Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Napoleon, like anyone can even know that.

Assurance of Salvation ...

Who should have it?
How do you get it?
Can you lose it (assurance)?

On what does one base it?
Walking an aisle? Praying a prayer?
Raising a hand? A burning in the bosom?

Assuming for the moment that you believe that a (genuine) believer will be saved, for salvation gained cannot be lost, how does one know and/or experience assurance of that salvation?

Many will say that you should retrace your steps to the point in time (preferably written in the front cover of your Bible) when you made a decision or a profession or prayed a prayer or walked an aisle, etc.

BUT ... all of things things can be done and yet still one may not be saved. Though a saved person may do all of those things, doing them saves nobody. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.

Eternal life is knowing God and His Christ (John 17:3) and having a positive relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, His person and work.

To have blessed assurance, how do you know you can say, "Jesus is mine"? Or, better yet, how do you know Jesus will say that you are His?

Doing stuff that appears godly is no certainty of salvation. Just recall those to whom Jesus will have tragic news, far worse than the words Donald Trump gives to those who are fired:
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. 22On 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?' 23And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
-Matthew 7:21-23 (Sermon on the Mount, ESV)
Certain promises are made in Scripture to the one who believes (just as certain promises are made to those who don't).

Or, to put it another way, Scripture promises the elect will be saved. But how do you know you are among the elect? How do you make your calling election sure? (2 Pet 1:10-11)

Assurance is never a question of whether or not God keeps those promises. Assurance is instead a question of whether or not those promises are made to you.

So, the question has to be asked, it seems to me, do you believe? Do you have a saving faith? There is a faith that does not save, according to James (2:14-26), and one that could even be regarded as orthodox.

The suggestions given above for obtaining assurance are appealing for good reason, they're objective. You either did those things or you didn't.

However, I contend that there is no objective means of assurance, apart from the objective sacrifice of Christ on behalf of His people. However, our means of knowing if we have an interest in the Savior's blood is subjective.

In my little mind, I can see three validations or indicators of the reality of faith, but they are all subjective. I think the difficulty comes into play when we want to try to make evaluation of one's spirituality an objective matter, but we cannot. God knows the heart. He do/can not.

1. Is there evidence of a changed life? New creatures will have new characteristics (2 Cor 5:17). The indwelling Holy Spirit is at work in a person both to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:13), to complete the work He began (Phil 1:6). Just as an evil spirit motivated people to do evil things, so the Holy Spirit motivates people to do holy things, moving them in accordance with His decrees (Ezek 36:26-27). What will this look like to necessarily demonstrate conversion? The Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Love for God and love for others (Matt 22:37-40). After all we are saved by grace through faith for good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:8-10).

A human can no more see the faith of another any more than he or she can see the wind, but one can see the effects of both. A leaning tree is a good indication, a dramatic changed life is a good indication, particularly where longevity is concerned. For even the stony ground hearer showed some "results" for a short time, even though Jesus would not call it "fruit" (Matt 13:5-6, 20-21).


2. Is there the internal witness of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are indeed children of God. (Rom 8:16)

This may be the "You know that you know that you know" type of thing, which seems spurious at times, but we can't overlook or belittle that which God gives us as a legitimate means of assurance in the Scriptures. But we can see how one could easily think he or she knows, but is mistaken.


3. Is there evidence of discipline from God? If God disciplines only those He loves and leaves the others in their sin, then lack of discipline is a bad sign, a sign of being an illegitimate child (Heb 12:5-8). (I won't give you the KJV expression for those without chastisement, since kids may be listening in).

But, how do you know if that which has just ruined your day is discipline from God or just the effects of living in a fallen world? If it's the latter, I guess we praise God that this is not our home, ask for His aid in overcoming, and trust Him who gives and who takes away as Job did (Job 1:21). But, if it's the former, if it's discipline from God, we should evaluate our bad selves to see what we need to see via this attention getter. We need to repent and be encouraged that He really loves us.

So, it seems relevant to me to discern the difference, but I'm open to some good suggestions on such differentiation. For me, the default is to check first to see if it's discipline. If unable to find anything that jumps out at me, I assume it's another reminder of how much better it will be in the fullness of the kingdom.


So, if we're to test ourselves to see if we're in the faith (2 Cor 13:5), I suggest these three questions on the exam.

If you score well, I'd say there's a good chance and you have reason to feel assured. However, if you do not do well in those areas, I would caution you greatly. While I think there is assurance to be had, the Bible offers no assurance to anyone living a life rebellious to the Lord Jesus Christ. Neither would I.

Can a person be saved and not know it? That seems a real possibility, for our faith is often prone to confusion and doubt. Can a person be lost and not know it, even thinking he or she is saved? That's the scary part. I find it hard to see any argument to the contrary.

Now, I'm not on board with undue introspection and questioning assurance every time one sins, for that can be quite counterproductive and stunt one's growth. But I'm also averse to giving a false assurance. I don't want to assume one has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ that he/she may be saved merely because he/she did what somebody said to do (e.g., raise a hand, walk an aisle, pray a prayer, etc.).

I'd rather that person be the origin of that assurance based on his or her subjective experience of having been a lover of the darkness (John 3:19-20), but now being a lover of the Light of the World (John 8:12).

The question, it seems to me, is ... is assurance a right or a privilege of a (professing) believer?

I would have to agree with my older brother in the faith, that not only is salvation a gift, but so is assurance, a gift for those who are following Christ.
In the end, assurance is a precious gift of God. Let us pray for each other that it will abound among us.
-John Piper, The Agonizing Problem of the Assurance of Salvation

There are subjective indicators that help with assurance, but really the basis for assurance is never how well I'm doing, but Christ, and the fact that I am "doing" in Him. I encourage you to rest in your subjective apprehension of the objective atonement in and through and because of Christ.

In speaking of your assurance of salvation, like Kip you may be thinking, like anyone can even know that. But unlike knowing whether or not this is pretty much the worst blog ever made, you can know assurance of an objective salvation, albeit subjectively.

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6 Comments:

At 28 March, 2007 08:05, Blogger Lance said...

Thanks for the thoughts. Such thoughts are often difficult to communicate, and even more difficult to communicate without being misunderstood. I'm not sure why, but in the American church culture, to exhort someone to examine themselves (due to obvious external discrepancies between claims and reality) is an inexcusable sin.
Just a thought on 2 Cor. 5:17. I was just studying this paragraph yesterday (16-21), as I will be preaching Sunday on the imputation of our sin to Christ and His righteousness to us.
In reading 5:17 in the context of v. 16, it seems what Paul is saying is that the "new creature" part of us is not so much about behavior (although it does not contradict such a thought) but about one's view of Christ and His work ("From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer").
A "new creature" now regards Christ from a spiritual mind set, rather than a worldly one (cf. 2 Cor. 2:12-16). He also regards other human beings from such a perspective (he doesn't just settle for morality as the key to eternal life).
All that to say that perhaps another indicator of conversion is a radical change in our view of Christ and Man.
The world has glowing opinions of Christ, but they draw the line at his exclusivity and the meaning of His atonement.
Believers have a whole different view of Christ and His works--one that realizes its own hopelessness apart from the gospel(to say the least).
One thing I go to when it comes to assurance is the deepening joy (and relief!) of knowing that I am "in Christ," and therefore have hope. Alongside, is a deepening grief toward those who are moral, but who have no hope, because they are without Christ--this is something the world simply can't grasp.
What do you think?

 
At 28 March, 2007 18:13, Blogger Rev. said...

Lance stated, "I'm not sure why, but in the American church culture, to exhort someone to examine themselves (due to obvious external discrepancies between claims and reality) is an inexcusable sin." As a pastor, I've exhorted people to examine themselves, pointing to 2 Cor. 13:5 and 2 Pet. 1:10. To some, that is inexcusable (despite claiming "I/We just believe the Good Book").

IMO, the reason for this has to do with something else our brother stated. Namely, "The world has glowing opinions of Christ, but they draw the line at his exclusivity and the meaning of His atonement. Believers have a whole different view of Christ and His works--one that realizes its own hopelessness apart from the gospel." Many church members (not necessarily to be considered believers) "love Jesus" and have glowing opinions about Him, but they draw some draw the line at His exclusive claims, some draw the line at His being God, some draw the line at His work - and not their faith - being their only hope.

 
At 28 March, 2007 23:38, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PRAISE GOD FROM A SINNER. HE IS GOOD.

YOU KNOW CAUSE YOU KNOW
SIN FEELS LIKE DEEP SNOW
HE FORGIVES MO
KEEPS ME ON THE GO

THANK YOU LORD FOR FORGIVENESS OF SIN
IF YOU HAD NOT I WOULD ALREADY SEEN THE END

THANK YOU, AGAIN
FOR GIVING LIFE WITH NO END....

 
At 29 March, 2007 21:58, Blogger george said...

I think it's ok to doubt yourself in regards to your own salvation. That is healthy. Where you can't doubt is the promises that God has made to those who believe.

It's not that you're doubting God to fulfill His promises; you're doubting yourself as to whether you have done what is required to inherit those promises.

 
At 30 March, 2007 19:45, Anonymous Jenn said...

Thank you for this, Gunny. Very much.

Oh, hey, I'm at Park Cities Presbyterian :o)

 
At 31 March, 2007 23:45, Blogger GUNNY said...

Hard to go wrong at PCPC, Jenn. Happy to hear you found a church home, but if you ever make it up north, Providence Church will have left the light on for ya.

I think that's right, Lance, about the new creature with a new mindset, etc. That will show up in a new lifestyle with new motives, etc.

Good points, Rev. They only really love the Jesus they construct in their own minds, not necessarily the Jesus of the Bible who casts people into hell and sets Himself up as the narrow way.

 

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