"Hello. I'm Ollie and I'm 13. I saw Pastor Tim Conway's ten tests of assurance that you're saved and I examined myself. I don't think I qualified. I threw myself on Jesus' mercy, but nothing happened. How do I know I'm saved? How do I know if I have the Holy Spirit? Am I Jesus' sheep? Am I God's child?"
How do we know? I mean, what popped into my mind - we're just going to finish up with this, but 1 Thessalonians 1, I think is a classic text of how we know. There's lots of places. You could go to 1 John. But, 1 Thessalonians... notice verse 4. "For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you." Paul as a man is saying this to other men and women that are at Thessalonica. And he's saying we know you're the elect of God. Really? How? Notice this: "Because our Gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power." In other words, something happened. For the Gospel to come in word only, but without power is what she's experiencing. She said, "I threw myself on Jesus' mercy, but nothing happened. How do I know I'm saved?" Nothing happened. You see what Paul is saying here is we know you're one of the chosen because something did happen. Let's keep going. "Our Gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." So there's conviction. Conviction. God dealing with people over their sins - is it conviction over sin? He doesn't say specifically. But conviction over the fact that Christ is the Savior; conviction over the fact you have no hope anywhere but in Him. But there's conviction. In other words, you become fixed on certain truths that you were not fixed on before. And it happens powerfully. You believe truths with conviction that you did not believe before. And they concern Christ, and sin, and salvation, and the cross. "You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake, and (again, more here, as to how he knows they're the chosen - that they've truly been saved...) You became imitators of us and of the Lord." So people's lives begin to conform to the Lord. "For you received the Word in much affliction, (You were willing to endure persecution for the sake of the truth,) with the joy of the Holy Spirit." So now there's a joy. There's a joy that accompanies - a joy of salvation. "So that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the Word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia..." In other words, they're acknowledging the Lord. "But your faith in God has gone forth everywhere so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had." Now here he's saying it again. In other words... Here's the report: "...concerning us the kind of reception we had among you." Well, what kind of reception? Well, he's obviously saying it was a good one. So good that we know that you're chosen. He says, "you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and wait for His Son from Heaven Whom He raised from the dead, Jesus Who delivers us from the wrath to come." So you can see how he knows in this. Basically, they turned from their idols. There's conviction. It doesn't just say, like I said, not just conviction of sin. (Incomplete thought) Listen, that's one of the things that definitely marks people who get saved. They suddenly become very strongly convinced about certain truths. Truths that have to do with Christ. Truths that have to do with the cross. Truths that have to do with the things Christ said, with truths, with promises that come out of Scripture. I mean with conviction. With strength, with will. There's a holding forth of truth. There's conviction. There's a letting go of idols to serve the living God. There's this exchange: God for the idol. Or the idol for God, rather. But there's this exchange. The Word sounds forth. This is what he's saying. I know that there's reality because these things were evident. I know you're chosen of God because this is true. Your faith's sounding forth. I mean, he's confident for a reason. And I would say to somebody like Ollie that you know, she's saying, nothing happened. And so she can go and she can look and read what I just read there from 1 Thessalonians and she can say, well, that's nice and everything, but all that does is convince me all the more that when I threw myself on Jesus' mercy, nothing happened. And so if I threw myself on Jesus' mercy and nothing happened, what am I supposed to do now? It's like a guy said to me, if you tell me throw yourself on His mercy and I already did that - I mean, I've tried that and it doesn't work. But we know this... we always know this: Scripture says that if you seek Him you'll find Him. And so, if I've asked and I don't receive, then the problem is something's wrong on my part. Any of you remember hearing the Paul Washer message? I don't know which one it is. But, I remember where I was driving when I heard it. I was right over here by Coca-Cola. But he's telling about this woman that he was dealing with who said that she had been calling upon the Lord and nothing was happening. And she came to Paul. Anybody remember the answer he gave her? (from the room) Doesn't he say something like, well, I guess you're going to go to hell then? Tim: Yeah, he said, you can quit calling on Him... and go to hell. Or you can keep calling until you find Him. And she did the second. And she found Him. I guess, what I think of, I think of two of the most staunch pursuers of the Lord. Just recently, I brought up blind Bartimaeus. But the Syrophoenician woman and blind Bartimaeus. I think of both of them because blind Bartimaeus, they told him to be quiet. He cried out: "Son of David!" And they said, "Be quiet!" And he cried all the louder. Or the Syrophoenician woman - you remember that account. The disciples said, "Lord, tell her to be quiet." And she just kept going. And He said, "It's not appropriate to give the children's food to the dogs." And she kept going. You think about prayer. It doesn't just say ask. It says seek. It doesn't just say seek, it says knock. And you know what that's in the context of? It's in the context of the man who went to his friend's house at midnight looking for bread. Importunity. And I think that's what you have to say to somebody. If somebody says I tried that and it didn't work, I mean, look... I think sometimes God tests people. There's lots of people who they called out and cried out and God didn't answer immediately. He didn't answer the very first time. Obviously, if the Syrophoenician woman would have said something the first time and the disciples would have said, tell her to be quiet, and she'd have just hit the road, she would not have gotten what she came for. And if she would have kept going, and the Lord said, look, it's not appropriate to give you what you're asking for. She would have hit the road. She didn't. You know what her faith told her? This is the only One that can help me and I'm not leaving till I get helped. But that right there is faith. It's believing Christ is the only hope that I have. Christ is the only Savior. Christ is my only help. I'm going to be like blind Bartimaeus. You can tell me to shut up. The devil can come and tell me to shut up. He doesn't want anything to do with me. He's trying to quiet me down. He doesn't want me to cry out to the Lord. He can tell me all this. He can tell me He's a cruel taskmaster. He can tell me I've sinned too greatly, and He's not going to hear me. He can tell me I'm one of the dogs. He can tell me I'm not fit, I'm not this, I'm not that, I'm not this other thing, He doesn't want anything to do with me, but I'll tell you in Scripture, what Scripture says, He says, "Come unto Me." He says, "I will give you rest." He says, "If you seek Me, you will find Me." He says, "If you're thirsty, I will give you to drink." And you go. And you go, and you go like blind Bartimaeus. You go and you keep going and you keep crying. And you're like the Syrophoenician woman. You don't give up. You keep pressing. You keep pressing. You keep pressing and you don't go away. You're like the man who went and he sought that bread late at night and importunity. He kept asking. He kept asking. He kept asking. That's put in the Scripture for a reason. And that has to do with how we deal with God. What we want to do is we want to press people. Are you so easily going to be put off? You're talking about your soul here, and you what? Cast yourself on the mercy of Christ one time and nothing happened? And what, you're going to throw in the towel now? I mean, one of the things, if people are dead serious, they're going to give their attention to finding Christ no matter what. And they are going to plead, and they are going to cry out, and they are going to seek Him until they find Him. You know what? Somebody that cries out and says, "Lord, save me. I don't want to go to hell." And then the next thing you know, minutes later, they're sitting down watching a movie, and they've got a drink in hand and they're eating a bag of chips, and they're texting their friends... what's that? I don't know whether that's what she's doing, but I'm talking this, if our souls are at stake, we need to seek Christ till we find Him. We need to give Him no rest until we know it's well with our soul. There are way too many people that are too easily put off in seeking the Lord. There needs to be a seeking of the Lord until you find Him. And the thing is, Scripture promises that if you seek Him, you will find Him. I think the people that say that they seek Him and they don't find Him, the reality is they're not really seeking Him. They're not intent. They're not like the Syrophoenician woman. Why? Because it's not that urgent to them. Because what they believe is not really what they ought to be believing. They ought to be believing He's their only hope. Now is the time of salvation. I may be dead tomorrow. I need to find Him. I need to get Him. My only hope is there. I'm like blind Bartimaeus. This is my only hope to see! If He gets away, I'm undone here. Lord! Lord! Help me! And you're going to cry out. And when they said, He's beckoning you! He cast off his garment, and he went - can you imagine the man is blind. It's not like Jesus came to him. He's blind. He says the Master calls you. It's like he's got to go somewhere. Can you imagine this? I mean, he's dropping his stuff. (Incomplete thought) You know, the ears of a blind man are very in tune. He probably had some idea in which direction he was. He didn't care what he ran into. He's just got to get to Christ. If I can only get to Him. I think there's too many people who claim that they're seeking. They're so easily put off. They're not really seeking. It's a trivial matter. They're afraid of hell and they get afraid of something. They watch something. If we say we cast ourselves on the mercy of the Lord and nothing happens, do you know what you do? You keep crying out like that tax collector, God, be merciful to me, a sinner. You keep crying out like blind Bartimaeus. You keep crying out like the Syrophoenician woman. Lord! Lord, I need You. Lord, I know I'm not worthy to be saved. I know I'm one of the dogs. I know I've done this, Lord.... I've done this. I've done that. I've done the other thing. But I'm blind, Lord, and if You don't get me sight, I'm not going to see. And if You don't save me, I'm unsaved. And you keep crying out. And you do exactly what Paul Washer told that woman. And you give Him no rest. You give Him no rest. What are you going to do? Are you going to give up? Are you give up when this has to do with your soul? Are you just going to give up and say oh well, He's not saving me? Are you going to give up when He's promised when you seek Him, you'll find Him? Look, if I told you, if you go back in the yard and you seek after that thing that I've put back there, and you go back there and you come back in after 5 minutes and you say, "I can't find it." Well, listen, I told you that if you go back there and you look for it you'll find it. (Incomplete thought) What do you mean by that? (from the room) Meaning, willing to give up your idols. They don't work for you anymore. It's not enough. It's not doing anything for you anymore. You've tried everything. And you need the Lord. You've seen it with your own eyes. You've heard it. You've witnessed it. (man from the room) I guess I've just noticed - well, you did mention in the beginning some of these had a common theme. But I guess as I hear them and then you mentioned about how many emails that you get from that. I can't really put my finger on it, but there's just something odd about that dynamic, because when I read a parable like the treasure hidden in the field, it's like it should just click, but it's almost bizarre just the self-introspection or just looking at self much, but that's always struck me as odd because I wonder if something's off on their view of God, and that He's willing that none should perish and He does bid people to come to Him. But there's almost like this overthinking of it or a carnal way of thinking of it, but it's like people come under conviction and it's hard for me to describe. Tim: In Isaiah 55, you have seeking the Lord. We're called upon to seek the Lord while He may be found. Calling upon the Lord while He's near. And then, do you know what it says after that? Let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. That's it right there. The unrighteous man has thoughts that need to be abandoned. Because remember, they don't love the truth. They love a lie. Lost people are called unbelievers. Not because they don't believe anything. It's because they don't believe the right thing. What happens is there's a flaw. There's different cases. You can get people who are confronted by the facts like the rich, young ruler. And it's all put out on the table. It's like - what was your name? Lauren. Lauren's talking about the idols. You get the rich, young ruler. It's all been put out on the table. And there's no bargaining. This is unconditional surrender that Christ brings to the table. You know how many times Japan and Germany wanted to end the conflict? They just didn't want to do it unconditionally. They wanted to do it on their conditions. That's just like all of us. We're so like that. We want to be saved the way we want to be saved. So people have an idea about hell. I think hell is a big factor. It scares people. And rightly so. And what happens is a lot of times people's ideas - they're not ready to unconditionally surrender. They've got flawed thinking. And there's a lot of preachers out there and bad doctrine out there willing to tell people, oh, you said the sinner's prayer. You know there's thousands and thousands and thousands of preachers that would answer these people entirely different than me. We were just recently talking about the high school that we put our children in at one time. Craig's kids go there. All the kids in the school are saved except Craig's. And the thing is the same thinking, if applied to these people - (incomplete thought) They sing a song over there during their devotional times: "everybody that was saved on Monday... stand up. Everybody that was saved on a Tuesday, stand up." Craig's kids are the only ones that never stand up. And we laugh at it, but that's the kind of thinking that predominates... You have people all over the place that there's so much bad doctrine; there's so much wrong thinking. And what happens is people get afraid of hell, they get a taste of the teaching on I'll Be Honest or they're listening to Washer or Piper or MacArthur or somebody... and they're beginning to get exposed to this, and they begin to hear about realities concerning salvation and they start to take some things serious in Scripture. And trying to figure out, a lot of times like I was talking about before, you have people who feel like "I'm not regenerate, and I've come across this sovereignty of God, and you know, I'm not regenerate, so it's God... He's not saving me. And what do I do?" It's a hyper-Calvinism... that can be one of the errors. Or it's what I was talking about before as well, people kind of view believing that they're believers as the kind of faith that they're looking for. And so they're constantly looking at themselves: Am I a believer? Did I have this experience? What happens is their eyes are coming off of Christ. So much about what they're looking for doesn't have to do with Christ. So many people, you get the feeling they're looking for an experience. They're looking for a feeling. They're looking for an emotion. They're looking for something to have happened. Who they're even calling upon; how much they know? What we know is this, if they're not being saved, the flaw is not in God. His salvation is very real and He's saved many, many people. Many people have repented and believed. And so there's a flaw in the thinking. Some of it comes down to this sinner's prayer mentality. And people say, well, I said the prayer and nothing happened. And you know, you see texts of importunity in Scripture. You see blind Bartimaeus and Syrophoenician women who are put off the first time, the second time, and they keep coming back and their faith is going to lay hold on Christ no matter what obstacles stand in the way. And I think we have people who, I don't know. I know this, there needs to be an abandoning of the wicked's ways of thinking. Their thoughts. The unrighteous man - his thoughts. There's thoughts there that need to be abandoned. They need to be repented of. There's broken thoughts. I think that's one of the things beyond just four line questions. When you sit with somebody and you're able to question them more deeply. What you're looking for is what lie are they believing? Where's the deception? Because it's always there. Because here's the thing. If you know the truth about your condition, if you know you're sick, once the physician is presented, you go. If a man is thirsty and there's the cup of water, he'll go drink. So what's wrong there? Why are people not making it to the glass? They're thinking they are. It's almost like they're saying I went over and drank from the glass and nothing happened. Well, it isn't. They've drunk from something else. Or they've done something else. They've gone somewhere else. Whatever their calling is or whatever their believing is or whatever their repenting is, it's not right. It's somehow wrong. And so, I guess in a lot of the things I was saying tonight, I'm trying to answer many of the defects that come up in people's thinking without always knowing exactly what the specific thinking is. You're trying to find out from each of their questions to get a feel for where their thinking might be wrong, but you would really have to sit and talk with them for maybe an hour or two to even try to get further. And sometimes pastorally to speak to people for six or ten hours in entirety over several meetings, and still sometimes you're perplexed. And the problem is in that dealing with people, sometimes people are being honest with you and sometimes they're not. And people typically want to put themselves in the best light. And so they put spins and slants on things that they tell you, and really trying to question people just the right way to try to figure out where that problem is; where the disconnect is, or where the idol is. Sometimes it's just nothing more than that. There's just sin in the person's life and they're just playing games with you. They want to be saved and hold on to that sin. And sometimes it's people who want to be an object of pity. The truth is Scripture condemns the lost as they're believing a lie and they don't love the truth that they might be saved. It's their fault. People who remain unbelieving and unrepentant, it's wickedness. But people like to be objects of pity rather than objects of blame. And so they're constantly putting spin on things. The reason people are lost is their fault. It's their fault. It's their wickedness. It's their love of some sin or their love of some lie. Sometimes they really are sincere that they want that lie exposed. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they're frustrated because their thinking is messed up, and they're wanting you to shed light. And sometimes there's sincerity there. But a lot of times, even the best of the soul winners throughout history - a lot of times, we read some of the great accounts, you know where Ichabod Spencer - he sits down with somebody and he has this discourse back and forth. And it's all wonderful because they get saved. But you know, he probably had 300 such conversations that didn't turn out well for the one that he did that he ended up writing in the chapter in his book. Sometimes it's just nothing else than these things are hidden from those who are perishing. And we just have to chalk it up to that. Sometimes, you know why you can't hear what I say - you're not one of Christ's sheep. That's very hard for us to say. Paul said that about people in a third person manner. Jesus said that to people who not only were not believing but they were beginning to attack Him. He knows who His sheep are. He knows His sheep. Who they are and who they aren't. We don't always know that. In fact, I've kind of wondered that. Is there ever a time to say that? The reason you're not hearing this is not because I'm not being plain. And you know, sometimes, it's just a matter of people don't have ears to hear. I have found that there are some people - you can try to explain something to they can't hear you. Just recently, Joshua, Zeke, and I were going door to door and we got invited into a lady's house and talked to her for about 45 minutes. She could not hear what I was saying. And I came back to the same thing five, six, seven times. And she could not hear me. She just could not hear. And I've come across that. I believe my dad may very well have gotten saved in the end, but there was a time earlier on, my dad just could not hear. He could not fathom one of the clearest Gospel messages I could have put it. He's like, "I can't understand a word that guy's saying." It's a satanic blindness. That's what 2 Corinthians 4 says. There is a satanic blindness. And unless God breaks through that, you and I are impotent against it. We can tell people the exact right truth and then go away feeling like we were the failure. But it's a satanic blindness. And sometimes it's just nothing else than they're not one of Christ's sheep. And I can't get victory here if God's not going to give it. And so I think we just need to recognize what we're up against as we're evangelizing. And it's amazing how incomplete and incompetent our attempts can be at times where if God's in it, it's almost like you can hardly fail then because God causes them to grasp even little glimmers of truth that break through. And they're able to lay hold on it. But we need God to wake people up; open their eyes. Anything else before we close? Ok. Father, we're cast on You for all these things. Lord, to wrestle sovereignty, responsibility, faith, repentance... those who seem to come up short, those who believe a lie. Lord, us seeking to evangelize; us seeking to help steer people right, to proclaim the Gospel with the right balance, with the right truths emphasized; to show Christ; His signs, His wonders, His mighty works; to be faithful to lift up the Christ of Scripture, Lord, in all these things, we're cast on You. We pray, Lord, that in our generation You would make us all competent evangelists. Competent, even as the faith of those Thessalonians was broadcast all over the world, we pray, Lord, that our ability to proclaim what You've done, and proclaim the Gospel hope would be, Lord, may it be bright. May it be biblical. May it be powerful. We pray in Christ's name, Amen.