I Tried to be Saved, but it Didn’t Work

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Category: Full Sermons

You can turn to 2 Corinthians 4:4. I’m not going to actually personally read it for a few minutes. This isn’t really the text I want to preach from. But it will be somewhat of a springboard. Now listen, I received a phone call Friday. I received a phone call that was absolutely pathetic. I mean by that just that it was heartbreaking to me. A young lady called and she says, “I want to be saved.” She literally sobbed for twenty minutes. She wept just nigh unto the entire time. At times I couldn’t understand her words. She was sobbing so profusely. It was just enough to break my heart. And here is what I got in the midst of what she was telling me. “I want to be saved, but I just don’t think I have enough desire to be saved.” In her broken words and in the sobs, I could pick up, “Pastor, what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to ask God for more desire?” You know, I got off the phone with her and I began to think about conversations that I have had with some of you, some of the people that are visiting this church, some of the people that have been visiting the Bible study. I began to think about some of the emails that I have been receiving over the last several weeks. (incomplete thought) I’m receiving these things all the time, but just three from recently. I want you to hear what people are coming at me with. “Pastor Tim, I’ve got a question. My question is this: I’ve heard your testimony along with other testimonies – Paul Washer’s for example – on how you guys got saved after you guys were at the lowest points in your lives. My question is this, in order to be genuinely saved, must you be at the lowest part of your life in order to experience something from God that leads to saving faith? Or can anyone come to saving faith after hearing the Gospel? Here’s my thing, I’ve come under conviction, but never a tearful event. Sorrowful? Yes, but it hasn’t been tearful. But to get to the main point, can someone be saved just by hearing the Gospel and being convicted which can lead to faith which leads to repentance and Christ? Or must they be at the lowest point in their life in order to be saved? Would I be saved without actually being broken down, but just by hearing the Gospel and knowing the truth?” Another man comes to me and says, “You said that Jesus said, ‘My sheep hear My voice.’ So how do I know if I’m hearing His voice? Is there some emotional aspect to it? I was raised in the church, but I’ve lived in habitual sin for many years; never placed my faith in Christ. I understand your message that we need to repent from our sins and turn to Jesus, believe in Him, surrender our lives to Him, but I feel at the core of my heart, my desire is to live the way I want to. How can I change my heart? Is repentance something that we do in spite of our feelings and desires? I don’t want to go to hell. But I feel my heart is so hard against God. When I try to repent as you taught us in the video, renouncing sin, believing that my sins are forgiven in Christ, I don’t feel any change in my heart. On the contrary, I sometimes feel that I really want to go back to my old way of just living for myself. Am I in a hopeless situation where it’s impossible to truly repent like Hebrews 6 talks about? Or am I simply placing too much emphasis on emotions?” Still a third man writes this: “I want to be saved. I’m commanded to repent and believe, but I can’t. Because as you said in one of your sermons the monkey is holding on to his nut.” And he’s alluding to that message that I preached where I was speaking about sinners not being saved because they won’t let go of the sin. He says, “Now in order to drop the nut, I need to seek Christ by faith and fall on Him. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8, ‘For by grace you are saved through faith, that not of yourselves; it’s the gift of God…’ So this faith that will allow me to repent is a gift from God and it’s nothing that I can produce which seems to mean that this faith that is a gift in Ephesians is given to whoever God wants to give it and it doesn’t matter how much they want it or try to get it, so at the end of the day, I know I don’t have this faith. I don’t even know if I’ll ever be given it. But I do know that based on the Gospel that Christ is merciful and that He did not turn a single person down who asked for mercy or healing, so my question is what now? I can’t drum up the faith needed. I know that. So how do I live my life until hopefully I get given this faith? What must I do?” I was speaking to my wife a week or so ago. I asked her, Ruby, what’s the problem? Is our Gospel not clear enough? Are we not preaching it purely enough? Why does it seem we have so many people under conviction? They’re concerned about their souls. They’re declaring they want to be saved, but they’re not coming through. We’ve been getting people on a regular basis. I get them in email. James gets them in email. I get the phone calls. We get them at the Bible study. We find them on the campuses. We get them coming to the church here. It’s the same thing over and over and over. The same kind of questions. “I want to be saved, but I don’t know how.” “Do I need more repentance?” “Is that my problem?” “Do I need more faith?” “Do I need more sorrow?” “Do I need more desire?” “Do I need to come to the end of myself?” “Is that what I need?” “Do I need to feel it more?” “Do I need more emotion?” “Do I need more feeling?” “Do I need more sense of my sin?” “Do I need to just be more patient and just wait longer for God to hopefully maybe come along and just kind of – poof – give me that faith that I need?” What’s missing? It seems to me that there’s labor pains, but so often few children are coming forth. How much sorrow do you need to be saved? How much repentance do we need to be saved? How much desire do we need? How much thirst? How much do we need to come to the end of ourselves? How much or little of anything must we have to be saved? Brethren, you’re right there in 2 Corinthians 4:4. (incomplete thought) Brethren, there is only one thing. If you have any concern about your soul, any conviction over sin, there is only one thing the devil does not want you to see or be consumed with when you’re concerned about your eternal welfare. That one thing is a Person and that Person is the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Look at the text. (2 Corinthians 4:4) “In their case…” and that’s speaking about the lost. “…the god of this world…” that old serpent, the father of lies, he’s “blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel.” And what is the light of the Gospel? It’s the glory of Christ “who is the image of God.” The light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ. It is a Gospel of the glory of Christ. The good news has to do with the glory of Christ. The god of this world will gladly have you consumed with everything but Christ. He will come along as you come under conviction, and whisper, “but are you sorrowing enough?” “Have you repented enough?” You see what he’s wanting to do is take you immediately off of Christ. Don’t look there. That’s the one place. “Wait a second… you need to look over at this pastor over here and this guy over here. They both came to the ends of themselves. Have you come to the end of yourself yet?” “Are you burdened enough?” “Are you heavy laden enough?” “Do you have enough desire?” And why would he be glad to have you consumed with those kind of things? For one reason: none of those things are Christ. His purpose is to blind minds and keep them from seeing the glory of Christ that is in the Gospel. Listen to me, Jesus says things like this: “Come unto Me, you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He says things like this: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come. Let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” But do you know what it seems like is happening? People are being blinded to what these Scriptures are actually saying. What are they saying? “Come to Me.” “Come to Me.” But these poor sinners are coming to these verses and all they can see is: labor, heavy laden, thirst, desire. There’s any number of other verses we could go to that speak about mourning and sorrow and repentance and confessing and forsaking, but they’re not seeing Christ. They see something else. What is it they see? What is it that people are looking at? Now think with me, folks. What are people looking at when they ask the question: have I believed enough? Have I repented enough? Have I sorrowed enough? Have I hated my sin enough? Have I the right feelings? Have I sunk low enough? Folks, what are people looking at when that’s the question? They’re looking at themselves. Do you see what I’m saying? (incomplete thought) What would happen if somebody says: hey, why yes, I have repented enough. I did sufficiently come to the end of myself. I did labor enough. I was heavy laden enough. I did thirst enough. What if Christians went around saying that? Why are you here? I’m here because I repented enough. I looked at myself in the mirror. I feared enough. I was heavy laden enough. Do you know what happens when that’s our answer? Christ gets no glory. None. Christ is dishonored. We sang about Immanuel’s land. The bride does not gaze on what is in her. She gazes upon her Bridegroom. Can you imagine getting to Heaven? “Why should we let you in?” You should let me in because I sorrowed enough. Brethren, if you were at the gates of Heaven and you were asked why you should you come in, what should the answer be? Christ! I want Christ! I want in there because that’s where I can see His face. I want Him. He is my All. He is my righteousness. I want Christ. The right answer is not: because I looked at myself. I found that I had sufficiently been brought to the end of myself. That isn’t it. I want in there because of Him. It’s Christ! It’s Christ! It’s Christ! I find Him altogether lovely. He has saved me. He is my righteousness. I want Him! I find Him to be the desire of my heart. I love Him. And you see, that glorifies Christ. And anything else turns the focus away. You know what, as I have been getting these people, I just can’t tell you, if you could have talked to this young lady, just pathetic. But I have told her what I’ve told some of the rest of you, and I keep coming back to this again and again. Levi. A man also known by the name maybe more commonly: Matthew. You can turn in your Bibles now to Luke 5. I am afraid that maybe something is happening in a day and an age when it seems that the doctrine of repentance has been lost. I don’t know if the preachers themselves are guilty of this, or whether rather it’s the hearers who just don’t hear right. But I think in many circles with the resurgence of the emphasis on repentance, we have people missing Christ. Luke 5:27, “After this, (Jesus) He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax booth and He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ And leaving everything, he rose and followed Him.” What sweet simplicity! Jesus Christ says, “Follow Me.” Immediately, just as simply as possible the