Many people live in false hope. It is on false hope that every casino makes its dirty money and that every crook uses to lure his victims to invest in questionable schemes. The sad thing is that the victim is as much to blame as the con-artist. While it is terrible to see people live in the false hope that their ten dollars are suddenly going to become ten million, it is even worse to see people gamble with their souls and eternity. People who put their trust, hope and confidence in a religion that cannot save them are to be pitied. But the men who assure people that everything is well when it is not, are to be condemned.
Most of us have probably been to funerals where the preacher assured everyone that the departed has gone to “a better place”. Many of us have also known deep down in our hearts that it is more likely that many of the poor departed have gone to hell because of the evidence of their lives. (I know that God alone is the judge, but the Bible also teaches that we will know men by their fruit.) No matter how much the preacher wants to comfort the grieving family, to lie about such a serious thing is inexcusable, especially when those preachers are also inferring that living can continue in their sin, in the end we will all go to heaven – together with our dogs and cats.
But an even greater crime is the thousands of preachers of all denominations that see it as their mission to give people some “assurance of salvation” when there is no evidence that the poor individual is actually born-again. I clearly remember as a young preacher, how my elders taught me to point people to certain pet verses in the Bible (like John 1:12) that will give them an assurance of salvation. Many Bibles that contain lists of scriptures appropriate for different circumstances also contain a list of verses that will give the reader assurance of salvation. It seems every preacher has in his arsenal a bunch of sermons that will assure people that they are saved.
The typical conversation with someone who is uncertain usually goes something like this: Enquirer: “I don’t feel I’m saved”. Counselor: “We don’t go by feelings but by faith. Did you ask Jesus into your heart / pray the sinner’s prayer / respond to the appeal?” Enquirer: “Yes”. Counselor: “Then you are most certainly born-again – just believe it and quote John 1:12.” I’m sure this conversation takes place many times every day in every part of the world. But is this the truth?
No, it is a pack of lies. How can anyone assure someone they are saved when the sinner has not truly come to salvation? Is our job to make people feel comfortable and secure or is it to snatch souls from the flames and to make absolutely sure that people have been truly born again by the Spirit of God? (By the way the same thing happens when people are assured they are filled with the Spirit when the evidence says that they are powerless and unchanged, if they are even saved!)
I know these are strong words and that a few dozen readers have stopped reading and are unsubscribing from this mailing list right now. But are we interested in the truth or our Evangelical traditions? The truth is that many of the criteria that counselors use to judge whether an individual is born again or not, are thoroughly unbiblical and false. Where does it say that we are born again because we asked Jesus into our heart, prayed the sinner’s prayer, slipped our hand up or responded to the altar call? It may be written in evangelism manuals but it is not in the Bible. And before you rush to remind me that John 1:12 says: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” and that this surely covers inviting Jesus into your heart – The fact is that “receiving Him” and “asking Jesus into your heart” are two totally different things. By “receiving Him” John means we receive Him as our Savior, Lord and Master and that we submit to all the claims He may make on us. I very much doubt that most of those who asked Jesus into their lives ever meant that they would accept His Lordship and that they would be obedient to Him, no matter what. In fact, the next verse says: “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13). This clearly says that to be born again is not something we can do for ourselves but it is something that God has to do. Where on earth did we get the idea that it was something that was totally dependant on what I have done?
The New Testament does not give glib, easy assurances of salvation but rather instructs us to “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” (2Corinthians 13:5). And “let each one examine his own work” (Galatians 6:4). And “since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1). And “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15).
Can we not know for sure that we are saved? Yes we can. Paul says “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2Timothy 1:12). John says “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1John 5:13). BUT, that assurance has to come from two things:
First there needs to be an inner witness of God’s Spirit that we are indeed His. Romans 8:16 says: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” 1John 5:10 says: “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself”. How dare we tell people they are born again when God does not bear witness to that fact? The problem is that there are far too many people running around claiming they have the witness of God simply because they have been brainwashed into believing a lie.
Second there needs to be external evidence (fruit) of the fact that we are born again. Let me make it simple: If your life has not changed – you are not saved. How difficult is that to understand? Being born again will be evidenced by new desires, new habits, new lifestyles, new values, new language, new friends, new thought patterns etc. If the fruit is rotten, the tree is rotten, simple as that. You can tell a rock as many times as you like that it is a child of God, it does not change the facts.
Are we then to leave people in a state of uncertainty? Yes – until they find their assurance from the only One who has the right to give that assurance! I know that that means people may need to spend time on their knees and in the Bible. Since when is seeking God’s face and wrestling with eternal issues bad?
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