Dealing with Doubt

I had a bit of an epic weekend in June. On Friday, it was my spiritual birthday, and I celebrated 19 years of following Jesus Christ. That Sunday was Father’s Day and then that Monday was my 37th birthday. So it was like a New Testament Jewish wedding. It just didn’t end for me for […]

Topic : Sanctification | Scripture: 1 John1:5

Transcript | Audio


I had a bit of an epic weekend in June. On Friday, it was my spiritual birthday, and I celebrated 19 years of following Jesus Christ. That Sunday was Father’s Day and then that Monday was my 37th birthday. So it was like a New Testament Jewish wedding. It just didn’t end for me for a while. The celebration just kept going. As I began to reflect on 19 years of following after Christ and 19 years of putting the Word to the test, I began to realize that God has done some spectacular things in regards to His transforming power of me as a man outwardly and more significantly me as a man inwardly. So it’s not just that my behavior has been modified, but rather the desires of my heart have been modified. And those are two very different things and yet inseparable things, because one is tied to the other. Now the other thing that I saw and remembered from early on in my relationship with Christ even until this last year is I have, at different times in my walk with Christ, struggled to one degree or another for various lengths if time with doubt. I wish I could wear the cape for you and have the cross on my chest saying, “Here’s what you do to never have doubt,” but I can’t preach that because it’s not true.

I can even think back on moments of time where it occurred. I was converted a little bit late in life. I was still a young man, but I wasn’t baptized as a kid and come to faith in Christ as a kid. So when I came to faith, it was this thing happened to my heart that I couldn’t even understand. I was always a skeptic, and I always had questions. I was kind of like the Pharisees in the Bible where even if you answered my question, I would just go and find another question to ask. And when the Lord opened up my heart to the reality of His love for me made manifest in Christ, this transformation occurred in me and I just became zealous for the Lord, almost immediately. It felt like God’s presence was always there. I kind of walked around in this spiritual high where I was just aware of God, aware of His presence, aware of His power.

I was confident completely in Him. And then I hit my first little patch where it was going to take disciplined delight to pursue Him. I don’t know that it felt like duty. It almost feels like how I date my wife. I don’t go, “Oh gosh, I have to find some time to date my wife.” That’s not how it works. I go, “I need to find this time where Lauren and I can get away from our three children.” So with delight, I begin to find a restaurant, figure out when we can go and look at the menu. And

I delight in getting in the car, kissing the babies goodbye, leaving them with people we trust and having conversations with my wife about my heart, about her heart, about where we are, about how she is, all while eating good food and drinking good wine in the company of my best friend and wife. Now there is some discipline involved in all that. We have to find somebody to watch the kids. I’ve got to find where we’re going. There is some discipline in that, but it never feels like work to me. But in that transition from this awareness of His presence at all times to needing to pursue Him with disciplined delight, I wrestled with doubt. Because there were some people saying, “Every day should be like your first day with Jesus.” So I bought into that and started wondering, “Is this real? Am I in? Have I been changed?”

And I wrestled again later. I want my kids to have a testimony that they don’t ever remember not knowing, loving and following Jesus Christ. I would love for that to be their story. That was not my story. I had a small window of debauchery there, and I’d rather they not have my testimony. I’d rather them not experience the pain and heartbreak that I had to experience. I’d rather God just awaken their little souls to Him early on and, when you meet them in their 30’s, they will just go, “I don’t remember not loving, following and trusting Jesus.” I’m asking the Lord for that. I don’t know that He’ll give that to me. He definitely doesn’t owe it to me, but I am asking for it. So in that little season of debauchery, I was converted near the end of it. I very much loved the Lord, very much went headlong into the church, into trying to figure out how to follow Jesus, but I had this ongoing battle with sin in my life. And unfortunately I was in an environment where it appeared that no one else was doing that. Now years later, I found out that wasn’t true, but at the time, I was in

a place where everybody was okay but me. So that created a lot of doubt in me. Now I was too immature at the time to see it, but I should have picked up on the fact that all around us there were people’s lives that would just explode. So nobody had any issues, nobody had any trouble and all of a sudden divorce, all of a sudden suicide or all of a sudden they get arrested. That was my early experience in church, that nobody struggled with anything until their house exploded. So during that season, I really wrestled, because I was battling some indwelling sin and didn’t feel like I could be honest about it because no one else seemed to be battling. So I thought the abnormality was me.

Then I struggled with doubt when I first became a teacher and preacher of the Word. Every time you teach and preach, you have fans and foes. . .and I don’t know which one is worse. Every time you preach, you have those who want to give you credit for what most definitely was not you. I have changed no one’s life, ever. It has never been anything I have ever done that has changed anyone’s live. That is an act of the Spirit, not an act of the man. If a man could do that, churches would be overflowing all over the world. If a man could do that, it would look a lot different. If a man could do that, you wouldn’t be secure in your salvation. And then you have foes. Every weekend, you’re brilliant and you’re an idiot. So didn’t know that. I didn’t know that leadership like that meant you were going to need thick skin. I was always kind of a likeable guy. So I start to teach and all of a sudden people angrily hate me. They create venues in which to vent about my failures. I wasn’t ready for that, so I had some doubts whether or not this is something I should do, pursue or go about doing.

And then is struggled for a week or two after my diagnosis. It is not an easy thing to find out you’re terminally ill. The truth is we’re all terminal, but to have a doctor sit across from you and say, “Statistically here’s your life expectancy.” Here’s the thing about terminal illness – you’re all alone in it and it doesn’t matter who else is there. So my wife is a ferociously committed woman to me. She held my hand, and we wept together. You guys came alongside my family. People all over the world encouraged us. People flew in just to sit in our house and pray over us that God would heal and be mighty. But it doesn’t change the fact that, at night when everybody went to sleep, it was just me laying there, staring at the ceiling and wondering, “Are You going to be there when all of this is over? When my eyes close upon death, are You going to be there?” And then God is gracious and He sends the Spirit to remind those who need reminding and minister to my soul. But I struggled with a little bit of doubt. So what I’ve learned is that a season of doubt can be extended, sometimes it can be just a thought, and sometimes it can be a day where doubts just kind of follow you around.

So I thought, since that’s our reality, maybe we should talk about it and maybe we should look at it biblically. Now let me tell you what I can’t do. I can’t go, “Here are eight things to get rid of your doubt.” I don’t know if you were listening, but if I had those steps I would do them and we wouldn’t be preaching this sermon. I would have written a book, and I’d have a yacht. I don’t think that exists. I think where people tell you that exists, they’re selling something. So what I want to do is look at some main causes of doubt and then talk about what those springs of doubt reveal about our hears.

As I studied this, there were all kinds of springs which doubt can spring out of, but I narrowed it down to the three that we most commonly see here. So this is not an extensive list. It’s just a list of what we run into the most here. So here’s the first reason why many of you struggle with doubt. It’s the heaviest by far. I don’t feel like I am by nature an angry man, but I feel in this moment when I’m with you a weight that I don’t think some of you feel. So I want to press on that because

I love you. And like I love anyone, if I see them on the precipice of something that’s dangerous, of course I’m going to plead for safety. So let me tell you what I think the largest spring of doubt is in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Here’s why you struggle with doubt. It’s simple and terrifying. You’re not saved. That’s why you struggle with doubt, because you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ. So let’s just walk through it. So many of you, at some point in your life, entered into some sort of shallow commitment to Christianity. I don’t know what it was. Maybe you were afraid of hell. Maybe you were by your nature a conservative so you like that moral box that you saw Christianity to be. Maybe this is just what you do culturally

