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Eternal Life ... Guaranteed! Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
May 19, 2023 12:00 am

Eternal Life ... Guaranteed! Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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May 19, 2023 12:00 am

Often, our problem as Christians isn’t that we don’t have faith; it’s that we don’t have assurance. It’s not that we don’t have hope; it’s that we don’t have confidence.  But the Apostle John delivers a message that could change all that.

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False teachers cause a believer to doubt.

Even here in this letter, John is attacking the Gnostic teaching. Among other things, as we've noted as we've gone through this letter, one of the things they were telling the believer was you've got to have the secret knowledge. You've got to have the superior knowledge in order to go to heaven. Well, who's going to feel smart enough to go to heaven?

And do you know enough? Is there one more thing to uncover? John makes it clear here in this text that assurance isn't gained by secret knowledge but simple faith. Believers in the time of John the Apostle struggled with the same thing believers struggle with today, assurance of salvation. Have you ever doubted your salvation? Have you ever wondered if maybe you lost your salvation?

If so, you're not alone. We all want to know with 100% certainty that our standing before God is secure. Well, John wanted his readers to have that kind of assurance. And today, Stephen Davey takes us to that passage to help you.

This is Wisdom for the Heart, and today Stephen opens 1 John chapter 5 with a lesson called Eternal Life Guaranteed. The licensed psychologist and author reflected some time ago about what some research a psychologist had determined through a series of surveys and tests in the field. I found it humorous and very interesting. They found that there are at least three situations where most people do not act like themselves. In fact, they put on a fake air of confidence even though they're actually unsure and somewhat tentative in one of these three contexts. First, they found that people attempt to look more confident when they enter the lobby of an expensive hotel. In other words, the last thing they want to do is look like they don't belong, right? Secondly, the average person tends to put on an air of certainty when they come into an automobile showroom. They try to at least act like they can afford what they're looking at and asking questions about. Thirdly, the average person they found puts on airs when they enter a church sanctuary.

In other words, they act like everything is in order. In fact, this psychologist's author made the interesting point that people evidently are attempting to fake out the Almighty with their air of confidence and everybody else around them. The truth is the uncertainty and insecurity in the human race extends further and much deeper than automobile showrooms, expensive hotel lobbies, and even here.

Another clinical psychologist, in fact currently on the faculty at Harvard University, wrote an article I came across some time ago and stuck it in my file folder. He wrote that we are in general smiling less and worrying more than ever before. He wrote happiness is down and sadness is up and depression is on the rise. He suggested though that the real problem is not financial, not having enough money, but something else. In a word, uncertainty. He wrote people don't know what's going to happen, especially what's ahead in the future for me. He ended his article by writing, and I quote, an uncertain future leaves us stranded in an unhappy present with nothing to do but wait.

Our problem is not a matter of insufficient funds. It's a matter of insufficient certainty. Now I've just quoted from two secular psychologists. The latter I happen to know is an unbelieving evolutionist. But I quoted them to make you aware that you don't have to be a believer to know that the average person out there is living with a sense of uncertainty about their future no matter what kind of air they put on or communicate. I also quoted unbelievers to highlight what I think is the greater tragedy today.

At the same time our world is by observation and even clinical study coming to openly admit the devastating effects of living with uncertainty. The church at the same time is effectively removing from the gospel the element of certainty because it's offensive. Like one of the most popular television pastors in America, Joel Osteen, some time ago in a live television interview that I watched answered question after question about who gets to go to heaven and do you have to believe in Jesus to get in there. He would repeatedly answer in an effort to not offend anybody. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

I don't know. He later posted an open letter to his following online apologizing for waffling like that in front of millions of viewers, but you watch him read them. You'll see he goes on in a number of interviews. I have seen some of them where he continues to muddy the clear waters of the certainty of the gospel and kind of spreads a layer of fog over what God has so distinctively revealed. Another one that's just sort of come out with their statements here is Frank Schaeffer. Frank Schaeffer's the son of Francis Schaeffer, the Christian apologist who really did a service to the cause of Christ with his thinking and writing. I can remember as a senior in high school being introduced to his declarations of true truth.

It was fascinating to me and it kind of opened my eyes to the certainty of scripture and the gospel. But Frank Schaeffer has come out sort of reversing his father's teaching on the nature of truth by saying, and I quote, certainty is the enemy of the truth. I wonder if he's certain about that. He's actually simply echoing Nietzsche, repackaging him, who wrote, convictions are a more dangerous enemy of truth than lies.

So it's okay to lie, just don't be certain. He would go on to postulate that any kind of certainty about God was nothing less than pride or presumption. Well, ladies and gentlemen, and I know I'm preaching to the choir for the most part, but the actual truth is to reject the record of scripture where God informs us of things we can be certain about is actually presumptuous and proud. Pride and presumption is not in believing what God has said, but in denying. And this issue of certainty and the doubting of the certainty of God and the gospel as it's delivered to mankind goes all the way back to the garden. You remember the very first temptation in Genesis chapter 3 was this issue. It involved doubting the certainty of God's clear command. Satan comes along and whispers, has God really said that? Are you sure you're interpreting it? Isn't that a little dogmatic?

Eat that and die? When Adam and Eve ate of that fruit and began to die, it was the very first time in human history that the truth of God's word was denied. And with that sin and that fall and the corruption of the human race to follow, what has resided in the heart of every human being is this ensuing, eroding, irritating, frustrating, discouraging, despairing sense of uncertainty.

But instead of admitting it, the majority of mankind puts on airs and acts more confidently than he truly feels. Bestowing degrees of knowledge upon one another and accolades of ingenuity upon themselves, building religious systems that layer out steps of spiritual merit to assure themselves mankind, ladies and gentlemen, is actually in a quiet frenzy to silence his troubled thoughts, his doubts, his feelings of self-worth, his sense of purposelessness. Is this all there is in a word uncertainty? Who am I? Why am I really here?

For goodness sake, where am I going? In his book, John Lennox explains the inability of reason alone to answer those questions, the inability of sciences alone to answer the most basic questions that people are uncertain about. No matter how smart or confident or wealthy you try to act, he creates this scenario to illustrate it, which I found interesting. He says, just assume, let's propose Aunt Matilda has made a beautiful, luscious, three-layered cake. He didn't give a lot of details, but I assumed it would be chocolate, otherwise I'm not interested in that cake. And we decide we're going to take it to be analyzed by a group of the world's top scientists, nutritionists, biochemists. The nutrition scientist finishes his examination and testing and is able to tell us the number of calories in that cake and each specific nutritional element and effect upon the human body. The biochemists are able to determine the structure of proteins and fats, etc. in the cake. The physicists are able to analyze the cake in terms of its fundamental particles and how they relate.

Mathematicians are able to determine the behavior of those particles with sets of rather elegant equations. We are able to have a description of how the cake was made and those various ingredients, what they were. We can break them down, how they relate to one another. In fact, we can determine how that cake will affect you if you eat more than one piece at a time. That's my rule.

Okay? But suppose you ask that assembled group of experts one final question. Why was that cake made by Aunt Matilda? And none can answer, except Aunt Matilda, who can inform us that she made it as a birthday cake to celebrate the birthday of her niece.

Now it isn't an insult on any scientific discipline to be unable to answer the question why they simply cannot. In fact, the only way we'll ever know is for Aunt Matilda to reveal it to us. She has to tell us why she made it. And without her disclosing her answer to us, no amount of analysis will ever be able to enlighten us about its very basic purpose in existing. Why do you exist? You can analyze the chemicals in a human body.

You can talk about how they relate, how the body works. But you cannot tell me my purpose in life. We can describe the universe. We can explore it. We can photograph it. We can stand in awe of its beauty.

We can attempt to measure it. We cannot answer the question why does the universe exist, but the Creator can. He happens to be an author, and he has revealed his purpose in writing that all of the universe ultimately and every human being ultimately glory and worship in him and especially for those who follow him to enjoy his pleasure and his presence forever as demonstrations of his grace and mercy. He has revealed to us the certainties of creation.

If you throw out how it all started, you have no hope for how it's going to wrap up. He has revealed the certainty of redemption. He has revealed the certainty of a coming kingdom. He's revealed the certainties of heaven and hell. He's revealed the certainties of eternal fellowship with those who believe not only with each other but with him. Since he has let us in on the answer through his word of these certainties, it is not presumptuous to believe it.

It is presumptuous to deny it. One of the glorious things you discover about God's revelation is that it leads you not to uncertainty but to certainty. Now if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn to 1 John chapter 5 as he comes near the end of his letter that we've been studying. John, by the way, will actually tell us his purpose in writing the letter, and it has to do with certainty. By the way, as you're turning, we're not talking about certainty regarding tomorrow. We're talking about certainty regarding the ultimate tomorrow, the future, and mine beyond the grave. Listen, there are a lot of things about tomorrow that I'm not sure about. I've got my iPhone, and my secretary's put in all the appointments that I've got, and when they start, then I'm going to get a little buzz to alert me that that's got to end, and something else has to start, and I'm going to try to follow that.

It's all there if I follow it, but I don't know for sure what's going to happen 24 hours from now. Isn't it an interesting thought for the believer that you and I can be more certain about where we will be a billion years from now than 24 hours from now? Well, John pens here in this great text what some call the mini gospel, that is the gospel in one verse. It's a wonderful thought. Let's pick it up where we left off at verse 13. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. Is that a great text or what? I had one man come up to me and say, that's my favorite text in all the Bible, and I'll bet if I had a show of hands you'd say similar things. This isn't, by the way, a presumptuous statement.

John's not covered in pride. This is the answer from God the Spirit through John the Servant. There's no more pride in him saying this than for you to say two plus two equals four and I know it. You're simply declaring the truth. Let's talk about the foundation of our assurance.

These things I have written to you. He's giving us his purpose statement. I like the fact that John the Apostle is so clear. In fact, if you go to the gospel by John, you discover in chapter 20 as he nearly wraps up that study or that gospel narrative, he tells us, look, all of the things that Jesus said, we don't have enough books in the world to contain it all, but I have given you, obviously under the Spirit's guidance, I have given you these events, these miracles, so that by the time you get to the end of reading all about it, you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name. That's his purpose for writing the gospel by John. And now in 1 John, a little letter he wrote some time later, he informs us that he's written all of these things so that we'll be able to know for certain that we have eternal life through Jesus, the Son of God.

Let me put it another way. The gospel of John was written so we would know how to be saved. The first letter of John was written so that we would know that we're saved. Now when John opens his letter, in fact, if you go back to chapter 1 and you look at verse 4, he starts out by saying, effectively, these things we write so that our joy may be made complete. These things we write, and he uses the tense, the present tense, to say, I'm currently writing these things to you. Now over in 1 John chapter 5 in verse 13, he changes it to an aorist tense.

He says, these things I have now written to you. In other words, the task in the mind of John is completed, though he still has a few things to say, as God would direct him. But what he's saying here is, I'm now going to refer back to what I have written, and based on what I have written, you can have confidence that you're saved. The reason I'm making a point out of this is the fact that our assurance is based upon not just one phrase. In fact, some believe that John, and I would agree based on the tense, it's just sort of elastic, that John may very well have been referring all the way back to when he wrote his gospel. These things that I've written to you have been written so that you can know that you have eternal life. What that means is the entire body of scripture, so to speak, agrees together in building this foundation upon which we stand, which gives us assurance of our salvation. These things I've written to you, you might have confidence.

Let me go a step further. Since John is writing to believers about their assurance of salvation, by doing that, he is implying that it's possible for a believer to doubt his salvation, struggling, perhaps at times with that. Otherwise, why would John so stress over and over and over and over again, these are the truths now I want you to lock down. You can believe this. You can have certainty about these things.

Why? Because he knew the human heart, even the believing heart, is prone to doubt, dependent on any number of things. In our Sunday evening chapel hour, which meets in our chapel closest to Triumph Road there in that corner of the building complex, I'm introducing key life verses from the lives of historical figures that impacted the church and the world for Jesus Christ.

And one evening I'll spend time on each person that's chosen. I've spent time on the biography and the life verse of Amy Carmichael and A. W. Tozer and Susanna Wesley and Oswald Chambers. I want to introduce you to a man who entered a time of such incredible suffering and uncertainty, following the deaths of his wife and daughter, that he would write into his journal, listen to this, he would write, I believe in God, but I cannot find him.

Ever felt like that? I believe in God, but where did he go? Why do believers doubt? This provoked my thinking and I just sort of propped my feet up and began to make a list.

