The Helmet of SalvationPastor Lutzer | September 14, 2008
Selected highlights from this sermon
Did you know that you can love Jesus and still not belong to the category of believers? You must be born of God to enter into fellowship with Him and gain entrance into heaven.
If you have no assurance of salvation—of knowing for sure that you will enter heaven—this message is for you. Learn why doing good won’t save you. Learn why a prayer can’t save you. And learn why the teachings of other religions won’t save you.
There is only one way to enter heaven. Are you sure you’ve taken the right road?
Let me begin today by asking a question: What comes to mind when I say the word Satan? Well, in this series of messages we’ve been learning that he was created to be an angel, and then he rebelled against God, and so far as we know, took one-third of the other angels with him. Two-thirds of the angels still give praise to God, but Satan rebelled that he might no longer be God’s servant, but in a sense he still is. He is still under God’s authority and under God’s reign, and will always be.
We’ve also been learning that we’re caught up in the battle. Satan is allowed to have a certain amount of power, power limited, of course, by God, and we are involved in the conflict, and what he wants to do is to discover in us something (some entry point) whereby he might gain a foothold. It could be any number of things. In fact, in this series I perhaps should give you a list of about ten or twelve Biblical issues that connect him with entry points, but it can be something like a computer. After the last message a mother came to me deeply heartbroken over her daughter who had been on the computer and found a website. Now there are all kinds of good websites, but there are a lot of destructive ones. I’m not only talking about pornography. I’m talking about occultism. I’m talking about people meeting others and hooking up with others on the computer, and when that happens, there is an obsession that begins to develop, and Satan knows that he has people where he wants them. They can get out of it if they understand the power of Christ, but oh how he likes to deceive.
Well, today we’re going to be talking about the helmet of salvation. It’s found, of course, in Ephesians 6, but I do not want you to turn there today. I have another passage that is going to help to explain what the helmet of salvation is all about. I begin today by telling you that this will be the most important message that you have ever heard or probably ever will hear. Now I am sure that you will hear many messages that are much more eloquent than this one. You may often hear messages that are much more interesting than this one, but there is none that is more important than this discussion of the helmet of salvation, and what it means, who’s got it, who doesn’t have it, and how to pick it up if you’ve lost it.
Today I am speaking to two categories of people. The first category I could classify as unbelievers. Now that’s not very complimentary, but you need to understand that when I say unbelievers, it does not mean that I am talking to the atheists. There may be some atheists listening, and so you are an unbeliever, but not necessarily. You can be an unbeliever and be a seeker, and be here today at the church to check us out, and we’re glad that you are here to check us out. You may be wondering about Christianity and exploring it and at this point, you still have not made that faith commitment in the sense that you’ve transferred your trust to Jesus, and so you’re still in that category, but you’re investigating it, and I say, “Keep investigating the Christian faith.” You may even love Jesus and still not be in the category of believers.
Now if you are an unbeliever, I’ll tell you exactly what the devil wants to do with you based on 2 Corinthians. He wants you to be very content in your self-assured view of yourself and the world and your relationship with God. He wants to strengthen that sense of contentment. As a matter of fact, he would like to be able to do that and to keep you even from hearing the rest of this message. Do you realize that there are some people who are listening to me today who are going to find it difficult to track with me, even though I hope that I am clear? They are going to find that they wander; they’re going to find this sense of indrawn contentment, and it is going to keep them from hearing what they really need to hear. So, even though it’s a battle, hang in with me and we’re going to make it together to the end, aren’t we? I always say it’s my responsibility to speak. It’s your responsibility to listen, and I’ve been praying that we shall end at the same time.
There’s another category of people, and you are the believers. God bless you. I’ll tell you what Satan wants to do with you. He wants to shatter your confidence that you have savingly believed. What he wants to do is to cast doubt on the promises of God so on the one hand, in the lives of those who haven’t believed, what he wants to do is to strengthen self-confidence. In your life, what he wants to do is to destroy the confidence that you have put in the Scriptures and the promises. And by the time this message is over I hope that I have spoken to both groups, and that you have been helped in determining what side of the ledger you are on, and how you should proceed from here. Imagine doing all of that in the next 20 or 25 minutes with your help, and with God’s guidance I trust and pray.
What is the helmet of salvation? What is a helmet? Well, you know that if you play football without a helmet you know what can happen. When you are without a helmet, a number of things can happen. You can go into confusion, and you don’t know which end is up, and that’s true of some minds, especially when it comes to the Gospel. They find it all very confusing and they can’t fit it in.
Another thing you can do is you can actually be in a coma and be unaware basically and build your own reality. You know, it is said that psychotics build castles in the air, and neurotics live in them. You can build your own reality and you can be very content in doing so when you lose or do not have the helmet of salvation.
Now I want you to take your Bibles, because it’s important that you look at the text with me. The text is First John – not the Gospel of John. Near the end of the Bible close to the book of Revelation you come to First John. Now there are many of you who say, “Pastor Lutzer, every Sunday I bring my Bible to church, but I forgot it today,” and this is the first time you’ve forgotten it, so please take a Bible that is there in the seat ahead of you. It’s there for you, and turn to page 1,023, and if the person next to you still doesn’t have a Bible well then you share yours with them because we need to look at the text.
We’re going to begin in 1 John, chapter 5, and before I read I need to tell you what’s going on. In the early days when John was writing there was a group of people named Gnostics. We became acquainted with them during The Great da Vinci Code debate. The Gnostics tried to combine Christianity with Platonism, so they ended up with some very strange views about Jesus, many different views about Jesus. One of the views was that Jesus became the Christ at his baptism. The Christ spirit came upon him at his baptism. Now he was born just a man, Jesus, but at his baptism the Christ spirit came upon him, and then it left him just before he died, so he was born a mere man, and he died a mere man. They taught that of one they could be sure, and that is Jesus, as God could not have come in the flesh. Now it is to those sorts of people that John is writing. He’s writing to believers, but he’s helping them to sort out the doctrine of Christ, and he says in 1 John 5:1 (and now we’re taking about the assurance of salvation—putting on the helmet if you please), “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.” By the way, John loves to just talk in broad strokes and clear speech. If you are born of God you will love God, because when you are born of God, God does a miracle within you so that there is something within you that was not there before the miracle happened. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation. All things pass away. All things become new.” There’s a new nature created within you when you are born of God, and Jesus said that unless you are born of God you’ll never see the Kingdom of heaven, but whoever is born of God loves God. We don’t naturally love someone we haven’t seen. This love is implanted in us by God when we are born of God.
Now, what John does is he begins to color in the details of who this Christ really is. If you believe that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is the Messiah, you are born of God. In 1 John 4:1 he says, “There are many spirits that are in the world,” and you’ll notice behind all the false prophets there are spirits. Do you see it there in the text? “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is from God,” and that was a direct attack, of course, against the Gnostics who denied that Jesus as God could come in the flesh.
Now, what John does is he says in 1 John 5:5, “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” So what he does is he’s beginning to identify the kind of Jesus in which you must believe in order to be born of God. It must be Jesus Christ, the Messiah. It is Jesus come in the flesh. It’s only that Jesus who can save you. And now notice I’m picking it up at verse 6. “This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by water only but by the water and the blood.”
What in the world is John talking about? Again, you need to understand the Gnostics. Do you remember I told you that they said that the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus at his baptism, and then left before he died so that he was a mere man all the way through (at least a mere man in terms of his birth) and then he died as a mere man? What John is saying is, “This is the one (namely Jesus) who came by water. He was baptized certainly, and the Holy Spirit came upon him, even though I might say he was the Christ previous to that baptism, but the Holy Spirit came upon him, but he also came by blood. It is the same Christ. It is the Christ who came and who died and shed His blood. You can’t divide Jesus from Christ. He is the one. He is the incarnate one. He is God in the flesh and He is the same person from beginning to end. He came by water and He came by blood. Isn’t that interesting?
What John has done now is he has undercut a number of wrong views about Jesus. He’s undercut the Gnostics who believed he was a mere man. He also undercut Islam, even though, of course, he was living five 500 years before the Koran, because the Koran says in Sura 4 that Jesus did not die. It was an illusion. There was no Jesus who died on the cross, and so what you have is Islam that believes in a different Jesus.
Also, if I had time to show, he undercut the Mormon Jesus, which is an entirely different Jesus, and what John is saying is that you must believe in Jesus, Messiah God, who came in the flesh, and shed his blood.
You know, the Bible says in the book of Revelation, “They overcame him (that is Satan’s fury) by the blood of the Lamb.” Here at this church we talk about the blood. There are some churches that say it is so offensive and so contrary to PC [politically correct] etiquette that they don’t, but we talk about the blood because the Bible talks about the blood. [applause]
Years ago I read a book entitled, I Talked with Spirits, written by a man who was understanding the occult, and he said that he went into a meeting in Minneapolis where they were singing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and he didn’t know it was a séance. They were calling up the dead, so he knew that this was demonic, and so he said to the medium, “Is Jesus the Son of God?” and the medium deflected it and said, “Go on believing.” This is the ambiguity of Satan when he’s cornered. Then he asked the medium, “Did Jesus Christ shed his blood and die on the cross for sinners?” and at that point the medium freaked out and actually had to be revived. Satan will take it as far as he can but he does not want the blood. He does not want the death of Jesus Christ for sinners. Give me some other Jesus other than the one who died for sinners.
Now, that’s the basis of salvation. The basis of salvation is to understand the Gospel, but now we have a question, don’t we? Have you been born of God, and I’m talking to you, by the way, even to those of you who may be in your own world of reality at this point. Would you come out of that world just for a moment and let me ask you one-on-one, “Are you born of God?” All right, now we’re going to answer the question. Notice that John goes on to say now in verse 6, “And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is truth.” Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit would come he would testify truth. All right. “For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” Well, that’s interesting. What is he saying? He is saying that the Holy Spirit of God testifies to the truth of Jesus, the Jesus who came by water (He was baptized), but also the Jesus who died.
Well, what else does he say? Verse 9 says, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he was borne concerning his Son.” Well, that’s interesting. What is the testimony of men? The testimony of men is the record of the Bible. It is the story of Jesus that was written down by the Prophets and the Apostles and those who were eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ, and we believe that testimony because it has excellent historical confirmation that could be a whole lecture or ten lectures in themselves. So we believe the testimony of men, but he’s saying that the testimony of the Spirit is even greater.
Now let’s think about this. Let’s connect this with what else the Bible teaches. The continuity and the consistency of Scripture are just absolutely overwhelming, isn’t it? Paul says this in the book of Romans. He says that the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Wow! It is the Spirit, Paul says elsewhere in Galatians, by which we call God Abba Father. It is the Spirit that assures us that we are connected with God. Jesus said to the disciples of Himself, and Him sending the Spirit, “When the Spirit comes, he is the Spirit of truth, and he will testify of me. He is with you, but he shall be in you, bearing testimony to who I am, and giving us the assurance that we belong to God.”
Now, that’s the basis of ultimate assurance. You see, there are many of you who are here today who have walked with God for many years, and if I were to ask you, are you absolutely sure that Christianity is right, and that you are rightly related to God, you would say, “I’m absolutely sure.” What gives you that sense of certainty? It is the work and the ministry of the Spirit confirming the message of Jesus who died on the cross for our sins.
Yesterday evening, as I do always every Saturday evening, I spoke to my mother who is about to be a hundred years old in two months, and she always asks me what I am preaching on. Her mind is still fine. It’s getting a little fuzzy, maybe about like mine, you know here and there, but she knows what’s going on, so I asked her again, “Are you sure that when you die you are going to go to heaven?” and she said, “I am so sure that it’s as if I am already there.” She’s just itching for glorification. She keeps saying, “Please pray that I’ll just go to heaven.” Now, let me ask you something. Where does that certainty come from? Is it because my mother (who, by the way, had a grade three education) taught herself how to read, and taught herself how to speak English as well as the German with which she was raised? Did she study all of the manuscripts and go through all the history? Has she studied archeology? No! She has accepted the witness of the Scriptures, and it has been so strongly confirmed to her by the Holy Spirit that she has absolutely no doubt whatever that when she dies she’ll be in the presence of God. It is the witness of the Spirit of God that assures her that she belongs to God forever.
