This weekend, hundreds of thousands of people will attend a church service for what will likely be the only time this year. I pray that they will hear the glorious good news: God demonstrated His unfathomable love for us that while we were still His enemies, He sent His beloved Son to die for us (Rom 5:8). But this post is not for them. This post is for the church folk, the week in, week outters. This post is for the people who curse their alarm clocks every Sunday morning, rush to get kids dressed and fed, while silently debating themselves on the benefits of going to church. This post is for the people who spend a majority of the sermon time wondering how many more points the pastor has and what’s for lunch.
My fear is that you go to church every week (and especially this week) thinking, my wife/husband/neighbor/brother/sister really needed to hear this sermon. In your mind, you’re always David and your boss is always Saul. You read the five warning passages of Hebrews (2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:14-29) and think, I’m really worried about _____. You are shocked that your friends can’t see the planks that are so obviously protruding from their eyes.
If this is you, hear me now because this is terribly important: You may not be saved.
- You will say, “But I desire the heavenly things!" Angels long to peer into the heavenly things that belong to the believer (1 Pet 1:12).
- “But I desire deliverance!" So did the Legion of demons in the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:7).
- “But the Scriptures comfort me!” Satan tried to use those same Scriptures to tempt Jesus (Matt 4:1-11).
- “But I love Jesus!" So did those crying out Hosanna (John 12:13).
- “But I worship Him!” Pharisees made long prayers and fasted twice a week. Just because you perceive to be worshiping does not mean that God receive it as such (Isaiah 1:15).
- “But I am passionate about social justice!” That could be mere humanism. Who doesn’t know how to care for their own? (Luke 11:11)
- "But I fear God!” So do the demons (James 2:19).
- “But when I heard, I believed in joy!" So did the hearers on the rocky path (Mark 4:16).
- "But I repented!" So did Saul (1 Sam 15:24).
- "But I believe in a historical Jesus who was God, and that he died on a cross!" So did the Roman Centurion (Mark 15:39).
- "But I have confidence that I am saved!" So did the Pharisees; even to the point where they were willing to conclude that the Son of God was the son of Satan (Mark 3:22-26).
- “But I am thankful to God for saving me!" We all can show natural gratitude to someone when they show affection towards us. In fact, that could just as easily be driven by self-love. Saul was thankful to David for sparing his life (1 Sam 24:16-20). Jesus says in Matthew 5:46 “Sinners love those who love them.” Jonathan Edwards in his Religious Affections writes, "Self-love, through the exercise of mere natural gratitude, may be the foundation of a sort of love to God many ways.” (Works 1:276)
- “But I love Jesus’ teaching!” Then hear His words: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matt 7:21-23).
Does this worry you? Good! These religious affections (please read Edwards!) on which you place your assurance are not necessarily proofs of your salvation. You may ask, Then how can anyone know that they are truly His? Edward Mote answers: My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.