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7 Secrets to Spiritual Success

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Do you long to achieve spiritual victory? Discover the seven things you must do to achieve spiritual success-and gain crucial insight and guidance on exactly how to do them!

About the Author:

Dr. Woodrow (Wood) Kroll is president and senior Bible teacher for Back to the Bible, a radio broadcast ministry reaching up to 80 percent of the world every day in nineteen languages. Dr. Kroll's clear, incisive ...

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Overview

Do you long to achieve spiritual victory? Discover the seven things you must do to achieve spiritual success-and gain crucial insight and guidance on exactly how to do them!

About the Author:

Dr. Woodrow (Wood) Kroll is president and senior Bible teacher for Back to the Bible, a radio broadcast ministry reaching up to 80 percent of the world every day in nineteen languages. Dr. Kroll's clear, incisive teaching of the Word keeps him in demand as a speaker all over the world. The acclaimed author of numerous books and a producer of Bible teaching videocassettes, he makes his home with his wife, Linda, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Kroll, a Nebraska-based Bible teacher and former president of Practical Bible College, has written a how-to for spiritual success. Kroll defines "spiritual" narrowly--this is not a book for Hindu mediators or New Age channelers, but for those seeking the Holy Spirit. Success requires living according to God's will, and readers can get there in seven easy steps. First, check to see if love, hope, faith and obedience are evident in your life; then develop intimacy with God through prayer; get into good habits, including going to church and witnessing; learn to ask friends, pastors and the Holy Ghost for help in your spiritual journey; don't be taken in by Satan's temptations, be they extramarital sex or ostensibly harmless enticements such as gossiping; recognize that God gives second chances and repent when you backslide; and remember the ultimate goal of eternal life. Kroll's writing is lively and brisk, and he illustrates his seven principles with entertaining personal anecdotes, but the book is somewhat superficial. Kroll is no Teresa of Avila or St. John of the Cross, and the temptations and doubts he addresses represent no dark night of the soul. Kroll's confident "you know you're saved if" check list seems somewhat Pollyanna-ish when compared with, for instance, early Puritan writings about assurance. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781576736647
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/7/2000
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.39 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


I'd rather know a few things for certain than to be sure
of a lot of things that aren't so.

Josh Billings


We know that we have passed from death to life.

1 John 3:14


* * *


I have always said, with tongue in cheek, that the second happiest day of your life is the day you bring that first little baby home from the hospital. Your life is filled with joy you didn't know existed. But the happiest day of your life is the day you marry, off your last child. Suddenly you discover someone you've neglected for a quarter of a century—your spouse.

    Although Linda and I cherished the opportunity to raise each of our children, we have enjoyed our empty nest. We have rediscovered each other since our children have grown and gone. When all your kids are married and your responsibility to them is decreased, you also discover something else you never had—a little extra cash.

    It's surprising how much money is freed up when you no longer have teenagers to feed. Your telephone bill shrivels like a pickle in a microwave. Mountains of laundry dwindle to a single basket. Soccer matches still take place on Saturday, but instead of sitting in a lawn chair on the sidelines, now you sit in your easy chair at home. And the greatest thing: With no children in the home, you realize there are dozens of restaurants that don't have golden arches in front of them. Ah, the freedom of the empty nest!

    We love ethnic food. Youname it—Chinese, Indian, Moroccan, French, Arabic, German—if it has a taste and aroma all its own, count us in. Soon after our last daughter was married, we happened upon a little Mexican place called La Paloma. It's just a "greasy spoon" joint, but we enjoy going there. There's not a booster chair in the whole place. Judging from the clientele, it seems others our age have discovered it, too.

    In the front, right by a big window, is a corner booth where we sometimes sit. A half dozen plants and a cactus are permanent fixtures in the window. The plants seem to be doing well. Their stems are green and healthy. Their flowers bloom brightly. They seem to enjoy the smell of habernos sauce in the air. The cactus is a different story. It's spiny branches have become hollow and dry. They droop over the edge of the pot like hair soaked too long in conditioner. The cactus is not green and growing. In fact, it is a sickly brown. No sign of life exists at all, and for a good reason. The cactus is dead, deceased, exterminated, expired. Never mind that the waitress told me it's looking much better lately. That cactus is dead. I'm no plant doctor, but I'd be willing to bet there are no vital signs.


Signs of Life

Checking for vital signs is common in many professions today. Botanists do it when they have successfully produced a hybrid hibiscus. They "baby" their darling new flower, looking for any sign of stress. Auto mechanics check a car's diagnostics to determine what's wrong. Nurses in intensive care units keep close tabs on their patients by checking heart monitors. When EMTs arrive on the scene of an accident, the first thing they do is check for a pulse. Even pilots do a preflight check of their airplane before they take off. They call it a "walk around."

