Paul Washer ministered as a missionary to Peru for 10 years, during which time he founded the HeartCry Missionary Society to support Peruvian church planters. HeartCry’s work now supports indigenous missionaries in Eastern Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. An itinerant preacher, Paul also teaches in the internship program at his home church, First Baptist Muscle Shoals. He is the author of The One True God: A Biblical Study of the Doctrine of God.
Text: 2 Corinthians 13:5
There is so much that can be handled on the front end of ministry. Sheep have this uncanny knack of just following. Let’s talk about assurance, and let’s talk pastorally. Will I ask them about their conversion, that moment in time when they were saved? Of course I will. Explain to me your heart, your conversion, what happened with regards to faith and repentance. But I will not stop there because that is not the place where Scripture places its emphasis regarding assurance. The fact that you know you are saved is whether you are presently believing in Christ and repenting of your sin.
The doctrine of the carnal Christian is used to justify the majority of the congregation being lost. There is no such thing as a “carnal Christian” in the New Testament. There were only believers and unbelievers. Can Christians fall in sin? Yes. Can they even become overcome by sin? Yes. But can they remain in that sin? No.
I frequently examine myself and test myself. It is an extremely important thing. I want to tell you how bad I deal with the flesh. We think too much of men. If I wasn’t preaching and the spotlight was not on me, would I be praying as much? Would I be this excited if the spotlight was on me? You see, there is always a need to examine ourselves, to test ourselves. I hear preachers saying who are practicing homosexuals, “Three years ago you prayed the prayer and became a Christian. Now you must start acting like a Christian.” No! You cannot start acting like a Christian because you are not one. If you are not acting like a Christian, you can have no biblical assurance.
There is a difference between the security of the believer and assurance. Baptist have taken the two and combined them and at the same time have lost both. Everyone who truly believes in Christ can have security. Everyone who believes in Christ has security. But assurance asks, “How do you know that you really believed?” The demons believe and tremble, but you believe and don’t tremble. So how do you know? The heart is desperately wicked, how can one know it? How can members of our congregation have a biblical understanding to assurance? The answer is in the book of 1 John.
1 John 5:13 “These things I have written to you . . . that you may know that you have eternal life.” Assurance is a grace; assurance is a gift. You can be a true believer and be frightened by assurance. The true believer gains assurance not just by an inward testimony, but the Spirit bears with witness with our spirit that we are children of God by bearing fruit in our lives and applying God’s Word to our hearts in a lifestyle of obedience. I want to look at a series of tests about assurance.
1. 1 John 1:5-7 “This is the message that we have heard from him and announce to you that God is light and in him there is not darkness at all.” I want you to look at this from a different context. Gnostics seemed to be attacking this Church, saying that God’s will is a mystery, dark, and cannot be known. John is saying that God’s will is not dark or hidden. He has revealed to us who He is, and He has shown us His character and will. It’s not a mystery, and we know what he desires. If we say we are a Christian, yet walk in darkness, we light and do not practice the truth.” To walk in light is to walk according to what God has revealed us in His nature and will, to walk in agreement with the character and purposes of God. To contradict this is to lie. The idea “walk” is absolutely important here. To walk refers to every activity of life, every compartment of life. It is all-encompassing. It is not like a snapshot but like a video camera that has captured the style of life, not a moment in time but disposition of an individual. A Christian is not doing all the righteous things he hates in order to go to heaven. Rather, he is a new creature. He has a new heart. If you contradict this, you should be afraid because you do not have assurance, and if you keep on walking in the way contrary to the will and character of God, you do not know Him.
2. 1 John 1:8-10 John is not talking about sinless perfection. The first test is that the person will live a style of life that reflects the. The second test is that the Christian is sensitive to his sin which will lead to confession and repentance. Here’s one of the marvellous thing. The true Christian is not the perfect person who has no sin, but those who recognize their sin and are broken heart and have a contrite spirit and tremble at His Word (Isa. 66). A true Christian will be sensitive with regards to his sin because he is conscious of the holiness of God.
3. 1 John 2:3-5 The most terrifying verse in the Bible is, “Depart form Me: I never knew you!” Depart from me those of you who think you are my disciples when you live as though there was no command for you to obey. You do what is right in your own eyes. There is no sense of the supremacy of God’s will. You act as though the commands of God are burdensome to you. They are a delight. There ought to be a difference in your life with regards to the commands of God. If not, you are a liar, and the truth is not in you. This is the apostle of love speaking!
There is a sense in which all of us are cowards. Some of the worst cowards I have seen are preachers. You are not showing love in your timidity and niceness. You are showing self-preservation. Our people need to know that we will die for them; they must also know that we will tell the truth even if they will hate us. I am not called to be your buddy; I am called to be one who will minister to them. A mean-spirited critical man is a lost man, but a “nice” preacher is not acceptable either. Like John, you must be willing to tell them, “You are a liar.”
4. 1 John 2:6 The greatest desire in the heart of the Christian is to be like Jesus, to walk as he walked. Will we stumble? Yes. Will we look ridiculous sometimes? Yes. But there should be no doubt that his chief desire is to be like Jesus.
5. 1 John 2:9-11 One of the greatest evidences of true conversion is love for the brethren, to fellowship with them, and to serve them. If you want to accuse the godly and avoid them, you are not the Christian. The Christian will love them. It means identifying with them even in the midst of suffering, persecution, and even death . (cf. Heb. 10:32-34) “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. “ You must willingly to determine to suffer and die with your brothers which has far reaching implications. We are so well fed when brothers starve.
The are others throughout 1 John (time limitation).
Addressing the “once saved, always saved” thinking (versus perseverance of the saints)
The covenant promise: I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them.
The covenant reality: And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.
Everyone who has received the covenant promise will experience the covenant reality. They will not turn because the fear of God is put them. Everyone Jesus justifies, He takes home.