Sermon Manuscript . . .
Don’t Rest Assured, Prove your Assurance
Assurance as a motivation for spiritual growth–2 Peter 1:8-11
The first time you face a test, it’s memorable and revealing. Instead of getting the ministry responsibility I wanted, to invest in juniors or junior highers, I was redirected to clean thirty bathrooms per day–that test hit me. As a two-year-old Christian, I didn’t know how to deal with my disappointment. Then someone unknown laid a tract on my bed called, “Bloom Where You are Planted”. It shared all the right verses and correct biblical instruction–and it changed me.
All of a sudden, I discovered the incredible joy of cleaning bathrooms for Christ. And I cleaned them as if Christ were going to use them and loved every moment. I surprised myself–I realized what a difference genuine salvation makes. Christ had changed me, proving when Christ is in your life, He shows through your life. True Christians are certain they’re saved when they see His character through their life.
That’s what Peter is teaching in 2 Peter 1:8 to 11. Peter wants his readers to be certain, and each of you here as well. Do not continue in an unsure place, but make certain you are saved. If you’ve made a decision once, but your life shows no life of Christ, or you are relying on your family, or your church for assurance–Peter now warns you that’s a deadly place to remain. Peter teaches you to measure your life against the truth and prove you are an authentic born again Christian.
In these verses Peter says, “Prove it–prove that you are a true believer.” In verses 1 to 2, you have been given Christ in salvation. In verses 3 to 4, now that you have Christ, you have all you need in Christ. You have a new nature to empower Christlikeness, and a supernatural ability to flee the corruption of sin. Then in verses 5 to 7, Christ will be seen in you and through you with Christlike character. True spiritual life is evidenced by spiritual growth, and growth is seen not only by what you don’t do, but also proven by what you do and what you grow to become.
Genuine born-again Christians become like Christ and display the character qualities of verses 5 to 7. So if you are real and not fake, then 5 to 7 says you will increasingly do your best, fulfill your purpose, live intimate with Christ, exercise self-discipline, remain steadfast, worship the Lord with your whole heart, show kindness to others and sacrifice in love. Prove your salvation by living Christlike character–which is what Peter says next.
In verses 8 to 11, now that you have Christ, you’re assured of your salvation by growing in character. These verses are where Peter demands you prove your salvation. The apostle Paul also demands you make certain you’re saved in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test.” God requires you to manifest Christlike qualities in order to know you are saved.
God calls you to grow in Christlike character to be assured of your salvation. And Peter warns neglect of these character traits will result in spiritual loss and uncertainty. If Christ is in you, He will show through you. Look up here, Christian–this is not optional. This is not a truth to put off or delay. Peter says, “Prove it.” Verse 8 says positively, “Prove it,” and verse 9 says negatively, “Prove it.” Verse 10a commands you to prove it and verses 10b to 11 gives the blessings of proof.
Read aloud with me verses 8 to 11, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” Last week Peter began with . . .
#1 You must have and GROW in Christlike Character
Verse 8, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing“–God certainly does not want His children miserable, nor doubting His gift of salvation. Instead, the Lord actually desires that you be confident in your salvation. How? The character qualities of verses 5 to 7 are to be . . .
First PRESENT in your life
“For if these qualities are yours“–these character qualities are to be literally existing in your life. “Are yours” refers to owning property in a strong abiding sense. They have to be there! And . . .
Second GROWING in your life
“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing“–Christlike character is to be overflowing in your life. To increase describes too much and in excess. These Christlike qualities are to be in excess in your life. Like a lady wearing too much perfume, people are to smell Christ through you. To prove your assurance, these qualities are to be over-present in your life. When Christlike character becomes obvious in and through your life, you are assured. Plus, these qualities in your life bring about great . . .
Third BLESSING through your life
“They render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” These qualities do something dramatic–they open up three doors.
1 You grow useful, not useless
2 You grow fruitful, not unfruitful. Only fake Christians live unfruitful. Only phony believers don’t produce fruit. And . . .
3 You grow intimate–not ignorant, or distant, but intimate and close.
Verse 8, “in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But if a believer doesn’t increase in character, Peter warns them in verse 9 . . .
#2 What if you’re Lacking in Christlike Character?
Verse 9, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” If there’s a lack of these qualities, that so-called believer will also lack assurance, because . . .
First You’ll experience a LOSS of sight or ALL of sight
“Is blind or short-sighted“–Peter gives two options. Those who lack the character and growth in Christ are either unsaved or unseeing–blind or short-sighted. But that’s not all–also . . .
Second You’ll experience a spiritual AMNESIA
Verse 9b, “having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” The failure to diligently pursue spiritual character produces spiritual amnesia. For a true believer or a make-believer, a weak churchgoer or unsaved church-attender, by lacking the qualities of verses 5 to 7, that person will be unable to discern his spiritual condition and will have no confidence about his profession of faith.