    I asked my neighbor, who is a United Airlines pilot, what he looks for during a walk around.

    "You name it," he replied. "Anything from dents in the nose cone to leaks in the hydraulic fluid. We read gauges in the wheel well, check fire extinguishers for pressure, and make sure nothing is in the engine intake." (He once found a Coke can in the engine intake of his plane, left there by a careless mechanic.) In short, pilots get a "read" on the general condition of the plane.

    You can do the same thing with your spiritual life. If you have been born again, there should be signs of that new birth. If you have found new life in Christ, there should be evidence. Examining your life for signs of spiritual vitality is like skinning the bark off a branch. The outside may look a bit crusty and old, but strip a piece of that branch with your penknife, and underneath you will see bright and beautiful green. That's the sign of life in a branch; that's a vital sign. If there are no real signs of life in your Christian experience, there is likely no experience either.

    It's no secret that you can't be spiritually successful if you aren't a Christian. You need new life, and the Bible is clear that only Christ can bring that. Jesus' ability to provide life is a favorite theme of the Gospel of John. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (3:16). Jesus presented Himself to the world as "the bread of life" (6:48), the giver of abundant life (10:10), "the resurrection and the life" (11:25), and "the way, the truth, and the life" (14:6).

    John the Baptist agreed, saying, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life" (3:36). And when some disciples deserted Jesus, He turned to the Twelve and asked, "Do you also want to go away?" Peter piped up and said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (6:67—69). Having evidence of this kind of life, new life in Christ, is the very basis for spiritual success.

    So what should you look for? If you are taking your pulse or doing a walk around to see if there really is evidence of salvation in your life, what are the vital signs you should spot? Here are a few of the signs that will tell you if you're spiritually alive.


Look for Evidence of Faith

Whether we realize it or not, all of life is a walk of faith. We put our faith in many things and many people, sometimes foolishly. How do you know that the next burger you eat at your favorite fast-food place will not contain contaminated beef and make you sick? You don't; you wolf it down by faith. How do you know that the person speeding toward you on the highway doesn't have a blood alcohol level two times higher than the legal limit? You don't; you drive by faith. How do you know the pilot of your plane is competent to fly that complex piece of machinery? You don't; you fly by faith. Most of life is lived with little thought as to how much faith we have in others.

    It's like that when you are saved. You come to believe that you are a sinner, because the Bible says so (Romans 3:10, 23; Psalm 51:5). You know you can't save yourself, because the Bible says so (Isaiah 64:6; Luke 18:26-27). You believe only Jesus Christ can save you from your sins—again, because the Bible says so (Acts 4:12; Luke 19:10). But can you trust what the Bible says? What if the Bible is not the Word of God as it claims to be (2 Timothy 3:16)? What if it is just a collection of fairy tales as some of your friends insist? What if your grandmother and grandfather were just naive to believe the Bible? What then?


The Book you can trust

One of the vital signs that indicates you are alive in Christ is that you believe God's promises recorded in the Bible are actually going to happen. Everybody must trust something, and Christians trust the Bible. Christians no longer see the Bible as a family heirloom or an ancient relic; they accept it for what it claims to be—the revelation of the mind of God to the minds of men (2 Peter 1:21). You see evidences of faith in what God told you, and you take those evidences of faith as strong indicators that you really are saved.

    Regardless of how you viewed the Bible in the past, and despite the fact that you don't understand everything you read now, you begin to think that maybe your grandparents (or childhood Sunday school teacher or churchgoing neighbor) had something modern technocrats and skeptics do not have—an evidence of faith in God and the promises of His Word.

    Do you find yourself more open to what God says in His Word than ever before? Do you get your Bible out and read it more often? Do you look for answers in its pages, anticipating that you will find them? Do you find yourself trusting the promises of God? Well, don't look now, but those are vital signs of true faith.


Confidence in promises

The apostle Paul said, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39). Do you agree? Are you gaining in the kind of confidence Paul had that nothing can separate you from God's love? That's a vital sign.

    Do you believe it when you read Jesus' words in John 10:28: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand"? When you wholeheartedly affirm the promises of Jesus, that's a vital sign. It's like finding the green beneath the bark. It means there's life.

    Do you want to jump up and shout "Amen!" when you hear confident statements of faith like Paul's: "For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day" (2 Timothy 1:12)? When you find yourself believing what you previously doubted about God and HIS Word, you are staring a vital sign right in the face.


Look for Evidence of Hope

Is there any commodity in shorter supply these days than hope? Dante wrote over the entrance to hell in his Inferno, "Abandon hope, all who enter here." But you don't have to go all the way to the gates of hell to find hopelessness. Pick up the newspaper. Read the stories of random violence in our high schools. Students who exhibited no signs of violent behavior show up at school one day with guns and shoot a dozen students and some teachers. Their hopelessness drove them to despair.

