Predestination, Free Will and Security

Date: 09/03/2005 
This sermon deals with the topic of salvation, predestination, and freewill. Does salvation truly save us from our sins? We are not given temporary security. The record, the power, and the presence of sin is the freedom we have in Jesus.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Now, this really is interesting because last week when I was preparing this message, before things played out the way they did in the headlines, I wanted to start with an illustration of people that were drowning being saved. Isn’t that interesting? And so it’s very applicable now.

The message is a message about salvation. There are a lot of misconceptions about what constitutes salvation. How many have you heard of the phrase “Predestination?” Maybe you have heard the phrase “Once saved, always saved.” Or “Election.” There are a lot of very dear Christians that misunderstand the fundamentals of how we are saved and not understanding that can be lethal.

Maybe I should begin by talking about -- Picture for a minute people that are drowning, trapped off in this flood in New Orleans somewhere and they are struggling to stay above the rising water. A rope somehow is wrapped around their ankles and they are anchored. They cannot swim away. They see helicopters overhead and boats going by and there are people like this by the thousands all over the streets of the city and they are calling out for help.

So someone comes by in a boat and they say good news, we are here to rescue you. And they hand them a life preserver, but then they do not get them in the boat. They putt away. Well, now at least they are floating, but they are still anchored by the rope on their ankle to the bottom. Have they been saved? And off in the distance there is a hotel that somehow is up on dry land. It is called Paradise Island Hotel. They can see people there. They have a generator going. They have electricity. They have warmth. They have comfort. They have all these things and the folks in the boat say as long as you can see the hotel, you have nothing to worry about. Here is a life jacket, you can float.

One of the stories that I heard this week was not an environment disaster, but they said being down in the Bayou in the summertime, there were alligators swimming around with the people and snakes, water moccasins. And then some of the people said they were bumping into these brown balls that were floating everywhere and they discovered they were fire ants that had clustered together. When they hit them, they kind of unravel and crawl up on anything that was dry and that might be a person, that might be a boat. And there were eels and all these critters. It was a soup of animals and chemicals. Can you imagine being anchored in that? Not to mention the unclean things that would be in that environment.

And someone comes along and they say, good news, I am here to save you. Here is a life jacket. But they leave you in the water. But then someone comes along and says not only am I going to give you a life jacket, I am going to cut the rope that is anchoring you and we are going to pluck you out of the water and drop you at Paradise Island. Now, which would be the picture of salvation? Just being given a life jacket or being saved from the dilemma? If someone gives you a life jacket and you are still being bit by the ants and threatened by the snakes and alligators and eels, you do not feel very delivered.

Now, it is probably a good idea to start at the beginning of what is it that constitutes salvation? Why did Jesus come? We are like those people that are trapped. We cannot save ourselves. We are dying of hunger and thirst. We are surrounded with vermin and disease and venomous critters and we need deliverance. We are tied to the bottom. We cannot swim away. The water is rising and we are going to perish. We need help.

Jesus came to save us from our sins. But that does not mean he just tosses us a life jacket to give us some temporary security. That is not really salvation. We need to be saved from our past record of sins. We need to be saved from the present power of sin and ultimately, we are hoping to be saved from the presence of sin. So it is the record of sin, the power of sin and the presence of sin. So you might even say it is the penalty of sin, the power of sin, the presence of sin. Justification, you have heard these big words before, sanctification, glorification.

Many Christians have left off the sanctification part of salvation. They think that salvation is just the Lord coming by and tossing them a life jacket and saying some day the water will go down and you can walk to the hotel yourself. This is, in my opinion, what a lot of Christians believe. That God does not save us from the power of sin in our lives. He just saves us from the guilty feeling so we can breathe a little longer. He tosses us a life jacket.

Now, some of this begins with an individual named John Calvin and I need to be very respectful because this was a giant in the Christian Reformation. A real man of faith. When I read Calvin, he is very deep, obviously knew the Lord, tremendous bible student, brilliant scholar. But like all men, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, they were not all perfect. They were human. Calvin was very organized and he wanted to systematize everything. He tried to systematize salvation and he developed something that is now known at Calvinism.

There are five points that Calvin came up with. I held up four fingers and said five points. There are five points that Calvin came up with and these are what they are. Dealing with the doctrine of predestination. One, the total depravity of man. We are all born sinners. Well, we agree that we are all born with this propensity, we are born with these selfish natures that Adam received through the fall. Two, unconditional election. God has already chosen who is going to be saved.

