Blessed Assurance

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We are returning to our study of the book of Acts today. We took two weeks to talk about Palm Sunday and Easter, so now over the next two Sundays we will finish the book of Acts. If you followed the reading plan, you already finished reading the book. But if the last two weeks were kind of a whirlwind, you might have forgotten where we were, so let me remind you.
The apostle Paul had spent years traveling all over what was known as Asia Minor, which is now known as Turkey. He then traveled through Macedonia, and down into Greece, and then back through Macedonia, back to Asia Minor, then sailed back to Jerusalem, trying to make it there in time for Pentecost. Everywhere Paul went there was a Jewish presence he tried to minister to by telling them about the resurrection of Jesus. His preaching on the resurrection of Jesus always got mixed results. Some came to faith and others refused. Those who refused were hostile toward Paul and his followers, attacking them and running them out of town. The Lord revealed to Paul that he wanted him to go back to Jerusalem, and Paul knew that meant trouble for him when he got there. He knew his trip back to Jerusalem would involve chains, but he went anyway.
Paul arrived in Jerusalem and one day he goes to the temple and some of the hostile Jews from the places he had visited recognized him and called for his death on the grounds of preaching against Judaism and desecrating the temple bringing a Gentile into it. They began assaulting Paul until it caught the attention of the Romans and they seized Paul to take him to the barracks. Paul asks them for permission to speak to his accusers, which is granted in Acts 21:37-40. He defends himself against the crowd in Acts 22 but they do not listen. Paul is then held by the Romans and defends himself before a council made up of the high priest Ananias, and a mix of Sadducees and Pharisees. The council began arguing among themselves because Paul was claiming resurrection of the dead, which the Sadducees did not believe, but the Pharisees did. They plotted to kill Paul, but Paul was moved to Caesarea when the plot was discovered. In Caesarea, Paul was brought before Felix, the governor of the area. After Felix heard his case, he postponed making a decision. Paul stayed there for two years until Festus, the man who replaced Felix showed up. There is another court circus that does not swing in Paul’s favor, so as a Roman citizen, he makes an appeal to Caesar. When he does this, the law states he must be sent to Rome. In the meantime, Herod Agrippa, “king” over Judea, comes to Caesarea to pay respects to Festus and Festus tells Herod about Paul. Herod gets curious, so Paul is brought before him as well.
In Acts 26 Paul begins addressing Herod. Festus is under the impression that the issue comes down to a difference of understanding Jewish Law, which is not punishable by death. Herod has a Jewish background to fall back on and Paul uses this to get his attention. He appeals to his own Jewish heritage and argues that the hope of the Jewish people promised by God is the resurrection of the dead as proven by Christ’s resurrection. He talks about his zealous persecution of Christians before he met Christ on the road to Damascus. He is essentially saying, “I believed as my accusers do until I met the man in whom I now believe.” So he described his firm belief in Judaism and his refusal to believe the resurrection of Jesus, participating in the very thing his accusers sought to do to him. He explains his conversion story, but then he makes some very interesting statements in the verses to follow that I want us to look at.
Acts 26:19–23 NASB95
“So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. “For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death. “So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
His statement in not being disobedient to the heavenly vision is intentional. If a word from God had come to a Jew, other Jews would expect him to follow it. It also reinforces the claim that what Paul has now spent years sharing did not come from his own delusions or the delusions of others, but from God through personal experience. He started in Damascus, then Jerusalem, Judea, and then to the Gentiles. Paul is now firm in his belief that the Jew’s greatest hope, the hope promised by God is in the resurrection of Jesus. And he went everywhere telling people about it. For this reason, those who opposed him seized him, which has brought him to this moment.
With the help of the Lord, he has taken the gospel to the greatest and smallest of all people. His comment about the prophets and Moses is also intentional. “I’m only telling people about what the bible you say you follow says about this great hope.” The Old Testament predicted the coming, the life, the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah, who is the first among many to proclaim light to the nations.

