Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďINTRODUCTION TO FALSE HOPESĒ Part 1

Matthew 7.22-23

 

While attending a pastorís fellowship recently, I was reminded by the speaker how frequently children make false professions of faith when they are very young, false professions of faith when they are in adolescence, and then experience what they consider to be real conversions when they are older still. The speaker made mention of his own false profession as a little boy, which he said was followed by a genuine conversion some years later.

The troubling aspects of such a testimony are that, first, though we hear many who make reference to a false profession while young followed by a genuine conversion later, there is no attention that I am aware of given to the detection of false hopes. Pastors know that false professions built upon false hopes exist (they may even have experienced them themselves), but it seems as though pastors typically traipse along unaware of the dangers of false hopes. As well, there seems to be no consciousness that if a person experienced a false profession built upon a false hope of faith once, and then again, there is no certainty that his final profession is not also a false one, built as before on a false hope.

To state the matter more clearly, if Billy professed to know Christ when he was six, and then later concluded his conversion had not been genuine, and then once again professed to come to Christ when he was thirteen, and later concluded that on this occasion, too, his short-lived confidence had been built on a false hope, what guarantee is there that his present confidence that he is a Christian is not just another false hope?

Then there are the protests that you cannot know for sure whether a person is certainly saved or lost. If that were true, on what basis did Billy conclude he was saved when he was six and then thirteen? On what basis does he assert that he is truly born again now? And how did he know he was lost when he knew he was lost, if you cannot tell who is and who is not lost?

May I state before proceeding any farther, that spiritual issues cannot be handled with anything like the mathematical precision so heavily relied upon in the scientific realm? For example: Water molecules are always comprised of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. That is a certainty for which there are no known exceptions. Two plus two is always equal to four. These are predictable certainties in the universe in which we live. However, the spiritual realm is not so easily perceived that we enjoy such certainties. Therefore, the spiritual realm must be explored and investigated by means of Biblical doctrines and circumstantial evidence, taking into account both the deceitfulness of the human heart and the devices of the devil. Therefore, when dealing with the application of doctrinal truths to the spiritual condition of a man, we understand that we are engaged in likelihoods and probabilities, and not the certainties that arise from formulas and repeatable experimentation. If you will grant that reality, we can proceed.

We know from Godís Word that false professions of faith and false hopes that such false professions are based on certainly do exist. Judas Iscariotís was a false profession that was built upon a false hope. Simon the sorcererís was a false profession built upon a false hope. A careful consideration of the Apostle Paulís discussion of the Corinthian fornicator shows that his was a false profession built upon a false hope.[1] Then, of course, there is the possibility that even Demas was unconverted, when Paulís very strong words against him in Second Timothy 4.10 are considered in light of First John 2.15.

If the examples I just mentioned to you are any guide, as well as the testimonies that we have heard so many times from Christians and even preachers, perhaps we can agree that false professions that are built on false hopes, if not always detectable immediately are with some regularity detected eventually.

To state the matter another way, while someone with a false profession that is built on a false hope may pretend to be a Christian, and may think he is a Christian for some considerable length of time, the absence of Godís grace in his life will eventually show itself in his inability to live the Christian life in a respectable and consistent manner so as to justify anyoneís confidence that he is truly born again.

Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 7.22-23. When you find that portion of Godís Word, stand, and read along silently while I read aloud:

 

22     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?

23     And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

 

Our text is a clear example, from the mouth of the Savior no less, showing that not only will many people have false professions built on false hopes during the course of their lives here on earth, but that those false professions built on false hopes will be embraced by many people even on judgment day.

In this first of several sermons on the subject of false hopes, allow me to rehearse five truths related to false hopes:

 

First, THE FACT OF FALSE HOPES

 

My own theological definition of hope is, the confident expectation of future blessing based on the promises of God. We know the nation of Israel has hope, because God made a promise to Abraham that He will certainly keep. That promise of future blessing, based upon Godís promise, which we know will be fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ, the promised seed of Abraham, is solidly grounded on Bible truth. In other words, it is a valid hope and not a false hope. We also know that Gentiles have no hope, Ephesians 2.12, since God has made no promises to them. However, anyone who knows Jesus as his Savior has a sure hope, a blessed hope, in Jesus, Titus 2.13, because Jesus has made promises to those of us who have trusted Him.

