On Thu, 1 Jun 1995 XXX wrote:
If faith in the finished, substitutive death of Jesus Christ
is the proscribed key to the attainment of eternal life, how
can someone know they have the right faith?
The subjective side of faith is known thru introspection:
2 cor 13:Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test
The objective side of faith is shown by our actions...
since faith is "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain
of what we do not see. " (heb 11.1)...
how can I be sure I believe in a reality I cannot see? the answer is: "If
I act AS IF I CAN see it!"...
for example, if I believe there is an invisible tree stump outside my
front door, when I leave in the morning I WILL WALK AROUND THAT SPOT to
keep from smashing into it...in other words, I act as if I can see it...
The certainty of what I cannot see...makes me "SEE" it...
in the case of Christ's finished work, if I act AS IF it were 'visible',
I would manifest behavior reflective of that certainty: thankfulness for
it, confidence in my approach to the Awesome Father, confession of sin
without the extended guilt-feelings (banking on His shed blood), maybe
even manifest a little evangelistic behavior to share with others (or
least a desire to, maybe paralyzed by fear or lack of operational
knowledge) what this sacrifice would mean for them...
you get the idea...
These two 'tests'--1) search your own heart with as much honesty as
possible; 2) search your outside life for behavior indicative of
'confidence of the reality of it', are accompanied by a third half-way
'test'--are there any indications that your belief has affected OTHER
BELIEFS in your worldview (like #2, but the behavior is 'cognitive')...
for example, do alternate theories of the cross (e.g. role model theory)
just not 'do it for you'? Or, does the Christian understanding of the
Cross define 'boundaries' to your thinking (a sure fire way to
know!)...if some argument leads in the direction of 'disproving' the
Cross, do you INSTANTLY go into 'suspend judgment' mode on it? If you
are truly, truly convinced of the work of our Lord on the Cross, and have
embraced it personally as YOUR claim to be related to God, then your
reaction to alternate (and less exalted!) views of Christ's work will be
'reacted to' at a PERSONAL/HOLISTIC level FIRST, BEFORE your 'react to
If the proof is supposed to be in the pudding, i.e. "fruits,"
(Mt 7:20) how will Jesus say, "I never knew you," (Mt 7:23)
in light of all the outward manifestations of faith that
were present? Obviously He knows, but how can a person
know that they truly know Jesus, and not just the things
A couple of observations about the passage...
1. it is in the context of false prophets (7.15-20), and generally
applies to them.
2. the people are said to NOT have 'done the will of the Father'--the
will of the Father relates to inner righteousness and consistent life
(not spectacular external actions such as prophecy, exorcisms, miracles).
3. the context of the thornbushes/thistles indicates that the 'good
works' may be fraudulent. "From a distance the little black berries on
the buckthorn could be mistaken for grapes, and the flowers on certain
thistles might deceive one into thinking figs were growing. But no one
would be long deceived." (D.A. Carson, Matthew, Expos. Bibl. Comm.) -----
the point is that THE life of the false prophets/false professors was
only good FROM AFAR...up close they appeared what they were: evildoers
4. since the general 'fruit' motif in the bible relates to character,
that is what we should understand as BEING MISSING in these people...
5. the very response they make betrays a lack of understanding of the
basis of Judeo-Christian acceptance. I FOR ONE would NEVER appeal to my
'good works' in the presence of Jesus Christ! Think about this for
moment--do their words ALONE not indicate a fundamental lack of
faith/understanding? My appeal will be to the finished work of Christ,
and to the works He has wrought in my character...
So, there is enough information available to show us that these
individuals were NOT truly experiencing the life of God...
And, at the same time, the point about 'examine the fruit UP CLOSE'
challenges us to continually examine the individual acts/words of our
lives 'up close' to weed out the bad, and grow the good...
hope this helps...Glenn