The Gift of SecurityPastor Lutzer | October 28, 2012
Don’t assume that you have the seal of the Spirit. Make sure that you do!
Selected highlights from this sermon
As believers in Christ, we know we’re in God’s hands and that we’ll make it to the very end. God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit, and He’s the only one who can break that seal.
So though life may be hard, there are no permanent tragedies. We belong to the Almighty, and we belong to Him forever. Eternity is on its way.
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In his book on the Holy Spirit, Frances Chan gives this illustration. He said, “If I were a basketball player and I told all of my colleagues that I had had a meeting with God and that God now indwells me to make me a better basketball player, wouldn’t you expect some improvement in my game?” I would think so. I’d expect that he’d have a better jump shot, a better guard, and more speed. Now we as believers say that we are inhabited by God. What difference does the Holy Spirit of God make in our life? The difference should be very obvious and huge.
Today as we are learning how to live beyond ourselves by looking into the Scripture and teaching the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, I have two purposes in my message. The first is to just bless us today. How many of you say, “I am ready for a blessing today?” Could I see your hands please? All right! We’re all ready for a blessing. Well you are going to be blessed so much that at the end of this message I don’t think you are going to be able to contain it, but we are going to try. All right?
But there’s another reason that I preach this message, and that is that for those who are not yet Christians but are investigating Christianity. You have an interest in it but you are not yet in with Jesus. I want you to listen carefully because I think it will whet your appetite, and you’ll say to yourself, “If that’s what I receive when I receive Jesus Christ, I want to receive Him.” I’m praying that that will happen.
The passage of Scripture is Ephesians 1, one of the greatest chapters in all of the Bible. In this passage we can see that when God intervened in our life to save us, it was huge. You’ll notice it says in verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Salvation was instituted by God and He was the one who chose us and predestinated us and worked toward our salvation. That’s what the Father did. But of the Son, who is the second member of the Trinity, verse 7 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses….” The Father planned redemption. The Son purchased us and instituted redemption, and now the Holy Spirit has been given to us to make it all real in our hearts, and that’s the way the Trinity operates when it comes to the marvelous doctrine of our salvation.
But our text today is very limited. There are only about two verses in chapter 1. It says in verse 13, “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.”
Wow! Let’s dig deeply into this verse. The passage of Scripture refers to the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit. You know, in ancient times, and this is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament, kings would take a document and then they would roll it up like a scroll, something like your graduation certificate, which you couldn’t find if your life depended upon it (at least I couldn’t find mine). I hope I graduated from something somewhere, but you know, instead of using Scotch tape then to keep it together they would put some hot wax on it and then the king would take his ring–the insignia–and he’d put it on that hot wax where the paper came together, and then he would send it somewhere. And the recipient would know whether or not it had been tampered with. After all. if it still had the insignia of the king, if the wax seal was not broken, he would know that it was authentic and nobody looked at it along the way.
Now we use that word seal differently today. Maybe it’s something like a signature, or it is the stamp like the stamp on my American passport. We also use the word seal when we have Tylenol, for example, in tamper proof seals. The idea is that it’s sealed in such a way that nobody should open it except the adult who purchased it, and along the way it is not supposed to be tampered with.
This seal of the Spirit has three different meanings, all of which impinge upon us and bless our souls. First of all, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Spirit is the seal. What it means is ownership. We are owned by God by virtue of the fact that we were created by God. But we’re also owned by God in a special sense because Jesus actually bought us. And how much did He pay for us? Well, He didn’t pay fifteen trillion dollars or sixteen trillion dollars, the amount of the American debt, which we really can’t get our minds around. He didn’t pay with that kind of thing. He didn’t pay with silver or gold, but the Bible says that He bought us with the precious blood of Christ, and that is a tremendously high price. God says, “I’m going to redeem you and it’s going to cost Me so much it is going to cost Me the death of My Son. His blood will be shed on your behalf."
