Ephesians 6:17a

Sermon preached on May 9, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Rowland Taylor was a great English preacher in the first part of the 16
th century. He was burned at the stake on Friday, February 9th, 1555 during the reign of Bloody Mary. As he was being taken to the place of execution he was asked by the Sheriff how he felt. He replied, (Light form Old Times, by J.C. Ryle, p. 27)

"God be praised, Master Sheriff, never better. For now I am almost home. I lack but just two stiles to go over, and I am even at my Father's house."

What an amazing answer. "Never better." How could he say something like that just before he was to be burned? He himself recognized that it was remarkable and gave God praise for the strength and peace that he had. He faced death courageously and was a good witness to all who saw him die. He died full of faith and hope. He knew that he was saved and he was able to act accordingly.

In July of that same year John Bradford was burned at the stake in Newgate Prison in London. Bradford led such an exemplary life that while at Pembroke College in Cambridge, he was known as "Holy Bradford". But he was put to death for his unwavering proclamation of the gospel. As he arrived at the place of execution he encouraged John Lease, the Christian who was going to be executed with him. Bradford said to him, (Ryle, Light From Old Times, p. 31)

"Be of good comfort, brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night."

What confidence he had. What faith! What hope! Like Taylor, Bradford knew for sure that he was saved. He knew that he was going to be with the Lord. He had no doubt about it. Taylor and Bradford had, to use Paul's words here, 'the helmet of salvation'.

This helmet of salvation is something that all Christians should have. This helmet is not just for Christian ministers and workers. Paul urged the Ephesian Christians to, (6:17)

"Take the helmet of salvation…"

So this is something you should put on. It's something that you need in your battle against Satan.

A helmet protects the head. If you're riding a bike you should wear a helmet. If you're playing hockey you should wear a helmet. If you're riding a motorcycle you should wear a helmet. If you're in a construction site you should wear a hard hat. What the Holy Spirit tells us here is that as a Christian you need to be wearing the helmet of salvation. It's something you should never take off.

This means is that if you're a Christian, you should be sure that you're saved.

Not everyone agrees with this. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that no one can have assurance of eternal salvation. Arminians also teach that Christians shouldn't have the assurance that they are saved. They will tell you that you should always be in doubt about your salvation. They insist that this will help you to stay alert and be diligent not to sin. They teach that if a Christian believes for sure that he is going to heaven that it will almost inevitably make him slack about Christian living and he will soon become an ineffective Christian. They are certainly correct in that none of us should be slack about Christian living. In Hebrews 12:14 we are told that,

"without holiness no one will see the Lord."

We should all be diligent about holy living and all of us should strive to shine for Jesus.

But they are wrong in teaching that assurance of salvation will lead to loose living. It may in some cases. Sometimes people will draw a false implication from a true doctrine. Paul tried to correct such an error in Romans 6. Some people understood the doctrine of justification correctly, but totally got the implications of it wrong. Paul rebuked them when he wrote, (Romans 6:1)

"What shall we say, then?
Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?"

The answer to that was an emphatic "No!" He told the Roman Christians that they died to sin and that our old self was crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be done away with and that we should no longer be slaves to sin.

But just because people can be mistaken about implications of the doctrine of justification and use it as a rational for continued sinning—that does not mean that the doctrine of justification is not true or that it should not be taught. No. Absolutely not. The doctrine of justification is one of the greatest doctrines in the Bible and it, and it's proper implications should be proclaimed.

In the same way, the Bible teaches us that Christians should be sure of their salvation. This is a teaching that we should hold close to our hearts. It is like a helmet that can protect us from many of Satan assaults. So if you're a Christian, you should believe in the perseverance of the saints. The Bible teaches that those who believe in Jesus Christ are given eternal life the moment they believe. It teaches that we are kept in the faith, not ultimately by our own efforts, but by God's great power. It teaches that nothing can separate us from God's love that is in Christ Jesus and that the Holy Spirit, who lives in us, guarantees our salvation. Over and over again the Bible impresses these truths on Christians and urges us to believe them and be encouraged and strengthened by them. For example, in John 5:24 Jesus said,

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word
and believes him who sent me
has eternal life and will not be condemned;
he has crossed over from death to life."

In John 6:47 Jesus said,

"I tell you the truth,
he who believes has everlasting life."

And in John 3:36 Jesus said,

"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…"

It's noteworthy here that Jesus' words are not in the future tense, as if He said, "whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me 'will have eternal life'. No. The present tense is used, Whoever hears my would and believes him who sent me 'has eternal life'. There are some who would understand Jesus words differently. They would say that it means that 'anyone who hears my word and continually believes him who sent me has eternal life and has crossed over from death to life'. They would say that if someone stops believing, then they have crossed back over from life to death. The two big problems with understanding it that way are: 1) it isn't logical 2) it doesn't match up with other teachings of the Bible.

