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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from: The Holy Bible, English

Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Discovering Your Spiritual Identity .................................................. 2
Identity #1 - Lost ................................................................................ 4
Identity #2 - Religiously Lost ......................................................... 12

Gospel
Identity #3 - Saved ........................................................................... 19

the
By Pastor Barry Keldie
on behalf of the Providence Church Elders
Discovering Your Spiritual Identity
A few years ago a national survey revealed a dangerous statistic concerning
the mission of the local church. The study concluded that while many weekly
attendees don’t consider themselves “Christians” they do believe they are going
to heaven. It is estimated that only 61 percent of Protestant church attendees
even claim to be “born-again” believers. In another more recent poll conducted
by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, we learned that the basic idea
of the “gospel” and “Christianity” was melting. Even the most theologically
conservative denominations were losing their grasp on the true nature of
the Christian faith. As the true identity of the Christian faith becomes less
and less clear, we must fight for the purity and faithfulness of the true Gospel.

These studies show us it is quite possible for believers and unbelievers alike to be
involved in the same Bible studies, service organizations and churches. Both may
be zealously devoted to prayer, tithing, and obeying God’s laws but are doing so out
of radically different motives. This mixture of Christians and non-Christians is a
great thing and part of the design of God, but we must not confuse the distinctions
between the two groups. While we must always welcome and unconditionally
love people in all stages of spiritual development, it is essential for each person
to be able to discern their spiritual identity. Unfortunately, the current trends
show many people confuse church attendance and morality with true salvation.

True salvation occurs only when God allows a man or woman to see Him for
who He really is. Upon seeing the fullness of God displayed through mercy,

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grace and love for a person, does he or she fall in love with Him. This change
that moves a heart from hatred for God to love for God is called “regeneration”
or “salvation.” The Bible says that salvation is when God removes a heart of
stone from your chest and replaces it with a new heart of flesh able to love
God fully (Ezk. 36:26-27). The Bible does not say that if you adhere to a certain
moral code, then you will be saved. Instead, it says that if you love God, you
have been saved. So how do you know if you have been truly saved? Do you
simply attend church and do your best to be religious? Or is your devotion to the
things of God birthed out of a new heart? Which are you? How do you know?

Understanding your spiritual identity is essential to experiencing the life Jesus offers.
Our objective in studying these identities in-depth is to provide an accurate lens
through which all people can examine themselves. We will discuss three different
spiritual identities found in the teachings of the Bible. We believe that every
human being exists in one of these three spiritual states; saved, lost and religiously
lost. Our goal is to help you recognize and understand your spiritual identity.

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IDENTITY #1 - LOST
What does it mean to be a non-Christian?
The first thing to understand about this spiritual identity is that all
people begin here. The Apostle Paul says, “all men have sinned and fallen
short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). So what does this mean?

Before we can rightly analyze the state of a fallen man, we need to know why
we are fallen. The word “fallen” refers to the state of man in the sight of God.
In Genesis 1:26 we see that God created man in his image; in Genesis 3 man
sins and therefore “falls” from right standing before God. Because of man’s
sin, he can no longer be in fellowship with God. Why? Because man (as in
humanity) was created in God’s image in order to bring God glory. We glorify
God most with our affections and longings for him. When we love something
more than anything, that love speaks volumes about that thing’s beauty and value.
The decision to sin is not just breaking a moral code, it is a direct attack on the
glory and attractiveness of God. Sin is choosing something other than God as the
ultimate provider of life and pleasure. The very decision to sin gives glory to other
things. It proclaims that something else is more attractive or more useful than
God. Romans 1 describes sinning as “worshipping and serving the created over the
Creator,” (Romans 1:24). When the Bible speaks of the ‘image of God’ it speaks
of our ability to image forth or glorify God with our lives. The purpose of all our
lives is to glorify God or proclaim the excellence and value of God to the world.

