Question and Answer

The Theology of Hope

Question:

For the past 25 years I have feared that I committed the unpardonable sin or am not saved. Most likely because of holding on to my sin I missed my opportunity to walk through the narrow door. I started listening to reformed sermons and started attending an OPC. Spurgeon's sermons used to bring me to tears but now I feel my heart hardening and feel only dread. I am convinced that I am a non-elect vessel of destruction. I have worldly sorrow, a "said faith" and no genuine repentance with fruit. While I want genuine sorrow, saving faith and genuine repentance, when I ask God for them I fear deep inside that I must not really want them or want them only to escape hell. At the OPC I feel like an intruding goat or tare thus I don't want to waste the pastor's time to talk with him or an elder. Though I pray for mercy and salvation I am still in my sin, unable to sincerely want to leave or be able to leave my sin.

Answer:

My dear sister in Christ, I am so sorry for your fear and anxiety. The answer is so simple. Notice, first of all, that I called you sister in Christ. That should get your attention and rivet it!

I want you to focus upon just one promise of Jesus and take it very seriously—John 6:37. Do you want to be saved? That desire alone is not from you but from the Holy Spirit who draws sinners to Christ. By nature we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1ff). Dead men and women desire nothing. I would give you one hundred dollars if you could prove that anyone from your local cemetery ever asked for anything. By definition they cannot. Neither can a man or woman dead in trespasses and sins ever desire salvation or favor from God because they hate God by nature. But you—you love him. You want him to love you, to save you. Don't you see? That means you have been given that desire by Christ himself by his Spirit.

Now, to be saved, all you need do is, ask.

You mentioned Spurgeon. Are you familiar with how he came to assurance of salvation? Read his story below when you are done with my message. I think you will recognize your similarity to him. For, it seems to me your problem is not the unpardonable sin—if you had committed that you would not care about being saved. Your heart would be too hard. But your heart is not hard—it is simply confused, or worse, you have believed the devil's lie. I believe that you are either saved, because you have truly confessed your sin and sought to put your faith in Jesus, or you will be once you take your eyes off how you feel and off how you have sinned. Every Christian—from Paul, the self-confessed "chief of sinners," to the very least of us who love Jesus—still sins. But the good news is that there is no condemnation for us because we are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Look to Jesus and his death for sinners, his death for you. Trust him no matter how you feel. And memorize his promise and believe it: "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out."

Most important of all—go to the OPC pastor and share your problem and this note with him. And this time go prepared to believe him when he tells you the good news that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and that you have no grounds to doubt that you are one whom Jesus died to save. Believe him and trust him.

Here are Spurgeon's own words:

I had been about five years in the most fearful distress in mind, as a lad. If any human being felt more of the terror of God's law, I can indeed pity and sympathize with him. Bunyan's "Grace Abounding" contains, in the main, my history. Some abysses he went into I never trod; but some into which I plunged he seems to have never known. I thought the sun was blotted out of my sky—that I had sinned so against God that there was no hope for me. I prayed—the Lord knoweth how I prayed, but I never had a glimpse of an answer that I knew of. I searched the Word of God; the promises were more alarming than the threatenings. I read the privileges of the people of God, but with the fullest persuasions that they were not for me. The secret of my distress was this: I did not know the gospel. I was in a Christian land, I had Christian parents, but I did not fully understand the simplicity of the gospel.

I attended all the places of worship in the town where I lived, but I honestly believe that I did not hear the gospel fully preached. I do not blame the men, however. One man preached the divine sovereignty. I could hear him with pleasure; but what was that to a poor sinner who wished to know what he should do to be saved? There was another admirable man who always preached about the law; but what was the use of plowing up ground that needed to be sown? Another was a great practical preacher. I heard him, but it was very much like a commanding officer teaching the maneuvers of war to a set of men without feet. What could I do? All his exhortations were lost on me. I knew it was said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved," but I did not know what it was to believe in Christ.

I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair now, had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm one Sunday morning, when I was going to a place of worship. When I could go no farther, I turned down a court and come to a little Primitive Methodist chapel. In that chapel there might have been a dozen or fifteen people. The minister did not come that morning; snowed up, I suppose. A poor man, a shoemaker, a tailor, something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach.

Now it is well that ministers should be instructed, but this man was really stupid, as you would say. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had nothing else to say. The text was "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter.

There was, I thought, a gleam of hope for me in the text. He began thus "My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says 'Look.' Now that does not take a great deal of effort. It ain't lifting your feet or your finger, it is just 'look.' Well, a man need not go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool and yet you can look. A man need not be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; a child can look. But this is what the text says. Then it says 'Look unto Me.'" "Ay," said he, in broad Essex, "many of ye are looking to yourselves. No use looking there. You'll never find comfort in yourselves. Some look to God, the Father. No, look to Him by and by. Jesus Christ says, 'Look unto Me.' Some of you say, 'I must wait the Spirit a working.' You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. It runs: 'Look unto Me.'"

Then the good man followed up his text in this way: "Look unto Me; I am sweating great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hanging on the cross. Look! I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend and sit at the Father's right hand. O! look to Me!" When he had got about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger, He then said, "Young man, you look very miserable." Well I did, but I have not been accustomed to having remarks made on my personal appearance from the pulpit before. However, it was a good blow struck. He continued: "And you will always be miserable in life, and miserable in death if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment you will be saved."

Then he shouted as only a Primitive Methodist can: "Young man, look to Jesus Christ!" I did "look."

There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun: I could have risen that moment and sung with enthusiasm of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me that before. TRUST CHRIST, AND YOU SHALL BE SAVED. (From Vol. I, Banner of Truth Edition of Spurgeon's Autobiography quoted online)


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