It's not logical in the fact that if you have eternal life today, you cannot
not have it tomorrow. If you have eternal life at any one point in your life you have to have it at every point in your life after that. If you don't then it wasn't eternal life. You had temporary life.

The other problem with such an understanding is that it doesn't mesh with what Jesus said about His followers in John 10:27–31 and other places. He said,

"My sheep listen to my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
no one can snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all;
no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."

Jesus Himself has promised to keep His people. He will keep them forever. The idea there is that once someone believes in Jesus, He gives them eternal life at that moment and they can never perish.

We see a similar theme in Romans 8 where Paul goes on to make incredible statements, statements that should fill us with joy and confidence. He wrote, (Romans 8:35–39)

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution
or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:
'For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.'
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Christians are safe in Jesus Christ. If we believe in Him we have eternal life.

This also lines up with what the Bible teaches about the justification of believers. In justification we receive the forgiveness of our sins. So Paul can write in Romans 8:1,

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those
who are in Christ Jesus,"

Notice the word, 'now'. It doesn't refer to some future point, but right now, the present time. When we believe in Jesus our sins are forgiven. We are declared righteous. God can declare our as righteous because the righteousness of Jesus is given to us when we believe. As we read in Romans 3:21–22,

"But now a righteousness from God,
apart from law, has been made known,
to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This righteousness from God
comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."

Just like Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness, (Romans 4:3) so all who believe in Jesus are given His righteousness, this righteousness from God. This means that we will never be condemned. As we read in Romans 8:33,

"Who will bring any charge against those
whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies."

So we see that when Jesus said that whoever believes in Him has eternal life it is meant to give us assurance that we are surely saved. We should not be in doubt about it.

Now what does this mean in practical terms? At its most basic level it means that you should apply this to yourself.

if you're a Christian you should know that you're saved.

You should not be unsure whether you belong to Jesus. The Holy Spirit wants you to be sure. There are a number of good reasons for this.

First of all, it's a matter of honoring Jesus.

Jesus has told you that He is the Good Shepherd. (John 10:11,14) In His Word, (Hebrews 13:5) Jesus has told you that He is never going to leave you, nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5) Jesus has told you that nothing will ever be able to separate you from His love. (Romans 8:35f) He has told you that His love is such that if one sheep out of a hundred goes astray, He goes and finds that one. (Matthew 18:12) He has told you that He has saved you and that He will keep you safe forever. You should believe Him. Honor Him by believing that. Honor Him because of it and praise His great name.

Your Savior Jesus is the greatest, most faithful, most glorious, most trustworthy, most wonderful Savior you could ever have. He has promised that He will not lose you. Not believing that dishonors Him. It's an insult to Him not to believe the promises, not to apply them to yourself. Such should never be.

The second reason you Christians should be sure that you're saved is because

being assured of your salvation should give you courage and strength when you face difficulty, persecution, death.

Rowland Taylor and John Bradford could die so bravely, with such confidence because they knew assuredly they were saved. They believed the promises and applied them to themselves.

It may very well be that soon you are going to need to summon courage like they did. In our western civilization Christian leaders are already being severely tried.

Last Thursday was the National Day of Prayer. Recently a federal judge said that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. A few weeks ago, Franklin Graham, the well known son of evangelist Billy Graham, was invited to speak at the Pentagon for an official National Day of Prayer event. Graham is well regarded in Christian circles because of his plain spoken Christian testimony. He is also known internationally as founder and head of the highly respected Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief agency.
But two weeks ago he was uninvited by Pentagon officials after complaints were made about some of his past statements regarding Islam. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Graham said that Islam is

"wicked, violent and not of the same God."

Graham has repeatedly said that salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone and that any other system is false and empty. On his blog, Albert Mohler wrote about this:

"Evangelical Christians in the United States had better see a big challenge staring us in the face. Franklin Graham was disinvited by the Pentagon for making statements that are required by faithfulness to the gospel of Christ. As reports make clear, it is not just his statements about Islam being prone to violence that cause offense, it is his statements that Islam is wicked because it does not lead to salvation in Christ that cause the greatest offense."

In western society authors, artists, cartoonists, TV screenwriters, and comedians make fun of, insult and degrade most religions, especially Christianity. But because of past threats, many of them are afraid of writing, drawing, or saying anything against Islam. In a way that's not that big a deal. The loss of mockery, of insult, of rudeness, of abuse—is not much of a loss at all. But the loss of penetrating criticism and formal critique is indeed a loss. But it would be a much greater loss to the world if Christians remained silent about the exclusivity of salvation only in Jesus. It would be a great loss to the world if Christianity stopped pointing to Jesus as the only way for sinners to be saved. If we stop saying with Peter, (Acts 4:12)

"Salvation is found in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven
given to men by which we must be saved."

Then there would be no hope for the world. Christians, stand up for the truth of Christianity. You are saved only because of the work of Jesus. Rejoice in that and be proud as you proclaim it.

This past week I also read that a Christian minister in Britain was arrested for saying that homosexuality is a sin. Dale McAlpine a Baptist, had been preaching on the streets for years. He was arrested after telling a passerby that homosexuality is a sin. According to The Telegraph [London], McAlpine had been preaching from atop a stepladder. He also passed out tracts about the Ten Commandments. Later, he was involved in a discussion with a woman who wanted to debate him about his faith. From The Telegraph: (Quoted from Albert Mohler's blog)

"During the exchange, he says he quietly listed homosexuality among a number of sins referred to in 1 Corinthians, including blasphemy, fornication, adultery and drunkenness. After the woman walked away, she was approached by a PCSO [Police Community Support Officer] who spoke with her briefly and then walked over to Mr. McAlpine and told him a complaint had been made, and that he could be arrested for using racist or homophobic language. The street preacher said he told the PCSO: "I am not homophobic but sometimes I do say that the Bible says homosexuality is a crime against the Creator". The police officer, identified in the news report as a homosexual and as the "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender liaison officer" for the local police department, then identified himself to Dale McAlpine. The preacher responded, "It's still a sin." He then preached a sermon on a range of issues that did not include homosexuality. The paper reports, "Three regular uniformed police officers arrived during the address, arrested Mr. McAlpine and put him in the back of a police van."

He was detained under Britain's "Public Order Act". The law allows the arrest and prosecution of anyone who, with intent to harass or cause harm, uses,

"threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior."

The Telegraph's report includes the ironic explanation that Dale McAlpine was arrested for saying that homosexuality is a sin and for doing so

"in a voice loud enough to be heard by others."

Christians, it appears that very soon, if you continue to believe and acknowledge, like the Bible teaches, that homosexuality is a sin, you're going to be considered guilty of a hate crime. It's coming. The question is: are you going to stand by the truth or are you going to let go of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Jesus has saved you from your sin and its ultimate consequences. The world doesn't want to hear about their sin. They want us to stop calling sin, sin. But if we do that, they won't turn from their sin and they will never be saved. Jesus saved you, how can you not tell others about the wonderful salvation that you have in Him?

Thirdly, being assured of your salvation can give you peace and contentment, in spite of, and in the midst of the difficulties of this life.

Taylor and Bradford not only died bravely, but they faced death with great peace, yes, even with anticipatory joy. They were able to do that because they knew for sure they were saved and they applied that truth to their hearts and minds.

Do you do that? This life can be very horrible. It can be filled with disappointments, sufferings, heartaches, betrayals and injustice. When these things come your way, do you face them with an inner peace, with a contentment that says with Rowland Taylor, "Never better!"

Nothing can give you peace, even in the midst of great trouble, like knowing that you belong to Jesus and that He is yours forever. Christians, take this truth to heart and know true joy.

For those of you who are not Christians, I know you have some belief system. I ask you,

are you sure it's correct?

On November 26, 2008 ten Muslim terrorists from Pakistan attacked a train station, two hotels, a bar and a Jewish center in Mumbai, India. They arrived by boat, split into groups and went on their rampage. Over the next three days they murdered 164 men, women and children. One of the interesting things about the terrorists is that they were basically immature, young men. They were not much more than kids. They had very little training and at times didn't know what to do. But they had a controller in Pakistan who was giving them instructions. He was in contact with them by cell phone. The conversations between the terrorists and their handler in Pakistan were recorded by the Indian Intelligence Service. The phone calls paint the terrorists as pathetic, quivering brainwashed boys. Sometimes the boys are reluctant to do what their controller tells them to do. At times they stall, sometimes for over an hour, even though their controller is telling them to kill some hostages. They repeatedly ask their controllers to pray for them, for their acceptance into heaven and that their sacrifice will be appreciated by Allah. Their controller repeatedly reminded the that they could not allow themselves to be captured alive. They said,

"Be brave, brother. Don't panic. For your mission to end successfully, you must be killed. God is waiting for you in heaven."

At other times the controller would say to them,

"You're very close to heaven."

But it was all lies. They weren't close to heaven. They were committing murder. They were close to hell and that's where they went.

What's your belief system? Is it the hope that you're going to be all right when you die, that if there is a God, He's going to accept you because you've been pretty good? Or do you believe that there is nothing beyond the grave and that you don't have to worry about eternal suffering?

Both of those belief systems are wrong. They're lies. Both of them will put you in hell if you cling to them.

Turn to Jesus and ask Him to save you. Trust in Him. He alone can save you. As He said in John 14:6,

"I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."

Jesus came to save sinners. Go to Him and find true life.