PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
2 Timothy 1:12
(Illustration) I was twenty-three, had graduated from college, and was enjoying invitations to preach in many local churches. That’s when I confronted an issue that changed the rest of my life. Although I preached the Gospel to others, I battled terrible doubts that made me question my salvation. I wasn’t breaking the Ten Commandments or willfully sinning, this was simply an assault on my relationship with the Lord. Although I overcame that months-long assault, it was a horrible experience!
Here’s what I discovered: I wasn’t the only Bible reading, church-going Christian that doubted their salvation. It’s happened to many people. And it’s amazing how Satan creates doubts about our relationship with the Lord.
Sometimes we entertain that faint whisper that says, “God doesn’t love you. He doesn’t care how badly you hurt. If He really cared, things would be different.”
At other times we battle that haunting accusation that says, “Your sins can’t possibly be forgiven.”
Perhaps the most common experience that tempts us to believe we aren’t saved is when we don’t “feel” saved.
Has there ever been a time when you felt as if God didn’t love you or when you felt un-forgiven or you just didn’t “feel” like you were one of God’s children?
(Illustration) Awhile back I spoke with a distant cousin who was raised in a preacher’s home. During the conversation she admitted her uncertainty of being a Christian. Imagine this: she had invited Christ into her heart, was the daughter of a minister, a faithful church goer, read the Bible, and yet she wasn’t absolutely certain she would go to heaven. I’ll never forget what she said: “There’s always that one little doubt that makes me wonder.” For days I couldn’t shake her answer! But do realize the Bible says we don’t have to wonder whether we are a Christian? God doesn’t want you plagued with fear! In fact, I can assure you that God wants to diffuse every tormenting doubt and infuse a certainty that surpasses any other fact of life.
I began this message by being forthright with you. This is an issue that I personally battled. Years ago I doubted, prayed, and struggled to gain assurance of salvation. But from the moment the Holy Spirit settled in me what the Bible says about salvation I’ve never once, even for a moment, reentered that struggle! And I trust that once you leave this house you will have this matter everlastingly settled. I want you to “know that you know” God loves you and your sins are forgiven.
(Transition) So how does the Bible say we can have this confidence? First, the Bible says that divine faith conquers the doubts of salvation.
I. Divine Faith Conquers the Doubts of Salvation
I want you to notice that this is a special type of faith. The faith we use to become a Christian is “divine faith.” That’s because it’s distinct from every-day “earthly” faith that we use in so many ways. I want to take a moment to describe the difference between “divine” faith and “earthly” faith.
(Example) There are times we use our earthly faith to anticipate results, but those results just don’t occur. That’s because “earthly” faith is flawed. It’s not sinful or wrong; it’s simply flawed. For example:
There have been times you have entered a dark room, flipped the light switch, but found yourself still standing in the dark. That’s because the light had burned out.
We’ve been known to file our Income Tax Report with all the confidence in the world. And then the IRS informs us that we still owe more money.
Maybe you turned the ignition in the car but discovered it wouldn’t crank because the battery had died.
It doesn’t take many examples to illustrate the flawed nature of earthly faith. It’s not evil, it’s simply unreliable. But divine/heavenly faith is perfect; it never disappoints! And the reason it doesn’t is because it originates from God. Divine faith is God’s perfect gift to man. Ephesians 2:8 says: “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, [it’s not an earthly faith; it’s divine!] it is the gift of God. You see, God doesn’t allow us to use an earthly, faulty faith for salvation. He provides us with Divine Faith! It is perfect, unfailing faith!
But wait! Someone might say, “I believe Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. I believe in His teachings, His miracles, that He died on the Cross and rose from the dead. But I’m still unsure of my salvation.” Let me tell you why this happens: Did you know anybody can take earthly faith and believe Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary? Anyone—saint or sinner—can believe in Christ’s teachings, miracles, death on the Cross, and resurrection.
In fact, the apostle James said that even demons believe that “God exists and they tremble” (2:19). But this isn’t the type of faith that saves people from their sins. Saving faith is more than intellectual knowledge that Christ existed. Buddhists, Confucius’s, Muslims and people that never attend church believe that Jesus is real. Historical records apart from the Bible confirm that Christ existed.
Man’s confidence for salvation isn’t established from historical evidence that Jesus lived. Saving faith doesn’t involve a “head knowledge” about Christ Jesus. That’s earthly faith and it’s of no value for one’s salvation. Faith for salvation penetrates all the way down to your heart—the deepest part of your being. Romans 10:10 says it is “with your heart [not your mind] that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (11) As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Did you hear that? The divine faith that God plants within our hearts never disappoints; it always works! I love the Apostle Paul’s testimony in 2 Timothy 1:12 that says, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
(Illustration) Do you remember when you accepted Christ as your Savior? I was about 10 years-old when my dad knelt at my bedside and led me in the “Sinner’s Prayer.” It was the greatest experience of my life. When Christ saved me I ‘knew that I knew’ my sins were forgiven. God had opened my heart and then deposited a divine faith that didn’t leave room for any doubt! And that same faith works for all Christians. It’s so compelling you don’t need confirmation from an angel or a vision or a booming voice from heaven to validate it. God supernaturally opens your heart, imparts His faith, and that’s enough!
I want to ask you something: Are you a Christian? Have you believed on Christ with your heart? The “blessed assurance” and peace for salvation comes through the impartation of divinely imparted faith.
(Transition) But second, you continue to conquer the doubts of salvation by maintaining a properly focused faith. To state it another way, the divine faith that saved you will keep you!
II. Properly Focused Faith Continues to Conquer the Doubts of Salvation
(Illustration) Sometime back a sincere man explained to me his conception of being right with God. Here’s what he said. “Each night I close my eyes and picture Jesus. If He stretches out His hands in a beckoning manner I know my works were acceptable for that day. But if I see the Lord holding out His hands with His palms facing me, I know my works have failed to make me acceptable in His sight.”
God wants us to obey His Word. He wants us to be a good example. But we can never assume our obedience to God or good works will approve us before God. A works-centered faith rather than a Christ-centered faith always destroys your faith!
(Illustration) I heard the story of the man that dreamed he died and met Saint Peter at the pearly gates. Peter said: “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to get inside. Tell me your life story and I’ll assign at numeric value for each of your good works. When your good works reach 100 points, the gates will automatically open.” The man began. “Well, I regularly attended Church, tithed, and drove the church bus.” Peter said: “That’s great. You get two points.” He thought, “Two points? This is tough!” How about this? “I was married to the same woman fifty years.” Peter said, “Wonderful, you get two more points.” Now he was sweating. But that’s when he remembered his real acts of benevolence. “How about this? I started a soup kitchen, worked in a shelter for the homeless, and conducted a weekly service for shut-ins.” Peter said: “That’s fabulous, that’s three more points!” “Three points!” the man said. “At this rate, the only way I’ll get to heaven is by the grace of God!” Peter said, “That’s right, come on in!”
Don’t ever assume God will let you into heaven because you have been good enough or because your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds. While God wants you to do right and obey His commandments, He has shown us that eternal life comes by trusting what Jesus Christ has done for us, not what we can do for ourselves. That’s why the Bible tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
When people aren’t focused on Christ they will fall prey to what Paul called “another Christ” or “another Gospel.” And here is what “another gospel” does: It insists Jesus isn’t the only path to Heaven; but many paths lead to God. It asserts human goodness and good works or adherence to religious rituals lead to God.
Folks, if man could have manufactured salvation it would have been forged from Moses. The Law of Moses is the most perfectly lettered law of human history. That’s because God issued it to Moses face to face. It’s flawless! But God says there’s nothing about Moses’ Law that produces salvation. Paul said in Galatians 2:21: “if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” In other words, living a good moral life is not enough to get us into Heaven.
Remember, our confidence for salvation is based solely on Christ’s sacrifice for our sins on the Cross. Anything contrary to this leads to “another Gospel” where there is no confidence.
(Transition) The third way we can conquer the doubts of salvation is by trusting what the Bible says about our salvation and nothing else!
III. We Conquer the Doubts of Salvation by Trusting what the Bible says about our Salvation and Nothing Else!
In all honesty I’ve never met anyone that said they “felt” like a Christian should “feel” all the time. There are occasions when we feel more like sinners than saints. This is why emotions should never govern what the Bible says about salvation. Consider your emotions for a moment. We have positive emotions like love, joy, peace. Then we have negative emotions like fear, anger, and apprehension. At times we feel happy and other times we feel despondent. It’s easy to understand why we shouldn’t let feelings govern and control our lives; they would ruin us! Think about it:
You don’t go to work only when you feel like it.
You don’t feed and care for the children so long as you aren’t angry with them.
You don’t pay bills so long as nothing in life is creating fear or panic.
As wonderful as emotions are God didn’t intend for them to manipulate or control us. They aren’t the foundation for life. The foundation for life is the Word of God. And when it comes to determining our relationship with the Lord, the Bible is the final authority. And here’s what the Bible says about salvation:
John 1:12 says: “to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Acts 16:31 says: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”
1 John 5:1 says: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”
(Illustration) George Holmes tells how he conquered the doubts of his salvation. He described his situation as, “a wilderness experience of darkness and doubt.” When he prayed he said, “it felt as if God had gone on a journey and heaven was closed.” In desperation he confided in a friend. After explaining his dilemma his friend asked, “What have you been doing wrong?” When Holmes failed to recall any deliberate sin his friend then responded, “as far as I can see, God has been honoring you with a season of good feelings and now He wants you to honor Him with faith.” George Holmes said, “I saw it in a minute . . . and departed, having learned a lesson which I have never forgotten—how to walk by faith.” (Paraclete, Gospel Publishing House, Volume 17, number 1, 1983.)
There are people here that have struggled with the certainty of knowing you were saved. It’s been a persistent, nagging, or even tormenting battle. But the Holy Spirit has ordered this service to settle that issue—forever! God is here to place peace deep within your heart. He did it for me years ago. Now what God wants you to do is reaffirm that experience. Refuse to let your doubts or anything else steal your confidence in Christ.
Now let me speak to those that know you aren’t saved. You know if Christ should call you to give an account of your life today you would be defenseless. The prophet says God, as our Judge, will not accept any excuse for our unbelief toward Christ. Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 that the ungodly “will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.” But this is the day of grace. God is willing to pardon and remove whatever sins you’ve committed as far as the “east is from the west.” All you have to do is “believe.” Just simply accept the divine gift of faith that God offers you today and trust Christ’s work on the cross as your sacrifice for sin. He’s waiting now for you to ask for His forgiveness. Let’s pray now.