Now, you take my own life. You know I’ve told you this story before, but brought up in a Christian home I used to pray that Jesus would come into my heart. That was the terminology that we used to use when I was growing up. Every time I got off my knees I didn’t feel any different. I didn’t feel any witness of the Spirit, so I just assumed I wasn’t borne of God. It was later at about the age of fourteen when my parents said, “You know, you have to receive Christ by faith. Even if you don’t feel differently, you receive Christ by faith,” and I went into the room there with them in the old farmhouse that I got to visit two years ago, and knelt there to thank God for all that he had done in my life in the last years. But as a boy of fourteen, I knelt and said, “In faith I receive Christ now as Savior,” and I can tell you that the next morning I so sensed the presence of God so strongly (and I’m not saying that everyone has this experience) I just said to myself, “I have this overwhelming sense of peace and confidence; I know God.” I still remember the day when I said, “I know God.” It’s the ministry of the Spirit.
Well you ask, “What is the ministry of the Spirit like?” It’s a sense of confidence. It’s a sense of awareness. It’s a sense of assurance that you have believed on Jesus. “The Spirit,” Paul says, “bears witness with my spirit that I’m a child of God,” and the testimony that I have just given is one that hundreds and hundreds of people who are listening to me today could also give.
“Oh,” you say, “but there are people who belong to other religions and they have assurance too.” All right, let’s take for example, my Muslim friend that I had in Istanbul. He was a wonderful man and he took me around all day and showed me archeological things. He was very brilliant and a devoted Muslim. In fact, during the day when he wanted to go into a mosque I just said, “I’ll wait outside and you just pray.” I wanted to respect his religion. We should respect people from all different religions. If I were to say to him, “Are you absolutely convinced that Islam is right?” he would say, “I am absolutely, totally convinced. I’d be willing to die that Islam is right.” All right. Now, I ask another question. When you die, do you have the assurance that you’ll be in heaven? I asked him and he said, “No. Nobody can have that assurance. We do the best that we can and we just hope that Allah will do it, but we have no idea what Allah is going to do, and I have no idea of whether or not I’m going to be there.” He has received the testimony of men, and by that I mean the Koran, which is an entirely different subject, by the way, but there’s no witness of the Spirit. There’s no inner assurance that he is a child of God, and he has told me that one of the things that is true is that he can never refer to God as father. Why? It’s because it is the Spirit that works in the life of those who have believed in Jesus whereby we call God Abba Father, and we know that we belong to Him.
Look at the text. I told you that it’s important to look at the Bible so that you know I’m not making it up. First John 5:9 says, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.” That’s a gift of the Spirit. It’s the regenerating work of the Spirit, confirming the historical record that Jesus is who He claimed to be and that He died for your sins. And if you don’t, by the way, John says you make God a liar. The thing about John is, he’s very clear, and he also believes that everybody’s on one side of the fence or the other. It says in verses 11 and 12, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” For John it was just that clear cut. You either have the Son or you don’t. If you have the Son you have life. If you don’t have the Son you don’t have life. It doesn’t mean that you can’t operate. You go around and you are very much alive, but spiritually disconnected from God.
You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, what does all this have to do with the helmet of salvation?” Well, it does. You have to hang on because we are going to bring it all together, and it’s all going to come together if you just keep following me for a few moments. I wish that I had time to comment on the verses that follow. I will read here quickly verse 13 through 15: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward Him—we know that He hears us,” and then it goes on to talk about a brother who sins a sin unto death. There are some sins that result in death eventually. There are others that don’t. You pray for the one for the other. It may not even be worth praying when you have a case like Ananias and Sapphira, but now notice I’m in verse 18: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” This connects with the helmet of salvation.
