin, God’s grace is greater still. The Bible says, “Come now, and let us reason together. … Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.
One other truth about having assurance of salvation is this … it comes through the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit’s ministry to convince our hearts of our salvation.
In actuality, no preacher, evangelist, parent or friend can give us assurance. Neither can we work it up within ourselves. Only the Holy Spirit Himself can give us the absolute certainty of our eternal salvation.
The Bible says, “We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.”(5) … “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”(6) … “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”(7) This means, the Holy Spirit who convicted, called and converted us also convinces us that we belong to Christ. It is the Spirit’s inward witness that persuades us of the genuineness of our salvation.
Assurance comes through the evidence of a changed life. Ultimately, assurance is confirmed within us as we see God conforming us into the image of Jesus Christ – as we desire to obey Him. All who have been born again will see clear evidences of a new life in Christ. While we will never become perfect in this life, we will, nevertheless, experience a changed life. It is this inward transformation that provides strong confirmation of our salvation.
The book of First John details what are the vital signs of our new life in Christ. The Apostle John writes, “We know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”(8) In other words, we may be certain that we know Christ as we see within us a desired and willing obedience to God’s Word.
Likewise, John writes, other vital signs will follow: Love for other people,(9) love for God,(10) refusing the world,(11) understanding biblical truth,(12) righteous behavior,(13) opposition from the world(14) and answered prayer.(15) As we see this spiritual fruit produced in our lives, we may be confident that Christ lives within us.
Our next Growing Spiritually will be two more messages that I’d like to ask you to watch that will literally provide the blueprint from Scripture on what actually happens the moment someone is born again. What precedes such birth and what ‘new birth’ even means…what actually happens, and what is our role in it.
I hope you will continue meeting me here at Growing Spiritually, especially as we prepare our own hearts for Resurrection Sunday.
In His Grace and Peace,