    Check the exit polls from the last election. People feel hopeless about our political system and elected officials. Oh sure, every now and then you meet a bright and cheery person who is filled with hope, but most wonder if these people really understand the gravity of the situation. The national debt continues to hang over our heads like Damocles' sword. Scandals arise in political circles, dampening our hopes of ever finding a leader who won't look us in the eye and lie to our face.

    The suicide rate is higher than ever. Teenage drug use continues to skyrocket. Divorce has reached epidemic proportions.

    Is there any hope?

    Maybe your thoughts have been dominated by pessimism. But now that you have trusted Christ as Savior, are you beginning to see a glimmer of hope? Do you have hope that one day Christ will take you out of this mess to live with Him forever (John 14:1-3)? Are you finding renewed hope in the future because you have a renewed future yourself?. Paul told Titus that the reason we have been justified by God's grace is that "we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7). As a result of being drawn to Jesus Christ in salvation, are you beginning to experience a personal hope of eternal life? That's a vital sign.

    The apostle Peter said, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:3-4). One proof that new birth is present in our life is hope—hope that is alive and growing as we grow in our Christian life.

    If you have more hope today about the future than you did before you became a Christian, that's a vital sign. The new birth is "into a living hope," and when you are truly saved you will see some evidences of this hope, a hope that brings you happiness (Psalm 146:5) and blessing (Jeremiah 17:7); a "hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began" (Titus 1:2). If you are trusting God, you are hoping in God, and that's when you begin to know you are saved.


Look for Evidence of Love

One of the most vital of vital signs for a Christian is the presence of love. When we are saved, for the first time we truly find ourselves loving God, not for what He can do for us but just because He is God. Before we were saved, He was God—the Just, the Holy, the One who seemed to be displeased at all the things we liked to do. But now that we have a new and dynamic relationship with Him, we see Him as our loving, gentle Father.

    When asked what was the greatest commandment of the Law, Jesus replied, "`You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment" (Matthew 22:37-38). Think about it. Before you were saved, you didn't have a clue how the Christians you knew could love God so much, and now it's all so clear. God is love, He is loving, and He is lovable.


Tough to love

Just as Christians have a love for God, they also have a new kind of love for other people. It's not a perfect love, and it may not be on a par with those saintly people who have walked with the Lord for decades, but it's definitely love, and it's definitely different from what it used to be.

    Bob and Edna didn't see much to like in their neighbor, Harv. A cigar-smoking truck driver, he was seldom home to keep his lawn and yard trimmed. Consequently, it looked about as ragged as his unkempt hair. His dog barked at Bob and Edna and their children whenever any of them ventured into their yard, and on more than one occasion the dog had wreaked havoc with the garbage when they set it out for collection. When they tried gently talking with him about the dog, Harv seemed to blow off their complaints—"He's a good dog. He don't hurt nobody. I keep him fenced in." Harv ignored the fact that the mongrel was a skilled digger for whom a fence was no barrier.

    "I'd like to make friends with Harv," Bob told Edna one day, "but all the griping, the constant cigar smoke, and that dog—I just don't know."

    Loving God is not so hard. But what about the Harvs of your life? What about that guy in the apartment above you who plays his music so loud that the glasses shake in your kitchen cupboard and the pictures rattle on the wall. What about him? Jesus no sooner said that loving God was the greatest commandment when He had the audacity to continue, "And the second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matthew 22:39).

    I know your objections (I've had difficult neighbors, too). That guy is selfish, loud, offensive, and disagreeable. Does becoming a believer automatically make it easy for you to love him? Probably not, but the very fact that you are concerned about loving him should tell you God has done a work in your heart. Before you were saved, loving your neighbor wasn't even on your "to do" list. Evidence of love, or at least the desire to love, is a vital sign. Growing in grace will turn that desire into action.


Love in the strawberry patch

I remember when my parents demonstrated this lesson for me. I was ten years old at the time, and our family had planted two acres of strawberries on the back field of our farm. As you may know, strawberry plants do not bear fruit the first year, and they take a lot of care after that.

    By the third year, when our strawberries were producing wonderfully, well, our neighbor came out one evening while we were working the patch and said, "I had the surveyors here, and they've determined that ten feet of your strawberry patch is on my property I'm here to pick my berries."

    We had worked those strawberries for three years, weeded the patch, carefully replaced the runners back into the rows, and now we were ready to enjoy the fruit of our labors. Our neighbor had done nothing; still he came to pick our berries, and he had the nerve to do so right before our eyes.

    My parents never complained. They treated this fellow cordially, never showing him anything but Christ's love. He needed the Savior, and that was foremost in their minds. That's the way Christians express their love.


