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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Saved or Self-Deceived, Part 1


By John MacArthur gty.org 
Selected Scriptures October 28, 2007 80-326
I want you to begin tonight as we return to the Word of God by following as I read Matthew chapter 7, verses 21 to 27...Matthew chapter 7 verses 21 to 27. Here are the words of our Lord Jesus Himself. And they are stunning words, shocking words, and tragic words.
“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 or preach 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.’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended and the floods came and the winds blew and burst against that house and yet it did not fall for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act upon them will be alike a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended and the floods came and the winds blew and burst against that house and it fell and great was its fall.’”
Perhaps this is the most tragic text in all the Bible. The reality is there will be people one day who stand before the Lord, many of them, who will assume that they are about to enter heaven only to be told they’re on their way to hell. This is the worst possible illusion that someone can have, to be mistaken about your eternal destiny, to be mistaken about your salvation.
I’m often asked the question, “Are Roman Catholics Christians?” And I would pose this question, “Are Protestants naturally or always Christians?” How about another question, “Are evangelicals necessarily Christians?” But a more important question than any of those is, “Are you a Christian?” Could be that you’re among the many who are self-deceived. You’re not alone. I am convinced that in the name of Christianity there are many places that call themselves churches and they’re not churches. And they have men leading them who call themselves pastors and they’re not pastors. And they have congregations who call themselves Christians and they are not Christians. They’re not churches, they’re not pastors, and they’re not Christians and yet they proudly post the label Christian.
Now we learned in our message last time, from verses 13 and 14, that there are only two possible options. There is a narrow gate that goes to heaven and there is a broad road that says heaven but goes to hell. The narrow gate is hard to find and hard to go through because it demands denial of self, denial of self-righteousness, recognition of sin, full repentance, submission to Christ, commitment to obey Him and follow Him no matter what the cost.
It’s hard to find that truth and hearing it, it’s hard to act upon it because of the love of self and the love of sin which is natural to the sinner. The true way to heaven is hard to find. It is away from the crowd. It is narrow, you come naked, you come alone, you come penitent. You strive to enter. At the same time, most religious people are on the broad road and there are plenty of false prophets who are enabling them. They are discussed, by the way, in verses 15 to 20. The false prophets, the false religious leaders, the false representatives of Christ, false agents of God who really are the agents of Satan, they are ministers of Satan disguised as angels of light, leading people on a road that says heaven but ends up in hell. For all the years of my ministry, there has been nothing that has come to the level of my concern for this issue.
Of course it’s a tragedy for Hindus to go to hell, or Buddhists, or Muslims. It’s a tragedy for atheists and Jews who reject the Messiah to go to hell. It’s a tragedy for anyone to go to hell. But it seems to me that the tragedy of all tragedies is the oft repeated Judas tragedy where you hang around Jesus but end up belonging to Satan. That’s the real tragedy. There are pastors who fit into this category, they’re not even Christians. And churches are filled with people, some quote/unquote churches are made up almost all of non-Christians who are deceived about their true spiritual condition.
And so, it’s important for us to hear the words of the Lord. If I’m concerned about this issue, believe me, He’s far more concerned about it as well. And when the Lord said these words, He was not speaking to irreligious people, He was speaking to fastidiously religious people. He was speaking to people who were religious to the max, I suppose we could say. They were obsessed with religion. In fact, they couldn’t divorce their social life, their civil life, their economic life, their family life, their national life from their religion. It permeated everything in Israel. These are THE most religious people. These people are as religious as you can get. But they have no relationship to God and no relationship to Christ. They are religious but lost. They are on the wrong road. To borrow the words of Paul, they have a form of godliness without the reality of it. They are self-deceived.
We have that today, as I said. It is everywhere...everywhere. People who in some way or another are connected to the idea of God and even Jesus, but utterly devoid of any divine life, any knowledge of God, any salvation at all. We have multitudes of deceived souls within churches who are on some kind of Jesus trip, thinking all is well. And the words of our Lord in this text really are the best words to deal with this deception. And I’m sure it’s not just a deception that’s out there somewhere beyond us, I’m sure it’s a deception that is here within us. Of course it would be the tragedy of all tragedies, but it will occur and it does occur and it will continue to occur that someone would sit at Grace Community Church and end up saying, “But, Lord, but, Lord,” only to hear, “Depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness, I never knew you.”
Our Lord had this concern even in the Olivet Discourse at the end of His ministry when He told a story in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew about some virgins who had all the trappings for the great event, waiting for the bridegroom to come for the wedding celebration. Only one thing was missing. What they needed on the inside, oil to light the lamp because they had no oil, symbolic of not having anything on the inside of spiritual light, they were shut out forever, though they had all the external trappings.
I suppose the shocking word here, at least the shocking word for me is the first word of verse 22, “Many will say to Me on that day...” And I can’t help but tie that word back to verse 13, “Many are those who enter on the broad way through the wide gate.” It’s the same many. It’s the religious but lost. It’s the same many who go on the broad road that says heaven, but goes to hell. It’s the same many who when they come to the end of the road think they will be admitted to heaven only to find that the entrance to heaven is from, as it were, the very portals of...the entrance to hell, rather, is from the very portals of heaven. What a shock that is to think you’re on the way to heaven, only to find out you are in hell.
What lulls people into this deception? What does it? How could you get to that place where you’re comfortable in your own deception, your own self-deception, even unaware of it. Well let me suggest some things. There are some things that contributed to this. And I would say, first of all, is a superficial understanding of the gospel, which...by the way...permeates if not dominates quote/unquote Christendom, a failure to understand the true terms of the gospel, the real definition of salvation and saving faith. We have such a weak and shallow and superficial and trivialized emotionalized psychologized approach to the gospel that most people who call themselves Christians couldn’t give you a meaningful explanation of the great doctrines of redemption. They don’t know them. Nor are they expected to know them because in many cases the people who teach them don’t know them either. And so people have a false understanding of their spiritual condition because they don’t even understand what saving faith and what the saving gospel are. And you would think that someone like myself who has spent a great portion of his lifetime trying to clarify the gospel and clarify what it means to genuinely repent, and what it means to genuinely put your faith in Christ, and what the doctrine of justification really means would be some kind of a hero to the Christian church, but the fact of the matter is, I’m an anti-hero, I’m treading, as it were, on people’s feelings, I’m invading the comfortable bed of their tolerances, I’m being divisive. But the truth always does that...always does that.
The church is so ignorant about the gospel that when you preach the true gospel, you’re very liable to be vilified for it by the church. I picked up another article today that was sent to me in a journal, I think about 15 pages long, attacking me for what I say it means to become a Christian, written by a man who is a Christian pastor. I tell you to preach the true gospel in the Christian world today is to engage yourself in more warfare than to preach the true gospel in the world.
So the first reason why people can be lulled into this deception is because they don’t know the definition of the gospel. They can sit in a quote/unquote meeting somewhere that poses as a church and be taught by someone who poses as a Christian pastor, and surrounded by people who pose as Christians, and be made to feel good about whatever situation they’re in.
The second contributor to this is a false sense of assurance...a false sense of assurance. The idea is that if you feel good about God, and if you have some emotional attraction to God which might be called love, if you believe in Jesus and you want to connect to Jesus, and you want to sort of associate with Jesus and be a part of what Jesus is doing, and you want Jesus to kind of work with you and make you what you want to be, you’re in. And this will be affirmed. You will be told if you just pray this prayer, “You’re a Christian.” You’ll be certified. In some cases if you come to an altar and pray this prayer, you’re going to be doubly certified. In some cases if you show some kind of faithfulness to the meetings that you go to and they’re all about Jesus, quote/unquote. That’s a certification. But mostly if you feel good about Jesus and you want Him to fix your life and take your life, you’ll be affirmed, you’re okay. As long as you say you want Jesus in your life and as long as you say you believe in Jesus and as long as you pray to Jesus and ask Him to fix your life, say the right things, show the right emotional responses to the events that are done in the name of Jesus, you’re okay. In fact, you’ll be built up. You’ll be affirmed regularly. God loves you and He loves you unconditionally. And all He wants to do is fulfill every dream and desire you have in your life. And you’re here and you’re showing your love for God and that put you in the spot where you’re going to be just blessed.
And so, both the lack of definition in the gospel and this overwhelming desire to make everybody feel good and to assure them that they’re okay with God if they just hang around the people who talk about Jesus, lures people in and seduces them into the dream that they are right with God. And they’re not. gty.org