Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tests for assurance

How do I know that the Lord saved me?  We saw in Philippians that Paul instructed us to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." - Phil 2:12b.  Peter tells us to do much the same thing in 2 Peter 1:10a, "Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure."  So before we get into all of this "personal work" to "ensure" I'm saved, I want to point out a few other verses to remind us Who is doing this work.
"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours" - 2 Peter 1:1 (emphasis mine)
"for it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose." -  Phil 2:13 (emphasis mine)
 "We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  However, as it is written: 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him' - but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us." - 1 Cor 2:6-12 (emphasis mine)
We're going to embark on various "tests" that when appropriately applied add to our assurance of what the Lord did and what He continues to do in our lives, not how we have worked so hard to assure ourselves.  Said another way, these tests will give you objective evidence of what He is doing, not what you are doing.  I start with the verses above to make the following points:  1.  the faith you have, you received, and it is as precious as Abraham's, Peter's, Paul's and yes Jesus' faith in our Father; 2.  It is God who works in you, not your generation of effort to make yourself better; and 3. You were given the Spirit of God Himself when He saved you and it is by the Spirit we have any understanding of what "God has freely given us," and not enough intellectual work on our part to apprehend His grace.  Conclusion:  assurance is a mission of the Holy Spirit within each of us.  I encourage you to do as a friend of mine said to do, "Believe your belief and doubt your doubts."  The questions you ask are prompted by the Holy Spirit within you.

So with that preamble, what does John have for us?  To begin with he's writing to believers as opposed to unbelievers.  Chapter 2 of 1 John opens, "My dear children" which says to me he's writing to fellow family members.  It's possible I'm reaching some here, so please read for yourself and check what I've said against what the Holy Spirit shows to you of the mind of Him who inspired 1 John in the first place!  That said, I'm fairly confident I'm spot on and the rest of the book appears to reinforce that.

The first test I see is in verses 6 and 7, "If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin."  I believe John further describes this test in verses 8 - 10, "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.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives."

Have you ever wondered why part of the "sinners' prayer" is the forgiveness of sins?  Why would this not be something that even a non-believer would do?  Let me ask it this way, if you're not convicted of an offense, of a wrongdoing, how likely are you to say you're sorry and ask forgiveness?  I see it much like "moral inertia" where you continue acting in a certain way until a "moral force" impacts you and changes the course of your actions.  Said another way, if you don't know its wrong you keep doing it.  John is saying that if you claim to be without offense you're a liar.  Furthermore John says that a right response to the Holy Spirit's conviction of our sin is confession and seeking forgiveness.  My friend, your question of assurance is in itself the evidence of your salvation!  If you were not His you would not recognize your sin against Him!

So, Test #1, are you lying to yourself saying that you walk in the light and have no sin, or does the Holy Spirit convict your spirit of your offenses against Him resulting in your confession of short comings?  Said another way, if your response to your sin is remorse, regret, repentance and seeking forgiveness - good news, you're in!

Father, please forgive me if I've misrepresented You, Your word, or Your truth.  I so much want to get past the flaming darts of the accuser who would have me turned inwardly on how bad I am as opposed to responding in worship to You because of how holy You are.  Be with, make us effectual in the execution of Your will today.  I love You, Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.

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