Love as evidence of life

It's legitimate to ask, "Do you mean that my love for people, even nasty people, is a proof of my salvation?" Consider this: "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death" (1 John 3:14). Can't argue with that. And this: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16). Do you want proof that God lives in you? Think back to before you were saved. Do you see any more love in yourself now than you did then? If so, God's Word says that's evidence of salvation.

    Your life of love may not be perfect yet; it may not be totally sincere love (Romans 12:9; 2 Corinthians 6:6), totally forgiving love (Ephesians 4:2), or totally honest love (Ephesians 4:15), but it is growing (Philippians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:12), and that's a good sign, a vital sign.


Look for Evidence of Joy

When C. S. Lewis wrote his spiritual autobiography, he entitled it Surprised by Joy. Lewis was an English intellectual, a professor at Oxford, and an agnostic. For years he resisted the sweet wooing of the Holy Spirit. For years he was miserable. Then he gave in to God and, in his words, was "brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape."

    In his stubborn English intellectual pride, Lewis was not seeking a dynamic relationship with God. But when he encountered the living Christ in a saving way, Lewis's life was changed immediately, dramatically, permanently. For the first time in his life, he knew what it was to have real joy.


Unparalleled joy

Joy is quite different from other emotions. Often people confuse joy with pleasure. Sometimes they confuse joy with happiness. But joy is the unique possession of those who have had their sins forgiven and are on their way to heaven.

    In the first chapter of his first letter to God's scattered people, the apostle Peter reminded those believers that they had a living hope and an inheritance that could never spoil or fade. He also said they weren't home in heaven yet, and they would face difficult trials before they got there. The apostle knew they needed some encouragement; they needed to be assured of Jesus' love and care for them at that moment, not just when they would see Him face to face. Here are Peter's words of encouragement: "Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:8-9).

    Their goal—a home in heaven with Jesus forever—had not yet been achieved, but it was certain. How could they know? Because at that very moment, even with the hardships they had to endure, those Christians were filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. Hardships may diminish joy, but they can never extinguish it.


Unexplainable joy

When speaking of the churches of Macedonia, Paul juxtaposed "a great trial of affliction" and "deep poverty" with "the abundance of joy" (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). To the world, this concept doesn't make much sense, but then again the world has never experienced the joy of salvation.

    When you place your faith in Jesus as Savior, a new emotion wells up within you that you never knew existed. It is joy. It's joy that comes both by the aid of, and as proof of, the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life (Acts 13:52; Romans 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). Jesus provides for that joy in His atonement (Romans 5:11), and everyone who looks to Him for salvation experiences it.

    Admittedly, sometimes we don't feel that joy as strongly as we should. David's sin with Bathsheba robbed him of the presence of this joy. But in Psalm 51:10-12, he cried out to God in confession, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation." Like hardships, sin can tarnish our joy, but knowledge of our salvation keeps it alive.


Inexpressible joy

Read what the apostle Jude expressed in the beautiful doxology ending his tiny epistle: "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever" (24-25). You can't help but be impressed with the strong elements of this doxology:


    Security—"able to keep you from stumbling"

    Purpose—"to present you faultless before the presence of His glory"

    Emotion—"with exceeding joy"

    Duration—"both now and forever"


    It's difficult to describe the feeling of joy—Peter did say it was "inexpressible and full of glory." But when Jesus Christ enters your life, you have a sense of peace and joy you never had before, and those around you who are not born again do not have now. The surprising thing about salvation is not the feeling of relief that your sins are forgiven, but the feeling of joy that you are secure in Christ forever. "Let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy" (Psalm 5:11).


Look for Evidence of Obedience

Faith is intangible. Hope is intangible. Love is intangible. These are the big three (as 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love"). Like joy, these three attributes are hard to get your hands around. If you want evidence that you are really saved, emotions are not always the best place to look. But there is one piece of hard evidence, the kind that is admissible in a court of law. Tangible evidence. Material evidence. Discernible evidence. It's obedience.

    We don't always place a premium on obedience. King Saul learned the hard way that "to obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22). But God considers obedience to be extremely important. In fact, so important is this quality to God that His Word says simple obedience is one of the best hard evidence proofs of salvation.


The desire to obey

How do we be assured that we know God, that our salvation is genuine? The answer is provided in 1 John 2:3: "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments." When we know God, we want to do what He says. That doesn't mean we always will do what He says, and it doesn't mean we have a new desire to obey Christ whereas before we had none at all.

    John repeats two verses later: "But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him" (1 John 2:5). There it is in black and white. If you believe God and His Word, you have to believe this. You have no other choice. The proof of salvation is obedience, not perfect obedience (or else none of us would be saved), but a desire for obedience.

