Robert Jeffress - Eternally Secure - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". In my years as a pastor, I've been asked a lot of questions, but one question that repeatedly comes up again and again is this one, "How can I know that I'm really saved"? Some people claim that it's impossible to know for sure if you're going to heaven when you die, but gratefully, the Bible says differently. Today, we're going to discover how we can be certain regarding the status of our salvation. My message is titled "Eternally secure" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Since I started preaching in the book of Romans, I have had more than one person say, "Pastor, we've enjoyed the series, but after some of your teaching, we're really beginning to question our salvation. We're not sure we're saved, especially after you talked about Romans 6, when Paul said, 'how can those who have died to sin still continue in it?'" one person said, "I still find myself in sin, is that because I'm not really saved"? How do you know that you're genuinely saved? Well, that's what we're going to talk about this morning. How can you know for sure you're eternally secure? A couple of years ago, a lady in her late 70s wrote to us. She was a "Pathway to Victory" watcher, viewer in another city, and she said, "Dr. Jeffress, when I was nine-years-old, I trusted Christ as my Savior, but now that I'm approaching the end of my life, I find myself waking up in the middle of the night terrified that if I were to die, I would end up in hell. Is it possible for me to know that I'm really saved"?
For that lady, the question of eternal security wasn't just theoretical, it was critical. Maybe you too are one of those people who are asking the question, "Can I know for sure that I'm really saved"? A lot of people say today, "Well, I think I'm saved or I hope I'm saved but nobody can really know for sure they're saved". The Bible doesn't want us to have that kind of doubt. Listen to the words of Hebrews 10:22, "Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water". Or in 2 Peter 1:10, the apostle says, "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about his calling and his choosing you". God wants you to be certain that you are saved. How can you have that assurance?
Well, that's what the book of 1 John is all about. I want you to turn in your Bible to that little New Testament epistle, almost to the way of revelation in your New Testament, not quite to the maps, but it's 1 John, and we're going to look at 1 John and what the apostle says about how to be eternally secure. And today we're going to look at the single greatest verse, I think in the Bible, to know whether or not you are truly saved. Now, we have reviewed this verse in the past about five years ago in a different context, so for some of you, this is going to be a reminder of truth you have already heard, but think about all of the new people who have come into our church in the last five years, people from every walk and every belief system imaginable are now a part of our congregation, and for some of you, this is going to be brand new information. So whether this is a reminder or new revelation, I want you to listen very carefully to what the Bible says is the best way to know whether or not you are eternally secure.
Now, let's admit, not everybody who thinks they are saved is truly saved, are they? Jesus said "On the Judgment Day, many will come to me saying, 'Lord, Lord, did we not do this? And cast out demons and prophesied in your name?' and I will say to them, 'depart from me, you workers of iniquity for I never knew you'". One thing people wonder about all the time is how is it that people who profess to be Christians end up falling into sin and even abandoning their beliefs? Did they lose their salvation? Some of you have friends, some of you have children and grandchildren who professed Christ at an early age, and now they are living a lifestyle apart from God, some have renounced their beliefs. Have they lost their salvation?
If that's true in your life, you have somebody you know who has done that, let me remind you, first of all, the final chapter in their life story has not yet been revealed. It's been written, but it hasn't been revealed yet. You don't know how things are going to turn out, but the second truth is if they die having rejected their faith, it's not that they lose their salvation, it's simply that they never had it to begin with, and that's what John says in 1 John 2:19. He says, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us, but they went out in order that it might be shown that they are not of us".
So how can you know whether you're a genuine believer? Turn over to 5:13, here is the single greatest verse in the Bible to know whether or not you are truly saved. John said "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know you have eternal life". My friend, Steve Lawson, wrote a little book called "Absolutely sure.", and one of the chapters of that book, he talked about the five words or phrases in this verse that are key to assurance of salvation. I'd like to take those words and expand on their meaning this morning. The first word, critical word in this verse is the word know, write it down, K-N-O-W. "These things I have written to you that you may know you have eternal life". In our culture today, anyone who acts like they know something with absolute certainty is written off as being arrogant or prideful. In our culture, it's not popular to say you know anything for sure, especially about your eternal destiny. Or to say, "I know I'm going to heaven.", well, that is prideful to say you know that with absolute certainty.
When Amy and I were in the ninth grade, we went to west junior high school in Richardson, Texas, and at that point, Amy was not yet a Christian, but we had a Christian teacher in our English class. In fact, she was a member of this church, Mrs. Madison and Mrs. Madison was always looking for ways to share her faith without getting into trouble. And so she knew, of course, I was in the class and was a member of her church, so we had a little routine worked out where she would ask a leading question and then I would raise my hand with the right scriptural answer. And so she would say things like, "Do you think anybody can know for sure they're going to heaven when they die"? And I'd raise my hand, "Oh, ms. Madison, yes. You can know and here's how you can know". And I'd go through the scripture and so forth.
Well, Amy was seated in that class, and she wondered, "Who is this arrogant know-it-all who thinks he knows the answer to every question"? 44 years later, she's still asking that same question. But no, really says now she said she just thought it was amazing that anybody could say they knew for sure they were going to be a Christian. And yet, the Bible says God doesn't want us just to hope, John says, "I want you to know that you have eternal life". Why is it some people don't know that they have eternal life? Let me mention to you four sources of doubt about salvation. For a reason, some of you here in day one are listening to "Pathway to Victory", maybe doubting your salvation.
Four sources of doubt, number one, conviction by the Holy Spirit. There are some people who say, "Well, if you're doubting your salvation, that's because of Satan, he's trying to rob you of your assurance". Well, sometimes that's true as we'll see in a moment, but it's not always the truth. I mean, if you're not a Christian, do you think Satan is going to try to make you doubt whether you're a Christian? Do you think he's going to talk to you about your salvation? No, he wants you to stay in the dark. He wants you to keep you in his kingdom. It's the Holy Spirit of God who may be speaking to you, telling you that all is not right between you and God. That's the work of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:8, Jesus said about the spirit "And he, the Holy Spirit, when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment".
A second source of doubt about salvation can be a contradiction in your lifestyle. When a professing Christian is living in a way that is inconsistent with the commands of Jesus Christ, it will cause him to doubt his salvation. It will cause a dissonance in his life if he professes to be a follower of Christ and yet is not living that way. Listen to the words of Galatians 5:19-21. "Now, the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outburst of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these of which I forewarn you just as I forewarned you that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God".
If you're a Christian today, and you are practicing these things, you have a good reason to doubt your salvation, a very good reason to doubt your salvation. I tell people who profess to be Christians and yet continue to live in disobedience this, eventually, you're either going to give up your sinful behavior or you're going to give up your faith, but you won't hold on to both of those in the longterm. It's impossible for somebody, over the long period of time, to hold onto their faith and hold onto their disobedience at the same time. You'll give up one or the other.
A third source of doubt about salvation is something we're going to talk about when we get to Romans 9, and that is confusion about salvation. You see, many people have non-centered view of salvation, rather than a God-centered view of salvation. Let me explain. If you believe salvation depends upon you, that it's what you've done for God, you'll start to doubt your salvation at some point in time. If you get the idea that your decision to become a Christian is all your decision and God had nothing to do with it, it'll cause you to doubt. If you think that one day you just awakened and said, "You know what? Today, I think I'll trust in Christ. Today, I think I'll reach up and grab hold of God". What happens if because of doubt or disobedience, you let go of God, you lessen your grip on God? Are you lost forever?
Ladies and gentlemen, salvation is not man-centered, it's God-centered. Salvation is not what we have done for God, it's what God has done for us. Salvation is not a case of our reaching up and grabbing hold of God, it is God who took the initiative and reached down and grabbed hold of us. And in John 10:28-29, Jesus said, "I give eternal life to them and they shall never perish. No man shall snatch out of my hands those whom the father has given me". God is the one who has saved you, he is the one who is responsible for keeping you saved, and only when you have that understanding, can you have true assurance of your faith. In 1 John 4:10, John says "Here, in his love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and gave himself as a propitiation for our sins".
The fourth source of doubt about salvation is the condemnation of Satan. If you are truly saved, Satan would like to rob you of that assurance, no doubt about it. Why does he want to rob you of your assurance of salvation? Because doubt about your salvation will break your intimacy with God. If you're always wondering whether you're saved or not, that doesn't cause you to follow God more closely, it causes a separation from God. Let me explain that to you. Let's say, you're married to somebody perhaps for 50 years, but they're always threatening to leave you, always threatening you to leave you. One wrong word, one outburst of anger, one sock left on the floor and picked up, and he or she's out the door, they threaten. Now, how intimate and honest could you be with a mate like that? You'd be walking on eggshells all the time, you wouldn't know what the status of your marriage was, that doesn't produce closeness, intimacy, it creates a distance. People who are always doubting their salvation in a similar way, it doesn't cause them to be close to God, it causes a fear and uneasiness about God, and that's why Satan will love to bombard you with doubts about your salvation.
