Calvary Road Baptist Church

"UNWAVERING ASSURANCE" First John 1.6-10 INTRODUCTION: 1. Turn in your Bible to John's first epistle. That is First John chapter one. When you find that book of the Bible, stand for the reading of God's Word: 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 2. If you have a study Bible or a commentary on this first of John's epistles, you will likely read that John wrote this letter to deal with the growing problem of Gnosticism. And while it is true that John does combat Gnosticism in this book of the Bible, what does that mean to the average person sitting in the pew? 3. Let me distill the issue the apostle John was facing down to its most basic characteristics: There were people who had been religious before their exposure to real Christianity. When they heard the gospel they were profoundly affected, and there were significant changes in their beliefs and lifestyles. But those people were not genuinely saved. 4. Oh, they certainly thought they were saved, and they were not about to let anyone suggest to them that they were not saved. But there can be no doubt from what the apostle writes in First John that the Gnostics were, in fact, unconverted. 5. Without delving into the minute details of their erroneous belief system, what do we know about the Gnostics, other than the label we give them coming from the Greek word for knowledge? First, we know that they thought they were real Christians. Second, we know that part of their beliefs were brought in from pagan religions. Third, we know that they had an unshakable assurance of their salvation. And, fourth, we know that they took great pride in the amount of knowledge and information they accumulated, thinking that their knowledge made them spiritually superior and more in contact with God than other people. That is why we look back on them and refer to them as Gnostics, knowers. 6. The question you might have at this point is, what does this have to do with me? Here is what this has to do with you. Though the Bible was completed 2,000 years ago, it is as fresh and applicable, and far more accurate, than the morning newspaper. As well, what problems existed 2,000 years ago are problems that exist to this day, because mankind has not changed one iota in 2,000 years. 7. So, though you may not find people who are labeled Gnostics in this 21st century, it is not because there is no one around with the same basic issues the Gnostics had. I am constantly in contact with people who fit the template that the apostle John was combating in First John. I am sure you are, as well. 8. Do we find people who think they are real Christians, but who are not? Do we deal with people who hang on to beliefs brought in from pagan religions? Do we find people who have an unshakable assurance of their salvation? And do we come across people who take great pride in the amount of knowledge and information they have accumulated, or are accumulating, thinking that their Bible knowledge connects them more to God than other people? 9. Let me answer these questions I have posed. First, what about people who think they are real Christians, but who are not? The Lord Jesus Christ predicted as much in Matthew 7.22-23: "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." As it was in the apostle John's day, there are many these days who think they are born again who are still lost. 10. And how about people who hang on to beliefs brought in from pagan religions? Someone who once attended an evangelical church, or a liberal church, or if that person was involved in some other religion, he will almost certainly cling to some erroneous beliefs about God, or sin, or salvation. My own experience has been that the most persistent errors are held by those who once attended evangelical churches. 11. How about people who have an unshakable assurance of their salvation? Of course, that error has been around for more than a hundred years. But if you go back before the arrogant and unscriptural presumption of Charles G. Finney, you find that the whole topic of assurance was once approached in a manner quite different than what is common these days. 12. Listen to the famous New England pastor and theologian, Jonathan Edwards, on the subject of assurance of salvation: It is not God's design that men should obtain assurance in any other way than by mortifying corruption, and increasing in grace, and obtaining the lively exercises of it. And although self-examination be a duty of great use and importance, and by no means to be neglected, yet it is not the principle means by which the saints do get satisfaction of their good estate. Assurance is not to be obtained so much by self-examination as by action.[1] 13. Edwards goes on to explain how the great apostle Paul sought assurance of his own salvation, by "'forgetting those things that were before, pressing towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; if by any means he might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.' And it was by this means chiefly that he obtained assurance: I Cor. ix.26, 'I therefore so run, not as uncertainly.' He obtained assurance of winning the prize, more by running than by considering. The swiftness of his pace did more towards his assurance of a conquest than the strictness of his examination."[2] 14. So you see, real assurance of salvation is not related to an event in the distant past that the Gnostic thinks was when he got saved, or that the sinner with a religious experience living today misinterprets for the moment he got saved. Real assurance is the comfort to your soul that Spirit of God sheds abroad in your heart in response to your active, and conscious, and ongoing obedience to Him in the present. 