The Assurance of Salvation

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. – I Peter 8-12

Can anyone know for sure that he is saved? For someone to declare that he is certain of his salvation may seem to be an act of unspeakable arrogance. Yet the Bible calls us to make our salvation a matter of certainty. Peter commands, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).

It is our duty to seek assurance of our salvation with diligence. This is not done out of idle curiosity about the state of our soul, but to enhance our growth in sanctification. Christians who remain uncertain about the state of their salvation are subject to all sorts of questions that paralyze their walk with Christ. They stumble in doubt and are vulnerable to the assaults of Satan. So we must seek to be assured of our salvation. There are four possible positions with respect to one’s assurance of salvation.

Position One: There are people who are unsaved and know that they are unsaved. These people are aware of the enmity they have in their hearts toward God and clearly want nothing to do with Christ as their Savior. They are bold to proclaim that they do not need Christ. Such people are often openly hostile to the gospel.

Position Two: There are people who are saved but do not know they are saved. These people are actually in a state of grace but are uncertain of it. Perhaps they are wrestling with sin in their lives and doubt their own salvation because of a troubled conscience. In this group are those who have not yet made certain that they are among the elect.

Position Three: There are people who are saved and know that they are saved. This is the group who are certain of their election and calling. They have a clear and sound understanding of what salvation requires and know they have met the requirements. They have believed the testimony of the Holy Spirit when He witnessed to their spirits that they are the children of God (Romans 8:16).

Position Four: There are people who are not saved but confidently believe that they are saved. These people have assurance of salvation without salvation. Their assurance is a false assurance.

Because it is possible to have a false assurance of salvation, how do we know if we are in group three or group four? To answer that we must look more closely at group four and ask how it is possible to have a false sense of assurance.

The easiest way to have a false assurance of salvation is to have a false doctrine of salvation. For example, if a person holds to a universalist view of salvation, he or she may reason as follows:

Every person is saved.
I am a person.
Therefore, I am saved.

Because the person’s doctrine is faulty, his or her assurance has no firm basis.

Another way that people falsely assure themselves of salvation is by believing that they will get to heaven by trying to live a good life. Those who think they are living a good enough life to satisfy the demands of a holy God are only deluding themselves into thinking they are saved.

But what if a person has a sound doctrine of salvation? Is it still possible to have false assurance? We must answer yes. A person might think he has saving faith but not really possess it. The test for authentic assurance is twofold. On the one hand, we must examine our own hearts to see if we have true faith in Christ. We must see whether or not we have any genuine love for the biblical Christ. For we know such love for Him would be impossible without regeneration.

Second, we must examine the fruit of our faith. We do not need perfect fruit to have assurance, but there must be some evidence of the fruit of obedience for our profession of faith to be credible. If no fruit is present, then no faith is present. Where saving faith is found, fruit of that faith is also found.

Finally, we seek our assurance from the Word of God through which the Holy Spirit bears witness to our spirit that we are His children.

It is our duty to diligently pursue assurance of salvation.
Assurance of salvation enhances our sanctification.
There are four possible groups or positions regarding assurance:

(a)Those who are unsaved and know they are unsaved
(b)Those who are saved but don’t have assurance that they are are saved
(c)Those who are saved and know they are saved
(d)Those who are unsaved but believe they are saved

False assurance is primarily based on a false doctrine of salvation.
To gain authentic assurance we must search our own hearts and examine the fruit of our faith.
Full assurance comes from the Word of God coupled with the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

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Messianic Prophecies and the Integrity of the Gospels

Thus said the Lord my God: “Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter. Those who buy them slaughter them and go unpunished, and those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, I have become rich,’ and their own shepherds have no pity on them. For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of this land, declares the Lord. Behold, I will cause each of them to fall into the hand of his neighbor, and each into the hand of his king, and they shall crush the land, and I will deliver none from their hand.”

So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep. In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me. So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another.” 10 And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples.11 So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord. 12 Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. 13 Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter. 14 Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

15 Then the Lord said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. 16 For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.

17 “Woe to my worthless shepherd,
    who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm
    and his right eye!
Let his arm be wholly withered,
    his right eye utterly blinded!”

-Zechariah 11:4–17

Isn’t it possible that the gospel writers fabricated details to make it appear that Jesus fulfilled the Messianic passages of the Old Testament? For example, one passage foreshadows that the Messiah’s bones would remain unbroken (see Psalm 34:20), so maybe John invented the story about the Romans breaking the legs of the two thieves being crucified with Jesus and not breaking his legs (see John 19:31–36). Another prophecy talks about Judas’ betrayal for 30 pieces of silver (prophesied in Zechariah 11:12–13 and fulfilled in Matthew 26:15; 27:3–7). Could it be that Matthew played fast and loose with the facts and said, yeah, Judas sold out Jesus for that same amount?

Pastor Louis Lapides has spent 30 years studying prophecies found within Scripture. He quickly settles these objections: “In God’s wisdom, he created checks and balances both inside and outside the Christian community. When the Gospels were being circulated, there were people living who had been around when all these things happened. Someone would have said to Matthew, ‘You know it didn’t happen that way. We’re trying to communicate a life of righteousness and truth, so don’t taint it with a lie.’”

Why would Matthew have fabricated fulfilled prophecies and then have been willing to be put to death for following someone who he secretly knew was really not the Messiah? That wouldn’t make any sense. What’s more, the Jewish community would have jumped on any opportunity to discredit the Gospels by pointing out falsehoods. “They would have said, ‘I was there, and Jesus’ bones were broken by the Romans during the crucifixion,’” Lapides says. “And even though the Jewish Talmud refers to Jesus in derogatory ways, it never once makes the claim that the fulfillment of prophecies was falsified. Not one time.”

Adapted from interview with Louis Lapides

Let Israel Rejoice in Him

Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
    his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
    let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Let them praise his name with dancing,
    making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
    he adorns the humble with salvation.
Let the godly exult in glory;
    let them sing for joy on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats
    and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations
    and punishments on the peoples,
to bind their kings with chains
    and their nobles with fetters of iron,
to execute on them the judgment written!
    This is honor for all his godly ones.
Praise the Lord! – Psalm 149

Be glad of heart, O believer, but take care that thy gladness has its spring in the Lord. Thou hast much cause for gladness in thy God, for thou canst sing with David, “God, my exceeding joy.” Be glad that the Lord reigneth, that Jehovah is King! Rejoice that He sits upon the throne, and ruleth all things! Every attribute of God should become a fresh ray in the sunlight of our gladness. That He is wise should make us glad, knowing as we do our own foolishness. That He is mighty, should cause us to rejoice who tremble at our weakness. That he is everlasting, should always be a theme of joy when we know that we wither as the grass. That He is unchanging, should perpetually yield us a song, since we change every hour. That He is full of grace, that He is overflowing with it, and that this grace in covenant He has given to us; that it is ours to cleanse us, ours to keep us, ours to sanctify us, ours to perfect us, ours to bring us to glory-all this should tend to make us glad in Him. This gladness in God is as a deep river; we have only as yet touched its brink, we know a little of its clear sweet, heavenly streams, but onward the depth is greater, and the current more impetuous in its joy. The Christian feels that he may delight himself not only in what God is, but also in all that God has done in the past. The Psalms show us that God’s people in olden times were wont to think much of God’s actions, and to have a song concerning each of them. So let God’s people now rehearse the deeds of the Lord! Let them tell of His mighty acts, and “sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously.” Nor let them ever cease to sing, for as new mercies flow to them day by day, so should their gladness in the Lord’s loving acts in providence and in grace show itself in continued thanksgiving. Be glad ye children of Zion and rejoice in the Lord your God.

On Getting ‘Un-dragoned’ By the Light of Christ

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, ‘We have fellowship with him,’ and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” — 1 John 1:5-9

The same light that exposes us heals us.

We get a picture of this in those early pages of the Bible, right after the fall. As Adam and Eve are called to account, do you remember what the LORD does? They had covered themselves in fig leaves–just like we do. And he covers them instead with something else: “The LORD God made clothing from skins for the man and his wife, and he clothed them.”

They had brought death into the world, and he’s showing them that only death will cover them now. And this is perhaps the first foreshadow of Christ’s sacrifice for us, shedding his blood that covers us from all unrighteousness. They came into the light, were exposed, despite their own coverings, and God covered them with a sacrifice. “If we walk in the light,” John writes, “as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

We have to understand just how much this sacrifice has purchased! Christ’s shed blood has delivered us from the domain of darkness. His blood speaks the better word of justice accomplished. His blood declares pardon for us, cleansing for us, and–as John Calvin helpfully reminds us in his commentary on 1 John–this cleansing pardon is “gratuitous and perpetual.”

Christian, you are never not covered by the blood of Jesus. So: If his blood has covered your sin, why are you still walking in fear and hiding?

You know, the one place I finally felt “at home” I got eventually got chewed up in and spit out of. I’ve had a pretty good life, but I’ve also got some pretty good reasons to keep entirely myself and never let you or anyone else in. That would be the safest and–to some extent–most understandable way for me to live my life.

And yet here comes my Savior, who ought not to be embarrassed by anything, who has no sin. And while I’m piling up as many fig leaves as I think it might take to impress you and distract you, Jesus is exposing himself to all the hurt, all the pain, all the weakness, all the condemnation that I am desperately trying to avoid. You cannot be any more exposed than Christ was on the cross. And he went there. For us.

And here is what else John means by “the light”–he means a vision of the glory of God, the radiance of his loveliness exemplified in his cross and resurrection and ascension. The illuminating vision that captivates sinners desperate for salvation. In the early verses of his Gospel, John writes:

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it . . . The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

Shortly thereafter he records John the Baptist crying out in his Gospel, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Or, as Isaiah says, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

You can’t even see clearly when you’re hiding! But when you’re found? Suddenly we see.

Paul uses this same vision talk in Colossians 3, when he says, “If you’ve been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” And then he says –in what’s become one of my all-­time favorite Bible verses, Colossians 3:3–“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Oh, to be hidden with Christ in God! See, the gospel isn’t trying to expose us to shame us. The good news is that Christ was exposed for us that we can confess without fear and find our refuge in him. If we are hidden with Christ in God, we have nothing left to hide! It may cost us a little something, but the reward for walking in the light far surpasses keeping whatever it is we’re trying to protect.

One of my favorite scenes from Lewis’s Narnia stories comes from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Eustace Scrubb–who is about as cuddly a personality as his name would suggest–finds himself in a scaly predicament. Eustace comes across a great treasure; overcome with greed he begins to imagine all the comforts of life he could enjoy with this treasure. He goes into “hoarding” mode. Eventually he falls asleep and when he wakes up, he discovers he’s become a dragon. Why a dragon? Because dragons are hoarders. They protect their secret fortunes at all costs. And they also physically represent this kind of protection, right? Heavy, scaly skin. They are covered in fleshy armor.

Eustace doesn’t quite understand how he’s gotten into this situation but he becomes afraid. The gold bracelet he was wearing constricts his dragon arm and it hurts–just like our secrets will eventually–and he realizes that as a dragon he’s been cut off from humanity–just our like our hiding will do to us eventually. And then Aslan comes. And Aslan leads Eustace the dragon to a garden where there’s a well, and Eustace just knows if he can get into the water in the well, he will be healed. But he can’t get in the way he is.

“Then the lion said–but I don’t know if it spoke–You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it. “The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know–if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy–oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.” “Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off-just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt-and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly–looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me-I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on–and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .”

Walking in the light may sting a little, but it is far preferable to life in the dark. And on top of that, it is the only way to healing.

“If we walk in the light, his blood cleanses us.” You know, Jesus only deals with us on the playing field of reality. So come to him as a sinner. You cannot hide from God’s gospel anyway. Come as a real person to the family God’s gospel has made. We must not hide from each other. Come and be cleansed by his blood and hidden forever in the safety of Christ himself.

Who Gets to Be Your Heart Boss?

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:12-17

Gracious Jesus, today, like every day, somebody or some entity is going to claim “dibs” on the attention and affection of our hearts. Our hearts will be wooed and ruled, enticed and seized. Something, or someone will be our “heart boss” today.

It could be bitterness, resentment, or unforgiveness. It could be the shaming power of Satan or the empty promises of greed, overbearing people or aggravating circumstances. It might be old regrets resurfacing or new fantasies emerging, the quest to be included or the approval of a dead parent.

Therefore, Jesus, in obedience to this life-liberating Scripture, we choose your peace as the ruler of our hearts. With palms up, we gladly surrender our hearts to your peace as our sovereign, king, and boss, for you are the Prince of Peace.

Through your finished work on the cross, God made his peace with us, and we now have peace with our Father. Alienation has been replaced with reconciliation, distance with intimacy, judgment with affection. God isn’t just “okay” with us; he delights in us. There is NO peace like the peace of God. How can we not overflow with gratitude and humility, faith and hope?

Jesus, may your peace-that-transcends-circumstances work as a centering and settling power in our hearts today. In our “testy” relationships and the things we cannot control; in our angry culture and our less-than-fulfilling jobs; in our known weaknesses and our unknown futures. Be beautiful and big in our hearts, Lord.

Because of your peace with us, we will seek to live at peace with those in our web of relationships. And where peace isn’t possible, yet, we’ll rest in your love and wait on your timing. So very Amen we pray, in your praise-worthy and persistent name.

Let Goods and Kindred Go

Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. (Hebrews 10:32–35)

The Christians in Hebrews 10:32–35 have earned the right to teach us about costly love.

The situation appears to be this: In the early days of their conversion, some of them were imprisoned for their faith. The others were confronted with a difficult choice: Shall we go underground and stay “safe,” or shall we visit our brothers and sisters in prison and risk our lives and property? They chose the way of love and accepted the cost.

“For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property.”

But were they losers? No. They lost property and gained joy! They joyfullyaccepted the loss.

In one sense, they denied themselves. It was real and costly. But in another sense, they did not. They chose the way of joy. Evidently, these Christians were motivated for prison ministry the same way the Macedonians (of 2 Corinthians 8:1–9) were motivated to relieve the poor. Their joy in God overflowed in love for others.

They looked at their own lives and said, “The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life” (see Psalm 63:3).

They looked at all their possessions and said, “We have a possession in heaven that is better and lasts longer than any of this” (see Hebrews 10:34).

Then they looked at each other and said — perhaps sang — something like Martin Luther’s great hymn:

Let goods and kindred go
This mortal life also
The body they may kill
God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever

– John Piper
http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/let-goods-and-kindred-go

In Your Delay, Remember God’s Faithfulness

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
– Psalm 103:1-5

When our dream is delayed, it causes us to forget many things. We tend to forget our dream. We forget what God has done in our lives and his goodness to us in the past. We forget that God is with us. We forget God’s power.

The Israelites made this same mistake in the wilderness: “They forgot the many times [God] showed them his love, and they rebelled against the Almighty at the Red Sea. But he saved them, as he had promised, in order to show his great power. . . . But they quickly forgot what he had done and acted without waiting for his advice” (Psalm 106:7b-8, 13 GNT).

It’s unbelievable how short their memory was! In Egypt, God sent 10 plagues on the Egyptians just to rescue his people, and the children of Israel forgot it just days later when they were at the Red Sea saying, “We’re all going to die!” They forgot what God had done. Then God did a miracle and opened the Red Sea. They walked through to the other side and immediately forgot that miracle and cried, “We’re going to die of thirst!” God miraculously provided water. The Israelites forgot that and complained, “We’re going to die because we have no food!” They were always forgetting.

But we shouldn’t be too quick to judge them, because we do the exact same thing. When a delay occurs in our lives, we start acting like God’s never done anything for us. Has God done things for you in the past? Sure he has. And you can count on him to do it again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.

Instead of forgetting, you need to remember God’s promises. There are more than 7,000 of them in the Bible. Whenever you have a problem, find a promise like 2 Timothy 2:13: “Even when we are too weak to have any faith left, he remains faithful to us and will help us . . . and he will always carry out his promises to us” (TLB). The promises are always greater than the problems you’re facing!

God may not have fulfilled the promise in your life because he’s waiting on you. He’s waiting on you to learn to not fear, not fret, not faint, not forget. He wants you to learn that before he delivers you.

God can do things immediately, but he’s working on a larger agenda. The delays that come in your life do not destroy God’s purpose. They fulfill God’s purpose in your life.
“I will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me” (Psalm 103:2 TLB).

Talk It Over

What has God done for you that proves his faithfulness?
How has God been refining you in the delay of your dream?
What can you change about your attitude as you spend time in God’s waiting room?