However, I have already cited examples of men who certainly thought they knew Jesus in a saving way, though it turned out they remained estranged from Him, as their conduct eventually revealed. How would their confidence of heaven be characterized, since it turned out that their confidence was misplaced?

I would characterize an erroneous hope, a confidence that is presumptuous, the anticipation of heaven that is unrealistic and unfounded, the pretense of knowing Jesus when the sinner does not really know Him at all, has not come to Him by faith in reality, as a false hope. If that person claims to be a Christian, he expresses a false profession that is founded on his false hope.

Such false hopes exist. As well, false professions based on false hopes also exist. One can only wonder why more attention is not paid to the possibility of false professions being built on false hopes. Perhaps the explanation is fear, or perhaps the explanation is folly.

 

Next, THE DENIAL OF FALSE HOPES

 

Used to be, perhaps two hundred years ago, when someone responded to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, he was considered by pastors and churchgoers to be hopefully converted. Such an attitude toward hopeful converts was prudence born of painful experience in dealing with the lost. It was also a legitimate response to the parable of the sower, in which the Lord Jesus characterized a false profession based on a false hope, in Matthew 13.20-21:

 

20     But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

21     Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

 

In days gone by, pastors and church members knew full well what happened when they moved too fast and baptized and admitted into church membership someone who turned out to be a goat instead of a sheep. Oh, he heard the Word and received it with much joy and visible demonstration of celebration. Then, after he had been a church member for a while, the old nature began to show itself in troublesome ways. Christians with any kind of wisdom do not want that kind of thing to happen if they can take reasonable steps to prevent it.

Yet, admitting unconverted people into the church is precisely what happens so long as the denial of false hopes persists. To be sure, the most discerning of pastors will never be able to screen out all who have false professions based upon false hopes. However, is it not good for the church, and is it not actually good for the person with false hopes, when false hopes are acknowledged and as carefully as is practical looked for? I think we can be agreed on that.

 

Third, THE DANGER OF FALSE HOPES

 

Consider, for just a moment or two, three dangers that arise from false hopes: First, there is the danger to the person who has a false hope. If anyone has a false hope, which is to say that he wrongly thinks he is a Christian, then he is a fellow who thinks his sins are forgiven but they are not, who thinks he is bound for heaven but he is not, and who thinks he knows how to be saved only he does not. Do you realize how dangerous a predicament such a person is in? His soul is in great peril, yet he is unaware of it. His destiny is Hell and then the lake of fire, but he does not know it. Therefore, for his sake if for no other reason, we must acknowledge the reality of false hopes and do what we can for those whose professions are false because their hopes are groundless.

Next, there is the danger to the church caused by the member who has a false hope. Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ. Simon the sorcerer attempted to purchase the Holy Spirit for money. The Corinthian fornicator engaged in such abominable sexual sins while a member of that church, that Paulís ruling was that he simply had to go. Get rid of him and do it now. Finally, if Demas was actually lost, and I rather think he was, he abandoned the Apostle Paul at a crucial time when his assistance was desperately needed. Not all church members with false hopes commit sins that are as flagrant and as obviously damaging to the cause of Christ. However, they certainly can. Others will resist the pastor, spread discord, make harmony and unity impossible, and create a drag on the churchís ministry of reaching the lost with the gospel. It is the church member with false hopes who cannot possess real joy, who cannot demonstrate genuine peace, who finds love for his brothers and sisters in Christ beyond his reach. He may be a wonderful guy in his own right. It is just that he is not truly born again, in a church that is supposed to be comprised of those who are born again. How helpful can that be?

