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I have at times found that in my life there can be a gaping divide between my self-perception and reality. What I think or feel about myself and what is actually true about myself can be worlds apart.
I can illustrate this point very easily this morning.
What if I told you that I once spent a whole morning, in public, with my pants on inside out? Please don’t ask me how I managed this extraordinary feat of stupidity. The point is, I had been walking around all morning assuming certain things about myself (suave, devastatingly handsome, intelligent, reasonably capable of dressing myself), but that is not what others were thinking about me.
Just because we think or feel a certain way about ourselves, does not mean for a moment that it is accurate or true. It certainly does not mean that others think that way about us, and more importantly it may not be the way that Jesus himself thinks about us.
In Matthew chapter 7, the people that Jesus sends away considered themselves to be Christians, or at least believed that they were worthy of Christ’s approval. None of them had opposed Jesus in their minds and they had all shown up expecting to receive an award or acknowledgement from Jesus. They did not see their own state clearly, and their blindness cost them everything. There was a large gap between their self-perception and reality.
When it comes to salvation, there seems to me to be a number of causes of false assurance and they are not uncommon.
The first is the belief that everyone is saved
(Justification by death.)
R.C Sproul (a wonderful theologian whose books have helped many people here), tells the story of a conversation with his son as a very young boy and he asked him (probably a bit foolishly) what he would say if he died and God asked him why he should be let into heaven. Sproul’s son looked at him as if it was the stupidest question anyone could ask, and he replied, “I would say you should let me into heaven because I am dead.”
Now I do not think Sproul’s son believed in universal salvation. He had just grown up knowing Jesus and it never occurred to him there was any other circumstance to be in. His answer however, is the answer that many adults believe, not because they have any proof or evidence that God works this way but because they believe it is just what they think is probably the case, and they bet everything on it.
If there is a God, they will be saved because that is the reason God exists.
How many funerals have you been to where you have heard that he/she is now:
- In a happier place
- Is looking down upon us smiling
- Is with their friends, loved ones
- He/ She is now fishing in the great pond in the sky?
Yet you know that they had nothing to do with Christ either in their life or their death.
In fact, the things of Christ were as far from them as could be.
We have so removed the last judgement from our thinking, and from our churches thinking, that now all you need to do to go to heaven is to die. God then, is reduced simply to a creature that loves me, not unlike Santa Claus. Therefore, on the day of judgement, it will come as a great surprise to many when they hear Jesus says, “I never knew you, depart from me.” Ignoring the living God in your life is more serious than you can ever imagine.
Justification by death is a major contributor to false assurance.
I think the second major cause for false assurance is the belief that ‘my goodness is enough’.
When you get to know people well enough, to ask them a personal question, and you do ask them, "If you were to die tonight what would you say to God if he asked why you should let you into heaven?" The answer that you will hear, so very often in Australia is, “I have tried to live a good life.” So, there is this view that God has a set of scales and he weighs our life, and the hope people have is that the good things will simply outweigh the bad things. The strange thing is, that in fact we are the ones who decide what the good things are and what are the bad things, as if we are the measure of all things.
How good do you think you are at giving yourself a mark out of 10? Have you ever noticed you are easier on yourself than others are? Do you think it is strange that when you lie it is a small thing, but when you are lied to, it is a disgusting miscarriage of the truth? Do you think it is a strange thing that when you are lazy it is because you really need a break. When others are lazy it is because they are hopeless and utterly selfish? Maybe I am overstating things, but we are poor at measuring ourselves.
The walls in my house are painted in a quarter Spanish white. The walls look white until you actually put it next to white, and then it looks to be nothing like white. I think the trick to fooling yourself that you are good enough for heaven is to pick very carefully to whom you compare yourself. That is why this passage is so shocking.
Look at the people who Jesus sends away. ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ If you are, on the day of judgement to stand before Jesus and these men are in front of you, and they get sent to hell, what would be your confidence? Would you be allowed to enter heaven or sent to hell? These men even cast out demons, have you done better than that?
Let me consider that in a different way. Who of you feels a lack of assurance because you are not good enough? Is that not the same idea in reverse, in the end, it is goodness that matters. Both views are wrong. If our assurance is in our work rather than Christ’s, then success will go to our head, and failure will go to our hearts. We will either be arrogant or broken.
Why is it that such people do not get into heaven? What is missing in their lives? What is it that matters that they have not demonstrated in their lives?
Jesus says “But you have not done the will of my Father in heaven.” Vs 21
If all these other things have been done, what does that mean? Jesus said to the Jews “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)
You see, it is so possible to do the right things, to say the right things, to be in the right places, and to look like you are right with God, but in fact, you do not to belong to Jesus. It is possible to SAY “Lord, Lord”, but not love and serve Jesus as Lord.. It is possible to DO what is so right - say the prayers and sing the hymns and preach the sermons, but not have what matters most: a trust in Jesus that says: “Not what I do, but what you do.” That is all that I need now, and every day, and on that day.
All that matters on that day is that if you base your salvation on your own goodness, you have no hope of getting to heaven. Instead, your hope lies in the fact that you have entrusted everything, put all your hope on Jesus your Lord.
If a really rich person invites you to go on holidays with them to the most luxurious place and when the bill comes you know you could never afford it, you look back at the person who invited you and say “I am under their name.”
These men say, look at all we have done, that is where we place our confidence. A Christian says, do not look at me, please look at Jesus. That is what matters on that day. You are not saved because you die. You are not saved because you are good.
You are not saved because your life is easy.
One of the many lies to come out of the ‘Health, wealth and prosperity gospel’, (which has seeped into our thoughts like the toxic waste), is that you measure your assurance on the health wealth and prosperity you receive in this life. People who are living a shallow Christian life at best, and find everything in life is wonderful and fruitful, believe they are safe because life is easy. They believe that God is blessing them.
Can I make something very clear this morning? An easy life does not automatically mean that God is happy with you and you are saved any more than a difficult life means God is not happy with you and you are not saved.
How much lack of assurance comes because you are seeking to follow Christ, and again and again difficulty and heartache has come into your life and you ache and weep and wonder if you are saved? Your hardship is not a sign that you are not saved. Following Jesus is not going to make you wealthy. Following Jesus does not guarantee that you are going to be healthy. The message of scripture and the gospel of Christ is not that following him means everything goes right, but that he is enough no matter what happens. That is the message of the gospel, not that life is going to be OK.
Friends, every apostle in the Bible dies in a bad way, I mean really badly. They get beheaded, they get crucified upside down, they get boiled in oil, they are poor and they are slaughtered. Spurgeon, the ‘prince of preachers’, struggles with depression all his life and then dies.
Christianity has been built and carried through the generations on the blood of Christians, not on their wealth. Friends, in Christianity, Christ is pre-eminent, not what he can give you. Jesus is enough, he is enough, and he is enough.
You will look at Matthew 7:7-11 and say “See it is about being blessed”:
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Friends, this is a passage about God being your father and giving you good things as a good father. You who are fathers here know that pursuing good things for your children does not mean they will always enjoy it. It means making them eat their vegetables. It means correcting their mistakes. It means not letting them follow foolish passion.
For God our father, it means teaching us that he is enough to sustain us when everything else has gone, and sometimes that lesson is only learned by taking everything else from us. It means teaching us to love and desire him and not the things he gives us. An easy life does not mean assurance of salvation and a hard life mean you are not saved.
You are not saved because you die. You are not saved because you are good. You are not saved because life is easy
Lastly for this morning
You are not saved because you said you were at ‘sometime’ in the past.
My inbox is clogged with opportunities to “become something”: A friend on Facebook a member of Netflix, a survey on Australia post, an offer for of a vacuum cleaner, a recipient of 10 million dollars from the Central bank of Djibouti. I will probably ignore many of them, (but I am keen to take up the offer of 10 million. A joke!)
If I do respond, or take the survey or become a friend, I never think about it again. Once it is done, that is it.
Being a Christian is not like that. You signed a card, or said a prayer, or said you were, but nothing changed and you fail to think about it anymore.
Jesus says: “only those who do the will of the Father in heaven are really Christians, everyone else will hear Jesus say depart from me.”
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
What is the rock? What is it a Christian has done? Jesus puts it this way over and over in the gospel. He says, “Repent and believe.” What does that mean? Repent means a change of direction for your whole life. You were going one way and now you are going another way. Biblical repentance is always more than an intellectual assent to Jesus. Intellectual assent is like a sideways nod of the head while you continue on your way. Biblical repentance means changing the direction in which you are walking.
You are not at the centre of your life, Jesus is and you have stopped pretending otherwise. Believe. Believe what?
· You are a sinner
· Jesus is the son of God come as a man
· In Jesus alone for forgives.
How can I know I have done that? There are certain indications in the life of a person that will show, but more on that next week. I just want you to see now that a Christian is a very simple person. They have stopped pretending they are boss, rejected all their old way of life and thinking. They believe Jesus is who he says he is. They trust him in this life and the life to come, and day in and day out, that is the direction of their life. Through the heartache and the hardship, through the falling into sins and failure. Through the joy and the delight, day in day out
What about the unforgivable sin? The unforgivable sin: I am terrified I have committed it. What is it?
I ask you, why you are terrified, and you say, “because I want to be with Jesus and I am terrified of his judgement, and I want to follow him. “Are you kidding? Why in the world do you think you have committed the unforgivable sin?
It is hard to work out what that means
Please read the context of this verse: the people Jesus is talking to have seen the miracles he is performing, they know their Bible, and the promises of the Messiah and they decide that instead of following Jesus as king they will hate him and tell everyone that he is Satanic, that by the power of the Devil is doing what he is doing. It is the most horrific rejection of Jesus you can get. If they were here, and we said to them, “Jesus says you are guilty of an eternal sin”, they would say we do not care what Jesus thinks. Why do you think you are like them? Your assurance comes from some aspects of your own life, but most of all it comes from looking to the cross of Jesus Christ.
In the cross, we see the full expression of the holy wrath and the holy love of Christ come together in one glorious moment for our salvation. And we are told that those who trust in Christ are saved. Trust in Christ and your sins are removed, Isaiah 43:25 says that he will remember them no more. It is not that God has amnesia, he is omniscient, he knows all things, but by the grace of God expressed in the cross of Christ (the God who knows everything), has chosen, for the sake of his name Is 48:9-11, not to hold any one of your sins against you because you trusted in this servant, Jesus..
Here is a story about a wealthy Englishman who bought a Rolls Royce. (Rolls Royce was billed as the car that would never ever break down) and so he bought this car at a hefty (large) price. He was driving it one day in France and the car broke down and so he called Rolls Royce and said, “Well the car you said would never break down has broken down”. Within the hour the Rolls Royce company put a mechanic on a private plane, flew him to France where he fixed the car, returned home, and the man drove off.
The Englishman expected to receive a big bill, (it is not often that someone will send a mechanic to you to fix your car and fly him back) and so he was a little worried.
However, the bill had not come, so he called Rolls Royce and he said: “Look, I would like to get this over with and pay my bill. “The people at Rolls Royce told that man, “We are sorry sir, but we have absolutely no record of anything ever having gone wrong with your car.”
To think that the holy God of the universe has looked upon your life and my life based on the life of the suffering servant and he pronounces: “I have absolutory no record of anything ever having gone wrong in your life.”
There is the basis for our assurance.
Not on you, not on me, but on Christ.