and you’re a church person. But some of you have entered into some shallow commitment to Christianity, but if we could sit down and talk with one another and I could push you and have you be honest, you do not hate sin, you do not love holiness, you do not pray, you have not been transformed by the presence of God and Christianity is simply what you check on the box of religious preference in the census or when you go into the hospital. And you doubt because you should doubt. Let me show you some verses here. Matthew 7, we’re going to pick it up in verse 21. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Now let me tell you what’s so terrifying about this text. This text has just clearly outlined this reality – you can do things in Jesus’ name and not know Jesus at all. Now if you have a long background in church, that should be terrifying. You can do things in Jesus’ name and not know Jesus at all. Some of you wrestle with doubt because the truth is you do not have a regenerate heart. The Holy Spirit has not given you a heart of flesh, a new heart, a heart that loves God, pursues God and has been transformed by the indwelling presence of the Spirit. You’re just good people. Good people go to church, good people don’t lie and good people don’t cheat on their wives. And that doubt, that nagging doubt in you, I think that’s God’s mercy to you. Because He’s ringing the alarm in your soul that something is not right. And that’s merciful because He doesn’t owe you that. That’s merciful because there are people all around you for whom that alarm doesn’t go off at all. But in His mercy, that alarm has begun to go off in your heart, in your soul. But so many of you wrestle with doubt because you’re not a believer in Christ. You believe in Christ like I believe in Troy Aikman. I know he exists, but that’s about the extent of it.

The second thing I believe causes a lot of doubt is that people have a hard time believing and staying dialed into the gospel. Here’s what I mean by the gospel, just so we can be very clear. You don’t save you; God saves you. You don’t partner with God in your salvation; God saves you. Because if it were up to you, then I get it. If it’s up to me to earn the favor of God, I’m in trouble. Because even if I can externally manage things, it doesn’t change what my heart is, it doesn’t change what my mind is thinking and it doesn’t change the state of my heart. It’s simply me performing for people who are watching. So if we think, “I’ve got to partner with God in my salvation,” then of course we’re going to doubt. I think this is the biggest hijacking of truth that has befallen Christianity, that you somehow partner with God in your salvation. It’s simply not true. “Well, I confessed and repented.” Okay, read your Bible. See where the grace to confess and repent came from. It was a gift to you by faith, and it actually came before the faith to enable you to use faith to believe in

the grace. You can go to Ephesians 1, Ephesians 2, Romans 8-11, Galatians 1 and we can go all over the Bible to see that this is true. So here’s the spiritual truth that people struggle with – God loves you. It’s not you when you get your stuff together, it’s not you when you nail down all you’re supposed to nail down, but the Bible says He delights in you. Let me give you some verses. If we looked just at Romans 8:26, which is a chapter I would encourage you to read and know, one of the things you’re going to see is the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. Now look what happens. There is an acknowledgment that you’re weak, that you’re falling short and that you’re not getting what you need to get. What’s God’s response towards those He loves? Is it rage? Is it lightning? Is it cancer? Is it drought? Is it help? It’s help. When we’re in need, He sends help. So this idea that there’s no way God could love you, either your lying or the Bible is lying, but somebody’s not telling the truth. Again, if we stayed in Romans 8, you would see in verse 34 that the Bible tells

us that Jesus is interceding for us, that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father in intercession. All that means is Jesus is praying for you. That doesn’t sound like rage to me. That doesn’t sound like He hates you. He’s actually making intercession for you. And then Romans 8 ends with this whole idea that we overcome through Him who loves us. Jesus loves you. He likes you. We could to to Zephaniah 2 and see where God calls His covenant people the apple of His eye. It’s hard for us to imagine and believe that God delights in us. Maybe He loves us in some kind of weird way, like we play with the word “love.” Like, “I love him; I just don’t really like him.” We can imagine that, but to think that God delights in us, rejoices in us, is thrilled with us, that’s very difficult for us to believe and imagine.

