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Re-Thinking Your Salvation

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(6/2) On May 31st, 1889, a storm that had formed over Kansas and Nebraska headed to the Northeast with a tremendous amount of rain. Estimates are that nearly 10 inches of rain was produced in less than 24 hours. Lake Conemaugh and the South Fork Dam above Johnstown, Pa. swelled to overflowing. Engineers and others saw small cracks in the dam and frantically sent telegraph messages to evacuate the town. But the warnings were ignored because there had been false alarms before. But the dam did break and the results were that 2,209 people in 5 or 6 small towns including Johnstown died. Included in the death toll were 396 children and 99 entire families. Damages were estimated at 17 million dollars, which today would be 425 million dollars. The area has flooded several times since then, the last being in 1977 when 80 people died.

Every year many people die from the effects of tobacco, despite the surgeon general’s warning on every tobacco product. Many people die from alcohol related accidents and incidents, regardless of the public education of drug and alcohol abuse. People have a tendency to think, that will never happen to me, and therefore don’t heed the warnings.

When our Lord Jesus was wrapping up His famous Sermon on the Mount, on that hillside that day, He concluded with a warning. In fact, while it is essentially one warning, He breaks it into four parts. The first part we looked at last week.

I. Be-ware of Favorable Ways (vv.13-14), "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

We know that Salvation and heaven are part of a gift package from God that has always been given when men or women repent and believe God. But that repentance requires humility, and confession, and the knowledge that we have nothing meritorious to offer God. We must come as beggars, poor and broken to receive God’s grace. Most other faith systems will tell you how to work for or merit God’s favor, or that since God is a good God that all sincere worshippers are accepted. Sadly most worshipers chose the favorable way, but that way leads to Destruction. Solomon sad, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." (Pr. 14:12)

The way to the Kingdom of Heaven is the way of Personal repentance and humility, and personal faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross and empty tomb, and in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There is no other way.

II. Be-Ware of False Teachers (vv. 15-20), "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

A. The Danger - The word, ‘beware,’ or "watch out," means, to hold your mind away from; watch out for. False Prophets, teachers, religious leaders have been with man as long as man has been worshipping God which is essentially since the beginning.

1. Deut. 13:1-5, "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.

2. Jer. 14:13-14, then I said, "Ah, Lord God! Behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’" And the Lord said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.

Just about every New Testament book warns us of their presence. Listen to 2 Peter 2:1-3, " But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. What is a False Prophet? A false Prophet is one who has neither been called by God, or speaks God’s truth in whole, but only in part. He or she has learned to twist God’s Word and take it out of context to support the doctrine they desire. Often they claim that God has spoken to them alone and they have new truth or discovered the hidden truth of God. They, whether realize it or not, speak for Satan in order to deceive people. Jesus said in Matt. 24:23-24, "Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. Paul said to the Corinthian Church, (2 Cor. 11:13-15), "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

B. The Disguise – They come dressed in sheep’s clothing, That is, they look like shepherds. Shepherds generally wore clothing from the wool of their sheep. They aren’t trying to look like sheep, they are trying to look like shepherds. But their desire is to control the sheep, fleece the sheep, and destroy their faith in the one true God.

C. The Deception – John MacArthur points out that there are 3 kinds of false Prophets.

1. Apostates-One who knows the truth, perhaps once embraced the truth, but has rejected the truth. Like the 4th century Roman emperor, Julian the Apostate.

2. Heretics- One who rejects the Fundamental doctrines of the faith; like, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, The Deity of Jesus, The Resurrection, Hell, etc.

3. Deceivers- These are people who use the Bible or other doctrine to gain wealth, or power from deceiving people; by teaching doctrine that is un-biblical or by twisting scriptures to tell people what they want to hear. Like Joseph Smith who claimed to have a special visit from the angel Moroni who revealed the lost book of Mormon. And like Charles Russell, who grew up in a Christian Home but rejected the doctrines of predestination and hell, and came up with his own doctrines that have become the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society or JW’s.

