Charles Stanley - Eternal Life, You Can Be Sure
If you were to die today, are you sure you have eternal life? Does that question disturb you a little bit? Does it make you feel sort of restless, maybe a little insecure, uncertain, maybe a little doubtful, maybe a little fearful, maybe even a little defensive, or just plain angry? Why would that question bother you? Because, you see, if you're really clear in your mind that you have the gift of eternal life, that if you were to die today that you'd go to heaven, then that question should not bother you at all. But it just may be the fact that it bothers you is because you are not sure. You are uncertain, you are a little restless about the whole idea.
Well, if you are, it just may be that you need to make sure. And if you're interested in making sure about where you're gonna spend eternity, then I've got good news for you, and that's what I want to talk about in this message because I want to talk about eternal life, and the very fact that you can be sure that you have the gift of eternal life. And I want you to turn, if you will, to First John chapter five. In this fifth chapter of First John, he has been talking about the very idea of assurance, and John has been saying this very clearly, that if you have the Son of God, who is Jesus, then you have eternal life. And if you don't have Him, you don't have the life. And he makes it very clear. And then he ends by saying in verse thirteen, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life".
Not that you may hope so, not maybe, not possibly, but that you can absolutely know that you possess the gift of eternal life, which simply means that you and God have had a transaction, that you have had a personal experience with Him whereby He has given to you this life. Now, what is this eternal life? Listen, it is an endless duration. Listen, it is a life of endless duration in the presence of and with fellowship with God, which begins in a moment of time in this life and lasts forever. And once we leave this life, it means that you're going to spend eternity, that is forever and ever and ever, with God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, with all the holy angels, and with every single person who has ever lived and will ever live who've trusted Jesus as their Savior, or in the Old Testament, who placed their faith in God in the promise of a Messiah.
And so, when you think about the very idea of having the promise and having assurance that no matter what happens to you, whether it happens to you without warning, or happens to you at the end of a long period of illness, you can know without a shadow of a doubt, you can be fearless, you can be bold, you can be confident, yes I have the gift of eternal life. Well, I want us to think for just a moment because, you see, it is just what we said. It is the gift of eternal life. "The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". And you cannot have the gift of eternal life apart from Christ. It is irreversibly linked to a personal relationship with Jesus.
So, the question is this: Does God really and truly want us to be absolutely sure about eternal life? Yes, He does! And you see, there are some people who would believe, "Well now, we probably shouldn't be all that sure because, you see, not being sure", listen, I've heard this, "not being absolutely sure, and God has left it so we wouldn't be absolutely sure because if I'm not absolutely sure, it means I'll try harder. And if I'm not absolutely sure, I'll pray more. And if I'm not absolutely sure, I'll be more dependent. If I'm not absolutely sure, I'll be more humble. If I'm not absolutely sure, it'll take care of my pride problem. If I'm not absolutely sure, I'll go to church more often, I'll pray more, read the Bible more often. I'll just really be more diligent about this whole idea. I won't go out and sin, I won't backslide if I'm not certain".
None of that is the truth. Not any of that is the truth. Because you see, our salvation is not based upon our works, but upon the finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. And when I place my trust in Him and what He has done, I become eternally secure because, listen, the focus of eternal security is on the work of God. My assurance of what He has done is something inside of me. It is a confident conviction that I have. It is a confident realization that what God has promised is now real in my life.
So, we're talking about, listen, we're talking about fact, truth, versus feeling. We're talking about truth versus what I believe about my relationship. My relationship is absolutely intact. My relationship is absolutely sealed. It is not sealed by my conduct, not sealed by my behavior. It is not sealed by my feelings. It is sealed by the precious work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. When I trusted Him as my Savior, the Spirit of God sealed me. The Spirit of God sealed you. We do not seal ourselves. We are sealed unto the day of redemption, whether I feel it or not, whether I feel secure in it or not, whether I have any assurance at all or not.
When God seals you, you are sealed. The tragedy is you will go through life tormented with doubts and fears and anxieties. Now, so with that in mind, let's talk about why people doubt the idea that they really and truly have eternal life when, if you ask them, "Now, what did you do to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior"? Here's what they'll tell you. Oftentimes they will give you the very exact truth that you and I know. They have asked, they have acknowledged that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. They've acknowledged their sinfulness and that their sin has separated them from God. They've acknowledged that if they confess their sins, that Jesus will forgive them. They acknowledge that His death at the cross paid their sin-debt in full. They acknowledge the fact that if they ask Jesus Christ to save them, He will do it. Go through all of that.
Are you sure of your salvation? "Well... you know what... I just... you know..." they hesitate and hem-haw around. "Well, I'm just not absolutely sure". So there are some very specific reasons. Now, listen carefully. More than likely, if you doubt that you have the gift of eternal life, you doubt that you've been saved, you doubt that you're eternally secured by God, more than likely you're gonna find the reason in one of these that I'm going to mention.
So, let's begin with the first one, and that's this. One of the reasons that people doubt their assurance, they have no assurance, they doubt their eternal security, they doubt their eternal life is because they don't have it. That's the reason they doubt it. Because they've never been saved. They had some good feelings, they made some decisions, they decided to change the way they were gonna live. They walked down a church aisle and said, "I want to be baptized and I want to join this church, I want to be better, I want to do good, I wanna this, and I wanna that and I wanna the other".
And you know what? Never trusted Jesus Christ as their Personal Savior. Never looked to the cross for the forgiveness of their sins. And so they go out there and their name's on the roll and probably give some money and try to be a good person. But they've never been genuinely saved by the grace of God, never received Christ into their life, never trusted Him for the forgiveness of their sins, never delivered from the domain of darkness into the domain of light. Never, listen, never rescued by Jesus Christ from eternal death and endowed with eternal life. And so, they're always having these ups and downs.
Well you know, I made a decision back yonder somehow but I'm just not real certain. The reason they're not certain is, listen, because the Spirit of God will not give assurance to a person that they have the gift of eternal life when they don't have it. He would be a contraction to all that He's there for. So, He's not gonna give that assurance. Now, on the other hand, there are some people who will tell you, "Oh yes, when I die I'm going to heaven". They'll tell you, "Don't get too personal". And you know what they've done? They've deceived themselves.
And so here's what they've done. When they say, "Well yes, I know that I'm going to heaven. I do have the gift of eternal life," and when they don't, the Spirit of God convicts them, they just shove it down. And the Spirit of God convicts them, and they cram it down. Spirit of God convicts them, and they squeeze it again. The Spirit of God convicts them and they repress it and they depress it and they repress it until finally here's what's happening. They don't feel like that's a problem anymore because they've sort of reasoned themselves out of that.
Has nothing to do with that, you know, there's something else, here's what happens. They will be unsure about life. There'll be other areas of uncertainty in their life, and what they won't realize and what they won't face up to is they've never been saved. They say, "Well, you know, everybody's got doubts, everybody's got fears". One of the primary reasons people have no assurance of salvation is because they've never trusted Jesus Christ personally, deliberately, willfully, at a moment in time with their soul, with their spirit, with their whole eternal destiny.
That's the primary reason. But there's a second reason. A second reason people do not have assurance is because of sin in their life. Because here's what sin does. Sin is a violation of the law of God. Sin short-circuits our assurance. And here's how it happens. When a person chooses to sin against God, what happens? They feel some sense of estrangement. They don't feel as close to God. They may even feel rejected. They don't sense God's love for them. There's a great sense of guilt on, they don't feel worthy of God loving them. And so, what happens is, as a result of sin in a person's life, that short-circuits their assurance. And so, people who once were sure, and they begin to disobey God and rebel against Him, get into sin, and you ask them, "Are you sure you're saved"? "Well, I used to be".
And how many times have I heard people say, "I used to be saved". Well, what happened? "Well, I just... disobeying God and got out of church and stopped reading the Bible and stopped praying and I just lost it all". Well, you lost your assurance. You lost your assurance. You did not lose your eternal security because, listen, God the Father has so arranged His whole redemption plan that once you've trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, forever a child of God, and Jesus is the living eternal advocate sitting at the Father's right hand, proof to us, assurance to us we are still the sons of God.
There is a third reason, and that is false doctrine. When a person is taught that you can be saved and be lost, and they're taught that from childhood, like I and many other people have been, it takes a long time to get over that. And you know what? A person can hear the gospel, hear the gospel, hear the truth and hear the truth and hear the truth. It is oftentimes so ingrained in them, they want to believe what you're saying, they desire to believe what you're saying, but somehow, they just can't believe what you're saying.