“I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’


And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth,

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Everyone who is called by My name,
And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”
Isaiah 43:6-7

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do,


do all to the glory of God.”
1Corinthians 10:31

When man sinned, the image of God became distorted but not destroyed. This
means there is still the possibility that we can proclaim the supreme beauty and
value of God, but not in our present state. God still thinks so highly of His “distorted
image” that in Genesis 9 God establishes the death penalty for murdering another
human being because “…God made man in his own image” (Gen. 9:6).This is great
news for humanity! It means that God has an unbridled passion for mankind —
not because He needs us or because we have the ability to give Him glory by our
own strength — but because we are beautifully crafted in His image. This totally
debunks the teaching that says God loves those who are good and obedient to
Him. God blesses disobedient people throughout the entire Bible [see: Genesis
9:20-27 (Noah), 16:1-2 (Abraham); 2 Samuel 11-12:15 (David); Matthew 26:69-75 (Peter)
]. If God did not bless disobedient people, I would be a dead man. God does
not only “save” and bless those who obey Him and want Him. This means that
the primary reason “lost” people are “lost” is not because of their actions. Lost
people cannot be defined by action; they are biblically defined by their affection.
The fall of man was not merely the disobedient action of Adam and Eve, it was
chiefly their unfaithful self-centeredness.

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The most biblical definition of sin I can find in the Bible is found in Jeremiah 2.

Skies, be shocked at the things that have happened


and shake with great fear!” says the LORD.
“My people have done two evils:
They have turned away from me,
the spring of living water.
And they have dug their own wells,
which are broken wells that cannot hold water.”
Jeremiah 2:12-13 (Century)

This Scripture outlines the very nature of sin. It is not drinking, sex, skipping church
or even robbing someone. It is forsaking God as your source of life and pleasure
and looking for it in other things. Adam and Eve believed the serpent when he said
they could be just like God and have life outside of God. That’s the sin that caused
the fall of man! We are not damned for what we do on weekends; it’s what we
long for and spend our life on that exposes us for who we really are.

Most people think of sin in terms of breaking the rules God gave humanity in
the Bible. They believe God is most disappointed when we break his moral code.
Sinning, then becomes an issue of morality and the
universal belief becomes the erroneous idea that good
people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. So
then, the goal of life is to be moral or good enough to
get into heaven.

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This belief fails to look deep enough into life to see the real problem.

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good
fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered
from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.The
good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and
the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the
abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Luke 6:43-45

As Jesus states, our actions or


immorality are simply a symptom
of a greater spiritual issue. Every
action we have can be traced to
an affection that birthed it.

For example, a few years back


my stepfather suffered from acute
back pain. As time passed the
back pain increased and brought
with it migraine headaches. He
went to the doctor and was treated for his pain. A few weeks later he fell ill one
morning, and by noon he had passed away. The doctors did everything they could
to treat his symptoms of back pain and headaches, but failed to diagnose and treat
the cancer that birthed them. When we just see morality as the main issue, we are
tragically underestimating the greater spiritual issue. Moralism and discipline can
only address the symptoms while there is a much deeper root issue.

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If sin is found in our affections, not just our actions, and all people are inclined to
sin, what does that mean? We are all prone to love lesser things.We are inclined to
look to money, sex, work, movies and vacations for ultimate satisfaction instead of
finding satisfaction in God.This means sin isn’t just wanting bad things but wanting
any thing more than God. Sin can be turning a good thing into an ultimate thing.
The Bible says that God is the giver of all good things, and he gives good things as
an invitation to enjoy the greatest gift, Himself.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above”


James 1:17

The “good gifts” that God gives us, like children, friends, jobs and entertainment
aren’t built to satisfy us, but to usher us closer to finding satisfaction in God. In
those moments of sheer joy, like holding a newborn baby or enjoying that perfect
sunset, God is saying to our souls, “Do you see how great this is, do you see how
much joy this gives you? I can give you so much more. This is but a small taste of
the satisfaction you can find in me!” The good things were never meant to give
us ultimate satisfaction, but take to us closer to God, the real source of ultimate
satisfaction.

Our loving good things over the one who created those things not only hurts
the reputation of God, it costs us joy. Imagine me being away from my wife and
deciding to write her the sweetest love letter I could think of.

I would sit down and with rhythm and prose describe in detail her beauty and my
love for her. I would then drop it in the mail and wait for her response. One day
she would open the door to a mailman who handed her my letter.

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She would open it, read it and hopefully, feel very loved. What if she then hugged
and thanked the mailman? What if she then fell in love with the mailman for
being so romantic and loving? She would be falling for the wrong guy. I wrote
it, I thought it and I am the one who genuinely feels it The mailman is just the
messenger! My letter was meant to make her love me more, yet she falls in love
with the guy who handed it to her. That would be heartbreaking and unbelievable.

Yet, when we take a good thing from God and make it an ultimate thing we are
committing the same heartbreaking act of treason. In that illustration my letter
to my wife represented joy and the mailman was the vehicle that carried joy to
her. If she would just understand who wrote it for her and sent it to her, she
would thank the vehicle and love the sender. God is inviting us to love him more
with every good thing we enjoy. We must look past the vehicles that bring us
joy and look to the one who gives new meaning to joy and new depth to love.

