UCC 69 & 70 Perseverance of the Saints Part 1 & 2

 

          Some of you sitting here this morning have not been Christians for very long. Maybe sometimes you have questioned whether you can keep going forward. Today’s message is for you. And some of you are facing some big problems. You wake up each day and you think, how can I manage. Can I deal with it? Well, this message is for you as well. And some of you are involved in teaching young Christians. You know the situations that they have come from and the pressures they face. You wonder can they keep going? This message is for you, to give to them as well.

          This morning we are going to talk about the 5th point on the Christian’s compass. This is part 1 of the message and next week we will tackle part 2. We all agree that the Bible is from God. It is His special revelation to humanity. It is about Him. But we also need to know that the Bible is about us, about you and me and everyone else on this earth. It tells us that sin had entered the world and that we can’t save ourselves from its influence and that our ultimate destiny is physical and spiritual death. Therefore, we need saving, or we will end up in Hell forever.

          The Bible also tells us that there is nothing about us that pleases God. None of our thoughts, or our words, or our actions please Him in any way. Even though some of you might be better than others (or so you think) but, compared to the holiness of God, we are all polluted. God is totally pure and when He looks down on us, He sees only darkness and impurity and He must reject it and cast it away. We need to be saved, but we cannot even go to Him for salvation because our will is also polluted by sin. That’s our condition. It was defined by the first point on the Christian’s compass. ‘T’. It stood for Total Depravity and it is very clearly taught in the Bible.

          The Bible showed us that sin has entered the world. However, because he is kind, loving, and merciful, God chose certain people before the world was created, before they could do any good or evil, to be saved. We called that Unconditional Election, the ‘U’ on the Christian’s compass, that is also clearly taught in the Bible.

          The Lord Jesus Christ came for those people. He lived the righteous life that they could never live. He lived it for them, and His righteousness is credited to them. The death they deserved to die, He died for them, so now the penalty for their sins is put on Him. The Lord Jesus Christ came for His sheep. That is who he came for and that is who he saved on the cross. That was the ‘L’ on the compass, and it stood for Limited Atonement. Another point that was clearly taught in the Bible.

          And last week we talked about the fact that those who God has chosen, and for whom Christ died would hear His call through His Word. Even though most people don’t respond the first time they hear the Gospel, they will eventually. Some respond when they are children, others when they are teenagers, or when they are older or even very old. Some may not hear it until the very last moment on this earth. The fact still remains that at some point in their life those people who God has loved with a special love will respond to the gospel because, they have been powerfully and effectively called. This call through the gospel of Jesus actually gives them a new nature, new emotions, new desires, and a new will. They come to Jesus and embrace Him as he is freely offered to them and they are saved. That was the ‘I’ of the compass, Irresistible Grace which is also clearly taught in the Bible.

          And that brings us to this morning. Now we will look at the fifth and final point of the Christian’s compass. The letter is ‘P’. Can anyone remember what it stands for? The ‘P’ stands for Perseverance of the Saints. What it means is that every person that God has chosen, and that Christ has died for, and everyone who has been called by the Gospel, every single one of them will persevere in the faith and will be brought safely to heaven. Because the term “perseverance of the saints” can cause people to have the wrong idea about what is meant, then others use terms like “preservation of the saints,” “eternal security,” or “held by God.” The simplest explanation of this doctrine is the saying: “Once saved, always saved.” Again the terminology is not what is important, but does the Bible teach this great truth.

          There are two parts to this great truth that we will talk about over the next two sermons. The first is, if you are chosen by God the Father, purchased by God the Son, and called by God the Holy Spirit, then your salvation is secure. Second is this, the only basis you have for believing that you are chosen, purchased, and called, is if you endure in the faith. You persist in being a Christian right to the very end. That’s the second part of this great truth that we will talk about next Sunday.

           Today’s sermon will bring you relief and comfort for your souls but next week there will be a little sting. But don’t worry because it is the same love that sends the sting that also brings the comfort and relief. Next week we will be reminded, as we should, that we can’t just live the Christian life as we please. We need to persevere with the Christian life to prove that we are the people we claim to be.

          So, let’s dive straight into the 1st part of the truth. No one that God has loved from eternity past and for whom Christ died. No one who has been called by the gospel, should ever need to fear being lost. That is what we are going to be learning.

          I only want to make one point today and that is: everything we have learned so far over the past few weeks makes this truth clear.          God’s purpose, His plan, was to save certain people. If they don’t get to heaven, then we can say that God’s plan has been frustrated. Christ died to save certain people. If those people are not saved then God has been defeated. The Holy Spirit has called these people into salvation. Will they get to heaven or not? Or was His calling just a waste of time? If you think that God’s plan can be frustrated, if He can be beaten, or outsmarted. Then that means you believe God isn’t God.

          Let me say something that might shock you. There are lots of things that God cannot do. What I mean is, He can’t do certain things because He is God. Malachi 3:6 says, I the Lord do not change…”. Therefore, if God has planned to save certain people but some of them don’t get to heaven then that means something has changed in His plan and therefore in God Himself. But James 1:17 reminds us that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows”. It is simply because God cannot change that all the people of God are certain to get to heaven.

          There is something else: God can’t deny Himself. But if God has chosen a people for Himself and they don’t arrive in heaven then it means that He has actually denied Himself. And the Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:13, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself”. In other words, He cannot deny Himself.

          It says in Ecclesiastes 3:14, “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it”. Everything God does is always unchangeable, it cannot be altered (even by our prayers). If anything could be added to it, it would be an improvement, and that would show that it wasn’t perfect in the first place. If anything were to be taken away from it, it would now be less than it was before and that would make it imperfect. The result is that God would cease to be God. That’s why in Isaiah 46:10 it is written, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please”. And why in Ephesians 1:11 it says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

            You can be sure that every true Christian will get to heaven. You know you are a true Christian because the Holy Spirit called you through the Gospel. He called you because Christ died for you, and Christ died for you because God chose you.    

          And if you believe what the Bible teaches about the election, then you cannot refuse to believe that every true Christian will arrive safely in heaven.

          This is a wonderful truth we are learning this morning. That’s why we sing about heaven. That’s why, at a Christian funeral, even though there are tears, there is also a tremendous certainty and even joy. Even as Christians get older, and they think about the end with a little anxiety, there is also something that is making them look forward to it. Because we know who we believe, and we know where we are going. And we know that He will get us there.

          All that we have learned so far makes that clear. At least if you were listening and paying attention to what the Bible clearly teaches.

         

          Now let’s look at some definite Bible verses. It’s important to do this because some people want to see for themselves. If you are like me, you may find it difficult to follow with your heart what you don’t believe with your mind. Again, it’s only a selection because they are many, many, more verses that teach this truth.

          First, we have the words of the Lord Jesus Himself in John’s gospel. John 5:24, “Very truly (in the original Greek, Jesus says, truly, truly. So, it’s like it was underlined twice for emphasis), Very, truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. He didn’t say “shall have”. He said “has” eternal life. That’s a point we will come to again. Notice in this verse, Jesus uses the present tense “has eternal life” and the future tense “will not be judged” and then the past tense “has crossed over from death to life”.

So that means you are alive, you’re never going to be condemned, and the life you have received is forever. If you are a believer, Jesus says so, now those are very comforting and assuring promises.

          When Christians come to the end of their life, some of them die suddenly as we know. Others are ill for a long time and have time to look back on their life. What comforts Christians when they have time to reflect? They find comfort in the promises of God. There was a very famous Christian philosopher named Francis Schaefer. When he was dying of cancer. Did his philosophy give him comfort as he approached his death? No, it was said that when he accepted visitors, they would always find him with his Bible open reading the promises that are contained within. Do these promises comfort your heart this morning? It’s written there, Jesus said it.

