Identifying True Faith

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The title of my message is Identifying True Faith. Is my professed faith in Christ true, God-given, saving faith, or is it a false faith? Is your professed faith in Christ true, God-given, saving faith, or is it a false faith? Let us bring our professed faith to the Word of God and prove it.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

If my faith is true, it will bear examination, examination by the light of Holy Scripture. If it is not true, I want to know it. I beg mercy from God that he will not let me perish in a refuge of lies. And I beg of God that same mercy for you. So my subject is Identifying True Faith. Our text is 1st John 4:14-21.

1 John 4:14-21 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

19 We love him, because he first loved us.

20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Faith Essential

Faith in Christ is the one thing essential to salvation. — “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” That is the one thing that matters. That is the one question that must be settled. — “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” Faith is an inward. It is a state of life and a way of life. It is a condition of life and a course of life. Faith is an inward thing, a matter of the heart, an experience of the soul. — “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.”

  • If we would worship God acceptably, we must worship him in faith, for “without faith it is impossible to please him.”
  • If we would pray, we must pray in faith. We must “ask in faith, nothing doubting.” It is the “prayer of faith” that is saving and effectual.
  • When the gospel is preached, unless the Word is “mixed with faith” in them that hear it profits them nothing.

A true heart faith is that one thing, and the only thing that is essential to eternal life. When the Philippian jailor cried out to Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” their response was clear and simple, —“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” It is not faith and baptism, faith and good works, faith and church membership, faith and a holy life, or faith and anything else that saves a soul. It is faith alone that savingly unites the perishing sinner to the powerful Savior. And this faith is itself a gift of God’s free and distinguishing grace. Faith is not something that a man musters for himself; it is a gift of God.

O gift of gifts! O grace of faith!

My God, how can it be

That Thou who hast discerning love

Shouldst give that gift to me?

How many hearts Thou might’st have had

More innocent than mine!

How many souls more worthy far

Of that sweet touch of Thine!

Oh, grace, into unlikeliest hearts

It is thy boast to come;

The glory of thy light to find

In darkest spots a home.

False Faith

Faith is not always a good thing. False faith is damning.

  • Faith in Allah is damning.
  • Faith in Buddha is damning.
  • Faith in a Frog is damning.
  • Faith in a false christ is damning.
  • And false faith is damning.

I do not just want to have faith. I want to know God. I want to possess and live in and by God-given faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And I want that for you.

In this day of mass-evangelism, easy-believism and religious revivalism multitudes are deceived with a false faith. The Bible makes it plain that there is such a thing as a false faith. There are false christs. There is a false gospel. There is a false spirit and false gods. And there is a false faith. — “The devils believe.” Judas had faith, but he went to hell. Many who call upon the name of the Lord have no real faith in him. And it has always been the concern of God’s servants that their hearers not be deceived by a false faith. John Owen once wrote…

“Of all the poison which at this day is diffused in the minds of men, corrupting them from the mystery of the gospel, there is no part that is more pernicious than this one perverse imagination, that to believe in Christ is nothing at all but to believe the doctrine of the gospel.”

Paul was very much concerned for the saints at Corinth and Galatia. They had the doctrine of faith. But he feared that some among them did not have a heart of faith. And we see this same grave concern in almost every line of John’s first epistle. Of all the snares by which Satan carries the souls of men into hell, none is more deceiving and deadly than a false faith.

  • Many have a false faith produced in them by the sight of a miraclebeing performed. This was true in the days of our Lord and his apostles, when miraculous gifts were given. And it is true today, when the ministers of Satan perform, or pretend to perform, great wonders.
  • Another form of false faith is what we might call a historical, or theoretical faith, that is, a mere mental assent to the historical facts of the gospel.
  • There is also that false faith which appears to be true and genuine. It is a temporary faith. Like the seed sown on stony ground and among thorns, it seems to thrive for a while. But afterwards it withers away and is choked out.

Read the Word of God again, and pay attention to what it says. It tells us of many who have lived and died in a false faith. There are multitudes in hell today, because they were satisfied to have a false faith. Have you not heard of Lot’s wife and of Saul? Did you not read about Judas andSimon Magus? Are you not alarmed by the examples of Ananias and Sapphira? All of these had faith. But the faith they had was a false faith; and it carried them to hell!

True Faith

True faith is founded upon the Word of God, upon the authority and veracity of the testimony God has given concerning his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the act of the heart, resting upon the Word of God, and trusting Christ alone for all things. There are three things involved in any true, heart faith.

