This past week, at Smith Chapel Church, we addressed the nature of the new birth as we examined John 3:1-15. It is vitally important to note that the discourse given by Jesus concerning the new birth was directly related to false faith. We noted this connection in the language between the end of John 2, and the opening of John 3.
“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” John 2:23-25
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”” John 3:1-3
Therefore, it stands forth from the context, that there is a faith which is acceptable to Jesus and also one that is not. Acceptable faith, according to Jesus, is a result of being born again. We know this by Jesus final statement in His discussion with Nicodemus,
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3:14-15
The Apostle John also makes this connection is his first epistle,
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.” 1 John 5:1
The point being, the nature of the new birth is that it is the work of God, through which authentic, acceptable faith is given by God to those whom He chooses.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13
The question that typically comes to mind is, “how can I know if my faith is genuine, authentic, acceptable faith? How can I know if I am born again? How can I know if I am truly a Christian?”
Doubt is certainly no respecter of persons, and in time will plague everyone. Perhaps it will be the result of a major fall, or maybe an unanswered question. In short, we all want to know for sure that we are born again.
In his book, “Saved Without A Doubt”, John MacArthur examines the contents of 1 John noticing eleven evidences, put forth in question form, of having been born again. I hope they serve to encourage those who have been born again of God to assurance of their faith, and also to convict those who have not, and lead them to a knowledge of the truth and genuine salvation.
1. Have you enjoyed fellowship with Christ and the Father?
“that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:3, 5-7
There is a fellowship to share as a result of the new birth. The word used here for fellowship means, communion or participation with. This is an experiential relationship with the Father, through the Son, by the indwelling Spirit.
2. Are you sensitive to sin?
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” 1 John 1:5-6
These verses proclaims the sinlessness of God, there is absolutely no darkness in Him, and those who say they have fellowship with Him, and are continually walking in, pursuing, holding onto sin and darkness are liars! This seems harsh but it is the reality of the Scripture. My old Pastor used to say, “living the way you are living, and loving the things you are loving, can you say that you really love God?” Sin and darkness will trouble the true believer for sensitivity to sin is fruit of the new birth. This is not saying anyone is sinless, but rather there is an awareness of sin, repentance from sin, and walking in the Spirit rather than in sin.
3. Do you obey God’s Word?
“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” 1 John 2:3-4
This is as simple as it gets, if we know Him, we keep His commandments. Do you strive to keep God’s commandments, not for acceptance but because of your knowledge of Him, your relationship with Him? This is only done by those who have been born again.
4. Do you reject this evil world?
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17
Now we are talking about a denial, a rejection of the things of this world (the rulership of Satan 1 John 5:19). Fleshly desire, that is sensuality, desires of the eyes, that is sexual immorality and covetousness, and pride in possession, that is materialism and idolatry, should all be rejected by the true believer. These things are recognized as temporal, momentary, and the true believer will hold fast to the will of God which abides forever.
5. Do you eagerly await Christ’s return?
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2
Those who do reject this evil world do so with hopeful expectation that Christ is going to return, and take them to their heavenly dwelling. As Paul says, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, Jesus Christ”.
6. Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life?
“No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 1 John 3:6-10
Again, this does not mean the true believer will be sinless, rather by using the phrase, “makes a practice of sinning” the Apostle means living like there is no law of God, living in lawlessness. This will be put to death by those who are truly born of God, and will be replaced with righteousness.
7. Do you love other Christians?
“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” 1 John 3:10-11
Now this doesn’t mean a verbal love, but rather a tangible love that is clearly seen, not just heard.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”1 John 3:16-18.
8. Do you experience answered prayer?
“and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”. 1 John 3:22-24
God answers the prayers of those who keep His commandments, only those who have been born of Him keep His commandments, therefore if we are receiving answers to prayer, we know that we have been born again. It is important to remember however, that yes is not the only answer to prayer, the answer may also be, “no”, or “not right now”.
9. Do you experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit?
“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”. 1 John 4:13-16
While the ministry of the Spirit is multi-faceted, the Apostle makes it clear that one of His primary actions is to cause believers to see the Father, the coming of the Son as Savior, confess this as truth, and to know and believe God’s love for His people. Other aspects of the Spirit’s ministry include: illumination and understanding of Scripture, conviction, sealing, power to live a Godward life, unity with other believers, building believers into a dwelling for God, bearing fruit of love, joy peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self control and much more. The point being, these things are only brought about by the Spirit.
10. Can you discern between spiritual truth and error?
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world…We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” 1 John 4:1, 6
This does not mean that all at once a true believer will know all truth from all error, rather it means that the spirit of the believer is awakened by the Holy Spirit to discern the things which contradict the truth now inside of them. The key here is the test. There is a desire to test all things by the truth revealed about God in His Word, and everything that is in error against His revealed truth will be rejected.
11. Have you suffered rejection because of your faith?
“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” 1 John 3:13
This hatred from the world is not a response to an attitude or evangelistic style, it is toward the truth. The world hates those who pattern their lives after the truth of God’s word.
“For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;” 1 Peter 4:3-4
It is not a matter of some people living differently from them and everyone just doing whatever they desire, the world wants acceptance from and participation by everyone in their sinful lifestyles, and when the believer refuses to accept or participate due to their faith and relationship with God the world will hate this believer. They refuse to hear the truth, they will not listen, and they will hate you for what you believe, and they will reject you from their society.
A true believer will be able to answer yes to all of these questions in some measure, even if they only became a Christian recently. John has given these tests to provide true believers with confidence that they have been born again, and to expose those who profess faith and are liars. Judge yourself honestly, and call upon God who is the only Savior.
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13
*Jr., John MacArthur. Saved Without a Doubt: Being Sure of Your Salvation (John Macarthur Study). 3rd ed. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2011.