inspired record tells us here, “And leaving everything, he rose and followed Him.” My friend, Levi did not run over to the mirror and say, “Did I have enough tears on my face?” “Have I sorrowed enough?” He didn’t look to the Roman guard who was no doubt guarding the tax booth and the money there. “You think I’m broken enough to go?” “Jesus, I don’t think I can go. I’m not quite certain I’ve gotten to the end of myself.” Christ would have said: What does that have to do with anything? I’m telling you to follow Me. Away with all that! Come. Levi arose and followed Him. Now listen to me. Jesus says the same to you through me. “Follow Me.” Simplicity. He rose leaving everything behind and he followed Him. Ladies and gentlemen, that is the way of salvation. Christ bids you come right there in your filth, in your depravity, in your sin, in your wretchedness. He says: Come. Leave that behind and come. And you leave it. That’s the way of salvation. He bids you trust Him. You trust Him and come. Trusting Him, you’re saved. Why? Because the Bible says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” Here’s the question I would ask you: How much thirst did Levi need to follow Christ? How much sorrow did he need? How much repentance? How much faith? How much conviction? You know something? The Bible never tells us how much. Why? Because it doesn’t matter how much, as long as how much ever it is brings you to follow Him. Levi didn’t sit and mull over: Now am I elect or not? Should I just kind of sit here and wait for God to come along and give me greater desire? Should I sit here and wait for God to zap me with faith? He didn’t fret about whether he hated his sins enough. He didn’t ponder whether or not he had the right feeling. You know what, we need to be done with looking for signs and feelings, all that sort of stuff, give up those foolish notions. Jesus Christ says, “Come to Me, if you labor and are heavy laden.” The Scriptures purposely don’t tell you how much you have to labor. They don’t tell you how much you have to thirst. They don’t tell you how much you have to be burdened. Why? Because it doesn’t matter! Those things aren’t what matters. Is Christ in your estimation worthy to be followed? Sinner, do you hear His voice? Follow Me. It would be absolutely ridiculous for Levi upon hearing that to start discussing with the Roman soldier about whether he could really go or not, whether he was suitable to go or not, whether he was accurately prepared… What did Levi do? There was Christ. He heard His voice. You can see it in your mind. He stood up out of that chair. He walked from behind his desk. He didn’t say, well, you know what? Lord, let me finish out the last book of my ledgers here. You know, after all, this is the business of Caesar. There’s somebody higher than Caesar and He says, “Come.” And it says he left everything. And you can see it. I don’t think he got up and looked even at the guard. Lord, there’s still a line of people here. I need to really probably take care of these folks. They’re waiting. This will set everything in turmoil here if I just walk away. I think he got up. He was looking at Jesus. He wasn’t even saying: Well, farewell, money piles. I don’t think his eyes probably left Christ. He got up. He came around the table. And he began to follow. He trusted this Man was worthy to be followed. He believed this Man had something to offer him that was better than all this other stuff and he went. A text like John 7:37 comes up. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” The devil races in. He wants to blind us to those words: “Come to Me.” He would have us fix upon the thirst. Somehow, he wants us to trust anything but Christ. And so he would have us fix on anything but Christ. And there are a myriad of things in the Bible that you can be led to fix yourself upon other than Christ. And Satan is a master liar and he is master at taking the very Word of God and sinking people into despair. And I’ll tell you this, you can gaze at yourself for 10,000 years and all it will do is drive you into deeper and deeper despair. Why would somebody call me and weep and wail over the phone? (incomplete thought) Because the despair is in the fact that her eyes have not beheld Christ. She’s been looking at herself. She’s been looking at her own fitness to come. But not at Christ. Listen, faith – the very essence of saving faith is it looks away from self. That’s what it is. You see, we hear things like pride. We look at ourselves: Proud. Okay, what I need to be is lowly. But what does the Apostle Paul do? He says let this mind be in you which is in Christ Jesus. What does he want our eyes fixed upon? Upon Christ. You see, it’s never: Oh, I’m proud. Now I need to work on being lowly or holy or any other thing. Am I that? Am I that? Am I that? But see, faith doesn’t work like that. That isn’t Christianity. Christianity isn’t: Well, I was this way. Now I need to be this way. Gazing, gazing, gazing. Am I that way? Am I that way? Am I that way? Because you see what happens, no matter whether your gaze was here on you or here on you, it’s still on you. And true saving faith looks away from all that. It isn’t: why should we let you into Heaven? Well, because I’ve been lowly, Lord. I wasn’t high-minded. That’s not the right answer. The right answer is always that which looks away from self and it’s upon Christ. That’s what God designed this whole thing about to bring that glory to Christ. That it would all be focused and it all be centered on Him. Listen to me. Let’s imagine I’m out – you know we had all this 100 degree weather. Imagine I was out across the street. Some of you know the fields across from my house, let’s say, I took it upon myself to go out there with the hand mower to try to mow that whole field and I kept thinking to myself I am getting really thirsty. I’m getting dehydrated. I need water. I am just becoming parched. I’m in danger here of suffering from heatstroke. But I keep pushing myself because I think: just a little longer, a little longer, then I’ll go get water. And by that time I can barely walk because I am so dried out from the sun and the heat. I’m so dehydrated, it’s affecting my health. It’s affecting my ability to think. I’m coming to the house and all I can think about is I need to get – nothing else sounds good, nothing else sounds satisfying – I want water. Don’t give me juice. Don’t give me milk. I want water. I am thirsty. I need it. I’m going to drink about 3 or 4 glasses of it before I even slow down. My daughter Joy drinks water all the time. Even today, I’m getting ready to lock the house and she’s like, oh, I’ve got to get the water bottle and she runs and grabs it. If you watch her ever, she’s just drinking all the time. Imagine she was in the house the whole time I was doing that. She was at the table. She’s been drinking. She’s been drinking. She’s been drinking. She’s got the water bottle there. She isn’t hardly thirsty at all. I don’t know why she even wants to drink a lot of the time she drinks. She just drinks and drinks and drinks. And let’s say she’s been drinking and drinking and drinking, and there she is at that table and she’s got that water bottle there and I come flying in the front door and I am just totally parched, totally dried out, totally exhausted, totally in need of water and I run over to that refrigerator and I begin to fill it and I begin to chug it down, and my daughter over there, she reaches over and she grabs that water bottle, and she takes a sip from it. Listen to me! Both of us drank the water! That’s what matters. If my daughter would have suddenly said, oh, I don’t know if I can drink the water. I don’t know if I’m so exasperated and just wore out and thirsty like my dad is. You see, it doesn’t matter! What matters is that you drink the water of life. And whatever reason you go there, I’ve heard some people say before: I went to Christ because I feared hell. I don’t care! The Bible gives such warnings. Christ warns you to escape hell at all costs. Whatever your reason is, whatever your burden is, whatever your thirst is, whatever your level of brokenness is, whatever it is, what matters is not where that is. What do you think? Do you think it’s like your repentance goes to some level and it’s like “Bing!” A bell goes off and now God says, okay, you’ve measured up? Doesn’t that just blow salvation right away? You don’t get saved because of what you measure up to. Is it like I have to become so broken and so to the end of myself and go down so far and then when I hit this certain place, then again, bing! The bell rings. And now I can be saved. Whatever drives you to Christ, coming to Christ is what matters. Christ said he that comes to Me I will not cast out. Here’s what I have to say to you. Think of Christ. Think with me. God – very God of very God lays aside His glory. He comes down to this earth. He adorns Himself with humanity. The Scriptures say in Philippians 2 He humbled Himself. God becomes one of His creatures. He humbled Himself. He became a servant. He humbled Himself all the way to the cross. God manifest in flesh. He would actually come to be born of a woman. He put Himself under the law. He came and in every respect was made like His brethren. He came a Man of Sorrows. They took Him and they fastened Him to the wood. And when you read in Scripture, it says that God struck Him. God wounded Him. By His wounds we’re healed. Let me tell you something. Whatever your sin is, whatever your feelings are, whatever your emotions are, whatever your repentance is… Levi looked. He saw: I want Him. I’m going to follow. I’ll tell you about another man. There’s another man in Scripture. He comes. He even falls down on his knees before Christ. That’s the right way to approach Christ. “What must I do to obtain eternal life?” That is a good question. In fact, that is one of the best questions, if not the best question a man can ask. What must I do? That is the question of the ages. We call him the rich, young ruler. He was young. We’re told he’s a ruler. We’re definitely told he was rich. He asked the Lord Jesus Christ what he must do to obtain eternal life. The right question definitely asked to the right Person. Jesus said, “This one thing you lack, go take all that you have and sell it and give it to the poor and you come, follow Me.” Two men. Both hear the same words. Follow Me. One man says: I need Him. He immediately followed. Something happened right there. There was a very quick calculation in the mind of Levi. I’ve got Christ over here. I’ve got all my stuff. I’ve got my tax business. I’ve got all the proceeds from it. I’ve got all my riches. In his mind he said, “I want Christ.” And he stood up and he walked away. He trusted. He didn’t know where Christ was going to lead him. He didn’t know what Christ was going to ask him to do. But he trusted. I’m going to follow this Man. I’m going to leave it all behind. I’m going to trust myself to Him. I don’t know where He’s taking me, but I’m going to trust wherever it is, it’ll be good. I don’t know what He’s going to tell me to do, but I’m going to trust that He’s going to give me whatever power I need to do it. He’s going to help me. He’s going to guide me. He’s going to be there. He’s going to be my all. I can trust this guy. I’m going. The other guy said, Christ, my stuff… Nope. I don’t want Him. I want eternal life. And I’d follow Him if He’d let me keep my stuff. But I’m not giving it up. One man rises up and follows. One man turns his back and walks away. We don’t hear of him ever again. He’s gone. He walked that abysmal path of the damned. Away he went. The man asked the right question. He asked it to the right Person. Jesus says, “Follow Me.” Same thing He said to Levi. Both men are told the same thing. Follow Me. He doesn’t say: be guided by your emotions. Follow your feelings. Follow your repentance. Trust your repentance. Trust your faith. He says one thing very clearly. He says being saved has everything to do with Me. Follow Me. Folks, think about the absurdity it would have been for either of these men to say I can’t. I can’t. I don’t know if I’m suitable. I don’t know if I’ve repented enough. Can you imagine if they would have said that to Christ? I said follow Me. I didn’t ask you about any condition in yourself. I said follow Me. Now look, the rich young ruler said I’m not going to follow You unless I can have my riches. What are you going to say? Lord, I’m not going to follow You until I feel what I want to feel. Lord, I’m not going to follow You until I experience the kind of coming to the end of myself that I see Paul Washer experience. Is that what you’re going to say? Are you going to give the Lord conditions? He doesn’t come to find any good thing in you. He says be done with all that. What you have to ask yourself is this: Does Christ just perfectly suit you as a Savior? If He does, be done with all that other garbage and follow Him. Is He not sufficient? He came and gave His life on that bloody cross to pardon sinners. Is that not enough? The grave couldn’t hold Him. Why? Couldn’t hold Him. Because sin was paid. The curse was exhausted and the law was satisfied and death couldn’t hold Him. If you look at Him and say to yourself that’s just not sufficient for me, I need that plus a certain level of sorrow in myself. Christ isn’t enough. I must have certain desires, certain feelings. I’ll tell you what, you’re no better off than the rich man who walked away. Because you are in effect saying: Christ isn’t enough. I’ve got to find something in me. I’ll tell you what, Levi heard those words, “Follow Me.” Something just resonated within him. Yes! I want that! I want that! And he rose up and he followed. Do you know something? I am an ambassador of Christ sent to you this very day to bring those very words to you because He says to all men at all times that if you would be one of His disciples you must follow Him. You must take up your cross. You must deny yourself and you must follow Him. And me saying it to you on His authority is as good as any king sending an emissary to you to give you a message from that king. This is a word from Him to you. Follow Him. You say how do I do that? I can’t see Him. If I was there like Levi was, I could understand that. I can see Christ. I could hear Him. I could go. Well, what was it that Levi did? He went where Christ told him to go. He did what Christ told him to do. Christ Himself said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” You know what? I don’t think Levi knew a lot of things, but he just said I’m going to trust Him. If He tells me to do something that I don’t have the resources to do, He’s going to give me the resources to do it. Jesus says this: If you would be His disciple, you will abide in His Word. How do you follow Christ? I tell you, you go to the Word. You believe what He said. You do what He tells you to do. And you look to Him for strength to do it all. Without Him, you can do nothing. But the Apostle Paul believed that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him. It’s simply this, follow Me. What does that look like? It looks like something. Levi stood up out of the chair and left everything behind and he followed Christ. That’s what it looks like. It may look circumstantially different in every one of our lives, but when you boil it down, you’ll be able to say that. They heard His voice and they followed Him. The life of every true Christian will be able to be looked at that way. Christ said follow. They said I want that. And they followed leaving everything behind. That is the way of salvation. It is so simple a child can understand it. John 10:4, the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice. He bids you just this very hour, immediately. When He says follow Me, He doesn’t mean start in a year. He says come. Levi, immediately rose up out of that chair. That rich young man immediately turned his back and said I’ll not take that deal. Oh, the eternal agonies of a man who asked the right question to the right Person and made the deadly decision. I’ll tell you this, the Scripture says in John 1 that you must receive Christ. If you sit when Christ says follow Me and sit and wait for something – you sit there and wait till you figure out whether you’re elect, or you sit there and wait till God gives you adequate faith, or you sit there and wait for repentance, that is the heart of foolishness. If you hear His voice say, “Come,” do you think He’s telling you you can’t really come? That you have to wait? Is that what He’s saying? Wait? He says come. If you hear His voice, come. If you wait, you will perish. What men and women perish? Those who don’t come. What ones are received? Everyone who comes. He bids you come. May God help you. For Christ’s sake may you come. Amen. You’re dismissed.