And it’s interesting that the letters of First John, Second John, Third John, and Jude really prepare the way so that you understand in Revelation, when the Lord appears in the midst, and He tells certain groups of people who claim to be working for Him and called by His name (and He does refer to them as ekklesias) that there are some things that they need to correct, and they need to repent; and if they don’t repent, then there’s going to be judgment, and there’s going to be consequences. There’s going to be some rewards for those who are faithful; and those who are not faithful run the risk of losing their reward.
I get all kinds of knee-jerk responses when I make a statement like, “Once Saved, Always Saved is a fake hope.” It’s a false hope. It’s something that religious people have grasped and held onto in order to justify a lack of spiritual fruitfulness, to take advantage of God’s grace, and to say, “Jesus did it all; therefore, I don’t have to do anything.” Or, “I’m not saved by my works; therefore, my works don’t matter.” That is a very poor religion; and it certainly is not a relationship with the Lord.
It’s interesting here in Revelation, in this atmosphere that was beginning to creep in, that Christianity was taking on the overtones of an institutional religion – even back in the very early days. And that’s what religion does. That’s what the devil does. He comes in to steal, kill and destroy and to lead us away from the simplicity of Christ. And the easiest way to do that with believers is to get them religious. Get them focused on rules and regulations and commandments and philosophies and doctrines and teachings of men that take advantage of the grace of God and come out with statements like, “Well, you know I’m saved by God’s grace; therefore it doesn’t matter what I do.” Or as Paul said (because the same attitude crept up in his day as well), he quoted them as saying, “Let us sin that grace may abound! Since God is so full of grace, and He is so full of mercy, and He will forgive us our sins – let’s just do whatever we want to do and we’ll ask for forgiveness later on!” And Paul says their condemnation is just.
“I want to remind you,” Jude says, “Though you once knew this…” See, at one time there was some fear, there was some reverence, for the Lord who had saved them. And now in Jude’s time, and in the letters of John, we see that false teachers are coming in, false brothers, false prophets, spirits of antichrist with all these strange doctrines and teachings – and people are falling for them. So, Jude says, “Look I want to remind you. You used to know this and understand this, but you seem to have forgotten. Now I want to remind you that the Lord saved all those people out of the land of Egypt, but afterward He destroyed them because they did not believe.”
The fact that so many people have been saved out of Egypt – or saved out of the world – is not a guarantee that they can just enter the Promised Land regardless of their behavior. Your behavior counts. In other words, works matter. You may not be saved by works; the Bible says we are saved by grace; not by works, lest any man should boast. All that means is you’re not saved by what you do. You can’t do any good work to earn your salvation. Your works prove your salvation; your works do not earn your salvation. The works that you do after you say you belong to Jesus prove whether or not you actually, really do believe what you say you believe – and whether or not you have actually been created a new creation in Christ.
What John is saying throughout his letters in First, Second and Third John, is: Don’t be deceived. Those that are of God do righteous things. And the ones who sin continually and habitually, and live like the devil, they’re walking in the darkness. I mean, this is very simple.
But in the age that you and I live in, in this religious age of hypocrisy and lukewarmness, everyone’s got an excuse. And if they can’t come up with a good Biblical excuse for their behavior, they’ll come up with some kind of a theological argument, or some kind of a legal argument, or some kind of a false logic that says, for example, “Salvation is a gift, and you can’t lose a gift.” Well, of course you can lose a gift. Someone once gave me a gift of twenty dollars. I stuck it someplace, and I don’t know where I put it – to this day I don’t know where it is! I was careless with that gift and I lost it. Someone says, “You can’t lose your salvation.” No, but you can throw it away! You can be careless with it!
And isn’t that what Jesus is talking about in all of His parables? In all of His parables we have a mixture: sheep and goats; faithful and unfaithful servants; wise and foolish virgins. Religion always teaches that it’s those bad people out in the world, they’re the foolish and the unwise ones. But if you really closely examine those parables, it’s not talking about people out in the world. It’s talking about people within the Kingdom of God that have to be rooted out and exposed. They are the ones that are cast out because they’re not who they say they are. They have a religion about Jesus, but they don’t have a relationship with Jesus. And the emphasis of Revelation 2 and 3 is about your relationship.
Remember last time we talked about the ekklesia in Ephesus? He says, “You’re doing all the right things. You’re laboring, you’ve been patient, you can’t bear those who are evil, you’ve persevered, and you have labored for My name’s sake.” I mean He goes on and on about how wonderful they are – but they come up short in this one thing, and it’s the area of relationship. “You don’t love Me as you did. You have left your First Love.” And so that failure of relationship invalidated everything else that they were doing for Him. He’s not interested in all those things you can do for Him if the love is not there.
There was another really good thing that my wife and I discussed today that probably needs to be expounded upon at some point: Don’t mistake results for fruit. In this world that we live in – and particularly those who have been part of the institutional church for any period of time – they tend to think that something is fruitful if it produces measurable results. And so, the bigger the church, the more “fruitful” it is. The more members it has, the more “fruitful” it is. The more money it collects, the more “fruitful” it is. But that has to do with results, not fruit. How many of you can see the difference between fruitfulness and results?
