Monday, May 7, 2012

Assurance of Salvation

How do we know if God has saved us? The answer can be very simple:

·        Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God… (1 John 5:1)

For some, this assurance is enough. However, others will doubt whether they truly believe. They may respond that intellectually, they believe the Gospel account, but they might not have a compelling conviction or sense of believing. Should this then be a basis for doubt? Not necessarily. Other verses assure us that any who come seeking salvation will find it:

·        "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)

Jesus echoed this same guarantee:

·        “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away…And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:37-40)

However, many are still left with a similar question:

·        “How can I be certain that the Father has actually given me to His Son? I don’t seem to feel any different than I had before, and I don’t seem to be changed.”
Just recently, an intellectual expressed her doubt in predestination language:

·        "How do I know if God has chosen me to be saved? I don't know if I'm chosen or not."

I have spoken to many people with similar doubts. They don’t have a strong sense of God, and so the assurances of Scripture seem somewhat flimsy. However, at least they are troubled by this question. In contrast, the unconverted man is not:

·        The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14)

For the unconverted the things of the Spirit – forgiveness, reconciliation with God, adoption as children of God, salvation, heaven – mean little. Instead, they are laughable – objects of contempt. The fact that someone is deeply concerned about the things of God strongly suggests that God has been drawing them:

·        "No one can come to me [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44)

If we are crying out for Him, it means that He has drawn us. Coming to the Savior – the light of the world – is not natural for us. Instead, what is natural is to hate the light, as Jesus asserted:

·        This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

The fact that we are drawn to the light – the truth – means that there has been a spiritual change in our lives. Otherwise, we detest God. Paul put it this way:

·        There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:11-12)

If, instead, we are seeking God, it means that He is drawing us. Without this drawing, “the sinful mind is hostile to God” (Romans 8:7) according to Paul. If we are not hostile to God, it means that He is wooing us or has already saved us.

However, for many skeptics, doubt runs very deep. We wonder whether we can really trust these Scriptural assurances. It’s like walking far out on an ice-covered lake. While we stood on the shore or right next to the shore, we weren’t so painfully afflicted by doubt. However, once we ventured further out on the ice, the dread that the ice might not hold us set in. We need assurance that the ice will not break and drown us.

We may not grow in confidence of our salvation until we see substantial changes in our lives. John gives us several ways that we can reassure ourselves that we are truly saved:

·        We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6)

Ultimately, John instructs us that if we truly are of God, we will love others who are of God. However, this can also become another source of doubt. We wonder whether we truly love. However John explains:

·        This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5:2-3)

If we now obey Him, this means that we love both Him and His children. It also means that He has chosen us. However, we fall short in many ways. Ultimately, my hope comes from knowing God. I feel I really know Him and know that He will forgive my sins whenever I screw up:

·        If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

This truth about God is so critical to me – a person who has struggled with perfectionism and self-loathing from almost from the get-go. It has taken many years for my Lord to bring me to this confidence, but now I am really certain that He thoroughly forgives and cleanses me whenever I cry out for Him. I trust that He will grant you the same confidence as you continue to look towards Him!

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