1.    True heart faith is built upon knowledge. Where there is faith, there must be knowledge. And that knowledge comes only by divine revelation. — “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Before anyone can believe the gospel, he must have knowledge. He must know who and what he is. He must know who God is. And he must know who Christ is. This is the purpose of preaching the gospel, so that all men everywhere might know what God says concerning his Son. Who is He? What has He done? Where is He now?

2.    But knowledge alone is not enough. There must also be an assent, or an agreement of heart with what God has said. Where there is true faith, the heart agrees and gives assent to divine revelation.

3.    Still, that is not all that there is to faith. There must be knowledge. There must be assent. And there must be confidence. We know what God has said. And we agree that it is true. And we confidently trust Christ, committing to him our eternal souls (Luke 14:25-33). That is faith.

God’s Gift

God alone can produce this faith in a man’s heart. This is that faith which is the operation of God. We could never know Christ, except by divine revelation. We would never agree with what God says about Christ unless the God the Holy Ghost wrought a mighty change in our souls called “the new birth,” making us new creatures in Christ. We would never come to Christ, trusting him as our only Lord and Savior until the Holy Spirit enabled us to do so. We could not and would not come to him until we were brought to him.

This is the faith about which our text speaks. Is our faith true, or is it false? If we will honestly examine it in the light of what John here tells us, we shall soon see. O Spirit of God, come now and open our hearts to know the truth.

1 John 4:14-21 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

19 We love him, because he first loved us.

20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Identifying True Faith — That’s my subject.

 

Proposition: In these verses of Scripture the Holy Spirit, speaking by the Apostle John, tells us plainly what faith is. — The essence of faith is the confidence of the heart in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the fruit of that faith is a sincere love for God and his people.

Divisions: I call your attention to the two primary objects of the Apostle in our text. He wants us to see…

1.    The Foundation of Faith

2.    The Fruit of Faith

The Foundation of Faith

John’s first object is to show us the foundation of faith. This he does in verses 14-16. If we are to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we must have some reasonable and strong foundation upon which to rest our souls, a strong foundation for faith in him. The faith of God’s elect is not some fanatical emotion. It is not merely a speculative theory. It is not a leap in the dark. Faith in Christ is the reasonable confidence of our hearts in the person and work of the incarnate Son of God. It is the height of folly and the most unreasonable thing in the world for a man not to believe the gospel. The greatest proof of man’s pride and depravity is that he will not trust the substitutionary work of Christ for his salvation. How foolishly deliberate fools are! Rather than submit to the incontestable truth of God, they will accept the most ridiculous notions and believe the most unbelievable and inconsistent theories ever invented. Let me show you the solid foundation upon which our faith is built.

The apostles of Christ have given us an authoritative and verified testimony of the Person and Work of the Son of God which we believe. — “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Sonto be the Saviour of the world (v. 14). The facts of the gospel are indisputable. Those things which we believe are not notions concocted in the minds of a few foolish men. These are the most well attested facts ever recorded on the pages of history. Here in verse 14, John tells us what he and the other apostles had witnessed and were bound to testify. Let’s examine their testimony. I challenge any court of law to find these men guilty of perjury.

The apostles themselves were credible eye-witnesses. — “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world!” These were not dishonest men. They were not thieves and robbers. These were men who made an honest living and were obedient to the law. Though some of their number, such as Matthew, had been employed in questionable occupations, their conversion and honesty from the time that they began to follow Christ was unquestioned.

  • Never once were they charged with dishonesty or immorality, though the Scribes and Pharisees carefully watched them.
  • They had nothing whatsoever to gain in the world by testifying the gospel as they did.
  • Indeed, they knew that their testimony would bring them banishment, persecution, imprisonment, and death.

But they could not be silent. These men had seen the Lord of glory. And they must tell the truth, cost what it would.

The testimony of the apostles in the New Testament was is complete agreement with all that had been prophesied and expected for more than four thousand years. They did not come preaching some new or novel doctrine. These men appealed to Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah and Malachi as witnesses to the truthfulness of their testimony.

God himself confirmed the apostles’ doctrine by signs and wonders from heaven. When Messiah came, his authenticity would be proved, according to the prophet Joel, by miraculous gifts of the Spirit of God being poured out upon his followers.

