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Text Sermons : R.A. Torrey : HOW TO DEAL WITH THOSE WHO ENTERTAIN FALSE HOPES

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I. THE HOPE OF BEING SAVED BY A RIGHTEOUS LIFE.

1. This is the most common of false hopes. Even
among those who profess to be Christians, there
are many who are really depending upon their lives
as Christians for their acceptance before God.
Those who are depending upon their righteous lives
for salvation, are readily known by their saying
such things as this: "I am doing the best I can."
"I do more good than evil." "I am not a great
sinner." "I have never done anything very bad."
This mistake can be directly met by Gal. 2:16:

"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works
of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even
we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be
justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the
works of the law: for BY THE WORKS OF THE LAW
SHALL NO FLESH BE JUSTIFIED."

After the passage has been read, you can say to
the one with whom you are dealing, "Now you are
expecting to be justified and accepted before God
by what you are doing, by your own life and
character; but God tells you in this passage, that
'by the works of the law shall no flesh be
justified.'" Follow this up by Romans 3:19-20:

"Now we know that what things soever the law
saith, it saith to them who are under the law:
that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world
may become guilty before God. Therefore BY THE
DEEDS OF THE LAW THERE SHALL NO FLESH BE JUSTIFIED
IN HIS SIGHT: for by the law is the knowledge of
sin."

Call attention to the fact that here again we are
told that, "by the deeds of the law there shall no
flesh be justified in his sight," and {91}
furthermore, that the purpose of the law is to
stop the mouths of men. Then take him to Galatians
3:10:

"For AS MANY AS ARE OF THE WORKS OF THE LAW ARE
UNDER THE CURSE; for it is written, Cursed is
every one that continueth not in all things which
are written in the book of the law to do them."

Before he reads it, say to him, "I want you to
read a verse from the Word of God that tells you
just how God regards one who is trying to be saved
by his righteous life, as you are." Then let him
read the passage. When he has read the passage,
ask him where God says that he is, and hold him to
the point until he sees that in depending upon his
good deeds for salvation, he is under the curse.

James 2:10 will also be found useful:

"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet
OFFEND IN ONE POINT, he is guilty of all."

Before the man reads the verse you can say, "Well,
if you are going to be saved by your righteous
life, let us see what God requires in order that a
man may be saved on the ground." After he has read
the verse, show him that if he is going to be
saved by the law, he must keep the whole law, for
if he offends in one point he is guilty of all.

A verse which is useful in showing the kind of
righteousness that God demands, is Matthew 5:20:

"For I say unto you, That except your
righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of
the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case
enter into the kingdom of heaven."

This verse shows that no man's righteousness comes
up to God's standard, and if a man wishes to be
saved, he must find some other way of salvation
than by his own deeds. It is sometimes well in
using this passage, to say to the inquirer, "You
do not understand the kind of righteousness God
demands, or you would not talk as you do. Now let
us turn to God's own Word and see what kind of
righteousness it is that God demands."

2. There is another way of dealing with this
class, by using such passages as these:

"And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify
yourselves before men; but God KNOWETH YOUR
HEARTS: for that which is highly esteemed among
men is abomination in the sight of God." Luke
16:15. {92}

"In the day when GOD SHALL JUDGE THE SECRETS OF
MEN by Jesus Christ according to my gospel."
Romans 2:16.

"But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his
countenance, or on the height of his stature;
because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not
as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward
appearance, but THE LORD LOOKETH ON THE HEART."
1_Samuel 16:7.

These passages show that God looks at the heart.
Hold the inquirer right to that point. Every man,
when brought face to face with that, must tremble,
for he knows that whatever his outward life may
be, his heart will not stand the scrutiny of God's
all-seeing and holy eye. No matter how
self-righteous a man may appear, we need not be
discouraged, for somewhere in the depths of every
man's heart is the consciousness of sin, and all
we have to do is to work away until we touch that
point. Every man's conscience is on our side.

3. Matthew 22:37-38 can also be used with those
who expect to be saved by their righteous lives.
You can say to the man, "If you expect to be saved
by your righteous life, you are greatly deceived,
and certainly entertain a false hope. For so far
from living a righteous life, you have broken the
very first and greatest of God's commandments." Of
course he may not believe this at first, but you
can turn him to the passage mentioned, and show
him what the first and greatest of God's
commandments is, and ask him if he has kept it.
This passage is especially useful if a man says,
"I am doing the best I can," or if he says, "I am
doing more good than evil." you can say to him,
"You are greatly mistaken about that. So far from
doing more good than evil, you have broken the
first and greatest of God's laws," and then show
him the passage.