Now, it says that the one who is born of God does not keep on sinning. In fact, the Greek text I think actually says he doesn’t sin. Well, you and I know that we sin. If there’s a man here who says, “I do not sin,” I would like to meet with his wife and see whether or not she is in hearty agreement. All right?
What John is doing, in addition to saying that when we are saved we have a desire to do righteous things and so we don’t continue in sin, it seems to me that John is looking at us now as being born of God. He’s looking at the new nature. When you receive Christ as Savior there is a new nature within you that cannot sin. That’s the struggle. As Paul himself said, “You know I have this desire to not sin, and I also have this desire to sin.” The new nature certainly doesn’t sin, but notice what he says. If we could live without sin (I’m not saying that we do), you’ll notice that it says that he who is born of God (and I take that he to be the individual Christian) keeps himself because there is within you now the blessed Holy Spirit of God. I put it this way. If you are Christian, you will, I’m sure, sin, but you fight against it, and you don’t like it because you don’t like to displease the Lord. Non-Christians commit sin and they enjoy it, and they indulge themselves and they think of new ways of indulging themselves and there is really no quibble of conscience.
We can’t sin as Christians without grieving the Spirit, and if we walk with God we know that we are grieving the Spirit. The Spirit is a person that keeps witnessing to us, testifying to us about Jesus, but you’ll notice it says that the wicked one does not touch him. Actually the word touch is too weak. It doesn’t apprehend him. It doesn’t hold him. Do you see the connection? We talked about the helmet of salvation. When you are walking in obedience and in assurance, the Devil comes to you and says, “You know, if you were really a Christian you wouldn’t do that, but look at what you’re doing,” and you say to him, “I have the witness of the Spirit. I belong to God. My desire is to follow God. I have sinned, but I confess it and I forsake it and I keep going because at the end of the day I belong to Almighty God and not to you, Satan.” You have this confidence, this overwhelming sense of saying, “I connect with God and I believe in God and His promises, and the Spirit is bearing witness that I am a child of God.”
Now, how do we put all of this together? I’d like to point out to you again if I may that it is God’s will that you know that you have eternal life. Did you see it there in 1 John 5:13? Your Bible is open before you. In verse 13 it says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” If you are here today and you don’t know that you have eternal life, almost certainly you don’t have it, but let me talk very specifically first of all to believers. Most believers I’ve encountered know that they have eternal life. Most of them do, but occasionally you find those who don’t, and let me give you some reasons why they lack that assurance—the assurance of the Spirit.
Sometimes it’s wrong teaching. For example, if you were brought up with the idea that you can just lose your salvation whenever you sin, you’re led into such despair that it stifles any ministry of the Holy Spirit to your heart, because remember the Holy Spirit is like a dove. He is gentle. There’s a calmness brought to you by the Spirit. It isn’t imposed upon you, so if you were taught that you are losing your salvation every day, how can the Spirit do any significant witnessing to you if that’s what you believe? Or there are those who sometimes have a weak conscience. If you have a weak conscience so that you see your sin as greater than God’s grace, you may have doubts. One day I was speaking at a conference and a husband and his wife asked me to come over to their place. She led Bible studies, she led people to Christ, but there were times when she doubted whether she had believed. Now, I think it is wrong for anyone to say to somebody else, “You’re [not] a Christian.” Let the Spirit do that, but there are times when you are sure that there’s no question. They have the fruit of being a Christian. We were beside a lake and so I told her, “You know there is a story which I think probably happened of a man who was going to cross a very huge long lake, and he was so afraid that the ice was not thick enough, that in places he actually walked on all fours to distribute his weight, until in the distance behind him he saw a team of horses coming. [Chuckle} Once he saw the team of horses he could get up and walk and enjoy it. If the ice can hold the horses, the ice can hold you too,” and I said to her, “The ice beneath me and the ice beneath you and the ice beneath all those who have trusted Jesus is equally thick. The only difference is some of us are walking along and we’re enjoying it, and you are walking on all fours hoping you won’t sink in.” There is strength in the promises of God.
