"BE ATTENTIVE TO REAL ASSURANCE"

Second Corinthians 13.5

 

EXPOSITION:

1. Perhaps it was as early in my ministry as 1980 that I became troubled over what I saw to be the unscriptural approach to assurance of salvation that I saw being advanced in contemporary Christianity, even in the ranks of my own fundamental Baptists.

2. Little did I realize that years later I would find a kindred spirit in Anthony Burgess, a Puritan pastor who wrote a book, published in 1652, titled Spiritual Refining: The Anatomy of True and False Conversion.[1]

3. I confess that I have never had an original thought, but am grateful to God for the privilege of sitting at the feet of a godly divine long since promoted to glory who loved his Savior enough, and felt responsible enough to his fellow man, to study Godís Word and to write on this extremely important topic.

4. When dealing with the subject of assurance of salvation I shall forever be indebted to this distinguished, learned, godly man, who has taught me things from Godís Word I had not seen there before.

5. Though we should never we so proud that we are unwilling to sit at the feet of a godly pastor, whether he be living and we hear him preach Godís Word, or whether he be long dead and we read his sermons that have stood the test of time, we must then turn to our final authority for faith and practice, Godís holy Word.

6. Let us now, therefore, turn to Second Corinthians 13.5. When you have found that verse in Godís Word, which is my text for this morning, please stand and read silently while I read aloud: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"

7. This verse clearly shows that it is Godís will for a professing Christian to be examined to see if he is, to see if she is, truly in the faith, truly a child of God, truly born again. And not a self-examination, which is how this verse is usually misinterpreted, but an examination by another in the congregation.

8. Keep in mind that this directive from the apostle Paul was written to a congregation whose members were quite confident that they were converted, a congregation that had a wonderful feeling of the assurance of their salvation, yet they were hereby directed not to rely on such feelings.

9. Brother Isenberger now comes before this morningís sermon to lead us as we stand to sing.

INTRODUCTION:

1. Let me be very clear in stating that I believe Godís gracious assurance of salvation given to those who are truly converted is a profound blessing. Genuine assurance of salvation is a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the obedient Christian. Oh, how proper assurance helps the child of God.

2. Let me also say that there is a wrong kind of assurance that can be had by both saved and unsaved people, and that this second kind of assurance is both misleading and dangerous.

3. There are some very good reasons why you should not take for granted that you are saved just because you have assurance of your salvation.

4. This morning I want to relate to you five of these reasons:

1A. First, DO NOT TAKE FOR GRANTED THAT YOU ARE SAVED JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE ASSURANCE OF YOUR SALVATION, BECAUSE JESUS REPEATEDLY WARNED OF FALSE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

I regret that time constraints prohibit a thorough examination of these first few passages that I will take you to. However, they are straightforward enough that you should immediately grasp the main thrust of our Lordís teaching in each of them, which has to do with a personís tendency toward false assurance of salvation.

1B. First, There Is The Parable Of The Sower, Matthew 13.3-9, 18-23 and Luke 8.8

3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

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.

22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

1C. My friends, this parable deals with those who are apparently converted. But the Lord Jesus Christís interpretation of His parable clearly shows that of these 4 examples only the final example illustrates a case of real conversion, where there has been a hearing and a receiving of the truth with understanding. And how do we know that only the final example illustrates genuine conversion? Only the final example shows real life by bearing fruit.

2C. Yet you yourselves know people who are perfectly satisfied that they are Christians, seeming to be fully assured of the fact, who perfectly illustrate the first or the second or the third type of hearer. They have a kind of assurance of salvation without being genuinely converted!

3C. And in Luke 8.8, with Luke recording a detail not found in Matthew or Mark, we read that the Lord Jesus Christ "cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Obviously, the Savior was trying to strip away His hearerís false assurance. Confident, they were, but not converted.

2B. Please, Now, Turn To The Parable Of The Ten Virgins, Matthew 25.1-13

1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:

4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

1C. Does not this parable illustrate two kinds of individuals, each of whom feels confident and prepared for the second coming of Christ, confident enough to sleep? Yet the foolish virgins represent whose who, thinking they were prepared, were actually lost.

2C. And how can this not illustrate the fact that lost people feel assurance that they are saved, since verses 11 and 12 show the foolish virgins, after it was too late, "saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not."

3C. My friend, it is possible to feel greatly assured of your salvation and to be very, very wrong. "But pastor, I go to Church and read my Bible and listen to preaching and sit under teaching and even tithe." So did the Pharisees, and much more, yet they were lost.

3B. Now We See What Jesus Said About The Day Of Judgment, Matthew 7.21-23

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

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.

1C. Notice the phrase in verse 22, "in that day." Itís a reference to the day of the LORD, specifically the Judgment Day, when "the dead, small and great, stand before God" and are "judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works," Revelation 20.12.

2C. What Jesus predicts is that many will have assurance of their salvation based upon the fact that they had prophesied, they had cast out of devils, and they had done many wonderful works.

3C. But they will be lost, friends, because Jesus wonít know them. They will derive great pleasure and confidence from the things they do, and they will do remarkable things to be sure, but the Savior of sinful menís souls will not know them!

4C. So, on no less than three occasions the Lord Jesus Christ went to great lengths to warn His audience of the danger of false assurance of their salvation. Will you take heed to His warning?

2A. Second, DO NOT TAKE FOR GRANTED THAT YOU ARE SAVED JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE ASSURANCE OF YOUR SALVATION, BECAUSE FALSE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION IS AN ERROR SO EASY TO MAKE

Let me prove to you from Godís Word how easy it is to be falsely assured of your salvation:

1B. First, By Quickly Reading Several Verses In Proverbs

1C. Proverbs 12.15: "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes." Just being convinced of something doesnít mean that itís so. Fools always think they are right.

2C. Proverbs 16.2: "All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes." Folks, we are the poorest judges of our own sinfulness. Thus, we are very unreliable evaluators of our own condition.

3C. Proverbs 16.25: "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." In the face of this verse, are you justified in being so assured of your own salvation?

4C. Proverbs 18.13: "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him." Oh, how dangerous it is to decide that your assurance is justified and Scriptural without hearing me out first.

2B. Another Evidence That False Assurance Is An Easy Error To Make Is Found In The Ministry Of John The Baptist

1C. In Luke 3.7-8 we read these words: "7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham."

2C. My friends, John the Baptist was perceptive enough to recognize that those he was speaking to, though they were very religious, students of the Bible, working hard at keeping the Law, tithers every one of them, were wrong in their assurance that they were spiritual heirs of Abraham.

3B. Third, There Is The Warnings Of James

1C. In James 1.22-26 two warnings are issued to correct the error of false assurance:

22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:

24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

2C. First, there is the false assurance of salvation held by that person who is a hearer of the Word and not a doer of the Word. That man deceives himself.

3C. Then, there is that false assurance of one whose tongue is out of control. That man deceives his own heart.

4C. So, we have three different places in Godís Word where strong evidence shows that it is so very easy to make the error of having assurance that has no basis in Scripture.

3A. Third, DO NOT TAKE FOR GRANTED THAT YOU ARE SAVED JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE ASSURANCE OF YOUR SALVATION, BECAUSE THE DANGER OF ERROR IS SO GREAT

Please turn to Hebrews 6.4-6 and read along with me:

4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

1B. Matthew Henry, the old Puritan commentator, reflected the correct understanding of this passage when he wrote that the writer of Hebrews "shows how far persons may go in religion, and, after all, fall away, and perish for ever."

2B. Let me review for you what these 3 verses show can be true in the life of a person who is yet lost:

1C. First, you are enlightened. That is, your understanding of the Word of God is illuminated, you understand what you never understood before, causing you to think you are therefore saved.

2C. Next, you have tasted the heavenly gift. This likely refers to having some experience from the Holy Spirit touching your life and your soul. But even though, you are still lost.

3C. Third, you are a partaker of the Holy Ghost. To what does this refer? Judas Iscariot cast out demons and worked miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit, yet he was lost. Balaam prophesied in Old Testament times, yet he too was lost.

4C. Fourth, you have "tasted the good word of God." You have come to love the Bible, to enjoy preaching, to appreciate strong doctrine. Yet you are, nevertheless, a lost man.

5C. Finally, you have tasted "the powers of the world to come." Heaven is real to you, and so is Hell. You have no doubt about the existence of heaven for the saints and Hell for the sinners. But from our context, my friends, we see that you can still be lost.

3B. Think of it. Five different evidences that are commonly but erroneously taken to be proofs of salvation, and are used as the basis for assurances, but are exhibited by those who show themselves, finally, to be lost after all. They fall away, apostatize, show themselves to be unsaved. What great danger a person is in who possesses such false assurance.

4A. Fourth, DO NOT TAKE FOR GRANTED THAT YOU ARE SAVED JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE ASSURANCE OF YOUR SALVATION, BECAUSE IT IS AN ERROR SO DIFFICULT TO CORRECT

1B. This Error Is Difficult To Correct Because People Rely On Their Feelings

1C. "But I feel like I am saved," you may say. "I just know that I am saved, pastor," you might say. "How can I not be saved just because I did say the right words to you? You tripped me up on using the wrong words." Thatís what some of you think when you leave my office after showing yourself unable to give an answer for the hope that lies within you.

2C. Do you see the real problem? People are basing their assurance of salvation on feelings. But since assurance is itself a feeling that is supposed to be based upon facts, these people are basing their feelings of assurance on still more feelings. Dangerous. Are you doing this?

3C. Feelings are unstable even when built upon the strongest foundation of facts, which is why Biblical assurance of salvation wavers and ebbs and flows like the tide. But when you have a false assurance built on yet more feelings, you are then very unstable, indeed.

4C. The lesson? Feelings are not bad in and of themselves so long as they are based upon facts. Nothing wrong with feeling bad when momma dies. And to be sure, Biblical assurance is a feeling. But Biblical assurance is properly based upon objective facts and certitude.

2B. Another Reason False Assurance Is Difficult To Correct? People Compare Themselves To Others.

1C. It is virtually impossible to convince George that he is lost so long as he insists on looking at his wife, Martha, who also claims to be a Christian.

2C. And how significant an issue is this? You would be surprised at how often I am asked, "Pastor, do you really think so and so is saved?" I donít usually answer this type of question because people have no business evaluating their own Christianity by scrutinizing other people.

3C. You see, friends, salvation is not a comparison game, though the unconverted insist on comparing. Like to boys in puberty who are constantly comparing themselves to each other to see who is tallest this week. Your relationship with Christ is not based upon how tall you are, or how anything you are. Itís based solely upon whether or not you know Jesus Christ.

4C. In Second Corinthians 10.12 we read Paulís words: ". . . but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." And this certainly applies to our subject of the assurance of salvation.

5C. Your soulís condition is far too important a matter to risk on comparisons you make with those who are your friends, or those who are your enemies. Better by far, you should seek to examine your life and testimony in accordance with Godís Word. Your soul is worth that, donít you think?

5A. Finally, DO NOT TAKE FOR GRANTED THAT YOU ARE SAVED JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE ASSURANCE OF YOUR SALVATION, BECAUSE THE BENEFITS OF ACCURACY ARE INESTIMABLE

My friend, far better to correctly conclude that you are lost than to incorrectly conclude that you are saved, for if you know yourself to be lost you can flee to the Savior. But if you wrongly assure yourself of a salvation you do not really possess you are likely to be yet another example of one who someday dies and in Hell lifts up his eyes, being in torments.

1B. Recognize That Experience Is Better Than Hearsay

1C. Let me quickly read to you of the experiences of the queen of Sheba when she visited Jerusalem to see for herself what she had heard of the great king Solomon, First Kings 10.1-7:

1 And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions.

2 And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.

3 And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not.

4 And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomonís wisdom, and the house that he had built,

5 And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her.

6 And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom.

7 Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.

2C. There are many people whose false assurance has left them relying on hearsay about the blessings of sins forgiven and union with Christ. And they think they are saved and are enjoying great blessings, when they are actually living on other peopleís leftovers.

3C. Donít you settle for leftovers. Learn from the queen of Sheba the superiority of thorough inquiry, the benefit of asking hard questions, the glory of seeing for yourself, for Jesus is a greater than Solomon.

2B. As Well, Admit That Demonstration Is Better Than Theory

1C. You remember James 1.22. Iíve referred to it already. "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."

2C. Itís always better to obey Godís Word than to merely listen to it being taught or preached. Why should this principle be less applicable when it comes to securing Biblical assurance of salvation than in any other area of the Christian life?

3C. Therefore, do not satisfy yourself with mere theory. Abandon the notion of the Christian life being what you could have done, what you should have done, what you would have done. Instead, take action and demonstrate that the Lord is good by dealing with this issue in your own life. And why not? Whatís to fear? The truth? You know better than that.

3B. Finally, Trust That Faith Is Superior To Fashion

1C. Why should you rely upon some platitude to make you feel secure, when what is at stake is the destiny of your eternal and undying soul?

2C. Contemporary fashion is to take someone to First John 5.13 and convince him that he really did get saved and that he is somehow obligated to therefore have assurance. All mechanical.

3C. My friend, I am not at all opposed to assurance, but that approach to getting assurance of salvation is a recent fad, itís pure fashion, and it has nothing to do with real faith.

4C. Faith is always about having the confidence of doing things Godís way. And Godís way is for a professing Christianís testimony to carefully and cautiously be examined to see if you are in the faith.

5C. And why is this to be done? To jump through hoops? To overcome obstacles? No! To discern whether or not you are truly born again, genuinely converted, really saved!

CONCLUSION:

1. My friend I realize that todayís sermon from Godís Word has been a truly meaty message, perhaps requiring a thorough chewing before you swallow. And I trust an even longer time spent in digesting.

2. But the reason for delving into this doctrine is a good one. You only have one soul. You only have one life. And your soul is your most important possession, the really "I" part of you that is eternal and undying.

3. How, therefore, can you not be attentive to real assurance? Jesus warned us. False assurance is an easy error to make. The danger of error in this regard is so great. Itís a difficult error to correct. But the benefits of accuracy are inestimable.

4. No man has ever regretted being careful about his soulís destiny, but Hell is full of folks who eternally regret not being careful.

 

[1] Anthony Burgess, Spiritual Refining: The Anatomy of True and False Conversion, (Ames, Iowa: International Outreach, Inc., 2001)

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