Why are you a Christian, and why should anyone else become one?

There are many ways you might answer this question, but Eric Hernandez, the Apologetics Lead for Texas Baptists (formerly known as the Baptist General Convention of Texas) has a very profound answer to these two questions.

Because it’s true

If Jesus rose from the dead, which we have a wealth of reasons to believe that he did, Christianity is true and every other religion on the planet is false. Jesus has risen from the dead, meaning he told the truth about himself, meaning he is God and there is no way to be with God apart from him, so we must believe in him so we will not perish, but have everlasting life secured for us by the resurrection.

Do you know with absolute certainty that if your life ended right now you would be in heaven?

How do you know that?

The gospel of Jesus Christ calls everyone to repentance and the pursuit of holiness through personal obedience to Christ’s commands.

How do you know if you are a true believer?
Every true believer has a testimony.
Every true believer hates sin.
Every believer has a testimony, a personal story about how and when the Lord stepped in and saved them. Do you have such a story? Can you look back over your life and see a time where you came to know the Lord personally? Paul told his story to king Agrippa about his Damascus road experience. Your story may be simple. It may not be as intense as this one. That doesn’t matter. The intensity of your story is not the measure of its authenticity. Everyone has a story. What is yours? How did you come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior?
Second, every true believer hates sin.
Romans 8:11–13 NASB95
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
If you have a testimony, the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you. Because this is true we owe nothing to our flesh, that is the former self who has been crucified with Christ. Rather, we owe everything to the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God will raise you to eternal life, until then we live by the Spirit, meaning we put to death the deeds of the body, which is sin.
As a Christian, there is one violent act that is always permissible: the killing of sin in your own life. Putting to death the deeds of the flesh is a violent act. It requires you to go on the attack. To find sin in your life and root it out. We are under obligation by the Spirit and through the Spirit to do this. We must not love the the things which put Christ on the cross in the first place.
Timothy Brindle serves as Associate Pastor at Olive Street Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania but he has been a Christian hip-hop artist since 2003. He was saved a week before 9/11 and began using his talents to write Christ-centered hip-hop music ever since. He has a song called Let’s Kill Sin based on these verses that I would like to read to you.
Read Let’s Kill Sin Lyrics (
We are called to wage war against sin and root it out but we don’t take sin very seriously. Do you feel stuck in your relationship with the Lord? Have you grown comfortable in your patterns of sinful behavior to the degree that you don’t even consider it sinful anymore? Agree with God that it is time to wage war again against the idols of your heart. This is not a solo battle either. We are called to assist one another in combating sin and do so lovingly. A true believer in Christ hates sin, so let’s kill sin.
How do you know if you are a true believer?
Every true believer has a testimony.
Every true believer hates sin.
Every true believer exhibits signs of repentance through good works.
Ephesians 2:8–10 NASB95
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Paul argues from these verses that salvation is a product of the grace of God through faith, which did not come from within oneself. Rather, it is a gift from God. This is not sourced from works, that is there was nothing you or I did to achieve it, otherwise we would boast in it. Notice the order. Faith comes prior to the good works God sets out for us to walk in. When we repent of our sin, rooting it out in our lives, we will walk in righteousness, bearing fruit of repentance. The good work we do is not even our work, but Christ’s work in and through us by the power of the Spirit. The good works that you and I walk in are Christ’s works through us for which we cannot take credit for. The good works we walk in are a product of the pursuit of holiness wrought by our personal obedience to Christ’s commands.
So can you have absolute assurance that you will go to heaven if your life ends today? If you have a testimony, you hate sin, and that hatred of sin is exhibited by signs of repentance through good works, then you should know and understand that your salvation did not begin with you, nor will it end with you, nor does it depend on you. Everything hinges on what Christ has done in making atonement for your sins and raising victorious from the dead. Everything you do in walking with the Spirit is a product of that truth.
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