Sin is giving anything else the supreme place of honor in our hearts or lives.
This can be in the form of hating God, or just loving something else more
than God. He designed us to enjoy the fullness of life, not desperately
search for satisfaction. Our fallen state costs us a deep, meaningful
relationship with Him and any chance at real joy and true happiness.

“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;


According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my
transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

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And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.”
Psalms 51:1-5

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IDENTITY #2 - RELIGIOUSLY LOST
Can you be lost even though you’ve attended
church your whole life?
“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.’”
Matthew 7:21-23

Many people see this passage as one of the scariest Scriptures in the Bible because
this states that you can be religious and lost. In other words, this says there is no
safety in morality and religious disciplines. Because of the unnerving nature of this
idea, many people never even take it into consideration. Jesus is talking to a crowd
about religious people who had no real love for God.

Imagine finding an ancient Incan treasure map guiding its finders to untold wealth.
Upon finding the map you hire a translator to help you read the map. Unfortunately,
he makes some critical errors upon translating the map. Without knowing the
quality of his translation, you sell your car, your house, and the majority of your
belongings in order to pay for the expedition. After months of travel you finally
arrive at what you think is the place of your treasure.You feverishly dig but it yields
nothing more than dirt. Simply because of these bad instructions, all you sold was
for naught. You did all you could and were willing to sacrifice all, but even with all
your efforts and best intentions, you now had nothing.

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In the same way many people are preaching and teaching that moralism or religious
piety will save you.These things lead people to believe if they just try hard enough
or stay really committed then they will reap the greatest treasure of all - heaven.
But even with the best intentions and remarkable sacrifice, it will yield nothing in
the end. Are you assured that the grace of God has changed your heart and you
are growing in your love for God? Or are you still striving to find security in your
ability to obey God’s laws? Bad spiritual instruction leads us to insecurity and a
lack of peace resulting in questions like “How good is good enough?” Or “How
dedicated must I be?”

To truly discern your spiritual identity, you must take a honest look at your life
and weigh the evidence.We will talk about two implications that while you may be
religious or a good person you could still be lost.

ONE: SPIRTUAL LIFE BUILT ON A CHANGED MIND BUT NOT


A CHANGED HEART

Many people have categorized Christians and non-Christians as people who do


“believe” in God and people who do not “believe” in God. This description is
grossly inadequate. The Bible tells us that it is not enough to just believe in God,
and it is not enough even to approve of God.

“You believe that God is one.You do well; the demons also believe,
and shudder.”
James 2:19

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It is clear that the Bible demands more
than belief and approval — it demands
a miracle. Salvation is not just people
agreeing with facts; it is a people who
were hopelessly selfish and looking for
joy in everything but God and then
finding the hope and life they have
been looking for in Christ.

The most important change that


takes place in a person when he is
redeemed is his change in desire. If a
person changes his mind about God,
but still has a growing longing for sin, then it shows fruit of being counterfeit. The
consequence of a changed mind and no change in heart is devastating.You live a life
of forced morality that you find absolutely no joy in. So you believe in a God who
you don’t know and you try to serve a God who you are not passionate about.

“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and
said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name
of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the
gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 2:37-38

Our belief plays a huge role in our spiritual identity. Obviously you can’t love a
God you don’t believe in, but it is possible to believe in a God you don’t love.

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Knowing and loving are not synonymous. For Christians, belief goes much deeper
than our mind. It pierces the heart.

Christians are definitely commanded to live a certain way, but only in relation to
their heart. God commands that we obey because we love!

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”


John 14:15

We cannot obey to love; we obey because we love. Obedience will never produce
love, but love will always produce obedience. Many of us who are not really
believers, but are instead religious are caught in a cycle of modifying our behavior,
but never growing in love for God. We come to events and church services, and
we vow not to smoke or do drugs anymore, but that’s missing the point. This
would be like marrying a woman you have never met and will never see.You have
all the social, financial and physical responsibilities of a real commitment, but you
don’t experience the emotional and affectional joys of a genuine relationship. This
kind of relationship would be oppressive, not exploding with new life and new joy.
This would be better described as slavery, not marriage. And God is not looking
to enslave a group of people with moral principles. He is creating a wonderful love
relationship with his people. He is described as the perfect “husband” desperately
in love with his bride, the church (Ephesians 5:25).

