Assurance or Deadly Presumption

Scripture: 1 John 4:18, John 10:28, Revelation 2:10
Date: 08/12/2006 
This sermon focuses on the issue of whether you can have assurance that you are saved. Can you ever say, "I am saved." There is a genuine security and a false security. Some believe once you are saved you can never be lost. What does the Bible teach about the assurance of salvation?
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Elder Washington was right in his prayer. I do have the notes today and I’m praying that God will give me wisdom because I have an awful lot I want to share with you on a very important subject and I don’t feel qualified because it is such an important subject. I’m just really praying that the Holy Spirit will take over and in spite of my frailties use me to communicate something that is a crucial truth to understand. The message this morning I’ve titled “Assurance or Deadly Presumption.” That’s another way of saying can I know that I’m saved? How do I know if I’m saved? Do I have a right to say I am saved and where do I stand? Can a Christian have assurance? Understanding whether or not you are in God’s will, whether you are on the right path, where you stand in God’s perspective, can you tell me something more important than that?

Knowing what your eternal status is. I’ll tell you it’s a very important subject to study because people live in fear. It’s the fear factor that we’re talking about. So many folks don’t know where they stand with God and I’m talking about people who are believers who have maybe been in the church all their lives but they live in a constant state of apprehension. They don’t have any element of assurance about their relationship with God and what their status is whether they’re saved or not. I’ve equated this to the experience I’ve observed at the airport. Many times I’ve sat in the waiting area before a plane boarded and it’s not hard to tell who has confirmed seats and who is on standby. Those who have confirmed seats are usually sitting, resting, reading, chatting. There is a little more ease. Then you can almost always spot those who are on standby. They’re doing just that. They are standing by usually pacing nervously looking at their watch, hovering around the desk there where the assistance and the flight personnel are wondering if they’re going to get on the plane or if they have to wait another day or a few more hours and there is a great deal of apprehension there. Now that sort of illustrates where people are often in the relationship with Jesus. A lot of us are sort of on standby.

We’re just wondering and we’re nervous and we’re apprehensive and we’re pacing and we don’t know whether or not we’ve got a seat but at the same time, those who have confirmed seats, while they are more relaxed in today’s flying you still wonder if you’re going to get there. How far do we go in our relationship with Jesus in knowing? How much can we know that we’re saved? How presumptuous is it for us to say that we’re saved? That’s the stuff I want to talk about with you. It’s a very important subject. God does not want us to live in a constant state of dread. I John 4:18, a lot of verses. You might look up as many as possible. Have a pencil handy if you want to look at some of the references. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. He who fears has not been made perfect in love.” When we have committed our lives to the Lord He wants to save us from this constant fear. The Bible talks about those who are living in fear of death because of the devil in the book of Hebrews. But at the same time there’s the other extreme who have a false confidence, a deadly presumption. No less troubling for those who are in the church, but constantly afraid, have no assurance is the other extreme those who have a counterfeit assurance, false security.

I heard this week on the Internet about this mother who is suing a hospital, or her family is suing the hospital because she was taking this medication and showing a great deal of progress that was helping her recover from this illness and then all of a sudden she took a radical turn for the worse and ultimately died. Well, upon investigation they found out that the hospital, to save money, had bought a resupply of this medication over the Internet and, I don’t know, they’d gotten it from China and it was virtually watered down to the point where it was almost useless. It was diluted medicine. They wanted to save some money so they’d bought, it had the right bottles, the right label, the right color. I don’t know if it was pills or liquid, but it was worthless. It was counterfeit. It didn’t have the potency. Let’s face it, there are a lot of people who go to church and they’re taught to have a false assurance and what they’ve got is a form of godliness but no power. Are there many who say, “Lord, Lord!” and do not the will of their Father in heaven? And so there is that other extreme of those who have got the false security. You know I’ve noticed that Satan has a marketing strategy for the church. The devil, I think, is more pleased to have people in the church… You might be saying, “What? Pastor Doug, Satan’s idea is to keep everybody away from the church.” No, I think what he likes even more, it’s almost like he flaunts it before heaven that he gets people in the church with a counterfeit religion.

They have the name Christianity, but they’re nominal Christians. They’re not Christians in heart or in deed. One way the devil does this is by giving them, he’s got this marketing strategy where he wants to attract people to the church by telling them that, “You be a Christian and all your problems will go away. You’ll be healthy, wealthy, and wise. No matter what you do, you’re saved. You can’t be lost.” There’s just this whole marketing program that he’s got to try to make Christianity look attractive, but it’s all counterfeit. “You’re not going through the tribulation when Jesus comes back. You’re going to take all your money and your faith, you’ll just be caught up to meet Him in the air, get your glorified body, no trouble, no sickness, no problems, and once you’re saved, no matter what you do, you can’t be lost.” That’s the extreme. I haven’t met too many people, but I have met people that have this really bizarre idea of what Christianity is. Basically you go through this ritual of saying, “Yes, I believe in the Lord,” and then no matter what you do, God is just going to bless you and you can live for yourself. And they’ve got this assurance, “Well, it says right here once I’m saved, I can’t be lost,” but it’s counterfeit and that’s very deadly. That is a deadly presumption. A form of godliness.