Remember in Ephesians 6, when Paul lists the spiritual armor that we're to put on to withstand the fiery darts of the evil one, one of those pieces of equipment is what? The helmet of salvation. God wants us to be sure of our salvation so that when those fiery darts of doubt come our way, we can know for sure that we really belong to him. Over and over again, 1 John talks about the importance of our knowing we are saved. "These things I have written to you that you may know". Just jot down some of these verses, 1 John 2:5, "But whoever keeps his word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in him". Or 1 John 2:20-21, "But you have an anointing from the holy one and you all know I've not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie is of the truth". Or 1 John 4:13, "By this, we know that we abide in him and he in us because he has given us his spirit". God doesn't want your eternal destination to be a question Mark, he wants you to know for sure.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great Baptist minister of England said one time that he was so certain of his salvation that he could grab hold of a corn stock, swing over the flames of hell, look the devil straight in the eye and sing "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine". Now, that's the kind of assurance God wants each of us to have. "These things have I written that you may know you have eternal life". The second key word in this passage is the word written. "These things I had written to you". I love our church because we sing some of the old hymns and we sing some of the new praise songs, and Duran has a great blend of that, but the truth is there's some good theology in the old hymns and the new hymns, and there's some lousy theology in both the old hymns and some of the new songs. Now, Duran does a great job of calling out that theology, but there's one song we have to sing every Easter, we just have to trot it out and sing it, and maybe one of your favorites, "He lives". You know "He lives"? "I serve a risen Savior, he's in the world today". I like that song until we get to the last line, and I just can't stand the last line of that song 'cause it is terrible theology.
Do you remember the last line of that song? "You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart". Really? I mean, is that the best evidence that Christ is alive today? Some personal experience or feeling that I have that he lives within my heart? Is that the best evidence for the legitimacy of the Christian faith? I mean, what happens if I wake up one morning and I don't feel like he's in my heart? Has that changed things? Our faith doesn't rest on changing feelings, it doesn't rest on whether or not we have those warm, fuzzy feelings inside, our faith rests on the written Word of God that never changes, and that's why he says here, 1 John, "These things I have written to you". Our faith does not depend upon subjective feelings, but on the objective truth of the Word of God. Let me show you that in scripture. I just really saw this again for the first time this week, turn over to 2 Peter 1:16-20. 2 Peter 1.
Now, 2 Peter was written by Peter. That was seven years of seminary right there, that's what I learned. 2 Peter was written by Peter, that follows, doesn't it? Now, Peter, well, remember, was Jesus' apostle, he was his chief apostle and second Peter was written toward the end of Peter's life as he reflected back on his Christian experience. Now, look at what he says in verse 16, "For a way to not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ". That is he saying, "Look, you new Christians understand this, Peter James and John and all of us, we didn't get in a room together and just concoct some great myth or fantasy about Jesus Christ, we didn't follow cleverly devised tales, but instead we were eyewitnesses of his majesty for when he, Jesus, received honor and glory from God, the father and such an utterance as this was made to Jesus by the majestic glory, 'this is my beloved son with whom I'm well pleased'. We ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain".
Do you know what Peter is talking about? He's talking about that experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus brought Peter James and John with him, the inner circle, and they caught a glimpse of Jesus transfigured, changed for an instant into his glorified state. Peter says, "We saw that and not only did we see that happen, we heard the voice of God, the father from heaven saying, 'this is my beloved son'". Can you imagine an experience like that? Don't you ever wish sometimes, "Boy, if I could just hear the audible voice of God, if I could just see a miracle, then I would truly, truly believe".? Man, what a faith-affirming experience hearing the Word of God. But look at what he says in verse 19, as great as that is, verse 19, "We have the prophetic word made more sure". That is as faith-affirming as hearing the Word of God. Equally, if not more faith-affirming, is reading the written Word of God.
How do I know that's what he's talking about? Look at verse 19, "We have the prophetic word made more sure to which you do well to pay attention as a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts". Verse 20, "Know this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture". That's what he's talking about here, the written Word of God, "No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God". Our assurance of salvation is based on the written Word of God, it is the best evidence that every promise of God is true and can be trusted.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Alan Colmes was asking me a question and he's a great friend, he's not a believer yet but he's a great friend, and he asked me the question, he said, "How do you know all this stuff is true you keep talking about? How do you know Jesus is really the Son of God? How do you know these things"? And I said, well, Alan, it's the Bible. My faith is built upon the Bible, and then he asked a very great question, he said, "Well, how do you know the Bible is true"? Good question, "How do you know the Bible is true"? And I said, Alan, you don't have to check-in your brains at the door, you don't have to commit intellectual suicide to believe the Bible.