We should follow Christ in obedience, but the first step is a change in heart!
Remember that the purpose of a Christian is to proclaim the infinite worth of
God, not just be a better person.

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“Everyone who is called by my name whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
Isaiah 43:7

TWO: SPIRITUAL LIFE BUILT ON ATTRITION ALONE, NOT
CONTRITION

I know these are words that you have probably never heard of, but they are the
best ones I could find — so let me explain. These terms are used to describe two
types of repentance.

re·pen·tance, (noun) – turning away from sin and toward God.

Repentance is turning away from sin or something that you have done wrong.
Attrition and Contrition deal with the motivation behind your repentance. Attrition
is repentance from sin or turning from guilt simply to escape punishment. It is
like a child who steals a cookie and only feels remorse if he is caught. Contrition
is repentance based on remorse for your wrong doing. Contrition is repentance
that comes from legitimate sorrow over your sin and the defamation of God’s
name.

Unfortunately many people have heard a gospel presentation built on attritional


repentance. Preachers told us to fear hell more than they told us to love God. If I
only lived with my wife out of fear of being alone, would that be love? Of course
my love for her would create a great fear of being without her, but the root of our
relationship must be love, not fear.

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Many who believe they are saved accepted Christ only so they would not go to
hell. This is not the true repentance that the Bible calls for. As Isaiah states below,
the proper response in realizing one’s own sinfulness is sorrow over what you have
done and then humble repentance yielding salvation. If your salvation experience
had no regret or sorrow over sin, then you may well be religiously lost.

“…This is the one I esteem:


he who is humble and contrite in spirit,
and trembles at my word.”
Isaiah 66:2

Why is it necessary to feel sorrow for sin


in “real” repentance?

Belief alone is not enough to be saved, and belief alone is what breeds turning from
your sin with no real regret.

The goal of repentance is much more than feeling bad about yourself. In fact it is
not about you at all. Sorrow in repentance is necessary to show the infinite value
of God’s glory and the value it holds in your life. If you loved your car and you
wrecked it, would you be upset? You would if you really loved the car. If you did
not care about the car then your feelings would be much less intense. The same
is true regarding the reputation of Christ and his glory. If you really love Christ
then you will be devastated when you wreck spiritually and your sin does damage
to his reputation. You will feel disappointment when you cause a dent in the glory
of God. Our sorrow is not simply for sorrow’s sake; it is a proof of Christ’s worth
to us, which is a proof of genuine salvation!

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IDENTITY #3 - SAVED
What does it mean to truly believe?
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“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or
do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you
— unless indeed you fail the test?”
2 Corinthians 13:5

It is very important for believers to test themselves continually because the


major mark of a true believer is perseverance. The Bible says that the real fruit of
salvation is that your faith continues to grow and flourish forever! The real way
we determine if we are true believers is to test ourselves for persevering faith!
Read this quote by Pastor John Piper:

“I’ll be very personal to give it its sharpest point. If in the coming years I commit apostasy
and fall away from Christ, it will not be because I have not tasted of the word of God
and the Spirit of God and the miracles of God. I have drunk of his word. The Spirit has
touched me. I have seen his miracles and I have been his instrument for a few. But, if
over the next ten or twenty years, John Piper begins to cool off spiritually and lose interest
in spiritual things and become more fascinated with making money and writing Christless
books; and I buy the lie that the church of Christ is a drag and that the incarnation is a
myth and that there is one life to live so let us eat, drink and be merry – if that happens,
then know that the truth is this: John Piper was mightily deceived in the first fifty years
of his life. His faith was an alien vestige of his father’s joy. His fidelity to his wife was a
temporary passion and compliance with social pressure; his fatherhood the outworking of
natural instincts. His preaching was driven by love of words and crowds. His writing was
a love affair with fame. And his praying was the deepest delusion of all – an attempt to
get God to supply the resources of his vanity.”

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So the question becomes this:

How do I know if I am on a path of persevering faith? What does a faith that lasts
forever look like when it’s a year old or two months old or two days old? How
do I know?

The great news is that you can know that you are saved and that your heart has
been changed.

“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.”
1 John 5:13

You will know if God’s thoughts are slowly becoming your thoughts and if His
concerns are becoming your concerns. The search for assurance of your salvation
begins in a place of glaring honesty with yourself.Again, I will give you two evidences
to help you see where you are in your relationship with Christ.

2 Evidences of Biblical Christianity


ONE: SPIRITUAL LIFE BUILT ON
REPENTENCE NOT RITUAL

True repentance is birthed out of brokenness over our sin


in response to God’s holiness. This version of repentance
is best defined: “Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin,
a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to

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forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.”2

This definition will help clarify exactly what we mean when we say “repentance.”
Biblical Christianity is built on continuing personal repentance and not the
consistent rituals of mass religion. Continuing personal repentance says that I am
constantly seeking the Lord to grow in me and to make me a more God-saturated
believer. It admits that we are in sin and need help. On the other hand, a priority
placed on rituals says that if I just walk this aisle or read this book or say this
prayer or continue to go to church then I am okay. Many American Christians
place their hope of assurance in the fact that they said “the prayer” years ago,
instead of looking for evidences of Gods work in them through the Spirit. Many
believers believe that their rituals can do the job of repentance even without
evidence of genuine life change (Gal. 5:22). Sadly, they are wrong.

John Calvin describes genuine repentance like this:

“But this confession, as it is made to God, must be in sincerity; and the heart cannot speak
to God without newness of life: it then includes true repentance. God, indeed, forgives
freely, but in such a way, that the facility of mercy does not become an enticement to
sin.”
Commentary on the Catholic Epistles

As Calvin so eloquently states saving belief is always accompanied with repentance


and never with emotional entitlement to sin. True believers feel grief over their
sin.

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“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may
increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or
do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with
Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the
dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness
of life.”
Romans 6:1-4

Forgiveness or grace involves two aspects. The first is widely known and
understood, it is that Jesus paid for all our sins and took our punishment on the
cross. But this doesn’t turn grace into leniency. Grace is not God looking the
other way concerning your sin. Yes, Jesus paid for all our sins, but that’s only half
the wonder of grace. The second aspect of grace is the effectual nature of it.
Christ not only took on our punishment, but He also gives us his righteousness!
So not only does He pay our future penalty for sin, He imputes us with His
righteousness to fight the current effects of sin in our lives.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we
might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

So grace has an active nature to it, it accomplishes something. Most people think
of grace as leniency, taking away the action we deserve, but grace is also actively
producing new life in us. The Apostle Paul gives credit to grace for changing his
life, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in
vain,” (1 Corinthians 15:10). How can leniency accomplish this?

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It can’t, but grace can. So grace isn’t a “get out of jail free card,” it is a change of
life. It both pays for the crime and then transforms criminals into holy men. So
you see, the nature of true forgiveness doesn’t encourage more sinning, it actively
destroys our longings to continue sinning.

TWO: AFFECTIONS VS. ACTIONS

The most common misconception about Christianity is that we are simply policed
morally. Most people believe that God’s primary concern is our morality or our
actions. Much of the modern church spends most of its time telling people what
not to do while the New Testament spends its time telling people what not to
love.

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the
world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
1 John 2:15

Many of the religious lost are caught up


in a battle of right and wrong actions
when the real war is over greater and
lesser affections. The war of your soul
is won or lost in your heart. God is
most concerned with what or who you
invest your heart in. When asked which
is the greatest commandment, Jesus
answered,

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“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all
your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
Mark 12:30

Now am I saying that we should not be concerned


with our actions? No.Your actions or obedience to
God’s law (the Bible) is a direct reflection of your
love for Him. Your obedience is important because
it is a direct reflection of how much you care for
the glory of God. Our hatred for sin and longing
for holiness is evidence of a hatred for things that
would rob us of seeing and grasping the fullness of
God and a longing to find our joy and pleasure in
Him alone. Our actions or obedience show our
determination to be satisfied in Christ alone, and
not the counterfeit pleasures of the world.

“You will make known to me the path of life;


In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
Psalms 16:11

Authentic Christianity, with all of its promised joy, peace, security and life, is found
in a heart that longs for God and a life that is not satisfied by the emptiness found
in social or vocational achievement. It is a life that hates the dimness of things that
do not have eternal benefit, and that revels in the recklessness of a life spent on
God!

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CONCLUSION
What do I do with this information?

This booklet was written to help people discover the state of their souls, and
it doesn’t get more personal than that. If you read one of these sections and
thought “this is me” we would love to help you discover what might be the best
next step for you. If anything in this booklet brought up questions or concerns
please contact us at questions@insideprovidence.com

Our desire is to glorify God through lives changed by the gospel of


Jesus Christ.

1) The Barna Group - http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=8


– ‘Born Again’ – “Protestant church attenders are more than twice as likely than are
Catholic church attenders to be born again Christians (61% to 26%, respectively).
(2007)”

2) Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem