Examining the Sincerity of Your Faith

Dr. Steve Viars May 2, 2021 John 8:31-54
Outline

Matthew 7:21-23 - Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

2 Peter 1:10 - Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble…

1 John 5:13 - These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

John 20:30-31 - Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

John 6:66 - As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.

3 questions to help you determine whether your faith is genuine

I. Does Your Obedience to God’s Word Show You’ve Been Freed from Sin’s Power?

A. True disciples continue in God’s Word

John 8:31 - So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine…”

1 John 2:3-4 - By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him…

1 John 1:8 - If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:10 - If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

John 8:31 - So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine…”

2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

B. True disciples know the truth

John 8:32 - …and you will know the truth…

John 7:17 - If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.

C. True disciples have been freed by the power of the gospel

John 8:32 - …and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

John 8:34-36 - Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

  • · Requires an admission of your former enslavement

John 8:33 - They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

II. Does Your Love for Christ Show You’ve Been Adopted into God’s Family?

A. Your deeds reveal the identity of your father

John 8:38 - I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.

John 8:39 - They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.”

John 8:41 - …They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.”

John 8:44 - You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

B. There is a real devil who is the father of lies and wants you to hate Christ

  • · Requires an acknowledgement of the existence of Satan and a desire to flee from him

Ephesians 6:10-12 - Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

1 Peter 5:8 - Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

James 4:7 - Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

1 John 4:4 - You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

III. Does Your Hope of Heaven Show You Truly Know the Lord?

A. Jesus promises His followers that we will never see death

John 8:51 - Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.

John 8:52 - The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’”

B. True faith does not mock promises of eternal life, we rejoice in them

John 8:56 - Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.

  • · Requires adoration of a Savior who is eternal

- would you agree with the statement that sometimes an item turns out to be far more valuable than the owners originally thought…whereas at other times a person believes he/she has a great treasure and it turns out to be a fake?...

- a couple of years ago, a family came to Sotheby’s in Paris [btw, if I’m not saying that properly, it’s probably because I’ve never had a reason to do any business with them – here’s what I can pronounce well – places like Walmart, and Meijer…and I’m feeling especially flush, perhaps, Target]…

- but anyway, the family came to Sotheby’s with a vase that had been hidden in an old shoebox in their attic…

- it had been given to the family’s grandparents by an uncle…but the owners said, my grandparents didn’t like it very much, and neither did we…thus, it received the shoebox in the attic treatment…

- When Sotheby’s expert Olivier Valmier opened the box, he said he was immediately struck by the value of item, because it bore a mark dating it to Chinese emperor in the 1700’s…

- they set an auction estimate of $590,000 – $825,000 – which isn’t bad for a vase you didn’t like left in a shoebox in your attic…

- it actually old for 19 million dollars…

- you’ll want to listen carefully to this from Henry Howard-Sneyd, Sotheby's chairman of Asian Art for Europe and the Americas, was optimistic about future such discoveries.

- "Chinese art has been admired and collected across Europe for centuries, but the importance of certain pieces is occasionally lost over time. Given the huge appetite for Chinese art among today's collectors, now is the moment to scour your homes and attics, and to come to us with anything you might find!"

- now you have to decide if you’re going to listen to the rest of this message…or perhaps head on home to see what you might have up in your attic..

- I was actually in my attic the day before I read this story – throwing some old, dusty lumber around…I probably broke half a dozen of these vases without even knowing it…

- now on the other hand – we could all tell stories about people who were convinced they had something really valuable – maybe even the relative who gave it to them said it was – and then they appear at one of these Antique Roadshow type events and their hopes are dashed because their supposed Vincent Van Gogh original had actually been painted by a 4th grader in Secaucus, NJ…

- so all of that affirms our original statement -- that sometimes an item turns out to be far more valuable than the owners originally thought…whereas at other times a person believes he/she has a great treasure and it turns out to be a fake...

- those kinds of stories are humorous and enjoyable, but things become far more serious when we remember that this can also be true of a person’s faith…

- that’s why Jesus taught as early as His Sermon on the Mount that … Matthew 7:21–23 - Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

- this is also why the apostle Peter would have encouraged people to … 2 Peter 1:10 - Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;

- or as many of us probably memorized that verse – to “make your calling and election sure…”

- if you’ve been around our church for any period of time, you know that one of my favorite verses is - 1 John 5:13 - These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

- part of God’s gracious provision to us is to give us tests of whether we are genuinely in the faith…

- and for those who don’t meet the tests, it provides an opportunity to repent and believe while you have the opportunity to do so…

- for those who do, it adds to the assurance of our faith which can be a blessed comfort and encouragement to the children of God…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible this am to John chapter 8…page 79 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- our church’s theme this year is Enjoying Life in Jesus’ Name…we take that from the purpose statement we read toward the end of this gospel… John 20:30–31 - Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

- that poses an important question…what does it mean biblically to believe?...

- a couple of chapters ago we learned about a group of people who were described as “many of his disciples”…but the passage said…John 6:66 - As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.

- so whatever belief they possessed was certainly not “saving faith”…

- this morning we’re going to read about a group of people who had believed in Jesus in some way, shape, or form…but clearly were not His children, they had never truly repented and believed…

- and when you think about it – we should conclude that God is being very gracious to us here…because in a book that uses the word believe over and over and over…it’s important to hear specific tests that can help us….Examining the Sincerity of Your Faith…

- please follow along as I read beginning in John 8:31-59 – READ

- so we’re talking about Examining the Sincerity of Your Faith…and with the time we have remaining, let’s think about 3 questions to help you determine whether your faith is genuine.

I. Does Your Obedience to God’s Word Show You’ve Been Freed from Sin’s Power?

- no one could ever accuse the Lord of seeking to pad the numbers of whether a person had truly experienced saving faith or not…

- it reminds me of Pastor Goode’s statement – there’s a difference between counting noses, and counting disciples…

- and while the Lord certainly wasn’t going to make it any harder than it needed to be – remembered He emphasized that side of the equation when He placed a child on His knee and discussed salvation…

- but He wasn’t going to make it any easier, either…

- so He says…here’s one of the ways you can know…

A. True disciples continue in God’s Word

- John 8:31 - So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;

- that’s sounds very similar to what John would write in his first epistle…1 John 2:3–4 - By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;

- now please keep in mind that we always interpret Scripture in light of Scripture…

- we know this can’t mean that a person is saved by his/her obedience…that would contradict everything we know about the gospel and salvation being by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone…

- we also know this can’t mean that you keep God’s commandments perfectly…in fact earlier in the book of 1 John…he had affirmed…

- 1 John 1:8 - If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

- 1 John 1:10 - If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

- one piece of information that might help us is that the word translated “keep” in 1 John 2:3 is the same as the term used to describe the men who were assigned to guard Jesus’ tomb…

- so “keep” means “guard”…

- well, is a guard always perfectly successful?...no, and the guards at Jesus tomb are a fairly solid case in point…

- but what John was talking about….and what Jesus was talking about was – has your faith in Him resulted in a desire to carefully guard the commands of God in your life?...

- that’s the point of -- John 8:31 - So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;

- and you can look at that from either perspective…I have spent the better part of my adult life showing men and women what God’s Word says about their particular situation (and, btw, I consider that an honor and privilege to do so)…

- but you can tell a lot about a person based on how they respond to such a conversation…

- and I can think of plenty of examples when a person learns that what they have been doing is displeasing to God…their face becomes ashen, and their heart becomes sorrowful…and only seconds elapse before their head is bowed and then their feet are pointing in the opposite direction…

- or similarly – when a person learns something from Scripture about the next step God wants them to take in their relationship with Him…and they are practically running down the road of obedience…

- either one of those examples is a person who can properly and joyfully conclude they are truly in the faith…they are continuing in God’s Word…

- regrettably I can tell way too many stories of men and women who have a very cavalier attitude toward all of this…they argue, and they excuse, and they blame shift…

- they don’t guard God’s command…they evade it…

- and what’s really bad is when they can do that with no guilt…which means their conscience has been seared – as Scripture says – as with a hot iron…

- this passage would suggest such a person has no reason to believe he/she is genuinely a Christian…because the evidence simply is not there…

- 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

- the Lord goes on to say in the next verse…

B. True disciples know the truth

- 8:32 - John 8:32 - and you will know the truth…

- we’re going to learn much more as this book progresses about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives…

- We just saw in the previous chapter -- John 7:17 - If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.

- that is a blessed promise…because if your heart is right, God will teach you through His Word what you need to know in order to live a life that is progressively pleasing to Him…

- and what impact with that truth have?...it certainly won’t puff us up with pride…and we won’t be satisfied with knowing as an end in itself…

C. True disciples have been freed by the power of the gospel

- John 8:32 - and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

- free from what?....

- Jesus doesn’t leave us in the dark about that, does He?

