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Just ask yourself 3 questions about your faith, Elliff urges

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Ask yourself, ask your family, ask fellow church members three questions, suggested SBC President Tom Elliff in an address to the SBC Executive Committee Feb. 16 in Nashville, Tenn.
The questions can help you understand the vitality of, or lack of, your faith, said Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla.
The questions:
— Am I on an upward path?
— Am I making an outward profession?
— Do I have an inward peace?
The questions, Elliff said, reflect the words of Romans 8:14-16: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (KJV)
Concerning the first question — Am I on an upward path? — Elliff initially voiced a word to those prone to saying, “I was always saved,” or who don’t remember their salvation experience.
They can remember other important events in their lives, as well as various birthdays and anniversaries, Elliff noted.
“And it seems inconceivable to me that a person could pass in a moment from death to life, could meet the Prince of peace, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, to be the recipient of eternal life, to be changed from an individual who is on his way to hell who suddenly is on his way to heaven — and have no memory of that.”
Elliff urged: “Go back to that moment you would consider the moment of your conversion and ask yourself: From that moment on, have I been growing in Christ? Am I on an upward path becoming more and more like Jesus? Are there some definite signs of progress in my life even now?”
Elliff said he isn’t asking anyone to doubt his or her salvation, “but the Bible does say we ought to examine ourselves, ‘whether we be in the faith,'” citing the words of 2 Corinthians 13:5.
For some people, unfortunately, “probably the hottest moment in their spiritual life was the moment … ‘when I went forward and got saved and prayed the prayer.’ And from that moment on, it’s been a cooling-off period,” Elliff reflected.
The current moral crisis confronting the nation’s president reflects “a very common misconception,” Elliff said. “And it’s not a misconception that exists only in the White House; it exists in the church house. And it goes something like this: There is a difference between becoming a Christian and being a Christian. You can … become a Christian without being a Christian.”
Said Elliff: “You cannot meet Christ without being changed. … Once the seed of God’s Word is sown within you, sin is never a comfortable thing to you anymore.”
Christians should explore: “Am I really growing as a believer? Or have I just come to a point where I’m perfectly happy with what I am and what I’m doing, and I don’t intend to change? Am I deluding myself into believing I’ve had my life changed by the power of God?”
Concerning the second question — Am I making an outward profession? — Elliff said a believer will reflect the cry, “Abba, Father,” in his or her life. “You unashamedly cry out to this reality: I have an intimate relationship with God, and I’m unashamed to say that. It doesn’t bother me to say that in any kind of company.”
To those who challenge the belief that Mormons, for example, need to be saved and challenge Southern Baptists’ Crossover evangelistic efforts planned for Salt Lake City in connection with the SBC annual meeting there this June, “My answer is, I believe everybody needs to be saved. … I believe everybody needs a witness.”
Some people say of their faith, “‘Well, that’s personal,’ as if to mean that’s private,” Elliff observed, noting: “Your faith is very personal, but it was never meant to be private.”
Elliff said true believers are “unashamed to share about their faith in Christ, and they share it in a lot of different ways,” beginning with baptism. “Jesus was baptized. He commanded us to be baptized. It’s a memorial, it’s a picture. It’s a way of showing what’s happened in our lives,” he said.
Elliff told of a church member who was dying at home from cancer, and how they often shared their salvation stories.
“Every time I’d go by and see brother Jamie, he said, ‘Brother Tom, let me tell you about when I got saved.’ And he’d tell me his testimony. And then he’d say, ‘Tell me when you got saved.’ And I’d tell him.”
One night in a visit, not long before he died, “He said, ‘Brother Tom, do you love Jesus?’ And I said, ‘Brother Jamie, I love Jesus. Do you?’ He said, ‘Oh, I sure do. Let me tell you about when I got saved.’ And he told me. And then he said, ‘Preacher, tell me about when you got saved.’ And I told him. And I said, ‘I’m so glad somebody took the time to share with me how simply I could trust in Jesus as my Savior.’
“And out of the corner of the room, there came this voice: ‘I’d like that'” — spoken by a nurse who had been listening.
“Most places I go, I find people who’d ‘like that,'” Elliff said. “They really would. They’d like that — to hear that they can have eternal life.”
Concerning the third question — Do I have an inward peace? — Elliff said, “It’s knowing and knowing and knowing that you know.”
He cited two related Bible passages:
— Romans 8:16: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (KJV)
— 1 John 4:13: “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.” (KJV)
“(It’s) God’s Holy Spirit just saying to our spirit, ‘Yes, you are a child of God. You can’t be satisfied with living below what you are. I’m not going to let you be satisfied. I’m going to deal with you. I’m going to chasten you. I’m going to encourage you. I’m going to love you, comfort you. I’m going to conform you to the image of God’s Son. That’s my job as the Holy Spirit.'”
Elliff told of discounting the concerns of his wife-to-be, Jeannie, who was an active church member and missions volunteer, when she would say, “Sometimes I wonder if I’m really saved.” At a Billy Graham crusade they later attended, she wondered whether she should have gone forward. “But I convinced her; I said, ‘You’re a preacher’s wife, and think of all the people that would be confused,'” Elliff recounted.
But on a July 4 Sunday afternoon in the early 1970s, she said, “Tom, I want to tell you something. I have never repented of sin.”
“And we knelt down that day and she just poured her heart out to God, and my wife got saved,” Elliff said. “It was like a night-and-day difference. God gave her, to this day, a voracious appetite for the Scripture and an incredible prayer ministry. She loves to share her faith. And she says to me over and over again, ‘I’m so glad that I didn’t convince myself and you didn’t convince me that I was something that I wasn’t.'”
Salvation is “between you and God. … It’s a relationship between you and a holy God,” Elliff said.
“And I would encourage you sometime in the quiet stillness of your own life (to) knock away all those props that you’ve got, like church membership, because that doesn’t do it; good works, because you can always find somebody lost who’s doing just about as good or better; (and) what your friends say about you, because that’s not going to get you to heaven.
“Just ask yourself: Am I on an upward path? Or have I been treading water for years? Am I eagerly making an outward profession? And do I have an inward peace?”