Now I am the best husband I ever am when I’m fully concentrating on, thinking on, meditating on and sitting under the gospel preaching and teaching. I’ll tell you why. When I am completely dialed in to the fact that, through no merit of my own, through no act of my own and because of nothing I can do, but simply because God is merciful and gracious, He loves me, then as I engage my wife, there is this overflow motivated by being loved that flows over into my relationship with my wife. Do you know when I’m a horrible husband? When somebody preaches a sermon on, “Here’s how you be

a great husband.” Because I’m a type-A moron. So I will immediately go, “Let me build up that grid. Let me start to do those things. She’ll respond this way, and I’ll do this.” So I start to go, “If I do this, she’ll do that, and what will come about is bliss.” Has anybody tried that route? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. So I’m the best husband I ever am when I understand that God is patient, that God is merciful and that God is gracious to me. And as I am the recipient of that, that overflows onto my relationship with my wife. I’m the best father I am, not when I read a book on parenting that shows me how to handle my strong-willed children. I’m the best parent I ever am when I am completely attuned with God’s free gift of mercy and grace and wired into the fact that He delights in my strengths while growing me out of my immaturities. I’m just a better daddy when I’m aware of that. So the solution to what is wrong with my behavior is not someone telling me how to modify my behavior; it’s better seeing and understanding the gospel. In fact, one of the reasons sabbatical is so painful for me is I’m not allowed to come here during that time. Because if I’m here, I’m not detached and I’m thinking, “Well we’ve got to change that. . .we’ve got to make that work better. . .we’ve got to move that over there.” So since they know that, they’re like, “Don’t come here. Go worship, but worship around town. Worship where you are when you’re out of town.” So I just wanted someone over the break to get to Jesus. I heard all these other things, but no one got me to Jesus. Nobody ever got me to the fact that my righteousness is a gift from Him. The righteousness is His that is granted to me. Instead, what I got was, “Do these things.” And my flesh loves that, because I’m a doer, because I’m disciplined, because I can control that. It has never brought me any freedom. It has never brought me any healthy fruit, but my flesh still loves it. So some of you are walking in doubt because you just doubt God’s affection for you. And that’s idolatry, because what you’re doing in essence is looking at the bloody cross of Jesus Christ and going, “That’s not enough. You’re going to have to show me something bigger than this to convince me You love me.” Some of you are wrestling with doubt because you doubt Christ’s affection for you despite the fact that He went to the cross and died for you despite knowing you.

So spring number one is that you’re just not a believer, spring number two is that you have uncertainty regarding God’s affection for you and then here’s the third one. The third spring of doubt is because you are walking in secret, indwelling sin. Which means you are in habitual sin, but instead of confessing and repenting, you bury that and hide that. So let’s look at what David says in Psalm 32. Starting in verse 1, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity. . .” Now he doesn’t say, “Blessed is the man who has no iniquity.” He says, “Blessed is the man whom the Lord doesn’t count his iniquity.” So that’s different. It’s theologically correct. You’re a sinner, I’m a sinner and we all fall short. The good news of the gospel is not that you’re not a sinner. The good news of the gospel is that you’re an unbelievable sinner and Christ has paid your bill. Let’s keep reading. “Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah” Selah is a way of saying, “Don’t rush on to the second verse. Stop and think.” Here’s what David says happens when you build this wall around you and project that you’re better than you are, that you’re stronger than you are, that you’re braver than you are, that you can handle yourself better than you can actually handle yourself. The text says it’s exhausting. He layers it out here. He says, “I have a physical response.

My bones are wasting away. I have an emotional response. I feel like Your heavy hand is on my heart, and I’m not able to sleep.” And then he ends it with something we can all relate to. “My strength, my vitality in life is being sapped out of me as by the summer’s heat.” Do you know a little bit about that? So here you’ve got David doing this break down of what happens when you throw out this projection that you’re more than you are, that you’re better than you are, that your heart is in a different place than it actually is. He’s going, “Listen, secret sin is exhausting.” And then he creates

this compare/contrast here. Look at verse 5. “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” So now he doing a little comparison. He’s going, “When I was quiet about my sin, when I built this wall of protection that makes me look beyond where I am, my bones waste away, my heart is heavy and the vitality I have for life begins to wane. But when I confessed before the Lord my iniquity, I was forgiven.” And then remember back to how he began this. “Blessed is the man, happy is the man, free is the man whose transgressions are not held against him.” So he confesses, he finds grace and now vitality has returned.

This week I had two separate meetings. I met with Josh Patterson and Brian Miller, two lead pastors here, and then I met with Michael Bleecker who is just a good friend and has been for over a decade now. Over the last couple of months, the Lord has just really been revealing some things about my heart that I needed to confess, nothing that is disqualifying, so I’m still going to be your pastor as best I know. So I sat down with Brian and Josh and just said, “Here’s what’s going on in my heart.” I was honestly nervous about it, but here’s what I’ve learned. I knew this prior, but I walked in it in legitimate ways this week. Do you know what the guys I walk with need sometimes more than they need my strength? My weakness. They don’t always need me to be the guy who goes, “Let’s memorize Ephesians.” Sometimes they need me to be the guy who says, “My heart is still sinful and I hate it.” Because here’s what happened this week. I confessed some attitudes of my heart and thoughts of my mind, and I received grace and mercy. So then I was fully known and yet was fully loved and accepted in the covenant community. And then they felt like it was a safe place for them to come clean about wanting more accountability, wanting a place where they could be more honest and open. And then we just cried a lot and prayed a lot, and it was a pretty spectacular couple of days. So I’m wondering how many of you are absolutely exhausted because you think everybody needs your strength. But honestly, your weakness is sometimes what you need as well as those around you need.

Now maybe in all of this, you’re more confused than ever. Maybe you’re like, “Chandler, I was just absolutely confident that I loved the Lord and was walking with Him until I came in here. I don’t know what your job description is, but I don’t think it’s making me doubt my salvation.” Maybe you’re going, “I really do believe I am a believer. Maybe it’s a grace issue. Maybe it’s a sin issue.” Here’s something I have learned as I got older. It’s painted as a male issue, but it’s not really a male issue. It’s a male/female issue. As you get older, stuff starts to go wrong with your body. So you’ll tell people, “Something’s not right in my stomach. I’m not sure what it is.” So they’ll ask, “Have you been to the doctor?” “No. I’m not going to the doctor. I’m just going to see what happens.” The funny thing is, if you’ll really press on that, it gets even crazier. “Why won’t you go to the doctor?” “Because what if something is really wrong?” Then you should go to the doctor! Now kids don’t do this, do they? If my kid’s are hurt, they want everyone to know. If something is wrong with your kid, he/she will brag to strangers about it. I have put band-aids on more imaginary wounds than I have done anything else in my life. “I fell.” “Where?” “Here.” “Okay, I don’t see anything.” “But it really hurts. Can we put a band-aid on it?” The worst mistake we have ever made as a society is putting cartoon characters on band-aids. In the end, kids don’t do that, but adults do. The sad thing is many of men and women have suffered more than they needed to suffer if only they would have listened to that warning that their body was giving off years before they actually did something about it. I have never met a doctor who was like, “Oh man, I sure wish we could have caught this at stage 4. It’s just stage 2 right now. There’s not a lot we can do. We really need this to be stage 4. We need you to almost be a dead man before we can do anything about this.” I’ve never heard a doctor rejoice in late discovery. But if you hear people talk, there is a great deal of rejoicing in catching things early. In the same way as paying attention to something being wrong physically can lead to treatment before it becomes a major issue, so paying attention to that little buzzing in your soul might bring about answers, clarity and confidence in God’s salvific work in Christ by simply paying attention to it and not treating it like that light that’s on in your car, but your car is running, so you think it’s fine. So don’t be quick to shut off that little alarm of doubt, but let’s examine what it is.

So that’s what I want to do. I want to go to the spiritual doctor here in 1 John 1. We’re going to do a little health checkup. Starting in verse 5, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Let me kind of put you on the scale real quick and take your temperature. Looking back on your relationship with Jesus Christ, has there been and are there times in which you love and submit to His truth and His Word? Are there times where you want to go right, but the truth of God is telling you to go left, and you choose left over going right because you know it’s what God wants for your? Can you see any of that behind you? Or do you just delight in doing what God commands? Because I have come across people in whom the Spirit has just done a profound work in and they delight in doing what God asks of them, even if what He asks of them is painful. Do you love the truth? Do you trust the truth? In your relationship with Christ, do you have a background of submission to His truth, to His Word? If your answer is no, then I’m not willing to say that you’re not saved, but I am willing to say that you’re weight is a little off and your temperature is a little high.

And then let’s look at the next one. 1 John 2, starting in verse 1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” So exam number one is, “Can you look back on your walk with Jesus Christ and see times that you submitted to and trusted His truth?” The second exam we need to take here is this. As you look back on your life and on your heart, do you see more and more a moral conformity to the life of Christ? Now we’re all going to fall short of this, if not in deed, in heart. C.J. Mahaney, who is a buddy of mine, came in and taught our staff in June. He’s a much older guy than I am by about two decades. He is wise, godly and ferocious. I love him and have tons of respect for him. He said something in his talk that stood out to me because it was inconsistent with my own experience. He simply said, “The older I get and the longer I follow Jesus, the more aware I am of my sin and the weightiness of my sin.” So I wrote that down because it had not been my experience. So I wanted to try to get to the bottom of the statement. Is this just God interacting with C.J. in a different way than He interacts with me? Am I missing something? Have I been lulled into some false sense of pride? So I really took it seriously and started thinking about it and praying about it.

And then the Spirit began pointing some things out. I noticed in my last round of chemo that I didn’t really press into the Lord, but rather watched a lot of TV and ate comfort food. I know some of you are going, “Chandler, you’re going with television and gummi bears on this thing?” Okay, but listen to where my heart is. Because you can look at that and go, “There’s nothing wrong there. You’re in pain.” What I did in that moment was this. “I am hurting, and You will not be enough to comfort me. I’ll find comfort myself.” That was my heart, and I got real convicted during the end of that round that I had sought comfort in other places than where I should seek it.”

And then here’s another one. I need to be early to things. This is a real issue. If I’m late, my cortisone levels shoot through the roof. I just stress out. So over the break, Lauren and I were heading out in the car, and I am directionally challenged. If you want to fight me, tell me to go east. Because I’ll fire back at you really quickly, “Am I wearing a raccoon hat? Do I have a compass? Am in a prairie? Then is it left or right? I’m not navigating by the stars here. Which way do I go?” So my wife is the exact opposite of that. She could draw you a map of Flower Mound from memory. She is a freak. So our routine as a married couple is to come to the stop sign leaving our neighborhood and I’ll ask, “Which way would

you like me to go?” My wife said, “I don’t care.” That felt like a trap to me. So I ask again, “You don’t care one way or the other which way I go?” “No. I don’t care at all.” So I made a left out of our neighborhood and started to go. We hit some traffic, and it becomes apparent that we’re going to be late. . .at which time, my beautiful, godly wife says, “Why would you go this way?” So I do not overflow grace and mercy in that moment. I remind her of the conversation we had at the stop sign, and I remind her that I actually asked a second time after she tried to dupe me into this. And then I explain to her that after 14 years of being with me, she should know that I’m already stressed through the roof right now and “Why would you say that?” So we finally arrived, did the dinner thing and went home. Lauren was like, “Okay here’s what I was thinking. When you said, ‘Which way should I go,’ I thought you were just talking about going left. Because I thought if you went left, here’s where you were going to go. I didn’t know you were going to do this.” Here’s what I did. “Okay, that makes sense.” Here’s what my heart did. “I want to choke you.” I don’t know how your marriage works, but she wants to keep talking with me about this. She wants to make sure I understand what happened. I don’t want to understand what happened. So I get in bed, it all goes quiet and the Lord just reveals that I’ve got an impatient, wicked heart.