4. A fourth method of dealing with this class is
to use Hebrews 11:6 and John 6:29:

"But WITHOUT FAITH it is impossible to please him:
for he that cometh to God must believe that he is,
and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently
seek him."

"Jesus answered and said unto them, THIS is the
work of God, THAT YE BELIEVE ON HIM WHOM HE HATH
SENT."

These passages show that the one thing which God
demands is faith, that the work of God is to
believe on Him whom He hath sent, and that without
faith it is impossible to please God whatever
{93} else a man may possess. John 16:9 can also be
used to show that unbelief in Christ is the
greatest sin:

"Of sin, BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE NOT ON ME."

5. Still another way of dealing with this class is
by the use of John 3:36:

"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting
life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not
see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

This shows that the gift of eternal life depends
solely upon a man's acceptance of Jesus Christ.
That the sin which brings the heaviest punishment
is that of treading under foot the Son of God, can
be shown by Hebrews 10:28-29:

"He that despised Moses' law died without mercy
under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer
punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought
worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of
God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant,
wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and
hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"

Before using this passage, it is well to say, "You
think you are very good, but do you know that you
are committing the most awful sin in God's sight
which a man can commit?" If he replies, "I do not
think so," then tell him, "Let me show you from
God's Word that you are." Then turn to this
passage and read it with great solemnity and
earnestness.

A very useful passage with many a self-righteous
man is Luke 18:10-14. You can say to the man,
"There is a picture in the Bible of a man just
like you, who expected to be accepted before God
on the ground of his righteousness, and who had,
as men go, much righteousness to present to God,
but let us see what God says to him." Then have
him read the passage.

It is well to bring all those who expect to be
saved by a righteous life into the presence of
God, for in His holy presence self-righteousness
fades away. (See Isaiah 6:5 and Job 42:5-6.) But
how shall we bring any one into the presence of
God? By opening to them passages that reveal the
holiness of God, and by praying the Holy Spirit to
carry these passages home. It is also well
whenever possible, to get the inquirer to pray.
Many a man who is stoutly maintaining his
excellence before God, has given way when he has
been brought to get down on his knees in God's
very presence. {94}

II. "GOD IS TOO GOOD TO DAMN ANY ONE."

This is what another class of those who entertain
false hopes think.

1. When any one says this, you can reply, "We know
nothing about God's goodness, except what we learn
from the Bible. If we give up the Bible, we have
no conclusive proof that God is love, and can
therefore build no hopes upon His goodness. But if
we accept the Bible statement that God is love, we
must also accept the Bible representations of the
goodness of God. Let us then go to the Bible and
find out the character of God's goodness." Then
turn the inquirer to Romans 2:4-5:

"Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and
forbearance and long suffering; NOT KNOWING THAT
THE GOODNESS OF GOD LEADETH THEE TO REPENTANCE?
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart
treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day
of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment
of God."

When the man has read the verse, you can say to
him, "This verse tells us what the purpose of
God's goodness is; what is it?" "To lead us to
repentance." "And what does this verse tell us
will be the result if we do not permit the
goodness of God to lead us to repentance, but
trample it under foot and make it an excuse for
sin?" He will find the answer to this question in
verse five, and hold him to it until he sees it,
that if we despise the riches of His goodness,
then we are treasuring up unto ourselves "wrath
against the day of wrath and revelation of the
righteous judgment of God." You can also use John
8:21,24 and John 3:36 to show the man that however
good we may be, if we do not believe in Jesus with
a living faith, we shall die in our sins, and not
go where Jesus is, and that we shall not see life,
but that the wrath of God abideth upon us.

2. Still another way to deal with this man is to
show him that it is not so much God who damns men,
as men who damn themselves in spite of God's
goodness, because they will not repent and come to
Christ and accept the life freely offered. For
this purpose use 2_Peter 3:9-11:

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as
some men count slackness; but is long suffering to
us-ward, NOT WILLING THAT ANY SHOULD PERISH, but
that all should come to repentance. But the day of
the Lord {95} will come as a thief in the night;
in the which the heavens shall pass away with a
great noise, and the elements shall melt with
fervent heat, the earth also and the works that
are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that
all these things shall be dissolved, what manner
of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation
and godliness?"

Another good passage to use in this way is John
5:40:

"AND YE WILL NOT COME to me, that ye might have
life."

Press the thought of this text home, that if any
one does not obtain life, it is because he will
not come to Christ, and that men therefore are
damned in spite of God's goodness if they will not
come to Christ and accept life. In much the same
way one can use Ezekiel 33:11:

"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I
have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but
that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn
ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye
die, O house of Israel?"

It is sometimes well to say, "You are right in
thinking that God is not willing to damn any one:
furthermore He offers life freely to you, but
there is one difficulty in the way. Let us turn to
John 5:40 and see what the difficulty is." When he
has read it, you can say, "You see now, that the
difficulty is not that God wishes to damn you, but
that you will not come to Christ that you might
have life."

3. If these methods do not succeed, 2_Peter
2:4-6,9 may prove effectual:

"For if GOD SPARED NOT THE ANGELS THAT SINNED, but
cast them down to hell, and delivered them into
chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment;
and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the
eighth person, a preacher of righteousness,
bringing in the flood upon the world of the
ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and
Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an
overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that
after should live ungodly;

"The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of
temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the
day of judgment to be punished."

Before using the passage you can say, "The best
way to judge what God will do is not by
speculating about it, but by looking at what He
has done in the past." Then turn to these passages
and let him read. When he has read it, ask him,
"What did God do with the angels that sinned?"
"What did He do with the world of the ungodly in
the days of Noah?" "What did He do with the
wicked {96} in the days of Sodom and Gomorrha?
What then may you expect Him to do with you in
spite of any theories that you may have about His
character and actions." This should all be done
not in a controversial way, but with great
earnestness, tenderness and solemnity. You can say
still further, "God has not left us to speculate
as to what He will do with the persistently
impenitent, He has told us plainly in Matthew
25:41,46":

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left
hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting
fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

"And these shall go away into everlasting
punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."

You may say still further that God does bear long
with man, but His dealings with man in the past
show that at last His day of waiting will end, and
in spite of man's doubt of His word, and doubt of
his severity in dealing with the persistently
impenitent, He does at last punish. You might use
2_Chronicles 36:11-21 as an illustrative case in
point.

4. It is well sometimes to add to all the other
passages, John 3:18-19:

"He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he
that believeth not is condemned ALREADY, because
he hath not believed in the name of the only
begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation,
that light is come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light, because their deeds
were evil."

Before having the inquirer read the verses, you
can say, "You say God is too good to damn any one,
but the truth is that you are condemned already.
It is not a question of what is going to happen to
you in the future, but a question of your present
position before God." When he has read the
passage, ask him, "When is it that the one who
believeth not is condemned?" "Already." "Why is
it that he is condemned?" "Because light is come
into the world, and he loves darkness rather than
light."

5. Luke 13:3 is very effective in some cases, for
it shows how the "good" God deals with persons who
persist in sin. The passage can be used in this
way: "You say God is too good to damn any one, but
let us see what God Himself says in His Word."
Then turn to the passage and read, "Except ye
repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Repeat the
passage over and over again until it has {97}
been driven home.

An earnest missionary in the western part of New
York was once holding meetings in a country
village. The Universalist minister of the place
was very anxious to engage the missionary in a
controversy, but the missionary always said that
he was too busy for controversy. One day the
Universalist minister came into the house where
the missionary was calling; he was delighted to
see him, for he thought that his opportunity for a
discussion had come at last. He began the
customary universalist argument about God being
too good to damn any one. After he had gone
through the usual volume of words, the missionary
simply replied, "I am too busy for argument, but I
just want to say to you, that except you repent,
you shall likewise perish." The Universalist was
somewhat angry, but replied sneeringly, "That is
not argument, it is simply a quotation from the
Bible," and then ran on with another stream of
words. When he had finished his second speech, the
missionary simply replied, "I have no time for
argument, but I just want to say to you, except
you repent, you shall likewise perish." Again the
Universalist sneered and poured forth another
torrent of what he called argument. Whet he had
finished this time the missionary again said, "I
have no time for controversy, I simply want to say
to you that except you repent, you shall likewise
perish. Now I must go, but let me say, you will
not be able to forget what I have said." The
Universalist preacher laughed, and said he guessed
he would forget it quick enough, that the
missionary had used no argument whatever, but had
simply quoted the Bible. The following day there
was a knock at the missionary's door, and when it
was opened, the Universalist preacher came in. The
missionary said, "I have no time for argument."
"Oh, sir!" said the other, "I have not come to
argue with you. You were right yesterday when you
told me there was one thing I would not be able to
forget; I feel that it is true, that except I
repent I must perish, and I have come to ask you
what I must do to be saved." The missionary showed
the man the way of life, and the result was, the
Universalist became a real believer in Christ, and
a preacher of the truth he had previously labored
to pull down.

III. "I AM TRYING TO BE A CHRISTIAN."

The third class of those who entertain false
hopes, are those who say, "I am trying to be a
Christian." {98}

1. Show the inquirer that it is trusting and not
trying that saves. For this purpose use Isaiah
12:2:

"Behold, God is my salvation; I WILL TRUST, and
not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength
and my song; he also is become my salvation."

When he has read it, ask him what it is the
prophet says, "I will try?" "No, I will trust."
Another verse which can also be used to show that
it is not trying to be a Christian, but believing
on Christ that saves, is Acts 16:31:

"And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."

John 1:12 is very useful. Before using it, you can
say, "What God asks of you is not to try to be a
Christian, or to try to live a better life, or to
try to do anything but simply to receive Jesus
Christ who did it all." Then have the passage read
and say to the inquirer, "Will you now stop your
trying, and simply receive Jesus as a Savior?"
Make it very clear what this means and hold the
inquirer to this point.

2. Another way of dealing with this class is to
show the inquirer that it is NOT TRYING what we
can do, BUT TRUSTING what Jesus has done that
saves from guilt. Use for this purpose Romans
3:23-26:

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory
of God; being justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation
through faith in his blood, to declare his
righteousness for the remission of sins that are
past, through the forbearance of God; to declare,
I say, at this time his righteousness: that he
might be just and THE JUSTIFIER OF HIM WHICH
BELIEVETH IN JESUS."

When the inquirer has read the passage, ask him if
this teaches us that we are justified by trying to
do something. "No." "Then how are we justified?"
Hold him to it until he says, "Freely by His
grace, through the redemption that is in Christ
Jesus," and sees that it is on the simple
condition of faith. Another very effective passage
to use in the same way is Romans 4:3-5:

"For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed
God, and it was counted unto him for
righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the
reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But TO
HIM THAT WORKETH NOT, BUT BELIEVETH on him that
justifieth the ungodly, HIS FAITH is counted for
righteousness." {99}

This makes it clear as day that it is not our
trying, but our believing on Him that justifies
us. Acts 10:43 and 13:38 can be used in a similar
way.

3. It is also well to show the inquirer that it is
not our trying in our own strength, but our
trusting in Christ's strength that saves from the
power of sin. To make this clear, use the
following passages:

"Now unto him that is able to keep you from
falling, and to present you faultless before the
presence of his glory with exceeding joy." Jude
24.

"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the
world: and this is the victory that overcometh the
world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh
the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the
Son of God?" 1_John 5:4-5.

"For the which cause I also suffer these things:
nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I
have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to
keep that which I have committed unto him against
that day." 2_Timothy 1:12.

"Who are kept by the power of God through faith
unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last
time." 1_Peter 1:5.

IV. "I FEEL SAVED", OR "I FEEL THAT I AM GOING TO
HEAVEN"

There are very many in this class, very many who
think that their entrance into heaven is sure
because they "feel saved," or feel that they are
going to heaven.

1. The first thing to do with this class is to
show them the utter unreliability of our feeling
as a ground of hope. An excellent passage for this
purpose is Jeremiah 17:9:

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and
desperately wicked: who can know it?"

Follow this up with Proverbs 14:12:

"There is a way WHICH SEEMETH RIGHT unto a man,
but the end thereof are the ways of death."

After reading the latter passage, you can say to
the inquirer, "The way you are going seems to be
right, it seems to you as if it would lead to
heaven, but what does this passage tell us about a
way that seemeth to be right unto a man?" "The
end thereof are the ways of death." Then drive the
thought home that it will not do to rest our hope
upon anything less sure than the Word of God. Luke
18:9-14 may be used in this way. You can say, "We
are told in the {100} Bible about a man who felt
saved, and felt sure of going to heaven, let us
read about him." Then let him read the story of
the Pharisee, and show how he was not saved for
all his self- confidence. Isaiah 55:8 can also be
used to enforce the thought that God's thoughts
are not our thoughts, and while we may think we
are saved, God may clearly see that we are not.

2. Having shown how little confidence is to be put
in our feeling, show the true ground of hope,
namely God's Word. Use for this purpose Titus 1:2:

"In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot
lie, promised before the world began."