D. The Discernment – How do I know the Good guys from the Bad guys? From a distance they will look alike. There may be an emphasis on family, or charity or evangelism, but Jesus said, by their various fruits you will know them. From a distance, the little buck thorn berries look like grapes. From a distance the flower of the Thistle looks like that of a fig tree. The closer one gets, the better they can see that what they thought was good, really isn’t. So how can I tell from their fruit?

The very best way is to Know the Truth. I was told long ago that the Secret Service and Treasury officials don’t spend most of their time studying counterfeit money, they study real money. The counterfeit will then stand out. Study your Bible in context. Know what you believe and why you believe it and false teachings and teachers will stand out. After Easter Next year, we may do a study called, Know What You Believe and Why. I guarantee you that the cultist at your door, knows what he believes and why. Do you? Study your Bible. What Fruit will we know them by?

1. The Fruit of Their Character – Do they genuinely look like Jesus in their character? Look at several lists in the Bible. Galatians 5 has a list of the fruit of the Spirit. 2 Peter 1 has a list of character traits in Christ Followers, as does the beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12. Ez. 34 and 2 Peter 2, reminds us that false prophets are greedy and power driven.

2. The Fruit of Their Creed – Paul said, "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. (Rom. 16:17-18)

a. They offer New truth, like Joseph Smith, Sun Yuong Moon

b. New Interpretations of the Bible – Like Herbert W. Armstrong, Charles Russell

c. New Source of Authority – usually a new book or prophecy that they alone have been given- Book of Mormon, Divine Principles, Science and Health and Keys to the Scriptures, etc.

d. Another Jesus- (2 Cor. 11:4) always less than the God – Man of Scripture. A little god, the brother of Satan, a failure, a good teacher or prophet, but not God in the Flesh.

e. Another Gospel (Gal 1) generally a works related gospel that may include obeying Old Testament laws and knocking on doors, etc., but More than just the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

f. Rejection of Fundamental doctrines, like the JW’s

g. Continued Revelation through the false prophet

h. The Prophet is often the only spokesman for God- But

Good fruit is when the prophet isn’t in it for the money, doesn’t seek fame or power; he preaches only Jesus as the God-man who came through a virgin birth, died on a cross as a substitional Sacrifice for man’s sins, and rose again 3 days later, and gives every repentant sinner forgiveness, grace, and a new life apart from any works of any law. His sole desire is to glorify God.

3. Their Converts- are generally mesmerized by their false teachings; often ascribing complete allegiance to the teacher. Jesus said the Pharisees and scribes, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matt. 23:15)

E. The Destruction – These like bad branches or bad trees are destined like Satan to the Eternal Fire. "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (cp. Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:11-15)

III. Be-Ware of False Assumptions (Matt. 7:21-23), "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

A. The Day of Reckoning –"In that day," is either referring to the day when the King comes to claim His Kingdom as in Matt. 25, or it could refer to the day when every Knee will bow before Him, sometime soon after your death. Heb. 9:27 reminds us, "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment," Or, it could be the Day of the Great White Throne Judgment in Rev. 20. On that day every word, thought, action and neglect will be judged. Here our Lord is warning us that there will be some very surprised and unprepared people. They thought they were prepared for heaven but in fact were not.

I have to pause here and tell you, that there are portions of the Bible that give me great comfort, some that give encouragement, some hope, some security, or assurance. But this portion scares the be-gebbies out of me. It scares me for my children, my grandchildren, and for some of you, as well as many other people I know. There are a lot of people thinking that because of some religious activity or action they did some time ago, or because of their own goodness, or even their church attendance, that they are okay with God, but they will learn they never had an intimate relationship with God. Gentle, loving Jesus, will tell them to depart, because He never knew them.

B. The Deceived – Some of these will sound like the same thing, but let’s listen to what Jesus and other N.T. writers say.

1. These will certainly include the false prophets that Jesus has warned us about and:

2. It will also include those who have followed their deception. Paul said, "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)

3. There will also be those who have never born again (John 3:3-7)

4. Those who believe in God and even believe in Jesus with their heads, but have never chosen to follow Him with their hearts. (James 2:19)

5. Those who follow religion, but not Jesus, trusting in their good works done in Jesus’ name (Matt. 5:20) These may have taught Sunday school, VBS, even been involved in charity, but trusting in their good works.

