“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?”
2 Corinthians 13:5
It’s been a beautiful day on the golf course. The sun is just about to set and my round is almost finished. The fall air is cold, but not too cold, and the vistas of the Missouri countryside are gorgeous. Many different shades of orange, red, and green trees are the backdrop as I stand on the tee box and scan where I want to hit the ball–but suddenly, my pocket vibrates.
“Matt, I struggle with an addiction. Since I struggle, will God leave me?” A text comes through on my oversized phone, from a friend of mine. Had I thought about it, I would have gone with a smaller phone because getting this one out of my pocket is a chore each time.
However, based on this text, it looks as if my friend is having a tough time with some sin, and he is a Christian. So I reply with some comforting words. Did I ask him, “Well, what are you struggling with so that I can gauge whether or not God has left you?” No. I comforted him because that’s what God does, for us. He comforts us when we are afraid of anything. Jesus told us this:
“But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
Jesus was comforting the disciples because He was about to be tortured and killed. He was letting them know what they were about to get themselves into by spreading the gospel of grace; that they would need His comfort, because the religious people and unbelievers would be against such grace.
As a Christian, this “Holy Spirit” whom Jesus said the Father would send, is here, right now, today. He’s in you at this very moment, whether you feel Him or not. That is, if you believe Jesus has forgiven you.
“But Matt, am I really saved?! How do I know for sure?!”
The verse at the top of this devotional tells you to test yourself to see if Jesus lives in you. So how do you do that? A couple things. Ask yourself these two questions:
For number one, that’s simple. The answer should be a quick yes. But for number two, this is a tricky one because we have an accuser who hounds us day and night (see Revelation 12:10). The devil and his demons want us to think that because we are struggling with a particular sin pattern we aren’t really saved–but honestly, the opposite is true.
If you weren’t saved there’d be no struggle! If you weren’t saved, the Holy Spirit of Jesus would not be in your spirit causing you to feel strife each time your flesh decides to act on that temptation. The struggle is evidence for your salvation–not against it.
As a child of God, you don’t want to sin. Your old immature thinking does, but you don’t. You are a perfect, heaven-ready spirit (see Colossians 1:22, Romans 8:9). The reason why we can’t grasp this fact is because we’ve been told we want to sin. We don’t! We’ve also been told we have two natures–WE DON’T! We have one nature, God’s nature! (See 1 Corinthians 2:16, 1 John 3:9, 2 Peter 1:4).
One of the reasons why we think we have two natures–and even I was duped–is because of the NIV Bible. I like the NIV Bible, I’m not downing it. But unless we are reading the original manuscripts, all Bibles have some errors in them when it comes to translation. English cannot express the original writings perfectly–it’s impossible. But in the early 1980s, the NIV version, in order to be more readable, changed the word, “flesh” to “sinful nature.” The original word is sarx which means flesh–not sin, not nature, and definitely not sinful nature. So the confusion began.
Christians do not have two natures as if we are at battle with ourselves. We have one nature, and one flesh. If you read the NIV version and you keep seeing the words “sinful nature” rather than “flesh,” it would be very easy to think you are trying to kill off your sinful nature, but you aren’t. You don’t have a sinful nature. God can have nothing to do with sin, and He lives in you. Why would He clean house and still allow sin to remain in your spirit? It makes no sense.
Further, we aren’t even trying to “kill off” our flesh, but instead, walk by the Spirit! (See Galatians 5:16). God likes our flesh! He made it! Our flesh is but a tool, it does what we tell it to do, not the other way around. We are to make ourselves living sacrifices each day, not dead ones. Paul tells the Christians in Rome about this epiphany:
“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (See Romans 12:1)
God is not trying to kill off your body. There is nothing wrong with it. Your flesh was made in God’s own image! (See Genesis 1:27).
“Yeah, Matt, but I gotta die daily!”
Friend, no, you don’t. The words “I die daily”–when read in context–you can see that Paul is not saying he kills himself each day. That’s been twisted. The more accurate version is “I face death every day,” and Paul said this because he literally faced death every day as he traveled the world to spread the gospel. That’s why he said he even fought wild dogs (see 1 Corinthians 15:31-32). He dealt with the threat of dying all the time, he wasn’t trying to kill off his old self. Paul knew that his old self died once, not multiple times (see Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
“But Matt, I’ve been told I have to pick up my cross and follow Jesus every day!”
I understand the rationale behind this, however, we only pick up our cross–figuratively speaking–once. Do you have a cross on you right now? No. We supernaturally, by faith, pick up our cross and follow Jesus to His Cross, once. Then, at the Cross, by grace through faith, our spirit gets crucified in the spiritual realm, buried, and then resurrected with Christ one time–not daily (see Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 2:8-9, Hebrews 10:10).