Now, this is where I respectfully disagree. Do we all agree that God knows who is going to be saved right now? Does that mean that He chose arbitrarily or that he knows what we will choose? Big difference. Point three, limited atonement. Jesus died only to redeem those who were prechosen or the elect. That is dangerous teaching, I believe. Point four, irresistible grace. These are the titles that Calvin gave. That man is saved by God’s will without any choice on our part. I respectfully disagree. But these teachings have influenced much of Christianity. And then point number five, perseverance of the saints. Those who are predestined to be saved cannot be lost, even by their choice. Once you are saved, you are saved. The perseverance of the saints.

Part of the reason for this argument is Calvin and those who embrace these teachings, they say if you and I have any part in our salvation, then God does not get all the glory. So if you say, well, I did make the choice, then you get some of the credit, so you even have a choice. Did you catch what I am saying? They say that any part that you play by our choice means you get credit, so you really do not have a choice. If God has already chosen you to be saved, you will be saved. And if not, then he has chosen you for damnation and that is his choice. It is the sovereignty of God. Have you heard these phrases before? He gets to choose who is saved and who is lost.

I have had people before who are raised in these church environments and I have heard them say they are not following the Lord and they say, well, my pastor said as I was growing up that God has decided who is saved and I figure if I am saved, he will save me and that will be his business. And they make no effort to seek after God in spite of all the scriptures that tell us that we do have a role to play in seeking after God. Why would Jesus command us to seek and find if you do not really need to choose to seek.

Now, some of you are thinking right now Doug, are you serious? Are there really people out there that believe these things? Yes, they are among the fastest growing churches in the world. A lot of people believe once saved, always saved. And it is spreading so quickly that the teachings through very subtle means are evening influencing us. Folks, in their desire to have assurance of salvation, are saying you know I do not like having this rollercoaster experience with the Lord where I am doing really well and I feel close to God and then I backslide and say now I am lost again. Then I repent and now I am saved. I am saved, lost, saved, lost. It is like I am living with this revolving door experience. Folks get frustrated if they have that idea of what it means to be a Christian. Saved, then I sin, I am lost until I repent and then I am saved again and then I sin. And it is back and forth, in and out. And that is not what it is like.

So people who are afraid of not having security are beginning to embrace Calvinism and say it seems easier to say once I am saved, no matter what I do, I cannot be lost. But is that what the bible teaches? I want to go with what Jesus says, how about you?

Let me give you a couple of examples of the verses that are applied. I am going to look at many of the verses that are used for predestination, once saved, always saved, election, to help you understand where they are coming from. I hope you have a pencil. I will be happy to share my notes with you, but maybe we can even post them at our church website, But I’m going to give you a lot of scriptures, so you will not be able to look them all up. Romans 8:29, 30, Paul says something.

Oh, by the way, most of the misunderstandings about salvation that Calvin came up with, he uses the writings of Paul. Now, I have nothing against Paul. I don’t have anything more against Paul than Peter had. Let me tell you what Peter said about Paul. No Peter did not rob Paul. You have heard that before.

But Peter did say that the writings of Paul are scripture, 2 Peter 3, but in his writings are some things that are hard to understand. Peter specifically says that among all the scriptures, and they do not say this about anyone else, he said they say among the writings of Paul are some things hard to be understood. Paul was very deep and if you were not following his line of thought and his poetic language, sometimes you could get the wrong idea. Whenever someone wants to try to say that God does not really care if we keep the law, they go to something Paul said because they misapply it.

And likewise with predestination, Peter said Paul says many things that are hard to understand and which those that are unstable rest. They tear from the other scriptures to their own destruction. So be careful about misapplying the writings of Paul in this way.

Paul says, Romans 8:29, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son, that he might be the first one among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called. Who He called, He justified and who He justified, these He glorified.” Some have said, well, see, God has predestined who is saved and those are the ones that He is going to sanctify and if you are not predestined by God, then you are just doomed. That is not what Paul is saying. God wants everyone to be saved. Those who respond to the invitation, He then transforms.

You know, actually the contemporary English version, one place where it translates it more accurately, let me read this. Romans 8:29, from the contemporary English version, “And He has always known who His chosen ones would be. He has decided to let them become like His own son that His son would be the first among many children.” See, that is easier to understand.

Let me see if I can illustrate it this way. We have seen a lot of helicopter traffic this week. As a matter of fact, we have a helicopter pilot here. He might even be on camera somewhere. He has been invited to go down and help some of those pilots there. We need to pray for him if that works out. But some helicopter pilots operate news and weather and traffic. Picture for a minute you are a helicopter pilot and you are above a very busy road on a hill where a tunnel is on top of this hill. When they built the road, they could not get over it, so the last mile of the hill, they had to go through it. But because it is granite, they could not make it two lanes. It is one lane and they have a red light at each entrance and you are not supposed to go until the light is green because there could be someone else in the tunnel.