  • These men wrote by divine inspiration.
  • In proof of their divine authority, they possessed miraculous gifts. Those gifts of the apostles have often been counterfeited, both before and after them. But they have never been possessed unquestionably by any other group of men.

The apostles of Christ were eye-witnesses of his majesty. They had so seen him that they were fully persuaded that he was “the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (1 John 1:1-3).

1 John 1:1-3 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

1.    They saw God manifest in the flesh.

2.    They saw him as one possessing the very glory of God. — “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

3.    They saw the perfection of Christ.

4.    They saw his miracles.

5.    They saw his compassion.

6.    They saw the Christ of God in Gethsemane.

7.    They saw the Son of God die.

8.    They saw the risen Christ.

9.    They saw the Christ of God ascend into heaven.

Here is the testimony they gave concerning Christ. — Having seen his glory, witnessed his works and having heard his Word, these eye-witnesses said, “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (v. 14).

  • They testified that Jesus Christ is God the eternal Son.
  • They testified that the Son of God took upon himself human flesh and was born as a man.
  • They testified that Christ came into the world, upon the commission of his eternal Father, to be the Savior of the world.

Note: Certain it is the John does not here mean to say that Christ came with the responsibility of saving every man in the world. Were that the case, John would be saying that the Son of God failed in his work, the specific work for which he came into the world, because every man in the world is not saved. John’s meaning evidently is this: Jesus Christ came to save his people throughout the world, whether Jew or Gentile. Everyone in the whole world who believes on Christ is saved by him.

Not only did the apostles testify of these things, but their testimony was enforced by the witness of more than five hundred brethren, who at one time saw the risen Christ. It would be the height of absurdity to suppose that all of these men were on some kind of stupefying drug, which gave them all the same hallucination!

Every honest person, when confronted with these facts must be and is compelled to believe what the apostles said. Men and women do not believe the things revealed in the Book of God because men and women are not honest. None can or will believe the testimony of God, except God the Holy Spirit perform the mighty operation of his grace upon them, giving them life and faith in Christ. And all who are taught of God believe the Revelation of God in Holy Scripture.

  • We believe that God spoke through the apostles.
  • We believe that the man Christ Jesus is God manifest in the flesh.
  • And we believe that Christ alone is the Savior of sinners. — “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

By virtue of his substitutionary death and vicarious atonement, the risen Christ is both able and willing to save all who call upon him. The basis of our faith is the Word of God given by inspiration through the apostles.

Those who truly possess faith in Christ are united to God. “He that hath the Son,” by a living faith, “hath the Father also.” “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God” (v. 15). We are united to God only by faith in Christ (1 John 5:11-13; John 14:6). Everything is in Christ.

1 John 5:11-13 11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Bowing to the Revelation of God in Holy Scripture, being taught by God the Holy Spirit, all who are born of God “confess that Jesus is the Son of God.”

  • We confess that Jesus is God.
  • We confess that the eternal Son of God came into this world in human flesh (Isaiah 9:6).
  • We confess that the incarnate Son of God accomplished all that the prophets declared the Christ would accomplish. — Fulfilled all the Types! — Brought in Everlasting Righteousness! — Satisfied Divine Justice! — Put Away Sin! — Magnified the Law and Made it Honorable!
  • We confess that Jesus Christ is the only and all-sufficient, effectual Savior of sinners.

 

Our confession of faith in Christ is a heart work, a heart confession. It is not something coerced by some slick soul-winner, but the spontaneous reaction of the heaven-born soul to grace experienced in the heart (Romans 10:9-10).

Romans 9:27-10:17 27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. 29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. 30 What shall we say then? Thatthe Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Romans 10:1-17 1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For theybeing ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousnesshave not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. 5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above :) 7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

We know that we are united, inseparably to God by this God-given faith in Jesus Christ. — “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God” (v. 15 — 1 John 2:23; 2 John 9).

1 John 2:23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.

2 John 1:9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

 

Love’s Constraint

 

The foundation of our faith is the Word of God; and that which constrains us to confess it is the love of God. — “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (v. 16).  — “The love of Christ constraineth us!

  • Constrains us to trust him.
  • Constrains us to confess him. — (Believer’s Baptism).
  • Constrains us to live for him.

The history of the Lord Jesus Christ, as recorded by the apostles on the pages of Inspiration, is the history of God’s love to us. All his transactions in and with his Son were but testimonies of his love for us.What John is saying is this: — Believing the message of the gospel, we have known and experienced the love of God. I am more fully persuaded and more thoroughly convinced of God’s infinite love for me than I am of my wife’s love for me.