I printed something out and I don’t want to be unkind, but I want to be straight. I used to go to Baptist church. I don’t know if you knew that. I was a Seventh-day Adventist, but I went to Baptist church and I went on Sunday because there was no Adventist church for many miles and I had family and friends that went to the Baptist church and they sometimes asked me to preach and I said, “By all means, I’d be happy to go.” So I’ve got a good understanding. My father was a Baptist. Matter of fact, I was baptized a Baptist while I was living up in the cave in the mountains before I was baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist so I speak this language. I know of what I speak. There is not even total agreement within the Baptist community because there are about twenty different branches of the Baptist church, but I printed out something that sort of encapsulates this idea of once you’re saved you can’t be lost and where they draw that. How many of you have heard this before, once saved, always saved? They say how else are you going to have assurance? One reason I’m addressing this is because these concepts have even found their way into other protestant churches. “Once a person is saved that person is also sealed by the Holy Spirit in whom ‘you have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom you have believed. You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.’” That’s Ephesians 1:13. “The word sealed,” the commentator goes on, “means security, a finished transaction. You ask, how long is a person sealed?

God’s answer is Ephesians 4:30, ‘Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed unto the day of redemption.’ You’re sealed,” it’s surmising, “unto the day or redemption. In Romans 8:23 ‘And not only so, but ourselves also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even ourselves we groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, the redemption of our body.’ So we are sealed by the Holy Spirit until the resurrection morning. Does that mean a person who is saved can never be lost? Yes, there is no such thing as the loss of salvation taught in the Bible.” I was really impressed with the confidence with which they make that statement, but you know it doesn’t matter how confidently you say a lie, a lie is a lie. It may seem more convincing if you say it with confidence, but the Bible doesn’t teach that. “Now let us read John 10:28, ‘And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.’” Now I love these promises and they are good promises, but they must be understood. No one will take you out of God’s hand meaning you cannot be stolen from God and that is absolutely true. But it doesn’t mean you can’t choose to jump out of His hand. He will not let go of you, but you can let go of Him otherwise what that means is God is holding onto you and you’ve lost your will. If a saved person cannot be lost that means God has taken away the greatest gift which is their choice. They no longer have a choice. The Bible never teaches that we lose our choice when we accept Christ.

Matter of fact, C. S. Lewis says, “The greatest evidence of God’s love is the lake of fire” because He’s giving these objects He loves so much the choice to be lost though He doesn’t want any to perish. The fact that anyone perishes means that God ultimately respects your choice. You cannot love without a choice. If someone is being forced to follow it’s not love. Isn’t that right? And so this idea that once you’re saved you can’t be lost really it takes away your choice and it takes away love. Forced love is also called rape. God does not drag us into heaven kicking and screaming because “I won’t let go of them.” That’s not what that’s meaning. It means you can trust Him not to forsake you, but you are still free. A marriage is a commitment of faith and trust of two individuals not just one. And our salvation involves two. God’s choice and His promise which never will fail, but it also includes our faith and our trust. Is that right? It goes on here. It gets interesting. It says I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one is able to take them out of My hand. “Why do some people teach that when you’re saved, you can be lost? Because they teach that salvation is dependent on works and not faith alone in Christ. If they’re living the life of sin they never really were saved.”

Did you get that? The way they get out of this whole thing of once saved, always saved is saying well, we realize a lot of people out there are showing that they’re not new creatures and they’re not living a new life, well that just proves they never really were saved. So you know what I’ve discovered is that Baptists who believe in once saved, always saved have no more assurance than anybody else because if they are floundering or backslidden the others will point to them and say, I guess they never really were saved. So how much more assurance do you get with that teaching anyway? Did that make sense? Say amen if that made sense. Does God want us to have assurance or does He want us to live in fear? Yeah, He does want us to have assurance. The assurance is trusting in His promises. We must of course respond to His promises, but if we are responding to His promises we can be sure He’s going to keep up His bargain. He has made a covenant in blood with you and I. the teaching once saved, always saved is undermined by the truth. Revelation 2:10 He says, “Do not fear any of those things you are about to suffer. The devil is about to cast some of you into prison, you will be tested, you will have tribulation ten days.” Notice what Jesus said to the church, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.” How long do we need to be faithful? Just when we make this commitment in the altar in church when we’re nine years old or be faithful “unto death”?

Jesus said, “He that endures unto” the altar? “the end will be saved.” Christianity is not a race, it just has a starting line and that’s what once saved, always saved teaches. That racer has got a race to run and there is a finish line. We are to look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. We press on. John 15:2, notice what Jesus said. “Every branch in Me…” These are the branches that are in Christ, people who are in Christ. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away.” So those who maybe have come to Christ and they’re in Christ, but if they have professed Christ and accepted Christ, but if there is no fruit what does the Bible say? “He takes (them) away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes,” does everything He can “that it might bear more fruit.” Galatians 5:4, he says, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace.” How can you fall from something you never were at? If you see someone walking down 34th Street in New York City and they say, “I just fell from the top of the Empire State Building.” You’d say, “You don’t look like you just fell from the top.” He says, “Well, I never was at the top, but I fell from it.” How can you fall from the top if you’re not there?

How can you fall from grace if you are not in a saved situation? You see what Paul is describing those who had accepted the grace of the Lord, they were in that relationship but they had fallen from it. so is it possible to fall from grace? Was the devil once saved? Yeah. The book of Jude tells us the angels which kept not their first estate they were once saved. They’re now reserved in everlasting chains of darkness. Now they’re lost. And then he talks about Sodom and Gomorrah. Do you know before Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed it was saved? Many people don’t know that. Abraham saved the people of Sodom and Gomorrah when they had been carried off captive with Lot. They were saved, but they went right back to the sinful lives instead of being repentant because of this judgment and rescue, instead of being grateful and changing their ways they went right back to their evil ways and even after being saved were then lost. Many who were saved from the land of Egypt because of God’s grace and the sacrifice of the lamb, if they refused to believe in the wilderness they never made it to the Promised Land. They were saved from Egypt, but they didn’t make it to the Promised Land. They did not enter into rest because of unbelief and so the Bible teaches from bow to stern that God is desperate to save everybody.

Some people who make it part of the way, but they don’t make it all the way because they give up. They put their hand to the plow and they look back. “Pastor Doug, you’re not helping me with my assurance problem.” I’ll get there. I just want to make sure you don’t have false assurance because that’s like a security blanket. Some people say, “Pastor Doug, just give me a warm fuzzy security blanket, something I can suck my thumb and hang onto so that when I’m scared I don’t have to be afraid.” I don’t want you to have a false security blanket. A lot of churches have this theology. It’s warm and fuzzy, but what they’re doing is they’re on the deck of the Titanic and they’re walking around with a life preserver that’s full of holes. What good is it going to do them? They’re going to jump into the water thinking, “I don’t have to worry, I’ve got this life jacket.” And they could drown! I was reading this week, some of you probably heard this news report, I said I was reading, I actually was listening on the news so I hope I get it right.

They did a report, someone went around and did these investigations. All around these businesses they’ve got these heart defibrillators. Do you know what I’m talking about? They’re not cheap, but a lot of companies have them because they say that if you can apply a heart deliberator that kind of gives a shock to the heart if a person has had a heart attack the sooner you do it the better so people keep them on location because if you’ve got to wait for the paramedics to get there it could be too late. A lot of companies have spent hundreds and thousands of dollars getting these heart defibrillators. They went around and began to test them and I thought that they said that two out of five were faulty. So here is John Doe who is working at the factory and he knows he’s got a heart problem. He says, “I’m not going to worry. Defibrillator is right there on the wall.” He didn’t realize the batteries were dead or whatever goes faulty in those things, but that’s how some people are living their Christian experience. Isn’t it true that there are going to be a lot of people in the judgment Jesus said who are going to come to Him and say, “Lord, Lord, we’re ready now. Where is our reward? Where is our crown?” and He is going to say, “I don’t know you.” “Oh, but wait a second! Oh, wait a second.

I’ve lived through my Christian experience with assurance. Matter of fact, I even cast out devils and I taught in Your streets and did many wonderful works!” And He’ll say, “I don’t know you. Depart from Me, ye who work iniquity.” Do you know what that says? If nothing else, that tells me there are a lot of people who have a false security. Am I right? Isn’t that simple theology? A lot of people thought they were saved and they weren’t. There are some people who think they’re saved based on their genetics. “I am of the tribe of Israel so God has to save me. I’m chosen people.” That’s true. There are some people who think that God saves people based on their DNA. That’s not true. Or their race. That’s not what the Bible teaches. People are saved and lost based on their heart. God looks on the heart; man looks on the outside. So many have got this false security blanket. You know I have understood that kids sometimes go around with security blankets and it makes them feel good, but they are sometimes the dirtiest things. Any of you remember Linus on Peanuts?

The thing is just swarming with vermin and bacteria because they won’t let Mom take it away long enough to wash it so everywhere they go they’re spreading disease and plague with their security blanket. Some are doing this with this false concept of assurance. They go around because it’s made them feel so much better, this false theology, they spread it with everybody else to make everyone else feel better and what they’re doing is spreading false security. I want to have assurance, don’t you? I want to have assurance I can be sure of. I want to have assurance that I can stand on. I don’t want a lifeboat full of holes when that day comes. I want it to float. Karen went camping with the kids at Redwood Camp Meeting. We’ve got these airbeds and she expressed a little bit of her frustration that she would air it up at night and she’d wake up at about three in the morning and she was on the hard ground because all the air went out of it. So you’d bring this thing on a camping trip thinking you’re going to have comfort and you wake up sore and miserable because it had holes in it.

I’ll tell you a little trick, when I go camping; you know how I air up my airbed? I usually go camping with a four-wheeler. I crank up the four-wheeler and I put the air bed to the exhaust pipe of the four-wheeler and it airs up really quick. You have to do it before the exhaust gets too hot. Then I plug it. Then what happens is as all that carbon monoxide leaks out during the night I’m unconscious and I don’t notice it and so I sleep all the way through the night. I don’t recommend that because if you do have a hole in your bed you might wake up and find out whether you’re saved or lost.

It probably is a good idea to go through the basics of salvation to understand where do we get our security. Some people have thought that salvation stops with the first step which is justification. Salvation is composed of justification, sanctification, and glorification. Justification very simply is illustrated by a beautiful parable where Jesus talks about the publican and the Pharisee who were praying. The Pharisee was citing all the good works he has done, he pays tithe and everything. The publican doesn’t lift up his eyes, but he depends wholly on the mercy of God and he says, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” He confesses his sin, not his goodness, not his works.” His desperate need is his plea and he’s asking for God’s mercy. The Bible says Jesus declared, “This man went down to his house justified.” He is forgiven solely on the mercy of God. God looks upon him just as if… think about justification, think God looks at him just as if he had never sinned. It isn’t because of anything he has done. It’s you are accepting the blood of the lamb, you are forgiven based on God’s mercy, but that’s not where salvation ends. Some churches stop there and they live their whole experience every day based on justification, they forget phase two. Phase two is sanctification. Now wait a second.

I was going to illustrate justification. Go to Zechariah chapter 3. I’m going to read the whole chapter if you’ll let me. Zechariah chapter 3, it’s not that long so don’t get scared. Justification is illustrated in this vision in Zechariah 3:1 “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord.” Now there was a high priest in ancient Israel by the name of Joshua. Don’t forget the way you say Joshua in Greek is Jesus and the way you say Jesus in Hebrew is Joshua or Yashua is more precise. Same name as Jesus, this high priest “standing before the Angel of the Lord.” That Angel of the Lord is sometimes used to describe Christ. “…and Satan (is) standing at his right hand to oppose” or to accuse “him.” The way Satan accused Job and the way that he is called in Revelation chapter 12 “the accuser of our brethren.” “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan…’” Remember what Michael says when he comes to get the body of Moses and Satan is there to oppose him? Satan is contesting every soul Jesus saves. He is the accuser. “And the Lord said… ‘Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’” All of us are headed for the fire.

By God’s grace we are brands plucked from the burning so to speak. “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments.” He has no right to be saved. His garments are dirty, the symbol of righteousness, and he’s standing before the angel. “Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him,” this Angel of the Lord, “‘Take away the filthy garments from him. And to him He said, ‘See, I have removed your iniquity,’” He says to Joshua, “And I will clothe you with rich robes.” When the prodigal son came home and he’s justified by the father, the father accepts him just as he is, doesn’t he? and then he says, “Get the best robe and cover him.” You can come to the Lord just like you are. This is the wonderful news of salvation. Anybody, whosoever will, you can come to Jesus and if you are sorry for your sins He will give you His royal robe and you are accepted based on His grace. “‘Put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by. Then the Angel of the Lord admonished Joshua, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts:” Notice this! “If…” What’s that word? He has given him clean robes. There’s nothing to worry about now. He can do whatever he wants.

No, he has been saved by God’s grace. “If you walk in My ways, and if you will keep My command, then you shall also judge My house, and likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk among those who stand here.” He’s in this heavenly vision and God is saying to Joshua the high priest if you minister and you’re faithful on earth and you walk in My ways I’m going to give you a place to walk with Me here. Now He says that to every one of us because the high priest interceded for the people. He represented bearing the sins of the people and Jesus is our high priest who is bearing the sins of the people. “Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, You and your companions who sit before you,” the priests that served with the high priest, “For they are a wondrous sign; for behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.” Now who is that?

Jesus is that branch that came out of the stem of Jesse the son of David. “For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua; Upon the stone are seven eyes.” Christ is that cornerstone. Revelation talks about the lamb with seven eyes. “Behold, I will engrave its inscription, says the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” You don’t have to work for it? Justification. “In that day, says the Lord of hosts, everyone will invite his neighbor under his vine and under his fig tree.” You’ll be in the kingdom. I’m going to save you. If you come to Me, I’ll give you new garments, new turban, you’re forgiven. The accuser of the brethren is rebuked. The devil has nothing against you because you’re justified, but then He says now that you’re justified you must walk in My ways. That leads us to point number two.

Sanctification. Sanctification is the process of being… sancta, in Spanish what does sancta mean? Holy, right? Sancta bibla. Holy Bible. Sanctification is the process of becoming holy. You are justified when you come just like you are. Sanctified is a process of walking with the Lord and becoming like Him. Jesus accepted the disciples as they came to Him. He said “Follow Me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” It was three and a half years of following Him and they were still learning, right? I Thessalonians 4:3 if you have doubts, lots of scripture. “This is the will of God, your sanctification,” that you should be holy. Salvation is not a big cover-up where you’re justified and you go on living a sinful life. Do you agree? Salvation, you come just like you are, He forgives your sins, but then He transforms you. And it’s a process of learning to do good, ceasing to do evil. Hebrews 10:14 “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” Do you notice “who are being sanctified.” So if someone says to you, “Are you saved?” What do you say?

Well, it depends on what a person is asking you. If someone is asking you, “Are you saved?” it means something different to different people. Some people ask me, “Are you saved?” I say, “Yes.” What they’re really asking you is are you a Christian. In the vernacular of Christians “Are you saved?” means I’ve accepted Christ. But in some circles “Are you saved?” means do you believe that you are saved and you can’t be lost. For those people I say I’m being saved. I’m being sanctified. II Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” It’s a growing process. Ephesians 4:15, “But, speaking the truth in love, that you might grow up in all things unto Him who is the head--Christ.” Christianity is a growing experience and I’ve noticed that if a Christian isn’t growing they’re backsliding. You’re always dynamic as a Christian meaning you’re moving somewhere. If you are not moving forward, you’re backsliding. The termites are getting in. Termites don’t get into a motor home. You know if you’re standing still ants and mosquitoes will get you. You’ve got to be moving and you stay out of their way. Christian life, sanctification is growth. It’s moving. You’ve got to be reading. You’ve got to be praying, witnessing, studying. It’s a dynamic life. That sanctuary in the wilderness was portable. It was moving.

Then you have the final phase of salvation which is called glorification and this is an easy one everyone virtually agrees on. That means when we get our glorified bodies and we’re in glory. It’s where we are in the position where we cannot be lost because now we’re in the kingdom. When you’re glorified you can say once saved, always saved. Once you get your glorified body, friends, you have nothing to worry about. The Bible says in Thessalonians, “Then shall we ever be with the Lord.” You can also read there in Romans 8:17 and 18, “If indeed we suffer with Him, we may also be glorified together. For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not even worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” This is future. Philippians 3:21 “Who will transform our lowly bodies that it might be conformed like unto His glorious body.” So that’s glorification when we’re in the kingdom, we’re in glory, we’ve got a glorified body. Amen? Justification, sanctification, glorification. Some people, their idea of theology is justification, glorification. They leave out the part where God makes us a saint, the learning process, the transformation where you become a new creature.

God’s promises never fail but you must respond to those promises. God is not the problem. We’re the problem. I Corinthians 15:1, 2 Salvation is conditional. “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which you are saved…” Listen to this. The gospel by which you are saved, and some people stop right there period. They punctuate that’s the end of the verse. That’s not what it says. The gospel “by which you are saved, if,” are you listening? “…if you hold fast to that word which I preached to you…” That means it’s possible for us not to hold fast, to let go, to give up, to turn back. Again, Matthew 24, “He that endures unto the end.” I John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” We can be confident that we are being cleansed from all sin if we hold fast and if we walk in the light. You shouldn’t be confident, it is dangerous presumption to be confident if you are not walking in the light.

You are trusting in a lifeboat on a plane that is going down in the ocean that is full of holes. You want to know that you are cooperating with the covenant. Galatians 6:9 “Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we will reap if we do not lose heart.” There are conditions to the promises. There should be evidence. If a person is saved, should there be evidence in the life that they’re saved? Is there something different, once a person is justified and they’ve started trusting their life to the Lord, should there be some difference, an evidence of a change? Jesus said, “You’ll know them by their fruit.” And He went on to illustrate, thistles don’t bear grapes and fig trees don’t have thorns. You can tell what the trees are based on the fruit and so it’s appropriate to look at the fruit. Someone said one time if it waddles like a duck and it quacks like a duck and it flies like a duck and it swims like a duck what is it? It’s a duck. It’s not a vulture. It’s not a hummingbird. Sometimes you can look at all the evidence and you know what it is. I John 2:29 “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” The new birth is going to be evidence in a person practicing a different life. Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit… love, joy, peace, longsuffering…” These are the fruits. Faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. I know they have an expression in Texas. They say, “That fellow is all hat and no cattle.” You ever heard that before?

Some people want to look the part of the cowboy and they’ve got the boots with the four inch heels and they can walk bowlegged but they’ve never ridden a horse. They’ve got the great big ten-gallon hat and they’ve got the bolo tie and they’ve got the belt buckle as big as a hubcap and they go strutting around like a cowboy, but they’ve never ridden and they’ve never roped and they don’t own any cows. All hat and no cattle. And there’re some Christians like that, all label, no fruit. They like to parade their Christianity but their lives aren’t transformed. I John 2:3 “Now by this we know…” Can we know? “By this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” Jesus is going to say to many lost hypocrites, “Why do you say unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ when you do not the things that I say?” He doesn’t want us only to be hearers, but to be doers. Otherwise we’re deceiving our own selves with a deadly presumption and a false assurance. There should be a change in the life. They say, “I’ve accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I know I’m saved.” They forget He’s not only Savior, He’s Lord. What does Lord mean? Lord is, well, He’s the boss. Lord gives the orders, you obey. Lord is the commander. He’s the general, and if you’re calling Jesus Lord and you’re not obeying Him, you haven’t accepted Him as Lord. You maybe want His salvation, but you don’t want His kingship. If you are surrendered to Him and you are willing to take His orders you can know that you’ve got eternal life, but if you’re living in deliberate disobedience and you still think you’re saved you’re self-deluded. It is a deadly presumption. It’s a false security blanket. Again, “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.” This was our verse. “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” Do you want to know? Would you like assurance? Then totally surrender to the Lord and say, “Lord, I’m not only willing for You to be my Savior, I’m willing for You to be my Lord,” and mean business with Him. “You are the King; You’re in charge; You’re the boss. You speak, I obey.” Then you can know that you’re surrendered and you’re on His team, but if you’re taking your orders from the enemy and you’re claiming to be a Christian, you’re a traitor. You are a double agent and you might not even know it. If that isn’t clear enough I Corinthians 6:9. Do you want me to talk to you like this? Am I making you uncomfortable? I’m not trying to take away your assurance. Before we’re done I’m hoping to have time I want to give you assurance. I Corinthians 6:9 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived.” It doesn’t matter if they’ve gone to the altar and signed a covenant and said a prayer. “Don’t be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you.” Past tense. He can save people from any background. That’s good news. All of these kinds of people can be saved, but they were doing those kinds of things, they’re not anymore. It says, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified” the whole thing and then you’ll be glorified “in the name of the Lord… by the Spirit of our God.”

There’s a quote here. How do you know whose side you’re on? How can we know if we’re saved? I read this years ago and I never found anything to improve on it. If you do references this is from the book, that classic, Steps to Christ. I read it or passages from it frequently. Page 58 and 59, Steps to Christ the chapter called “The Test of Discipleship”. Bear with me. This is a very important reference I think. “A person may not be able to tell the exact time or place, or trace all the chain of circumstances in the process of conversion; but this does not prove him to be unconverted. Christ said to Nicodemus, ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.’ John 3:8. Like the wind, which is invisible, yet the effects of which are plainly seen and felt, is the Spirit of God in its work upon the human heart. That regenerating power, which no human eye can see, begets a new life in the soul; it creates a new being in the image of God. While the work of the Spirit is silent and imperceptible, its effects are manifest. If the heart has been renewed by the Spirit of God, the life will bear witness to the fact.

While we cannot do anything to change our hearts or to bring ourselves into harmony with God; while we must not trust at all to ourselves or our good works, our lives will reveal whether the grace of God is dwelling within us. A change will be seen in the character, the habits, the pursuits. The contrast will be clear and decided between what they have been and what they are. The character is revealed,” I like this. Pastor Doug, but what if I sin? Do Christians ever make mistakes? I’ll get to that in a minute. “The character is not revealed by the occasional good deeds or bad deeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and actions. It is true that there may be an outward correctness of deportment without the renewing power of Christ. The love of influence and the desire for the esteem of others may produce a well-ordered life. Self-respect may lead us to avoid the appearance of evil. A selfish heart can perform generous actions. By what means, then, shall we determine whose side we are on?” How can we know whether or not we’re saved? Are you ready? You haven’t got it yet? “Who has the heart?” I’ve got good theology for that, lot’s of scripture for that. Who has the heart? Does the Lord have your heart? “With whom are our thoughts?” As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.

What do you think about? Do you think about Christ, or do you think about the next video coming out? I’ll let her say it here. “Of whom do we love to converse? Who has our warmest affections and our best energies? If we are Christ's, our thoughts are with Him, and our sweetest thoughts are of Him. All we have and are is consecrated to Him. We long to bear His image, breathe His spirit, do His will, and please Him in all things.” Because we love Him. It’s a transformation motivation by love, not motivated by, “Oh, I’d better do this or I’ll be lost. I’ve got to do this so I can get to heaven or don’t go to hell.” That might be a starting point, but ultimately a Christian wants to be motivated by what? By love. “Those who become new creatures in Christ Jesus will bring forth the fruits of the Spirit… They will no longer fashion themselves according to the former lusts, but by the faith of the Son of God they will follow in His steps, reflect His character, and purify themselves even as He is pure. The things they once hated they now love, and the things they once loved they hate. The proud and self-assertive become meek and lowly in heart. The vain and supercilious become serious and unobtrusive. The drunken become sober, and the profligate pure. The vain customs and fashions of the world are laid aside.”

Well, I could go on; I recommend you read the whole chapter, but I’m going to run out of time. I heard someone describe it this way, “You never see a beautiful butterfly eating cabbage.” When that butterfly was a worm the worm might have been eating the cabbage, but once it goes through the metamorphism it’s looking for flowers; it’s not looking for cabbage anymore. And when our hearts have been renewed and we become new creatures, the desires change. You’re not looking for stinking cabbage anymore. You’re looking for flowers. When you were a worm you went for the cabbage, but when your heart is changed… And so if you are still longing for cabbage every day, I’m not talking about health food right now. I’m talking about my illustration here. I’m talking about worms and butterflies, caterpillars and butterflies. If you’re still longing for the things of the world then what has to happen? A change in the heart. There needs to be a change, you need to go back to square one, return from where you’ve fallen, and ask God for that new heart and with that comes the new desires. A correct understanding of assurance will produce better works. I heard an interesting story, during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, during the first half of that project about twenty-three men died. They fell to their deaths.

They wanted to do something to repair that and so they spent $100,000 and they put this very long net under the working area. And ten more people fell, but they were caught by the net. Matter of fact, they called them the “halfway to hell” club. That’s what they called them because they were on their way down and the got caught by this net. The other thing they noticed that was interesting about this amazing fact is once they put up the net they got twenty-five percent more work out of the workers when they had confidence that they would not perish while working. When we believe we’re safe we work better. Christians who believe they have eternal life and love the Lord do the best works because they’re doing them for the right reason. I probably should have started with this definition. What does assurance mean? I went to the dictionary, “The act of assuring; a statement that inspires confidence; a guarantee or a pledge, freedom from doubt certainty.” See, confidence. God wants us to have that confidence about our relationship with Him. Now there are a lot of encouraging promises I want to share with you. Hebrews 13:5 “For He Himself said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

You can trust Him. John 6:37 “All that the Father gives Me that comes to Me, and all who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” Anybody can come to Him. No matter what your sins are, no matter what your past is, no matter how long you’ve lived like a hypocrite with false assurance, you can come to Him and ask for not only justification but sanctification and He’ll accept you. And the good news is He’ll finish what He started, Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” II Timothy 4:18 “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.” Hebrews 10:22 “Let us draw near” to God “with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” Don’t forget that word faith. Hebrews 12:1, I like this, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily ensnare us.” Do Christians sin? Christians do sin. Is anyone here surprised by that? What is the difference? I believe the difference is between a Christian and a person of the world, first of all, it’s not the occasional good deed or misdeed. Sin should not be the pattern. It’s the exception. You got that?

The theology going around today is that sin is the pattern for Christians so don’t even worry about it. Don’t ever be satisfied by that because sin is what killed Jesus; if you love Jesus you’ll never accept that. For a Christian to say you’re indifferent about sin is blasphemous. Sin is the biggest enemy. Sin is what’s killing the ones you love and so for us to not be grieved by sin, that’s a sign of bad spiritual health. What is the difference between the Christian who may sin occasionally and those in the world? Romans 6:12 “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey it in its lusts.” He goes on to say in verse 14, “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” Now in a society where there is peace and harmony you’ve got a good king on the throne there may be an occasional bandit, but they don’t reign. You don’t want a despot reigning. Sin should not be on the throne in your life. Christ should be on the throne. Are there varying degrees of sin? Yeah, there are sins that are especially offensive. If a Christian, if a fleeting impure thought goes through their mind and they pause and they cherish that, that’s a sin. They should repent and move on. That’s not the same thing as committing adultery. I’ve actually met people before who said, “Well, the Bible says if you think it in your heart it’s the same as doing it.” no, the Bible doesn’t say that. There’s a big difference! For one thing you think it, it’s in your mind. You do it, you’re involving somebody else and it’s an action.

One is an attitude. Christ is saying you’ve got to take care of the attitude, you’ll never have to worry about the action. Big difference. I think that genuinely converted Christians when they’re growing in sanctification they’re worried about the attitudes because the attitudes lead to the actions. What’s happened now is the church has fallen so far we think that we’ve got the same actions as the world. We’re sinning just like the world so we think, “Ah, it doesn’t matter. Christians aren’t perfect, we’re just forgiven.” That’s not true. We’re a lot more than just forgiven. There should be a holiness in the life. You didn’t expect me to go there, did you? Numbers 15:29 “You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally,” and then you read on in verse 30, “But the person who does anything presumptuously shall be cut off from among his people.” Christians who go towards deliberate presumptuous high-handed sin I question their Christianity. Christians may sin unintentionally in their attitudes. Maybe they’re caught off guard even with an action losing their temper or something like that, but when Christians deliberately sin and grieve the Lord like that you question if they’re really converted yet. They need a new heart. Psalm 19:13 “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me.” Didn’t Paul just say “let sin not have dominion”? And then we read Hebrews 10:26, “if we sin willfully.” Now do you see the Bible is talking about willful, deliberate, presumptuous sin?

Christians do not go that way. Do Christians sin? Yeah, we should lay aside the sins and the weights that do so easily ensnare us and run with determination that race that is looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. When I look at myself I don’t see how I can be saved. When I look at Christ I don’t see how I can be lost. When Peter walked on water he did the impossible because he kept his eyes on Jesus. When he took his eyes off Jesus he sank. When he turned back to Jesus he did the impossible again and Christ pulled him up. How can you know? Keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus. You cannot lay aside the sin and the weight that besets you and run that race unless you keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus.

Now I thought I’d summarize with some very important priorities. End of I Corinthians 13:13 you know what it says? “Now abideth” the things that stand, “faith, hope, love.” Faith, hope, love, those are the keys; those are the secrets. “…these three… the greatest of these is love.” I want to wind up here by focusing on faith, hope, love. How can we have assurance? That’s the key. Write that down. Right there in that famous passage on love those are the keys to assurance. Keep the faith is where I’ll start. On his many expeditions across Niagara Falls that famous daredevil the Great Blondin on one time he actually pushed a wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls and he went across and came back to where the crowd was gathered and he said, “Does anyone here have faith that I could actually push a man across Niagara Falls in this wheelbarrow?” The wheelbarrow had no tire. It just had a wheel with a rim that went across the cable. A lot of people said, “Yes, we believe you can do it.” And then he said, “Who will get in the wheelbarrow?” Nobody raised their hand. And so there’s a lot of people who say, “I believe that Jesus can save the world from sin.” Do you believe He can save you? I’m not getting in that thing. I mean, you want me to be a Christian, I mean, really be a Christian?

You’ve got to believe and get in the wheelbarrow. Unbelief puts our circumstances between us and God. Faith puts God between us and our circumstances. Look at God. If we look at Goliath we’re going to run like everyone else. David went into battle not looking at the giant or his armor. He looked at the Lord. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. So if somebody went to the altar in a Baptist church when they were nine years old and said a prayer, but they’ve lost faith, are they saved? Without faith it’s impossible to please Him. Some people lose their faith. Even as Abraham, Galatians 3:6, Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.” He believed and he was declared righteous. I John 5:13 “These things I have written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God that you might know,” you hear that assurance? “and that you might believe on the Son of God.” Did you get that? The knowing is sandwiched between two believes. Do you want to know? You’ve got a know sandwiched between faith. We are saved by grace through faith not of works. John 8:24 “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” You’ve got to believe. Isaiah 7:9 “If you will not believe, surely you will not be established.”

Faith, hope, love. Let’s talk about hope for a minute. Hold onto hope. Sometimes when people say, “Pastor Doug, do you know you’ve got eternal life?” Well, there’s days I have my doubts, don’t you? The doubts are not ever based on God. They’re based on me. When I look at me I say I don’t know how I can be saved. When I look at the Lord I don’t know how I can be lost, but you know what? I don’t lose hope. I hope in His salvation. That is the blessed hope, and that’s what keeps us going. Psalm 33:18 “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy.” Do you hope in His mercy? He doesn’t want you to stop hoping in His mercy. Duke University did an interesting experiment a number of years ago. They wanted to see how long rats could swim in a container and so they put this one rat in a bucket.

They did this several times to see if it was a trend. When they put the rat in a situation where he had to swim in a circle and there was no hope, nothing to reach, no way but just swimming they basically stopped swimming and they drowned rather quickly. But then they put another rat in a situation where he was just about able to crawl out, just about able to reach, but they kept it just out of his reach but as long as he saw hope he kept swimming until he was physically unable to swim for hours and hours. I know it sounds cruel, doesn’t it, that they did this. But they demonstrated that when they had hope they were able to go much longer. It’s like the story I heard about the wizard of a kingdom. He was the sorcerer for a king and he had done something to offend the king and so the king was going to have him executed on this certain day and on the day of his execution he said, “Your Highness, you’re making a terrible mistake executing me because I was planning in the next year on teaching your horse to fly and you were going to be the most famous monarch in the world because I was going to teach your horse to fly.” The king thought about that and he thought, “Well.” He says, “If I don’t teach him to fly you can just kill me at the end of the year.” So the king said, “Okay, you’ve got a year.” The king was hoping his horse would fly, you know. Someone asked the wizard later, “Are you really going to teach the king’s horse to fly?” He said, “Well, you know in the next year the king might die, of course then again I could die, the horse could die, or you never know the horse might learn to fly. Where there is hope, you know.” The Bible says for all the living there is hope. I Timothy 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…” What is our hope? The Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.

Then finally love is the key. You know these but I’m going to repeat them for you. I John 4:10 “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.” He loves us first. He justifies us first. John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Romans 8:35, 37-39, “Who shall separate us from the love of God in Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 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.” God’s love for us is unchanging. He is love. God is love. Romans 13:9 “For the commandments of God, ‘Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet,’ and if there is any other commandment,” he says I’m not going to name all ten, you know them. They’re “all summed up in one saying, namely, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” So if we’re lacking assurance, where should the focus be? Faith, hope, love. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. You are transformed into the image of the One you behold. You can trust in His promises. Can we have assurance?

I believe we can. The assurance isn’t based on us, it’s based on Him. But I don’t want you to have a false assurance. If you look at your life and you see that you’re walking like a duck and quacking like a duck and flying and swimming like a duck and God is calling you to be a swan then you need to come back to the cross. Say, “Lord, I want to begin with justification.” You know the wonderful thing about Christ is that you can have assurance whenever you get off your knees if you are genuinely sorry for your sins when you get off your knees. And someone is saying, “Well, Doug, are you saying you can be saved and lost, and saved and lost?” Read your Bible. Did the children of God have a rollercoaster experience? Did the apostles sometimes have? Are there ebbs and flows? Are there mountains and valleys in life? People who say I want assurance and I don’t want anything but constant mountaintop that’s just not the way it is because sometimes God tests our faith. It’s sort of like a person who is on a train and you know you’re going the right direction. You might go through a tunnel, but as long as that train is moving you don’t worry, right? You don’t see where you are. You can’t see the landscape, you don’t know where you’re going, it’s dark in the tunnel, but you can hear and feel the train is still moving in the same direction you started out on. Christian life is something like that. You can know you’re going the right direction, you can have that assurance, but I want you to have real assurance, friends, that’s based on the promises of God and you’re following His conditions. There are conditions to the covenant: faith, hope, love. You’ve got to believe in Him, don’t lose hope, and you need to love Him with all your heart. That will be the fulfilling of the law and a new heart for you. Is that your desire to be faithful? That’s what I picked for our closing hymn. “O Brother, Be Faithful” what number is that? 602 and let’s stand together as we sing this.

O brother, be faithful! Soon Jesus will come, For whom we have waited so long; O, soon we shall enter our glorious home, And join in the conqueror’s song. O brother, be faithful! For why should we prove Unfaithful to Him who hath shown Such deep, such unbounded and infinite love---Who died to redeem us His own.

O brother, be faithful! The city of gold, Prepared for the good and the blest, Is waiting its portals of pearl to unfold, And welcome thee in to thy rest. Then, brother, prove faithful! Not long shall we stay in weariness here, and forlorn, Time’s dark night of sorrow is wearing away, We haste to the glorious morn.

The beautiful thing about the plan of salvation is regardless of what your works or actions or faithfulness has been you can come to the Lord whatever your history, whatever your record, whatever your spiritual DNA just like you are. Justification is not something that is only offered once. Sometimes we need to capitalize on the Passover over and over. That’s why we have communion. That’s why the children of Israel celebrated the Passover ever year is they would renew the experience of justification and then return to the walk of sanctification and the growth. You can know that you’ve got everlasting life. Jesus died for your sins because He loves you so much. He’s hoping that you will love Him because He first loved you. Perhaps there are some here today who would like to have that assurance, you would like to know that you’ve got eternal life. You’ve been living in fear and doubt or maybe you’ve had false assurance and you want to be saved on God’s terms. If you have a special need of prayer or you’d like to demonstrate a renewed commitment we invite you to come forward as we sing verse four of “O Brother, Be Faithful” and we’ll have prayer as we close.

O brother, be faithful! Eternity’s years Shall tell for thy faithfulness now, when bright smiles of gladness shall scatter thy tears, A coronet gleam on thy brow. O brother, be faithful! The promise is sure That waits for the faithful and tried; To reign with the ransomed, immortal and pure, And ever with Jesus abide.

This is so important. God does not want you to live in fear. He wants you to live in peace with confidence. Paul at one point said, “I do not count myself to apprehend neither to be perfect, but I press on.” But before Paul died he said, “I know who I have believed in and I am persuaded that He is able.” He had that assurance and that confidence. God wants you to have peace. He wants you to have that knowledge that will give you your joy, that will attract others to your religion. He just doesn’t want you to have false assurance and be among those where He’s going to say, “I don’t know who you are.” I want to have an assurance that’s based on Christ’s truth and His promises, don’t you, friends? I want to know. I want to have that joy of the Lord, but I also don’t want to be a fool and have a false security. Let’s pray that we can have that real assurance.

Father in heaven, we are thankful for the promises in Your word that You are the author and finisher of our faith, that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, that You will not let us go that all who come to You will be received. Help us, Lord, choose to keep our hand in Your hand. I pray that You will be with any person here who has been struggling with doubts. Help them to know that they can come to Christ right now; all of their sins can be washed away. They can go down to their house justified based on Your grace and mercy. Then, Lord, I pray that you will give them the Spirit and because of love for You they will go through that metamorphism, have a new heart and turn from caterpillar to butterfly, their desires will be changed, they’ll long to serve You, they’ll have sanctification. Bless us that we might all have that experience, Lord, and be transformed into Your image. Be with this church, be with the families represented here. Save us, Lord, and as we go from this place I pray that we can have that right balance of assurance and confidence, and yet also the caution of not being foolish and turning back. Thank You for Your presence. Thank You for Your promises. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

You may be seated. If there are any who have come forward this morning if you have special prayers or perhaps if some have accepted Christ for the first time this morning our pastors and elders will be happy to visit with you. For those who are leaving the sanctuary there will be some who will be staying behind with special prayer. They’ll be happy to meet with you and pray over your needs and so let’s keep the sense of reverence in the house of the Lord.

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