- John 8:34–36 - Jesus answered them, Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

- tonight at CFN we’re going to be explaining several exciting new initiatives in our Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry…

- this is one of the many ways that COVID was such a blessing because of the new training lessons that we learned that we would have never contemplated before…

- it’s also interesting to me that all of this is happening right during the time that Doc Smith, one of our biblical counseling ministry’s co-founders went to heaven…

- I think much of what is occurring falls under the heading of good stewardship…taking what the Lord entrusted to our generation and trying to increase it for God’s glory and the good of His people….

- one of the major points of our approach to soul-care and counseling is to equip men and women to…continue in God’s Word…

- even if they are in a period of trial and suffering…

- or even if they are struggling with a persistent sinful habit…

- the promise from the mouth of Jesus Himself is – true disciples will continue in God’s Word, and they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free…

- we anticipate the number of men and women seeking training in biblical counseling to double in the next year…we have been training about 2500 people per year…and we see that, as will be explained in greater detail tonight, as an important aspect of accomplishing the great commission Jesus left for His church…

- we believe that number could exceed 5000 in the next year…we’ll see, we may be wrong about that…

- but what would motivate a person to want to receive that kind of training?...the answer, as Paul Tripp pointed out in one of the titles of his important books on this subject…the possibility of being an Instrument in the Redeemers Hands…

- of helping someone else be freed from the power of sin by sharing truth with God’s Word with them in their hour of need…what could be better than that?...

- [develop the implication to Children’s ministries and VBS]…

- now, what is required in order to exercise this kind of faith?...

Requires an admission of your former enslavement

- why were these men and women unable or unwilling to truly believe in the redemptive work of Christ?...they didn’t believe they were enslaved to begin with…

- John 8:33 - They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

- that is an amazing statement from a group of people who had been physically enslaved by more nations than you can count and who were enslaved by Rome at the very moment they opened their mouths…

- and much more importantly, were enslaved to sin spiritually but were unwilling to acknowledge it which is the first step to repentance and saving faith…

- which would lead me to ask you -- Does Your Obedience to God’s Word Show You’ve Been Freed from Sin’s Power

II. Does Your Love for Christ Show You’ve Been Adopted into God’s Family? – 8:39-47

- for anyone who would say – I find it offensive that Jesus would say that I was enslaved to sin and it was only through faith in His shed blood that I could possibly be freed…well, you might want to sit back because the next step in the development of his logic was even more direct…you could summarize it like this…

A. Your deeds reveal the identity of your father

- the Lord raises this possibility in John 8:38 - I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.

- you know that had to get their attention…which is true, because look at their response…

- John 8:39 - They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus *said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.

- then a few verses later, as an insult to Jesus’ own mother and the doctrine of the virgin birth they say, - John 8:41 - …They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.”

- do you see the dynamic that is unfolding which illustrates an important aspect of belief?...

- when a person is moving toward saving faith…they are asking humble questions…

- when a person is rebelling against the truth of God, they are making excuses and sometimes even insults…

- which is why Jesus loves them enough to say directly in v. 44

- John 8:44 - “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

- here’s the point of this….there’s no neutral ground here…and you have to decide if you believe…

B. There is a real devil who is the father of lies and wants you to hate Christ

- and I realize someone hearing this might say – well, I’m too sophisticated for such ideas…

- Jesus would say otherwise…about Satan, and about you…

- and the question we would all be wise to answer is – has our faith in Christ resulted in…

Requires an acknowledgement of the existence of Satan and a desire to flee from him

- this is one of the places where faith goes from assenting to a few facts…to staking your life and eternal destiny on such matters…

- there are a couple of classic illustrations we try to use to clarify this issue…

1. The matter of communism – if you asked me if I believe in communism, I would say – sure, if you’re asking me if I believe communism exists…but certainly not if you’re asking if I’ve embraced it for a philosophy of economics for myself…

- see, some people believe in Jesus in the first sense, but not the second…

- btw – based on the direction our country is heading, we’re probably going to have to change that illustration, huh?...because so many would answer affirmatively to both sides…

- which actually illustrates the point…

- at the core, what do you really believe…and if you believe Jesus Christ was sent from the heavenly Father to pay the price to free us from the penalty, and the power, and ultimately the presence of your sin…then you will do everything you can to avoid our adversaries attempts to lie to you, and destroy you, and make you hate Christ just like he does…

2. another classic illustration is actually a true story of an acrobat named Charles Blondin…

- [tightrope across Niagara Falls…who believes I can do this?...

- tightrope across Niagara Falls pushing a wheelbarrow…who believes I can do this?...

Tightrope across Niagara Falls pushing a wheelbarrow with a person inside…who believes I can do this?...who wants to get in?...]

- and the points thus far are…

- you can’t truly believe in Christ as Lord and Savior unless understand that you were enslaved to sin and need rescue from outside of yourself through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ…

- and that you were born in sin…in the kingdom of darkness…regardless of your ethnicity, or your religious practices, or your social status…

- and you had to be born again…to be transferred from the kingdom of darkness ruled by our adversary the devil…and adopted into the family of God as an act of faith in Christ…

- many in this original audience were completely unwilling to hear the Word of God on these points…

- which proves the unregenerate nature of their heart and life…

- that’s why, if you truly know the Lord…you understand the reality and the immensity of the struggle for your soul and the souls of those the Lord has placed around you…

- this isn’t something to joke about, or to ignore…this is why Paul said… Ephesians 6:10–12 - Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

- that’s why Peter said…1 Peter 5:8 - Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

- and why James said…James 4:7 - Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

- you’re not going to have a desire to be adopted into the right family if you don’t first acknowledge that you were born into the wrong one…

- and once you have truly believed this [in the, get in Blondin’s wheelbarrow kind of way]…there will be evidence in your ongoing sanctification that you recognize the seriousness of this struggle…

- and that makes this as practical as you can imagine…let me sketch out a few ways…

1. the kind of music you listen to – let’s say for example, what’s on the radio on your way to work…

- why do many people flood their cars with solid Christian music during their daily commute?...because they want to continue in the God’s Word once they hit the workhouse…and they know they are in for a struggle every day and they need the resources of their heavenly Father in order to battle successfully…

- some people who call themselves drive to work with the devil and then can’t understand why they behave in such a worldly fashion the rest of the day…

- and btw, such persons have no reason to conclude that their so-called faith is genuine…

2. btw, young people – this is why your parents have a vested interest in your electronic devices…

- I would encourage you to check out a book by one of our own staff members Jonathan Smith entitled - #RUHooked?...

- parents, I hope you’re paying attention to this particular area in your home, and young people, if your parents are, I hope you’re not bucking it…

- and if you are – do you realize that could be evidence that you are not truly a follower of Jesus Christ?...

- if you are rebelling against all the rightful authority in your life…do you realize whose path you’re following?...who was it who blazed that trail?...

- and we are not doing young people, or anyone else for that matter, any favors if we preach some kind of easy believe-ism that does not challenge all of us to consider the genuineness of our faith…

- and the good news is – for those who have truly been adopted into the family of God…you can latch on to promises like these…1 John 4:4 - You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

- so, aren’t you thankful for the questions…

I. Does Your Obedience to God’s Word Show You’ve Been Freed from Sin’s Power?

II. Does Your Love for Christ Show You’ve Been Adopted into God’s Family? – 8:39-47

- and thirdly,

III. Does Your Hope of Heaven Show You Truly Know the Lord? – 8:48-59

- remember, by now, the evidence that Jesus is the Messiah is becoming overwhelming…even from what we’ve just read in the Gospel of John…

- whether we are thinking about the testimony of John the Baptist…

- or Jesus’ miracles or turning water into wine, or healing the nobleman’s son, or multiplying bread…

- or His compelling teaching to people like Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and the large crowds that had assembled…

- He repeatedly connected what was occurring to their OT Scriptures…

- but now it was time for them to decide what they really believed…

A. Jesus promises His followers that we will never see death

- John 8:51 - Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.

- and how did the people respond to that incredible promise?

- John 8:52 - The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’

- that’s what unbelief sounds like in real time…

B. True faith does not mock promises of eternal life, we rejoice in them.

- John 8:56 - “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

- you and I can exercise that same kind of Abraham-like faith today…but it…

Requires adoration of a Savior who is eternal.

- the Jews concluded this story by using their hands to pick up stones to stone him…we have chosen to believe in Him as Lord and Savior, and lift our hands to worship Him…

- [develop those who have, or who are, going through deep waters…it’s their hope of heaven that is sustaining them…

- those who are struggling with some kind of sinful habit – it’s their hope of heaven that is purifying them…

- those making decisions about serving – their hope of heaven motivating and guiding them…]

- [conclusion – how did you do on the test – and did it reveal decisions that need to be made…about the genuineness of your faith…develop what those should do who aren’t sure…]

Authors

Dr. Steve Viars

Roles

Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation

Bio

B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and four grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video