Growing in Assurance of Faith

I have recently finished reading Joel Beeke’s fantastic little book titled “Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith.”  The book has been a tremendous blessing to me, and I cannot recommend it enough.  If you’ve ever wondered if you are genuinely a Christian, or if the doubts and struggles you’re facing seem overwhelming, this book offers treasures from the Scriptures and the Puritans on resting in and trusting God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

Just before the conclusion of the book, Beeke addresses some questions that he often hears, and I thought I would share the first question and his response as encouragement to you.

Question: I cannot deny that I am a believer, but what should I do when I don’t feel close to God and don’t feel very assured that I am saved?

Be persuaded that God wants you to find assurance by resting in Christ by faith; He does not want you to be forever searching for assurance like a hamster on a hamster wheel. Here are eleven suggestions that may assist you:

  1. Pray to God that He will grant you the light of His Spirit and show you that you belong to God and are saved.
  2. Read some of the promises of Scripture – particularly those, but not only those, that have been precious to you in the past – and rest your soul upon them… Pray for faith to believe that all the promises in Scripture belong to you, including those promises that have not been made powerfully sweet in your past.
  3. Flee to the basics of the gospel that Jesus Christ came to save sinners just like you, and all the precious truths that accompany the gospel.  Meditate on these grand truths, such as the stability of God’s enteral election, God’s constant care over you, your union with  Christ through His atonement, and Christ’s continual and effectual intercession over you. And then rest in Christ by faith.
  4. In dependency on the Spirit, examine yourself by some basic inward evidences of grace, such as: Have I learned to mourn over sin? Do I know what it means to truly hunger and thirst after Christ’s righteousness? If you cannot deny that these and other similar marks of grace are your portion, then conclude that you must be a child of God since neither the devil nor yourself can teach you to experience these things in truth; it must be the Holy Spirit working them in you.
  5. As the Spirit to bear witness with your conscience through the Word that you are indeed a true believer.
  6. Use the means of grace diligently, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer.
  7. Resolve to turn from your ungodly belief, to flee all lusts of the eyes and of the flesh and all worldliness and known sin, and to run the race set before you by laying aside sin and looking to Jesus.
  8. Remember that your identity is found in Christ, by reckoning yourself dead to sin and alive to Him.
  9. Consider the solemnity of what the Puritans called ‘the four last things’: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Live more for eternity than for time.
  10. Be comforted by God’s faithful track record to you for years and decades.
  11. Pray again that the Lord will bless all the above efforts to regain the stability of your personal assurance of salvation.

 

Beeke, Joel R. Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith (Christian Focus Publications, 2017) Pg 177-178.

Slow Growth in a Fast World

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
(1 John 3:2-3)

Waiting is difficult when we in a digital society.  We get frustrated today because our movie takes a couple of minutes to download, forgetting that we used to have to actually drive to the store, pick out what’s available on the shelf, and hope that the person who watched it before you did the whole “be kind, rewind” thing on the VHS tape. We have convinced ourselves that everything we really need should come quickly and effortlessly, and when it doesn’t, something must be wrong.

The reality is, the things that have true, lasting value in our lives take time. Athletes know there are no shortcuts to success; champions only grow over time through hard work, discipline, and sacrifice. Financial success happens only through discipline, delayed gratification, and long-term planning.  Healthy relationships take time, energy, and effort to maintain; they don’t just happen.  Anything worth having requires dedication, effort, and patience.

This goes for our own maturity in our Christian walk. Growth in the Christian life doesn’t just happen, and it certainly doesn’t happen quickly.   Simply growing older doesn’t bring maturity in faith and understanding.  We say we want to grow in our faith and understanding, but are we ready to put in the work that is required for this growth to happen.

  • We pray for patience, and God will put us in situations where patience is required.
  • We pray for wisdom, and God will put us in situations where we must lean on His Word.
  • We pray for faith, and God puts us in situations where we are racked with doubts and must learn to trust Him.

The living out of our faith in Christ is a slow, laborious process.  There is never a plateau in the Christian journey, never a time when we have “arrived.”  God is always working in us to bring us more into the likeness of Christ.

We are God’s children now, John says in our text today, but we are not yet what we shall be.  By faith we trust that we have been united with Christ, justified in the eyes of God, covered by the righteousness of Christ.  Even so, we continue to grow, trusting in the inward working of God’s Holy Spirit.  Working toward that growth, we make use of the means that God has given:

  • Regular Worship and sitting under faithful Teaching of God’s Word,
  • Daily Study and Reflection on Scripture,
  • Prayer – praising God, repenting of our sins, seeking His grace to guide you.

Somedays it seems like we’re making little to no headway.  Instead of growing, we feel like we’re falling behind. But don’t give up!  Watching your children grow every day you often don’t notice the changes.  But when the Grandparents come to visit, what’s the first thing they say? “Look how you’ve grown!”  God works His transforming grace often in slow, immeasurable ways, but in the end His work is perfect and complete.

As John’s letter says, everyone who hopes in the coming of Christ purifies himself as Christ is pure.  Knowing who we are, and who Christ is making us to be, keep striving toward that goal of Christ-likeness until He appears and we are made like Him.

SDG