  • We know the love of God by its clear manifestation in Christ (1 John 4:9-10).
  • We know the love of God by divine revelation (Romans 5:1-11).

The love of God is known nowhere, but in Christ Jesus. And no man knows the love of God except that man who is united to Christ by faith (Matthew 11:27; Romans 5:8; 8:38-39).

Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will revealhim.

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We have known and believed the love that God hath to us” (v. 16). — It is this knowledge of God’s love which excites our faith and causes us to confess Christ. Being overwhelmed with his love, we cannot help ourselves; we must believe him.

God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (v. 16). — God is love, and all who are united to him by faith are made like him. Try to get hold of this. It will do you good. Trusting Christ…

  • We dwell, we live in God!
  • We dwell, we live in the love of God!
  • God lives in us!

Faith’s Fruit

In verses 17-21 the apostle shows us the fruit of faith, the fruit of faith in Christ. He has shown us what faith is. Now he is going to tell us how we can know if we have this faith. The essence of faith is the confidence of the heart in the Person and Work of Christ. The fruit of faith is love for God and his people.

Faith is not a dead and useless thing. Faith, if it is true, is living, vital and productive. Faith produces love. Where there is true faith, there is a sincere love for God and for all who are God’s. All who are united to God by faith in Christ abide in the love of God. And all who are united to God by faith in Christ love one another.

If we have a true, God-given faith in Christ, that faith will evidence itself by love to God (vv. 17-19). — Before saying anything about our love toward  God, lest we presume that our love is something in which we might boast, or something we should look to for assurance, John tells us that our assurance is in the revelation of God’s love.

1 John 4:17-18 17 Herein is our love made perfect (Herein is love with us made perfect!), that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

This love of God for us, revealed and known in Christ, gives us confidence and boldness before the throne of God. — “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world” (v. 17). Because of God’s love shed abroad in our hearts…

  • We have confidence before the throne of grace in prayer. — “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19; 4:16). Trusting the merits of Christ’s righteousness and shed blood, and loving him sincerely, we have no fear of approaching his throne.
  • We have boldness with respect to the Day of Judgment as well. — In Christ we have no fear of punishment. — In Christ we have no fear of displeasure. — In Christ we have no fear of loss. — In Christ we have no fear of chastisement.

 

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness,

My beauty are, my glorious dress;

Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,

With joy shall I lift up my head.

Bold shall I stand in that great day,

For who ought to my charge can lay,

While through Thy blood absolved I am

From sins tremendous curse and shame?

The reason for this boldness is clear. — “Because as he is, so are we in this world.” We are one with Christ. Therefore, we have no dread of judgment.

  • As Christ was in this world, so are we. He was the man of sorrows, afflicted, tempted, hated, and abused. So are we. — As Christ is accepted by God, so are we. We are adopted as his sons. — We are loved with the same love. We are given the same inheritance.
  • As Christ is in heaven, so are we. — Is he righteous? We are righteous. — Is he accepted? We are accepted. — Is he beloved? We are beloved. Does the Father delight in Christ? He delights in us in Christ.

The knowledge of this love, which grows out of faith, removes our dreadful fear of God. — “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (v. 18).

If I know the love of God for me, it being shed abroad in my heart, and if I love the Lord sincerely, I have no reason to fear him. I will reverence him, but I will not be afraid of him. The knowledge of God’s love in Christ destroys slavish and servile fear (Romans 8:15-17; 2 Timothy 1:7).

The cause our love for God is God’s love for us. — “We love him because he first loved us.” Nothing inflames love for God like the knowledge of his love for us. Our faith in him and love for him arise from his ancient love for us.

One more thing — The knowledge of the love of God for us by the experience of his grace, by the gift of faith in his Son, causes all who are born of God to love all who are God’s (vv. 20-21).

 

1 John 4:20-21 20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Here the Holy Spirit of God identifies true faith. True faith, God-given, saving faith

  • Confesses that Jesus is the Son of God.
  • Lives in the assurance of the love of God.
  • Loves God.
  • Loves the people of God.

Amen.

 Don Fortner

http://www.donfortner.com/sermon_notes/62_1_john-series/1jo%2035%2004v14-21%20Identifying%20True%20Faith.htm

Don Fortner website

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