Various Verses Perseverance of the saints Pt 2

 

            We come today to the last sermon in our series on the Doctrines of Grace, what we have called the Christian’s Compass. Next week we will summarize everything we have learned and look at some of the objections to these teachings.  In order for everything we have talked about so far in the series to make sense, we need to acknowledge two things: First, that the Bible is from God and it is about God. Secondly, we need to admit that, within its pages, it is revealed that humanity is totally lost. This was the teaching of Total Depravity. Sin has gotten into every part of humanity’s nature. Everything we are, or hope to be is polluted by sin.

          We have also seen that the Bible teaches God has chosen certain people to be saved, to be His people. He did this not because of anything good or worthy that was in them, but for his own reasons entirely. And we called that Unconditional Election.

          We’ve also seen through the Biblical revelation that when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, he actually saved those people that God had chosen. He didn’t just make it possible for them to choose or reject salvation. He really did redeem them on the cross. And we called that Limited Atonement.

          The Bible also clearly teaches that all the people that God the Father chose and for whom the Lord Jesus Christ died, actually come to enter into, and enjoy the salvation experience as the Holy Spirit works in their life. And that is Irresistible Grace.

          And last week, we have seen that no person who was chosen by the Father, who the Son died for, and who has been called by the Spirit, can ever be lost and that they will end up in heaven. That was the fifth point of the Christian’s Compass, and we called it the Perseverance of the Saints. But that assurance of never being lost and ending up in heaven was only half of this fifth point of the compass.

 

Now, this morning we are going to talk about the second part of that great truth. The second part is this, you can never know for certain whether you are chosen, died for, and called unless you continue persevering in your Christian faith for the rest of your life until the very end.

So, the whole teaching of the Perseverance of the Saints, once we put both parts together, is that you don’t need to fear being lost because no true child of God will ever be lost. But, at the same time, you can’t have any basis for believing you are a true child of God unless you persevere in your Christian life.

Christians endure with all their strength. And if you stop enduring with all your strength.  Then it is possible you are someone who has ‘fallen away’ from Christ. You are what some refer to as a ‘Backslider’ If that is the case, then in later years, you will come back and start fighting the good fight again. Or you may be an ‘apostate’. Someone who believes they are a true Christian but has actually turned away from the Christian life for good. Which proves to us that you were never really a true Christian in the first place.

 

          That’s what we are going to talk about this morning. First, we are going to look at it logically, then we will examine some specific Bible verses, and then we will see what this truth means for us practically as Christians.

 

          Let me begin by saying that, we shouldn’t be surprised by this truth. Why did God the Father choose certain people? Why did the Lord Jesus Christ die for them? Why did the Holy Spirit call them? We will find the answers to those questions by looking at 3 Bible verses: Let’s think about the first statement, why did the Father choose us? The answer is given quite clearly in Ephesians 1:4, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love”. So, God the Father chose His people to be holy and blameless people. What that tells us is, if you’re not growing or getting better at living a life of holiness and blamelessness, then you have to ask yourself, “What basis do I have for thinking that I am one of His chosen people?”

Turn to Titus 2:14 where Paul tells Titus about the Lord Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”. If today, you say you are a Christian, but you are committing wicked deeds, or playing with impurity, or you are not eager to do what is good. Then what reason do you have for claiming to be one of those people that Jesus died for.

          Let’s go to the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, chapter 36. Here Ezekiel is looking through the centuries up to the coming of Christ and to the blessings Christ will bring, including the great blessing of the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. God says through His prophet in verse 26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws”. So, if you’re not following God’s decrees, if you are not keeping His laws, if you are not doing what God says. Then what evidence do you have that you are one of those people that the Holy Spirit has called?  The Bible makes it quite clear that God called His people to be Holy. And, if you are not holy then how can you be sure that you are actually one of His chosen people.

          God the Son died for those who were chosen, so that they could be pure. But if you are not living a pure life then how can you be sure you are one of the chosen? And God the Holy Spirit works in His chosen people to make them obedient. So, if you are disobeying Him then you can’t be sure you are one of them. The only basis you have for believing that you are a chosen, purchased, and called sinner is that you are persevering and growing in spiritual things and that you will continue to persevere and grow throughout the rest of your earthly life.

          The only logical conclusion is, it is utterly impossible that one of the true people of God should be lost. But there are many people who believe themselves to be the true people of God and yet they are not. Maybe you’re fooling yourself. That is why the apostle Peter urges us in 1 Peter 1:10 to, “make every effort to confirm your calling and election”.

          So that was looking at this truth logically. To show that this truth shouldn’t surprise us. Now we are going to look at some select passages in the Bible to show that this truth, the Perseverance of the Saints, is plainly taught in the word of God.

          Let’s start like last week with Jesus’ teaching. Matthew 7:13-20. Jesus begins this passage with a warning in verse 13. He said there is only a very narrow road which leads to life and there is a very wide road that leads to destruction. We should note very carefully that there are only two roads. Then Jesus said in verse 18, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit”. What this means is, that if God has really changed your heart it will remain changed. A good tree cannot bear the bad fruit of continual sinning and disobedience. A good tree cannot bear the bad fruit of leaving the Christian faith. A good tree cannot bear the bad fruit of living far from God throughout the entire Christian life. Then, when we read further, Jesus makes a very worrying claim in verse 21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, (so, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is going to get in) but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (it’s not what you claim about yourself, which proves that you are a Christian. The proof is the life that is lived in obedience to God’s will). And then He goes on, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’. It’s important to remind ourselves that this is not a parable, this is a prediction.

          Let’s consider what Jesus’ prediction teaches us. People were prophesying in the name of the Lord Jesus, and Jesus doesn’t say it was a false prophecy. Some were even casting out demons in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and Jesus didn’t say the demons were not cast out. Some were performing miracles in Christ’s name, He doesn’t say the miracles were fakes. So, it is possible to do these things and yet still be lost yourself. That’s because it is not spiritual gifts or spiritual powers that prove that you are a true Christian.

The people that Jesus was referring to, in the passage we just read, were lost because they were evildoers (or has some other translations say they “practiced lawlessness”). They were not persevering in their obedience to the law of God. They were living unholy lives. When God saves us, He changes our nature. We are never perfect, far from it. But the overall direction of the believer’s life is the upward growth in holiness, purity, and godliness. Becoming more like Christ in character. We should always be growing in holiness and spiritual things.

          Many of you are familiar with the parable of the ‘sower’ that Jesus taught in Luke chapter 8 (also found in Matthew and Mark). Let’s go to it now as we continue to look at what the Lord Jesus taught with regards to perseverance. The parable begins in verse 5 and continues until verse 15. Jesus explained this parable to the disciples and said, some people when they hear the word of God, they forget about it almost as soon as they hear it. Some people when they hear the word of God. They are enthusiastic about it for a little while but then they abandon it just as quickly. Some people when they hear the word of God it seems to being doing something wonderful in their lives, they seem to be growing very quickly. But unfortunately, there is something else growing in their lives (maybe the love of power, or the love of money and material things) which eventually becomes bigger. The only true Christians are the fourth type and we read about them in verse 15, But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop”.

          Let’s go now to John 8. And you will see that it’s very important that you understand this truth of the ‘Perseverance of the Saints’. It’s unfortunate but, some people believe that because they made a ‘decision’ at some point in their lives then they are safe for eternity. Even though they might be unhappy and depressed as a Christian, they think at least I’m safe. But that is not true. When God saves people, He changes them. Whoever is in the right relationship with God is different in character despite all their faults and failures.

          Now, look at John 8:30. I must admit I didn’t really consider this verse as a new believer, but when I read and studied this passage it surprised and even frightened me, Even as he spoke, many believed in him”. But later in the chapter, verse 44, Jesus said to exactly the same people, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. That’s very strange, isn’t it? Just a few verses ago we were reading that people were believing in Him and now we are reading that they are evil, they are still in bondage to the devil.

          It means that Jesus was teaching that there is such a thing as the faith which is not a saving faith. There can be a believing in Christ which does not save. So, I needed to know whether my faith was the real thing or was it just this ‘apparent’ faith which passes for the real thing. So how could I know whether I was a real disciple or not? Of course, the answer to that question was already revealed. It is in verse 31, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to (persevere in) my teaching, you are really my disciples”.

          And that’s the point. True saving faith is not something that happens once at a certain time on a certain date. Yes, it may start then but it doesn’t finish then. Saving faith has a start but then continues throughout life. On that day when we came to Christ, we repented, we believed, and now we must continue to go to Him, repent, and believe every day after that.

          That first day was the beginning of a whole new series of days that last right until the grave. That is saving faith. And if I ever stop repenting, stop believing, stop going to Christ, stop following Him. Then, I will know I have just had that temporary faith.

          Even though your conversion may have been an earth-shattering experience and you may have been living in its shadow ever since it still is not the soul-saving transformation of which the new testament speaks. But as long as you continue in the faith, you can enjoy Christian assurance of salvation. But when you stop continuing then you have no further right to assurance.

          Let’s turn to John 15. This is the illustration of the true vine. We’ve gone through this during our Wednesday’s chapel series on the book of John.  Jesus is the true vine, and His Father is the Gardener and believers are branches. The branches which are joined to the vine produce ‘fruit’. So, if you produce ‘fruit’ you can know that you are joined to the vine. Unfortunately, there are branches, which look like branches, but they don’t produce fruit. We can know that they are not truly attached to the vine because they fail to produce fruit. If you are really and truly attached to the vine, then you will bear fruit. And the fruit of course isn’t the number of people you have won to the Lord. But it is the changed character which God gives.

          John 15, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”. And Jesus continues with this illustration in verse 8, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples”. And that is the Word of God.

Now Jesus’ teaching is not just taught by Him of course it is also taught by His apostles. Let’s look at one or two of these verses which the apostles wrote when talking about this whole truth of the Perseverance of the Saints. Let’s begin with the apostle Peter and his second letter, 2 Peter 2:20-22, “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

This passage tells us that there are some people who are very polluted by the world, but when they come into contact with the Gospel their lives are transformed, and they abandon those corrupt practices. That is what Peter is talking about, that is what has happened to them. But then they turn their back on this new way of living, and they go back to what they knew before. Except that they become worse than they were before.

Does this mean that the apostle Peter is teaching that people who are saved can be lost? No, he says what is happening to them is according to the true proverb, A dog returns to its vomit,” Have you seen a dog vomit? He walks away then returns, sniffs, and then starts to eat it again. Humans don’t do that do they. Why does a dog do it? Because He is a dog. He hasn’t been changed into anything else. He’s still a dog, he hasn’t been changed.

          And what about the pig. She’s been taken out of the mud, washed, may be sprayed with some perfume, and then she is brought into the nice clean house. But then when she breaks loose, where do we find her? Wallowing in the mud again. Why did she go back to it when it is all so dirty and disgusting? Because she’s a pig. She hasn’t been changed into anything else, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

The reason people go back to what they were before is because they still are what they were before. They haven’t been changed into anything else. That’s the whole point. Which just proves that you have no basis for believing you are a true child of God unless you continue to persevere in holiness.

We can find a lot of teaching like this in the book of Hebrews. There are two that are especially noticeable. Hebrews 3:14, “We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end”. Or chapter 12:14, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord”.

God is making you holy now so that you can go to where He is. Jesus is not just preparing a place for you He is preparing you for the place. How can people walk through this world and say they are going to heaven, a completely, 100% holy place to be with Christ but not have an interest in growing in holiness. How can they say they are heaven bound when there is no evidence that their hearts are being prepared for such a place as heaven?

The apostle John writes in the same way. Let’s look at 1 John 2:4, “Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him:” I don’t think it could be said any more clearly than that. Let’s move to verse 15 of this chapter, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them”. Now chapter 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death”. Chapter 5:1, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well”. If you are truly born of God, then you will love everyone who is also truly born of God.

The letters of the apostle Paul are also filled with the same truth. Unfortunately, we only have time to look at two: Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live”. Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. This was a passage we looked at last week as well. Let me ask you is there a good work going on in your life today? If there isn’t then how can you claim that it has begun if it is not continuing. Because whatever God begins, He continues until completion.

The final thing I want us to look at this morning is that this truth of the Perseverance of the Saints brings very practical and realistic outcomes to the Christian’s life.

A person who believes this truth of the Perseverance of the Saints does not say, I’ve made a decision so now I am eternally secure. Now I can live as I please. Not even the apostle Paul dared to say that. He said, “No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize”. This is what Paul the great apostle wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27. He knew that if he didn’t practice spiritual self-discipline in order to keep himself in the way of holiness. Even he would be disqualified and not have the right to call himself a Christian.

          The only spiritual life is the one you have today. And if you understand that then it would only be natural that you take steps to persevere. Consider what Paul wrote to the Philippians to urge them on in Philippians 2:12-13, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Work out your Christian life. How? By being obedient to His commands. Why? Because God is at work in you. The proof that God is at work in you is that you are at work. If you are not at work, then where is the basis for you believing that God is at work in you?

          This truth of the perseverance of the Saints has a wonderful effect upon individual Christians and the church as a whole. It makes believers serious about their Christian life and when they are serious about their Christian life, instead of being crushed into a sort of mold which makes them miserable they find that by keeping God’s commandments there is great reward.

 

Let’s pray: Lord we praise you because you are the one true God, you are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Everything that has been created was created by you and for you. Thank you, Lord, that you have provided everything we need to live a life of obedience to your Word. A life that is pleasing and acceptable to you. A life that is uncompromising when it comes to the truth. A life that loves You as you are the God who reveals yourself in a very personal way to us. Thank you for the great gift of salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you that we can know what true love and obedience is because of the completely righteous life that He lived.

As the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins, we ask for the power to forgive those who sin against us because you have forgiven us. We ask you to empower us through the indwelling of the Spirit so that we can persevere through this life and grow in holiness and purity. Only then will be prepared by You, to see You, and live with You forever. We pray everything through the name of Jesus Amen.