          Let’s look at the very next chapter in the gospel of John 6:37, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

I have come to do the father’s will. The father has given me people. These are the people who will see and believe. And I won’t lose any of them. Of everything that God has given me I will lose nothing. Every one of them I will raise personally from the dead on that great last day. Jesus said so. And we can take him at His word about raising the dead because he rose from the dead never to die again.

          Then in John 10:27 (another passage we should be very familiar with by now) Jesus talks about His sheep who are His people, the ones who believe in Him. “My sheep listen to my voice; (have you heard His voice?) I know them, and they follow me (do you follow Him?). 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

          If you are in Jesus’ hand, you are in the father’s hand, If you’re in the Father’s hand, you’re in Jesus’ hand. No one will snatch them out of Jesus’ hand, no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand because He’s greater than all. Jesus and the Father are one. Is there any stronger way in which it could be put? The believer in Christ is perfectly safe.

          Let’s go to another book in the New Testament. A letter which was written by the apostle Paul to the believers in Rome. Romans is his explanation of the Gospel of the Good News.

          This is what He says in chapter 5:10, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation”. So, you see it tells us we were enemies of God. I know I was. Were you? And I was brought back to God because of the great work of Christ. But the Holy Spirit applied His work to my life, and I was brought back to God. Even if, when I was an enemy, I was brought back to God. Now that I am brought back to God. How much more certain can I be that I am saved? I will be kept right till the end, finally delivered, we can ‘boast’ (rejoice) in that as Paul says.

          Let’s stay in Romans and go to chapter 8:28 which we have also read in previous sermons. “And we know (Those are marvelous words. Philosophers say, ‘we think’. Many of the world’s religions say, ‘we think, we feel’. But those who believe in the Gospel say, ‘we know’). “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. We can know if we are called; the verse says so. If you love God, it’s because you have been called. Some people are called dramatically, and some are called quietly. But you can know if you are called if you love the God of the Bible. Do you love Him? Then all things are working together for your good, even your present problems.

The passage continues, “29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called (you were called because you were predestined); those he called, he also justified (now that you have been called you are right with God. There is nothing between you and God); those he justified, he also glorified”. That’s in the past tense. Some of you will no doubt point out the fact that we’re not in heaven yet. It’s put in the past tense because it is so certain that what it is talking about, has already taken place. If you are a true Christian, then there is no cause for fear or worry. You cannot be lost as long as your God is the saving God of the Bible.

          Next, let’s look at Romans 11:29. This is another great chapter and verse. for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. That’s a relief, God doesn’t take back the things He gives. Have you ever had a childhood friend like that who gave you something and then you had an argument, you fell out, and then he took it back? God’s not like that. If He gives you the gift of eternal life, it is given. If He has ‘called’ you to salvation you are called. His gifts and calling are permanent.

          Let’s turn to Ephesians 1:13 where the apostle Paul uses some very distinct language. And we will see that the NT talks about this truth sometimes using pictures, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,” It is helpful for us to know that the apostle Paul was raised as a child in a seaport. And so that is where he borrows his imagery from. When my household goods where being carried from Canada to Tanzania they were first stamped with a mark of ownership and also a destination. If you are a Christian, then you have been stamped with the Mark of ownership. That stamp is the Holy Spirit and the fact that you have been stamped with that ‘seal’ guarantees you will arrive at the right destination.

          But if that wasn’t clear Paul goes on in verse 14, “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” The Holy Spirit is a guarantee. If you have been called by the Gospel to believe, you have received the Holy Spirit, you’ve received the guarantee. It’s a word used in business. If you want to buy something but you haven’t got enough money, then you put a down payment. That serves as a guarantee that you are going to buy the goods but also that you will bring the rest of the money. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to show that we belong to Christ and that He is coming back for us.

          I just want to point out three more passages. The first is Philippians 1:6. We’ll look at this because it is a favourite text of so many of us, “being confident (note that doesn’t say self-confident) of this, that he who began a good work (not just any work but the work of salvation to make it say anything else is to abuse the text) in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. Who began the work? God did. Who will carry on the work? God will. Who was it that made you to interested in the Gospel, who brought you to believe, who brought you to this moment? God. And do you think God begins something which He does not finish. No! And that is why we are confident that He will keep working in our lives until the Lord Jesus Christ comes back.

          The second passage, 1 Peter 1:3 and we will see that all the apostles taught the same thing. Now note Peter’s confidence and his certainty, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”.         

          God has an inheritance for you. And this inheritance is kept for you and you are kept for the inheritance. Peter praises God because of His mercy, that we will enter into that inheritance because we are being kept by the power of God through faith for this salvation which is to be revealed in the last time.

          1 John 5:13, the apostle John wrote this letter, and he tells us at the end why he wrote it. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life”. I will be the first to admit that the Christian life is not easy. Its pain is real, and you will experience trouble and tears. What helps us to persevere, to endure is that we know we have eternal life.

          These are only a small sample of Bible passages there are many more. But this is enough for you to know that if you reject these 5 points of the compass, you are rejecting the Word of God.

         

          Let us move on. I want us to consider some of the pictures God gives us in His Word that show us His salvation. Now all these illustrations make the same point. If you are a true Christian, you can never be lost. We just heard the word ‘eternal life’. What does ‘eternal’ mean? What is ‘eternal life’? Does it just mean everlasting? Well, it does mean that. We can see that taught in the New Testament. But eternal is referring to the very life of God. This is what you received at the very instant of your conversion. The very life of God. Can God die? Or grow old? No. If life is eternal can it be taken away? That word and what it means, is a proof that we can’t be lost. It cannot be taken away.

          Then there is the word “Born again”. Now people can die but they cannot be unborn. But we have just seen that they cannot die because of the word eternal life. But can they be unborn? Is there a reverse process like some smartphone that lets you watch the movies you record in reverse? Well, you may be able to do it on film but not in reality. There is no such thing as being unborn. You cannot be born and then go back to the state of not being born. It cannot happen. Therefore when, as a Christian, you have been born again that work is irreversible.

          I hope now you can be comforted by this Biblical teaching that we cannot be lost. Maybe you have just become a Christian, and your friends are laughing at you. There are so many things you still don’t know. So many things of which you are not sure. And there are still a lot of things which you doubt. But you come to Christ and you wonder if you can keep going. This teaching is for you, God himself will ensure that if you are truly His you will not be lost and that you will safely arrive in heaven.

Maybe some of you have got difficulties in your life that were not there a few weeks ago or even yesterday. You can’t see any way through them, there are some situations so dark that you wonder how you can survive. But you know this is the road to heaven. We don’t know exactly what is around the next corner. But we do know that we will walk the path no matter how torturous it is and end up safely in heaven. And nothing can change that.

          Maybe you know someone who is a new believer, but they don’t seem to have anything going for them, no money, no family, there doesn’t seem to be anyone on their side. Well, it is our first duty to help young Christians first of all by praying for them and then helping them find a healthy church. If they are Christians, then they will be in heaven on equal terms with you and me and every other Christian who has ever lived.

          There are many things in the word of God that make us ashamed. Many times, we open the pages, we read, and we weep like children because His Word is like a double-edged sword. But there are also many great comforts in the word of God. And one of them is that when you belong to Christ you are His forever.

 

          Lord may these five great truths provide a sure and steady foundation for our faith so that we can live with confidence in Your abundant mercy and grace.  As we enter into this time of communion, when we remember the great and terrible price you willingly paid on the cross for our sins. The price that we owed and the punishment we deserved. Lord we now ask you to help us to find all our resources in You, all our hope in You, all of the strength we need to live this life which you have called us to.  We pray through the almighty name of Jesus, amen.