Third, there is the danger to the lost posed by the unsaved church member who has a false hope. I preached on Christians being the only Bible some sinners ever read a week or two ago. Suppose a lost visitorís evaluation of our gospel message, or one of our church kidsí evaluation of the genuineness of our ministry, is based upon the conduct and behavior of one of our church members . . . who just so happens to be lost? Not that the visitor questions the person she is looking at, and not that the church kid is in any way challenging the Christianity of the person she is evaluating. They both think that person is very nice, and a real Christian. However, if that person is not truly born again, but clings to a false hope that produces a false profession, then those two very lost people are not looking at real Christianity, are they? What if they decide, from what they have seen, that they do not want to be Christians, after all? Now, do you see how an unsaved church member with a false hope can wreak havoc in the life of lost people who think such a one as that represents for their evaluation real Christianity? Yes, false hopes can be extremely dangerous to the one with the false hope, to the church congregation, and to the sinners who are fooled by that oneís false profession into thinking Christianity is something other than what it is. Not good.

 

Fourth, THE DETECTION OF FALSE HOPES

 

You and I both know of people who insist that you cannot tell who is saved and who is lost. Just a few minutes ago, I admitted that anything like mathematical precision is impossible. However, it is important that we consider just a couple of things: First, consider that the Bible clearly forbids Christians from marrying unsaved people, as well as forbidding the unequal yoking of a Christian with any lost person. How are we to obey this prohibition unless there is some way of discerning the righteous from the wicked? Second, consider as Baptists that our convictions forbid the baptizing and receiving into church membership of anyone who is lost, as the Great Commission teaches us. How are we to obey the Great Commission if there is no way to tell the saved from the lost?

Though this message is not the place for fully explaining the how toís, it is inconceivable to me that our Lord would hold us responsible for Christians to marry only Christians, for Christians to partner only with Christians in business enterprises, and for churches to baptize and receive as members only Christians, unless there was some way of evaluating a professing Christianís true spiritual condition. Therefore, I assert that it is patently absurd to deny that false hopes can be detected. In fact, we know that false hopes can be detected, because Judas Iscariotís false hope was detected, Simon the sorcererís false hope was detected, the Corinthian fornicatorís false hope was detected, and I would assert that even Demasí false hope was detected.

Can false hopes be detected with mathematical precision and certainty? Of course, not. However, this is not to say that a pastor who at least considers the possibility of false hopes somewhat reduces the percentage of his churchís members who are unconverted than if he ignored such a possibility. As well, when a minister of the gospel employs the Biblical principle of verifying by means of two or three witnesses someoneís profession and testimony, is he not less likely to be tricked by a false professor into baptizing a lost man than that preacher who simply takes at face value every professorís claim to be saved?

Imagine how the body life of a congregation would improve if the pastor at least guaranteed that those he baptized embraced the bodily resurrection of Jesus and believed in the existence of a literal Hell? Sadly, most pastors today are too timid to even do that.

 

Finally, THE USEFULNESS OF FALSE HOPES

 

It is very common for people to overreact to Bible truths and principles. Consider the reaction by our Lordís disciples in Matthew 19.23-26:

 

23     Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

24     And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

25     When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?

26     But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

 

Similarly, I have found that it is not at all unusual for a sinner with a false profession that is built on a false hope to simply give up all hope of being genuinely converted. He thinks to himself, ďI used to think I was saved, and it turned out to be a false hope. I have been through that twice, so I might as well give up.Ē Of course, that is precisely the kind of thinking that you would expect from an unsaved person, whose mind is distorted by sin so much that he refuses to see the usefulness of false hopes.

Let me explain: To be sure, a false hope that goes undiscovered is a very bad thing. Someone with a false hope that is undiscovered ends up in Hell, suffering the wrath of God after he had thought he was going to heaven. However, for the Christian, that cycle of striving to enter in at the strait gate, entertaining a false hope that leads to a false profession, and then discovering himself to be lost, can end up being a profoundly beneficial set of experiences, if in the end he is genuinely converted.

You see, every time a sinner strives to enter in, Luke 13.24, that experience reveals to him just a bit more of his sinfulness and depravity. Then, when he discovers his profession of faith to be misguided and his hope to be a false hope, a proper reflection on those experiences leaves him with a greater understanding of those approaches to salvation which are not genuine, which do not save. Thus, if the man in question ends up truly knowing Jesus, those false hopes of his can end up being extremely beneficial to his spiritual welfare after he comes to Christ.

 

I close with a story of two fellows who grew up in church, one named Gordy and the other named Ernie. About the same age, Gordy and Ernie both had fairly spiritual parents, and seemed to be quite familiar with the facts surrounding the gospel. They were always in church and seemed to pay pretty close attention.

They acknowledged the existence of God, and understood their need to be saved from their sins by the Lord Jesus Christ. The problem, however, was that neither Gordy nor Ernie had ever really been deeply convicted of their sins, which revealed itself when they responded at various times to sermons their pastor preached, but were not born again.

Gordyís experience came at camp. One particular sermon so stirred him that he felt really bad and talked to the pastor, whereupon he came to Jesus . . . he thought. Though hopefully converted, it became obvious that Gordy had not actually come to Christ. Discouraged that he had experienced a false hope yet again (this was the third time, beginning when he was ten years old), Gordy figured, ďWhatís the use? I give up. I tried Christianity and it didnít work.Ē

Ernie had a somewhat similar experience, but it turned out differently. He, too, had been disappointed by several false hopes over the years. On one occasion, the pastor strongly rebuked him for sinful behavior and he was profoundly discouraged to learn that he had trusted in what turned out to be a false hope.

However, Ernieís reaction was at this point different than Gordyís. Ernie was not so concerned about being embarrassed in front of his friends. The rebuke had been truly stinging, but he could imagine that there might be some benefit from it. Different from his friend, Gordy, Ernie did not write off Christianity, and determined to do whatever was necessary to come to Christ.

It would be nice to think that Ernie was converted shortly after that, but that simply did not happen. He suffered through several more disappointing false hopes before he was finally deeply convicted of his sins and was converted to Jesus. Afterwards, over the course of his Christian life, he began to see that the false hopes that he had experienced when he was young began to greatly benefit him as he matured.

Those past experiences had, indeed, been painful and disappointing. Ernieís discouragements had been profound. However, the passage of time enabled him to see the real benefits of striving and suffering in retrospect, through the painful disappointments that were associated with his false hopes.

He saw, more than he otherwise would have, how very sinful he was, how deceitful his heart was, how easily he had tried to pretend to trust Jesus when in actuality he was playing a game. He came to accept that he was truly depraved and more spiritually dead without Christ than he ever could have otherwise, and knew by his own experiences what things a sinner will do to comfort himself while still denying and despising the Savior.

Gordy and Ernie remained friends, but they grew apart as they got older. Eventually, Gordy met a very attractive lost girl who seduced him into gradually abandoning church. They married, Gordy justified his conduct by convincing himself that he had tried Christianity, but it just didnít work for him, and eventually he became so spiritually blind that the lost condition of his children never bothered him.

Ernieís experiences with false hopes were painful and thoroughly humiliating, but he was determined that Jesus was worth whatever had to be endured to strip away the pretense so he would simply come to Jesus by simple faith. As his friend Gordy gradually slipped away, Ernie prayed for him and tried to persuade him, but he refused to listen.

Once Ernie got out of school and married a Christian girl who was serious about serving God, he thoroughly involved himself in reaching the lost and raising a family. It was difficult. There were trials. However, God gave him great joy and peace of heart and mind, and his children eventually came to Christ after they, too, each went through prolonged periods of striving and false hopes.

In the ages to come, Ernie and his wife and kids will rejoice together around the Saviorís throne. Gordyís wife and kids will also be together, but rather than enjoying each otherís company, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Ernieís conversion and Gordyís ultimate rejection of Jesus set the course for many.

There are false hopes that must be rightly dealt with. Most people do not come to Christ the first time they hear the gospel, and are not genuinely saved the first time they think they have come to Christ.

However, if a sinner is persistent in his determination to come to Christ, if he values the Savior as One who must be possessed at all cost, and strives until he actually enters in at the strait gate, no matter how many false hopes he may suffer through along the way, he will be able to look back on those false hopes as painful disappointments that God used wonderfully in his life.

My friend, do not give up. Do not stop. Continue striving until you really do come to Jesus by simple, childlike faith, no matter how many false hopes you must deal with along the way to Christ.



[1] 1 Corinthians 5.5



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org