2 Peter 1:8-11 ~ "How to be Sure of Heaven"
I have told you this story before, In fact I have told this story so often, that I may invite my wife to come up and preach this part of the message because I know that she will be able to give the story word for word, verbatim.
It was after I had been attending the Brethren Assembly for long enough that I had finally asked Jesus into my life. I had enough scripture now that I had finally gotten somewhat comfortable with such words as “saved,” “born again,” “converted” and other evangelical terminology that previously had been completely strange to me. Many of us can no longer remember when those words did not sound foreign to the religion in which we had been raised.
In my new found assurance of salvation, I told my brother, who like me was raised in the United Church, that I knew I was going to go to heaven when I die. That really disturbed him and he replied with force, “Allen, you’ll never know for sure that you are going to go to heaven until you go knocking on the gate.”
I asked a Roman Catholic man in hospital if he knew that his sins were forgiven and that he would go to heaven. He wasn’t sure. I posed this question: Suppose your priest comes and hears your confession here in the hospital and you confess every sin you can think of. Then suppose that you are released and walk across the road and rare hit by a car and killed. Could you be sure that you would go to heaven? His answer was heart-rending. He answered that it would depend on whether he had sinned further before he was struck by the car.
In both of these cases, you will note the complete lack of assurance of salvation. The reason is that both responses are based on a works based religion – that it is what I do that determines my eternal destiny. Both views tie the person to the church. One in particular keeps a person dependent on the infusion of grace at the hands of the priest, who alone can forgive sins and give absolution.
I have told you before that the philosophy of the religion in which I grew up was, “Do the best that you can, and hope for the best.”
I know that I don’t have to convince anyone here this evening that is not the message of God’s Word. Hear again what Peter say in 2 Peter 1:2 ~ “To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
That is how we receive salvation. That is the basis for our assurance. True faith has never been about what we sinners can do to secure God’s favour. It has always been what the Lord Jesus has done through His righteousness and his sacrificial death on our behalf.
Trusting Jesus Christ alone is what gives saving faith.
We believe verses 3 & 4 that “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the works through lust.”
None of this is by our own doing. It is entirely ours by trusting in Christ; however, as I preached last Sunday night, saving faith should then lead to growth in faith and the way we grow in faith is by the further seven steps leading to a changed and growing character.
“For this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control. To self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”
So I come back to our question, “How can we be sure of heaven?”
- We can be sure of heaven as we believe God’s Word and trust His son.
- We can be sure of heaven as we see evidence of spiritual growth in our own lives.
- A failure to grow in Christ should provide a warning that we cannot be sure of heaven.
- Every person desiring to be sure of heaven needs to “make his calling and election sur.”
- The person who makes his calling and election sure, may be sure of heaven.
- We can be sure of heaven as we believe God’s Word and trust His son.
1 John 1:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
All of those verses from John’s gospel give us assurance of salvation.
John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life;”
John 5:24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believers in Him who sent me ahs everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
John 6:47 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.
We could go on, but let’s get back to 2 Peter 1:5-7
- We can be sure of heaven as we see evidence of spiritual growth in our own lives.
The development of our Christian character is an evidence of our being a true child of God. When I first trusted Christ, I did not gain that assurance immediately. I was afraid to claim that my sins were really forgiven, but as I began to claim the promises in god’s Word and believe what those promises say, my heart cried out to God in thanksgiving, thanking him for my salvation. But it was more than that. It was as I saw changes taking place in my life which I had been unable to make; I gained assurance that this was the work of God and not the work of Allen Hern. That is what verses 5-7 have told us. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
Spurgeon said “As you are adorned with these jewels and practice these heavenly virtues, you will have the clearest evidence of your calling and election into the Christian faith.” The more you yield to Christ and grow in Him, the more assurance you will have that you are truly the child of God.
Here is a wonderful promise in verse 8, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I equate fruitfulness with usefulness. I think we as Christians have a built in desire to be useful. As we are useful, we will grow in the knowledge of Christ.
On the other hand:
- A failure to grow in Christ should provide a warning that we cannot be sure of heaven. ”For he who lacks these things is short-sighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”
Oh, dear ones, what a dangerous thing it is to grow cool toward the things of God. Spurgeon says again, “Luke warmness and doubting very naturally go hand in hand.”
How often we have been shocked to hear of a Christian leader or pastor suddenly running off with someone else’s wife or other evidence of moral failure. If we could have observed the person closely we would have seen that spiritual carelessness had been in evidence long before the fatal flaw revealed itself.
I think of an intense young man who was in Seminary with me, studying God’s Word with a view to becoming a pastor, a young man who had been a guest in our home. One day, with no provocation he burst out in response to some comment about sin, “sin, sin, sin why are people always talking about sin?” Sometime later we heard that Ross had taken his own life.
I was talking recently to someone who asked, "what are you to think when people you are with never want to talk about Jesus or Christian things?” Good question!
Those of us who claim to be Christians are no stranger to the dangers of backsliding. We have learned to distrust ourselves. We know the evil of which we are capable, and the knowledge of our humanness and proneness to failure sends us back again and again to confess our sins and our failures and to an appeal to God for forgiveness and protection.
