The Tragedy of Misplaced Faith
Dr. Lutzer addresses the many inaccurate ways people seek to earn their way to heaven.
you know, people can be wrong about many things. You can be wrong about sports, You can be wrong about your career choice. You can be wrong about who you should marry and where you should live? But don’t ever be wrong about the question of how you can be certain that you will spend eternity with God john you’re right. This is the most important topic that anyone could ever consider because when you stop to think of it, time is short and eternity is very long. It’s endless. And the moment that you die, you will either be in a place where you will see nothing but beauty and holiness and be welcomed or you will be in a place of darkness and abandonment. My guest today is dr Irwin looser who is pastor emeritus of the moody church in Chicago Illinois, where he has served as the senior pastor for 36 years and has authored over 50 important books today. Most people say they believe in God, but they are not certain that they will be accepted by God for all eternity and before they die they want assurance ahead of time that they will be accepted by God today. And in the weeks ahead, Dr Luther will give you a concise biblical answer of how you can be saved and the assurance that you are saved on this important edition of the john Achterberg show. Welcome to our program. I’m so glad that you joined us. I’ve got an important question for you. It’s our topic for this whole series of programs here it is. How can you be sure. How can you be certain that you will spend eternity with God? Or I could ask it another way right now, Are you right now, wherever you’re at, if something happened to you, are you certain that you would spend all of eternity with God? Are you just guessing, hoping? Well, that’s our topic. And we got a little side topic going with that. And that’s amazing. Grace. Why is Grace so amazing? Maybe you’ve never thought about this? All right. And my guest today is my good friend, Dr Irwin Loser, who is the pastor emeritus of the moody church in Chicago Illinois. And he’s been the pastor, senior pastor for 36 years. He’s pastored that church right in downtown Chicago. He’s met all kinds of people, done a tremendous job. And the fact is he’s traveling all over the world right now, and I’m Irwin, I’m so glad that you’re here today, but I want you to start us off with the fact of why is this thing of grace so amazing. Let’s put it this way. If I was to start off even with non christians that are watching right now and whatever country they’re in. Okay. And I said amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. And I asked them to say, what are the next words? They would all know that saved a wretch like me and they might not even be able to sign their name? But they know the song, what they don’t know is the author, the writer of that song. Tell us a little bit about him. Well, you know, john Newton was a man who was a slave trader in many respects. He was a very evil man in other ways. As well as a matter of fact, Newton said that he would give a prize to someone who could think of some new crime that he had not yet committed. Unbelievable. So here he is, he is very hardened in his heart toward God. He claims atheism. But in 17 48 he was on a ship called The Greyhound. And they went into a huge storm. And Newton goes to the captain and says, you know, unless God helps us, we’re all gonna die. And the captain says, what do you mean? God helps us? Because he knew that Newton didn’t believe in God. Isn’t it amazing that when you’re under pressure, suddenly you believe in God? Yeah. You’re hoping for God’s mercy at that point. And so what they had to do is the wind was so strong and the waves so high they had to tie themselves to the pumps. But there was someone who had a new testament on the ship. And Newton went to the new testament and the old testament, and somehow his bible flopped open to the book of proverbs. And he thought it would be important to read it. Right, Right, then. If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. But because you have rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I, in turn, will laugh at your disaster. I will mock when calamity overtakes you, when calamity overtakes you like a storm when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind. That’s actually proverbs. Chapter one Verse 23. There’s a scary verse for a guy that’s in a scary situation. He realized that God was a sovereign God who was holy and angry against sinners. So let’s say that God is angry against sinners. The bible says that he is angry with the wicked every single day. Now they did survive the storm. And Newton later said to himself that what he had to do is to read the new testament and to find out what the gospel was. And I want you to notice the way in which he put it. These are beautiful words he said. I knew that I needed someone to stand between me and the presence of a holy God. And as he read the new testament, of course, he discovered that that was jesus, and that was jesus alone, because nobody else has the qualifications to be a savior, you know, at the parliament of world religions, I went looking for a sinless savior now. Here, you have all the different religions of the world. And I go looking for a sinless savior. Because I said, I’m a sinner and I can’t have somebody who is part of my predicament to save me. And I discovered john that there are no other religions that have a sinless savior. I went from booth to booth looking at their literature, interacting with the various representatives. And what Newton concluded was this that jesus was the only savior. And Newton received him as savior and was a changed man. And that’s why he wrote what I suspect is the world’s most popular song. Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. He understood that Grace was truly amazing. You know, there was a commentator in Chicago who on television would interview people and he said this and it interested me. He said, I’m in a classic state of sin and someday I’ll do something about it. It was very clear to me that he didn’t understand Grace, because if you understand Grace, you know that there’s nothing that you can do about your sin, accept to receive what God has done in jesus and receive it by faith in Grace. Now look at what the book of Ephesians tells us, the apostle Pole is writing, and he says this and you who were dead in trespasses and sin in which you once walked following the course of this world, following the Prince of the Power of the air, that the Spirit that is now at work in the sons of Disobedience among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind and where by nature, Children of wrath, just like the rest of mankind. Now I read it quickly, but let’s back up and think of what paul says. He says that we are dead in trespasses and sins. That’s our natural state. And when you’re dead, there’s nothing that you can do about your situation. Now we can be alive in the sense that we can live, buy groceries, work, et cetera. But when man fell in the garden, it was like pulling a plug and the light went out. So spiritually we are dead. And what we need is for God to make us alive. Now, if you’re in a cemetery or if you’re at a funeral, you can’t say to the corpse now, corpse. Here’s the thing, I’m willing to help you become alive, but you have to cooperate with just wiggle your finger a little bit, just wiggle your finger and then I’ll help you from there on you know, the simple fact is that the corpse can do nothing. It must lie there until Grace comes along and the apostle paul in this passage goes on to say by Grace, you are saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should, that’s that’s the key phrase, I think we need to zero in on right here because people might believe in a little bit of God’s grace to help them out. And it usually goes like this, it’s kind of a mutual fund type of grace. I’m gonna put a little good deeds in the church, I might sing in the choir, I’ll take care of the boys club and yet, you know, I’ve got sins in my life, so the rest I’ll leave to the grace of God. So what they’re saying is, you know, if if these things don’t work, I’m gonna fall back on the grace of God or of the grace of God, all these things and that should get me in its grace plus, but that’s not what the bible says exactly. I remember an illustration like this, that was given to me in a restaurant by a man with whom I was having lunch because there was a woman there and I asked her what she would have to do to go to heaven and she said that she had made money in a bake sale and given it to charity. But here’s the thing, this man said, yes, there’s a man who went to heaven and he stood before ST peter and he said, I was baptized and Peter said that’s worth 30 points, I lived a good life, that’s worth 40 points. So now you have 70. But thank God that the grace of God is worth 30 points. So that’s your 100 anyone who believes that john is deceived completely and will be in hell and not heaven. Why? Because you must understand that when God decided to save humanity, he took all of these things and he said, they’re all tainted with sin, I cannot use any of them. I can only accept what my son did on behalf of others and only his works And only his righteousness and the gift of righteousness that he gives. It must be 100% jesus and figuratively speaking, Jesus comes along and says to that dead corpse arise. And that’s what the apostle paul says in that context, he says, when we were dead in our sins, but he says God came and raised us from the dead, let’s stop right here one and say this to people that are watching, we might have wiped out most of the audience by what we just said. And it’s not a lie, this is what God actually says. So I want to ask the people that are listening right now, if God said to you, have you lived a perfect life and you say no, there’s a couple of sins I’ve done here or I’ve done a lot of sins, you’re not gonna make it. And it’s not, you did some good works and you’re trusting the rest of God. That is not the definition that the bible gives christ does it all for us. He’s the one that comes into the cemetery where we’re dead and he’s the one that works the miracle. And if he doesn’t work the miracle, if he doesn’t say come forth, if he doesn’t give you life, we don’t have it, we don’t get it. Now. Irwin, how do we get this life? How do we, if we have sin in our life, let’s talk about what are the characteristics of grace? Well, the good news is first of all, using the illustration of the corpse, we must recognize that it does break down at some point because we do believe the gospel. And since you address the people who are listening right now and watching us, I want to speak to them as well. The simple fact is this that if you have the desire in your heart at this time to receive christ as savior, I urge you to do that. I urge you with all of my heart. Now, what are some of the characteristics of grace? It has to be a free gift? And the reason it’s a free gift is that all of our righteousness adds nothing to christ’s righteousness. All human righteousness added together does not amount to any of the righteousness of God. So if we’re going to get it, it has to be a free gift. But john this is something so exciting. What it means is that it is unaffected by the degree of our sin. And there are people listening right now who need to hear this because they’ve got a lot of sin. The issue is not the greatness of your sins. Of course it’s good to have been a good citizen rather than a criminal. But God does not find it harder to forgive criminals than he does good citizens. And the reason is because both need the same gift of grace. Both need the righteousness of christ. Let me use this illustration, you know, in Chicago, we have the Willis tower, which is the highest building in the city. Now you can say that that building is much higher than say a bank that’s next to moody church. But if you stop comparing the two buildings and you begin to ask which is closest to the furthest star, there isn’t much difference between them, what we have to do is to stop comparing ourselves with one another and say, how close do we come to? The holiness and the high standard of God. And the bible says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. What that means in practical terms is God does not find it harder to forgive big sinners than he does other kinds of sinners because grace is capable of saving both. And I can’t help but think that there’s somebody listening today, like the man who wrote to me from prison and said that he had violated for women ruined their lives. He said, can I to be forgiven? And I wrote back and I said, you know, you may have two trails. One is a beautifully manicured trail, another has deep ruts and ugly ditches. But if you get 18\” of snow covers both equally. So I say to the person out there who is struggling because you have made such a mess out of your life, not only out of your life, also out of the lives of other people whom you have ruined. Grace is able to save you. And the reason is because the Grace of God is greater than any sin that anyone committed. But it’s not your forgiveness automatically. It must be received and it must be received in humility and in faith. How do you receive it? Let’s talk a little bit more about that. Excellent question. I remember a man who was very close to death. He had heard me preach for years and I said to him, you know you must receive christ as savior. And he said, I know, but I don’t know how. And john I was stunned. I thought you’ve been in church all these years and you don’t know how. So I explained to him, why don’t you at this moment transfer your trust to jesus. So admit who you are, admit the fact that you are a sinner, admit the fact that your righteousness avails nothing and receive jesus christ as your sin bearer as the one who bore your sins on the cross was dead and was raised again for all of your sins, all of your sins. And make the transfer of trust. It isn’t even just praying a prayer. You know, there’s some people who say, well, it won’t hurt to pray a prayer. They don’t understand what they’re doing, what you’re doing is you’re saying I no longer trust myself. I confess my wretchedness and I trust christ alone, just like john Newton did. And then you discover how amazing grace really is. You know, john jesus told a story. Yeah, I love this. In the 18th chapter of the Book of luke. And it was a parable, he said that two men went into a temple to pray. The one was a pharisee. Now, if you know anything about the Pharisees is they love to keep rules. And they were meticulous in keeping rules and regulations. They had it all worked out. The other was a publican, a tax collector. And you know how tax collectors were despised. And they probably, this man had probably done a lot of nefarious things. Right? So they both go into the temple to pray. What does the Pharisees say? He believes in grace. He says, I thank the God, but I’m not like other men who are adulterers extortion ear’s and so forth. And he says, I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I possess. Both of these men believed in grace. He believed that God gave him by grace, the ability to do good things. And there are people who are listening who are in that category. I’ve had people say, well I believe that I’m saved by my works, but it’s really grace because God gives me the grace to do good works. That’s the pharisee the other man. He was the one who really believed in Grace. He would not even look up. He simply put his hand on his chest and said, God be merciful to me. The center. That’s all he had to say. He brought nothing to the table except his great need. And jesus said it is this man that went home justified to the person who’s watching this and listening to this, hear me very carefully when it comes to the gospel, you do not come to give you come to receive, you don’t come to be helped you come to be resurrected, You don’t come to contribute. You come only to trust Jesus paid what is necessary. And we receive it by faith as our very own. And that’s the way it happens. Yeah. And those people that say, God helped me do this are really saying it’s not because of the mercy of God, that I did this. It’s because God help me do this and I earned a little bit of it to accomplish this. And that’s the problem, God does not save you by you doing a little bit, even when you ask them for help, okay, what he wants is you to trust him to do everything to put your total trust in what christ did. He’s the one that paid for all of your sins. And I would like for you Irwin to pray for people right now, so I can’t wait till next week. I may be there in a situation where they may die this week, okay? Or maybe they’re just thinking about it, but they say you know what? There’s something in my heart, I want to put my trust in God’s son, jesus christ. I want to tell him now and I want him to save me. I want to know for certain that I’m going to heaven for all eternity. Would you say a prayer for them? I will john I want to tell very quickly this audience, I let a man to faith in christ who is part of a wife swapping club. He believed that he could not get out of this. He was hooked. But I said admit your sinfulness, trust christ as savior, asked christ to do in your life what you can’t do. And you know, he prayed to receive christ and a week later he comes to me and he’s interested in attending a bible college and I said to him, what about the wife swapping club? He said, I gave that up. Here’s the thing Grace, once it is received does not leave us where we are. We come exactly as we are. But Grace doesn’t leave us there. Just ask john Newton. And now for all those of you who are listening, I’m gonna pray for you right now, pray a prayer like this. But let it be the expression of your heart to God, your heart of trust, Lord jesus, thank you for dying for sinners. I am a sinner, I cannot help myself. I cease trusting in my goodness and trust only in what jesus did for me by baring my sin. And I received this Grace, I thank you that you have shown me that sin is bitter, that I might see that Grace is sweet and I receive that grace today for myself in jesus name. Amen folks, I hope that you prayed that prayer and we’re going to talk about this more next week. But I hope that you’ll stay tuned because I have a personal word for you in just a moment. 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Until then, May God bless you and I’ll see you next week. Now I have to continue the story because the question is this was Luther saved, was he ready for heaven? Back in the monastery when he confessed his sin regularly six hours at a time? The answer is no, it’s because he didn’t understand the gospel as I emphasized tomorrow was another day. Now when he emphasized the gospel and understood the gospel and believed it, God gave him this gift which was going to carry him all the way to eternity and bring him all the way to the father declared as perfect as God because he realized that jesus not only paid for his past sins, but his present and his future. He paid it all as the hymn says, Can you imagine the Liberating power of that fact. Now of course we have to confess our sins to maintain fellowship. But as far as the legal relationship is concerned, that relationship continues 24 hours a day. God demands perfection. If we, as christians are to have fellowship with him 24 hours a day, Jesus Christ supplies what God demands when Jesus died on the cross, he got what he didn’t deserve, namely our sins, we get what we don’t deserve, namely his gift of righteousness. So when Luther discovered this, it was very liberating and is liberating to all those who struggle with their sins. And we may be speaking today john to somebody who has really sinned terribly, you may be a criminal. If the truth were known what you did, you perhaps destroyed other people’s lives as well as your own and you’re sitting there today and you’re saying what hope is there for me.