He may be saved and possess all the blessings of verses 3 and 4, but without the qualities of verses 5 to 7, he will continue to live in doubt and fear. So what should he or she do? How should they respond? Peter gives the answer in verses 10 to 11, which is explained in point #3 . . .
#3 PROVE salvation when there is a lack of Character
Verse 10 to 11, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
MacArthur reminds us, “We don’t need to make our calling and election sure to God–He’s very sure about who He has elected. He wrote the names of the elect in the Lamb’s book of life before the foundation of the world. God is not the issue; you are. When you are manifesting the reality of your salvation by bearing fruit, you will never fall from confidence into doubt.”
There is nothing worse than to fear Hell forever and to fear you’re not saved. I enjoy life. I love my wife, my children and grandchildren, and my friends. I love the men and women who make up this church. I’m happy with my life–I have been blessed. But if at any moment I was in doubt about my eternity, I would not enjoy one single day of my life because I would live in fear, uncertainty, doubt, insecurity and skepticism. But I don’t worry about that because I have confidence–I have assurance about my future. And that frees me to enjoy every day as a gift from God–do you?
Don’t miss the flow of Peter’s argument leading to here in verse 10. Look at verse 5–he told his readers to be diligent to grow in these character traits. Look at verse 8–he told his readers to grow in these character traits to be assured. Now in verse 10, he commands his readers to be diligent to make certain these traits are growing in his life in order to be certain of their genuineness–be diligent. Prove you are authentically born again. Do not rest on your assurance–prove assurance.
Peter here reiterates the exhortation of verse 5, to “apply all diligence.” Then reinforces the choice to pursue character in verse 8 and reject the lack of character in verse 9. So now in verse 10 Peter commands you to be all the more diligent to live character so you can know and enjoy the reality of your eternal salvation and not live in fear. In verses 10 to 11, Peter emphasizes four essential truths about your assurance.
First Be diligent to make your assurance CERTAIN
Our coach and inspired writer of God’s revelation, Peter, exhorts you with these words. Verse 10a is a powerful verse, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain [firm] about His calling and choosing you.” Christians must put effort into growing certain of their salvation. Christian, the Bible uses words that demand aggressive effort–work out your salvation with fear and trembling, die daily, run to win, press on, pursue, fight the good fight, strive. And here, Peter commands, “be all the more diligent.” This is not the way of people in general–effort, hard work, and striving are almost all viewed as negative in our culture now.
Even for Christians in 2019, when you receive something for free you do not always value it, because it cost you nothing–it was free. Yet in salvation, you have received a gift of the highest value. The costliest sacrifice, given at the highest price imaginable–but you receive this gift for free, and sadly some respond culturally and do not appreciate it, let alone have it motivate them. But that’s what Peter is commanding. Allow this gift of salvation through the suffering of God’s Holy Son and His death for your sin on the cross to transform you and develop the character of Christ in you. And as it does, be diligent to grow in that character.
Peter commands, be diligent to make your assurance certain–work out your salvation, die daily, run to win, press on, pursue, fight the good fight, and strive. D.A. Carson reminds you, “People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer or obedience to Scripture. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”
Christian friend, commanding obedience isn’t legalism, it’s love. Expecting effort in your walk with God does not distort the Gospel, it proves the Gospel. You don’t work to gain the Gospel, but once you’re given the Gospel you will work. So Peter commands, work on your assurance–prove you are genuinely saved. Assurance of salvation does not come from entering the right church any more than entering a 5-Guys makes you a hamburger.
No assurance is gained by being born into a Christian family, any more than being in America assures you of an easy life. Trusting in a one-time salvation prayer, or coming forward during a time of conviction, even believing Jesus is God and the Bible is His Word–none of those can assure you. None of those provide the evidence necessary to assure your salvation before God. Biblical assurance grows as you prove Christ is in you and Christ is working through you, as evidenced by the growth of the Christlike character traits listed in verses 5 to 7.
And Peter says work at growing those qualities–look at the first word in verse 10. “Therefore“, which means for this reason–what Peter is about to say is based on what He just said. What He just said was, point 1–these character qualities must grow, and point 2–they must not be lacking in your life. “Therefore” point 3–the exhortation of verse 10, “Be diligent to be certain.” Who should be diligent? Verse 10 tells you–“brethren“, which is the only time this term is used in Peter’s letters, which makes this expression a personal, intimate and affectionate appeal.
Peter and the believers in these churches are part of an exclusive brotherhood. The only ones in this most important club are those who are in Christ and Christ is in them. They are together to help each other obey this command and prove their assurance. We are brethren and we’re to obey this command to prove assurance together–how?
Peter, in verse 10, commands, “Be all the more diligent.” Being the great Bible students you are at FBC, you know the importance of the repetition of certain words in the same context. Notice the emphasis on diligence for you believers in chapter one. “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge” (1:5). “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble” (1:10). “And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind” (1:15). And at the end of his letter he hits them one more time, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (3:14).
You are commanded here to be diligent. If you’re not diligent, you’re disobedient, Christian. This command is repeated in this chapter and has a sense of urgency. Then Peter adds the adverb more–more diligent, which urges greater diligence than they’ve been applying. More diligence is said in contrast to the careless life described in verse 9. Don’t be lacking Christlike character, but be more diligent.
Christian, safeguard yourself against the horrible spiritual blight of verse 9, where you lack the character to prove assurance. Diligence means you believers are to be urgent, live eager, remain zealous–show keen interest, intense desire, and impatient expectancy to do one thing–what? “To make certain”–Christian, I plead with you to make certain. Don’t forget, Christian–if God commands you to be certain, you can be certain. Each one of you here, young or old, can be certain of your salvation. You can know for a fact you are truly born again–you can be certain you are genuinely saved. You can be confident you are a real believer.
The Greek word for certain is used in the sense of a legal validity or confirmation–it’s the idea of valid, firm, sure, and proved to be true. What do you need to be certain about? Assurance. Peter describes assurance this way in verse 10–“to make certain about His calling and choosing you,” because there is one article used for both nouns calling and choosing. They’re describing the same blessing–God’s sovereign salvation. Peter’s concern is for believers to gain confident assurance that they are included in the elect.
Peter is not urging believers to be diligent to do more, but to become more like Christ in order to become certain that each one of them is truly called and chosen. This is the bull’s eye Peter’s been shooting at in verses 5 to 11. Though God is “certain and sure” who His elect are, every Christian here might not always be “certain and sure” of his salvation. Security is the Holy Spirit revealed fact that salvation is forever. But assurance is one’s confidence that he or she possesses that eternal salvation.
The believer who pursues the spiritual qualities described in verses 5 to 7 guarantees to himself by spiritual fruit he was called and chosen. Called is God drawing you to Himself to be saved in time. But calling is not merely an invitation, it’s a royal command which people must obey. This is not the general call whereby we preach the Gospel to all men, but this is the special call where God secretly, irresistibly, by the power of His Spirit calls out of mankind a certain number to be His own born again children. Romans 8:30, “These whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
Now chosen is God’s sovereign election as His child in eternity past. Ephesians 1:4, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love” Both called and chosen describe the divine side of salvation. Chosen occurred in eternity past and called occurred in time–the moment you were born again. God elects man in eternity, but calls him in time–which also means you don’t elect or call yourself at all. Paul says in Romans 11:29, the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
That makes the order of the words a little strange, since chosen occurs before time and called occurs in time–yet the chronological order is first elect then called. So why is the order backwards? Spurgeon offers this answer, “I reply, because calling is first to us. The first thing you and I can know is our calling: we cannot tell whether we are elect until we feel we are called. We must, first of all, prove our calling, and then our election is sure most certainly. Calling comes first in our apprehension. We are by God’s Spirit called from our evil estate, regenerated and made new creatures, and then, looking backward, we behold ourselves as being most assuredly elect because we were called.”
We do not preach election to unsaved people–we preach the Gospel. But God uses that Gospel to call sinners to repentance, and then those sinners discover that they were chosen by God. Verse 10, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you.” Peter’s concern is for believers to have confidence that they’re included in the elect. But to do so they need to . . .
Second Be aggressive to pursue Christlike CHARACTER
Verse 10b continues, “for as long as you practice these things“–do you see the tie between divine sovereignty and human responsibility? God calls and elects you, but you are responsible to be practicing the qualities of verses 5 to 7. He says here to practice them–Peter literally calls you to repeatedly do them. Peter keeps your focus on remaining hotly diligent, calling you to continually go after those character qualities. Keep doing them, pursuing them and practicing them in daily conduct.
As they’re manifested through your life, they give evidence Christ is in your life. They prove you’ve been given eternal life. In other words, a flourishing spiritual life is the safeguard against failure. Assurance is found in the continuing process of nurturing and developing these Christian qualities. And if you do practice them . . .
Third Be encouraged by the POTENCY of assurance
Verse 10c, “you will never stumble.” As you pursue the Christlike character of verses 5 to 7, you will never stumble into doubt, despair, or fear that allows you to enjoy an abundant and productive spiritual life. When Peter says, “You will never stumble,” he is making an emphatic denial–never is first in the Greek, making it an emphatic. And the verb promises assured stability. Peter is promising you, as you embrace Christian qualities, you’ll be freed from a fall where there is no recovery. The purpose is so that you will stand for Christ, even against false teachers.
This doesn’t mean you’ll never sin, but you’ll be kept from an irretrievable fall and be able to complete your spiritual journey to its heavenly destination. Christlike Christians are certain of their election, making them amazingly stable. Peter is assuring you of spiritual surefootedness on your way to the eternal kingdom. Which leads Peter to wrap up verse 11 with . . .
Fourth Be motivated by God’s PROMISES when assured
Verse 11, “For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” Peter says, by being certain about God’s calling and election, which came through their Christlike lifestyle and godly character, the believer enters Christ’s kingdom. Peter is cheering the faithful on. Those who are pursuing 2 Peter 1:5 to 7–moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Human activity doesn’t earn the entry–it’s God’s salvation, resulting in character development, bringing assurance of salvation that leads to Christ’s eternal kingdom. In fact, this entrance “will be abundantly supplied.” Supplied is the same Greek verb used in verse 5–our God is reciprocating. Their pursuit of supplying the development of Christian character in verse 5 will supply them an abundant entry into the eternal kingdom in verse 11.
But entry into God’s Kingdom isn’t just any welcome–it is an abundant welcome. Abundantly suggests a warm welcome, like a returning victor in the Olympic games–he’d be welcomed home with honor, then escorted into the city through a specially prepared entrance through the city wall. The passive voice of the Greek verb abundantly supplied indicates your entry is God’s generous provision in response to your faithfulness in living like Christ. And the eternal kingdom is the goal of your pilgrimage. This kingdom is future tense and eternal, which is more than endless duration, but eternal, like God Himself–eternal because it enjoys the presence of the Eternal One. In this kingdom, Christ is king. And Matthew 28 reminds us God rules through his Son, Jesus Christ. We enter the Kingdom in joy, since we see our King who did everything to save us.
Are you motivated to prove your assurance? These words are here to encourage the weary Christian heart. Everyone of us here is hoping to enter God’s heavenly kingdom. And everyone who is faithful to live fleeing sin and pursuing Christlikeness will enjoy that hope of Heaven now. In fact, you get both blessings. The Christian who pursues the listed virtues of verses 5 to 7 will not only enjoy assurance in the present, but also a rich reward in the future. Assurance in this life and riches in Heaven are the benefits of spiritual diligence and fruitfulness.
Jesus says in Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” There are great rewards awaiting you in Heaven, and wonders beyond what you can imagine.
TAKE this challenge HOME
A PROVING your ASSURANCE comes AFTER being born again
Your entrance into salvation is a free gift based upon the finished work of Christ. Your offense to God caused by your choices to sin must be dealt with before anything else. Salvation is always first a vertical offense–you’ve offended God and sin must be dealt with . . . which is what Christ did on your behalf. He took your place and died for your sin, then rose from the dead. If your sin falls on Christ, He can cover you with His righteousness, allowing you to be right with God now and stand in His presence later.
With true salvation, along with justifying you before God, Christ also regenerates you internally. When God causes you to be born again, He enables you to become more like Christ and to overcome sin. And it is this pursuit that enables you to enjoy assurance of salvation. But being born again comes first, then you have the ability to prove your assurance. If you’re not born again, you can’t have assurance of salvation.
How do I know I am a child of God? When I search my spiritual life, I know the certainty of salvation does not come to me through dreams, visions, or revelations. I have assurance of salvation because God has given me his Word, has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, and has caused me to be born again, giving me faith to believe and repentance to turn from sin. Only as a result of a new nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit can I begin to dependently live different and gain confidence in my salvation, by fleeing sin and growing to become more like Christ. I can’t, but Christ can through me. Today, a few of you need to cry out to Christ to save you, so you can live for Him.
B PROVING your ASSURANCE comes through DILIGENCE to become like Christ
The Bible warns there are some who are saved, yet as through fire. They barely know they are saved because of the lack of Christlike fruit. Or their actions for Christ were not accomplished by the power of the Spirit for the glory of God. Be diligent to grow to be like Christ. Make choices to faithfully serve, since Christ came to serve.
Arrange your calendar so you have to depend on Christ and grow into the qualities of verses 5 to 7. Rearrange your budget so you invest into His purposes and Kingdom. Raise your family so the goal is to put Christ more on display. Choose to be friends with those who are serving like Christ and discipling others. Remember, proving your assurance is something we do together. If you lack the heat to pursue Christ, get around those who are on fire for Christ. Be diligent, make decisions, make choices which move you toward Christlikeness.
C PROVING your ASSURANCE results in CONFIDENCE now and forever
Christian, you no longer have to live in fear and uncertainty. As you depend and obey, fleeing sin and pursuing Christ, you will grow confident–not confident in self, but confidence in the Savior to accomplish great things. Plus, as you walk with Christ now, you have confidence you will rule with Him in the future, receive reward from Him, and best of all be with Him forever. God makes this all possible through genuine salvation and God does all the work, but we cooperate through depending on His Spirit and obedience to His Word. Let’s pray.