    Years ago in a tiny village, there was a mean man who sold wood to his neighbors. He always took advantage of them by cutting his logs a few inches under the required four feet. One day the miserly man came to trust Jesus Christ as Savior, and word spread through the village like wildfire. Nobody believed what they heard; they all thought this man was beyond God's reach. But soon a man came running into the grocery store and shouted, "It's true. He has become a Christian."

    When asked how he knew it was true, the man said, "I went over to his house and measured the wood he cut yesterday. It was a good four feet long."

    That's the way it is. Salvation brings a desire for obedience.

    What's more, obedience has a way of gaining momentum. One form of obedience always leads to another. As Oswald Chambers observed:


Obey God in the thing He shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. One reads tomes on the work of the Holy Spirit, when five minutes of drastic obedience would make things as clear as a sunbeam. "I suppose I shall understand these things someday!" You can understand them now. It is not study that does it, but obedience.
The tiniest fragment of obedience, and heaven opens and the profoundest truths of God are yours straight away. God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already.


    If you really want to know if you're saved, look for obedience to the Savior. It's tangible proof.


Look for Evidence of Fruit

A friend of mine named Philip lives in Florida and used to own a number of orange groves. Sitting in his living room one evening awaiting dinner, we chatted about orange trees—how long they bear fruit, why some produce more than others, how to keep them from freezing. It was then that Philip shared his theory about bearing fruit.

    "Have you noticed that every living thing has a desire to reproduce itself?" he said. "No plant or animal wants to leave this earth without bearing offspring, and it seems that the closer a tree or a person is to death, the stronger the instinct to reproduce becomes."

    With tongue in cheek, Philip said this is why nurses in hospitals have to watch out for the little old men. "When these old guys with their spindly legs and toothless mouths think they are about to expire," he said, "they get the strangest urge to flirt with the nurses. They have a stronger impulse to reproduce than they have had in years."

    To further argue his point, Philip gave me an example from his orange groves. "Evidence of life, even if there is little outward evidence, can be found when a tree shows signs that it wants to bear fruit," he said. When this veteran orange grower had an old orange tree that was producing less fruit than the others, he would take an ax and chop around the roots of the tree rather than cut it down.

    "The tree thought that was the end for it, and the next year it would produce more than the others," Philip said with a laugh.

    The moral of this story is simple: Where there is life, there is the desire to produce fruit. Where there is spiritual life, there is the desire to bear spiritual fruit. As Paul said, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:22-24).

    What did the apostle mean? If you belong to Christ Jesus, there will be a change in the kind of fruit your life bears. Before salvation there was adultery, fornication, lewdness, selfish ambitions, dissentions, and so on (vv. 19-20). After salvation there is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, and self-control (vv. 22-23). Knowing if you're saved may just be a matter of inspecting fruit.


Picking from a different tree

What do you see in your own life? Have your friends noticed a difference in your life? Do your old buddies or girlfriends keep asking, "Why don't you want to go drinking with us anymore?" Do your old friends avoid you? Little wonder. They don't have a taste for the fruit of your new life in Christ. Your new life can be an effective witnessing tool, but don't be surprised if some people don't want the kind of fruit you have to offer.

    If you are saved, something different about you will be noticed by those who used to pick fruit from the tree of your life. They'll know you're different, and so will you. You may not yet be bearing the kind of fruit that more mature trees in the grove are bearing, but if the fruit is different on the outside, that means something is different on the inside.

    Wayne Grudem poses the question, "What will serve as evidence of genuine conversion?" The answer, he says, rests in an honest response to three other questions:


    • Do I have a present trust in Christ for salvation?

    • Is there evidence of a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in my heart?

    • Do I see a long-term pattern of growth in my Christian life?


    The answers to these questions will indicate the presence or absence of spiritual vital signs.


Look for "The 1 John Twenty"

If you're looking for more ways to take your spiritual pulse, consider the empirical evidence of "The 1 John Twenty." That is, the book of 1 John lists twenty specific signs to help you know that you are born again. Of course, it is possible to feign one of these signs and fool yourself into believing that you are saved. For example, there are some people who think that by obeying the Lord and attending church regularly they are born again. That may not be so. Church attendance neither saves nor proves salvation. But it would be difficult for you to feign all of the above vital signs and next to impossible to fake "The 1 John Twenty."

    According to the epistle of 1 John, you know you're saved if:


    1. You walk in God's light (1:6). It is the nature of God to be light, to search the darkness and bring hope for escape to the light. When you walk in God's light, you open your life to His scrutiny, allowing Him to search your life for sinful things hidden from everyone but Him. To walk in God's light, you have to know where to find it. If you have a Bible, you have God's light. His Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105).

    2. You have fellowship with God's family (1:7). This doesn't mean you become intimate friends with every Christian you know, but it does mean you feel enriched by time spent with spiritual family members. The word fellowship comes from the Greek word koinonia, which means "to share together with." When real Christians get together, they can't help but talk about those things families have in common.