15. And do we come across people who take great pride in the amount of knowledge and information they have accumulated, or are accumulating? To Timothy, Paul wrote these words in First Timothy 1.7: "Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." So you see, there are always guys who learn a few factoids, and remember some notes from a study Bible, who think they have a superior connection to God that they want to crow about by supposing themselves to be knowledgeable. 16. So, we have a valid basis for using First John to deal with problems associated with the false assurances of salvation that are so common these days. The particular aspect of false assurance that I want to address this morning is what I have chosen to call unwavering assurance. 17. Real assurance of salvation, genuine assurance of salvation, and the kind of assurance that God wants a truly saved person to be comforted with, is an assurance that is related to behavior. As Edwards pointed out, assurance is properly the result of action, such as we see in First John 2.3: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." 18. It is the fake assurance, the counterfeit assurance of salvation, that pigheaded and stubborn refusal to consider even the possibility that you might not be born again, which so many unsaved people have, and which too many Christians have been tricked into buying into, that I want to explain to you today. 19. Why? It is not because I have any real expectation of persuading anyone with this unwavering assurance that they might not be saved, because you cannot discuss the subject with such people. They hear nothing you say, even if they will submit to being dealt with about the possibility of their having a counterfeit assurance connected to a false hope. 20. Oh, no. I am addressing this issue of unwavering assurance so you folks will see that it is almost an exercise in futility to try to witness to someone with this spiritual affliction. In Ephesians 5.16, we are told that we should be about "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." And in Colossians 4.5, Paul wrote, "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time." 21. I am suggesting that when you witness to someone, once he expresses that he is assured of his salvation, once you see that it is unlikely that he is truly converted though he insists that he is, you should strongly consider moving on to witness to someone else. Why so? Because, from our text, we find that one, or two, or maybe even three, serious considerations will interfere with your efforts to bring that person to Christ. 22. Look at our text again. Notice a repeating phrase that appears in verses 6, 8, and 10. It is the phrase "if we say." These are the markers that show us what John identified to be serious problems with the Gnostics that he was dealing with, and what problems you are facing when dealing with those who have the same kind of unwavering assurance the first century Gnostic heretics had. 1A. First, THE UNWAVERING ASSURANCE OF THE LOST IS CHARACTERIZED BY SPIRITUAL DARKNESS Verse 6: "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." 1B. It is in verse 5 that John declares "that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." Yet someone with an unwavering assurance is unlikely to grasp the terrible inconsistency of walking in darkness and at the same time claiming to have fellowship with God. Though he walks in darkness he will persist in defending his claim to be a Christian. 2B. But notice how illogical this is. Fellowship has to do with that which two share with each other. Though John here refers to the fact that the genuine Christian has fellowship with God, it is in Second Peter 1.4 that we are told what it is we share with God; His divine nature. When a Christian comes to Christ he becomes a person with whom God shares His nature. 3B. So you see, if a fellow lives in darkness, but says he fellowships with God (Who is light), he is living a lie. He is not only telling a lie, he is living a lie, because this verse clearly shows us that fellowship is so much more than saying you have fellowship with God. It is actually doing the truth. 4B. Of course, this all makes sense to the child of God. And it makes sense to many lost people, who see real Christians and are impressed, but who see those with unwavering assurance and are turned off. But this kind of logic is unfathomable to those with unwavering assurance. How so? They are in such spiritual darkness, so blinded by their pride, that they are like those in a dark room full of furniture. No matter how well the different pieces of furniture are described, they cannot find them to tell them apart, because there is no light by which they can see. 5B. You might as well try to describe the colors of a beautiful painting to a blind person who will never see it, as to forge ahead in your attempts to deal with that person who has unwavering assurance. 2A. Next, UNWAVERING ASSURANCE IS CHARACTERIZED BY A DENIAL OF THE SINFULNESS OF HIS NATURE Verse 8: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." 1B. To say you have no sin means that you deny that you have an inherently sinful nature. But to deny that you have no sin is also a heresy long known as Pelagianism, because it was advanced by a man of long ago named Pelagius. Pelagius believed that the fall of Adam into sin when he rebelled against God did not result in Adam's descendants having fallen and sinful natures.3 2B. But the Bible is very clear in its teaching that every person descended from Adam is fallen and spiritually dead. Romans 5.12: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." So, when God's Word says a man does have a sinful nature, but someone comes along and says that he does not have a sinful nature, that person is self-deceived and the truth is not in him. 3B. Here is why there is so much confusion these days. There are many who will not be so bold as to deny that they have some sin, that their nature is somewhat sinful . . . but they still insist in their thinking that their nature is not so corrupt that it is capable of no good whatsoever. But what does the Bible say in this regard? Jeremiah 19.9: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" As well, "there is none that doeth good, no, not one," Romans 3.12. 