A loss of appetite for spiritual things ought to set off alarm bells. Do I really believe or am I just going through the motions of being a child of God?
- Every person desiring to be sure of heaven needs to “make his calling and election sure.” Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;”
There are those believers who reject the very idea of their election by God. I have met people who have gotten fiercely angry even at the use of the term. I remember a leading man in my second congregation who got livid, red in the face at the very suggestion that salvation was God’s idea, rather than being his own doing. For such, salvation is their choice, not the evidence of God’s choice. I think of a pastor who started to preach in his first messages in his new church from 1 Peter, chapter 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, ... to the 2 “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:”
He started in boldly preaching about God’s electing grace and right now, right from his first sermon, he had a rebellion on his hands.
I have never understood that kind of reaction. It seems to me that if God in His grace had not chosen me and called me and saved me, and sanctified me, I would still be on my way to hell even today.
How do we make our calling and election sure? We are to make certain that we belong to the family of God by the way we live. It has nothing to do with gaining our salvation. Our salvation is entirely dependent on the grace of God.
But, our lives demonstrate to others and even to ourselves that a change has taken place in our lives which can only be explained by God’s spirit at work in our lives. That change did not come about just by our own will, and yet our own will led us to read His Word, to believe His Word and to change our attitudes, our thoughts and our behaviour in accordance with god’s Word. That changed outlook and behaviour gives us an inner assurance that we truly are a child of God.
Dear ones, it is no good just claiming to be a Christian. We need to demonstrate the reality that God has called us to Himself.
How do we demonstrate our relation with the Lord? By nurturing a growing faith in the Lord Jesus and by living as He would have us live, “for if you do these things (the things mentions above) you will never stumble;”
When he speaks here about stumbling or falling, he is not talking about losing our salvation. Instead he is talking about losing our place of service.
I have never forgotten a message that Pastor Don Loveday preached in Central Baptist Church in Brantford, Ontario so 50 years ago when I was serving as a pastoral intern “1 Corinthians 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Or as the New King James says “27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
I still remember his seriousness as he warned us of the danger of being set on the shelf, unusable to the Lord Jesus. He wasn’t talking about losing our salvation, but of forfeiting our place of service.
That message scared me – not with the fear of God, but with the fear of myself. Throughout my life, down to this very day, I have been aware of my weaknesses, and of my proneness to spiritual or moral failure. I remember back while I was still in my second pastorate, the week in which we heard of 3 of my fellow pastors had fallen into sin. Three men lost their pastoral ministry in the same week due to moral failure. That was shocking. What did their failures cost their churches? What did the sudden loss of their place of service mean to their wives and families? That was crushing and I cried out to God, “O God, how have you kept me, because I am no better or stronger than any on e of those three. I am just as weak, just as faulty, just as liable to sin as one of them?” I thanked Him then for protecting me from myself. I have thanked my wife also, because on a couple of very rare occasions, she has warned me of the danger of a female in the church in which we were serving with whom I needed to be extremely cautious.
“Be even more diligent,” Peter says, “to make your call and election sure,” “If you do these things, you won’t stumble.”
- The person who makes his calling and election sure may be sure of heaven.
My brother thought that my claim to know that I was going to heaven was presumption on my part. Perhaps he felt that to go fearfully and tremblingly would be an evidence of humility. Let me turn his fear on its head. If god’s word says that “Jesus Christ died for the ungodly,” if the Word of God assures me Eph 2:4 “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” If the bible says clearly Col 2:13 “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the un-circumcision of your flesh, He had made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,” if God tells me in His word in Titus 3:4 “when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,” then for me to fail to believe that Word would be the real presumption. You see, the real difficulty is that my brother did not know the Word of God, he did not read the Word of God; his church had failed to teach him the Word of God, instead teaching trite little moralisms out of men’s own heads.
No, dear ones I take the Word of God at face value, when it assures me in 2 Peter 1:11 that not only will I not stumble, but “for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.”
Now that is helping me and that is helping you to make sure of heaven. You don’t have to be in doubt of what will happen when you die. You see, you aren’t just hoping to go to heaven when you die. You are already there.
Eph 2:4 “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” That’s a hard concept to grasp, but we do so by faith. Our place is already assured in heaven because we are trusting Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord. As He is in heaven, so with Him, we already have our place there.
Are you not glad to be a Christian? Are you not thrilled and humbled to know that your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of life Rev. 21:27.
Now, if anyone is not quite sure about these things, then I extend to you the invitation to talk with me or with Pastor Joshua, or with Ryan or with any of the other believers here this evening, because we desire for every person who comes within these doors, and indeed for all those who do not come in these doors; we desire that everyone will “make his calling and elect sure” so that “an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly.” Doesn’t that sound to be even better than good? “Into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Richard DeHaan tells the story of an aged man being examined by his doctor who said to his family, “I am afraid he has seen his best days.” Opening his eyes and speaking in a remarkably strong voice, that dying man replied, “Seen my best days? Doctor you are wrong. My best days are still ahead. I am about to be given an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Those will be my best days!”