6. Those who go to church but have never been born again (Luke 13:25)

7. Those who never humbled themselves and been converted as little children (Matt. 18:3)

8. Those who have never repented and received Jesus (Luke 13:1-5)

9. Understand this, wonderful acts, even miracles, do not mean that God is behind them. Can I explain that? Not really. Just that Satan is capable of so much more than many of us realize. (Cp. Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9). He will even use God’s name if he can deceive people and keep them from the truth.

10. Those who because of all I just stated have never had their names in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 20:15). Again, let’s not forget you is saying this; this is, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords-Jesus the Christ.

C. The Determination –"But He who does the will of my Father in Heaven."

Is this a works salvation declaration? No! This is the evidence declaration. Our Lord will say in John 6:40, " And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day." Salvation and eternal life, have always been on the basis of personal repentance and faith in God. To believe is more, however, than just a mental acceptance of a fact, it is to trust with one’s life. It is to fall upon or rest entirely on. And has always been evidenced by obedience. Obedience doesn’t give us salvation, it exemplifies salvation and that is exactly what James, the Lord’s brother points out in James 2 and our Lord will point out here and in Luke 6 and Matthew 25. He will say in John 14 and 15, "If you love me keep my commandments." The redeemed want to obey and serve God because God’s ways are for our good always, they are the blessed ways, and the right ways, and we obey them to honor the one who gave His life to redeem us. That’s why when we pray we are always to seek God’s will and do it, (Matt. 6:10). These that our Lord is speaking to don’t make God’s will their purpose in life and it is evidenced.

D. The Declaration- "I never knew You" This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t know who these are, but it does mean that there has never been an intimate relationship. Jesus said that the purpose for His coming in John 17:3, is that people could have eternal life and this life is knowing (like in intimate marital relations) you the one true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (Cp. Jer. 9:23:24 and Nahum 1:7), The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him. Our Lord said in John 10:27-28, "27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.

E. The Departure – Depart From Me. The Destruction, the Fire, the Departure, the Fall are all referring to the Eternal Judgment of separation from God in the place prepared for Satan and His followers (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:11-15). These will have no part in the Kingdom of Heaven, either when the King returns to claim His kingdom or when they die. This will be a terrible rude awakening. And it scares me for many I know and love. I am not a Hell-fire and Brimstone preacher, but these are not my words, they are our Lord Jesus’ words. And they are serious.

F. The Diligence – What will you do with this text? Ignore it? Just put it out of your mind and assume you are okay. May I make a strong suggestion, even a plea, a begging? Do what both Paul and Peter encourages you to do. In 2 Cor. 13:5, Paul says, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified." In 2 Peter 1:10, Peter encourages us, "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble."

Here are some suggested questions?

  • In what I am trusting for eternal life?
  • Do I seek to do God’s will every day in every way?
  • Do I have an intimate connection with Jesus?
  • Have I ever truly repented of living my life my way, and committed myself to following Jesus?
  • Have I genuinely been born again?

These are some good questions to start with. Please don’t be deceived. False teachers and Satan will not want you to examine yourself.

A good friend of mine saw John 3 for the first time and went and told his pastor, I need to be born again, and his pastor replied, "Look _____ You are a good person, you don’t need that born again stuff." My father was a Gideon and one time he told me about calling a church and asking about sharing the work of the Gideons’. The pastor said, "You can come and share as long as you don’t say that born again stuff." My friends, Jesus spoke that Born again stuff and was emphatic about no one going to heaven without it. The people in and around Johnstown, ignored the warnings and over 2000 died as a result. Jesus could not be more clear, let us not make the same mistake.

IV. Be-Ware of Faulty Foundations (Next Week’s sermon, a wrap up and re-cap of the Sermon on the Mount.

  • The Desire
  • The Design
  • The Day of Testing
  • The Doer of God’s Will Broad

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman