Calvary Road Baptist Church

“HAVE I NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH?”

Philippians 3.1-3

Turn to Philippians 3.1-3, and stand when you have found that passage in God’s Word:

1      Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

2      Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

3      For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

We looked at this passage last week, but I would like to focus a bit more closely on the last phrase tonight, in which Paul writes that we, which is to say Christians, “have no confidence in the flesh.” “Confidence” translates a form of the Greek word peiqw, referring to having been persuaded about something.[1] Thus, believers in Jesus Christ have come to the place where we know from our own experiences that our flesh deserves no confidence whatsoever.

About fifteen years ago I was teaching through Proverbs, paying special attention while looking at Solomon’s words of wisdom and instruction to his son to the number of times he repeated himself. Solomon’s practice of repeating himself illustrates that it is necessary to repeat and repeat and repeat truths and proverbs and sayings and instructions to children. Have you not found that to be true in your own experience, parents? As I pointed out last week, the same is true with God’s children. No matter how old you are we are still spiritual children and in need of ever greater spiritual growth and maturity, if we are truly born again. Therefore, when you come to church you will hear, with some few twists and variations, and perhaps with a new application or two, nothing that is new. For there is nothing new under the sun.[2] Instead, you will for the most part hear lessons you are very familiar with.

Herein lies a problem that we must be extremely careful to address properly. How many are there in this auditorium who could give testimony to the fact that familiarity with the truth does not mean you are saved? Which is to say, perhaps from your own experience or as an observer of others, you know that there are some who are very familiar with scripture, yet they are not born again. Many of you adults sitting in this auditorium right this minute originally came to this church thinking you were born again, convinced that you were already saved, much as Nicodemus approached the Lord Jesus Christ in John chapter 3. Yet since then you have hopefully come to know Jesus Christ for real.

Why is this so? How can this be? My friend, familiarity with the truth does not mean you are saved. The fact that someone can quote the Romans Road, that an individual has gone to church faithfully for years, that a fellow has himself dealt with many other people about their salvation, does not prove anyone is saved. Consider five questions related to this important matter of salvation, keeping in mind that one rarely finds the right answers unless one asks the right questions. I promise that these questions are related to confidence in the flesh.

First QUESTION: DOES THE TRUTH SAVE SINNERS?

You rightly place much stock in the truth, but does the truth save anyone? Has anyone ever been saved by acknowledging a set of facts, by believing certain things to be true? Muslims would say “Yes.” Hindus would say “Yes.” Buddhists might say “Yes.” However, the Bible tells us “No.”

Some would point out that James 1.18 declares, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” However, does that verse contradict what I have just asserted? Does it mean that the truth saves people, or does it mean that when people are saved the truth is used by God, is employed by the Holy Spirit when He regenerates? It seems that the latter must be true, since there are many, many people in the world who know a great deal of truth, but who are not themselves saved.

Consider the demons as an example to illustrate this reality. James 1.19 shows us that the demons believe in the one true and living God. And what else must they know to be true? They know that Jesus is the Son of God. They know that Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for sinner’s sins. They also know that Jesus rose from the dead, bodily, after three days and nights in the tomb. They know all of these truths, yet the lake of fire still awaits them.[3]

“But Pastor, the Bible says that the truth shall set me free.” Hold it a second. You’re referring to John 8.32. Drop down four verses and listen to the Lord Jesus Christ clarify: “If the son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” So, you see, it is truth as it is used by the Savior that frees men, not truth isolated from the Savior.

You see, folks, there is only one Savior, Acts 4.12:

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

From this verse we see that if Jesus saves, nothing else saves. If something else saves, Jesus does not save. Why so? Because He is the unique Savior of sinful men’s souls. Therefore, if you think you are necessarily saved because you are familiar with the truth, you are mistaken, because the truth does not save. Jesus saves. So, what else are you mistaken about?

Second QUESTION: IS YOUR DOCTRINE BIBLICAL?

I have just shown to you that it is possible to believe the truth and still be unsaved. Now I want to establish that if your doctrine is wrong, if it’s a really critical doctrine that you are mistaken about, then you are not saved.

For example: It is impossible for you to be saved if you have a wrong idea about the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is why so many former Catholics are still unsaved, even though many of them have abandoned Catholicism for what they believe to be Biblical Christianity. This is also why so many evangelicals are lost. To illustrate the point, let me say that I have never found a person who thinks you are saved by asking Jesus into your heart to be genuinely saved. My experience in dealing with those who think asking Jesus into your heart saves has shown me that if you are wrong on that point, you are usually wrong on other matters vital to the gospel. Therefore, until I meet someone whose verbal testimony and life shows me otherwise, I’m convinced that folks who think people are saved by asking Jesus into their heart are not saved at all, but have either embraced a false Christ or have embraced a subtle form of works righteousness.

