Friday, April 16, 2010

Blessed Assurance

There have been a number of deaths in our circle of friends lately.  We had another funeral on Wednesday this week for a man who had a heart attack while jogging.  Both of the funerals I attended spoke of the love of Christ, His redemption, and the fact that both men were now in heaven with their Father and Brother.  There was absolute assurance of their eternal life, that their loved ones would miss them only for a time before reuniting with them in glory.  It begs the question, "Am I really saved?"  I don't offer this as a flippant question, however I am comforted that I'm not the only one to ask it.  The apostle John wrote 1 John "so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13)

Whenever I struggle with my personal salvation (by the grace of God I can say that my bouts of doubt have decreased tremendously over the past 10-15 years as there is abundant evidence, at least to me, of the changes He wrought within me) it is usually in context not of His promises, but my doubt that those promises can cover me.  Said another way, I have a PhD in sin.  The idea that I am let off hook by His grace and mercy is at times overwhelming and I "can't" believe that He would save me.

I'd like to dive into where that "guilt" originates.  First of all I want to separate "guilt" from "shame".  Guilt is good.  Guilt says, "Poor choice; let's do it this way next time."  Shame says, "You're worthless.  Of course you sinned; that's all you do well.  Why would He waste His time with you?"  Guilt is short lived much like a corrective turn on the steering wheel to get you back in the middle of the road whereas shame is long lived like jerking the wheel, rolling the car, and sitting on the side of the road berating yourself for the rest of the day.

So why shame?  Do you know what "Satan" means?  It means "accuser."  Satan pours that venom in your ear that takes healthy guilt and remorse, the Holy Spirit within you trying to correct your steering, and turns them into hatred, self loathing, and the putrescence of hell oozing out of your pores.  You may think I'm overstating the result of the shame, but my experience is an overwhelming, physical sensation of weight pressing in on my chest, a desire to remove myself from all contact with people, and a dark cloud of self-loathing.  In short, not pretty.

Zechariah talks about Satan's accusations as well as God's response:
"Then He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.  The Lord said to Satan, 'The Lord rebuke you, Satan!  The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!  Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?'  Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.  The angel said to those who were standing before him, 'Take off his filthy clothes.'  Then he said to Joshua, 'See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.'  Then I said, 'Put a clean turban on his head.'  So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by." - Zech 3:1 - 5
A couple of items to note in this passage:  Satan stands and accuses you of your sins.  He points out how filthy they are, how hypocritical you must be to sin in light of your "supposed" salvation.  He points out your filthy rags, your lack of standing before Him, and the futility of trusting in Him.  Who tells Satan to shut his pie hole?  The Lord Himself!  It is not Joshua standing up and quoting scripture and "standing on the promises of God."  The Lord fights this battle and says in essence, "I have saved this man, He is mine and I have snatched him from living under the condemnation of your accusations, Satan."  Secondly, our Father won't leave us at a mere silenced enemy, He clothes us with rich garments and takes away our sin.  Third, I don't see any response from Joshua in here.  I may be reaching to say that it had nothing to do with his intellectual assent or spiritual confirmation of the forgiveness of his sins, but it certainly appears to be one sided in the provision of forgiveness and silencing of the enemy.  Fourth, although there is certainly no mention of anything going on within Joshua's mind or spirit, I would point out that post-event, it matters not whether Joshua was worthy of any of the gifts the Lord poured out on him.  Satan could certainly revisit Joshua and try to remind him of how unworthy he was, anything to take some of the victory away.  Furthermore, since it is the Lord who forgave the sin, since it is the Lord's good and pleasing will to offer that forgiveness and nothing can oppose His will, Satan's lies do not change the reality of the forgiveness, it can only taint our enjoyment of it.  Fight then against demeaning His forgiveness by focusing on how bad you are and instead use that energy to point to the awesome love of your Heavenly Father who has overcome all!

I take you to Zechariah to lay the ground work for why we have 1 John.  The accuser would have us focused on our sin and not on the love of our Father.  John wrote so that we would "know that we have come to Him," 1 John 2:3.  I find there are different kinds of "knowing."  The word "know" in this passage is how I know my wife.  It is an intimate knowledge, one that is broad in its understanding and deep in its richness.  The Greek word is ginosko (used 25 times in 1 John) which is translated elsewhere as "sexual intercourse."  What's my point?  John wants you to have a serious knowledge and apprehension of your salvation!  By comparison the word "know" in verse 11, "he does not know where he is going" is the Greek word eido which refers to perceptions of the senses, something that can be seen or observed.  You can see the difference between the two.

All of that is well and good, but the question still remains, "How do I know that I'm saved?"  Fortunately John gives us a number of different tests to use as evidence of our salvation.  We'll get into those next time.

Father, please forgive me if I've misrepresented You or Your word.  If in my attempt to word-smith an answer that makes sense I went to opinion versus Your word, please point that out and drive us back to You as the sole source for answers and assurance.  I love You, Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.


  1. Thank you Talley!! Awesome words from the Lord.

  2. One of the best I've read, and I've read a lot because "I believe, Lord help my unbelief"...because one day I'm sure, the next day I'm not. The roller coaster of fact vs feeling...some day my theology will be my psychology...I will feel what I believe, but until then two old things come to mind: 1) Believe your belief and doubt your doubts...not doubt your beliefs and believe your doubts; 2) for every one look at my sin, I must take 10 looks at the cross!
    Love you brother, you're doing some amazing work here. Corsair