You can say, "Paul had a hope of eternal life.
Upon what was that hope built?" "The Word of God
'that cannot lie.'" Then say to the person, "Do
you want a hope built upon that sure ground?" Take
him then to John 3:36. That verse tells clearly
how to get such a hope.

One afternoon I was speaking to a woman who a few
weeks before had lost her only child. At the time
of the child's death she had been especially
interested, but her serious impressions had
largely left her. After a time I put to her the
question, "Do you not wish to go where your little
one has gone?" She replied, "I expect to." "What
makes you think that you will," I asked. She
answered, "I feel so: I feel that I will go to
heaven when I die." I then asked her if there was
anything she could point to in the Word of God
which gave her a reason for believing that she was
going to heaven when she died. She replied that
there was not. She then turned to me and began to
question me: "Do you expect to go to heaven when
you die?" "Yes, I know I shall." "How do you
know it? Have you any word from God for it?"
"Yes," I answered, and turned to John 3:36. She
was then led to see the difference between a faith
that depended upon her feeling, and a faith that
depended upon the Word of God.

V. THE HOPE OF BEING SAVED BY A MERE PROFESSION OF
RELIGION, OR BY A FAITH THAT DOES NOT SAVE FROM
SIN AND LEAD TO REPENTANCE.

In many communities it is very common to meet men
and women who believe they are saved because they
hold to an orthodox creed, or because they have
been baptized or made a profession {101} of
religion. This is one of the most dangerous of all
false hopes, but it can be readily dealt with.

1. A good passage to begin with is Titus 1:16:

"They profess that they know God; but in works
they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient,
and unto every good work reprobate."

You can say to the person, "You profess to know
God, but God Himself tells us that many who
profess to know Him are lost; let me show it to
you in His Word." When they have read the verse,
you can say, "Now if one professes to know God,
but denies Him in his life, what does God Himself
say that such a one is?" "Abominable and
disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."
Another passage which can be used in very much the
same way is Matthew 7:21-23.

"NOT EVERY ONE THAT SAITH UNTO ME LORD, LORD,
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he
that doeth the will of my Father which is in
heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord,
Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in
thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name
done many wonderful works? And then will I profess
unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye
that work iniquity."

You might say, "God tells us plainly in His Word
that one may make a profession of religion, may be
active even in Christian work, and yet be lost
after all." Then have him read the verses. When
they are read, you can say, "According to these
verses, will a mere profession of religion save
any one?" "No, doing the will of the Father which
is in heaven." "Are you doing His will?"

2. A second way of dealing with this class is to
say, "God tells us plainly that in order to be
saved we must be born again." Then show them John
3:3-5:

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily,
I say unto thee, EXCEPT A MAN BE BORN AGAIN, he
cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith
unto him, How can a man be born when he is old?
can he enter the second time into his mother's
womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily,
I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and
of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of
God."

When these verses are read, you can say, "Now
these verses make it clear, that in order to enter
the kingdom of God, one must be born again. Now
let us turn to other parts of the Bible and see
what it is to be born again." For this purpose use
the following: {102}

"Whosoever is born of God DOTH NOT COMMIT SIN, for
his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin,
because he is born of God." 1_John 3:9.

"If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that
EVERY ONE THAT DOETH RIGHTEOUSNESS is born of
him." 1_John 2:29.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, HE IS A NEW
CREATURE: old things are passed away; behold, all
things are become new." 2_Corinthians 5:17.

3. A third method of dealing with this class is by
saying, "Yes, faith does indeed save, but it is a
certain kind of faith that saves." To show what
the faith that saves is, turn to Galatians 5:6:

"For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth
any thing, nor uncircumcision; but FAITH WHICH
WORKETH BY LOVE."

This passage says that it is faith which worketh
by love. Romans 10:9-10 that it is a faith of the
heart:

"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the
Lord Jesus, and shalt believe IN THINE HEART that
God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be
saved. FOR WITH THE HEART man believeth unto
righteousness, and with the mouth confession is
made unto salvation."

while James 2:14 tells us that it is faith which
shows itself in works:

"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man
say he hath faith but have not works? can that
faith save him?" (RV)

4. 1_John 5:4-5 is also very useful as showing
that one who really has faith in Jesus as the Son
of God, and is born of God, overcomes the world.
The passage reads as follows:

"For whatsoever is born of God OVERCOMETH THE
WORLD; and this is the victory that overcometh the
world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh
the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the
Son of God?"

The fact that one is living in sin and not
overcoming the world, but being overcome by it, is
conclusive proof that he really has not faith that
Jesus is the Son of God, and that he has not been
born of God.






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