Well, for starters, because doubt has more to do with emotion than doctrine, which is why John develops the assurance of our salvation on the foundation of objective unchanging truth. Two plus two equals four, whether I feel good about it or not. Life simply changes the way we feel from one day to the next. It could be any number of things.

It could be too many pieces of that chocolate cake. It could feel differently, right? Make you feel better. Even for the believer, though, there are a number of things that could affect our emotions and thus our sense of assurance. Suffering, secondly, could be another reason for doubting. Often, the crucible brings a believer to wonder if God has abandoned him.

If he really did love me, why would this happen? Suffering could bring doubt. Unconfessed sin is something that could devastate the believer's sense of assurance, not only spiritually, but emotionally.

I mean, David of Samos is covering over his sin. He talks about how his body is literally wasting away and then in that great confessional psalm, Psalm chapter 51, he finally opens up and confesses to God and he says, restore to me the joy of your salvation. Might as well interpret that, restore to me the assurance.

Why? Because assurance is tied to joy, joy to assurance. Without assurance and salvation, there's no joy in salvation. Emotional ebbs and flows, suffering, unconfessed sin, even repeated sin can strip away that sense of assurance.

Another thing that came to my mind is an undisciplined life. It can rob you of your assurance. I think there's a wonderful implication that we could miss in this text if the implication is that our assurance is based upon that which is written. Then the more closely associated we live with the things that are written, the closer we are living in obedience to these things that have been written, the more you will sense your assurance of salvation. And the further away you go from the principles and commands of this book, you can expect your assurance to dissolve proportionately to the amount of disobedience, so to speak, or the lack of discipline.

It's amazing how that works. That's a good thing because it pulls us back time and time again to a rededication of our lives to that which has been written. I'll add one more. Well, one more on this page of my notes, three in all. False teachers can be added to the list. It calls a believer to doubt.

Even here in this letter, John is attacking the Gnostic teaching. Among other things as we've noted as we've gone through this letter, one of the things they were telling the believer was you've got to have the secret knowledge. You've got to have the superior knowledge in order to go to heaven.

Well, who's going to feel smart enough to go to heaven? And do you know enough? Do you have enough secret knowledge?

Is there one more thing to uncover? John makes it clear here in this text, as we will continue further in a moment, that assurance isn't gained by secret knowledge but simple faith. Paul would write to Titus and say, look, you need to, with your teaching, silence those rebellious teachers. They're upsetting the whole families in the church by teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.

Titus 1.11. False teaching can cause a believer to doubt. Another reason for doubting to creep in is its cultural influences that just kind of chip away at the confident faith of the believer, which is why we have to be careful what we allow into our lives to influence us, which, by the way, is one of the purposes of the assembly, to teach and rehearse the truths and to sing them and to pray them and to fellowship with others of like faith together so that we can grow like Paul in knowing in whom we have believed and we become even more persuaded that he is able to keep that which we've committed to him, our lives, as we see the day approaching. 2 Timothy 1.12. Lastly, one more here is the enemy propaganda of the fallen spirit world, the influence of that enemy that is intangible, that we cannot measure but we definitely fight against, not flesh and blood but these princes and rulers of darkness. That fallen enemy collaborates all too easily with our fallen flesh, our fallen minds and hearts.

We collaborate with those messages which effectively can destroy the citadels of assurance. And so Paul will exhort the Corinthian believers to mentally battle, to mentally destroy every speculation and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. You have a thought and here it's taking you down.

No, no, no, no, come back here. I'm going to take you captive to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10, 4 and 5. In other words, we wage war in our minds by means of the truth against every thought that enters which attempts to destroy the knowledge of God. And guess what God and his knowledge has made certain for us? That is, upon what do we stand to believe that we are eternally secure?

His word. So we repeatedly come back to time and time again. We repeatedly surrender to and re-immerse ourselves and recommit ourselves and re-memorize with fresh memory the truths of God that have been written. And the more we do that, the greater our assurance. There's more truths to learn that form the basis of our assurance, but we're going to stop here for now. You'll be able to listen to the rest of this message on our next broadcast.

I'm glad you joined us today. You tuned in to Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. Stephen has another resource that can help you explore this topic of assurance. It's a booklet called Blessed Assurance. We're going to email it to you as our gift. Request your copy at wisdomonline.org forward slash assurance. Do that right now, then join us back here next time for more Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-19 00:49:56 / 2023-05-19 00:59:19 / 9

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