Do I Have True or False Assurance?

Category: Questions & Answers

What is the difference between faith and assurance? Can a person have one without the other? This is one topic that multitudes struggle with and are plagued by. This is also one of the weightiest subjects in the whole Bible. How can we know if we have a true or false assurance?


Father, I pray that this evening as we open up the Word, look at the subject that we want to look at, that I'm hoping to take us into, I pray, Lord, I know this is a matter that You're concerned about. It's a matter of Scripture. It's a matter that we need clarity. And I pray that Your Spirit would lead us into truth. I pray that we might be led into deeper truth on this subject than perhaps we've ever been led. And I ask this in Christ's name, amen.

Okay. Well, I said last week that when Craig had his Q&A session, Kenny Lee asked him two theological questions. But he also asked Craig about another topic. Anybody remember what that was? (from the room) Assurance?

Tim: Assurance. I asked him about the head coverings. Yes?

James: A sister whispered it over here.

Tim: Oh okay, yes. Who whispered it? (unintelligible) Yeah, that's right. He raised a question about assurance. And if he was here I'd ask him exactly how he phrased it.

James: Can you have full assurance? Something about that.

Tim: Was that exactly what he said? Does anybody remember? Anybody have more light than that on what he asked? Can a Christian have full assurance? Is that basically the gist of how he said it? (unintelligible) What is it, ladies? Don't be shy.

(from the room) I think that's what it was. He said, "Can you have full assurance?"

Tim: Okay. So I want to talk about assurance. Assurance. Look, faith is one thing. Assurance is a different thing. When we think about faith, I'm talking about trust. When we talk about faith, we are talking about something that a person has conviction about that is true. So for instance, faith looks like this. We find objective facts, objective - you know what a proposition is. We find objective propositions, objective facts. For instance, one of the places in the Scripture that I think of when I think about just the facts of the Gospel, I think of 1 Corinthians 15. Anybody else think of that? The first few verses? Paul articulates for us some of the facts that make up our Gospel. Anybody know what it says there? (unintelligible) Exactly. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and what? Raised on the third day. He was buried. He died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried. He was raised on the third day. See, the objective facts of faith - doesn't Scripture say that we need to believe that God is and that He's a rewarder of them that seek Him diligently? Isn't that how Hebrews 11 kind of gives us some of the factual material behind faith? So we might say this, some of the propositions behind saving faith, you need to believe that God is. You need to believe that Christ is. You know what Jesus said? If you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins. It's the same thing that He said when He said, "Before Abraham was, I am." But we have this. Okay, God is. Christ is. Christ is God. Christ died for our sins. You might stick in there: Christ is man. I mean, that's one of the errors that the early church was dealing with. Christ is man. Christ as a man died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried. He was actually dead. He was raised on the third day. These are some of the essential facts behind faith. See, what I'm doing is I'm wanting to compare faith over against assurance. Behind faith you have a conviction that these facts are true versus the conviction that I'm personally saved because of those facts. See the difference there? The idea behind assurance is not just that those things are true, but assurance has to do with the fact that I believe myself a partaker of those things. That's assurance. But now listen to me, you may be assured and be dead wrong. So we need to be clear. Faith - we need to be honest about faith for starters that not all faith is saving. Just because you believe some facts doesn't necessarily mean that you're genuinely converted. So there's a faith that saves and there's a faith that does not save. But then over on the side of assurance, assurance has to do with whether I have a conviction that I'm personally saved because of the truths of the Gospel, but the truth is I can be assured of that and be dead wrong. And I may lack some assurance and struggle with my assurance and be very much converted and genuinely saved and be a Christian and on my way to Heaven. So we need to look at these things. That question came up: Can a Christian have assurance? Well, we want to talk about what are we talking about. It's one thing to believe, it's another thing to believe that I believe. And that's what we're dealing with. Here's the Kenny Lee. So we're dealing with you're other question tonight. So we'll go back. The question you specifically asked Craig about assurance was to the best of your memory? Kenny: Can a Christian have full assurance? Tim: Okay, well, that's what we basically settled on. So that's where we're at. But it's one thing to be saved, it's another thing to believe that I'm saved. And obviously, believing is what saves. Having assurance doesn't save. You recognize that. By grace are you saved through faith. You're not saved by assurance. There are people who may be even on their death bed wrestling with whether they're truly converted or not and go straight into the arms of Christ because their only hope is in Christ. You see, that's what saves, when our conviction is that Christ saves and we cast ourselves on that. Now, we may have doubts about whether we've cast ourselves sufficiently on Him. The issue is this, I may be unmoved in my conviction of Christ's ability to save me, but I may be very much moved about whether I'm actually in that place of safety. But you see, the first is what saves, not the second. Believing is what saves. Believing that I believe is not what saves because that's not the faith that saves. The faith that saves is not whether you believe or not. It's not having that faith. It's not having that assurance that you actually are a believer. The faith that saves is having that conviction that Christ is altogether able to save you and you cast yourself on Him to save you. So, this is no small thing. This is no small thing. I suspect that if James were to basically be able to count percentage-wise how many people out of all the emails that I'll Be Honest gets, how many have to do with people who have assurance issues, what would you say? Just off the top of your head take a wild guess. James: Yeah, maybe 60%. Tim: Yeah, six out of ten. And these guys are getting no small amount of emails. They're getting a huge amount of emails. % - they've got questions about assurance. And I'll tell you, that as much as anything is reason to deal with it tonight. That and another truth that I'm going to get to in just a second. But vast numbers of emails and they're desperate. They're agonizing. And before I turned the phone over to James, I would get the people calling. Do you get this? Sometimes people sobbing, sometimes people crying, sometimes people - they're agonizing over this. Deep concerns of the soul. Am I saved? Do I have saving faith? Well, I think I believed. I think I did this, but it's like, I don't feel saved, and it doesn't feel like God is hearing me, or it doesn't feel like God is talking to me. Am I going to go to heaven when I die? Is my faith real? I think it's real. Sometimes I think it's real. Sometimes I seem to live right. Sometimes I don't seem to live right. I mean, I had this experience in the past, but now I don't know. And I keep going back to sin. I think I've committed the unpardonable sin. Boy, you get lots of things and if there's anything that perhaps compounds the agony, it's Scripture itself. You say, what do you mean? Well, I mean this. Most of you are familiar with these verses, but let's just refresh our memories. Do you remember - classic - John 2? Turn in your Bibles there. John 2. Right at the end of the chapter. V. 23 "Now when Christ was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in His name." You might say that settles it. They believed. Well, that doesn't settle it. "They believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing." But notice, Jesus doesn't accept them. "Jesus on His part did not entrust Himself to them." And you know what's interesting in the original? The word "entrust" is the same word that is used for them believing. Literally, this says, they trusted Him - He didn't trust them. Or, they believed in Him. He didn't believe in them. Now it gets translated a little bit differently, and you can see why it would because they're on two opposite ends of this, but recognize in the original, it's the same word. They believed in Him. He didn't believe in them. I mean, that should rock us. Like, wow. People believed, and Jesus didn't commit Himself to them. That is a scary category. It was real even in His day. Why? Because He knew all people. What does that mean? Well, He knew there was something defective about their faith. Really? Somebody can believe and there's something defective about their faith so even though they believe, Jesus Himself doesn't entrust Himself to them? Jesus Himself knows that there's something in there that's defective? Yep. That's exactly what's happening. "He needed no one to bear witness about man for He Himself knew what was in man." He knew there was something wrong. You say, what? Well, you know, it doesn't tell us there, but there are other places in Scripture where we do get greater insights, like James 2. Let's go there. James 2 - again, the classic portion of Scripture that faith without works is dead. James 2. James 2:17. Hello, ladies. So James 2:17. "So also faith by itself if it does not have works is dead." Now, I'll just tell you right off, there are some really bad teachers who say dead faith can save. If you are here and you want to believe that because you have a faith that's dead and you would like to justify where you're at, or you would like to justify somebody else where they're at, if you have any inclination in you at all to believe that dead faith can save, like lots of teachers today tend to go in that direction, they teach it even if they don't directly try to redefine these texts - pay close attention to what we read here because James himself will show you dead faith can't save. You just have to listen to James. You don't have to listen to me. Just listen to James. Pay careful attention to what he says. "Faith by itself if it does not have works is dead." I would hope that sounds bad to everybody. Dead faith. Well, that doesn't sound good. Something that's dead is not good. "But someone will say you have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works." V. 19, "You believe that God is one. You do well." Because that's what people with faith are going to say who have no works. "Oh, but I believe! I believe in God! I believe there's one God. I believe in the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus is God." But you see what he's going to say here? Somebody that wants to argue that way - you know where he's going to take them? He takes them to the demons and he's going to say even the demons believe. But anybody want to make a case for demons being saved? You see where he's going? He's going to people who obviously - he's going to persons, he's going to creatures who obviously nobody is going to argue is saved. And he's going to say if you say that I believe in God, he's going to say, that's great, because the demons believe that too. You are on no better footing if you don't have works than the demons who have no works. Well, their works are wicked. "Even the demons believe..." and as John MacArthur has said about this text, they shudder. MacArthur points out that most of these shallow individuals that hold that dead faith can save, they don't even shudder. At least the demons know enough and believe enough to shake at the thought of God because they know they have to stand before Him. The typical guy out here in the world or the girl out here in the world that says, "well, I believe," but then their life is full of all manner of wickedness - but they say, "But I'm a believer. I'm a true Christian." Even though there's no fruit - the fruit is bad in their life. He's saying the demons, at least they shudder. "Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?" Now before, he said it was dead. Now he says it's useless. If anybody is going to say that useless faith can save, you're walking where I don't want to go. I would not risk my soul on that. "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works. And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness,' and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." So, if you want to say that dead faith can save, what are you saying? Are you saying demons can be saved? You've got two camps here. You've got demons. Over on the other side, you've got Abraham and Rahab. Which camp is obviously living faith? Which one is dead? Which one is useless over against which one saves? I hope it's pretty obvious to you. So, okay, we're talking about assurance. Why am I talking so much about faith? I'm talking about it because my point was Scripture itself can sometimes compound the agony behind why people struggle with assurance because they're being told from Scripture that just because you believe, it's not necessarily saving faith. Now, I want to go probably the most explicit verses and the ones that Paul Washer has made so famous through his sermon - namely, Matthew 7. Matthew 7:21. Now, we know these verses, but let's hear them. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven." Let's put that in different terms. Let's put it in the terms that we're talking about. Not everyone who calls themselves a believer and believes that Jesus is Lord is saved. That's basically what's being said here. You may believe He's Lord. You may call Him, "Lord, Lord," and you're not going to enter the Kingdom. Who enters the Kingdom? Well, let's look at their works. "The one who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven." On that day - what day? Judgment Day. On Judgment Day - catch this word: "Many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, do many mighty works in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you. Depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.'" Or, "you workers of iniquity." Now look, if there's anything in this world that sinners ought to be worried and concerned about - look, if there were some people in this room that had no sin, you might not have to be worried about this, but there's nobody in the room that fits that description. And if there's anything above everything that we ought to be concerned about and worried about if we're sinners, it is certainly this. Am I really a Christian? Am I a Christian by biblical definition? By biblical terms? Because you know what? You can get all uptight, all bent out of shape; you can get disgusted at anybody who might think you're not or call into question or bring up verses like this, but I'll tell you this, if you're wrong, you're the one going to hell. If you're wrong, you perish. Here's the thing, Jesus said "many." Many. Many... are thinking they're okay, and they're wrong. Many. It would be one thing if He said, oh, occasionally, there's one here and there, far and wide, one over there and one over there. That's not what He says. He says do you do know what's going to be commonplace on Judgment Day? Literally, they are going to line up by the masses, and say, "I was a Christian." And He's going to say, "No, you were not." Not ever. Not then. Not now. "But... but..." What are you going to say? Are you going to say what these people said? It didn't help them. Because it's too late. You were wrong. And rather than even entertaining the idea that you were wrong, you just sailed on out into eternity. What question is more important? Do I possess saving faith? Is the faith that I have, is it the real deal? Or not? Or am I only deceiving myself because the reality is it's a scary reality. Many. And see here's the thing. If we actually said, well, you know what? Many, many, many people are going to be saved. So, even though it says many are deceived, it's just a small fraction of people who profess to be Christians. Oh yes, in the end it will turn out to be many - no. Don't think that way. Do you know that the same "many" who show up in Matthew 7:22, they show up before this? Notice Matthew 7:13. "Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy..." Or as the King James says, "broad is the way." Do you know every city you go into including our own that has a street called "Broadway," - do you know where that comes from? Right here. Now, this broad way is the way of religion. It's the same people that you get down here in v. 22. When it talks about there being a wide gate, a broad way that leads to destruction, He's not just talking about people who are out there living wild in sin. He's talking about people who try to go to Heaven - it's a broad way, because you can get on that way - it promises Heaven in the end. You can take all your sin. The problem is it doesn't go to Heaven. And you see, when you get down to v. 23, He calls the people what they are. He says, "Depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness." You see why the way is so broad? Because people are convinced - and you've got lots of preachers who will tell you - you've got lots of preachers preaching the broad way. You can have your sin. You can have your lawlessness. And you'll go to Heaven in the end. And Jesus says, "Depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness." He says it's those that do the will of My Father in Heaven. And the reason I took you back up there to v. 13 and 14 is for this reason: The "many" are over against the few who are on the narrow and hard way that leads to life. Those who find that are few. Picture this. This is another reason to deal with assurance. Why? Listen, when He says, "in that day..." these many are going to come to the surface, and He's going to tell them to depart. You know what it means? On our subject matter of assurance? Do you know what it means? These people were assured. These people were certain. Now look, on the one hand, we get people like James is dealing with, % of the I'll Be Honest emails where people are uncertain about whether they're saved or not. But on the flip side, there's another reason to be really concerned about assurance. Because, what would you say percentage-wise if you hear this: Many are on this broad way. Many in that day are going to say, "Lord, Lord." And He's going to say, "I didn't know you." Over against "few there be that find it." What kind of percentage do you think that is? That sounds to me like more than 60%. Like I would say 90%/10%. That's many and few. ? ? You see what I'm getting at? The vast majority of people who call themselves Christians right now in this world, who are alive today - the vast majority have an assurance that is taking them straight to hell. James: Here's an example from an email this week. Someone said, "I changed my gender..." and they were removing body parts, and they said this: "During this time, I never lost my faith." My question was: What is your faith in? If you never lost it, it's clearly not in the biblical Jesus Christ based on how you're living. Tim: No, because they're lawless. They're doing what they want to do. They're doing what they want to do, living the way they want to live. Not regarding the laws that God gave, but saying because I believe that there's a god who smiles on me all the time and will continue to smile no matter what I do... That is the great lie. It's a lie I believed when I was lost. That it's going to turn out okay because after all, I believe there's God. I believed in Jesus Christ at least as a historical figure. It was quite distorted. And I figured it would turn out okay in the end. And that's the vast majority of people in this world. The thing is, it isn't evident that these people were even concerned in their life. And you know what? I wasn't concerned until God opened my eyes. My wife wasn't concerned. She was madly and gladly on her way to hell too. The thing about these people in Matthew 7 is that it isn't even evident that these people were concerned while they were carelessly living their lives of lawlessness. They became concerned when it was too late. What? How could this be? I mean, there must be some fault with You because we were there. We were in church each week. What are You talking about? We cast out the demons and we were prophesying! We got up and we sang in Your name. We sang songs with Your name in it. How could this be? "Depart from Me. I never knew you." I guess one of the questions that I was asking myself as I was thinking about presenting this material to you is these 60% of people that write to I'll Be Honest who don't know, aren't certain, are really desperate and agonizing and concerned - I asked myself this, does the fact that they are concerned give us any reason to think good or ill of their situation? I mean, on the one hand, you have all these people who are very confident and in the end are going to miss heaven. What about the people that are really struggling with assurance? Is that a good sign? I mean, there are some circles - John Sytsma can tell you about circles he came from where doubting was actually seen as desirable. It was seen as a good quality. And if you didn't doubt, you were presumptuous. But what about these people? Does the fact that they wrestle and they squirm and they weep and they cry out and sometimes they sob and they're losing sleep and they're not at rest and they're agonizing and desperate and concerned - does that give us any reason to think well of their situation? Or does it only make us think bad of it? There they are agonizing over the question: Do I really have saving faith? Is my faith real? Am I self-deceived? Or asking the question: how do I get assurance? I mean, sometimes it's like you get the feeling that they really do think that they're saved; they're just wanting you to give them the solution to find where assurance is. It's like this thing that's just always outside their grasp. It's so elusive and evasive and just show me how to get it. Show me how to get assurance. They want to be at peace and they're not at peace. You know, there are a lot of people in the world not at peace. And sometimes it's because they've been exposed to so much truth that it's hard for them to be at peace because they continue to live on in their sin. What they really want to be assured is that they're not going to go to hell, but they're not getting that assurance. I know some people feel like assurance is like it's the most elusive thing in the world. And for some people it probably is. Is that good? Is that bad? And I guess one of the things that we have to think about is we don't want to do what a lot of these preachers are doing. Look, there are preachers who simply ignore Scripture. But when you get face-to-face with somebody that's desperate - look, I've dealt with people. You get somebody who's weeping, somebody who's desperate, somebody who's in torment - you want to help them. But you know what you never want to do? You never want to distort the message to try to help them. You don't want to present them with falsehoods to try to help them, because that never will help anybody. We don't want to try to lessen the problem by making faith - like this - like what is so often, you know, just a simple decision. We hear about decisional regeneration. Just make the decision. You know, the quick kind of shallow easy believism that's so prevalent in our day. Just say this prayer. Just say the sinner's prayer. Just believe these facts. Well, do you believe? Can you articulate the basic facts of the Gospel? Can you ask God to save you from your sins? Well, if you ask God to save you from your sins... I'll never forget years ago when we were doing a church plant down south of here, I asked a young man about his salvation and he kind of looks past me at his mom. He said, "Didn't I write it in the front of the Bible?" (incomplete thought) But that's the kind of things that people are told. Well, you said the prayer... I remember MacArthur one time when he was speaking on this subject, he said something about preachers that would tell you to drive a stick in the ground, and then every time you doubted, go back and look at the stick - but basically decisionism that takes place today. We don't want to basically making saving faith just down into being able to give assent to a few truths. Just because at the heart of the Gospel is the reality that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried and He was raised in three days - just because you believe that happened does not mean that you're saved. You had people that saw Jesus Christ eyeball to eyeball and they actually believed in Him and Jesus did not commit Himself to them. So, we don't want to just cheapen this thing. We don't want to try to assist people's assurance by toning down what saving faith looks like. Saving faith has works. If somebody's faith looks more like demons we don't want to try to make their faith into something that's saving when it doesn't look a whole lot like Rahab and it doesn't look a whole lot like Abraham, but it looks a whole lot more like demon faith because there's no good works. Look, Jesus said it. If you're not doing the will of the Father in Heaven, then He's going to tell you, "Depart from Me." That's the reality. We don't want to tone it down from that. And there are people who scream bloody murder: "that is adding works to the Gospel!" Well, you know what? Yes! It's adding works to the Gospel. It's not adding works to how you merit salvation, but works is an essential part of the Gospel. It's an essential part of the good news that Christ actually saves people to make them zealous of good works. And if that's not there, we don't want to tone that down. What does Scripture say? It's radical. You're a new creation in Christ. The old things pass away; all things become new. What are you going to tell people? It's not that? Are you going to make it less radical than being altogether a new creation? If you do that, what do you think? You think that's the kind of assurance that is going to profit people? Look, if you tell people a message that gets them to believe that everything is okay with their soul now, but in the end, they face God and they get cast away, you're a soul murderer. And you didn't do them any good. You didn't show them any love. You did not really have a concern for them. To twist the message, tone down the message, water down the message is not the way that we want to produce assurance in people. The last thing we want to do is give people assurance who shouldn't have it. So, you know what? We can get people writing in to I'll Be Honest and you know what? It can stir your pity. If you're handling their emails or handling phone calls, you can want to weep with them. But the last thing you want to do is tone the message down to try to bring assurance to them. You know, there are some very well meaning Christians, even in our own church that if they're confronted by a person - look, I saw this. I saw a situation where a woman - it came out. There was all manner of fornication and adultery in her life, and she didn't have assurance. And I was watching Christians even from our church and from sister churches deal with her and seek to give her assurance, when the truth is that many of the grounds for assurance were lacking and they were missing. I know they were well meaning. She was in a desperate situation. But look, the last thing we want to do is give people assurance who shouldn't have it. And I'll tell you one thing too, we don't want to assume that because a person is struggling with assurance that that must mean that anything certain one way or another about whether they're a Christian, because you can have people that struggle with assurance and they may be saved; and you may have other people that struggle with assurance and they may not be saved. And listen, as I was thinking through this one of the things that hit me is this: We have two very powerful witnesses. You say, what are you talking about? I'm talking about this. The Holy Spirit is real. The devil is real. And they both can speak to mankind through not these ears, but we have ears that hear. Just think with me. The Spirit. Romans 8:16 says this, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we're children of God." The Holy Spirit comes to true Christians and speaks: "you are a child of God." But guess what else? Scripture says not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. This first witness that I'm talking about - listen - listen to what's being said. He can be grieved. What happens when that happens? If you're a child of God and you grieve the Spirit of God, the Spirit of God - in another place it says "quench." His energy, His witness bearing - you'll throw a cup of water on it. You quench it. So one witness - the Spirit - can be grieved into silence. No longer asserting that reality, asserting that truth. Thus, obviously, creating distress in true believers. I've seen this repeatedly. Very often when true Christians are most struggling - not always, but oftentimes, they're struggling with assurance when they've allowed sin into their life and they've grieved the Spirit. But see, that's one reality. There's this witness. You may have somebody struggling with assurance, and that's the reason why. They've grieved the Spirit of God, grieved Him into silence. But look, the same witness can on the other hand speak to the deceived believer. You say, what do you mean? I mean the person who thinks they're saved and they're not. What does the Spirit do to lost people? Well, we have that in John 16, that "when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment." So someone who's not saved, but wants desperately to think that they're saved, they may be experiencing the convicting power of the Spirit of God. You may have somebody who as much as they're writing to I'll Be Honest looking for somebody to try to convince them they're saved, the reason that they can never come to assurance is because the Spirit is speaking to them saying "you're not one of the children of God." "You're not one of the children of God." And He is speaking to them, convicting them of sin, and convicting them in their conscience that things are not well. And they're kicking against that. They don't want to believe it. (incomplete thought) They don't want to believe it. They don't want to hear that, but that's the reason they're not at rest. So my point is this, the Spirit can go quiet with a Christian and cause distress, and the Spirit can very much do what the Spirit does in the life of a false believer and create unrest. But, then there's a second witness. And this one is a liar. And so he is very much in the business of telling the true Christian he's not saved and telling the deceived person that everything is okay. He's right there to tell all these many people. And you say, well, you know, which one's more powerful? Obviously, the Spirit's more powerful. But I'll tell you this, if you grieve Him, you quench Him, you're going to give place to the devil to come in and he's going to come in with his lies and now you're a sitting duck. And then, you know what, you have people who they're not under conviction. They're like these many people, they're just certain. And what happened? Well, whatever Spirit probings and proddings and convictions that ever came, they just harden themselves against it and they went out until finally the Spirit was quiet. And when the Spirit's quiet, it's just free reign for the devil. He'll be right there: "Everything's okay. Everything's okay. Everything's okay." He'll just put you to sleep. "You're fine. You're fine. Just believe you're a Christian. Believe it." And many wake up only when it's too late. So, the Spirit - silent in the life of a lost sinner. The devil's going to come in and he's a liar. He's a liar, and you know what Jesus said about him? Jesus specifically said - He called him - he was a murderer from the beginning. Do you know the kind of lies the devil tells you? Do you know why so many are deceived? Look, his murder weapons are lies. However he communicates to us, however he whispers into our ears and it goes down into our sense of well-being, our sense of security. Believe this, he means to kill you. And many who are in the churches are going to be murdered by his lies. That's the reality. He's a murderer from the beginning. He's the father of lies. If there's anything he wants lost people to believe, it's that they're okay. If there's any place - the best place, the safest place for the devil to get anybody as believing they're saved when they're not - because if you believe you're saved when you're not, you don't go looking to be saved. He's got you in the most secure holding tank he can have you in. There's only one hope. There's only one hope. And that's that God would speak, that you would be exposed to Scripture, that you would wake up. That you would be exposed to such preaching that you would wake up. But if you don't wake up, you'll wake up on that day. And that day, "many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord...'" They were assured. But they were assured of something that wasn't true. Just because somebody's assured of something doesn't make it true. You can be absolutely convinced it's not going to rain tomorrow, or absolutely convinced that you have tomorrow to live; absolutely convinced that when you die you're going straight to Heaven. But I'll tell you what, if you're wrong, it doesn't matter how convinced you are. You're wrong. And if you're wrong about this, you're wrong. It doesn't get worse than that. So, I just want us to think for a second about legitimate assurance. Legitimate assurance from Scripture. I've got three sections here of these. It's about 9:00. The first is objective promises. By objective promises, I mean this, if God tells me something - if God tells me something and I believe that, that is faith. But we need to be aware of this, that when I really believe something, it's going to be backed by a conviction that's going to be demonstrable in my life. If somebody says they believe something, it will affect what they do, the decisions they make, how they live their life. There's no getting around that. If you're not willing to throw yourself on top of these promises to where they're either going to hold you up or you're going to crash and burn, you'll go to hell. I mean, that's where my hope is. My hope is entirely in Jesus Christ. If He doesn't save me, I'm going to hell. All my eggs are in one basket here, folks. Because I am convinced He's the only way. But you see, if you've got a backup plan, no good. Or, if your plan in the beginning is: well, I think I've been a pretty good person, or anything like that. But we've got these objective promises. I want you to hear them. Let's turn to Hebrews. Chapter 3. So Hebrews 3:6 I think is a very applicable verse because just read it with me. I think you'll see that it is. "Christ is faithful over God's house as a Son." Now notice this. This is what's key. "We are His house." What does that mean? We are Christ's dwelling place. We're a true Christian. "If..." - that's essential. Your assurance can ride on "if's" like this. It's an objective promise. What I mean by objective is you can stand back and look at this promise outside of yourself. Here's this promise: "We are God's house if indeed we..." now that becomes subjective at that point. It's got to do with us holding fast, but notice this. "If indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope." What's that? Confidence, boasting, hope. I'll tell you what it means. It means this: My hope in the future of Heaven is based on my confidence in Jesus Christ and Him alone - that's where my boasting is. It's not in anything of the flesh. My boasting is in the fact that He has saved me. He keeps me. His blood was shed. His merit. His righteous life. My hope is there. If our boasting, our hope, stays there, it stays glued in Jesus Christ... And look, I can say this, I know that the wicked, one of the things that's true about them is they don't acknowledge the Lord and they don't call on the Lord. I know, I have a sense in my own soul of just a longing, a need for Him. My hope is there. My boasting is there. If you were to ask what my hope is of Heaven, it's what He has done. It's His death. I don't have any hope in my own righteousness. Not any of it. And it rests there. Or you go to Hebrews 3:14. Again, we have one of these "if" statements. "We have come to share in Christ if..." Again, this is a text that you can hang your assurance on. "...we hold fast our original confidence firm to the end." Again, it's the same kind of words. Confidence. Firm to the end. What is our confidence? I mean, James and I, we've interviewed - different of us, we've interviewed people at different times and it's amazing. You talk to people. "Well, you know, I was baptized." Or they have a sense, they go to church. Or they have a sense that they haven't been that bad. Oh, they're sinners, but they're not that bad. You talk to people and you get an idea that there's something that they've done, something they've been healed some way, they feel like they had a supernatural experience with God, He spoke to them, they heard Him audibly. It's amazing how many people have something to say other than the fact that aside from Christ, I don't have any hope. Hebrews 2:1. If you go there, Hebrews 2:1 is such an amazing verse. "Therefore, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard lest we drift away from it." You see, this is the thing that he's been talking about: holding our original confidence. Hold fast our confidence and our boasting and our hope. What is this? Well, Hebrews 2:1, the "therefore" is coming right after all of Hebrews 1. What was said in Hebrews 1? Look at Hebrews 1. Where is the boast? Where is the hope? Where is the confidence? Where is it? Look at chapter 1. Here's Christ. In former days, the prophets spoke to us, but now God is speaking to us by way of His Son, and he tells us it was through the Son that He's created everything, and it's by the Son that everything is held together. And he's talking about how He is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature. He talks about the reality that He made purification for sins and He sat down. He's got glory way beyond any of the angels. This is where all of our hope is. God the Father has said things to Christ that He never said to the angels. They're ministering spirits. Christ - He is the Son. He calls Him "God." He calls Him "Lord." The realities in all of this - now, listen. I'm talking about objective realities here because listen - listen very carefully. . Unbelievers. "In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers." Remember the liar we were talking about? The father of lies who murders souls? How does he do it? . "The god of this world..." that's the devil. He blinds the minds of unbelievers. What does that mean to blind the mind? It means that they can't see the truth. They believe a lie. "...To keep them from seeing," - notice what he keeps them from seeing. "...The light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God." If you go to verse 6, "For God who said 'let light shine out of darkness,' has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." We're talking on the first heading here of assurance. Listen, what am I getting at? Your faith doesn't drift. You stay confident, boasting in the original hope. What am I talking about? It's this "seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God." Or, it's "having shown in our hearts to get the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Do you realize what faith is? Faith is being grabbed by an image of Christ, by a beholding of Christ, where you see Him altogether glorious and beautiful and necessary and precious and that if you don't have Him you die. What Scripture talks about is the person who finds this treasure and they go and sell everything that they might have this treasure. People who are cheap, people who talk Christ and then they'll go out and run off back to the world, and they'll talk this way out of this side of their mouth, but as soon as the Christians aren't looking anymore, they're over here gossiping; they're over here telling lies; they're over here looking at the smut. Look, what that says is they haven't really been exposed to the beauty and to the glory. When you hear, when you read what God has done for sinners in the cross, in Christ, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, what happens is this appears so necessary and so precious. What He did on that cross becomes so glorious. When I was lost, there were a thousand things that were more glorious than that. But when you have true faith, there is nothing more glorious than that. And if you're just listening to this right now and you cannot relate to that, you're not saved. Plain and simple. Why? Because, what it tells me is the god of this world still has your mind blinded. Because when the blinders come off, you behold the glory in Jesus Christ, that's insurmountable. That's just a reality. I mean look for faith to be real. You read it right here in 2 Corinthians 4:4-6. For your faith to be real, there has got to be a supernatural coming of God into your life in such a manner that He shines into your spiritual eyeballs this glory of Christ. That's what it says. That's exactly what it says. The devil keeps people from seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. How? He blinds the minds of unbelievers. You have to hear what he's saying. The same God who in the beginning said, "Let there be light" - was that miraculous? Was that fantastic? Was that creational? He said, "Let there be light," when there was no light, and there was light. And the same God that said that and brought light into this universe is the same God that looks at a dead sinner and cuts through all the deceptions of the devil and the god of this world blinding their eyes. He cuts right through it and He says, "Let their be light," and that light shines right through all those deceptions of the devil. And the lights go on and suddenly, bang! The mind of the unbeliever is no longer kept in that darkness. Suddenly, the light shines in. You see, Jesus Christ is altogether glorious. The reason that the lost in this world don't know that is not because He's not, and all of a sudden He becomes glorious and then they say, oh, He just became glorious. No, that's not true. He was glorious the whole time. The problem was they were blind and they were dead. That's the issue. Look, the thing is there are many people who think that they're saved and they are not because they've never come to see the glory and the power and the beauty and the preciousness of Christ. These people just believe on typically one basis. You come across this all the time. They're scared to death of hell. They don't see any beauty in Christ, but they will fight to keep up their sense of assurance. They will fight, because if they lay it down, then they know they're going to hell. It's the craziest thing. Their fight for assurance - it's like they feel protected for now, but it's not a safe place to hide. Look, one of the things Christ saves us from - remember, catch this - one of the things that Christ saves us from is low views of Himself. That is something to be saved from, not just from hell. I'll just be quite frank with you. When I listen to somebody's testimony and they don't mention Christ in it, not so good. Anyway, this would be just the objective promises. This is what God does. And if I can look and say, look, this is what God says He's going to do, and I look at my life and I see my trust is there, my hope is there, Christ has become altogether glorious like this, but let me take you to another thing. There is the subjective witness. I talked to you before about there being two witnesses. Well, let's think about the first one. We looked at the text. Romans 8:15 -17. I want to give you a little bit more context. "For you did not receive..." This is Romans 8:15. "...You did not receive the spirit of slavery." If a person is a true Christian, they've received the Spirit, but it's not the spirit of slavery. It's the Spirit of adoption. And what happens? There's a cry that comes out of the children of God, "Abba, Father." "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we're children of God." Now catch that. "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we're children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him." Or if you turn back a couple of chapters to Romans 5:5. Go partway through that verse. "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Kind of the same truth. I call that the subjective witness. What that is is the Spirit of God is actively communicating with us that we're children of God. And I think one thing to really understand is that Jesus Christ said that when the Spirit comes, "He will glorify Me." The Spirit bears witness with our spirit when our eyes are on Christ. When you're looking at the cross, when you're looking at the sacrifice for sinners, it is typically in singing about Christ, it is typically in thinking about His atoning sacrifice, substitutionary work, meditating, singing, contemplating, reading... so often, that is the environment where the Spirit of God comes in and just speaks in words that only God's children know. Those that aren't truly God's children, oh yeah, the devil's right there all the time saying, "yeah, it's good; it's good; it's good." The Spirit and the devil have different voices. But know this, that you don't want to separate this reality - because Scripture says test the spirits - because the devil comes trying to speak as much like the Holy Spirit as he possibly can. So much so that sometimes even God's children can be confused by the voices. See, you want to test spirits, and the way to test those spirits is make sure that the other things are genuine as well. Have you had to you a sense of your faith locked into the promises - the objective promises? Do you see this glory in Jesus Christ? Then I want to go to the third and that's a subjective transformation. You say, what do you mean there? Well, if you're in Romans 5:5, go back a little bit. Romans 5:3. "Not only that..." what he was talking about before. "...But we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." What's all that mean? It means this: When you go through tribulation: "We rejoice in our sufferings..." Why would we rejoice in our sufferings? Because our sufferings ultimately bring us assurance. You say really? How? When you go through tribulation, what happens? Anytime you go through tribulation, your faith gets tested. Because what are you tested to do? Are you going to trust the Lord or not trust the Lord? Are you going to trust the Lord or are you going to murmur, complain? That's where we're tested. Are you going to trust the Lord? Or are you going to devise your own way out? Your faith gets tested. But here's the thing, when your faith gets tested and you persevere - you see that there? "Suffering produces endurance." When you endure, when you persevere, what happens then? I'll tell you what happens. You personally get a sense of hey, I'm real. You get a sense of authenticity, don't you? Because what happens is you recognize there's a promise in Scripture that says that we're kept by the power of God through faith. And when I see that my faith can be put in the fires, and I endure it and I come out the other side still with my whole confidence in the Lord. Our faith gets tried like that. And it comes through unscathed? It proves that we're genuine. It proves that you're real and not a fake. Not a hypocrite. It proves that you're not like the people that when the sun came out and they suffered persecution and they fell away, it's like, hey, the persecution came or the trial and tribulation came and God brought me through it. I didn't fall away. I didn't give up. I mean, that gives you - you see what it says there. It says it produces character. (incomplete thought) You know you look, and it's like, hey, I endured this and my faith kept trusting Christ. I didn't complain. It's producing maturity. It's producing the ability to withstand these things. It's maturing me. And it says that produces hope. Well, how does that produce hope? Well, it produces hope because I look at the whole thing and I feel like I'm making it through. And God's keeping me. God's holding me up. And then he takes us even further and he says, "Hope does not put us to shame." He says we go through and we endure this and now we have this hope because we've withstood this and he says that doesn't put us to shame because then what happens is God comes along and He sheds abroad, He pours into our hearts God's love through the Holy Spirit. You go through these things and you have this hope. I'm not a hypocrite. I'm not perfect and I have failures, but God comes along and He not only gives us all the hope that comes with our enduring through these things and the character that's built and the hope that we get from remaining steadfast, but then on top of all that, the Spirit comes in and we kind of circle back to the subjective witness and there's subjective witness on top of all this. There's this confidence. But again, coming back to this subjective transformation, you have verses in Scripture. Look, "We know that we've passed out of death into life." this is 1 John 3:14. "We know that we have... because we love the brothers." "Whoever does not love abides in death." You show me people that claim to be a Christian and all they do is take - they don't serve others in the church, they don't care about others in the church, all they care about is themselves and getting their own way - what does it say? "Whoever does not love abides in death." You can talk the best talk. You can claim up and down, you can hold your breath until you're blue in the face trying to convince everybody around you that you're a Christian and that you've got genuine assurance and it's good and you're good and you believe and you're a true believer. But I can tell you this, if you don't care about other people, you're not willing to make any sacrifices for other people, you're going to get cast away. Lawlessness. You know what the fulfilling of the law is? Love. That doesn't mean everybody's spongy, mushy, sentimental. Sometimes love is having to say the hardest things to the most difficult people because it's true and it's the safest thing you can do for them. Or 1 John 2:3. "By this we know that we have come to know Him..." See, these are verses of assurance based on our subjective transformation. "...If we keep His commandments." You've got people running around claiming to be Christians. They don't know what His commandments are, let alone are they keeping them. Jesus said that. The wise man - he hears and does. The foolish man hears and does not do. You know, again, I'll bring this up. Craig was preaching two weeks ago or something and he said that while he was preaching from Colossians 3, somebody was sitting out in the audience shaking their head. He's preaching God's Word. They're out there shaking their head. What's that? I mean, that's a person who doesn't keep His commandments and really has no regard for His commandments; in fact, is openly antagonistic to His commandments. People like that should have no hope whatsoever that their present circumstance is safe. It's not safe. - very well known. "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life." And I think what he's saying is not just you may know because you believe. I think what he's saying is this: I have just gotten done writing the entire letter of 1 John to you who believe, and I'm giving you this letter so that you might know you're genuine. I'll guarantee you this. To every person in this room, if you honestly will examine your life by 1 John, you will know if you're saved or not. But only if you're honest. The problem is that if you are an unbeliever and the god of this world has blinded your eyes, he'll lie to you. "Oh yeah, you've done that." "You've done that." I remember when I was lost and I asked my mom: "Mom, how do I get to heaven?" You know the good Catholic answer: "Keep the commandments." So I thought, oh, I don't even know what the commandments are. Let me go to the family Bible and look up the 10 Commandments. So I went to Exodus. I found it. I went down through them. I probably convinced myself that I kept seven of the 10. Why? Because I was deceived. But you know this, I have found that people who seek for the truth, they find it. If people really want to know the truth and they'll seek the Lord - because Scripture says ask and you will receive. And I have found that people that deal honestly with God and they really want to know, God will show them. God loves to conceal a matter, Scripture says, but you know that as much as He loves to conceal a matter, it's not so that it may never be found out. But He does desire that people put forth some measure of true interest to actually find the truth. If you put forth effort to find it, you will find it. If you appraoch 1 John, just know this, it was written primarily for the sake of giving believers assurance. But at the same time, it can reveal unbelievers. The primary reason is to take Christians who may actually struggle with assurance, and it's meant to give them assurance. That's one of the classic places to take John. It's meant to give assurance. And you see, that is God-given. Send them to the Word prayerfully. But I can tell you, a lot of the people struggling, they don't want to do that. They don't want that. (incomplete thought) It's almost like they put very little stock oftentimes in anything in God's Word. It's like they want to go from one person to the next person to the next person. It's almost like they're looking for an answer that they have never yet heard that they think is going to be like the magic formula. But, assurance, being certain we're saved, well you can know this: True salvation looks a lot different from false salvation. And God is the one that knows what they look like more than anyone else, and He describes these things for us. And if one book in the New Testament has actually been written so that believers might know that they're saved, you have to know that it also is going to do the opposite. It's going to reveal those who aren't. That's the place to go. If you have any concerns about your soul, go to that book as if your soul depends on it because it does. Because if you're wrong, you're wrong for you. You're not wrong for me. You're not wrong for James. You're not wrong for the person sitting beside you. You're wrong for you. And if you lose your soul, it's gone. If you wake up on that morning, and you hear those words, no amount of tears, no amount of sighs, crying, weeping, wailing is going to evoke the slightest mercy from Christ in that day. He stands as the slain Lamb of God now offering Himself to all who will come and take Him as their only hope, their only boast, the only way of salvation. He offers Himself freely to those who will come to Him and drink. In that day, there's no mercy. No mercy for those who had false assurance, because your assurance will not save you. If you get to that day, and you built your life on a false assurance, and Christ says, "Depart," you're undone. There's nobody going to save you then. Because the only one who ever could save you is now your Judge and you're being told from His very lips the whole thing was a sham. And you were a worker of lawlessness. And if you really would have examined your life, you would have known it. You tried to convince yourself you could get to Heaven even though you drank of your sin freely. You chose your sin over Christ. Now Judgment Day has come and you're undone. Father, I pray, I pray, Lord... Lord, just these realities. The reality that when the sinner is saved, the glory of Christ in the Gospel, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ - there's a beauty, there's a preciousness, there's a glory that is unleashed upon the saved sinner. Lord, I know, that's something that those of us in this room, we have an idea whether anything like that has happened or not. When we went from seeing Christ as little, as nothing, or worse than nothing - a curse word - seeing Him small; to having Him burst in upon our minds and our hearts with such magnificence. Certainly, everyone in this room knows if that's happened or not. They know if Christ went from being an unprecious thing, an unnecessary thing to all of a sudden becoming altogether desirable, altogether necessary, altogether the only hope of the sinner. The transformed life, new creations. Undoubtedly, that's true. Latching on to the confidence that's in Christ. Latching on to the confidence of what He's accomplished on the cross. Certainly, we know if that's our only hope, if we can't be moved from it no matter what trials should come; no matter if our very lives were threatened. Lord, I pray that there would be such a great revival as to blow away so much of the false assurance and to bring salvation to many that struggle with assurance, and they struggle with it because they don't have salvation. Lord, I pray that we might be shown a measure of mercy so that the many relative to the few might be greatly reduced, that we might see a much increased percentage of people in our day, in our generation, in our city who would not fall into that miserable group of people - the many who will be told to depart. Bring revival, Lord. Sweep many into the Kingdom that in our generation, there might not be so many. Please Lord, we pray this in Christ's name, Amen.