4B. What does this mean as it relates to those with an unwavering assurance of their salvation? They are people who are unwilling to go as far as the Bible goes in admitting the depths of their own depravity, the weakness of their own soul's ability, and the deadness of their soul to anything spiritual. Thus, they feel quite qualified to decide that they are saved, thank you. And they think they need no help to be guided to Christ, or to be helped to make sure that they have come to Christ. 5B. At the bottom of it all, the person with an unwavering assurance does not really believe his heart is either desperately wicked or deceitful above all things. So, though he may be somewhat better off than a first century Gnostic, who completely denied the sinfulness of their souls, the modern day so-called Christian with an unwavering assurance still denies that his soul is as sinful as the Bible says it is, and this is reflected by his utter lack of any concern that he may be deceiving himself. 3A. Finally, UNWAVERING ASSURANCE IS CHARACTERIZED BY A DENIAL OF THE SINFULNESS OF HIS BEHAVIOR Verse 10: "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." 1B. The Christian view of sinful behavior can be summed up with the question, "What is right with it?" The Gnostic's view of sinful behavior, and the argument heard from so many these days who have an unwavering assurance of their salvation is, "What's wrong with it?" Thus, the unscriptural view of sinning takes the approach, "How much can I get by with before I have to call it sin?" 2B. And it must be that way with the unsaved person who insists on preserving the pretense that he is truly born again. This is the person who changes the meanings of clear passages in the Bible. One example is Second Corinthians 5.17: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." 3B. The false view of assurance requires that this verse refer to something called my position in Christ, because if this means a real Christian lives a completely different style of life than a lost person, then the basis for the false view of assurance is taken away. But this verse obviously means what it obviously means. The stubborn is stubborn no more, once he is in Christ. The drunkard is a drunkard no more, once he is in Christ. The proud becomes humble and the foolish teachable, when they become new creatures in Christ. 4B. Another thing the false view of assurance requires is that you have to show someone where it is written in the Bible before they will believe that a sinful practice is wrong. "Show me in the Bible where that is a sin," is a common comment from those with unwavering assurance. 5B. How about Matthew 18.6? Jesus said, "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Does it shock and dismay a child? Does it disappoint a youngster, who thinks a Christian should not behave that way? Then it is a sin, even if a specific verse does not forbid it. 6B. Then there is Romans 14.23: "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Is the behavior consistent with the Christian faith? Is the behavior consistent with a life of faith? Does it exemplify trust in God and His provision, reliance upon His Son? If it does not it is sin, whether there is a specific verse forbidding the behavior or not. 7B. Finally, there is Paul's test for what is right and what is wrong for a real Christian. 1C. First Corinthians 6.12: "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." 2C. First Corinthians 10.23: "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not." 3C. For Paul, the determining factor in evaluating the rightness or wrongness of something was not whether or not there was a specific verse forbidding it. Rather, it was his evaluation of whether or not it was expedient, which is to say, beneficial to the cause of Christ. 4C. Does it help? Is there benefit from doing this? Is it good stewardship of your money? Is God glorified in this? Do I set a good example for others to follow? Do I send a clear signal, or am I causing confusion? That is what is meant in these two verses Paul wrote as guide for right and wrong in the Christian life. CONCLUSION: 1. Obviously, someone who says, "Show me in the Bible where that is wrong," will be far too proud to listen to the explanations I have provided. Too proud to listen to you when you are witnessing, as well. 2. The problem a person has whose assurance of salvation is unwavering is that he is spiritually darkened, he denies the depravity of his own nature, and he refuses to acknowledge the sinfulness of his deeds. 3. The genuinely born again person truly does see the light and walks in the light, admits to the depravity of his own nature, and readily admits to the sinfulness of his deeds. 4. This is reflected in his humble attitude toward the things of God, toward ministers of the gospel who seek to be a blessing to him by guiding him to Christ, and his willingness to consider the possibility (even the likelihood) that his own wicked heart can be wrong in its conclusions about the safety and salvation of his soul. 5. Oh, my friend, think about this subject. Ponder it carefully. Turn it over in your mind. There is too much at stake for you not to take this subject seriously. And if you need some clarification, some answers, some insight from God's Word, I am more than glad to talk to you. - - - - [1] Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1961), page 123. [2] Ibid.

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