Another example: There is no possible way for someone to be saved so long as he clings to the unscriptural notion that Genesis 1-3 are not literal accounts of creation and man’s fall into sin. Why so? Because in Matthew 19.4-5 the Lord Jesus Christ recognized the historicity of Adam and Eve in Genesis 1-3. If Adam and Eve did not literally exist as they were literally created and literally fell into sin, then the Lord Jesus Christ was mistaken about them. However, if He was mistaken about Adam and Eve, then He was not the sinless Savior, the God-Man. If He is not the sinless and mistake-free God-Man, then He is not the Savior, and you are not saved.

These are only two of a number of examples of the crucial importance of some Bible doctrines. Christ’s resurrection and the existence of heaven and Hell are two others that are vitally important. Are your beliefs biblical? Your beliefs are the doctrines, the teachings, that you hold to be true. It does matter what you believe, you see, since what you believe reveals what you understand to be true. And there are some things that are so important, that if you are wrong about those things, you simply are not saved. A man pulls into the driveway late at night and gets out of his car. He walks through the front door and turns on the light. Suddenly, he sees that he is in the wrong house. Thankfully, no one in the house is awake, so he quickly turns the light off, quietly closes the front door, and climbs back into his car and drives away. No matter how sincere that guy was, because he made a critical mistake at a crucial turn, he ended up in the wrong place. So it sometimes is with people who are mistaken about important Bible doctrines. However, Hell is not a place you can get back into your car and drive away from.

Third: IS YOUR TESTIMONY CREDIBLE?

People can really communicate most efficiently only when we are careful about what we say. Therefore, it helps when you learn early in life that it is your responsibility to choose the words that convey what you want to communicate. Consider what the Savior said about your words in this regard, in Matthew 12.36-37:

36     But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

37     For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Keep that in mind while I read to you First Peter 3.15:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

Did you hear that inspired command to give an answer for the hope that is in you? You are commanded by God to be prepared to give an answer for why it is you think you are saved and heaven bound. Your answer is your verbal testimony of how you were saved and why it is you presently think you are a Christian. You may be thinking, “But I get flustered when people ask me such questions.” Fine, write out your testimony in the quiet solitude of your room when no one is pressing you. That way you will always be ready to give an answer, will you not? That is how anyone can comply with God’s will regarding his readiness to provide his conversion testimony.

Can you provide such a testimony? Can you give such an answer? If you say what you mean and if you mean what you say, is your testimony credible? If you mean what you write and you write what you mean, is your testimony credible? Is it convincing? Is your description of how you think you were saved similar to what the Bible says happens when someone is saved? If you have a credible testimony of how you were saved, why don’t you subject it to careful scrutiny by others who are knowledgeable and experienced in such matters? How come it is some Christians never discuss at length and in detail how they were supposedly saved? Could it be that they are afraid their testimony doesn’t jibe with scripture? Could it be that they are really so unsure of their soul’s situation before God that they don’t want their testimony heard by others? I think these are valid questions that need to be asked, though no individual is required to answer any question, though his credibility as a Christian will be at stake.

Let me recap. Familiarity with the truth does not mean you are saved. Familiarity with the truth does not mean you embrace biblical doctrine. Familiarity with the truth does not mean you have a credible testimony. However, saved people do know the truth. Saved people do know sound doctrine about the critical things. Saved people do have credible testimonies rehearsing how they were saved.

Fourth: IS YOUR LIFESTYLE COMPATIBLE?

Many years ago, shortly after my own conversion, I was listening to the late Oliver B. Green’s radio show, “The Gospel Hour,” on the way home from work. Driving in bumper to bumper traffic on the 405 freeway during that broadcast, originating from Greenville, South Carolina, evangelist Green made a point of emphasizing that there is no way the omnipotent Holy Spirit of God can indwell a believer without His presence affecting that Christian’s lifestyle. I remember what he said as if I heard him only five minutes ago. Green was right. Christians do live a certain way because they have no choice but to live a certain way. Why? Because of the indwelling Spirit of God. Oh, Christians can commit sins. Christians do commit sins. But even with the struggle that a believer is engaged in with sin throughout the course of his natural life before he graduates to heaven, his life will not be, indeed it cannot be, a lifestyle like an unsaved man’s lifestyle. Can Christians be carnal? To be sure. But not for long.

