Should We Fear for Our Salvation?
Sermonette, Eric Snow, UCG-Ann Arbor, MI† 06-11-05
Martin Luther had a really big problem.† He had come a monk after going through a truly frightening thunder storm on July 2, 1505.† He cried out, ďHelp, St. Anne, and Iíll become a monk.Ē† Unlike many who prayed similar things in a perceived life-threatening crisis, he did what he vowed:† ďNot freely or desirously did I become a monk, but walked around with terror and agony of sudden death, I vowed a constrained and necessary vow.Ē† As monk, joined rigorous order, damaged his health permanently by punishing himself so thoroughly, such as by laying out in the snow, etc.† Joyhann von Staupitz, saw Luther was too introspective, consumed with guilt, so pushed him to become a theological teacher and professor who taught the Bible to students.† He saw that his student was obsessed with his own sins, and turned inward excessively, in contemplation as a monk, that to have to deal with others more would be good.
Now, letís consider how Luther states his inner torment, and his solution.† Do we have a similar experience?
†We may object to some of his vocabulary here since it reflects doctrines we disagree with.† But do we have the same emotional or spiritual experiences about our continual, chronic sins?† Do we fear the lake of fire because we havenít overcome enough in one or another areas of our spiritual lives?† Does a sense of hypocrisy make us want to give up, and go into the world?
S.P.S.†† Despite we may have sins we constantly keep committing, we should never give up on the Christian life.
These people thought they were saved when they werenít.† Could we be in the same boat?†††
There are lots of scary texts available.† There are the parables of the pounds and minas, there is the parable of the sheep and goats, there is the man who had no wedding garment on, and got kicked out of the Kingdom.† Could we be like the man in the parable of the pounds who kept his one pound in a napkin, and lost out on salvation?† Can we be deceived about our own spiritual state?† Could we be a tare in Godís grain field, Godís church.† We fear that we think weíre saved when we arenít, like Luther.
But hereís a key error to avoid:† We shouldnít give up, regardless of doubt.† For after all, feelings arenít faith, no more than human reason is faith.† We may feel lost or that God isnít pleased with us excessively when that isnít the case at all.
How can we throw ourselves into the Lake of Fire for certain?† By giving up, by going into the world.† Therefore, even if we feel like weíre hypocrites, even if we feel somewhat uncertain, we should still keep trying to obey God.† For our feelings are by no means guaranteed to be accurate.† To repeat myself, faith is not feeling, but a conviction backed by action.†
If we have trouble overcoming one sin, we should move onto another area to work on, and then come back to the hard one or ones, much like taking a test in school.† The tunnel vision that can occur from obsessing about certain sins can make things worse spiritually for us.† It may even increase the amount of the sin committed.† I think this is especially true of sexual lust.
Earlier in spiritual life, I tended towards too much confidence, didnít understand why people would feel like giving up.† But since in some areas of my life I feel Iím definitely worse than at (say) age 23, 2 years after baptism.† So since others may have similar experiences, we should examine our doubts directly.
Some of us are broken records, and have chronically the same sins:† pride, materialism, questioning Godís love or Godís justice, sexual lust, gossip, anger, etc.† How much do we ever improve?† One thing is that we may have improved in other areas without perceiving it.† Another is that God rates us from where we start, not just on an absolute scale, when it comes to determining how high or low our position in the Kingdom of God will be.
Mention case of RF, how had improved socially, was more friendly, but gave up after about 7 years in the COG.†
How much would gain if go into world?† Especially as one gets older, one gets less!† Occupation example, if young, have less choice or opportunity as get older, past 40.
So superficial anyway compared to what God promises us:† Eternal life, being a spirit being, having happiness forever, being in Godís Family as a Divine Being.† Pascalís wager analogy:† If uncertain, should still keep trying, since the downside if was truly saved is so much a greater loss than if try then fail.
II Cor. 9:24-27
Salvation not guaranteed.† Tricky balancing act here:† We need to avoid both complacency and excessive spiritual terror if weíre baptized and have received the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands.† God knows we are weak, and makes certain allowances for it, for His Son lived as a man as we do now.† But that doesnít mean we can sin without restraint and get away with it.
Romans 7:15-25+, focus on 7:21-8:2 if lack time.
Notice that Paul continually struggled, that salvation wasnít automatic or easy, but then he wasnít plagued with doubts as Martin Luther was, or some here today may be.
Notice the solution:† We are saved, justified, by faith through grace.† There is always truth in the Protestant answer, even if many of them fall into antinomianism, and want to eliminate the law.
Consider this remarkable tale, that the almighty, all-power Creator God would become an man, live as a carpenter much of his adult life, and then die a humiliating, painful death.† Do we realize how great such love is?† Gibsonís movie good at getting this across, despite its intrinsic problems.
Conclusion:† So we as Christians should never give up in trying to obey God despite our sins.† We should remember Godís enormous love when we feel doubtful.† We should remember the cross when we feel doubtful.† We should remember the world offers us so little compared to God when tempted to give up. God expects us to sin, but that doesnít mean we have a license to sin.† When we give up, thatís a certain way to put ourselves into the Lake of Fire, rather than possibly ending up in it should we keep trying when weíre deceived about whether weíre saved or not.† As Winston Churchill once said: