“Blessed Assurance”? (Matthew 7:21-23 sermon)

Do you think that you are going to heaven? If you do, you’re in good company. An ABC news poll indicated that 89% of Americans believed in heaven, and 85% of them think that THEY are going there. And it said these numbers have been pretty consistent throughout recent history. Most people in America today think they are going to heaven. But Jesus’ words in our passage today should be a wakeup call for many of us:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,’ did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

I. (Many Have) The False Assurance of Heaven

One of the things Jesus reveals to us here is that many people have a false confidence that they are going to heaven. NOT everyone who thinks they are going to heaven, is really going there. Jesus clearly says here: “NOT everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

This is very clear: Jesus tells us here that not every person who makes what we call a “profession of faith” is really saved. He says there will be people who CALL Him “Lord,” but who will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

And in fact, there will not just be a few of these; it is not rare. NOTICE THE WORD “MANY” down in :22, “MANY will say to Me on that day …”. Just as we saw last week in Matthew 24:11 that Jesus said “MANY” false prophets would arise, and mislead “MANY,” so here He says that “MANY” will come before Him, claiming all these “good works” that were supposedly proof of their salvation. So according to Jesus, there will be a LOT of people who THINK they will be in heaven, who will in fact be turned out of there! It’s not going to be just a few; He said “MANY.” That should get our attention.

You have probably heard the news that some time between mid-May and last July, the Equifax credit agency, one of the major 3 companies that tracks and reports credit, suffered a massive security breach. Well, we’ve been hearing about hacks and breaches in companies here and there; how bad could it be? Well, in fact it was “MANY.” And when they say “many,” they mean MANY! The breach affects 143 MILLION Americans’ credit information — that’s about half the country! That is “MANY”! Statistically speaking, half of the people in this room have had our credit hacked; that is something to take seriously.

In the same way, Jesus says here that “MANY” will come before Him one day, who have called Him “Lord” here on earth, and who have done certain deeds which caused them believe they were going to heaven, who are NOT genuinely saved. Just like that security breach, when Jesus says “MANY”, we need to take that seriously. This will happen to “MANY”!

You say “Pastor, that sounds scary!” Well, honestly, it should be. There is nothing more important in your life than your eternal destiny. And the fact is that without doubt, there are people right now, right here in this room, who think they are going to heaven, who are not going to be there.

— There are people who have walked down this aisle and made a profession of faith, in this very church, who are not really saved.
— There are people who have been baptized in this very baptistry, who will not be in heaven.
— There are people who are on the membership rolls of this church right now, who will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
— There are people who REALLY THINK they WILL — who in fact will NOT!

We need to take this seriously! Jesus says there are “MANY” who have a false assurance about heaven.

 

II. Two Wrong Means of Assurance

Now WHY would so many people think they are going to heaven, when they really aren’t? Jesus shows us here a couple of things that people trust in, that He says are NOT necessarily indicators of genuine salvation:

A. First of all, A PROFESSION OF FAITH.
Many people believe that because they have come to a time in their life when they have made what we call a “profession of faith” — in other words they’ve SAID that Jesus is their Lord — that they are saved. Over the years, a lot of people have heard verses like Romans 10:9-10, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And they think: Well, sure I believe Jesus was resurrected, and I say “Jesus is Lord”, so I must be saved! Or, “I went down to the front of the church one time, and I made a ‘profession of faith’ so I must be saved.”

And part of the problem is, too many of us pastors and teachers and church members have told these people, as long as you’ve confessed Jesus, you’re saved, no matter how you live and what you do. It’s as if we think Jesus said “Everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ WILL enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” But that is NOT what He said. He said “NOT everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Just because you have made a “profession of faith;” just because you SAY Jesus is your Lord, doesn’t mean that He really IS, or that you are going to heaven.

One of the disturbing trends in our society today is this idea that you can be whatever you say you are:
— A couple of years ago, a woman from Idaho made the headlines because she had told everyone that was a “black” woman — and it turns out she has not a drop of African-American blood. Her response was that she “self-identifies” as black, even though that is not physically true.
— In the same way, multiple people these days are saying they want to be identified as a man, even though they were born as a woman, or vice-versa. And many people think this is reality.

But this is not “reality;” it is insanity; it is undoubtedly one of the foremost indicators of the continuing degeneration of our society. One of the clearest, and most evident characteristics God gave us when He created us is our gender. “In the beginning” Genesis 1 says “Male and female He created them.” Our God-given gender is one of the most fundamental, obvious, objectively true things about us. When we reject our gender, we are rejecting the most basic fact God has given us. It is not reality to just say you are something else, merely based on your feelings. Just because you SAY you are something, does not mean that you really ARE.

And in the same way, Jesus is telling us here is that this is also true in Christianity. Just because you SAY you are a Christian, does not mean that you really ARE one. I can SAY “I’m a marathon runner, just like Dewie Phipps” — but my saying it doesn’t make it so. The truth is, I haven’t run more than 3 miles at a time this year yet! Just saying I’m something doesn’t make it so.

And it is the same way with salvation. Just saying that Jesus is your Savior doesn’t make it so. A “profession of faith” in Jesus as your Lord, is a false hope of salvation unless you really are in fact FOLLOWING Him as your Lord, as we shall see in a moment. There will be “MANY”, Jesus says, who have made “professions of faith” who will not be saved.

— SECONDLY — and this may be surprising to many — miraculous evidences in your life does mean that you are necessarily saved. Look at the examples that Jesus gives — and remember HE is giving these examples, not ME — Jesus says: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you …’.”

Jesus gives 3 examples here of people who will claim Him as their Lord, and who will base their assurance of heaven on certain deeds they have done:
— First He says they will say “Did we not prophesy in Your name?” This word “prophesy” is the Greek Bible word “propheteuo”, which can mean to “speak before” or “preach”, but it is often used of those who foretell future events as well — and there is good reason to believe it is used in that sense here, because ALL THREE of the things Jesus mentions here are miraculous in nature.
— And He says they will say to Him, “and in Your name cast out demons”, exercising control over supernatural beings.
— Then He says they will say to Him, “And in Your name perform many miracles.”

So all three of these things refer to supernatural, miraculous deeds:
— I told the future
— I cast out demons
— I performed many miracles

But Jesus says doing miraculous things is not a sure sign of one’s salvation. He said in Matthew 24:24 that in the end times “false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” So signs and wonders in and of themselves are NOT a sign of salvation. False religions and false prophets will perform them too!

So when someone says, “I know I am going to heaven; I have seen miraculous things; I had a prophetic vision; I spoke in tongues.” Listen, you can’t put your confidence in these things; Satan replicates these same things. Do you know that Muslim dervishes, and Indian gurus (Kundalini yoga) all speak in tongues as a part of their religious experience, and they see visions, and get “slain in the spirit” and have all kinds of ecstatic experiences? So miraculous signs and wonders in themselves are no guarantee that a person is a Christian.

So there are people in churches all across America today who are experiencing the supernatural, speaking in tongues, seeing visions, even performing miracles — and all the while thinking to themselves, “I’m headed to heaven” — but Jesus says here that He will say to “MANY” who claim these things, “I never knew you”! Miraculous manifestations in your life can be a false basis of assurance — IF the two things Jesus shows us next, are not also present in your life.

 

III. Two Fruits of Genuine Assurance

So on what basis can we have assurance that we are really going to heaven? Some people assert that “well, you just can’t know.” But I John 5:13 says “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.” So the Bible says, yes, you CAN know.

And secondly, we need to make it clear beforehand: we are NOT made right before God on the basis of the good things we do for Him. We do not earn our salvation. As we saw a couple of weeks ago, we are saved “by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone”, not by anything good we do. We must understand that.

I am currently reading Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. In it she tells the story of her Tante (aunt) Jans, who was dying of diabetes (this was in the early 1900’s) and they were going in to tell her. Her brother, Corrie’s dad, decided that they should comfort Tante Jans by reminding her of all of her accomplishments during her lifetime. So the whole family went in to tell her.
— Her brother said “You will run to God with your hands full!”
— Her sister mentioned all her clubs;
— another sister mentioned all her writings;
— Betsie spoke of all the fund she’d raised for good causes,
— and Corrie said, “your talks” — because she had spoken to groups all over the city.
But Tante Jans put her hands over her face and began to cry, “Empty! Empty! How can we bring anything to God! What does He care for our little trinkets?” And she whispered: “Dear Jesus, I thank you that we must all come with empty hands. I thank You that YOU have done it all — ALL — on the cross, and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.” (The Hiding Place, p. 55)

Tante Jans had it right. She knew she was NOT saved by her works, but by Jesus’ work on the cross alone. BUT: understanding that, we must recognize the equally vital fact that if we are really justified before God, there WILL be some signs of it in our lives:
— Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.”
— He said, “NOT everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but He who DOES THE WILL of My Father who is in heaven.”
— He said “I will declare to them, “I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who PRACTICE lawlessness.”