Now let’s suppose you are brought up with a branch of Christendom that says this: “If you do your part, God does his. Salvation is a cooperative effort.” If you believe that, will you have assurance? Will the Spirit minister assurance? Of course not, first of all because he ministers to that which is true and not to that which is false. Also, that teaching will override any possibility that you can have assurance because if part of it is dependent upon me, I can never be sure that I am doing my part, but if you believe that when Jesus died on the cross and rose again, He did all that ever will be necessary for you to stand in God’s presence, and you embrace that for yourself, you will be saved, and you will know it and it will be confirmed to you by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. There are some Christians who are true Christians, but wrong teaching has kept them from enjoying assurance.
Then there are those who walk in disobedience. Now I am talking about those who sin, and they go against their new nature and they commit sins, and they decide to live in sin. Obviously it’s the work of the Spirit because the Spirit is so sensitive, the Spirit will be grieved and there will be no ministry of assurance to a person like that, but God wants you to know. “These things,” and I take it to be just the preceding verses, “I have written onto you that you may know that you have eternal life.” This is for those who believe.
Now for many of you who have no assurance whatever, it’s possible that the real reason is because you have not really believed on Jesus. I remember a teenager saying to me, “You know, I received Jesus as my Savior in the youth meeting, but I can’t tell my parents because my parents always tell me that I was saved because I prayed a prayer at the age of five.” Could I say that it’s possible for you to pray even a good prayer and not be saved because it isn’t even prayer that saves us. It is that transfer of trust where we believe in Jesus and we trust Him. The full weight of our sin and our future is laid on Him. That’s what it means to believe in Jesus as being the Christ, and then we’ll be born of God.
So you see, there are those who have a false sense of assurance because they have never really savingly believed. There are those who are so self-assured that even when they listen to a message like this, it’s filtered, and their filter tells them that what he’s really trying to say is that salvation is a matter of just being good, so they keep believing that and they develop their own sense of self-confidence, but when push comes to shove, there’s no assurance because they’ve never believed. How do I illustrate this?
Think of O’Hare Airport. You are there in the departure lounge. Have you ever noticed the difference between those who have a confirmed ticket and those who are flying standby (and I’ve been in both categories)? When you have a confirmed ticket, you are sitting there reading the newspaper, you’re dozing, you’re laughing and joking with your friends, and you are enjoying the wait. When you are flying standby and they tell you they have no seats but it’s possible someone won’t show, what are you doing then? You’re pacing the floor; you’re looking down on the floor; you’re rolling your eyes; you’re trying to listen to what’s being said; you keep your eye on the monitor, and there you are. You’re unsure. When you believe in Jesus as the Savior, as the one who bore your sin, who came both by water and by blood, you receive the ministry of the Spirit that confirms that you’ve got a confirmed ticket and you don’t have to worry about the departure lounge.
James Simpson, who was the first to use chloroform in medicine, was dying. People said to him, “What is your speculation regarding your future?” That’s a question to ask somebody who is dying. He said, “I have no speculation,” and then he said this, quoting right from the Bible. “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.” That is the confidence of all those who trust Jesus as Savior who are born again, born of God, who now love God because they are born of God, and the Spirit witnesses to them that their ticket has been confirmed, and they are good to go all the way to heaven.
So, do you have assurance? Do you know that you have eternal life? Has your ticket been confirmed, or are you flying standby?
Let’s pray. Father, I pray that You might help us to pick up the helmet of salvation, and I pray that your Holy Spirit may point out in the lives of all those who are here who have never really trusted Christ as Savior who are flying standby, that they can have a confirmed ticket.
How many of you today say, “Pastor Lutzer, I’ve never trusted Christ in the sense that you’ve talked about?” Would you raise your hand? Do we see people who have never trusted Christ as Savior and you say today, “I want assurance?”
Father, I ask in the name of Jesus that all those who lack assurance today may believe in Christ so fully that Your Spirit will minister to them and they will know that they belong to You forever. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.