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This Week's Teaching: "Assurance When You've Sinned"
Have you ever been in a church service where they gave the altar call and you felt just compelled to go down, but you were already right with God? You felt guilt, like if you don't answer this altar call to go get right with God, that somehow you are confessing that you don't love the Lord?
And yet everything about your life is that you do love the Lord. You do live for Him.
I've experienced that. I would say I experience that every time. I've learned to overcome that, but I experience it every time.
There's something about the heart that is tender before God that wants to respond to any appeal. Like, of course I'm a sinner. Do I need to repent again? Sure, I'll repent quickly. But then I also live a life with a very, very short confession scope. Like if I sin, I confess. That's just how I live.
And so if I'm in a situation where someone is making me feel like, if I don't come down front or raise my hand or whatever to demonstrate that repentance, that somehow I haven't, if I'm in that situation, I have learned to just resist it. And I've learned to go inward and decide whether I am in the faith or not. And that's as someone who is in the faith. And that maybe is where you are.
But I think there's also another resistance: people who confess Jesus, but they live like the devil and they have learned to resist that call, too. And I think that resistance can look the same but it's totally different.
And so my messages recently have spoken to the latter.
That's my preacher's burden that I'm carrying these days. There are many who say, "Lord! Lord!" But they live like " The Devil! The Devil!" And honestly, they live like " Me! Me! I am my own Lord." And I just want to say that's a scary position to be in.
I want to be clear. I do not believe that if you sin, you have to get right with God again. On the other hand, I do believe that if you sin willfully, you do need to get right with God again. Let me explain what I mean.
"All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved!" When you put your faith in the Lord, when you call out to him, "Save me from my sins," when we put our faith in Jesus, he frees us from our sins. He does. You receive eternal life when you put your faith in Jesus.
But, I've noticed that some believe that if they've simply prayed the prayer, they can go on living however they want to, and they have a get out of jail free card, a get into heaven free pass.
If you are someone who prayed the sinner's prayer, "Lord, save me, I'm a sinner." And you believe that that has secured your position in heaven. And so now you are living after sin. With no gut check, with no self discipline, you are simply living a flesh driven life. A worldly life. Then you need to tremble. Not because God is paying attention to all your little sins and saying, "Yep, he did another one; she did another one. I don't think I can save her now." It's not about that. He forgives you when you seek him. He forgives you when you call out to him. But he also calls your bluff when you're not sincere in it.
And so we read where Jesus said, in Matthew 7, he says, " Not everyone who says to me, ' Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven. But only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." He says, " Many will say to me on that day, ' Lord Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?'" And he says, "Then I will tell them plainly, ' I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.'"
It's possible to be one who calls out, "Lord! Lord! Jesus, you are my Lord," and to even demonstrate faith by casting out demons and prophesying, and even demonstrate faith in ways that we might look and the world might look and say, "Ah, it's signs and wonders." It's possible to be one who does those things, who demonstrates their faith -- and I'm not saying this to upset you. I'm saying this to encourage you to lean in and to get rooted -- it's possible for those who say, "Lord, Lord," to also be those who do not do the will of the Father.
Now I'm not talking about God's will for your life, whether you become an accountant or a carpenter. That's not what this is. The will of God is to put your faith in Jesus, to follow after him, to live for him, to open your heart to the Holy Spirit, to let the Holy Spirit lead you, to know him intimately like that.
And so recently I read in Hebrews 10, where it says, " If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment, and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." It says, "For we know him [God] who said, ' It is mine to avenge. I will repay.'" And again, "The Lord will judge his people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
And we read on down, it says, "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved."
Yes, that passage is not about whether you accidentally give in to that sin that trips you up. It's not about that. That passage is not about whether you give in to anger or give in to lust or give in to greed . That passage is about whether you call out "Lord, Lord," and then you don't do the will of God; you call out "Lord, Lord," and then you turn your back on Him; whether you call out "Lord, Lord," and then you deny Him.
Everything in me wants to make it easy for you to have assurance that you are in the faith. But when I read scripture, it tells me that I can't give assurance to someone who isn't living a faithful life. That's not to say that you earn your salvation by ticks of faithfulness. That's not at all to say that you earn God's salvation through accumulated righteousness. It's not that at all. It's not to say that if you do God's will exactly, you will get into heaven. It's not saying that at all.
It's saying if you cast yourself on God's mercy and then live independent of his mercy, you should not feel assured that you've really cast yourself on his mercy.
And so I have this pastor's burden. And if you are the one who is tender toward God, as some friends of mine -- and I love that people have asked questions on this -- if you are someone who is tender before God, you called out "Jesus," and you live your life in dependence on him, and in fellowship with him, in intimacy with him -- and yet you also live for a time in this flesh and you do things that you had decided you weren't gonna do, and you don't do things that you had decided you were going to do, and you screw up, you sin, I don't want you at all to think that you have to go back to God and plead to be saved. His righteousness covers you, His mercy covers you, His grace covers you. If your heart is bowed down before the Lord, if you are that tender person, wow, receive it. Be encouraged, be encouraged.
His salvation is secure for you. God is not fickle. He's not yes and then no. And God is not easily offended. He doesn't see you make a mistake and say, "Well, okay, I don't know if I'm on his side anymore. I don't know if I really love her anymore." That's not God. God loves you completely.
Everything about my message, if you listen long enough, is that forgiveness is complete. He doesn't forgive just this sin, and then that sin, and then that sin. And, oh, you gotta repent of that sin, and ask forgiveness for that sin, or else God won't forgive you. That's not how God does it. He says, "I forgive you. I forgive you all of your sins. I forgive everything you've ever done. I bestow forgiveness on you so that we can be in relationship again."
And so, if that's you, if you're tender before God, don't receive condemnation by this word.
But if you're someone who, you believe that, because your parents were Christians, or because you simply call yourself a Christian, that somehow you love God, and yet you live in a way that doesn't love God? You may have affection for God, but you live in a way that loves the world, that loves the flesh. You give into whatever comes along and you're just kind of cherry picking your way through life and you're not living a life that's bowed down before the Lord, I can't tell you to be assured of your salvation.
I can tell you, look at your life and if your life is not producing fruit in keeping with repentance, then my call to you is just as gentle, but it trembles a bit. My call to you is: repent. open your eyes. Turn toward the light of Jesus, away from the darkness. Turn away from the power of the Accuser, the Tempter; turn away from the power of Satan and turn to the power of God. Let Him fill you, let Him renew you, and He will. Bow, not just your head, but your shoulders. Bow your life completely to God and allow Him to renew you. Make sure -- when you test yourself -- make sure that you are truly in the faith.
This isn't a message of condemnation. It's a message of encouragement. And it's in keeping with the same message that the Lord charged Paul with when he sent him as an apostle to the Jews and to the Gentiles. And Paul explains it this way in Acts 26.
He's talking about when he was called by God and God told him, "I am sending you to your own people, the Jews, and to the Gentiles, to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me," Jesus says.
And so Paul goes on and he says, that's what I did: "I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds."
And this is simply my message to you, of encouragement, of rebuke if you need it.
If you are tender before God, don't receive the rebuke, receive the encouragement.
And if you are hardened toward God, the Lord rebukes you, not me. The Lord rebukes you. But he does not come to bring condemnation. He comes to bring conviction and salvation. He wants to restore you.
Stop being distracted by the things of this world. Turn your heart to the Lord. And give your full attention to the Lord. Today. Even if you can look on your life and see times that you rebuked demons, or times that you spoke for God, or times that you demonstrated this sign or this wonder, even if you can see things like that, even if you know that you prayed the sinner's prayer when you were eight or whatever it is, that you were baptized, today, simply give your heart to the Lord anew.
If you are tender before God, you say, "Amen!"
If there's anything in you that resists that and says, "But I already did!" Ask yourself why you would resist an appeal to renew your devotion to the Lord.
And so, today, may the Lord open your eyes, and turn you from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God and forgive your sins and give you a place among all who are sanctified by faith in Jesus. And there, may you demonstrate your repentance by your deeds. And I believe that when you see that in your life, you will receive that assurance that, Yes, I am in Christ.
Mission Update & Call to Prayer