St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Who Can Be Sure Of Saving Faith?

Sermon on Luke 7:36-50

Text: Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Have you ever asked yourself this question: “Am I really saved?”? Likely, there have been times in each of our lives, when each of us has asked ourselves that question. We understand that the devil is trying to put doubt into our hearts with this question. But, how can you be sure? How can you be sure that you have a saving faith? This morning’s text will lead us to address that question and will give us confidence in our salvation. This morning, we are going to ask WHO CAN BE SURE OF SAVING FAITH?. We shall see that it is 1. He Who Knows His Debt Of Sin Is Great, 2. He Who Accepts Christ’s Word Of Forgiveness and 3. He Who Gives Proof Of This Faith In Deeds Of Love And Thankfulness.

Jesus was invited by a Pharisee, named Simon, to have dinner with him. We are told that, while they reclined at the table, a woman came into the room. This woman had a particularly bad reputation in town, definitely not the kind of person most people would socialize with. She came to the place where Jesus was reclining and she began to cry. She wept tears of repentance over her life. She wet Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them off with her hair. Then, she poured perfume on Jesus’ feet.

There are no recorded words of Jesus to this woman. Instead, he quietly accepted this gift of love that was offered. A far different reaction was going on in the head of the host, Simon. In verse 39, we read, “[Simon] said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.’” Simon looked with great disgust on the whole scene. Not only was this “sinful woman” here, but this Jesus was allowing such a thing to go on. He looked down on the woman and felt he was so much better than she was.

Jesus, knowing the man’s thoughts, said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. Jesus, then, proceeded to tell him a parable. A parable, as you remember, is a story using everyday events to teach a spiritual truth. Jesus said, “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Two men owed money. A denarius was a day’s wages. One man owed fifty denarii and another five hundred. One might say that the one was in far worse shape than the other. Neither of the two men could pay their debt, so, out of the goodness of his heart, the moneylender canceled the debt of both men. Jesus was teaching Simon and us a very important point here.

The moneylender in this parable is God. The people that owe money is every person on this earth, who has ever lived or will ever live, including you and me. What is owed is not money. Rather, our debt is our sins. Jesus is teaching us in this parable not to look down on other people because of their sins. Everyone can look down on someone else and feel superior to them because of the way that they live their lives. We all can find someone that we feel superior to. However, God tells us that, if we are going to compare ourselves to anything, we are to compare our lives with the standards of God’s law.

When we compare ourselves to God’s law, we quickly find that we are not as perfect as we like to think that we are. God tells us to have clean hearts and lives. That is his standard that he demands of us. However, we see so much dirt accumulating in the corners. For example, we find sinful thoughts running through our minds. There is the angry thought that we have about someone else. Over there is the lustful thought. Here is the thought of not being content with what God has given us. We owe God a great debt because of our sins. God tells us to be perfect, just like he is perfect. We owe God a great debt because of our sins.

That is why God doesn’t want us to compare our lives with others. It is like being in line at a movie theater. As you glance up at the admission price, you realize that you don’t have enough. It doesn’t matter if you are 25 cents short or $3 short or if you forgot your money all together. The result is the same. You will not be admitted into the theater. In the same way, if you were to stand before the gates of heaven and did not live a perfect life in thought, word and action 100% of the time, you could not enter. Every one of us deserves to be turned away from the gates of heaven to the fires of hell. Every one of us must acknowledge the fact that our debt of sin to God is great and that we deserve nothing from him, but punishment for those sins.

The woman realized this. She had come to Jesus in repentance. How beautiful in her ears these words must have sounded, “Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’” What joy must have filled her heart to hear Jesus tell her that her sins were forgiven. She had been in the depths of sorrow, but, now that was replaced with the sunshine of Jesus’ forgiveness. Jesus told her, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Her faith in Jesus had saved her, because it reached out and accepted the gift of forgiveness that Jesus offered to her. Her faith in Jesus gave her the comfort of soul that she longed for. This is the peace that Jesus spoke of. She could go about in her life, confident in the fact that her debt before God had been paid in full.

When those who seated at the dinner table heard Jesus, they questioned one another, “Who is this that even forgives sins?”. They were asking, ‘Who does he think he is to forgive sins? What gives him the right to forgive sins?’.

What gives Jesus the right to forgive sins? It is his right, because he earned it. He came to earth to live as our Substitute. He, alone, lived a perfect life. We are reminded of this when Jesus asked his enemies, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?”. They could not. No matter how hard they tried, no matter how many lies they told, they could not prove him guilty of a single sin.

Yet, Jesus still allowed himself to be put to death on the cross. He allowed this, so that the debt of sin we owed to God might be paid in full. So that we would be assured that all was paid, Jesus rose from the dead on Easter. Now, because this debt has been paid, we know that heaven is ours. Going back to the ticket window at the movie theater, if someone else were to pay your way in, you could enter the theater, even though you, personally, didn’t pay the price. In the same way, we enter heaven, because Jesus paid the price necessary for our entrance.

How do we receive the forgiveness of sins? How am I saved? Just as Paul told the jailer in Philippi, so he tells us, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” It is faith alone in Jesus Christ that saves. By believing in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you receive the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit is the one who creates this faith in our hearts.  How can I be sure I am saved? The answer is ‘by believing in Jesus Christ as my Savior.’ Where there is faith, there is forgiveness. Where there is forgiveness, there is salvation.

Sometimes, we might still wonder if we are saved. We might say, ‘I don’t feel saved.’ ‘I know what the Bible says, but I don’t feel saved.’ Yet, we can have the assurance of salvation. Who can be sure of saving faith? It is the person who gives proof of this faith in deeds of love and thankfulness. This woman that entered Simon’s dinner party gave proof of her faith by her actions motivated by love. She showed her love and deep reverence for Jesus by her tears, by her drying of Jesus’ feet with her hair, her kisses, and the perfume she poured upon his feet. Her love for Jesus was there, because she so keenly felt the forgiveness that Jesus brought. Jesus said of her, “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much.” This is not to say that she was forgiven because she showed her love. Rather, it was the other way around. She loved because she had been forgiven. She felt the relief from the pressing load of sin being taken from her. She responded by showing love.

Simon, on the other hand, did not feel the need for forgiveness, so he did not even give Jesus the common courtesies of the day. He felt no thankfulness, because he felt that he had lived up to God’s standards and beyond. Therefore, there was no need for forgiveness.

So, also we want our lives to be thankful expressions of love for all that God has done for us. We did not deserve anything from God, but God gave us everything. Now, how do we respond? May it be a response of joy and love, that all our doings in life might be pleasing to God. When God presents you with an opportunity to glorify him, take it. We show our faith by the way that we act. St. James wrote in his epistle, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” We cannot see gravity, but we see its effects all around us. This is also true of our faith. We are not able to see it, but we know it is there by the way that we live our lives. There is no way that a person can believe and not do good works. St. James also wrote, “Faith, by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” You cannot be a believer and sit on your hands. The Christian is active in service to God, his fellow Christian, and all those around him. How can I be sure that I am saved? I look at my life and, if there is evidence of good works done out of love for Jesus, I know that I have faith and, thus, am saved. There will be times when my life doesn’t live up to that standard. It is at those times that I need to go to Jesus for forgiveness. Being assured of that, I go forth and show my faith in my life.

Can you really know if you are saved? Yes, you can. It all depends on the Spirit-given faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin. Where this faith is present, there is a peace of mind that comes from a conscience at rest. When that little voice in the back of your head starts to ask you if you can be sure that you are saved, that you will be in heaven at the end of time, you can answer boldly and confidently, “Yes.” Thank God for that confidence. Amen.