Wow! I look at that and I think, “God overpaid, clearly.” I mean, just look at us. He paid too much for us. Well, maybe He did, but that is grace. I still love the words of Luther when he says that God doesn’t love us because we are valuable, but we are valuable because God loves us. What Luther is saying actually is that even our value is conferred upon us, and what makes us special in the universe is that we are loved by God, and our value went soaring high on the heavenly Dow Jones Industrial average when Jesus Christ purchased us at such high cost. We belong to Him.
We belong to Him and we are also His exclusive property. It says in the book of Peter, “We are God’s own possession. We are owned by God.” The seal of the Holy Spirit means God says, “You are mine in a very special way.” Why is this relevant? Well, what it means is that God now takes responsibility for our future. It is God who has our future in His hands, and because we are His property, He’s not an absentee landlord.
Now at times it may seem as if when we experience loss and heartache and sickness, where is God? God is leading us somewhere and our eternal future is in His hands, not the hands of fate or disease ultimately, but in His hands because He owns us. I think of a woman who went to a doctor and discovered that she had cancer, and she told me, “Pastor, for a long time I was just devastated, and then I remembered whose body this was. This is, after all, God’s body. I belong to God.” Today she is celebrating in heaven because she belongs to God.
You know, there’s a song that goes something like this: “I am His and He is mine.” I love that. We belong to God and there’s a sense in which God belongs to us. Imagine the inheritance and the sealing of the Spirit means ownership. God says, “I’ve branded you. You are mine.”
There’s a second meaning and that is it is also a sign of security. Now next time in this series I am going to be preaching from Ephesians 4:30, just a couple of pages from this text, where it says, “Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit.” That’s going to be my topic, but then it says, “by whom you were sealed unto the day of redemption.” It is security.
You know, in the book of Revelation there were 144,000 Jews and they are actually listed there in terms of their tribes, and it says in chapter 7 that God sealed them, and it also says in chapter 14 that they had the name of God on their forehead. But what that meant was that they were sealed and the judgments could not touch them. They could survive the Tribulation because they were sealed by God. They were secure, and as a result of that they knew that they were in God’s hands and would make it to the very end.
Let me put it to you this way: When you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior it’s as if God is sending you to heaven by registered mail. God is the one who seals you, and the only one who can open the seal is the one for whom it is intended. God is the one who seals you by His Spirit and God is the only one who can open the seal when you arrive there in glory. And that’s why we read in Scripture that we are sealed until the day of redemption.
Remember the disciples. They were so glad that they could speak and demons would be subject to them. But Jesus said, “Don’t rejoice because the demons are subject to you, but rejoice rather because your name is written in heaven. Imagine your name written in heaven. There it is! There’s Susan. There’s Mary. There’s Bervin. All of the names are written in heaven. And do you know what it says in the book of Revelation? It says in chapter 13 that during the Tribulation there will be those who worship the Antichrist, except those whose names were written in heaven from before the foundation of the world.
If you’ve believed on Jesus you are already on the heavenly register, and God is up there saying, “Oh, okay, So-and-so died. Fine we checked them off. They arrived. Yeah, So-and—so arrived.” Now most of us would want God to not be in too big of a hurry to check us off like that, but hey, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (applause) Jesus said, “Rejoice because your name is written in heaven.”
You say, “Well, might He blot out the name?” You know there’s that reference in the book of Revelation where it says that if you obey me I will not blot out your name.” Now that’s a certain kind of figure of speech, but let me tell you that there is no evidence that God has ever blotted out the name of a true believer. I mean, it is unthinkable that God would take somebody and save them and seal them and then they wouldn’t arrive in heaven because somebody tampered with the seal along the way, and as a result, they didn’t arrive at their destination. Think of the words of Jesus and be blessed by them when Jesus made that remarkable statement, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them out of My hand.” And then He said, “My Father who gave them to Me is greater than all and no one is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”
You know, I have more ideas to preach than I have opportunities to preach. Someday I am going to preach a message entitled, Hands in Harmony, because Jesus ended by saying, “I and my Father are one.” We are in the Son’s hands; we are in the Father’s hands. “Oh,” you say, “but we could wiggle out of His hands.” It’s not quite that easy because we are also a part of His hands, as members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
What would you say to a shepherd who starts out in the morning with 100 sheep and comes back with 95 and says, “Well, I thought I did pretty good”? Wait a moment. “Oh,” he says, “You have no idea about those five. They were so rebellious. You know, they went down the wrong paths, and they were so stubborn.” God knows how stubborn they are. Yeah, I know they are stubborn. We’ve all met some of God’s sheep that are quite stubborn. “To live above with the saints we love, oh that will be glory. But to live below with the saints we know, that’s another story.” So we all know what it’s like to live with stubborn sheep.
But do you know what shepherds do? Shepherds go and by hook or crook we bring you back anyway, and Jesus will have in heaven all those whom He has redeemed. They will be there. (applause) And those of you who didn’t clap (laughter), when we get to heaven I want you to come up to me and say, “Pastor, you were right.” All right? (laughter)
All right! Let’s talk about the hard things. (laughter and applause) Thank you. Oh yes, the devil can tamper, but you are sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. You will arrive. But let’s talk about reality. Here I am in Florida, maybe ten or twelve years ago, and at the table at which I am eating is the wife of a man who committed suicide. Now he was a teacher in a Bible college in Canada. I had met him only once, and he was having a great impact on the students, and in her purse was the note he had written–his suicide note. It was a photocopy. She said, “This is what he left me,” and I read it, and basically as I recall it said, “I am taking the easy way out.” He had had the diagnosis of a very painful disease and he didn’t want to go through the pain.
Now let me say this about suicide: It is always wrong. It is always murder. It is putting a period where there should be a comma. If you are contemplating any such thing go for help because that is one thing you do not have to do. You do not have to be plagued with thoughts of self-destruction. And many people–most maybe–who think that this is going to be their way out, discover as the soliloquy says in Shakespeare in dreams of death what dreams may come in the sleep of death when we have shuffled off this mortal toil, but nonetheless, because this man gave every indication that he was a believer, and that he had trusted Christ as Savior, I believe that he was sealed with the Holy Spirit and I expect that his wife is going to meet him someday on the other side. The sealing of the Spirit – you belong to God and you are God’s property, and He is committing to bring you all the way home.
Now there’s something else in this text, and it’ll bless us even more, and it is proof; it is like a pledge that there is more blessing to all. It’s a pledge. Now your Bibles are open. You’ll notice it says, “We are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee (Guarantee! That’s the word that I am looking for.) of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it to the praise of His glory.” The word guarantee in Greek is arrabōn. It is the guarantee.
You know, the King James Version translated this earnest. But modern translations don’t translate it earnest, because most people think that earnest just means sincerity. They don’t understand the concept of earnest money.
All right! I was maybe ten or twelve years old and my father was going to buy a combine from a neighbor, and they discussed it, and my father took $50 out of his pocket and gave it to the neighbor and they shook hands. What that meant was that there was more money to come. Now the cost of the combine was $600. If you know anything about machinery today, you know two things. Number one, this was a long time ago (laughter) and number two, you should know that the combine was already well used. In fact, between you and me, it ended up being a piece of junk, but that’s beside the point. The point is that my father gave $50 as a down payment and that meant that there was more money to come, and because he was an honest man and there was more money to come, the amount was given to the man later.
Now, Pastor Wiersbe in discussing this uses this illustration: Did my father say, “Well, let me give you 20 watermelons and then I’ll give you the money later?” No, when you give earnest you give actually that which there is going to be more of. More money is coming because you are going to use money. That’s the agreement. Now think about it this way. In Oriental times, in fact, what they would do is actually have two transactions, two earnests if you please. Let’s suppose I were buying some property and I were to give to this person say $50 with the understanding that I was purchasing a plot of land that would cost $1,000. The $950 would come later. The present owner, in turn, who was selling it to me would then take a pouch of the grain of the ground (the dirt) and he would give me a pouch of the dirt of the land signifying that there was more land to come as the deal was worked out.
The Holy Spirit is an earnest, and God says that what you have in the Spirit you are going to get more of, and as one theologian put it, what we experience today is very small, imperceptible, in comparison to what we will someday experience, but the Holy Spirit is a pledge that there is more to follow.
The Bible says that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man all the things that God has prepared for them that love Him. And that actually begins in this life, not to mention the life to come.
How can I put this to you? Let me say very clearly that today we have the shadow, but the substance is on its way. Today we get the drop, but we’re going to inherit an ocean. We get the flower, but in that day we’ll get the garden. Today we get the condo. Tomorrow we get the mansion, and God is going to show His grace to us, and the Holy Spirit of God is God’s down payment. That would be a good way to translate our bond–down payment, though it has another meaning as I’ll mention in a moment. It is God’s down payment. There is more to follow.
Don’t you sometimes wish you had a new body? Well, it’s coming. Don’t you wish that you had relationships that were intimate and fulfilling? Well, that’s coming too. Don’t you wish that you had fellowship with God without any sin coming between you and God? Can you even imagine that?
I heard Joni Eareckson Tada say one day (and you remember she’s the quadriplegic that has blessed millions), “The real reason I look forward to heaven is not because I can park my wheelchair in the heavenly vestibule and run to Jesus. The real reason is forever being in direct fellowship with God without a mediator, without sin ever coming between us. (applause) All of that, and the Spirit is the earnest.
Now I’ve saved the best for last, like the wine that Jesus made in John 2. We save the best for last. That word arrabōn is used today in Greek for the engagement ring. If a young man loves a woman, he gives her an engagement ring. What is an engagement ring? It is a pledge that marriage is coming. It is an agreement that you are going to be marrying the man who gave it to you. The Holy Spirit of God is a pledge that someday we will be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and we will be married to Jesus in intimacy, in purity, and holiness, and in relationship. And Jesus says, “Before that happens I am giving you the Spirit as the earnest. It’s the down payment. Unbelievable blessings are on the way.
Can you just imagine for a moment what it’s going to be like there at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb? You know, the Bible says that the bride is going to be there and then special guests? I believe that those special guests are the Old Testament saints. This works itself out in schemes of prophecy, which I happen to accept. And so can you imagine row after row after row? Here they all march in–Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the believers of the Old Testament? And then, of course, sitting down also, all the believers of the New Testament, file after file, rank after rank, all there at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
And Jesus said that the Holy Spirit is the down payment. He’s the earnest. My translation says the guarantee, and that there’s so much more to follow.
Remember the little girl who was reading about Jesus, and then dreamt about Him and said to her mother after going through this picture book one evening, “Oh, Mother, I had a dream about Jesus, and He’s so much better than the pictures.” Let me say today that it’s so much better than the pictures, and the Holy Spirit is the guarantee, the pledge. More is on the way.
Now, how do we reckon with this today? First of all, let me give a word of warning. Don’t assume that you have the seal of the Spirit. Don’t assume that you have it unless you are absolutely sure that you do. I think that many people who believe that they are Christians will discover that they aren’t, because they kind of assumed it. “I was brought up in the church, I was baptized, I’m a nice person,” and on and on the list goes. Don’t assume that unless you know it.
By the way, when I was a student in Dallas, I remember that there was a woman sitting somewhere in some kind of a meeting. I don’t have a clear recollection of it, but she would take her coat and she would lay it over the chair so that the person behind it could see the label: Neiman Marcus. Now, I don’t know that I have enough money to walk through a Neiman Marcus store, much less purchase something, but a friend of hers said, “She didn’t buy it at Neiman Marcus. She bought a label from somewhere and she sewed it in. (laughter) Now that’s the kind of thing I could afford from Neiman Marcus–put the label in.
You know, there are plenty of people who say, “Well, you know, I’ve got the label,” but are they the genuine article? Have they been sealed by the Holy Spirit?
