REMAINING HOLY FROM BAPTISM TO DEATH
The Bible message today is based on a scripture passage found in I John 3:18—21. The apostle John said, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth, And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, then we have confidence toward God.” I would have you carefully observe that this passage is spoken to Christians. Your special attention is directed to verse 21, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, then we have confidence toward God.” The Holy Spirit is speaking to those who are called, “Beloved.” The word means greatly loved, and the reference is to people who are specially loved by God. In the New Testament the term is applied exclusively to Christians, people who have been reconciled to God by Jesus Christ and judged by him worthy of eternal life.
Although God speaks kindly to people who are not Christians, yet he never addresses them as beloved. To those who are not yet numbered, among the beloved, we preach the saving gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a gospel for the unsaved, the sinful, and the disobedient, and it talks to them of pardon bought with blood. It speaks to them about the redemptive work of Christ and how they can put away ungodliness and worldly lusts from their hearts and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. That is the voice of scripture to those who as yet are not beloved. The hope is that they will obey Christ so that they can be called beloved who were not beloved so that the scripture may be fulfilled which says, “And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, You are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (Hosea 1:10).
However, when we come to speak of those who have been baptized into Christ for remission of sins, we are speaking of God's children, people who are greatly loved of God. As the beloved, we have come into the family of God, the church, and in that family we come under those sacred regulations which rule the household of God. In I Corinthians 9:21 declares that Christians are “under the law to Christ.” There is a rule and discipline devised by God and carried out with infinite compassion. Upon our obedience to that discipline our peace, happiness, and eternal destiny depend. Consider with me one of the sacred rules by which the family of God is governed. It is stated like this, “If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.”
THE INNER COURT
First, the text speaks of a trial which is held in the inner court of the Christian's heart. Scripture says, “If our heart does not condemn us.” The law of the land says that we are innocent until proven guilty, and surely our hearts have no right to condemn us without a trial. The heart here refers to the mind with its intelligence, emotions, will, and in this passage, a primary reference to the conscience. Having been instructed in the New Testament how to show our love toward God and our fellow men, if we conduct ourselves as God has directed we shall feel good and confident that God approves and is pleased with us. If we fail to do our known duty we will have a guilty conscience, that is, our hearts will condemn us, and we will be self—condemned. If our own knowledge of neglect causes us to feel condemned, we may be sure that God will condemn us also because He knows all things. Condemnation by our own conscience is a bad sign, for the probability is that the all—knowing judge will more than confirm the sentence. What we have said thus far amounts to the fact that our inward peace and religious confidence that God is pleased with us arises out of a certain trial of our case. Conscience sits within us and judges our actions as a judge sits in a court of law and hears the cases brought before him. Now, it is an alarming fact that this inner trial is studiously avoided by most people, religious and unreligious. Most people shun anything like a testing of their character and a trying of their religion by examination. There is no purpose in their lives. Some people do a lot of thinking and sometimes deep thinking, but not about their souls or their God. They consider their relationship to God to be a secondary matter which can be taken up in the last few minutes of their lives when they are often incapable of proper judgment. This is a grave folly and ought not to rule a man in his right senses.
Even God's people are tempted to avoid or neglect this inner court of the conscience. There are Christians who should know better, yet seldom examine themselves as to whether they are in the faith. They take it for granted that all is well with them. Their thinking is that they had faith in Christ's shed blood and were baptized into Christ several years ago, so why should they have any thoughts of misgivings now? Is it necessary that they should put themselves onto the scales and be weighed again? It is a very ominous sign for a Christian when he is afraid of discussing his spiritual state in the chamber of his own heart. I am persuaded that many Christians are the subjects of doubts and fears about their condition simply because they have never had the matter out. It is a great deal bet~ter to sift an affair to the bottom than it is to be always tormented by suspicion. We should be anxious to the last degree to take stock of our spiritual state. Our desire should be to know the very worst of our case. If your condition should turn out to be bad, it is best for you to know it. Certainly, your knowing it will not make it any worse. On the other hand, if your case turns out to be all right, then you will have the confidence that comes from this knowledge, the confidence mentioned in the text, confidence toward God. If our hearts after due, deliberate and impartial trial condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God and that confidence sweetens life. The person who gets approval of the conscience through honest searching of the heart shall be filled with delight, strength and
Peace of mind. Genuine Christians should very much frequent this court of conscience and test their condition, lest they be deceived. However, I would like to inject a warning here that this can be overdone, some Christians test themselves so often that it seems they would spend their lives in making trials of their religious state. Some Christians, by a continual trying of themselves, are constantly raising the question, “Am I really a Christian?” If you have obeyed the gospel of Christ, if you have turned away from the past sins of your life, if you have confessed Christ publicly before men, and if you have been scripturally immersed for the pardon of sins, you are a Christian. Of course, if you have not met these requirements, you are not a Christian, regardless of how religious you may be. If you have been born of the water and the Spirit, you are a Christian; so be a Christian and don't spend a lifetime wondering if your name has been written in the book of life. At baptism one becomes a saint, a holy person, and a priest of God.