I could go on and on, but He just kept revealing to me this scary reality – I know what I’m supposed to do, and nine times out of ten I do what I’m supposed to do. But I have begun to judge my life on whether or not I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing rather than whether or not the Holy Spirit is conforming my heart into the image of Jesus Christ. So my question for you isn’t so much about behavioral modification as much as it is if you see in your heart moral conformity to Jesus Christ. Do you hate indwelling sin in you? Do you desire holiness? Are you growing in graciousness? Are you growing in generosity? Is your heart delighting in what God delights in? This is a place you can judge or examine whether or not doubt is telling you need to believe the gospel more, you need to confess sin or you’re not a believer. If you’re saying to me, “Matt, I have no recollection of ever submitting to the truth of Christ or rejoicing in the truth of Christ, and I cannot see any conformity of my heart to the image of the Son,” I’m telling you that you have been conformed to a pattern of religion but you are not a Christian, you are not regenerate.

And then there’s one more test here. 1 John 2, starting in verse 9, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” The third test is a simple one. Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you extend grace to them? Do you grant them the benefit of the doubt? I’m not saying that believers in Christ can’t bother you, get on your nerves or stress you out. But a hear that is in submission to Jesus Christ will eventually realize that most of the time people don’t bother you because what they do or what they are but because of your heart. Sometimes people bother me because I just want them to do what I say. “I’m Matt Chandler. Do what I say.” That’s in me. Sometimes people bother me because my expectation is that they would mature faster than they’re maturing. Sometimes people bother me because I feel entitled. I could just keep going here. I’ve already confessed to you that I have a wicked heart, and I’ve confessed it several times this week. So when a brother or sister bothers me, my first duty before the Lord is to check my heart and see why that is. Sometimes people bother you because their life convicts your, so you want to try to discredit their life so you can feel better about yours. So our duty is to check our heart and see what the issue is there. Now the reason I say “most of the time” is because I do believe there are times that I am bothered toward someone because I can see the damage coming down the road for the sinfulness they’re choosing to walk in. And then at that moment, the Lord is asking me to engage. But Jesus said it better than I will ever be able to say it. You need to get that log out of your eye before you try to pick the splinter out of your brother’s. When was the last time you were gracious to your brothers and sisters in Christ? When was the last time you gave them the benefit of the doubt? When was the last time you extended to them the mercy that has been extended to you? Because in the book of 1 John, this last little exam here asks, “How do you feel about the covenant community? How do you feel about your brothers and sisters in Christ? How do you interact with those who claim the same Lord that you claim?” He says that if you hate them, then you’re blind.

Some of you have come in here today and you’re not believers in Christ. You’re just good people. You’re good church folk who have no relationship with Him, who have no plan of submitting to Him. I just want to be the one who loves you enough to tell you you’re not saved, that you’re not a Christian. My hope this morning is that the Holy Spirit would awaken your heart to that reality and that you would confess and repent. You need to ask the Holy Spirit to open up your heart to Jesus Christ. It’s not you coming down an aisle, grabbing my hand and praying. It’s not in baptism. It’s not in the list of things you’re not going to do anymore. It’s a heart that has been made alive to the reality of Christ, and you need to ask the Holy Spirit to do that. “What if He doesn’t?” Then keep asking and keep asking and keep asking. Position yourself under the gospel and under grace until He does. And then some of you have come in here just all banged up because you’re absolutely convinced that you’re not elect, there is no way God could love you, you’re not good enough to get in and there’s no way He could delight in you, so you’ve got these things you have to get done so He could be proud of you. You’re being lied to. His affection for you isn’t even based on you. His affection for you is based on Christ and what Christ has done. Our trust needs to be in that. And then still some of you are stuck in doubt because you’re walking in secret sin. And even now you’re trying to figure out how to make this work without confessing and repenting. I’ve been around people long enough to know what some of the games are. Some of you are like, “Well let me just go on a long stretch of not doing it, so when I do confess, I can confess it like it’s in my past.” Or there’s, “Let me just come out with half of it but not all of it in the hopes that that little bit of shame will be enough.” Spoiler alert: it’s not going to work. You need to confess and repent and find a place of grace and mercy.

Let’s pray. “Father, I thank You for these men and women. I thank You for an opportunity to let Your Word weigh on us. Thank You for truth that sets us free. Help us. It’s for Your beautiful name I pray. Amen.”