“FALSE ASSURANCES, #2”
1. Several weeks ago, I spoke to you about the assurance of salvation. I observed that the Bible is very strong in its assertion that the genuinely converted believer is secure in Christ, and that the true saint will persevere in the faith to the end.
2. I also pointed out to you that there are many people who have a false assurance of salvation, supposing themselves to be genuinely converted people because they have experienced very strong feelings, what I chose to label exuberance. Exuberance about spiritual things should not convince you that you are, or are not, a Christian.
3. Before I address this subject of false assurances of salvation again, I want to make some comments that should serve to clear up for you what a genuine relationship with God is like . . . according to the Bible.
4. There are two considerations that we must keep uppermost in our thinking when seeking to understand what the Bible shows to be the basis for the believer’s communion with God:
1A. First, CHRISTIANITY IS THE FACT-BASED RELIGION
1B. To a large degree, such religions as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Bahaism, Scientology, and Islam are not fact-based religions.
1C. With the exception of Islam, those other religions I named make no claim of any kind to being based upon revelation from the God who works in history. To put it another way, they are simply systems of beliefs that result from pure conjecture. Guys thought stuff up. Their so-called holy books make no claim to being anything other than books that guys wrote.
2C. Let me give you two examples of the ludicrous nature of these non-revelatory religions: Buddhism is the religion that developed from the so-called insights and teachings of one they call the Buddha. But what did he do to begin his quest for enlightenment? He abandoned his wife and child. So the founder of that religion starts his personal quest by being guilty of desertion. And what historic facts do they base their belief system on? None. Not a one.
3C. What about Scientology? Here is enough for any sane person: Scientology is the brainchild of L. Ron Hubbard, who made his mark on the world before inventing Scientology as a science fiction writer. Hello? A religion conjured up by a science fiction writer! Do you see any reason for questioning Scientology, a religion a guy just invented a few years ago?
4C. And then there is Islam. Islam, with its claim that the Koran was given by Allah to a man named Mohammed. Throughout the Koran are factual errors and inconsistencies of every kind. But the question is whether Islam is a fact-based religion. Of course, unlike Hinduism, Buddhism, Bahaiism, and Sikhism, it claims to be a fact-based religion. But anyone who seeks to examine the obvious errors of the Koran, to subject the “facts” Islam is purportedly based upon to scrutiny, places his life at risk.
5C. So, despite its superficial appearance of being a fact-based religion, Islam’s claim of historicity is false, and Islam’s posture toward anyone who would investigate its past is threatened with assassination, making it a fact-based religion in name only. Ask Salmon Rushdie, the author who was condemned to death by Iran’s Ayatollah Khoumeini for merely writing the book Satanic Verses.
2B. Christianity, on the other hand, is the true fact-based religion.
1C. Understand that being a fact-based religion does not mean that every fact claimed by Christianity can be scientifically verified, the reason for which I will address a bit later. For Christianity to be the fact-based religion means that, first, the Christian religion claims to be based upon facts, historical events that really happened. And, second, those historical facts which can be verified do, in fact, stand up to objective scrutiny.
2C. What am I saying? I am saying that there are facts upon which Christianity is built that are beyond the reach of inquiry. It is simply impossible to verify by means of the scientific method the Bible claim of a six day literal creation found in Genesis chapters one and two. It is impossible to verify by means of the scientific method the Bible claim that God showed Himself to Moses by means of a burning bush that was not consumed by the flames. Science cannot speak to that which is not observed and which cannot be reproduced.
3C. But there are many facts vital to Bible Christianity that can be established by scientific inquiry as being definitely true. Only one example to illustrate: The Bible makes mention of a people called Hittites in a number of places. But the Hittites disappeared from secular history for thousands of years, causing some in recent centuries to think the Biblical references to Hittites were fictional, part of a Bible myth. But ruins of the Hittite civilization was discovered in what is now Turkey and Syria in the early portion of the last century. Scientific validation of the historical record in the Bible. There are many more examples of this type of proof.
4C. But let us not pass by the crucifixion, and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead three days later. Predicted centuries in advance (What other religion in the world today features predictions made centuries earlier that are literally fulfilled?). The Lord Jesus Christ was born where He was predicted to be born, grew up where He was predicted to be raised, was slain in the manner predicted, and rose from the dead just as predicted.