How many of you can tell the difference between works done trying to earn my salvation, verses works done that flows from my salvation. If you’re confused about any of that, read First John, Second John, Third John and Jude. There is a difference. And that is how we tell the difference. That is why Jesus, from the very beginning, says, “You will know them by their fruits.” We’re not talking about people out in the world. You already know who they are. We’re talking about people who show up in your home group; people who show up in your church; people who show up in your Bible study; people who subscribe to my mailing list who claim to be something that they are not. What are they really? Hypocrites and religious followers who will say, “Lord, Lord! We did all these things in Your name!” – and yet there’s no relationship. And because there’s no relationship, there’s no love relationship with the Lord, they become offended when you bring them the whole counsel of God. The fact that they would be angry at the suggestion that they’re not always going to be saved, that maybe God will hold them accountable for their behavior? They don’t like that. But every relationship has a cost, and every relationship has mutual responsibility and accountability.
People do not like to hear those words. It’s easier to be in a religion than it is to be in a relationship. Relationships take work. Relationships take sacrifice. Relationships take patience.
That’s just one Scripture in Jude that we could pull out. Listen! Your argument is not with me if you try to defend this. Your argument is with the Word of God, and the burden of proof is on you to explain Scriptures like Jude 5; to explain Scriptures like John 15 that says, “If you abide in Me, you will produce much fruit… Apart from Me you can do nothing… and every branch that abides and continues to live and continues to dwell in Me will produce fruit – but those that don’t, those unfruitful branches will be cut off and burned in the fire.”
How do you explain that, “Once-Saved-Always-Saved” person? How do you explain John 8? Jesus says to those Jews who believed on Him: If, if, if you continue in My Word then you are My true disciples. You have fake disciples who believed once and that’s all they ever did. Then you have “My true disciples,” Jesus says, “If you continue, if you continue, if you continue in My Word!” In other words, “If you do what I say, that proves that I am your Lord.” On the other hand, if all you have is words, “Lord, Lord!” – He says I don’t know who you are, if you’re not going to love Me and focus on this relationship.
Relationship and religion are polar opposites. Religion masquerades as a relationship, and it’s really not that much different from any other pagan religion – a quid pro quo religion, where I do things for God so that God will do things for me. Not much different from any other heathen or pagan religion in the world. Well, many people who claim to be followers of Jesus have no more of a relationship with God than a pagan has with their gods of rain and sun and thunder and wind.
The point is that Jesus comes into the midst of His Ekklesia and He says, “I’m going to separate sheep from goats; faithful from unfaithful; fruitful from unfruitful.” And listen! Everybody has an opportunity. Everybody has a chance. He gives them space to repent. He gives them time to repent. And here’s the other interesting thing. When you read the Book of Revelation you see God’s judgment being poured out upon the world – but it’s interesting that, with all of these things going on, it says that they still did not repent. They continued in their rebellion against God and they refused to repent. Now this letter was written to believers – so what’s the message here? This is not a letter that was written to go out and try to convince the world. It was a letter written to instruct people who said they believed in Jesus. And it’s instructing them that, if you don’t repent, you’re going to go through the same things that these people are going through. If you don’t change your heart, change your mind, and change your behavior, you are no better off than these people out in the world who don’t even know Me. That’s the whole point.
Do you have a religion about Jesus, or do you have a relationship with Jesus? How do you tell the difference? Not by what you say; not by even what you believe, or what your doctrine is, or what church you go to. How do you know the difference? The difference is in the fruit. It’s in the behavior. If we say we know Him, John says in First John, “If we say we know Him but we continue to walk in darkness, then we are liars.” And that’s what’s being exposed here.
It’s the Revelation of Jesus Christ – but it’s also the revelation of the Ekklesia, for better or for worse! And to each one of these Seven Ekklesias He says, “I know your works.” You don’t think works matter? You think once you’re “on the roll” that’s all there is to it? In each of these seven churches He says, “I know your works.” He doesn’t say I know your heart! I know your beliefs! I know your doctrine! I know your intentions! Nope! That’s the wimpy little attitude we have today in our lukewarm religiosity that accepts and just embraces everybody and everything. He says, “I know your works. I know your behavior. I know the things you’re doing. And I can even tell the difference between those of you who are working with a sincere heart and those who are working to fulfill some religious obligation. I know the difference!”
To everyone He says, “I know your works.” That’s how He starts out every letter: “I know your works.” Seven times. The purpose of this is not to frighten those of you who are struggling with sin. In fact, as I said previously, if you are struggling with sin, that means you are concerned about it and you are resisting it. And so, you are in a really good place, even if it seems like you’re not winning most of the time. You’re in a far better place than the person who says, “No matter what I do, or no matter what I fail to do, God is going to welcome me into heaven with open arms because one time back in 1956 I prayed the ‘Sinner’s Prayer and I walked the aisle and I cried a couple of tears. I haven’t done anything since then – but once you’re saved, brother, you’re always saved!”
Well, good luck with that. Read the Bible. Don’t take my word for it. Your argument is not with me. Your argument is with Scripture. But it just betrays the ignorance of people who have been trained in that institutional religious environment all their life.
 Jn. 10:10. Technically, Jesus does not refer specifically to the devil as the thief in this passage; but it is clear that, in addition to the theft of life and property by means of killing and destroying, the devil also behaves as a thief when, for example, he comes and “snatches away” the Word that is sown in the heart of man (Mt. 13:19.) For this reason, I interpret Jn. 10:10 to refer to both the “false shepherds” that are immediately in view, and the spiritual evil not immediately in view; that is, the devil who steals, kills, and destroys God’s flock through those false shepherds.
 2 Cor. 11:3.
 Rom. 3:8; 6:1. The actual quote is: “Let us do evil that good may come.” Paul rejects this, and later rhetorically asks, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!”
 Rom. 3:8.
 Eph. 2:9.
 Mt. 7:16-20.
 Jn. 8:31.
 Rev. 2:21; 9:20; 16:9; 16:11.
 1 Jn. 1:6.