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THREE MARKS OF A BELIEVER
by Philip Owen

            In an age that is at once populated with people who profess to be Christians and people who hate God and those who possess genuine faith, it is critical to recognize the biblical evidences of saving faith.  John tells us he wrote his first epistle “that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (I John 5:13).  Among the evidences he offers are these:  (1) fellowship with Christ and His real church, (2) awareness and confession of personal sin, (3) love for and obedience to God’s Word, (4) observable, positive changes in behavior, (5) increasing Christ-likeness, (6) increased prayer life, and (7) undeserved conflict with the world.  To this list, we might add three mentioned by Paul in his epistle to the Philippians:  “For we are the circumcision [those whose flesh has been crucified with Christ, i.e., the saved], which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (3:3).

            1.  A believer worships in the Spirit of God.  Most conservative commentators and conservative modern translations agree that the foregoing statement is more accurate than the rendering by the KJV.  True believers, Paul explains, do not practice worship as mere rite or ritual.  External exercises, regardless of their form, fail to constitute worship.  “My speech and my preaching,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (I Cor. 2:4).  Saying or hearing words, praying prayers, singing songs, genuflecting do not necessarily comprise worship—they may be only an empty religious exercise.  Only when the Holy Spirit indwells, directs, empowers, and engages with a believing, obedient person, does he truly worship God.  Worship is God-engendered, God-empowered, and God-glorifying.  “I create the fruit of the lips [i.e., thanksgiving and praise]” (Isa. 57:19), the Lord declares.

            2.  A believer rejoices [“boasts”] in Christ Jesus.  Elsewhere Paul expressed this truth thus:  “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2).  Many people will talk about God, which is fine as far as it goes.  There is also a camp that speaks much about the Holy Spirit.  But the determining mark of a genuine believer is that he focuses upon the Person and Work of Christ.  Such an attitude precludes the notion that the individual believer has any merit or good work of his own in which to boast.  He understands that “it is God which worketh in . . . [him] both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).  One who speaks of his own goodness, who boasts of his own works, even one who speaks about God in some generic way but without reference to Christ may be suspect regarding his saving faith.  But one whose confidence is in Christ alone and who rests in His finished work is truly born again.

            3.  A believer has no confidence in the flesh.  This is the essential corollary to #2 above.  Paul testified to the Romans in these words:  “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (7:18).  Paul could not and would not rely upon himself.  And the sure evidence someone is saved is that even in the deepest recesses of his heart and mind he harbors no trust in anything he is, he does, or he does not do.  In maintaining this fact, Paul does not dismiss what he consistently avows elsewhere, i.e., the need to live a righteous life, but he does affirm that those works are not meritorious:  they are the sure fruit of a redeemed life, not its cause.  Good works result from a life that has been redeemed by Christ, indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, and yielded to His influence and power.  Recognizing the sanctifying work of God, the believer accepts no personal credit but acknowledges what Christ has wrought in him.

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