So, I ask you, what is your lifestyle like? Are you a new creature in Christ? According to Second Corinthians 5.17, you should be. How about such sins as drunkenness, fornication, adultery, drug abuse, and thievery? Engage in that kind of behavior since you were supposedly saved? How about service to God, involvement in church, and working to get folks saved? Ever do any of that? And how about your speech, your joy, your willingness to forgive when wronged? How about faithfulness to church and a willingness to honor the Lord with the firstfuits of your increase?

These things all relate to personal holiness. They are clues in a person’s life that suggest public behavior that is influenced by a private relationship with God, through faith in Jesus Christ. What about personal holiness? As we have seen, Hebrews 12.14 shows us that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. What about those who claim to be Christians, yet there is no evidence of personal holiness in their lives? So what that you don’t swear or use drugs? Do you conduct private and family devotions? So what you don’t read dirty magazines or look at internet pornography? Do you read your Bible? John Gerstner once wrote, “Who was ever converted reading what the sinner liked to read, but sinners were known to be converted forcing themselves to read the Word they hated.” My friend, if I read my Bible correctly, the genuinely saved person, except for brief and abnormal periods of time in his life when he is carnal, lives such a dramatic life that no unsaved person can hope to imitate it. I ask, therefore, is your lifestyle compatible with the lifestyle of Christians in the Bible, who lived for and who served Christ?

Final QUESTION: IS YOUR EVALUATION RELIABLE?

There are undoubtedly some of you thinking to yourself, “This is all fine and good Pastor, but I am absolutely sure that I am genuinely saved. I am positive I’m a Christian.” May I suggest to you that your own evaluation of your relationship with God may be highly suspect? Let me give you two reasons why this is so:

First, there is every sinful person’s capacity for self deception. You do acknowledge yourself to be a sinner, don’t you? First John 1.8 declares that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” So, denying you are a sinner is self-deception, and one of those really serious errors of doctrine that exposes someone as an unbeliever. Additionally, being a sinner means you are capable of self-deception. Jeremiah 17.9 is very clear on this matter: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” James 1.22 shows us that this capacity for self-deception extends even into the Christian’s life. Therefore, you are capable of self-deception. That being so, how do you know that you are not deceived about being saved?

Second, there is this matter of assurance of salvation. It’s one thing to be saved. That’s a factual reality. It’s quite another to have assurance of salvation. Like it or not, it is possible to be saved and have doubts about your salvation, as well as to be lost and be absolutely positive you are saved. Let me show you just one verse along this line, First John 2.3: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” According to this verse, scriptural assurance of salvation is related to one’s obedience. If you are obedient scriptural assurance will be yours. However, what about when you are willingly disobedient? Are Christians perfectly obedient? Of course not. So then, during those times when you knowingly sin against God, either sins of omission or sins of commission, wrong things you did or right things you failed to do, it is reasonable, it is likely, it is rational, for your assurance of salvation to waiver and for you to become troubled about your soul. I will go so far as to say that if you never have even a flicker of doubt about the salvation of your soul, your assurance (while it may be most comforting) is most certainly an unscriptural and an unspiritual assurance. Assurance of salvation is supposed to leave you to feeling uneasy when you do wrong, because assurance of salvation is supposed to be a feeling, not a fact. Thus, is your evaluation of your own salvation, because of your own capacity for self-deception and because of your unwavering assurance of salvation, reliable? I would suggest to you that no, it is not reliable.

My friends, there is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. I have spoken to you, assuming that you are familiar with the truth. I have assumed that you know that Jesus is the Son of God, come by virgin birth to die on the cross for our sins. I have assumed you know the facts related to His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead after three days and nights. I assume that you know He ascended to His Father’s right hand on high, and that He ever lives to make intercession for His Own.[4] What I have also done is preach a message designed to shake some from their lethargy, to trouble some in their comfort about their own salvation. I have sought to do this by simply asking reasonable questions, that are directly related to your confidence in the flesh, especially your confidence about your own spiritual condition and welfare.

Does the truth save sinners? No, it does not. Is your doctrine, are your beliefs, Biblical? About Jesus and God and salvation they must be, or you are not saved. Is your testimony credible? It will most likely be if you are saved. Is your lifestyle compatible with the gospel? It will usually be if you are saved. Is your evaluation always reliable? Never. Not yours, mine, or anyone else’s evaluation of his own salvation is always reliable. It may be correct, but that does not mean it is reliable.

My friend? Are you saved? Let’s find out. Let’s find out by examining, in light of scripture, your lifestyle, and your testimony, and your doctrine. Of course, you do not have to if you do not want to. As well, not everyone who is troubled by such a sermon from God’s Word as this is lost. However, some who are troubled by such a message as this are lost. And some who are lost are untroubled by this message.



[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 556.

[2] Ecclesiastes 1.9

[3] Matthew 25.41

[4] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 14.2-4; Acts 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org