Salvation

Friday Q/A: How Can I Strengthen My Assurance of Salvation? (A REPRISE)

In life, we want assurance. We buy life insurance to guarantee our loved ones are cared for in the event of our sudden death. We buy health insurance to guarantee assistance in paying for expensive health care. And we all want assurance we will spend eternity in heaven so we can live our lives free of doubt, despair and discouragement.

Many Christians struggle with the assurance of their salvation. Many Christians live the way the Puritan Thomas Brooks wrote in 1864 in his treatise Heaven and Earth,

“Assurance is the believer’s ark where he sits, Noah-like, quiet and still in the midst of all distractions and destructions, commotions and confusions. … However most Christians live between fears and hopes, and hang, as it were, between heaven and hell. Sometimes they hope that their state is good, at other times they fear that their state is bad: now they hope that all is well, and that it shall go well with them for ever; then they fear that they shall perish by the hand of such a corruption, or by the prevalence of such or such a temptation. … They are like a ship in a storm, tossed here and there.” (pg. 11)

Assurance is a precious commodity that is not worth trading for anything else. And the lack of assurance can be paralyzing and demoralizing.

I John 5:13 (and the rest of the book) shows every reader he can be convinced of his eternity – “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

This Epistle is primarily for Christians. And here’s the simple truth: assurance is meant for the Christian. Assurance is a knowledge gained by experience and reflection, which is a common thread in this Epistle (I John 2:3, 29; 3:1, 6; 4:2). If you know Christ, you are not meant to live without assurance.

AssuranceBut if you are a Christian who struggles with assurance, it could be for any one of the following reasons. Maybe you misunderstand the difference between justification and sanctification. We quickly forget the act of justification is something Christ accomplished on the cross. His perfect sacrifice atoned for sin. Your sins are paid for! They are forgiven. Justification is a perfect work. On the other hand, the process of sanctification – the process of being made like a holy Christ – is an imperfect and incomplete work. That doesn’t happen at once. As long as we remain imperfect, sanctification is not over. But that does not change us being justified. Some people who struggle with assurance look at their imperfect and incomplete work of sanctification and then forget their act of being justified.

Maybe the reason you struggle with assurance is simply biblical ignorance of the teaching of this doctrine. This is where I John has been so helpful. John’s purpose has been to educate the clueless. Some people don’t understand a sovereign God’s role in drawing us to Himself and then how he produces assurance in us as we grow in Him.

Maybe the reason you struggle with assurance is because your hear strong or imbalanced preached. Don’t get me wrong: strong preaching is a healthy dynamic for the local church. Too many churches have too many shallow, shabby, jellyfish preachers. But when you preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), you come to understand just how high God’s standard is for all of us. And when you see how high the standard is and how often you miss the standard, you can easily doubt your salvation.

Maybe the reason you struggle with assurance is because you compare yourself to other believers: “How come I don’t pray like Him? Why don’t I quote Scripture as naturally as her? Why don’t I possess the level of love and compassion of him? Why does parenting come much easier for that father or mother? How was she able to discern right from wrong in that situation quicker than me? Why couldn’t I answer that question from Scripture as timely as that person?” People who do this can struggle with assurance because they fail to remember everyone matures and grows at different rates.

There is a remedy that can help enforce what the Bible has to say about a Christian’s assurance of salvation: study the person and work of Christ. Don’t be afraid of terms like expiation, redemption, propitiation, advocacy, justification, sanctification, etc. These terms explain in a more thorough way the marvelous work of Christ on the cross and they show us the permanency and thoroughness of salvation achieved for us. And they will help remove doubt when you see their awesomeness.

Robert Murray McCheyne, a Scottish minister in the 1800’s, said,

“Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely.”

Make a commitment in 2018 to study Christology. Read books like Christ’s Glorious Achievement by Charles Spurgeon or The Incomparable Christ by John R.W. Stott or The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper or Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Christ by D.A. Carson or Who Is Jesus by Greg Gilbert.

Study the One who saved you (John 6:37; 10:17-29) and seals you (Ephesians 1;13-14).

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please send them to charlesheck@cox.net or ask them in the comments section of this post.

Advertisements

Sola Gratia: By Grace Alone

Most of us can define grace as “God’s unmerited favor.” Grace is given without our merit – without our goodness or our worthiness. It is undeserved and given freely.

John 1:14 says that God is full of grace and John 1:16 says “from his fulness we have all received, grace upon grace”. Grace won’t run out over time; it overflows always…even in heaven.

Romans 5:20-21 says that, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Grace can meet every sin, and grace reigns in the life of the believer. As Christians, we are not slaves to sin but slaves of God’s righteous grace.

Salvation comes because God can’t help BUT be gracious – “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it (referring to grace) is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). If God were not gracious, then we would have to work for everything. From Ephesians 2:8-9, we make the following observations:

Grace is given to those who are not worthy to receive it, who will never work hard enough to deserve it and who should give God glory when He gives it. God doesn’t save us because of who we are, but despite who we are. That is grace. When salvation comes, grace has appeared (Titus 2:11).

Sola Gratia means no good works can be used to apply for salvation. Only Christ’s righteousness can be applied (II Corinthians 5:21). And this makes grace costly, because it cost the Lord Jesus Christ His very life. It cost the Father sending His Son. Salvation is expensive in that respect. When Jesus said to count the cost in Luke 14:28, He was saying, “Salvation did not come to you in an easy manner, and the requirement to commit to Me will cost you everything. Weigh whether you want to do that or not.”

So, the greatest manifestation of grace is Jesus Christ. It was at the cross that both the justice of God and the love of God is seen. Because God requires a payment for sin (Exodus 34:7; Hebrews 9:22), God could not cease to be who He is – a just God. Jesus, the giver of grace, took God’s wrath as a payment for our sin. God infinitely cares about sin and sent His Infinite Son to pay for is. That is grace.

Therefore, we can say there is no such thing as cheap grace; grace is necessary because of sin. Carl Trueman reminds us that “Sin is violent lethal rebellion against God; and biblical grace is God’s violent, raw, and bloody response.” (Grace Alone, pg. 11)

The only way to salvation is through God’s grace. Sola Gratia. We say “grace alone,” which means “grace is enough.”

God’s grace is bigger than any human sin or weakness (Romans 3:10-18; Ephesians 2:1-3). Apart from Sola Gratia, we are “dead men walking.” We are doomed and hopeless without Sola Gratia.

We are still in need of God’s grace, and nothing has changed as far as how we get it. We still are not able to work for it.

The question is never, “Is God gracious?” But “how will I respond to God’s grace?” Sola Gratia puts us in our place – as indebted to the One who saved us. It paints God as Sovereign and us as sinners. We are like John Newton said of himself, “I feel like a man who has no money in his pocket but is allowed to draw for all he wants upon one infinitely rich; I am, therefore, at once both a beggar and a rich man.”

 

John MacArthur, On What Justification Accomplishes

Image result for john macarthurJustification…is what moves us into a new relationship with God so that we can walk in the light as He is in the light (cf. 1 John 1:7). It is what brings peace with God in place of enmity (Rom. 5:1). It is what makes us heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7). It is the heart of all God’s work on our behalf, beginning with His foreknowledge before the foundation of the world and carrying on to our final glorification with Him (Rom. 8:29-30). And thus it is the very heart of the gospel according to Jesus.” (John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus)

Bought with a Price

When Jesus hung on that cross absorbing the fury of God’s wrath and paying the penalty for man’s sin, He bought us out of the slave market of sin. Jesus didn’t plan on doing some minor repairing or tweaking our former lives. God doesn’t want to repair or even remodel our life; he wants to tear down the entire structure and rebuild. He wants absolute transformation and absolute ownership, because He bought you and He owns you. If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you belong to Him.

It’s not enough to just say we were bought; the Bible says we were bought with a price (I Corinthians 6:20). Paul is talking about the Son’s blood on the cross. It’s like He was saying, “You were bought and look at what it cost. You were bought – do not forget the price that was paid.”  Or, from God’s perspective, “I bought you – and I paid dearly.” Salvation is very expensive; it cost Someone His life.

When you consider what God received in return for the payment of His Son’s death, you have to scratch your head and think, “How is this fair? How does Jesus’ death equal my salvation? It seems like a huge price to pray for such an eternally significant change of destiny for us. What do we bring God that He doesn’t already have?”

Those are the types of questions you will ask the rest of your life and it is not my objective to answer all of them for you, but we need to keep asking them because they remind us of how favored we are by God and how infinitely loving He is to us. His measureless love ought to bring us to our knees in humility every time we consider the cross.

Warren Wiersbe, On the Greatest Miracle God Performs

Related image“I believe that saving a lost sinner is the greatest miracle our Lord every performs. After all, it meets the greatest need. God can heal the body and the person becomes ill again and eventually die, but salvation lasts for eternity. Forgiveness produces the greatest results – changed lives that glorify God. But most of all, forgiveness required the greatest price. It costs very little for God to heal the sick, but it cost His Son’s death on a cross for Him to save the lost.” (Warren Wiersbe, Meet Yourself in the Parables)

Q/A Friday: Can Satan Take Away My Salvation?

The Apostle John has written that “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” (I John 5:18).

This truth he mentions here of knowing that Christian do “not keep on sinning” is something we see several times in John’s 1st Epistle.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (I John 1:10).

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. … No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (I John 3:6, 9).

Now to be fair, Christians sin (Romans 3:23) and they sin often, but they are not habitual sinners. In other words, they may occasionally choose sin but they will never live together in harmony with their sin. They will not habitually love their sin,

And when a Christian does choose to sin, he won’t remain in it. He will confess and repent. The one who remains in sin, loves his sin, and can’t wait to sin again is not a believer.

Why is this the case? Because Jesus freed us from that bondage. His death canceled the power of sin over us.

How do we know that? John says the Christian sees “God protect him, and the evil one does not touch him.” It means the Devil can’t do anything of eternal value to you. No one – even the most powerful demon – can snatch us out of the Father’s hand (John 10:28).

The Devil has no ability to fasten himself onto the Christian and destroy his life. He cannot steal his eternal birthright or remove his heritage. The Devil can tempt us to sin; he can deceive us unto thinking sin is good (Genesis 3), he can even afflict us, but he cannot and will not and has no inkling of power to bring you back into bondage to him!

That is tremendous news for all of us! He cannot hurt us because Our Protector is greater and stronger than our enemy!

In Romans 6:17, Paul writes, about our new slavery. We are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to a different master he says –

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. … For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. … But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Romans 6:17-18, 20, 22).

We are not under sin’s dominion; this life we now have is a slavery to grace (Romans 6:14).

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please email it to charlesheck@cox.net or post your question in the comments section.