Do you remember I told you when we came back from Greece that there was a sign at a store that said, “Genuine fake jewelry?” I’m serious. I said, “Rebecca, you have to take a picture of that one.” (laughter) Genuine fake jewelry! Somebody said, “No, no, no, that’s a good legitimate sign because first of all you’ve got the real thing, and then you’ve got fake jewelry,” and sometimes that fake jewelry is actually pretty good but it’s cheaper, but then you have the fake of the fake jewelry, and from there on, I guess, it goes downhill. So, this is genuine fake jewelry.
There may be those today who are listening to this and you are genuine fake. You don’t have the sealing of the Spirit. You know, one of the ways in which you know is this: Number one, what have you believed? Have you savingly believed on Jesus? Have you acknowledged your sinfulness and recognized that He’s the only Savior who can save you, and you embrace that for yourself? And then secondly, and here it’s back to the Holy Spirit, in Romans 8 it says “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”
Do you have within you the witness of the Spirit that you are a child of God, the deep settled conviction brought to you by the Spirit who connects with our Spirit and says, “You belong to God?” So, if you’ve never trusted Christ as Savior, you may do that. I encourage you to do it because that’s the way you receive it. You’ll notice right here in the text (It’s always best to just look at the text actually.) it says, “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth (which is what you are doing today–you are hearing the word of truth), the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him.” That’s what is required.
Now there’s something else, and that is this, and again I am speaking now to the believers. If you know that your future is absolutely secure, and if you know that in the end you are going to be with God forever, the trials, the temptations, the heartaches along life’s journey are manageable because you can put up with anything almost if you know for sure where you are ultimately going because for the Christian there is no permanent tragedy. They are tragedies but they are not permanent because eternity is coming and the Holy Spirit has sealed us and given us that seal that we belong to the Almighty, and we belong to Him forever.
Robert Robinson was a man who lived in England in the seventeenth century. As a kid he grew up in the gangs. He was not a very nice child, and at about the age of 17 he went to hear an evangelist by the name of Whitefield preach, one of the greatest preachers of all time. And the boy went there to scoff. Robinson went there and thought, “These poor sick souls; just to think they actually believe this stuff.” But while he was there the Holy Spirit showed him his sin and his need and he believed in Jesus and eventually became a pastor of a rather large church in England. But he wrote a song that we have often sung. It’s “Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy praise.” Have you ever come to Moody Church and your heart isn’t singing the praise of God and God has to tune it? But the reason that we are choosing this song to end with today is really because of the last stanza, I think it is, where he talks about the fact that we are such a debtor to grace and then he says this: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.”
Aren’t you prone to wander? You love Jesus but you wander. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”
I am sure that Robinson already knew that for those who believe in Christ their hearts are already sealed. It was an affirmation of the fact that even in our wandering, and God always likes to discipline His sheep to bring them back, we belong to God.
By the way, I was going to mention for those of you listening who say, “Well, you know, if you think for sure that you are going to heaven, you can live like the devil,” remember what I said about the engagement ring? Can you imagine a young woman receiving an engagement ring from somebody who sacrificed to save her, and after she receives it she says, “I know he’s trustworthy. I know he’s going to marry me, and now I’m going to sleep around,” I don’t think so.
Listen, when you come to Christ, He not only forgives you, but He actually changes your desire and implants within you a love, and that’s why Robinson could write those words: “Prone to leave the God I love, here’s my heart, oh take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.” How marvelous God is to us. Life is hard but eternity is on its way.
Will you join me as we pray together and then as we sing together?
Our Father, we want to thank You today that we have been sealed by the promised Holy Spirit. We thank You that it is a sign of ownership. It is a sign of security and the pledge that there is more to follow. Help us to rejoice in that. Come tune our hearts to sing praises to You for all that You have done. And for those who have not yet believed in Christ, who do not have the witness of the Spirit, we ask today, Lord, that You will help them to see the beauty of Jesus and why they need Him so desperately. We pray in His name, Amen.