Jesus says the person who will really be in heaven will not just SAY that Jesus is his Lord; he will SHOW it by the fruit of his life; and here He shows us that this fruit takes at least two forms:
1) the genuine believer will DEPART from lawlessness and sin;
2) the genuine believer will DO God’s will. He will obey Him.

FIRST, the one who is genuinely saved will be turning away from sin. Jesus said that He will tell the false professors of faith: “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” In other words, these people SAID that Jesus was their Lord, but they just kept on practicing sin, and disobeying God’s word.

I John 3:9 says, “No one who is born of God practices sin.” Now when he says “practices sin” here, he doesn’t mean that we are never going to slip up and sin. We will all sin until the day we are perfected in heaven. But it means that you cannot just practice sin repeatedly, and not care about it, and not be convicted about it, and not eventually turn away from it with His help. You will not just continually and unrepentedly live in sin if you are really God’s child.

Listen: I don’t care if you can tell me the hour, day, and minute of your profession of faith; I don’t care if you can show me a picture of your baptism; if you are living in continual disobedience to God’s word in some area of your life, you CANNOT have any assurance of your salvation. If you are continually practicing sin, then you can be sure that one day you will hear Jesus say to you: “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

 

The SECOND fruit of genuine salvation is that you will DO God’s will. You will obey Him.
Jesus said here, “Not everyone who SAYS to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who DOES the will of My Father who is in heaven.” Those who are genuinely saved won’t just SAY that Jesus is their Lord; they will actually DO what He says. That’s what “Lord” means. “Lord” isn’t Jesus’ first name, “Lord Jesus”! “Lord” means “Master”, “Boss”, “God.” It means that you are committed to DO what He says.

That’s why Jesus said in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not do what I say?” Obeying Jesus is a vital fruit of real salvation. If you are really saved, you will obey Him. You will do what He says.

See, in genuine salvation, you don’t just “say a prayer” and “ask Jesus to come into your heart” and then just go on living like you were before. In real salvation, you realized you were going the wrong way with your life, disobeying God, so you “turn around” (which is what “repent” means) and ask Him to forgive you, and turn to FOLLOW Jesus as your Lord/Master/Boss. So if that really happened; it means that you are now following Jesus and DOING what He says. And if you AREN’T doing what He says, it is one of the best evidences that you are not a Christian at all. This is exactly what Jesus says here: “Not everyone who SAYS to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who DOES the will of My Father who is in heaven.”

As we saw, just saying that something is so, does not make it so. I can pick up a rock, and take it to school, and tell all my friends, “This rock is alive!” I can put a sign on it that says “Live Rock”! But my saying that doesn’t make it so. Scientists tell us there are certain SIGNS of life: that a real living being has a metabolism which converts fuel to energy; that it responds to a stimulus; that is grows; that it reproduces. These are certain signs by which you can tell that something is alive. And that rock doesn’t meet those criteria.

In the same way, Jesus tells us here that just putting a label on yourself, “I am a Christian” does not make you a Christian. He says there are certain criteria: “You will know them by their fruits.” And these two fruits are: that you will turn away from sin, and you will obey Him. And if these criteria are not there, you do not belong to Him!

Folks, we have GOT to get this! There MUST be the fruit of holiness and obedience in a person’s life for them to have the assurance of salvation. I don’t know how many times during my lifetime spent in Baptist churches I have heard people say things like: “Yeah, he made a profession of faith 50 years ago, when he was a little kid, but he’s lived a bad life since then, and he hasn’t been back to church, but you know: ‘once saved, always saved.’” PLEASE STOP SAYING THAT! It is not true! Jesus makes it very clear here that just SAYING that He is your Lord doesn’t save you, if it is not backed up by the fruit of your LIFE in holiness and obedience!

 

CONCLUSION:
Now in light of that, will you ask yourself today: “Am I genuinely saved?”
— Have you publicly confessed Jesus as your Lord & Savior? You do need to have a time when you do that.
— But even more importantly, have you shown that your profession of faith is real, by actually TURNING away from your sins, and by DOING the will of God?

II Corinthians 12:5 says: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith.” When you test yourself, what do you see?
— Do you have the fruit of holiness; are you turning away from sin?
— And do you have the fruit of obedience: you are doing what Jesus says, because He is your Lord.

If you have these — even if they aren’t perfect; but you’re working on it — then you can have some confidence that your profession of faith was real. But if you don’t, then you do not have any assurance of your salvation; you need to be afraid that you are one of those to whom Jesus will one day say: “I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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2 Responses to “Blessed Assurance”? (Matthew 7:21-23 sermon)

  1. audie brown says:

    Mr. Shawn, you are so right on. Words from the Bible.

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