Blessed Assurance

How Can I Be Sure?

We are a skeptical people. Whether its just an inborn lack of trust going back to the fall and the serpent’s deception, or a jaded outlook after receiving your 50th email from a Nigerian Prince who needs your help moving his father’s money out of the country, we are filled with doubts about the world around us.

It would be nice if there was some way to trust what we read in the papers, or if our email inboxes weren’t filled with junk, but you’re hard pressed to find any real guarantee like that today. 

That’s why it is such a blessing that we can have an assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ. When everything else is riddled with doubt and suspicion, we have this firm foundation, this assurance of our faith in Christ. We know that in Him we are secure, our destiny is fixed, the outcome is determined.

The Westminster Confession affirms this assurance: 

Such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity; endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; which hope shall never make them ashamed.

Westminster confession of Faith XVIII

What’s even more wonderful is that this assurance is not primarily rooted in experience. Assurance is not a whim or strong feeling we conjure up inside. Assurance doesn’t depend upon the strength of your conviction or eloquence when you first prayed to receive Christ, nor upon your ability to keep on the straight and narrow. As with every good and perfect gift from our Heavenly Father, assurance of salvation comes through faith, founded upon the graces promises of salvation in God’s word. Promises like:

  • Job 19:25–26 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,
  • Ps 23:4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  • Ro 8:28–29 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
  • 1 Jn 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

J.C. Ryle writes, “it cannot be wrong to feel confidently in a matter where God speaks unconditionally, to believe decidedly when God promises decidedly, to have a sure persuasion of pardon and peace when we rest on the word and oath of Him that never changes.” Our assurance, first and foremost, is rooted in the very Word of God. 

It follows, then, that another pillar of our assurance of salvation lies in the fact that we are justified by faith in the perfect and completed work of Christ for us. Our salvation is His work, His gift given to us, His covenant promise. We receive this gift by faith, but we contribute nothing to our salvation but the need. If our salvation were dependent upon us, we would inevitably lose it, because we are deeply flawed and corrupted in our inward being. So our great assurance is in the truth of God’s grace and the salvation He so freely offers in Jesus Christ.

And though the promises of God are available to all in His Word, it is important to remember that not all come to an equal measure of assurance. It is possible to never have full assurance and still be saved. The father who brought his son to Jesus to be healed cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). 

On this, Ryle also notes, “All God’s children have faith; not all have assurance… I do not shrink from saying that by grace a man may have sufficient faith to flee to Christ—sufficient faith really to lay hold on Him, really to trust in Him, really to be a child of God, really to be saved and yet to his last day be never free from much anxiety, doubt and fear… Faith, let us remember, is the root, and assurance is the flower. Doubtless you can never have the flower without the root; but it is no less certain you may have the root and not the flower.”

Friends, I pray that by the same grace by which you’ve been granted faith in Jesus Christ for your salvation, you may also find the great joy of that faith in your assurance in His completed and perfect work for you.


Dealing with Questions and Doubts

Sometimes Pastoral Ministry means going out and seeking the sheep who have gone astray, and leading them back to the green pastures.

Sometimes in Pastoral Ministry, the sheep just sort of wander into your office and ask to be fed.

The latter has happened a couple of times this past week.  New faces come into the church,  sometimes asking for help, other times just to talk; but always with questions.  If I can be patient, the questions start flowing, and relationships start forming.  It’s awesome.

Why do we discourage questions?

I can’t tell you how many times people have come to me afraid to ask questions.  Somewhere along the way someone has told them that asking questions is the same thing as questioning God, and if they can’t just accept what they are told, then they cannot be saved.

I want to encourage questions.  I think it was Anselm who said, “Theology is faith seeking understanding.”  You cannot seek understanding unless you first recognize what you do not already know.  And what you don’t already know is usually expressed in the form of questions.

People have said there are no stupid questions.  I don’t know if I’d always agree.  I had one student in confirmation class who kept asking me if goats will fly in heaven.  That was a stupid question.

Honest, heart-felt questions that try to get to a deeper richer understanding of who God is, who we are, and how we get right with him – those can never be stupid questions.  Ask away. Jesus said no one may enter the kingdom of heaven unless he comes like a child, and if you’ve ever spent any time with a child, you know they ask a lot of questions.  It is the only way we ever really learn.

But that’s the flip side of the invitation to asking, you have to be ready and willing to find the answer.  Simply asking for questions but never listening for the answer is the formula for folly.  If you are going to ask questions of faith, then you must also look to the Scriptures, which are the only rule for life and faith.  Take up and read, pursue wisdom at all costs, stay deeply rooted in the Word of God.  Only there will you find the answers you seek.

Related to questions is doubt.  Doubt is that painful, nagging gap between our experience and our faith.  We know God has promised X, but our experience has been Y, can we really trust and rest in what He has said?

Our confession reminds us:

True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which wounded the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, but God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.

Ether through quiet spiritual neglect, or by willful rebellion in sin; we have our faith shaken, and we can be overcome with doubt.  Yet we are reminded in God’s Word, that even when our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, he knows everything (1 John 3:20).

So come to God with your questions, come to Him with your doubts and worries.  Come as you are, not as you think you should be. Come to Him.  Let His Word speak to you, teach you, and bring life to you through faith in Jesus Christ.