This helicopter pilot is up there and he can see both sides of the mountain. And he sees on one side of the mountain, a truck enters the tunnel full speed because the light was green. Sixty miles an hour, great big 18-wheel semi, one lane, enters the tunnel. And he looks down and he sees a little Volkswagen, a little red Volkswagen. They are always irresponsible when they are red. Do you know more red cars get pulled over than any other color? I do not know if that is true. I heard that. It is probably an urban myth.

So this little red Volkswagen enters the tunnel. Maybe the light is out, the pilot does not know. But all he knows is that he has entered the tunnel full speed. Now, the pilot is not causing an accident, but he can ahead to the radio station and say there is an accident on Granite Mountain Tunnel. It has not taken place yet, but when you have those two vehicles in one lane going into the tunnel full speed, he knows there is going to be a collision.

God is all knowing and because God is all knowing, He knows whether or not you are going to be saved. I know you would like Him to give you the word right now, right? Does God know whether or not you are going to be saved? But does that mean He is making it happen? Well, He certain is making it available, but whether or not you are saved, it is your choice. Why else does the bible say choose ye who you will serve if you have no choice? It is a terrible teaching that we do not have a choice. Granted, the grace of God does intervene in our lives. He tries to get our attention. And as we response through our lives to the providence of God, I believe He intervenes more. But we have a choice.

Some are saying, well, wait a second, Doug. What about that verse where the bible says God hardened Pharaoh’s hearts? Does that mean that God looks down and says, you know, I need to demonstrate something here, so I am going to have to harden his heart and make him stubborn so I can teach my lessons. And yeah, he will be lost, but you know, after all, he is expendable. And they read that verse there in Exodus 4:21, “Pharaoh’s hard heart.” When you go back to Egypt, Moses, see that you do those wonders before Pharaoh that I put in your hand, but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” There it is, Doug, it says God hardened Pharaoh heart.

Well, you might think that by itself, but you need to read the other versus. There are several other versus, like Exodus 18:15, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief from one of the plagues, Pharaoh hardened his heart and did not heed as the Lord had said.”

How come it says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Well, you have to understand the way that the Hebrew mind works. God would send circumstances. Pharaoh would respond to the circumstances with pride. So God is saying through my circumstances, Pharaoh’s heart will be hardened, instead of softening.

For instance, you could have on the ground here a lump of clay and a lump of wax. The sun, the same sun, could shine on those two lumps. One will get hard and one will melt. The sun is the same. The substance is different. In the same way that the tragedies hardened the hearts of some, other’s hearts are softened. Pharaoh decided to respond with pride to those things, instead of humility and so God said, you know, I hardened his heart through the circumstances I sent. But Pharaoh chose to respond the way he chose.

So do not think that God is up there like one of these ancient Greek gods looking down on people like we are little chess pieces and going eeny meeny miny moe, I will save you. Eeny meenie miny moe, I will save you.

You know why that is a dangerous thing to believe? That makes God an accessory to sin. For God to say I think that I am going to just choose that you should be lost for eternity, well, that not only makes him an accessory to sin that he would support sin, instead of saving you from your sin, he says I am going to let you keep sinning? Is not what that is tantamount to? It also distorts His love. What kind of god would say, well, I think that, you know, for whatever reason, I am going to save you, but, you know, I just to make an example of some people so you are lost. And yet this is what predestination teaches. It is a distortion of the character of God.

Oh, but Doug, what about that verse, Romans 9:13, turn with me. This is terribly misunderstood. “I have loved Jacob and I hated Esau.” Have you heard that? “I loved Jacob and I hated Esau.” There you have it. They are twins. And he says, you know, I think I am going to love this one. I will save him and I will destroy this one.

Romans 9:13, “As it is written, Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” Oh, by the way, Paul wrote that. “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not. For He said to Moses, I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy and I will have compassion on whoever I will have compassion on.”

All right, first thing I want to deal with is the Esau/Jacob business. Paul is quoting the Old Testament. When a New Testament writer is quoting the Old Testament, if you want to understand the verse, you have to go back to who he is quoting.

Listen to what he says in Malachi 1:3,4, last book in the Old Testament, “But Esau I have hated and laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness, even though Edom,” Edom was the descendent so Esau, “Even though Edom has said we have been impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places, thus said the Lord host, they may build, but I will throw down.” In other words, I loved Jacob, but hated Esau. What does that mean? It has nothing to do with the individuals. It has to do with the nations that came out of them. So when God says I have loved Jacob, He means I decided to choose the Israelites and make them the recipients of the oracles of God, the bible. And I did not choose Esau or the Edomites, his descendants. He is talking about nations, not individuals.

Why did He say I have chosen the Israelites and not the Edomites? Because of the way the fathers chose. Because Jacob said I want the spiritual blessing and Esau was willing to sell his blessing for a pot of beans because Esau was colonel and Jacob was spiritual. God said because of the choice of the fathers, I am going to choose Israel to make them the recipients of the covenant and I am not going to choose Esau, the Edomites. He is not talking an individual. He is talking about nations. Do you see that in what it said here in Malachi?

And yet people, because they do not know their bibles and they do not read the reference, they say, oh, God is just up there saying twins, saved, lost. I love you, I hate you. What parent would do that with their twins, even if one was hairy and one was smooth? I mean, you still love them both, right?

Oh, wait. I wanted to get to the second part of this. What shall we say then? Is God unfair? He said I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

How many of you remember a parable that Jesus told about a man who goes into the marketplace and he is trying to find workers for his vineyard. He goes several times during the day. He goes early and he gets a few and they start working and he says, “I will give you a penny a day.” And then he goes later and someone and he said, “Come and I will pay you what is fair.” And he finds some others later. Finally, the end of the day, the 11th hours, you have heard that expression, he gets more workers for his vineyard. Every time he goes to the marketplace, he is saying who wants to work in my vineyard, anybody can come. Is that not what he is saying? His problem is not that he is being selective. His problem is he cannot get enough workers. Anybody is invited. You got that?

At the end of the day, he starts with those who have worked just one hour and he says, here, I’m a paying a full day’s wage. Well, those that worked all day long, they say, oh, he’s getting a full day’s wage. We’ll probably get ten times that. They get the same thing. And they say, hey, no fair, why are you doing this? And God says, I will show mercy on whom I want to show mercy. They have all been saved, but He is showing extra grace to some. It is not that God is being unfair in a negative sense, He is being unfair in a positive sense. He is being too good.

So when the bible talks about God is showing mercy to whom He wants, He is going the extra mile. He is being extra kind. The only way you ever God being unfair in the bible is when He is too fair. Did you get that? That is the time when the bible writers are saying God is showing extra mercy. He is inviting everybody. Well, let’s admit it. God does show extra mercy for some. But what is it? Is He not paying those who came and worked all day long? Is He not paying them fairly? No, He says I am giving you what I promised. You have been called, you have been saved. I am paying what I promised you. But I have decided to be extra nice to some. That is a whole different thing than for him saying I am going to be extra nice to you and save you, but you are not going to get paid at all. See the difference? And Calvin and those that follow, they get a distorted view of this.

In the bible, God is compared to a faithful husband. There are many versus that say that Jesus will never let us go, that no one will fall out of His hand, that the devil cannot pluck us out of His hand. And they take these versus to say, well, that means once you are saved, you cannot be lost. But really what it means is that God is a faithful husband.

Now, in earthly marriages with humans being humans, sometimes one will be unfaithful to the other. It might be the husband, it might be the spouse. But where there is love, there is freedom. You cannot force love. Is that right? The bible speaks of the Lord as a faithful husband. There are many parables in the bible.

I have one here in Jeremiah 3:1, “Then they say if a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man’s, can he return to her again. Would not the land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers, the Lord says to His church, yet returned to me, says the Lord.” So all of these promises in the bible where God says I will never let go of you, I will never forsake you, it is not meaning we cannot leave him. God is like a faithful husband. He is saying you can always count on me, I will never betray you. The problem is not trusting God. The problem is trusting us. So because there are promises in the bible that says that God will never betray us, that does not mean that we cannot be lost because we still have a choice.

Which brings me to the next point, conditions for security. John 10:27, “Jesus said my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they will never perish. Neither will any man pluck them out of my hand.” That was one of the versus.

Again, John 6:37, “All that the father gives me will come to me and whoever comes to me, I will never cast out.” Will not be plucked out of my hand, I will not cast out. Now, is the Lord there saying that you do not have freedom? Or is He saying I can be trusted?

If God is forcing you to stay with Him, then it is not love anymore, is it? What is forced love? There is a word for it. It is called rape. You cannot force somebody to love you. God is saying you can trust me that I made a promise. I will not break my promise, but what about us? Can we choose to go away? And many do.

1 Corinthians 6:9,10, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, not adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, not covetous, nor drunkards, nor violators, nor extortioners will inherit the Kingdom of God and such were some of you, but you have been washed.” See, it is very clear, just because you say, well, once I am saved, I cannot be lost and you can go live like the devil, that is not what the bible teaches.

Let me illustrate it this way. Have you heard of banks before that are called security something or other? They used to have Security Pacific. I think it got bought out in some merger. They talk about the security. You know when they do a commercial for a bank, you know what they try to emphasize? One, they’re personable, we are friends, we know you individually, we are buddies. They want to be friendly because banks seem so cold. And that your money is secure with us. It is insured. You have nothing to worry about. And that we have ATMs everywhere, so you get it whenever you want. Even when the bank is closed, you can get your money. They want you to know that we are your friends and you can trust your money with us. Security.

Now, suppose you take a tour of a bank and you have a lot of money and the manager of the bank says, hey, this is a wealthy person, I am going to give him a personal tour. And he takes you and he shows the alarms around the door. He shows you the bulletproof glass. He shows you the security guards there, stationed around the bank that are armed. He shows you all the cameras. He takes you in where the vault is. He shows you how thick the vault is, how security it is. So your money is secure. So you take all your money and you put it in the bank. You feel good, your money is secure.

But here is the question. Will you want to put your money in that bank if once it is in there and it is secure you cannot get it out? How many of you want to know that you are putting your money in a secure bank, but you can get it when you want it? Is that not what you want to know? It is secure. But I don’t want the robbers to get it, but I want to get it when I want to get it.

So the idea that once you are saved that you put your life in this bank and you cannot get it out anymore, you have lost your freedom. You have lost your choice. It is not that you do not love the Lord anymore. You are a hostage.

It is sort of like these people came to the astrodome for deliverance and they said, hey, things here are worse than they were out on the streets. I am going to swim to higher ground. They would not let them out of the astrodome. They said, we are saving you, stay here. We have no water, we have no food. We want to go. We think we can do better on our own than you are doing for us. They said no. They made them stay. Who likes being saved like that. And yet, some people think this is how that is. He is going to force us to be saved whether we want to or not. You cannot love without choice and you need to choice. So this idea, once you are saved you cannot be lost is not biblical.

Let us move along. Can a computer love? Love must be a choice. We choose to love God. If we have been preprogrammed by God ahead of time -- see, if God arbitrarily decided who the elect are, who is predestined, and says I am going to wire this one so they are saved and I am not going to wire this one, it is like a factory that is deliberately putting out defective material. Is that not what it would amount to? If God is in advance deciding that he is going to poorly wire some of our computers so that we are prone to sin and we cannot be saved, He becomes an accomplice.

But actually, the problem is we are all badly wired and He is going in and saving as many as will come to Him. Whoever comes to me, I will not cast out. Does that mean you have a choice? You can choose to come to Him. Once saved, always saved. Is that true?

Do you remember the parable that Jesus told about the sower who went out to sow? Some of the seed falls on the stony ground, on the rock. In Luke 8:13, it says, “Then those on the rock, when they hear the word, they receive the word with joy, but they do not have any root in themselves, so they believe for a while, but when temptation comes, they fall away.”

Now, here is a question. Once you are saved, can you fall away? I believe the bible teaches you can. First of all, it says these seeds, they sprouted. They believed. They received it with joy. They did everything that they could do to receive the word and to be saved. Can you leave New York if you have never been to New York? Can you? Can you fall away from salvation if you are not saved? So if the bible teaches that some can fall away, then that must mean that once a person is saved, there is risk. That is why we are challenged so many times in the bible to keep focused on the Lord, to stay close to God, to abide in Him.

Are there examples in the bible of people that were called, that followed the Lord, they were spiritual, and then they fell away? King Saul. Who chose Saul as king, an election? Or did God choose him? Did God choose him to make an example of him so he would be lost? No, he chose him because he was a choice of God. Was he spirit-filled? Yes, it says another spirit came up on. And for a while there, he was very loyal. He even is called the prophet in the bible, if you have read the whole story. But he began to cherish pride and eventually he grieved away the Holy Spirit. He fell away.

Belem was a prophet of God, but he loved money. And even though he said in his prayer, oh, let my lot be like theirs, he went running after filthy lucre and he perished with the ungodly. Judas was one of the 12. When Jesus sent them out and they went out preaching and they came back and said even the devils are subject to us, was Judas one of those apostles that came back with a successful evangelistic experience? He was.

This idea that you may have in your mind that Judas was always going around rubbing his hands like Snidely Whiplash and twisting the wax in his mustache and trying to steal money all the time, you probably would have voted him into position in the church. He was a nice guy, but in his heart, something was not right. I believe that there was a time with Judas had the Holy Spirit working his heart. But he fell. And so the bible tells us that these stories are in the bible as a warning.