You are not being crucified daily, God loves you! Why would He want to kill you every 24 hours? Even Jesus is not being crucified daily, so what makes you think that you are? As a matter of fact, the reason why we can never lose our salvation is because Jesus will never die again! Just look:
“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
Do you see that?! Jesus is always living, therefore, so are you! Christ is not dying daily in heaven, and you are not dying daily on earth. YOU’RE NOT! YOU ARE ALIVE! SO LIVE! Be who God has created you to be! You do not have a sinful nature or a dark side! You actually want what God wants and your struggle with sin is the evidence of God in you!
Even the publisher of the NIV version of the Bible has since changed the words sinful nature back to flesh, and that’s because it’s the truth. If we think we are at battle with ourselves, then we are going to constantly be at war with ourselves–which is what Satan wants, inner turmoil. God is a God of peace, not inner turmoil. You are saved, if you believe you are saved.
“Matt, you’re a liar! In order to be saved you have to repent and be baptized! Acts 2:38 says so!”
Friend, I agree that we have to do both–repent and be baptized–but we must define both. Repent simply means “turn from, do a 180; stop, go the other way.” It means: change your mind.
What do we need to repent of?…Drumroll please…UNBELIEF! We must repent of unbelief in Jesus as the Messiah! The first 10 chapters of Hebrews mentions no sins except for the sin of unbelief! More than anything else, God wants us to believe Him about Jesus. Belief is what saves. It’s always been this way, even before Jesus. Heck, even before the Jews were given the Mosaic Law, which included the Ten Commandments, God justified all humans by them simply believing Him (see Genesis 15:6). Today, it is the same (see John 1:12, 12:32).
So, repentance of unbelief saves us not repentance of attitudes and actions. Changing our behaviors and thought patterns are carts after the horse. No amount of life change can save you. You can repent of bad choices and nasty thoughts until your repenter falls off–that still won’t save you. Only Jesus living inside of you will. Which brings me to the second part of Acts 2:38, baptism.
Baptism simply means “placed inside of.” In Romans 6, Paul speaks about being baptized into Christ the whole time, but not once does he mention water. So yes, we must be baptized into Christ, but that happens the very moment we are saved–the very moment we first believe. Baptism allows our spirits to be placed inside of God forever, that union is then marked with an unbreakable seal (see Colossians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Ephesians 1:13, 2 Corinthians 1:22).
Water baptism is simply a celebration of your spiritual birth, it doesn’t make you born again. You can dip an unbeliever in water 100 times in a row, they still won’t be saved. So sure, get baptized! But get baptized for one reason only: TO CELEBRATE!
But please know, what Peter said in Acts 2:38, in context, has nothing to do with changing your behaviors or getting dunked in a hot tub at church to receive a new spirit. If that were the case–a law being made for water baptism–then we must also have a flame above our heads for proof of our salvation. Why would I say that? Because in the very same chapter, that happened.
This brings us to one conclusion: you cannot see someone’s belief.
Acts is a history book. It is recorded actions of the disciples. It is not an epistle of doctrine. Just the same as the Old Testament is a collection of history books–not epistles of doctrine. It belongs where it’s at, but must be kept in context and proper position. We live under a new covenant (see Hebrews 8:13), therefore, we must dive deep into the roots of such. The fact of the matter is, Acts also tells us about a couple falling over dead because they lied about money (see Acts 5). If we are using Acts as doctrine, our churches should be littered with corpses.
So how do you know if you are really saved? Simple: You want what God wants–and you do! I heard a preacher say up on stage one time, “Sin is fun! If somebody says sin is not fun, they are lying!” No, he is lying. Sin is not fun at all. We weren’t made to sin. Our flesh might get a quick thrill from it, but afterwards, the real us is disgusted with it. Friends, we are holy! We are blameless! We are sin-free saints! WE DON’T LIKE TO SIN! SIN NEVER FEELS GOOD! IT GOES AGAINST ALL WE ARE AS GOD’S CHILDREN! If you believe that, you are saved. Now, since we are saved, let’s live that way.
A prayer for you: Well good morning Heavenly Father! I’m feeling great today! Thank you for another day alive as a saint! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who are confused about their salvation, let them know how secure they are. Your Word says, in Hebrews 6, that the hope we have which anchors our souls is based on a promise between you and Jesus–not us! You are the only true promise keeper! We are the beneficiaries to that promise! You also say in 2 Timothy that even when we are faithless, you remain faithful, because you cannot disown yourself. That’s because you live in us! Thank you so much for the confidence you’ve given me in your promises! Help us all to walk out our spiritual perfection today, and choose to not act on any sin. But even if we do, we know that we are still secure because we have an Advocate, Jesus. In His name, I pray, amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 3. Get your copy here!