Now, if you ask them if they believe the Bible, "Oh yes indeed, I believe every word of it. I believe it all, including the maps. I believe it all". But you know what? You can read them a passage of scripture and say, "Okay, now what about this verse right here? What about this verse right here"? "Well, what about that verse? Uh, well, you know, um, here's the way I was taught. My granddaddy believed that. My grandmother believed that. My parents believed that. You're telling me I'm gonna believe something else, that if it was good enough for them's good enough for me". You mean to tell me have to go through life doubting your salvation? It was good enough for them, it's good enough for you. No, it's not good enough for you.
Listen, now watch this. Listen carefully, because your parents believe something or your grandparents believed something that you have discovered was not correct, just because you change your doctrinal stand doesn't mean that you don't love them as much. Has nothing to do with affection for your grandparents or your parents. Has nothing to do, you're not belittling them. Well, what in the world would they say? Well, they'd say, you know, if they finally realized that you were right, they'd say, "Praise God, I'm glad you found out, and took me so many years to find out". They'd be grateful.
Well, listen carefully. Here's what you have to decide. Do I want to know the truth or do I not? Am I gonna hold on to things that are sentimental? Am I gonna hold on to what somebody else believes because I don't want to hurt their feelings? Or do I want to know the truth of the living God so I can live by this truth and live successfully and victoriously and triumphantly by it, and besides that, I want to live joyfully and confidently and assuredly that no matter what happens, I'm heaven bound. That's the way I want to live.
And so, that leads me to another reason that people oftentimes doubt their eternal security. They doubt their salvation, doubt that they have the gift of eternal life, which is what God gives us when we are saved. They doubt it because of an overemphasis on emotionalism. Now, whenever the emphasis is more on emotion than truth, here's what's gonna happen. You're going to be governed by your emotions. You're going to, listen, your emotions are gonna dictate to you, your emotions are going to overpower and overwhelm the truth that you know. Now, especially is this dangerous when you've not studied the Word of God, when you've not been in the scriptures.
And so, you go to some meeting and everybody's a shouting or praising God and hallelujah, and all these things are going on and you just love that. I mean, you know, we can all get into... we can all create, listen, you can create that kind of atmosphere. The right kind of music and the right kind of praising the Lord and the right kind of buzz words, and next thing you know, I mean everybody's praising God and hallelujah, praise the Lord, and you just, anything will happen. The Spirit of God's gonna come upon us and Spirit of God this and Spirit of God that and Spirit, Spirit, Spirit, and this, that, and the other. And you know what I want to ask is this. What is the truth? What is the truth?
You see, here's what happens. The reason people get off-base spiritually and their emotionalism takes over and then they lose their sense of assurance is because they're going, they are so into this emotional thing rather than getting into the truth of the Word of God. What does the Bible teach? What does it say? Does it say we're to praise Him? Yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! But if you want your praise and your emotionalism, which we all enjoy, if you want it to be right and really glorifying to God and just not something you just want to make yourself feel good so you can feel better and better and better because you don't want to come down off of that.
Listen, if praise is really genuine, you should be able to come down and hit the solid rock of the living, eternal, unchangeable, immutable Word of God and be absolutely confident. That's the way you ought to come down. Now, if you're not sound in your doctrine, what's gonna happen is the emotion's gonna get the best of you. And so, here's what's gonna happen. So the revival's over, church service is over, it's Friday now. Had a hard... it's been a hard week. And you've been feeling down all week long. I mean, you got blessed out by your boss or whatever it might happen or your husband or your wife. It's just been a bad week. You know, where in the world's God? God, if You love me, why am I feeling this way? And so, what happens? You start doubting.
Well, why do I feel these things? Or you get tempted, for example. You get real tempted about something and you think, "Well, you know what, if I were really saved, I wouldn't be feeling this temptation. I mean, I wouldn't be feeling these. I wouldn't even be thinking about these things". Not necessarily. Did Jesus lose anything? And I mean, He was tempted. No, He didn't lose anything. You see, emotionalism is fine as long as, listen, as long as that emotionalism is saturated with the truth of the living God. Say all right, I've heard all that, but now what's the real basis of my... what's the real basis now of my assurance?
Trusted Jesus Christ, in other words, what's the real basis of... There are four basis for our absolute, unwavering assurance that we are eternally secure in Him, that we have the gift of eternal life once we trust Christ as our Savior. And the first, listen, the first basis of it is this. The powerful unchanging promises of Almighty God. I want you to turn, if you will, let's start with John 3:16. I'm gonna take you through a few verses here. The powerful, awesome, unchangeable promises of God, and here's one of them.
Number one, John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life". Promise number one. Chapter number five, and listen to this verse. Verse twenty-four, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word," this is the Son of God, "he who hears My word and believes Him," God, "who sent Me, has," presently, "eternal life, does not come into," condemnation or "judgment, but has," already, "passed out of," eternal, "death into," eternal, "life". Now listen to that. He says if we believe, if we hear it and we believe it, we have already passed out of eternal death into eternal life.
Look, if you will, chapter ten. And this is the last one. Chapter ten. Look, if you will, in verse twenty-eight. "I give unto them eternal life. They shall never perish. No one shall snatch them out of My hand". Who can take you out of God's hand? Nobody. Somebody says, "Well, I can just get out on my own". No, you can't. No, you can't. You say, "Well, he said somebody else will snatch you out". Well, listen, nobody can take you out of God's hand. He says no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand, and I and the Father are one. You know what He says? You can't lose it. So, rest in it.
So, basis number one, the awesome, irrevocable, unchangeable promises of God, that is the first basis of it. The second basis is this: the unconditional love of God for us. Turn back, if you will, to Romans chapter five for a moment. Romans chapter five, listen to what Paul says. He says in verse six, "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly". Verse eight, "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". Look, if you will, in the eighth chapter of Romans and listen to this awesome passage that we know. He says in verse thirty-three, "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies".
He says, for example, who can charge any one of us with anything that would cause God to cast us out? No one. Then he says, "Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, and who is at the right hand of God, to make intercession for us". Then he asks this question, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword"?
You may go through all these things, have all kinds of doubts and tribulations and trials. Will that separate you from God? "Just as it is written, 'FOR THY,'" he says for thy, "'SAKE WE ARE,'" all, "'BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.' But in all these things," all this turmoil, tribulation, heartache, "we overwhelmingly conquer through Christ who loved us. For I am convinced," persuaded, "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus the Lord".
You know what, he said, what can separate us? Who can separate us? Who can charge anything up to God's elect? Nobody. What can separate us from the love of God? Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Then listen, if nothing can separate you from the love of God, nobody can charge you, listen, charge you legitimately in the eyes of God, then tell me, what in the world could cause you to be unsure of a salvation purchased by God, through His Son Jesus Christ, given to you as a gift, and absolutely promise that it lasts forever. Give me a legitimate biblical reason for doubting your security. Right, there is no legitimate reason.
Basis number three is the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Read you just a couple of verses. Look, if you will, in Hebrews. Finished work of Jesus on the cross. This is the ultimate basis of it. Look at this. Here's what he says. Let's look, first of all, in the eleventh verse. Jesus is called the high priest, the one who goes in before the Father to make an atonement for us. "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; not through the blood of goats and calves," and all of that, "but He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption".
Now, not only has He obtained it, but listen to what he says. Verse twenty-five of chapter seven, "Hence also He is able to save," for how long? What's that next word? He's able to save for how long? "Forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for us". The finished work of Jesus on the cross? That's what gives me absolute assurance.
And then, one last thing, one last basis, turn to Romans chapter eight again. And that is the witness of the Holy Spirit to our heart. Listen to what he says in verse sixteen chapter eight, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God". Now listen, how many times have you asked somebody when they got saved, say, "Well, how do you feel"? I feel fantastic. Or somebody will say, "Well, I don't have a lot of feelings, but I just know I am".
How do they know they are? Witness of the Holy Spirit. You see, you're sitting here listening, and I will say something and something you just feel something in your heart. That's the Spirit of God witnessing to your spirit you're hearing the truth. So, I have four awesome basis for believing that my salvation is secure forever, that I have the gift of eternal life. Number one, the awesome, irrevocable, faithful promises of God; the unconditional love of God; the finished work of God through His Son Jesus Christ on the cross; and then the witness of the Holy Spirit within me that I'm a child of the living God.
Now, here's the big question. All right, how do I make sure? I believe all this. How do I make sure? You acknowledge that you do believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, as the Bible says He is, and that He went to the cross for your sins. You acknowledge that you have sinned against Him and that your sins have separated you from God. You confess your sinfulness to Him, asking Him to forgive you of your sin. You accept His forgiveness on the basis that He promised to forgive you, and that's all you need.
And then you simply say to Him, "Lord Jesus, I do receive You as my Personal Savior and the Lord of my life". And you know what? Somewhere in the moments of those brief moments of prayer, in a split second somewhere, you're saved. That's how awesome salvation is. That's how awesome the love of God is. And yet that's how simple and profound and brief a brief moment can change your life. And it is my prayer to Almighty God that's exactly what happened to you.