    3. You have a keen sense of your own sinfulness (1:8, 10). Because Christians have a relationship with a holy God, we know just how far we are from perfection. We understand and acknowledge our innate sinfulness, and we're bothered when we see immoral or immodest things. The Holy Spirit lives within us and convicts us constantly of sin. If your sin troubles you, it's a powerful sign that you are saved.

    4. You live in willful obedience to God's Word (2:3, 5). Does this mean you keep every one of God's commands? Of course not. But the saved person chooses to live in submission to the Lord and His laws. When we fall short of the ideal, we confess our sin, obtain God's forgiveness, and redouble our efforts to obey.

    5. You no longer are enamored with what captivates the world (2:15). This verse does not refer to God's creation, but rather the world system—our culture's destructive values and mores. The world is driven by success, accumulating money, getting ahead, outwitting your neighbor. It is saturated with sex and power and is energized by hedonism. But the Christian realizes that it profits him nothing if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul (Mark 8:36). So when you are born again, the attractions of the world lose their appeal.

    6. You do things that are right in God's eyes (2:29). Righteousness is right living—living in a way that pleases God. When we live righteously, we live according to the moral and spiritual principles of God, as they are revealed to us in His Word. Unsaved people sometimes care about justice, but they care little about righteousness. Fortunately, we have an example of Someone who did the things that are right in God's eyes—the Lord Jesus. As Jesus lived while He was on the earth, so we must live in imitation of Him.

    7. You eagerly anticipate the return of the Lord (3:2). Are you so satisfied with your success and all you possess that you think little about heaven? Or can you hardly wait for Jesus to fulfill His promise to return for you (John 14:3)? Christians may enjoy the life God has provided here on earth, but they always have an eye toward heaven, anticipating the day we will go to live with our Father forever.

    8. You desire to live a life of purity (3:3). A subsequent action accompanies our expectation of the Lord's return—we want to make sure we are ready when He comes. If you are a Christian, you will constantly make sure you are right with your Savior. You do this by purifying your life through repentance and confession.

    9. You have a growing freedom from sinful behavior (3:6-10; 5:18). As I said earlier, the Christian life is a journey, not just a one-time event. Will you ever be able to live totally free from sin, free from impure thoughts and inappropriate actions? Not this side of heaven. Yet as you mature as a Christian, you should notice that sin's grip on your life is loosening. When 1 John 3:9 says anyone born of God does not sin, the verb is in the present tense. It means you will not continue in the old habits of sin. Once saved you do not perpetuate a sinful lifestyle.

    10. You have a genuine love for other believers (3:14; 4:7). We won't always agree with our fellow Christians, and we may not always like the way they act, but we recognize that we share the same heavenly Father and the same eternal destiny While we should love all people, Christians have a special love for those who also love their Savior.

    11. You demonstrate your love in word and deed (3:18-19). Whoever said "talk is cheap" never had to pay my telephone bill. But the principle is true—words without corresponding deeds are empty and meaningless; they are cheap. If you are truly born again, you will want to show your love for other believers, not just talk about it. You do this by performing acts of kindness and grace, both little and big.

    12. You have the witness of your conscience (3:21-22). Have you ever been heartsick over something you've said, someone you've hurt, or something you've done? We all have. What caused us to feel so bad? It was our conscience, that voice deep inside of us that nudges us to do right and needles us when we do wrong. All people have consciences, but Christians have consciences washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. We live in heightened awareness of right or wrong because we have a conscience illuminated by God's Word and instructed by God's Spirit.

    13. You have the indwelling presence of the Spirit (3:24; 4:13). Even better than having a tiny voice inside telling you right from wrong, Christians have the immeasurable advantage of the Holy Spirit living within us. Romans 8:16 tells us that the Spirit affirms what our conscience tells us. And when Satan tries to convince us that we're not really saved, the Spirit reassures us of God's promise for eternal salvation.

    14. You have the ability to distinguish truth from error (4:6). Before you were saved, you had little ability to understand God and His Word. First Corinthians 2:14 acknowledges that the unsaved man cannot receive the things of God or internalize them. Salvation changes all that. With salvation comes the ability to distinguish truth from error. As a Christian you must spend lots of time in God's Word so the Holy Spirit can teach you truth and enable you to identify error.

    15. You confess that Jesus is God the Son (4:15). If people come to your door and claim that Jesus was an angel or a prophet or a good teacher but not God, you know one thing for sure—they are not born-again Christians. It is impos-sible to be saved and deny the deity of Christ. You may not have fully understood who Jesus is before you were saved, and you may not completely understand now, but you do believe that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God.

    16. You believe that Jesus is the Christ (2:22-23; 5:1). For centuries, since the great prophets of ancient Israel, every Jew has been anxiously awaiting messiach, the Messiah. Every Jewish mother made it her secret prayer that God would choose her to bare the Anointed One of God. The New Testament word for messiah is christos or Christ. Christians believe that God chose Mary to give birth to the Christ child. Simeon, a devout Jew whom God had promised would not die "before he had seen the Lord's Christ" (Luke 2:26), saw the baby Jesus and was immediately convinced he had seen the long-awaited Messiah. If you are convinced of the same—that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah of Israel—that's another reason to believe that you are born from above.

    17. You exhibit "overcoming faith" (5:4-5). If conditions in the world around you don't appear to be getting better, cheer up. The battle isn't over yet. Christians know how things will turn out. We've read the last chapter, and we know Jesus Christ will win the war. That's the essence of overcoming faith—it's a rock-solid belief that no matter what happens today, victory belongs to the Lord. All who are born again can claim victory because Jesus said, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

    18. You believe the promise of God (5:9-10, 12). The Bible is filled with promises—someone has estimated more than seven thousand of them. But some promises are of greater eternal weight than others. One such promise is 1 John 5:12: "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." John divides all humanity into two categories—the saved and the lost. If you are saved, you have trusted the Son of God for your eternal destiny; if you are lost, you have rejected the Son of God and chosen your own eternal destiny. If you have the Son of God as your Savior, you are as certain of eternal life in heaven as if you were already there.

    19. You trust the purpose of God's Word (5:13). The Bible is much more than a book of history. It's even more than a guide for life. The Bible is the revelation of the mind of God to the minds of men. God had a definite purpose when He revealed His mind. The apostle John said the whole world could not contain all the things that Jesus did (John 21:25), but the things that were recorded in the Bible were "written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31). God has no hidden agenda. If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, your heavenly Father wants you to be certain you are a Christian, and the Bible was written to give you that certainty.

    20. You have an understanding from the Son of God (5:20). Have you noticed how much corruption and deceit there is in the world today? People will look right into the camera and lie to your face. Is there anything you can count on for sure? The Bible says there is. You can be sure that the Son of God came to this earth to give you the true understanding of the way things are. Jesus is the way to God; He is the one truth that you can trust; and He is the eternal life that God has promised you (John 14:6). That's the understanding you receive from the Son of God.


    So what if you don't experience all of these vital signs? Does that mean there is no new life in you? No, because what you experience as a result of salvation is not what God uses to save you. These vital signs are results; they are not the basis for salvation. The Lord helps us grow and mature in different ways. Therefore, some of the vital signs may be stronger than others.

    I have included an appendix, "How to Know You Are Saved," to provide a theological foundation for your salvation. Most people lack assurance of salvation for two reasons. First, they do not understand the basis of their salvation. Second, they do not appreciate the means of their salvation. If you get God's perspective on these issues, you'll have fewer problems with spiritual doubt. If you aren't sure you can trust your vital signs, trust your Bible.


It's Time to Act

It would be a tragedy for you to place your ladder against the wall, climb higher and higher, spend years in the pursuit of happiness, and then discover, in the end, that your ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. If you are to be a spiritual success, you must make sure your ladder is in the right place.

    Many people are trying to climb to spiritual success with their ladder leaning against their sense of morality, their church, their good works, but they are going nowhere because they are not even born again. The first and most essential secret to spiritual success is to make sure you're in God's family. Everything else in this book, every secret we consider, is of no value at all if your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

    I want to conclude this chapter with a story that illustrates the importance of trusting Jesus alone as Savior. Years ago there was a wealthy man who, with his devoted son, shared a passion for collecting works of art. They traveled the world adding priceless Picassos, Van Goghs, Monets, and many other treasures to their family estate. The son's trained eye and sharp business mind made his father beam with pride.

    One year as winter approached, war erupted, and the young man left to serve his country. A short time later, the father received a telegram notifying him that his son was killed in action. Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming holidays with anguish. On Christmas morning, the man was awakened by a knock at the door. He was greeted by a soldier who introduced himself by saying, "I was a friend of your son's. I'm the one who rescued his body when he was killed."

    When the old man invited him in, the solder said, "Sir, I'm an artist, and I'd like you to have this." The old man unwrapped a package and discovered a portrait of his son. Critics and collectors would not have considered it a work of genius, but the father, overcome with grief, thanked the soldier and hung the picture above the fireplace. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, eclipsing any interest in the masterpieces he owned.

    The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away The art world buzzed with anticipation. Who would get the masterpieces that hung in the family gallery? According to the old man's will, all of his art would be auctioned off on Christmas Day, the day he had received his greatest gift—the portrait of his son.

    The appointed day finally arrived, and the auction began with a painting that was not on any museum's list. It was the painting of the man's son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent.

    "Who will open the bidding at one hundred dollars?"

    Minutes passed. No one spoke. From the back of the room someone shouted cynically, "Who cares about that painting? Let's go on to the great works of art."

    But the auctioneer persisted, and a friend of the old man finally said, "Will you take ten dollars for the painting? That's all I have. I knew the boy, so I'd like to have it."

    "I have ten dollars," called the auctioneer. "Will anyone go higher?"

    After more silence, he pounded his gavel and shouted, "Going once. Going twice. Sold to the gentleman for ten dollars."

    The crowd murmured but was eager to get to the real treasures. To the shock of everyone, however, the auctioneer announced that the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room.

    Someone asked, "What do you mean it's over? We didn't come here for a picture of some old guy's son. What about all the other paintings—the ones that matter? There are millions of dollars of art here! I demand that you tell me what's going on."

    "It's simple," the auctioneer replied. "According to the will left by the father, whoever takes the son ... gets it all."

    That's the way it is with eternal salvation. When you trust God's Son as your Savior, you get it all—all of God's grace, all of God's goodness, all of God's eternal delights.

    Have you trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior? Was there ever a time when you realized that you were sinking in your own sin and couldn't save yourself? Did you truly believe that Jesus would save you if you sincerely asked Him? And this is important—did you ask? If the answer is yes to each of these questions, you're ready to look for vital signs and then move on to other secrets to spiritual success. If the answer is no, this is the place to begin. Going on from here without new life in Christ is like climbing a ladder that is leaning against the wrong wall.

    If you and I are to achieve any measure of spiritual success, what will we have to do? Three things. We must encounter truth; we must believe it; and we must act on it.

    In the Introduction, I defined spiritual success as "learning how to live in such a way as to prosper in godly things." Success, as God defines it, is vastly different from success as most people define it. Godly success is learned, primarily from God's Word, His "manual for success."

    This chapter revealed the initial secret to spiritual success—knowing for sure you are born again and on your way to heaven. You have encountered the truth, do you believe it? Do you understand and believe that if you want to go to God's heaven, you have to go in God's way? Do you believe Jesus when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6)? That's God's honest truth and having encountered it, if you believe it, you must now act on it.


Success Survey #1


    1. Look deep within yourself. Peer into the deepest reaches of your soul, the part that doesn't try to impress anybody or fool anybody. Ask yourself this question: If I were to die tonight, would I be in heaven tomorrow? And ask another, equally important question: Upon what do I base my answer? And, as long as we're looking deep and not trying to fool anybody, ask this: How sure am I of my answer?

    2. If you're not satisfied with your answers, find better ones. If you've never trusted Jesus to be your Savior, and you feel a need to do so, turn to the Appendix and settle this issue once and for all. Will you do it right now? There is no spiritual success without Jesus.

    3. Check your spiritual vital signs. If you know for certain that heaven is your eternal destiny, don't stop there. Move on and check for the telltale signs of spiritual growth. Can you find any evidence that the big three—faith, hope, and love—are alive and well in your life? Are you looking for that blessed hope—the glorious return of the Lord Jesus? Even if you find it tough to love a less-than- lovable neighbor, are you making progress?

    4. Determine which of "The 1 John Twenty" are present in your life. Which are lacking? Which of these tangible evidences of salvation are you working on the hardest? Which of them have people told you they discern in your life? You may not find evidence of all twenty, but you ought to be increasing the number if you are saved and on your way to heaven.

    5. Do you know the basis for your salvation? If someone asked you if you are a Christian, and you said yes, would you be able to explain the basis for your answer? Do you have a rock-solid foundation for your belief that you are a Christian? God has provided that foundation in His Word. If you don't have adequate reasons for why you need to have vital signs, why not check out the Appendix at the end of this book and get some answers?

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 7
Preface: Launching Out on the Journey 9
Introduction: Charting a Course for Success 13
Spiritual Secret #1: Check for Vital Signs 21
Spiritual Secret #2: Develop Intimacy with God 41
Spiritual Secret #3: Establish Good Growth Habits 59
Spiritual Secret #4: Enlist Superior Help 79
Spiritual Secret #5: Learn to Manage Temptation 99
Spiritual Secret #6: If You Fall, Don't Stay Down 123
Spiritual Secret #7: Keep Your Eye on the Goal 145
Conclusion: Satan's Attempt to Steal Our Secrets 165
Appendix: How to Know You Are Saved 171
Notes 181
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2000

    Wondering If You're Saved?

    If you are wondering if you are saved or can be saved, this is the book to provide you with the answer. For all christian believers who know how and where to look in the bible to verify the scriptual references and to understand the meanings of the 'word' and how it applies to you and your life, you will realize that you have a guide in the palm of you hand. This is a fantastic book for those who are hungry for the 'word' and to do God's will in their life. Whatever you're looking for, it's right there in the book, but you've got to read it in order to get it.

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