Are All People Who Claim to Be Christians Actually Saved by Jesus – How Can We Know We Are Saved?? #317
Happy Lord’s Day, friends! As always on Sunday, I’d love to invite you to join us on Facebook at VBC Salinas (our facebook page) for a time of worship and digging into the Word of God. Please leave a comment and say hello if you drop by!
Our readings for today include 2nd Kings 21. Psalms 139, Hosea 14 and Hebrews 3. Hebrews 3 contains the first of three big warning passages in Hebrews. Found in Hebrews 3, 6 and 10, these passages warn those who profess faith in Jesus to not fall away. We have spent several episodes in the past talking about the perseverance of the saints, or once saved always saved, and you can find links to those episodes on our page. Perseverance of the Saints #1, Perseverance of the Saints #2, Perseverance of the Saints #3
I’ll briefly touch on that topic today, but primarily want to focus on these sobering warnings to those who profess faith. I do NOT believe that a truly saved by Jesus person will lose salvation, but I do believe that many who profess to be Christians, who appear to be Christians, and who actually might think they are Christians (out of ignorance of the Word) will NOT be saved. Identifying as a Christian does not mean you are saved any more than identifying as the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers makes you Tom Brady.
What portion of people who claim to be Christians are actually saved? This question is a very big deal in the Bible belt where I grew up, because people sort of automatically assume that they are Christians if they are born in the south. (Less so in more recent decades, moreso when I was born)
Raymond Kwong offers some estimates of people who claim to be Christ followers vs those who actually are:
Dr. Dan Hawtree, a respected evangelist who is best known in Florida, told me that around 75 percent of our church people are probably unsaved. He estimates that only three percent of Americans are really born-again.
Dr. R. L. Hymers, in his booklet The Falling Away, collected the following estimates: Dr. W. A. Criswell said that he would be surprised to see 25 percent of his? members in heaven! (be careful with the possessive) Billy Graham years ago estimated the percentage of lost people in evangelical churches at 85 percent; Dr. A. W. Tozer put it at 90 percent!
Dr. J. Vernon McGee was no extremist, yet he commented on Matthew 13:25, the parable of the tares: “If one out of ten responding to my invitation to receive Christ is genuine, I feel that my batting average is good.…” It is not easy to distinguish between wheat and tares until the harvest (judgment). ….In thousands of churches, the statistics of souls saved have been inflated.
I concur with much of the above, and in my experience have noted many claim to be Christians that don’t show evidence of that.
I believe there are many who claim Christ, but do not actually follow Him, and I believe that the warning passages of Hebrews are very important warnings and sobering challenges to such people. Let’s read it!
Today in Hebrews 3, we find this powerful challenge:
12 Watch out, brothers and sisters, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.
When was the last time you encouraged/exhorted a fellow Christian to be faithful to the Lord?? (Or heard somebody else do it?) I Have lots of Christian friends – many pastors. I CANT Remember the last time somebody has encouraged me to stay faithful to Jesus. It has happened…but it is rare. Barnabas in the Bible is a great example to us of one who lived his life in light of this encouragement, and one of the reasons why many people, including some prominent listeners to this podcast, ascribe the authorship of Hebrews to him.
Acts 11:20-24 20 There were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 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, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
DID YOU KNOW:
- You can receive the grace of God in vain? 2nd Cor 6:1 6 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. ONE MORE EXAMPLE: 1 Cor 15:2 – It is possible to believe in a vain way. That is, it is possible to declare yourself a Christian, and to believe in God/Jesus, but in a useless way: 1 Corinthians 15:2 5 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
- That Converts to Christ can fall under the condemnation of the devil? 1 Timothy 3: He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
- Did you know that…It is possible to hear the Gospel and receive it with joy, and show evidence of following Jesus, and yet still fall away? Mark 4: 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
- You can appear Godly in most every way, but by your very life deny the power of God? 2nd Timothy 3: 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
- Both Jesus AND Paul warn of the possibility of apostasy – falling away from faith – and say that a time of massive apostasy will come before the end times?! Matthew 24: 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 2nd Thess. 2:3 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come,unless the rebellion comes first
I believe one of the great errors of evangelicalism of the past 100 years or so is that we have encouraged and taught for one-time decisions – seeking converts to walk the aisles and commit to Christ in a moment. Don’t get me wrong – that is a good thing, in many ways, but far too often, churches have chalked up a win when somebody walks the aisles, and moved on to the next service, the next outreach, or the next conversation, looking for another convert to walk the aisles or pray the prayer. We have sought after one-time decisions while neglecting to emphasize the day in and day out following of Christ that the Bible does. It is good to call people to ‘make decisions for Christ,’ but that is the beginning, as our Hebrews passage points us to today:
6 And we are that household if we hold on to our confidence and the hope in which we boast.14 For we have become participants in Christ if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start
This passage has finds an echo in many other New Testament passages, including 1 Corinthians 15:
Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
It’s not that Hebrews and 1 Corinthians 15 are teaching us a process salvation that unfolds over time, but rather they are showing us that the proof that one is in Christ is found in the fruit of a lifetime pursuit of Him. Thus we are called to be faithful, holding onto the savior who holds on to us daily, pursuing Him who first loved and pursued us daily, and warning/encouraging others to do the same! We know we are in Christ when we see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and when we pursue Jesus, holding onto the message day by day, by day. His Spirit working in us and enabling us to persevere in faithful following of Christ is the proof and the seal of Christ’s salvation.