Now, what does it mean to be elected? You know, the bible talks about those that are chosen, those that are elected. Predestination is also called eternal election. I heard one minister put it this way. It simply means that God has cast his vote for you. The devil has cast his vote against you and you have the tie-breaking vote. You do have a choice. Many are called, few are chosen.

What is election? God has called many of them. What does that mean? Everybody whosoever will. Those who respond to the invitation are then elected. Many are called, few are chosen. The ones who respond are chosen. They are the ones who are predestined. Whoever responds to the call.

The bible tells us in 1 Timothy 4, “In the latter times, some will depart from the faith.” Is it possible for those who were once in the faith to depart? Giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.

And by the way, as much as I respect many things Calvin taught, this particular doctrine is a doctrine of devils because it gives people a false sense of security. 1 Corinthians 2, Paul, “By which you were also saved if you hold fast to that word that I preach to you and lest you believe in vain.” He says you are saved if you hold fast. We must choose to hang on.

Again 1 John 2:3, “Now by this we know that we know Him if we keep His commandments. He who says I know Him and does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him. But whoever keeps his word, truly, the love of God is perfected in Him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who he says he abides in the Lord ought to walk as He walked.”

Now, one reason I mention this is because, and I do not want to be unkind, typically one of the largest groups that embraces this as a denomination are Baptist, lovely people. As a matter of fact, I was baptized by Baptists before I was baptized as a Seventh Day Adventist and I have a lot of dear Baptist friends. But there are many Baptists that are very godly people, more so than some in our ranks. So I am not questioning their Christianity.

But then I meet people who will say I am a Baptist, but I am not a practicing Christian. Not a practicing Christian. Here is a question for you. Is there such a thing as not a practicing Christian? Well, I was saved, but I am not walking with the Lord right now. Oh, no, they will say I am saved, but I am not walking with the Lord. I am out of relationship with the Lord now, but I am saved. There is a problem in our relationship, but we are still married. We do not live in the same place, but you know, on the books we are still married. Have you heard this before? Am I the only one that has heard this? Have you heard this before? You might not be practicing?

The bible does not teach that, friends. You are either with Him or against Him. This idea that you could be living like the world and yet somehow your name will still be written the book of life, the bible says anyone who says I know Him that is not abiding Him, they are liars. You may be backslidden, but while you are backslidden and not walking with God, you are lost. You are not in a save relationship. It does not matter.

I had someone come to the church here. You do not know their name. And he said, yeah, I was saved when I was ten years old, whatever it was. And he said I gave my heart to the Lord. He said I have not been walking with the Lord over the years, but I was saved back then. And I thought how sad. I mean, this man is now an old man and he still thinks he is saved based on something that happened in a prayer that he made when he was a kid and he has not lived for the Lord, lived for the devil, but he says I am saved because I made this contract. That is not how it works. Yes, you make a covenant with the Lord, but can covenants be broken? Is marriage not a covenant? Can it be broken? Yeah, unfortunately.

Moving right along. Ephesians 1:4,5, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy without blame before Him having predestined us to adoption of sons by Jesus Christ according to His good pleasure.” He is predestined that we should holy. All of us. Ephesians 1:11, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works in all things, according to the counsel of His will.”

Let me see if I can explain this. The Jews used to think, back in the time of Jesus, that God had chosen them and that they were the only ones He was going to save. Now, have we learned that is a false teaching? Paul is living during a time where he is trying to educate Jew and gentile that the gospel is supposed to be inclusive of everybody. It is the very opposite of what they are trying to make Paul say. Paul was trying to tell the gentiles, I know what you have heard the Jews say in time past that they are chosen and you are not, but indeed, we have all been chosen. If you respond, He wants you also to be a participant. And so he is actually saying the opposite of what people are saying when he uses word predestined. God has determined that he wants all men to be saved.

2 Thessalonians 2, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you, the gentiles, for salvation through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth.” From the very beginning, God wants all of us to be saved. Who did Jesus die for? God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son. Love a few or the world? That those He has chosen, those He has predestined and elected, if they believe in Him, is that what it says? Or does it say whosoever? What does whosoever mean? Whoever. Are you a whoever? Yeah, we’re all whoevers. So whoever believes in Him. That means whoever chooses to believe in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

1 Timothy 2:3,4, does God just want to save a few or everybody, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God, whosoever will. This is good in the sight of God, our savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” Who does he want to be saved? All men.

2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us, not willing that any should perish.” How many does He want to perish? None. Whosoever believes will not perish. He is not willing that any should perish. Will that would include you. He is not willing that you should perish. If you perish, it is not His will. Do you get that?

So the idea that God is willing that some perish is a false teaching. And yet there are people that believe it. Revelation 22:17, “And the spirit and the bride same come and let him that hears say come. Whoever has a thirst, come and whoever will. Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Final invitation in the bible is not made to an exclusive, elected predestined group, but it is made to everybody. If you are hearing these words, it is because you have been predestined. You have been called. God wants everybody to be saved. Do you have a choice? You do.

God has made you different from robots. He has created you with the ability to reason. He says come now let us reason together. He wants you to think. And what do you do after you have reasoned? You make a decision. That is why Jesus said what profit it is to gain the whole world and lose your soul. I want you to calculate, think and decide what is more profitable. He wants you to choose. It is a wonderful privilege when you really think about it.

Can people fall from salvation? I am kind of jumping around here a little bit. Paul said he did not even consider himself exempt. And keep in mind that this is the same Paul that said I know whom I believed in and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day. I know who I believe. But Paul said but I keep my body and bring it into subjection lest that by any means when I preach to others, I should be a castaway. Paul recognized I need to be careful or I could be cast away.

That is the apostle Paul, writer of the New Testament. Did he realize he needed to be on his guard? Does not the bible say whoever thinks he stands, 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Take heed lest he fell whoever thinks he stands.” Everybody needs to be careful because anybody can fall. Peter said Lord though all men forsake you, I will not forsake you. Did he fall? Yes, it is dangerous thinking.

Hebrews 10:38, “Now the just will live by faith, but if any man draw back, my soul will not have pleasure on him.” Is it possible for us to draw back? 2 Peter 2:20,21, “For after they escape the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and savior, they are again entangled therein,” do not miss this, friends, is it possible for people who have once escaped the world, they know the Lord and the savior, they get entangled in the world again and are overcome. “The latter end for them is worse than the beginning.” It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness. These are saved people. Then after they know, it is a turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. And you know the part about the dog and the pig. I am not going to read that.

Paul talks about Demas, whose name was written in the book of life who followed me. What does Paul later say happened to Demas? 2 Timothy 4:10, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved the present world.” He was one of his fellow laborers.

So this teaching that once you are saved you cannot be lost, you cannot fall away, that God just saved you from the penalty of sin, that is not biblical. God wants to save us from the penalty. He wants to save us from the power and ultimately He is going to save us from the presence. He is not just throwing us a life jacket. What He is wanting to do is get us out of the swamp. Right? Out of that toxic soup.

You know, there is so much more I have to say. I probably should have divided this in two messages, but I do not think I have enough for another full meal, so I’m going to tie this off as quickly as I can. Turn with me to the Gospel of John 15. We will talk a little bit in conclusion here about abiding and assurance. I would like to end on a positive note.

How can we know that we are saved? Can we have assurance and yet not false security? You know, there are two errors that the devil loves. Two sides of the ditch. One side of the ditch is that you believe that once you are saved, you cannot be lost and so you live like the world, you are reckless in your faith because you say, well, I made a contract with the Lord and so I am saved. The other side of the ditch is you think I will never be good enough. I cannot have any assurance and so I am just doomed. And they constantly live burdened by guilt and they have no peace. Between those two extremes, and the devil uses both, you will find the truth.

John 15:1, “Jesus said, I am in the vine. My Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does bear fruit He takes away.” Are there some branches in Him that do not bear fruit? What is the fruit? Galatians 5:22, “Love, joy, peace.” Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes it away. “Every branch in me that is bearing fruit, He prunes it that it might bear more fruit.” Any of you ever deal with grape vines before?

He says you are already clean because of the word that I have spoken unto you, abide in me and I in you as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit. Without me, you cannot do anything. If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as the branch that is withered and they gathered them and they throw them into the fire and are burned. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it will be done.”

Now, very simply, in order for you have assurance and a productive Christian life, you need to be connected with Christ. When you break that connection for very long, you will die. Grapes are interesting in that you can start a whole grape vine from just a cutting, a twig. You can cut a grape off, stick it in water, it will sprout. Have you ever done this? You guys all live in the city. I have done it. And then the other thing is that for a little while, that separate branch can stay alive because you can take it. If you do not let it dry out and graft it into another branch and it will be fruitful. But if it is separated, if it is not abiding in a vine, it will ultimately dry up and die and it will never come back to life. If you let those clippings dry out, they die and you cannot revive them. You can soak them all day and all night and they are not going to live. You must be connected to Christ.