5C. Some Bible facts cannot be verified. Those Bible facts which are verifiable have been verified. But even many of the facts the Bible claims as historical, but which are unverifiable, have oftentimes been shown to not contradict science even if proof is beyond the reach of science.
6C. I cannot scientifically verify that God created everything in six literal days, that there was a world wide flood, or that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. But using the same data secular scientists use, changing only some of the assumptions they blindly take for granted because of their anti supernatural biases, I can show strong support that life was intelligently designed, that most of the topographical features of the earth’s surface were formed by some great hydrological catastrophe, and that the earth’s magnetic field strength is weakening at such a rate that life as we know it could not possibly have existed here more than 10,000 years ago.
7C. Disagree with me if you want to, Christianity is the only religion that makes the credible claim of relying on, being dependent upon, certain events to have taken place in the past. The most significant of those events are God’s creation of the universe and all there herein is in six literal days, the fall of the human race into sin, the virgin birth of the Son of God, the crucifixion of the Son of God, His resurrection from the dead three days later, and His subsequent ascension into heaven to sit at God the Father’s right hand on high until He comes again.
8C. The Bible is true, and in the Bible those events I have mentioned (and many other events) are recorded, and Christianity is built upon those historical events, primarily the saving work of Jesus Christ in time and space. The only fact-based religion in existence in the world is Christianity.
2A. But Christianity Is Not Only The Fact-Based Religion. CHRISTIANITY IS ALSO THE FAITH-BASED RELIGION
1B. In this respect also Christianity is completely unique among all religions. Corrupted Christianity, as well as all other religions, operates on the principle that man is worthy, or that man must attain some kind of merit, to benefit from corrupted Christianity or those other religions. In other words, they say you have to do good, or somehow be good, to benefit in the next life.
2B. Since other religions do recognize that man is fallible and prone to failure (How can something so obvious be denied?), the eastern religions have adopted the concepts of karma and reincarnation as a means of bettering yourself just a little bit over the course of your lifetime. Then, when you die, you are supposedly reincarnated to be given another chance to advance a bit farther to a better station in the next life. Do bad and you come back as a cockroach. But you can eventually progress to the point that you achieve nirvana, nothingness, and do not have to suffer though yet another miserable life here on earth.
3B. Roman Catholicism is an example of corrupted Christianity that is similar to the other religions in that the Catholic Church teaches that when one dies he goes to purgatory to be purged of shortcomings and failures in preparation for heaven. Strangely, Islam is much like Catholicism in this regard in that Islam believes that all moslems go to Hell for a time of punishment before the good ones advance on to Paradise.
4B. Christianity, however, in its uncorrupted form, is the faith-based religion. That is, man is shown in the Bible to be so utterly beyond self-help, being dead in trespasses and sins, cut off from the life of God, that there is no possible way of becoming good enough to merit any blessing, much less the great blessing of eternal life. So, how does man receive benefit?
5B. Christianity is the religion of men who are spiritually dead and who cannot do good works, who must rely upon the doing and dying of Jesus Christ on their behalf. But how is the doing and dying of Jesus Christ some 2,000 years ago and some 8,500 miles away supposed to benefit anyone? God’s plan has always been faith as the sole means through which sinful man is blessed with forgiveness. It was so with Abraham some 4,000 years ago, and it is so today. Only by faith can an unworthy sinner lay hold of the Savior Who suffered, bled, and died on his behalf.
6B. So, it is in this respect as well that Christianity is unlike any other religion in the world. The Christian relies wholly upon Another for his salvation. That reliance is called faith. The Christian believes he has no basis for self-reliance, no reason for self-confidence, as do all other religions. Only Christianity gives all the glory to God because only Christianity sees no worthiness in self.
1. A couple of conclusions before brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song before this morning’s sermon. One conclusion is derived from Christianity being a fact-based religion and another conclusion is derived from Christianity being a faith-based religion.
2. Because Christianity is a religion that is based upon facts it is a religion that requires thinking rather than feeling. It is possible to become a Hindu without thinking. It is possible to become a Roman Catholic without thinking. It is possible to become a moslem, a Sikh, or a bahai without thinking. The vast majority of those who practice those religions became involved in those religions without any thought at all, while they were but infants.
3. But because facts are involved with real Christianity it is not possible to become a Christian without really thinking. As well, because faith is necessary to become a Christian thinking is required. Unlike other religions, there are many historical facts associated with Christianity that require thinking. But there are also many important facts that are not verifiable. As I alluded to earlier, this is where faith comes in.
4. Faith is that faculty of the mind by which someone considers a fact that cannot be verified, that cannot be proven, and evaluates whether it is to be held as true or not. Can anyone prove that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He was virgin born, that He rose from the dead on the third day, that He ascended to the Father’s right hand, that He forgives the sins of those who trust Him?
5. Those are facts, but they are scientifically unverifiable facts. They cannot be shown to be true by means of objective science because they are not observable, because they are not repeatable. Thus, they speak to truths that cannot be apprehended by means of the five senses. But not only must the truths be believed by someone for him to become a Christian, but the center and focus of Christianity, the Savior, Jesus Christ, must be believed in to become a Christian.
6. So, getting back to my original goal of showing you what a genuine relationship with God is really like, there are two critical considerations on your way to trusting Jesus as Savior: First, there are facts, historical facts that can be verified. Then there is faith, and faith is based upon facts that cannot be verified. With faith you are taking someone else’s word for it being true, God’s Word, which is what Hebrews 11.1 speaks to: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Emphasis added)
7. Considered one way, Christianity is not about the five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing). It is about someone you have never seen, heard, smelled, tasted or touched, who you are so persuaded by verifiable and unverifiable facts will save you from the sins that damn your soul to Hell, that you believe in Him to the saving of your eternal and undying soul.
8. Oh, yes. Christianity is different from all other religions in that it is the fact-based religion. Christianity is different from all other religions in that it is the faith-based religion. Christianity is different from all other religions in that it is the only one given by God as the way to be reconciled to Him and the way to commune with Him.
9. Now brother Isenberger comes to lead us as we stand to sing.
1. If you remember my sermon of several weeks ago about some people basing their confidence that they are Christians on their exuberance, then you may also remember that I showed from God’s Word that your own personal excitement, your own personal energy level, your right now level of commitment, what I chose to call exuberance, is no indication of whether you or anyone else is really a Christian.
2. To be sure, Christians ought to be exuberant about the Christian life. But there are baseball players who are exuberant about baseball, and football fans and players who are exuberant about football. There used to be a time when people in LA were exuberant about basketball.
3. So, since you can get very exuberant about a lot of things, some spiritual and some not so spiritual, exuberance is no criteria by which you or anyone else should attempt to comfort yourself concerning the state of your soul. Sadly, however, many people do. They prefer measuring exuberance to thinking.
4. Another terrible mistake people make concerning the assurance of their salvation is related to feelings, sensations, physical responses, tinglies, goose bumps, and such as that. Let me show you why that, too, is a terrible criteria for evaluating the state of your soul.
5. If you are genuinely converted, you got saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Not sight in Jesus Christ. Not smell in Jesus Christ. Not taste in Jesus Christ. Not touch in Jesus Christ. And certainly not smell in Jesus Christ. Faith is not the five senses and the five senses is not faith.
6. But have you made the mistake of thinking that after a person gets saved through faith in Jesus Christ that he will then go on in his Christian life living by means of those five senses that served no purpose in your conversion? After all, if the five senses cannot get you saved, on what basis do you rely on the five senses to convince yourself that you are saved?
7. In the next few minutes I want to show you that “feelings” is no way to assure yourself that you are saved.
1A. First, CONSIDER THOSE “FEELINGS” THAT ARE THE RESULT OF A GENUINE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE
1B. Let it not be denied that it is possible to have a spiritual experience that will result in certain feelings, tinglies, goose bumps, shakes, trembling sensations, etc. Let me restrict our observations to those times when God did not manifest Himself to someone’s five senses, so we can avoid unnecessary confusion about His normal dealings with people.
1C. In Psalm 84.2 we read the psalmist’s words: “my flesh crieth out for the living God.” Obviously, there were physical symptoms associated with the psalmist’s craving for vital communion with God. I assert that such is the result of a genuine spiritual experience.
2C. In Daniel 10.7-8 we read of a non-sensory revelation given to Daniel: “And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.” Something scared Daniel’s companions, though the Bible says they saw nothing. But Daniel collapsed. That is somewhat more than tingling.
3C. So, let us stipulate that spiritual experiences can so affect a person that he exhibits physical responses. Such responses can run the gamut from tingling, rapid breathing, goose bumps, rapid heart beat, to even fainting.
2B. But to what are these physical sensations to be attributed, God working directly on the body by means of the five senses or God working on a person’s mind which then affects the body?
1C. My friends, the Bible teaches that the just shall live by faith. But we have already seen that “faith is the evidence of things not seen.” That is, faith has to do with that which is not perceived by means of the senses, Hebrews 11.1 referring to the sense of sight.
2C. Faith has to do with what is declared to be true in the Word of God, Romans 10.17 telling us that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” “Is that not the sense of hearing,” one might ask?
3C. No. The senses have to do with witnessing the original event taking place. Faith has to do with taking as fact what the Bible declares to have happened thousands of years ago, beyond the reach of your senses.
4C. So, how is the body affected then, if faith does not work directly on the body? Faith affects the mind, and it is the mind that controls the body. Thus, a Christian can think upon some great truth, can come to realize how that truth directly affects him, and then becomes wonderfully excited in his physical body to the point of exhibiting various kinds of symptoms.
5C. Did God work on the Christian’s body? No. God does a work on the Christian’s mind, and his body responds to the profound and glorious truths understood by his mind to produce goose bumps, or a rapid heart beat, or maybe even tinglies all over. That is what happens when there is a spiritual experience.
2A. As Well, CONSIDER THOSE “FEELINGS” THAT ARE PRODUCED BY NON-SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES
1B. On television two nights ago there was a segment of some program that featured an offshoot of the Jewish cabala. Folks, cabala is a perversion of Judaism, is a complete denial of Christianity, yet the thousands of people who are involved in it are absolutely convinced that they are enjoying spiritual experiences. The aged and ugly rock star Madonna swears by this. But she also just swears.
2B. How about the kids who used to go to Beach Boys and Beatles concerts back in the 1960s, or those girls who used to swoon over Frank Sinatra? The point that I seek to make is that their reactions are exactly the same as the reactions that are claimed by so-called Christians to be spiritual experiences.
3B. Ever hear of someone who became so frightened that he feinted? Ever hear of someone who got so thrilled that he got goose bumps all over? Do you not know people who get so worked up about obviously non-spiritual things that they have difficulty breathing? I do.
4B. Ever heard of how Mormons claim they know they are born again? They claim that they once “felt” a burning in their chest, which is proof enough for them that they have had a spiritual experience. But no orthodox Christian would accept that such feelings have anything to do with genuine spiritual experiences.
5B. Folks, I could go on and on and on about the non-spiritual experiences that cause people to “feel” things that are just exactly the way so-called and supposedly spiritual experiences supposedly “feel.” The point that I seek to make is that they are one and the same thing, a physical reaction that is the result of thoughts that a person has. And as long as flesh is flesh it will be so influenced by the mind that it will be stimulated in these ways.
1. Let me conclude with the text that I have chosen for this sermon, Acts 24.25: “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.”
2. Here we read of Felix’s reaction when he was preached to by the apostle Paul. Keep in mind that Felix was not a Christian man. Felix was a wicked man. But notice that he trembled.
3. If an unsaved man can hear something from the Bible and it produces a physical reaction in him such that he trembled, how in the world can a Christian claim that he knows his spiritual standing before God is healthy based upon what he “feels”?
4. I am not saying a Christian should live an emotionless and unfeeling Christian life. Far be it from me to encourage that kind of dry sterility. I think a Christian’s life ought to feature both exuberance and goose bumps and tinglies from time to time.
5. But let us understand that though both exuberance and goose bumps and tinglies are associated with wonderful spiritual experiences, they are also associated with experiences that are not spiritual at all. So, you should not use either exuberance or physical symptoms such as tinglies and a rapid heart beat to evaluate whether or not you are assured of your salvation.
6. As well, let us recognize that when some preacher says something like, “Can’t you just feel the presence of the Lord here?” he is either talking loosely and is referring to what he observes about the seriousness of the people in response to the preaching of God’s Word, or he is clueless about the ways in which God works in people’s lives.7. Do not seek assurance of your salvation from your body’s physical responses or excitements.
 Riccoldo da
Montecroce and Martin Luther, translated by Thomas C. Pfotenhauer, Islam
In The Crucible, (New Haven, MO: Lutheran News, Inc., 2002),
 See footnote for
Joshua 1.4 from The Defender’s Study Bible,
(Grand Rapids, MI: World Publishing, 1995), page 255.
 Micah 5.2; Matthew
2.23; Deuteronomy 21.23; Psalm 16.10