However it is certain that a true Christian is not averse to self—examination, nor to any form of test to which he can be put. A true Christian has nothing to hide or be afraid of. If the verdict of the inner court says that you are right with God your prayer should be, “Search me 0 God and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23).
CONDUCTING THE INNER COURT
Next, we enter into another phase of the discussion by asking, “How do we go about holding this inner court in the heart?” As in any court of law, the evidence must be gathered from qualified witnesses. In this case we listen to the evidence as presented by our own heart and conscience. No outside witness is needed. Furthermore, we are not likely to be unjust to ourselves. Our hearts possess a mass of evidence utterly unknown anywhere else. Memory rises up and tells us exactly what we have done since our conversion. What questions shall we put to the heart and conscience? Certainly, the question is not, “Am I perfect?” We can answer that question without holding a formal court. Neither is the question, “Am I absolutely free from sin?” The word of God gives this exhortation to Christians, “If we say rhat we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”(I John l:8). Thus, the question before the court of conscience is not, “Have I perfectly kept the laws and teachings of Christ?” Christians are not perfect; they are only forgiven. The true questions we should put to our conscience are these. “Am I sincere in the truth?” Is my lilfe directed by the will of God? Have I changed my life since I was baptized into Christ? Am I regular in church attendance? Have I been faithful in remembering the death of Christ each week in the observance of the Lord's Supper? Since baptism, have I generously supported the church financially with a weekly contribution in accordance with my prosperity? Have I made a diligent study of the Bible since my conversion? Do I believe the truth as it is in Christ and do I prove the truth of that faith by loving God, loving Christians and by doing those things which are pleasing in his sight? Does love rule my life? All of I John 3 deals with love; it is mentioned before the text and after the text. In verse 14 John says, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” What verdict does your heart give to that test? How much affection do you have for
Christians, for the members of God's family, for the members of the New Testament church? We have special responsibilities to Christians; we must love the church and highly esteem the members of God's spiritual family. If we love Christians we will desire to be at worship when God's family meets for fellowship and worship. Jude 12 speaks of church gatherings as “feasts of love” Believing in Christ and loving fellow Christians suns up the qualities of an obedient child of God. This is so because a sincere belief in Christ means more than a mere profession. It includes commitment and obedience which springs out of faith. Do we love God and keep his commandments and labor to please him? Or, are we living in known sin and tolerate that in ourselves which does not and cannot please God? Does my heart condemn me does my heart not condemn me? That is the question.
What a blessed thing it is, if after that inner court examination our hearts acquit us! The text says, “If our hearts condemn us not.” If our hearts acquit us, John says that we have confidence toward God. This passage disturbs many Christians. The Bible clearly teaches that all Christians sin and do not live sinless lives. We sin because of weakness of the flesh, insufficient love for God, and because of the strong temptations of evil in the world The Bible also clearly teaches that our will is weak and evil desires sometimes overcome us. When we sin through weakness, our conscience condemns us, and it should condemn us. Sinful people cannot go to heaven; we must be holy to go to heaven. All Christians sin, and without holiness no one can go to heaven; yet Christians are promised they will go to heaven. There appears to be a contradiction here. How shall we explain it? How can Christians live a holy life from baptism till they pass a way? Yet the Bible says that without holiness no one shall see the Lord. I entitled this message, “How to remain holy from baptism till death? That is the question for all Christians. At baptism all Christians became holy men and women. We began the Christian journey with holiness of life, and we must maintain that holiness as long as we live. But how can we do that when we all sin after baptism? The God of glory and compassion has worked out a wonderful way for all Christian to remain holy as long as they live. Christians cannot live a sinless life, but they can live a forgiven life, and that is the key to entering into heaven. As long as a Christians remain forgiven by God, they remain holy. A forgiven Christian is a holy person. As long as we remain in a forgiven condition our hearts will not condemn us. Here is the glorious solution to the entire problem. When we sin through weakness of the flesh and will, our hearts and conscience will condemn us, but we immediately ask God to forgive us after the verdict of the Inner Court of the Heart. This keeps us in a state of holiness because of forgiveness. The word of God says, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but it also says, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That's the way out. It is the sacrificial blood that cleanses us from all uncleanness. There is no sin of a Christian that God will not forgive. Never forget that! He will forgive Christians of any and all kinds of sins. In this way God keeps Christians close to Him as they continually examine themselves and remain in continual touch with God and His compassionate forgiveness. For the most part Christians keep the commandments of God. But don't count on God forgivng your sins simply because He forgave your sins at baptism. When your heart condemns you, that is the time for Christians to ask God's forgiveness. Out text this morning is the key to heaven: “If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than ur hearts, for He knows all tings. If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.And whatever we ask we receive from himd because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. Praise God for His condescending loving forgiveness.