The bible says whoever abides in Him sinneth not. How do we have a victorious life? Abide in Christ. How? My word abiding in you. That is why I do what I do, preaching the word, because there is power in the word that keeps us connected. Christ is the word. As we stay in Him and in the principles of truth, you start bearing the fruits of His spirit and then you can know you have eternal life. I wanted to talk about the potter and the clay and a number of other things.

Let me close with this. How can we have assurance? Would you like to know that? While it is true that once you are saved, it does not mean that you can never be lost. It is also true that once you are saved, you can live with security in your relationship with the Lord.

I have used this illustration before. When Karen and I got married, we made promises. Sometimes I travel and we are separate. I do not ever worry about her faithfulness because when there is love and when there is trust, there is security. I have also dealt with couples before where one was unfaithful. The other one is never comfortable again. They are always fretting, they are always wondering. They are sniffing their collar when they come home because there is a lack of trust. And those are very tense relationships.

When you trust and love the Lord and you place your life in His hands, you know that He is going to lead you. But it is an ongoing relationship. Let me read these things to you. Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it into the day of Christ.” When you come to the Lord, you are giving Him permission to work in you. Will He do what you ask Him to do? Hebrews 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

Now, I have started a lot of books that I have not finished. Hopefully I still finish some of them. I have some great ideas out there I have just never had time to work on. But Christ is not that kind of author. When He begins rewriting your life, He will finish it if you do not run off and take the manuscript with you. Stay with Him and He will finish. Trust Him through providence to work in you every day. Let Him write on your heart. He is the author and the finisher of our faith.

The bible says he that has the Son has life. Do you know that you have Christ in you? If you have Jesus in your heart, if you have that abiding sense that He is in you, you have life.

1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren. He that does not love his brother abides in death.” If you are learning to love each other, then you can know that you can have eternal life. Romans 8:16, “The spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”

How can we know that we are the children? Do you have the Holy Spirit? It will bear witness with your spirit. In other words, you will have that inner voice that says it, you will just know that He is in you, that He is working in your life.

I will not ask for a show of hands, but I will ask, have you had those experiences where you know that God is near you? Sometimes trial is what does it. And you really have to fall on the rock and you sense the Lord move into your heart. You surrender your repent, you sense the forgiveness. You know that your name is in the book of life. You are walking with the Lord. It is a wonderful experience. His spirit bears witness with your spirit that He is abiding in you and you are abiding in Him, that you are connected. You know it.

How do you have that experience? Jesus said whoever comes to me, I will not cast out. You come just like you are and you can know that. Do you know that? Yes, friends, salvation is a gift. Sweeter words are never heard than the promise of Jesus. Be of good cheer. Thy sins are forgiven and thy promises that for you. You just come like you are and you accept Him and He not only throws you the life jacket, He says I am going to get you out of here.

Is that your desire, to have that experience, to walk with the Lord? We are going to sing our closing hymn, number 511, I Know Whom I Believed In. And let us stand together as we sing. One thing I really like about this hymn, and especially in our church, sometimes we think it is what I believe that saves me. It says here I know whom I believed. It is trusting somebody, not something. It is not a system of thinking that saves you. It is trust in Christ that whoever believes in Him that saves you. Do you believe in Him? Maybe you have never made that decision. Do me a favor, sing it better. Sing with your heart. Let’s sing verse four and then we will have special prayer together.

Our loving Father, Lord, we are so thankful for the truth that we can come to Jesus just like we are and through faith, through trust in Him, we can know that our sins are washed away. We can hear you say that our sins are forgiven and that we are adopted into the family. Lord, we can make that choice, but we know that there are things we cannot do without you. Without you, we can do nothing. And as we come to you, Lord, we pray that you will then work in our lives. You will take our hand. We will do what we can to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, trusting that you will never let go of us.

Bless each of these people and the special way those who have come forward for the appeal this morning. Give them that sense of assurance that they can completely lean on that rope of salvation, that you are at the other end and you will never forsake them.

At the same time, Lord, those who have maybe been presumptions and reckless in their faith, help us know there is danger and risk involved in the Christian life and if we take our eyes off Jesus and if we become careless, we can fall away. So let us take heed, Lord, to keep our eyes fixed on Christ. Bless each of these people, those who may be listening or watching, those who are here in this house. Pour out your spirit.

We want to extend this prayer right now and just pray and intercede on behalf of our friends and family, our fellow citizens there in the Gulf states, multiply thousands who have suffered total loss. Some have lost lives of loved ones and others have every earthly possession and employment and we just pray that you will comfort and through this tragedy that the gospel can abound, even though sin abounds. Bless them and I pray that as a church we can do what we can to help relieve their suffering in a practical way and through our prayers, in Jesus’ name we ask, Amen.

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