RSS

Tag Archives: Grace vs. Works

How to be Known by God

Many ask the question, “Do you know God?” It’s a good question, and a biblical one, but there is another way to consider our relationship with the Lord.  It is to ask the question, “Does God know you?” This question is just as important as the first.

Paul put it this way…

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God…  Galatians 4:9 (ESV)

To know God puts the initiative in me. To be known by God, well, that puts the initiative with Him. And that’s really where the initiative should be.

More than that, we are in for danger if God does not know us. Famously, Jesus will say on judgment day, “Away from me, I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23).

And so you ask, how can I be certain that God knows me?

Well, consider this: Suppose you told me, “President Obama knows me,” and I said, “Sure he does.”  And you said, “Well, I sent him a letter.”  And I would reply, “He gets letters all the time. What does that prove?” But suppose you answered, “Yes…but I have a letter back from Him.” Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.  Now I have at least an indication that Mr. Obama really knows you.

What does this mean for being known by God?  Well, if God knows you, He will speak to you in His word. There will be some times in your life when you open your Bible to read and there will be fire in the pages. It will suddenly be a living book to you with a speaking God who knows you. Now, let me be quick to say that every word in the Bible is God’s word, and this cannot be overemphasized. Every word is His word and can therefore speak to you. But if you really know God, you will have moments, likely not every day, but occasionally, when you are spending time in the Word and the Holy Spirit will seemingly put a highlight pen through a verse or a phrase. And in that moment, you will know that God is actually speaking to you. Or it may happen that you are walking along and praying about something, and suddenly, a verse will come to your mind and it will be God dealing with you personally. Or it may be that you are listening to a sermon and suddenly, you will have a sense that the word coming from the pulpit is alive and is transforming you. This is knowing God.

In Genesis 16:13, Hagar prays to the Lord, “You are the God who sees me.”  And why does she put it that way?  Because, God told her he was going to take care of her. He told her He had His eye on her son and his eye on her. And she knew that she was known. And there is nothing better in the world than to be known by God.

How can you know God and be known by Him? We get a clue in the passage I referenced from Matthew 7, where Jesus says,

“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:22-23 (ESV)

The reason this passage is scary is that these are clearly church people. Some have done more for the Lord than I have. Yet, take note – see what the multitudes are hoping in on the Day of Judgment – They are basing their eternal hopes on the idea that they DID THINGS for Him. So many will come before God with this in mind on the final day.

The way to be known by God, though, is not to do things for Him. It is, rather, to place your faith in Him. As Paul wrote the church at Ephesus: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

When He, from His lofty throne,
Stooped to do and die,
Ev’rything was fully done;
Hearken to His cry!

Weary, working, burdened one,
Wherefore toil you so?
Cease your doing; all was done
Long, long ago.

Till to Jesus’ work you cling
By a simple faith,
“Doing” is a deadly thing—
“Doing” ends in death.

Cast your deadly “doing” down—
Down at Jesus’ feet;
Stand in Him, in Him alone,
Gloriously complete.

– James Proctor

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , ,

How to Find Out if Someone is a Christian

I don’t want to freak you out, but whenever I meet someone for the first time, whether it is a counseling situation or a membership interview, or what have you, I am usually wondering about one thing.

This goes beyond my role as a pastor – I’m looking for this when I meet a neighbor for the first time or someone on an airplane or anyone else. And you know what it is, right? I am looking to find out if the person is a Christian.

This is fairly normal for followers of Christ. We believe that there is a real heaven and a real hell, and so the words of C.S. Lewis in his essay The Weight of Glory ring true:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare…”

Clive Staples and I are not alone in this – the Apostle Paul undoubtedly thought about people this way too. In his passage on being an ambassador for Christ, he said, “From now on therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.” 2 Corinthians 5:16 (ESV)

Now, if you say that this is judging, and that Jesus said not to do it…well, no offense, but…you’re wrong. This is not about determining whether I am better than them. That point is already solved. I am not. I am a sinner. This new person I am meeting is a sinner. Who cares who has sinned more? We are both broken and in need of the Savior.

And, as Lewis suggests, there is actually a very good reason for asking this question about any new acquaintance. I need to know if someone is a Christian so I can determine if I need to explain the gospel to them. And so, as Lewis closes his point about possible gods and goddesses: “All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.”

That’s right, and yet, the question is, how do you do this? How can you tell if someone is a true Christian so you can help them to the right destination? Well, of course you can’t know for sure, but you can get a really good idea because there is one great key, and the encourager, Barnabas, knew it.

In Acts 11, some evangelists have traveled to Antioch and proclaimed the gospel, and word came back to the leaders in Jerusalem. So in response, they sent Barnabas to determine if this was a real work of God. In other words, they wanted to find out if these folks had really become Christians. Now, take notice of what Barnabas was looking for:

When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, Acts 11:23 (ESV)

When I get into a conversation on an airplane, or when someone comes to me for counseling, or when I get stuck with someone in an elevator, there is one thing I want to determine – like Barnabas, I want to know if I can see the grace of God.

Now, the $64,000 question is this – how do you see the grace of God in someone’s life?  And this is my best answer – you must get to the heart of what they are trusting in to be accepted by God, to get to heaven. I often use some form of a question like this (I think this comes from Evangelism Explosion): “If you were to die tonight and stand before God, and He was to say, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ what would you say?”

If their answer is some form of, “I’m a good person,” or “I’ve tried to do my best,” then you know you have a person who is depending upon their own works. You’ll need to explain the gospel.

But sometimes they say this: “I don’t deserve to go to heaven. My only hope is in the cross of Christ where Jesus died in my place. My hope, therefore, is in God’s grace toward an undeserving sinner.”

When you hear an answer like this, then praise God. Of course, it’s not everything – someone who really is trusting in God’s grace will respond to his grace with good works (Ephesians 2:8 – 10) – but in all likelihood, like Barnabas, you have good reason…to be glad.

 

Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 25: Acts 12

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

 
<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: