Posts Tagged ‘Dietrich Bonhoeffer’

Knowing ‘Assurance’

31 May 19

The ‘shocking’ end of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” book tells of a man named “Ignorance,” who thought he had ‘ASSURANCE’ that he was going to Heaven, but was totally wrong—and was ‘thrown’ into Hell right next to the ‘gates’ of Heaven!”

[ Link to the specific spot in the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_Q1NZ9q5_Y&t=6068 ].
 
We live in very unstable, uncertain times. Rock-solid ‘assurances’ are hard to come by.

We buy a car but are uncertain that it is going to work properly for as long as the manufacturer says it will, so we want an ‘assurance’ (warranty) that it will. Then, concerned that we might have an accident for which we might get sued for, we ‘hedge our bets’ against that uncertainty by buying an insurance policy (pouring a small fortune into the insurance company for something that hasn’t happened yet!) We go to the store to buy an appliance, and are immediately told by the salesperson that we need to buy a service guarantee (which, for me, is another way of saying it is a ‘crummy’ product).

There’s uncertainty about our health, so we spend thousands of dollars a year for some kind of a medical plan to protect us from catastrophic physical issues. Then there are life insurance policies to provide a little something to a family member when someone dies. There is uncertainty about fire and theft, so you have a homeowner’s policy.

Just recently, since there has been an increased concern about wanting ‘protection’ against being extorted by the person they are marrying, people are now making prenuptial agreements. This want for assurance goes on and on.

People are so uncertain about most everything in life, that they will literally spend huge percentages of their money to cover all of the potential contingencies. In addition to that, there are some people who will pay large amount of money to mediums, astrologers, and fortune tellers to try to gain some ‘insight’ into the future—to remove some of the fearful uncertainties.

I suppose a good question to ask some of these people is, “Are you absolutely certain of anything?” Well, you would probably get the ‘standard’ answer from most of them: “Death and taxes.”

Well, Jesus also taught that there are two ‘certainties’, and that the world is divided into two groups of people who would experience two radically different ‘fates’ in this life and in the next. Those who are His followers will experience an “abundant life” now and eternal blessings in His presence after they die (John 10:10; Matthew 25:34), whereas those who are not His followers will squander their time on earth and ultimately experience the just wrath of God against their sins for all eternity. So, all of us have A LOT AT STAKE in knowing whether or not we are a “genuine” Christian!

 

When you ‘stand’ before Jesus after you die, any ‘evidence’ you marshal on your own behalf will not matter. You might point to all the times you prayed “the Sinners Prayer,” or the time you walked down the aisle, were baptized (or the second time you were baptized just in case the first time didn’t ‘take’), the youth retreat you attended, or even the mission trip you went on. But if, in that final moment Jesus does not look at you and say, “This person is one of my sheep” or “They belong to me,” none of that will matter. You will not be able to argue with the Judge’s verdict. Jesus said in His longest ‘sermon’, the “Sermon on the Mount,” to me, one of the most ‘terrifying’ passages in the Bible. This passage ‘haunts’ me like no other, since it brings everyone ‘face-to-face’ with the reality that MANY people are deceived about their salvation, and Jesus is giving us a ‘preview’ of the Judgment Day:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.” [ Matthew 7:21-23 ].

WOW! Do you understand that Jesus is saying that it is actually possible for someone to honestly believe that they are a follower of Him, but NOT actually be one! It is possible to say to Him, “Lord, Lord” but never enter the Kingdom of Heaven (just like “Ignorance” in the “The Pilgrims Progress”)! Merely calling yourself a Christian does not mean that you really are one!

Today, most churches teach a well-intentioned desire for people to make a decision to follow Jesus. But, most of the time, the way they go about it is not biblical! They are all about the “decision.” They say if one wants to become a Christian, just pray these words (i.e. the “Sinners Prayer”), sign this card, follow these steps, and presto, you are a Christian. End of story. Case closed. Welcome to ‘family’ of God!

Now, it is true that we need to make a one-time ‘decision’ to follow Jesus, but a true one-time decision is followed by an every day decision to ‘follow’ Jesus.

[ For more info about ‘following’ Jesus, read this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/it-will-cost-you-v233/ ].

 

So, Jesus is saying in the above passage that there are MANY PEOPLE who ‘profess’ to be Christians, who use His name and who call Him “Lord,” but are actually NOT a ‘part’ of the Kingdom of God at all! They do not ‘belong’ to Him—and will not be able to ‘stand’ at the last judgment! (Ouch!…and THE REASON I am writing this post!)

The ‘terrifying’ aspect of this is that these people are not on the ‘fringes’ of the church. Rather, they are ‘immersed’ in the life of the church, heavily involved in ministry, and perhaps even have the ‘reputation’ of being professing Christians. Yet, Jesus doesn’t ‘know’ them and will banish them from His presence…forever!

So then how do we know that we won’t be among this group of people who will come to the last judgment, expecting entrance into the Kingdom, addressing Jesus in intimate terms, only to be cast into Hell? How do we know that the confidence that we have—our ‘state’ of grace—is not misplaced? How do we know that we have not deceived ourselves? Essentially, how can we have absolute ‘assurance’ that we are saved?

Well, Jesus addresses the question of who is and is not ‘genuinely’ saved in His “Parable of the Sower” (Matthew 13:1-9).

The first group hear the preaching of the Gospel, but it makes no ‘impact’ on them. They truly do not understand the Gospel and therefore don’t ‘respond’, and it does not take ‘root’ in their lives.

The second group hear the Gospel with joy, but only temporarily. As soon as the going gets tough, this ‘convert’ gets going. They never bear any ‘fruit’ in their lives, and they don’t ‘continue’ in the faith.

The third group hear and ‘receive’ the Gospel, but are later ‘overwhelmed’ by the cares of the world. They ‘fall away’ due to worldly worries and a desire for wealth.

The last group, however, understands fully and proves themselves ‘doers’ of the Word, and produce much genuine ‘fruit’ in their lives.

Jesus explained that only the fourth type of hearer was actually saved; the others may have had some sort of religious ‘experience’, but they were not genuinely converted. Please notice that the fourth hearer understood, believed, and bore ‘fruit’. That is what it takes to be a ‘real’ Christian.

Now, just to be clear, we are NOT saved BY our works, but rather by faith alone FOR works (Ephesians 2:8-9). We get into the Kingdom not because we make a decision, walk down an aisle, raise a hand, or sign a card. We get into the Kingdom because there is true faith in our ‘hearts’.

Please don’t misunderstand—there’s absolutely nothing improper about public professions of faith, and they should be made. After all, Jesus speaks of people who honor Him with their lips while their hearts are far from Him (Matthew 15:8). BUT, no one has ever been justified by a ‘profession’ of faith!

 

THE “NARROW WAY”
The thing is, most people think they are going to Heaven. Researcher George Barna, in his book “What Americans believe,” says that “99% of Americans believe they are Heaven bound.” Again, Jesus strongly disagrees with that! He used the words “many “and “few” in a way that indicates that MOST people WILL NOT be going to Heaven! He said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” [ Matthew 7:13-14 ].

So, based on what Jesus thinks, many who think they are going to Heaven are gravely mistaken! Then, how can one avoid from being deceived? Is there a way we can know now where we stand? Is it possible for us to have assurance of our salvation? Yes! It is indeed possible for the true Christian to experience the assurance of their salvation!

 

ASSURANCE IS POSSIBLE!
Well, when you think about the reality that each of us is going to die, I think that there isn’t anything more important than knowing whether or not you are going to Heaven! So, here’s the question I’m going to try to answer: “Can anyone know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are saved?”

I’m thinking that this is a VERY SERIOUS question, not just because it keeps some people in a state of fear, but because others are getting it dead wrong!

 

I’ve heard what I’m going to use as an illustration as being referred to as “the paradox of salvation”—how the sovereign ‘work’ of God and the ‘responsibility’ of the believer work together (i.e. two sides of the same ‘coin’).

Believers are saved because God ‘chose’ them (Ephesians 1:4), yet they are not saved without exercising faith (Romans 10:9-10). Hmmm, yes that’s definitely a paradox.

The believer is secure because of the ‘covenantal faithfulness’ of God, but they are still ‘responsible’ to persevere. The believer’s ‘part’ is to endure! (Just like “Christian” did in “The Pilgrim’s Progress”). God promises that those who continue to pursue holiness in their lives WILL enter His presence after they die!

The ‘reward’ for the believer who does not ‘fold’ under the pressures of the trials of life, is the “crown of life” (James 1:12).

 

Jesus spelled out one way to know whether a person is soundly saved: “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). That is a rather unique way of saying that a person who ‘backslides’ is one who was never genuinely saved in the first place.

When Jesus ‘enters’ the new convert’s heart, He stays there permanently (Romans 8:38,39; 1 John 5:11,12). People who are genuinely saved will ‘act’ saved and ‘stay’ saved until they die.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” [ 2 Corinthians 5:17b ].

 

BASIS OF ASSURANCE
Many people mistakenly ensure themselves that they are Christians. They base their salvation and some form of presumption or ‘easy believe-ism’. In some cases, they claim that they have been saved from infancy, but their lives do not bear the ‘fruit’ of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work. They may attend church faithfully, enjoy hearing Gospel promises preached, get involved in a few church ministries, do some outwardly good deeds for their neighbors, and live a decent and moral life, but, when ‘tested’ by the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), they are not spiritually poor, do not mourn over their sin, are not submissive before God, do not hunger and thirst for righteousness, are not merciful to others, are not pure in heart, and are not peacemakers. They rely on mere ‘head’ knowledge of the Gospel. They have never learned personally in their souls’ experience before God that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). They have NOT been “born again”!

In many other cases, people claim they were “born again” based on an ‘emotional’ response to a hyped-up but watered-down evangelistic sermon or invitation, raising their hand and walking an aisle, or mindlessly reciting a “Sinner’s Prayer” from the back of a Gospel ‘tract’. They know little conviction of sin, and have never seen their need as a lost sinner before God. They claim forgiveness without repentance. Their supposed ‘new heart’ results in an unchanged life. Their outwardly religious lives (worldly lives) reveal that Jesus has not become their Savior and Lord, and they are strangers to a personal ‘acquaintance’ with Jesus as their Prophet, Priest, and King. They do not truly fear God, hate sin, love Jesus, and pursue holiness!

People who base their salvation and presumption and ‘easy assurance-ism’ seldom, if ever, examine whether their faith is genuine and well-founded. They claim assurance without having the ‘foundation’ for it, and errors about assurance can easily lead to false assurance. A right understanding of assurance helps the believer avoid such presumption.

Another false view that can hinder the believer from having assurance is a kind of ‘hard believe-ism’— when the believer looks to themselves and their works rather than the promises of God and Jesus’ propitiation. They are their own greatest obstacle in obtaining assurance.

Those who have a proper understanding of assurance will avoid both ‘easy’ and ‘hard believe-ism’. On the one hand, assurance will not be regarded as an easy, automatic benefit. They will not be assured of their faith without solid, biblical evidence of faith operating in their lives. They will be aware of the dangers of ‘easy believe-ism’ and will regularly examine and test their ‘hearts’ and lives by the Word of God. On the other hand, instructed by the Word of God, they will recognize the evidence of the ‘new birth’ in their lives, and acknowledge its reality. When they have a genuine longing for God and a corresponding hatred for sin, they will acknowledge that these things are the ‘works’ of the Holy Spirit in them. They will not despise true, albeit small, ‘marks’ of grace (Zechariah 4:10). It is critical that the believer’s assurance can pass these tests of the soundness of faith and life, even if they have only a small measure of the marks of grace that the Bible identifies as the ‘fruit of the spirit’ (Galatians 5:22–23) in their lives.

 

So, here’s a question for you: What would you say to God about why He should let you into His Heaven?

Would you say one of the following?: “I lead a good life”; “I prayed to receive Jesus”; “I attended church every Sunday”; “I was baptized”; “I tried to keep the 10 Commandments”; “I live by the Golden Rule”; “I helped others all the time”; “I had a spiritual experience”; “I was a good person”; or something similar?

Most people will say one or a few of those, although most will say that they are a “good person.” If you are one of them and think you are a “good person,” consider taking this following ‘test’:

 

Yes, I ‘failed’ miserably, too! Well, the thing is, biblically all of the people on the video reflect a confidence in the same flimsy “foundation”—themselves—a foundation that will crumble into Hell on the day of judgment when they ‘stand’ before God!

The thing is, assurance of salvation rests primarily on the character of God, the work of Jesus, and the truth of God’s promises set out in the Bible (2 Timothy 1:12; Colossians 1:13–14; John 5:24; Acts 16:31; 1 John 5:11–12).

A ‘true’ Christian is someone who has received the new birth as a free gift from God. Jesus first spoke about this new birth to a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He said, “you must be born again…born of the Spirit” (John 3:1-8).

This is what separates the Christian from the rest of the world. The Christian has received new “spiritual life” from God. Gods gift of the new birth always has an effect on a person’s life. It changes them. It transforms them from one way of life to another. It makes them turn from their love of sin, and ‘turn’ to Jesus in trust and faith.

 

Assurance of salvation is not only possible, but it should also be the ‘normal’ experience for every true Christian.

The Bible boldly declares that, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” [ Romans 8:16 ]. That describes an on-going, present-tense experience that is “normative” for the ‘children’ (“born-again” believers) of God.

God actually “commands” the believer to pursue the assurance of our salvation: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” [ 2 Peter 1:10 ].

The “deceiver,” Satan, loves to keep those on their way to help deluded into thinking that they are on their way to Heaven, their conscience is ‘immunized’ from Jesus’ pleas to repent.

The biblical summation of a saving response toward Jesus is “repentance” and “belief” in the Gospel. (John 3:36; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 4:5; Romans 10:9-10).

The famous Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “Sin and hell are married unless repentance proclaims the divorce.” God commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30), and He “does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones offers this vivid and practical definition of repentance:
“Repentance means you realize you’re guilty; a vile sinner in the presence of God. That you deserve the wrath and punishment of God, that you’re hell bound. It means that you begin to realize that this thing called sin is in you, and you long to get rid of it, and you turn your back on it in every shape and form. You renounce the world whatever the cost, the world is in its mind and outlook as well as its practice, and you deny yourself and take up the cross and go after Christ. Your nearest and dearest in the whole world may call you a fool or say you have religious mania. You may have to suffer financially, but it makes no difference; that is repentance.”

We expect repentance when someone sins against us, so why would we think God’s standards are lower than ours? May I ask you…have you ever honestly repented to God?

 

The evidence that someone has genuinely repented of their sin and believed in Jesus is the same in a child as it is in an adult—spiritual ‘transformation’ according to Scripture. True believers follow Jesus (John 10:17), they confess their sins (1 John 1:9), they love the brethren (1 John 3:14), they obey God’s commands (1 John 2:3; John 15:14), they do the will of God (Matthew 12:50), they abide in God’s Word (John 8:31), they keep God’s Word (John 17:6), and they do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Repentance is belief in action!

 

Repentance and belief are, biblically speaking, like the ‘paradox’ of salvation—two sides of the same ‘coin’. A ‘real’ Christian believes that not only is Jesus Lord—as a fact of history—but that He is their rightful ‘Sovereign’ as well, and they submit to Him (as an act of volition).

Biblical belief is the assumption of a new ‘posture’ toward the “Lordship” of Jesus [ For more details on this, read pastor John MacArthur’s book, “The Gospel According to Jesus” ].

“Believing” is something we do continually, not something we did once in the past, and continues for the believer’s entire lifetime (Leviticus 20).

 

So, if you feel you are ‘lacking’ somewhat in one or both of these areas, then get to ‘work’ on this right away—but don’t ‘crucify’ yourself about it. Even the Reformer, Martin Luther, had gone through his own bitter struggle with assurance. His commentary on the book of Romans, specifically Romans 10:9 says: “Paul says, ‘if though…Shall believe in the line heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shall be saved.’ That is true, four, as we read in 4:25, ‘Christ was delivered for our offense is, and raised again for our justification.’ Whoever believes these to facts Will be saved…We obtain the true righteousness of God by believing sincerely the promises of God, as we read in 4:3, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted on to him for righteousness.’”

Martin Luther once said that “Faith alone justifies, but not the faith that is alone.” Luther continued in saying, “Works are not taken into consideration when the question respects justification. But true faith will no more fail to produce them than the sun can cease to give light.”

So, have you really repented of your sins? I have often heard it said that “many Christians will miss Heaven by 18 inches”—the distance between their heads and their heart. I plead with you: DON’T LET THAT BE YOU!

Pastor and author John Piper said it better than I can: “Replace all God-dishonoring, Christ-belittling perceptions and dispositions and purposes with God-treasuring, Christ-exulting ones.”

The Anglican pastor Augusta Montague Toplady also said it well, and put it into a hymn: “Could my zeal no respite no, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone… Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in the Thee!” [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNVpRZiqid4 ].

 

John’s first epistle was written to assure those who have saving faith that they are indeed saved. To do that, John underscores the intimate connection between assurance of salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are assured of our salvation by the mutual abiding of the Holy Spirit in us, and us in him (1 John 3:24, 4:13). That abiding can be known as the good work that flows forth from a believers life, such as keeping God‘s Commandments (1 John 2:3-6; 3:4–10, 22-24; 4:21; 5:3), loving fellow believers (1 John 3:11-18; 4:7-21), not loving the world and the things it lusts for (1 John 2:15-17), and not by living in habitual sin (1 John 3:6, 9), but confessing your sins and forsaking them.

The Apostle Paul stresses that faith is an assured hope based on divine promises that have been fulfilled in Jesus. (Ephesians 1:4-5; Romans 5:1-11; 2 Corinthians 3:7-18; Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 6:13-17; Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13; Romans 3:22; 2 Corinthians 8:5; Galatians 3:21; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8, 14).

In Hebrews, faith is based upon the excellence and finality of Jesus redemptive work. The writer of Hebrews exhorts the believer to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16), “with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19, 22).

James stresses that faith is antithetical to doubt. Faith shows its ‘life’ in reality by producing good works, and is strengthened during trials for Jesus’ sake (James 2:18-26; 1:4, 12).

Peter’s epistles show faith as a confident hope which brings forth love and joy. The believer is kept or preserved by the power of God through faith to receive an indestructible inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-12). Nothing can destroy the assurance of that faith—not even trails in persecutions, which, in fact, help the believer identify with Jesus and thereby God’s will for their lives (1 Peter 4:12-14, 19; Romans 8:29).

As assurance grows, God’s promises become increasingly real and meaningful to the believer. The Apostle Peter urges, “give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).

 

HOW CAN YOU TELL?
Way back in 1746, six years after the “Great Awakening” in the U.S., theologian Jonathan Edwards dealt with the concern of evidence for a true conversion in his book, “A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections” (https://www.amazon.com/Treatise-Concerning-Religious-Affections/dp/1376026813).

While various excesses and heightened emotional experiences were common, scores of people didn’t demonstrate any evidence in their lives to verify their claim to know the love of Jesus Christ. So, to expose false conversions, Edwards noted that the supreme ‘proof’ of true conversion is what he called, “holy affections”—a zeal and a ‘longing’ for God and personal holiness. He said, that the Holy Spirit, “may sober, arrest and convict men, and may even bring them to what at first appears to be repentance and faith, yet those influences fall short of inward saving renewal.” [ “Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography,” page 255 ].

Edwards goes on to say, “Assurance is never to be enjoyed on the basis of a past experience. there is need of the present and continuing work of the Holy Spirit…[in] giving assurance” [ page 265 ]. This is no esoteric theological debate: the substance of your assurance is at stake!

So, how does one tell whether the Holy Spirit has ‘performed’ a saving operation on them? Well, as Edwards suggested, it is the principal evidence of life in ‘motion’ and of “holy practices.” He said that true salvation always produces an abiding change of nature in the convert (“fruit of the Spirit” – Galatians 5:22-23). Therefore, whenever holiness of life does not accompany a confession of conversion, then it must be that this individual is NOT a Christian!

[ For more info about the ‘fruit of the Spirit’, view this web site: http://fruitsofthebeatitudes.org/ ].

 

The Puritans viewed the assurance of peace with God as the ‘fountain’ that refreshed the Christian in their trials on the road to glory (Romans 5:1-5). Their doctrine of assurance was formally codified by the Westminster Confession of Faith, “Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation” (Chapter 18).

The first paragraph talks about various possibilities we have in relation to assurance. The second paragraph deals with how we get assurance—that is, the ‘grounds’ upon which assurance is best. The third paragraph addresses how we cultivate and grow in our assurance. The last paragraph explains how we can ‘lose’ and then regain our assurance of faith.

The Confession presents three possibilities in relation to assurance: The possibility of false assurance; the possibility of true assurance; and the possibility of the lack of true assurance.

The Westminster Confession presents a complex ‘ground’ of assurance, which includes a primary, ‘objective’ ground (“the divine truth of the promises of salvation”) and two secondary, ‘subjective’ grounds (“the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made” and “the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits”).

The Puritans believed that God’s promises in Jesus are the primary ‘ground’ for the believer’s assurance. Regarding this, Puritan preacher and author, Thomas Brooks wrote: “The promises of God are a Christian’s ‘magna carta’, his chiefest evidences for Heaven.”

 

EXAMINE YOURSELF
The Apostle Paul said to the Corinthian church, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” [ 2 Corinthians 13:5a ]. Likewise, the Apostle Peter instructs us to, “Be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ“ [ 2 Peter 1:10–11 ].

As mentioned above, if there is no ‘evidence’ of one’s salvation—‘fruits’ in your life now—you need to face the fact that you MAY NOT be a Christian!

So then, how does one do this? Well, Jesus tells us in one of the ‘key’ verses in the “Sermon on the Mount,” “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” [ Matthew 5:20 ]. His words should ring in our souls like a “fire alarm.” His cautions are meant to help us reach our last day without being self-deceived.

The Bible makes it clear that those who are genuinely saved are “righteous” and “holy.” They still sin, but with decreasing frequency. A true believer hates his sin (Romans 7:15-25) and repents of it, hungering and thirsting for what is right (one of “The Beatitudes”). He obeys God, loves his brother, and hates the evil world system. No one can be a Christian and continue living the way he did before he knew Jesus.

If sin and unrighteousness characterize your life, there is a possibility you are a disobedient Christian—but there is a greater possibility you are NOT a Christian at all!

The “Beatitudes” starts with what Jesus expects a ‘true’ Christian to be characterized by: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” [ Matthew 5:3 ]. Only those who admit their spiritual bankruptcy and sinfulness can enter the Kingdom. Being “poor in spirit” speaks of being poverty-stricken in one’s spirit. The next verse shows the result of that inner poverty: “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” Only those who are broken and mournful over their sin ever receive salvation. Meekness, produced by the crushing weight of one’s sin, also characterizes a person entering the Kingdom (verse 5). So, when a person is poor in spirit, mournful about his sin, and meek, they will then “hunger and thirst after righteousness, and he will be filled” (verse 6).

So then, when someone comes on those terms, God makes him merciful (verse 7), pure in heart (verse 8), and a peacemaker (verse 9). Then, because of what the believer is, people will persecute them (verse 10), revile them, and say false things about them (verse 11). But they will rejoice, because they are a ‘citizen’ of the Kingdom (verse 12).

Wow…that sounds ominous! No one can do all that! Well, thankfully, the Bible requires only the ‘presence’ of evidences, not the ‘perfection’ of them—which will not happen until the believer gets into Heaven. The ‘flowers’ of evidence in the bud are flowers nonetheless. Though they are not fully mature, the desire for them to be so—and the grief that they are not—are ‘blossoms’ formed only by faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit first changes our affections and then affects changes in our actions. If your heart is drawn toward the characteristics of Christians we have seen in First John, and you want to see them formed in you, then you are most likely a ‘true’ Christian, and God is at work ‘in’ you! However, if your life continues to be characterized by a casual and comfortable attitude towards sin, then you are NOT a Christian! (See 1 John 3). Being a Christian involves a radical change of ‘identity’.

[ For more info on a believer’s new ‘identity’ in Christ, view this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/new-identity-v220/ ].

 

True Christianity ‘changes’ people. That means there is no way to be a Christian and to continue loving the things that Christ hates and came to ‘destroy’! There is no way to be a child of God and to continue embracing the sin which pleases the Devil. Scripture regularly warns those who continue to sin happily and complacently (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5-6).

The Apostle John sums this up by handing out an obedience ‘test’. “Whoever says “I know him but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in Him truly the love of God is perfected. But this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him must walk in the same way in which He walked” [ 1 John 2:4-6 ].

Now, the Apostle John is not saying anything about the Christian who ‘falls’ into sin, but repents. Rather, he is talking about the person whose life trajectory is characterized by it. He’s talking about the person who, you might say, consciously ‘abides’ in it and deliberately ‘stays’ in it. A Christian cannot be characterized by a ‘lifestyle’ of sin.

“The Prodigal Son” parable is particularly helpful to us as we think about how a Christian should response to sin. (For more details, read the “Grace Is Scandalous” section of this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/amazing-grace-v239/). Three things characterize the prodigal son’s response to his sin, and they must characterize the response of anyone who is a true believer: Revulsion, repentance, and reproof.

Revulsion is when a true follower of Jesus is snared in sin, and will eventually have a ‘moment’ like the prodigal son had in the pigsty, where they come to hate their sin.

Repentance is when the prodigal son came to his senses, gave up his folly, and returned home, confessing his guilt. This involves that the believer turns away from their sins and turns toward Jesus in faith with the resolution to obey Him.

Reproof is when God disciplines His people because He loves them too much to leave them in their sin. A true Christian cannot continue in an unbroken subjection of sin. There must be evidence of genuine revulsion, repentance, and reproof to be a ‘true’ Christian.

 

The thing is, identifying the evidences of true regeneration in one’s life can be difficult, if not impossible to do on your own. Some are prone to discouragement and self-condemnation, and others to an overly optimistic view of themselves. That’s why God ‘gave us’ the local church—to help us see ourselves accurately. Mike McKinley, and his fantastic book on assurance, “Am I Really a Christian,” said it well:

“I can’t stress enough that this important process of examination can only be properly done in the context of a local church. You need other Christians who are committed to your spiritual well-being. They are the ones who will be able to get to know you and identify the fruits of the new birth in your life…We are not good judges of our own hearts. Some people are entirely too easy on themselves. They imagined that they give evidence of genuine regret and repentance for their sin when in reality there is none. Others with tender souls are far too hard on themselves. They take every weakness and failure as evidence that they are hypocrites and false Christians. Being involved in a local church is immensely helpful for both kinds of people.”

So, the three primary bases for assurance are: a present posture of faith and repentance; perseverance in the faith; and evidences of eternal life in our heart (a love for God and a love for others (particularly other believers). These three combine to give us a powerful sense of assurance that we belong to God.

Participating in a local church will tremendously help the believer ‘live out’ some of the things I’ve discussed.

– Believe in true doctrine (Love for God): You are not a Christian just because you ‘like’ Jesus
– Hatred for sin in your life: You are not a Christian if you enjoy sinning
– Perseverance in the faith over time: You are not a Christian if you don’t persist in the faith
– Love for other people: You are not a Christian if you don’t have a care and concern for other people
– Freedom from the love of the world: You are not a Christian if the things of the world are more valuable to you than God.

Now, no church will perfectly encourage you and embody the principles of the Bible. But, just because the church is not perfect, does not mean that you should head off on your own. Instead, you should enlist the help of people in your local church to help you examine your life. As you seek to make your calling and election sure, do so in the context of a community of loving and discerning Christians.

 

We need to continually be examining the ‘fruit’ in our lives. Now, just to be clear, the “good works” that we hope (and expect) to see in our lives IS NOT the ‘cause’ of our salvation. Instead, God’s regenerating love and mercy is the cause. The ‘fruit’—growth in peace and love and faith, and hatred for sin—are the ‘results’ of what God does.

You are NOT a Christian just because you ‘like’ Jesus. Instead, being a Christian means that you ‘believe’ in Him. (John 3:16-18, 36; John 6:28-29; Romans 3:21-25; Hebrews 11:6).

Faith separates the ‘true’ children of God from those who merely ‘respect’ Jesus. Faith is also more than just an intellectual ‘assent’ to a set of truth propositions. Biblical believe or faith is a personal, heartfelt ‘trust’ in a Person.

[ For more info on how faith and belief in Jesus is not just ‘collecting’ facts, read this “Search For Meaning” web page: http://4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q10_d4_1of10.html ].

 

When you are not assured of God’s love for you, your motivations for obedience will become corrupted. You will do “good works” in the hopes that God will ‘approve’ of you because of them (We are not saved BY good works, but FOR good works – Ephesians 2:8-10). This is really not love for God—it’s ‘self-preservation’. Apart from assurance, you can fear God like a ‘slave master’, but you will never love him like a Father.

If you base your assurance on ‘what’ you do or ‘how well’ you do it, you will NEVER FIND assurance! You will always be wondering if you are doing enough. If your assurance is based on what Jesus has done, however, you can ‘rest’ in His performance. Your salvation IS secure as His finished work!

So, finishing the Apostle Paul’s verse I started this ‘section’ with, he says, “Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” [ 2 Corinthians 13:5b ].

It so happens that the Apostle John thought that the assurance of salvation for the believer was so important, he made it the subject of his first ‘letter’ to the Church. Let’s take a look at it now.

 

“TESTS”
If you are concerned about the assurance of your salvation, the best ‘book’ (letter) of the Bible you want to read (and re-read) is the first letter of the Apostle John. The express purpose of this epistle is to help believers ‘KNOW’ of their assurance of salvation. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). He tells of at least 13 “attitudes” and “actions” that characterize a ‘true’ Christian. So, let’s examine ourselves in the light of these ‘evidences’.

1: Do You Share the Intimacies of the Christian Life with Other Believers?
“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“ (1 John 1:6-7).

The word “fellowship” comes from the Greek word “koinonia.” It means “to share together with.” For the follower of Jesus, it means to talk about and live the Christian life with other Christians. Participating together in the intimacy of Christian living, such as praying, studying, ministering, and discussing scriptural insights.

Non-Christians, on the other hand, are certainly not like this. They emphasize how their faith is a “private thing” (too personal a matter to discuss openly). They would much rather talk about work, sports, their children, or their hobby rather than how the Bible relates to their, and their loved one’s lives.

2: Do You Have a Deep Awareness of Your Sin Against the Word and Love of God?
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us…If we claim we have not sent, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” [ 1 John 1:8, 10 ].

This involves more than just a willingness on occasion to admit that we have been wrong. Growing Christians are scarcely able to do or think about anything without seeing their sin in it.

True Christians recognize the selfishness in their heart even when they do the best and most benevolent of deeds. They know the sinfulness of their thought life right in the midst of some of the most Christ-like actions. They are aware of that “darkness” of their sin inside them when outwardly they model goodness and ‘light’. They know that even when they are closest to Jesus and most like Him, that sin is still ‘splattered’ all over them like “mud.”

Author and lay theologian C.S. Lewis said this well: “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Richard Baxter, an English Puritan theologian (and contemporary of John Bunyan), wrote a famous and still printed book about Heaven and about to be sure of getting there called, “The Saint’s Everlasting Rest.” In it he said this about the awareness of sin as a sign of salvation: “I think, if I could stand and mention all the other marks of grace…It would appear that the life and truth of all of them life in this one.”

Does the Spirit of God (conscience) make you aware that your sin violates God’s revealed Word? When you sin, do you feel like children who grieve, not because they have done wrong and may be disciplined, but because they feel like they have disappointed their father? If so, then YOU ARE a Christian! Strange as it seems, those who feel sin most deeply are those who feel most forgiven (Luke 7:36-50, especially verse 47; 1 Timothy 1:13–15; Matthew 5:4).

3: Do You Live in Conscience Obedience to the Word of God?
“We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His Word, God’s love is truly made complete in him” [ 1 John 2:3-5 ].

Obedience to the Word of God characterizes the lifestyle of a “disciple” of Jesus. Anyone who “does not do what He commands is a liar” (1 John 2:4) about being a “born again” Christian.

Jesus also said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” [ John 14:23 ]. He was saying that only those who love Him will be able to ‘perceive’ Him, and they are the ones ‘within’ whom He, the Father, and the Spirit would dwell.

Those who know Jesus are not ‘unintentional’, they obey Him purposefully. They become learners of His Word and set out to obey it. Despite frequent failures, they persevere! The Apostle Paul ‘hungered’ to obey God‘s Word, even though sin was always ‘tugging’ at him (Romans 7:15-25).

Do you obey God’s Word? The Apostle John couldn’t be clearer: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” [ 1 John 2:3 ].

The Greek word translated “keep” in John’s verse speaks of “watchful, careful, and thoughtful” obedience. Not only the act of obedience, but also the ‘spirit’ of obedience—a ‘willingness’.

Just before Jesus led this earth, He described a true “disciple” when He gave His “Great Commission”: to go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:20).

So, do you desire to obey the Word out of gratitude for all Jesus had done for you?

If you are trying to be obedient, you can be ‘assured’ that YOU ARE a Christian!

4: Do You Despise the World and Its Ways?
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him” [ 1 John 2:15 ].

The “world” speaks of the world “system,” not God’s creation—ungodly ways and things. Unbelievers find the church and the things of God the most boring things imaginable. At best, they find them much less meaningful than other things like work, their house, their car, and the like.

Christians, however, feel less and less “at home” in this world the more they grow spiritually. They also look increasingly toward their true and eternal ‘home’, the “Celestial City.”

The thing is, you’re NOT a Christian if you ‘love’ your stuff—primarily money. In fact, the love of money is so ‘dangerous’ that Jesus described it as one of the chief ‘pretenders’ to God’s throne. He knew that it presents itself as a would-be ‘savior’, offering salvation through comfort. So He warned His listeners in the starkest of terms: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” [ Luke 16:13 ].

To emphasize this, Jesus told a parable that is called, “The Rich Young Ruler.” In it, Jesus gives him a choice between his money or following Him. He chose his money. He missed his salvation right in front of him, and walked away as an ‘outwardly’ moral man with no hope for eternal life!

Now, Jesus does not ‘ask’ everyone to literally sell everything before they can follow Him. However, He does ‘call’ everyone to love and trust Him more than their money—and one of the best ways to reveal whether we love our money more is to consider the challenge of giving more of it away. If you ultimately love and trust your staff, if you choose to serve your money for your own purposes, you ARE NOT a follower of Christ!

Following Jesus requires us to pay a ‘price’. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple“ [ Luke 14:25-27 ].

Here Jesus tells His followers the plain ‘terms’ of discipleship. To be a Christian you must literally be willing to “die.” You must count Jesus as more important than your parents, siblings, and children—that is what Jesus means by “hate.”

[ For more info about ‘following’ Jesus, read this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/it-will-cost-you-v233/ ].

One cannot claim to be a ‘true’ Christian without ‘denying’ themselves. But, consider how Jesus ups the ante. Not only must you deny yourself, but you also must take up your ‘cross’.

No, Jesus isn’t talking about dying literally (though following Jesus will require the lives of some), he’s talking about dying to your old way of life. He wants us to crucify the old, self-centered way of living. It will be like death because no part of your life will go on touched.

 

For starters, the person who picks up their ‘cross’ will have a different relationship with their money. “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple“ [ Luke 14:33 ].

A German pastor during WW II, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (Which literally happened to him by the hands of the Nazis!)

 

So, what love ‘controls’ you? Is it the love of your money? Of material possessions? Of ease and comfort? Future security? Or is it a love for Jesus, to spread His Kingdom, and care for the poor?

Jesus tells us that we must ‘invest’ in Him—a treasure that will never fail. Everything else is a disaster, a ‘tower’ that will topple over. He tells us, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” [ Luke 12:33-34 ].

If you reject the world and its devilish desires, that is an indication of a new ‘nature’ in you!

5: Do You Long for the Return of Jesus and to be Made Like Him?
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” [ 1 John 3:2-3 ].

The Christian can hardly wait for Jesus to for fill His promise to return to the earth (Matthew 24, 26: 64; John 14:3). Trying to imagine the glorious place where the Christian will spend eternity, they daydream about what life will be like in “a new heaven and a new earth” where Jesus reigns (Revelation 21:1). Like a bride anticipating her wedding day, so those who are a part of the bride of Christ—the Church—expectantly await their union with Jesus and His return.

Part of the believer’s expectancy about seeing Jesus is in becoming ‘like Him’. At that moment, the Bible says “we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The same chapter talks about the splendor, glory, power, and immortality of the new ‘spiritual body’ that will be given to God’s ‘children’. With that, will come the complete and final deliverance from Satan’s presence that the Christian ‘groans’ for now (Romans 8:22).

If you are a ‘true’ Christian, you will have hope in your heart, and your hope will be focused on Jesus’ return—and that hope will ‘purify’ your life! The hope of Christlikeness will compel you to act more like Jesus in reaching out to others and fulfilling all that God has set out for you to do. This is a ‘sensible’ hope, leading to sensible living!

6: Do You Habitually Do What is Right More and Sin Less?
“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sitting from the beginning…This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother” [ 1 John 3:7-8, 10 ].

Now, this doesn’t say that the Christian can never commit a sin. Instead, it means that a Christian is one who, throughout their life, habitually does what is right more and more, and sins less every day.

This life change is not found merely in the ‘power’ of the Christian’s resolve, but because of the power of the Holy Spirit ‘within’ them.

‘Complete’ liberation from the presence of sin does not occur until death (or the Lord’s return, whichever is first), but an overall tendency toward obedience is present now for the ‘child’ of God.

Pastor and author John MacArthur, explains the difference between the Christian who “does what is right” but sins frequently, and the non-Christian who’s life is a “pattern of sin.” “A true Christian can still sin, and may even do so frequently, but sinning frequently is not the same as practicing sin.”

Notice that the emphasis in the verses I started this section with, that it isn’t what a Christian doesn’t do, but what he DOES. When the Bible talks about assurance, it emphasizes what’s on your “to do” list as much as what’s on your “not to do” list—what’s on your list of ‘loves’ as well as your list of ‘hates’.

So, are you sensitive to sin? When sin occurs in your life, do you confess it immediately to God? Is there a heightened awareness of sin’s ‘work’ in your life? (Romans 7:14-25). Do you realize that to have true ‘communion’ with God, you have to live a holy life?

If so, when one becomes a Christian, the pattern of sin was ‘broken’, and a new pattern came into existence. ‘Holy affections’ take over (Jonathan Edwards). So, does that mean that there will be no sin in your life? No, because your unredeemed ‘flesh’ is still operating, but the more you pursue those religious affections, the less you will sin!

Because the true believer “abides in Him” (1 John 3:6), not only does Jesus’ death take away their sin, but His ongoing life in them breaks their sin ‘pattern’. So, if you see a decreasing ‘pattern’ of sin in your life, that is evidence of ‘holy affections’. If you honestly try to practice righteousness, do what is right more, and sin less, then YOU ARE one of God’s ‘children’. If you don’t, you’re not—plain and simple.

7: Do You Love Other Christians Sacrificially and Want to be With Them?
“We know that we have passed from life to death, because we love our brothers” [ 1 John 3:14 ].

Although it’s true that love for all people should characterize followers of Jesus, this verse specifically refers to loving “our brothers,” that is, other Christians. This love is more than just a fondness or giving them ‘preference’, it is a “sacrificial” love that creates a desire in you that wants to intact with other Christians on a deeper level, and are willing to ‘sacrifice’ to do so.

When we have Jesus’ love for each other, we meet others’ needs, we help those who hurt or are weak, and we “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” [ Romans 12:15 ].

Followers of Jesus will sacrifice, even profits and pleasures if necessary, because of the depth of their love for their ‘family’. “But if anyone has the world goods and sees his brother in the, yet closes his heart against him, how does God‘s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). If we claim that we have faith in Christ but refused to help someone in need our faith is dead and useless (James 2:15-17).

A Christian should also be marked by a counter-intuitive, unnatural love—one for his ‘enemies’. “But I said to you who here, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you…Be merciful even as your father is merciful” [ Luke 6:27-36 ].

Christians love like this because, by the power of the Spirit, they are trying to reflect the character of God Himself (1 John 4:7).

So, do you ‘love’ other Christians? The Apostle John mentions that “whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” [ 1 John 3:10 ]. Loving fellow Christians comes ‘naturally’ to the believer, since “you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9), and that the believer should “excel still more” (verse 10) in their love for the brethren.

Jesus went so far as to say, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” [ John 13:35 ]. The Apostle John, under the ‘inspiration’ of the Holy Spirit, then goes even further: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” [ 1 John 3:16 ]. John defined love as making sacrifices for others—even unto martyrdom!

So, are you happy or ‘put out’ when you come across someone in need and you know you will have to sacrifice some of your time, talents, or treasures? That might be an indication of your commitment to Jesus.

You love for fellow Christians is a ‘benchmark’ of the Christian faith, and solid ‘grounds’ for your assurance!

8: Do You Experience Answered Prayer?
Whatever we ask of God, “we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight” [ 1 John 3:22 ]. God ALWAYS answers prayers that are ACCORDING TO HIS WILL! Obedient believers know His will as stated in His Word, and tailor their prayers accordingly. The answers that will result bring about confidence and assurance! (God is more eager to answer the prayers of His children than they are to ask!)

– Have you prayed for an unbeliever and seen that person become a true Christian?
– Have you sought God about a ‘void’ in your life and have seen Him fill it?
– Have you prayed for forgiveness and a clear conscience and received it?
– Have you sought ‘confidence’ in proclaiming the Gospel and experienced it?
– Have you asked that God would help you lead someone to Jesus, and He helped you?
– Have you sought contentment amidst trying circumstances and experienced God’s peace as a result?

Well, these kinds of prayers are ‘in line’ with God’s will, and are indications that you ‘belong’ to Him and He is ‘in’ you! You can know you ARE a believer if God answers your prayers!

9: Do You Discern the Presence of the Holy Spirit Within You?
“This is how we know that he lives in us: we know it by the spirit he gave us…We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit“ [ 1 John 3:24 ].

The Apostle Paul lists of several ‘qualities’ which he called the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23). The first on the list is love and the next one is joy. So, do you have moments of sheer joy in knowing God just because you are His? If so, that is excellent ‘evidence’ that you know God and are His ‘child’.

The Christian should be able to observe some of the other ‘fruit’ of the Spirit (peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) and say, “the only explanation for this is the Spirit’s presence in me, and that means that YOU ARE a ‘child’ of God.”

“By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” [ 1 John 4:14 ]. If you have committed your life to God, that was the Spirit’s doing. Apart from the Holy Spirit, you wouldn’t know who Jesus is, and you certainly wouldn’t ‘confess’ Him as your Savior and Lord.

Another thing the Spirit does is ‘illuminate’ a believer’s understanding of Scripture: “His anointing teaches you about everything” [ 1 John 2:27b ]. The Apostle Paul explains that “the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” and that “we might understand the things freely given us by God” [ 1 Corinthians 2:10b, 12b ].

Now, consider the ‘effect’ the reading of the Bible has on you, and ask yourself, “Does it convict me when I’m sinful? Does it make me rejoice when I’m worshipping God and asking to advance His Kingdom?” Well, if so, those are definitely signs that the Spirit is illuminating the Scriptures for you!

Illuminating Scripture to you, drawing you into fellowship with God through prayer, producing spiritual ‘fruit’ of grace in your life, and enabling you to minister effectively to others is evidence that you abide in God and He in you! (1 John 4:13).

10: Can You Discern Between Spiritual Truth and Error?
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already” [ 1 John 4:1-3 ].

Can you tell when someone is presenting false teaching about the person and work of Jesus? If so, that is a ‘watershed’ for your Christian faith! False teachers “are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” [ 1 John 4:5-6 ]. True believers know truth from error because the Spirit of Truth ‘indwells’ them (1 John 5:1).

The true believer does not believe every spirit (1 John 4:1). Instead, they “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God” [ 1 John 4:1b ]. The Greek word implies “conducting a rigorous, ongoing examination” of whatever or whoever you expose yourself to. The conquering of the city of Troy is one of the most famous ancient examples of deception. Greek soldiers had laid siege to the city for over 10 years, but were not able to conquer it. In exasperation, Ulysses, a brilliant strategist, decided to have a large wooden horse built and left outside the city walls as a supposed ‘gift’ to the unconquerable Trojans. The Greeks then sailed away in apparent defeat. The curious and proud Trojans brought the horse inside their fortified walls, and that night, the soldiers that were hidden inside the horse crept out, opened the city gates, and let their fellow soldiers into the city. the soldiers massacred the inhabitants, looted the city, and burned it to the ground! Ever since, the “Trojan Horse” has been a symbol of ‘infiltration’ and ‘deception’. Sadly, throughout church history, it has embraced many ‘Trojan Horses’ filled with false prophets.

Satan has effectively used ‘enemies’ disguised as ‘gifts’ to lure people away from the truth of God, and into destructive error. Today’s church is in a particularly severe state of confusion because of its weak doctrine, relativistic thinking, wordily methodologies, inaccurate interpretation of Scripture, lax internal discipline, and spiritual immaturity. Spiritual discernment—separating divine truth from error— is sorely needed (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

The Apostle John said to test for two things: confession of the divine Lord (1 John 4:2-3), and a commitment to the divine Word of God (1 John 4:4-6). [ The cults ‘attack’ the person of Jesus and then postulate a ‘substitute’ or add to the Bible ]. Now, you don’t have to be a seminary graduate or an expert on cults and world religions to distinguish truth from error. If you are not swayed from the basic truths of Jesus’ divine Person, work, and Word, that’s evidence that you have genuine saving faith!

11: Do You Enjoy Listening to the Doctrines That Apostles of Jesus Taught?
“We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood” [ 1 John 4:6 ].

So, if you ‘love’ their teachings from the heart, and apply them to your life so that you can obey them, you are a Christian—and if you really don’t care to listen to these things, that shows that you are not a ‘real’ believer.

Are you hungry to hear the Bible taught in depth? Do you love to discuss the Bible at length with other Christians? These are good signs. Unbelievers barely have anything that even comes close to desires like these.

12: Do You Believe What the Bible Teaches About Jesus?
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” [ 1 John 5:1 ].

The Bible does not ask us for unthinking credulity. Instead, it ‘feeds’ the mind with nutritious evidence to deepen one’s faith.

The greatest evidence of all is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead—and the evidence is insurmountable! [ See this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post for indomitable arguments on Jesus’ resurrection: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/greatest-comeback-ever-v217/ ].

Christians do not believe that Jesus was merely a “great teacher” or an “ascended master.” They confess that, just as He claimed, He is “the way and the truth and the life” and that there is no other way to God the Father but ‘through’ Him (John 14:6). True believers do not doubt that Jesus is the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16).

Whether it is the prophecies about Jesus given centuries before or the testimony about His miraculous virgin birth, His sinless life, His miraculous power, His substitutionary death, or His bodily resurrection, the TRUE Christian believes everything the Bible teaches about Jesus!

13: Have You Suffered Rejection Because of Your Faith?
The last ‘test’ is a painful one: “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” [ 1 John 3:13 ].

Have you experienced animosity, hostility, rejection, bitterness, alienation, ostracism, produce, or outright persecution from representing and advocating what is right?—especially relating to Jesus? If so, that’s a sign that you ‘belong’ to the One who suffered the same way for the same reason!

The fact is, to the ‘worldly’ (remember “Worldly Wise-man” in last month’s post on “The Pilgrim’s Progress”?), you as a Christian “have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things” [ 1 Corinthians 4:13 ]. You are a ‘threat’ to their belief that this ‘world’ is all that is worth living for (1 Peter 4:4).

So, just be sure you are not being hated because you are obnoxious—there’s no virtue in that! (“For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God” [ 1 Peter 2:20 ]).

 

The Apostle John gave all these ‘tests’ so that the believer could have a biblical basis for their confidence in their saving faith—that they are a ‘TRUE’ Christian!

So, let’s do a spiritual ‘inventory’:
– Do you enjoy fellowship with God and Jesus?
– Are you sensitive to sin in your life?
– Do you obey the Scriptures? (especially God’s Commandments?)
– Do you reject the evil in this world?
– Do you love Jesus and eagerly await His return to earth?
– Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life?
– Do you ‘sacrificially’ love other believers?
– Do you receive answers to your prayers?
– Do you ‘experience’ the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?
– Can you discern between spiritual truth and error?
– Do you enjoy studying the Bible?
– Do you believe everything the Bible teaches about Jesus?
– Have you ‘suffered’ on account of your faith in Jesus?

Well, if you can answer “Yes” to most of them—and are working on being able to answer in the ‘affirmative’ to all of them—then YOU CAN HAVE CONFIDENCE BEFORE GOD that you are a TRUE BELIEVER! After all, the Apostle John wrote what he did so “you may know that you have eternal life” [ 1 John 5:13 ].

There is NO REASON for the believer to go through their spiritual experience ‘in the dumps’, yet many Christians do so. Please, please, please, DON’T BE ONE OF THEM!!!

 

You can boil down the Apostle John’s list of ‘tests’ into essentially two categories: Love for God, and love for people (Mark 12:30-31).

At this point, you might again be tempted to despair, because if you have even the slightest amount of self-awareness you probably recognize a strong ‘undercurrent’ of selfishness, idolatry, apathy, and unbelief still present in your heart. So, does that mean you are not genuinely saved? No, that’s not what you should necessarily conclude!

Martin Luther said that in the Gospel was the concept of “simul justus et peculator,” or “simultaneously declared righteous while yet still sinners.” Even after we have been saved our sinful flesh ‘craves’ unrighteousness. Often the strongest evidence of a believer’s growth in grace is that there is growth in their knowledge of their need for grace (1 John 1:8-9; 1 Timothy 1:15).

[ For more details about the believer needing God’s grace and growing in God’s grace, read these previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” posts:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/amazing-grace-v239/;
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/growing-in-grace-v240/ ].

 

If you have ‘really’ been converted, you will think differently. These verses emphasize that: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” [ Matthew 5:21-22 ]. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” [ Matthew 5:27-28 ]. “‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn’…Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” [ Matthew 5:34, 37 ].

No one is a Christian because they went forward at a meeting, signed a card, or because a counselor said they were. In fact, a counselor should never assure someone is saved after that person verbally commits their life to Jesus. NO counselor can be sure of that! It is the Holy Spirit’s ‘job’ to grant assurance to the believer. He grants it by an inward testimony (Romans 8:16) and an outward demonstration (“fruits of the Spirit”). Evidence of salvation is always present in a true believer—primarily through ‘good works’ toward others.

Most people don’t want to try to meet even a FEW of the previous ‘conditions’ of the “tests.” They want to do things their way. They resemble a man with four pieces of luggage—worldliness, sin, Satan, and self—trying to get through the ‘turnstile’ into the Kingdom. They want in so they can have happiness and stay out of Hell, but they want in on their terms. However, the Lord said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” [ Matthew 7:13 ]. Many people enter through the wide gate because they can take their baggage of good works and self-righteousness with them. You have to ‘strip’ yourself of everything to go through the narrow gate!

If you still cling to your worldliness and self-righteousness, you’re on the wrong ‘road’! You may think you’re headed to heaven and that your good works will get you in. But someday you will discover what John Bunyan described in “The Pilgrim’s Progress”: that there is an entrance to Hell from the very ‘portals’ of Heaven (“Ignorance” was shown that route). In fact, Jesus warned people to beware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15-20) because they sell ‘tickets’ to the broad way and they’ll tell you that you can get to Heaven without changing anything in your lifestyle. Many people won’t discover until it is too late that they were on the wrong ‘road’.

Jesus concluded His “Sermon on the Mount” by illustrating the destinations of the broad and narrow roads. He speaks of a wise man who builds his house on a solid foundation and a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand (Matthew 7:26). The foolish man built a beautiful house; his religion looked good. He is one of those who prophesied, cast out demons, and did wonderful works (verse 22), but never ‘came’ to God on His ‘terms’. Then “The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it” [ Matthew 7:27 ].

What a ‘DISASTER’ it would be for you to come before Jesus on Judgment Day and discover that you are ‘sentenced’ to Hell because you didn’t come to Jesus in His way! EXAMINE YOURSELF to see whether you are in the faith! As Peter said, “Be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you” [ 2 Peter 1:10 ].

[ For more details on what the Bible says about the ‘purpose’ of “tests,” view this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/the-purpose-of-tests-v213/ ].

 

SIX ‘LINKS’
Apart from salvation through Jesus Christ, every human being is spiritually at ‘war’ with God—regardless of what their feelings about God may be. In the same way, the person who is justified by faith in Jesus is at peace ‘with’ God, regardless of how they may feel about it at any given moment. Through trust in Jesus, a sinner’s war with God has ended for all eternity!

To those who think God is too loving to send anyone to Hell, Paul declared, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things” (the sins listed in Ephesians 5:5) “the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience, and will have no inheritance in the Kingdom” (Ephesians 5:6).

To this end, the Apostle Paul presented six links in a ‘chain’ of truth that binds all true believers eternally to their Savior and Lord: peace with God (Romans 5:1), standing in grace (Romans 5:2), hope of glory (Romans 5:2-5), possession of divine love (Romans 5:5-8), certainty of deliverance (Romans 5:9-10), and joy in the Lord (Romans 5:11). Do you have this ‘chain’ around your ‘neck’?

 

THINGS THAT ‘ERODE’ ASSURANCE
So, let’s again think about Christian, the “pilgrim” in John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrims Progress.” Not long after Christian encounters the cross of Jesus—where a ‘transformation’ comes over him, and the ‘burden’ (sin) on his back slides off and down the hill into an empty tomb (forgiveness)—he comes upon a hill called “Difficulty.” He hikes halfway up, then stops at a shaded area to rest. Reclining in the coolness of the arbor, he re-reads the “scroll” that was given to him at the cross by the angels. [ In Bunyan’s allegory of the Christian life, this scroll represents the promises of God for salvation, and the assurance of entrance into Heaven ]. But, while Christian sleeps, the scroll falls from his hand.

Christian awakes suddenly to discover that it is getting dark, and he still has far to go. As he hurries, he is met by two men running the opposite way. They press Christian to turn back, warning him of danger ahead. Now, he is frightened and unsure of what to do, but he knows he can’t return to his home, the “City of Destruction,” for he realizes God’s judgment is going to fall on that place. Yet, there is so much uncertainty before him. Needing comfort and assurance, Christian reaches into his shirt for the scroll…but it’s gone!

This part of Bunyan’s story shows what many believers have experienced, namely, that a true Christian may lose a ‘sense’ of their assurance of salvation. This is usually because they refuse to deal with ‘known’ sin.

Willful, unrepentant sin grieves the Holy Spirit, and the Apostle Paul warns believers of this: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” [ Ephesians 4:30 ]. Whenever that happens, the Holy Spirit’s ‘ministry’ to the believer is not to ‘assure’ or comfort them in our sin, but to ‘CONVICT’ them of it!

When a believer continues in known sin, they are living like an unbeliever. God WILL NOT give them a strong ‘sense’ of assurance that they are His when they intentionally and impenitently live like those who are not His!

Obstinate sin ‘corrodes’ peace and assurance, and the Holy Spirit will give the believer loving ‘discipline’: “The Lord disciplines those He loves” [ Hebrews 12:6 ]. Through conviction, God will work to draw us out of sin and back to obedience, to derive assurance (Hebrews 12:8).

So now let’s consider some things that ‘ERODE’ a believer’s assurance.

– A true Christian may also lose a sense of assurance of salvation because of spiritual “laziness”—an indifference about the spiritual ‘disciplines’ of the Christian life

They will not ‘feel like’ reading their Bible, praying, attending public worship, serving in the church, etc. More and more ‘other’ activities take precedence over the things of God in their lives.

So, it is no surprise when the spiritually ‘lethargic’ begin to lose confidence—and they should not be surprised that God gives assurance to the diligent and not to them, spiritual ‘sloths’!

Those who serve Jesus and devote themselves to the disciplines, receive the most assurance that they are disciples. Theologian Jonathan Edwards thoughtfully said, “Assurance is not to be obtained so much by self-examination as by action.”

[ For more info about being a disciple, view these previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/go-tell-all-the-world-v234/; https://markbesh.wordpress.com/outworkings-of-grace-v241/ ].

– A true Christian may also lose a sense of assurance of salvation because of satanic ‘attacks’

Satan hates the people of God, and he hates for Christians to be sure that they are going to Heaven. He knows that they are most effective when they are sure of their salvation, and ineffective when they are not. Satan’s diabolical strategy, in general, is to convince lost people that they are saved, and saved people that they are lost. When Satan tries to get Christians to doubt their salvation, he often attempts to get them to rely on their ‘feelings’ of salvation, and when they wane, as they inevitably will, doubts of salvation ‘crop up’.

So, when Satan tempts Christians to doubt their relationship to God by relying on feelings, looking at their sin, listening to his lies, or comparing themselves with others, believers must reinforce the truth with God’s promises regarding salvation.

Perhaps sometimes the believer doesn’t ‘feel’ saved, or feel ‘close’ to God. Well, feelings are fickle and dangerously misleading, and Scripture never points us to our feelings for assurance. Our ‘feelings’ of assurance will come from maintaining faith in that ‘finished work’ of Jesus. In other words, feelings come ‘from’ assurance, not assurance from feelings.

This illustration might help. Imagine three men walking in a line along the top of a narrow city wall. The first in line is named “Fact,” the second, “Faith,” and the third, “Feeling.” Because the wall is narrow, they need to pay careful attention to where they step. As long as Feeling’s eyes are on Faith, and Faith’s eyes are on Fact, they will all do fine. But the moment that Faith takes its eyes off of Fact and turns around to check on Feeling, both Faith and Feeling will fall off the wall.

[ A similar popular illustration is the one by Campus Crusade using the train with the locomotive as “Fact,” the coal car being “Faith,” and the caboose being “Feeling.” Note: John Piper talks about this, at length, in his ‘post’ in the “Articles” section ].

Our feelings can quickly deceive us—a weakness up Satan loves to exploit. The devil tries to use our feelings to get us to doubt our faith. Pastor Tony Evans said, “Faith is in your shoes, not in your feelings.”

Feelings, however, are the ‘fruit’ of faith and should never be its ‘source’. Pastor J.D. Greear said of this: “Don’t feel your way into your beliefs; believe your way into your feelings.”

John Bunyan, the author of “The Pilgrims Progress,” described how assurance came to him only as he beheld the fact of Jesus seated beside the Father, signifying that the work of his salvation was completed. Prior to this, he said that his assurance would go “in and out” continually, up to 20 or more times per day! One moment, sure he was saved; the next, wondering if he had felt sorry enough for his sin or had robust enough faith to be born again. But, one day he finally said:

“As I was passing through a field suddenly I thought of a sentence from scripture, and that sentence of was, ‘Your righteousness is in heaven,’ and with the eyes of faith I saw Christ sitting at God’s right hand, and suddenly I realized, there is my righteousness, and wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could never say to me, ‘You’re righteousness is insufficient,’ for it was always before Him. I saw that my good frame of heart could not make my righteousness better, nor a bad frame make my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

“And now did my chains fall off indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and my irons; my doubts fled away…now I also went home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.” [ Updated language by Michael Reeves ].

– A true Christian may lose their sense of assurance of salvation because of trials or harsh circumstances

For the Christian, God is ‘associated’ everything somehow. He promises to cause “all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose” [ Romans 8:28 ], even though we cannot perceive the ‘good’ in many things that happen on this ‘side’ of Heaven. Regardless of how horrible the event, there are no “accidents” with God—who is sovereign. No matter how obviously Satan is involved, he never operates beyond God’s ‘leash’. As the story of Job teaches us, Satan can do nothing without God’s approval or apart from His purposes.

The truth is, the ‘discipline’ of God is a biblical sign that God does love and has ‘received’ you (Hebrews 12:5-6). So, if you are a Christian, don’t let circumstance ‘steal’ your assurance. Instead, let them ‘give’ you assurance!

Sadly, people often fail to “count the cost” before they follow Jesus. [ For more details on “counting the cost,” read this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/it-will-cost-you-v233/ ].

Know this: You are NOT a Christian if following Jesus loses its ‘gleam’ under adverse circumstances (Because they probably ‘came’ to Jesus for what He could ‘GIVE/DO’ for them). To these people, there comes a point when it feels like more trouble than it’s worth.

However, ‘true’ Christians endure persecution for the sake of Christ (Hebrews 10:32-39). No amount of trouble could pry them loose. Conversely, those who profess faith in Christ but then abandon Him when trials hit, we’re probably never genuine Christians in the first place.

– A true Christian may lose a sense of assurance of salvation because of an illness or when they are near death

It is possible for a genuine Christian to ‘panic’ when they are very sick and wonder if their soul is safe. It can be a fearful thing to have the reality of death and judgment suddenly come upon you (just like it happened to Christian in “The Pilgrims Progress” at the end of his journey).

Often it is because they look backward to their salvation experience and wonder if they understood enough, or if they were sincere enough. They wonder if they have sufficiently responded to Jesus the way they should have.

So, if you ever doubted that you ‘came’ to Jesus before, ‘COME’ TO HIM NOW! Repent and believe (just as Christian did when he was crossing the River of Death – https://youtu.be/5_Q1NZ9q5_Y?t=5776). If Jesus accepted the faith of the thief on the cross, then He will accept your faith in your weakness and doubt!

William Cowper’s immortal lines in a hymn about assurance and faith might help here:

“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unsearchable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings, in blessings
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust Him for His grace
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast
Unfolding every hour
The bud may have a bitter taste
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain
God is His own interpreter
And He will make it plain.

In His own time
In His own way.”

 

– A true Christian may lose a sense of assurance of salvation because God seems to be withdrawing a sense of His ‘blessings’

Every Christian goes through times of spiritual ‘dryness’. So, what are they to think when God does not seem to hear their prayers? What are they to think when the ‘blessings’ of God, which were so evident in times past, seem to be removed from them, from their ministry, or from their family?

King David, when he was overwhelmed and afflicted, wrote this Psalm:

“Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!

“For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop” [ Psalm 102:1-7 ].

One reason why God may seem to be withdrawing is so that the believer might learn to “live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), and to ‘rest’ their assurance and nothing but Jesus. God may want us to learn to walk by faith in the “darkness” and not by feelings in the “light.”

So, in these times, ‘strengthen’ your wavering assurance with the truth of the Psalms: “Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” [ Psalm 42:5 ].

Getting back to Christian from “The Pilgrims Progress,” when we left him, he had just discovered that the scroll that had given him the assurance of entrance into the Celestial City was missing. As he considered where it might be, he determined that it must be in the arbor where he fell asleep. He recovered his assurance only by returning to the ‘place’ where he lost it.

Believer, have you lost your assurance? Do you have an idea of where you lost it? If so, return to that ‘place’, for there you will find your assurance again!

 

LACK OF ASSURANCE (DOUBTS)
One might say that assurance is the ‘birthright’ (and privilege) of every ‘true’ believer in Jesus. Yet, virtually all Christians will testify that doubts assail their assurance from time to time. Knowing how to handle such doubts, understanding the self-examination that is required (2 Corinthians 13:5), Discerning the evidences of Jesus in us, and above all, focusing our faith and the promises of scripture and the character of God—those are the keys to maintaining true assurance.

Charles Spurgeon was a British Baptist preacher, whose sermons fill 63 thick volumes, is the largest set of books by any single author in the history of Christianity. “Christian History” magazine asserts that “Spurgeon is history’s most widely read preacher (apart from biblical ones). Today, there is available more material written by Spurgeon then any other Christian author, living or dead.”

However, in his autobiography, Spurgeon wrote of his ‘battle’ with doubt: “I felt at that time very weary, and very sad, and very heavy at heart; and I began to doubt in my own mind whether I really enjoyed those things which I preached to others.” Despite his incredible influence, he wondered if he was in “outsider” to the Kingdom of God. “It seems to be a dreadful thing for me to be only a waiter, and not a guest, at the gospel feast.”

So, if Spurgeon experienced occasional doubts about his salvation, then the ‘less gifted’ (like you and me) should not consider themselves strange for struggling with doubts!

 

Now, remember that doubting is not the same as unbelief. Unbelief is unambiguous in its denial of certain things and clear about where it stands (“absence of faith”). Doubt is by definition unsure of its position (“feeling uncertain about something”).

Now, doubt may ‘lean’ in one of two directions. It may be skeptical doubt leaning away from faith and toward unbelief, or doubt can be ‘straining’ toward faith but lacking in something. Often what is lacking is a more ‘thorough’ understanding of the truth. As the ‘pieces’ of the truth increasingly fall into place, they usually are wholeheartedly embraced—and doubt is greatly reduced or eliminated!

 

The causes of doubt can be many. Although it is normal for a real Christian to have ‘occasional’ doubts about being a real Christian, not every believer doubts their salvation for the same reasons. Some doubt comes because of unrepentant sin, spiritual immaturity, Satan accusing them, the pressure of trials or harsh circumstances, their physical or mental condition, and sometimes God withdraws a ‘conscience’ sense of His presence from them, and with that, a sense of assurance.

Well, just as Christian in “The Pilgrims Progress” had doubts at the moment of death about his sins being forgiven, so it is normal for a true Christian to have occasional doubts about salvation. However, persistent ‘chronic’ doubts that persist in the face of every biblical remedy are NOT normal, and should be a source of major concern. Although no doubt should be ignored, chronic worries about salvation demand careful attention and must be addressed immediately and quickly resolved!

 

Nothing is more serious than judgment and eternity, Heaven and Hell. Nothing is more perilous than risking your readiness for them. Doubts about your salvation MUST be confronted!

Christians are NOT at the mercy of their doubts. ‘Armed’ with the truth of God’s Word, every Christian has ‘weapons’ that “have divine power to demolish strongholds” of doubt (2 Corinthians 10:4).

During a low ebb of his assurance, Charles Spurgeon attended church in a town in the English countryside one Sunday—and one of his own sermons was preached. Spurgeon later wrote, “The tears flowed freely from my eyes; I was moved to the deepest emotion by every sentence of the sermon, and I felt all my difficulty removed, for the gospel, I saw, was very dear to me, and had a wonderful effect upon my own heart.”

God fortifies and enriches our assurance with the same material out of which He has built its foundation—His Word and His Spirit.

 

So then, when there are times when the believer wonders if they are genuinely “born again,” what should they do? The answer is relatively simple: Keep believing the Gospel and ‘preach’ it to yourself! ‘Rest’ in the “finished work” of Jesus! That’s all you can do. It’s all you need to do. It’s all that God has ‘commanded’ you to do! Your ‘posture’ should always be one of repentance and Jesus’ finished work—and the hope in His indwelling Spirit. Period!

The Bible, time and time again, reminds us that no one is immune from doubt, spiritual apathy, and severe temptation. The prophet Elijah sank into self-pity and depression right after his stunning victory on Mount Carmel. After speaking with God “face to face,” Moses lost his temper and ‘doubted’ God publicly. After establishing the greatest kingdom Israel had ever seen, King David committed adultery and murder. After preaching a sermon in which 3,000 people were saved, the Apostle Peter fell back into hypocrisy and cowardice. Perhaps God lets His ‘saints’ struggle that way so that their faith will remain in His grace and not in their righteousness.

 

So, why do many believers doubt and have a lack of assurance about their salvation? Well, here are eight ‘basic’ reasons.

STRONG PREACHING
Some lack assurance because they are under strong preaching on God’s holy standard. Such preaching forces people to see their sinfulness and acknowledge that the holiness of God calls them to a lofty standard of living.

Now, that kind of preaching is both biblical and necessary. However, this is woefully rare in churches all across the U.S.—filled with ‘smug’ people who don’t feel particularly insecure because nothing in their life is ever confronted.

The pastor is supposed to create ‘anxiety’, but should also give comfort and assurance to the people to exalt Jesus and desire to be like Him—a biblical ‘balance’.

GUILT
Some Christians lack assurance because they have difficulty accepting the concept of forgiveness. They are often tyrannized by their emotions and feel they are too bad to be forgiven. Conscience ‘speaks’ against forgiveness—it knows nothing of grace and mercy.

IGNORANCE
Many people lack assurance because they do not understand that salvation is an utterly divine, totally sovereign ‘operation’. You will never have the ‘subjective’ feeling of assurance until you comprehend the ‘objective’ truth of the Gospel.

Theologian H.A. Ironside once remarked that “You may never be able to forget the years of wandering, the many sins of which you have been guilty. But that which gives peace is the knowledge that God will never recall them again. He has blotted them from the book of His remembrance, and He has done it in righteousness, for the account is completely settled. The debt is paid.”

Your security from divine judgment doesn’t depend on living a perfect life but on being sheltered by the blood of Jesus. The Christian faith is a ‘secure’ faith. As a famous hymn triumphantly declares, “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith is His excellent Word.”

UNCERTAINTY
Some Christians lack assurance because they don’t know the exact time of their salvation. Some can’t remember ever not believing. Because they can’t pinpoint the exact moment, they doubt whether the moment actually occurred. Don’t look for a past event to make salvation ‘real’, look at the present ‘pattern’ of your life.

Also, don’t worry if you can’t relate to a specific time or ‘event’ as to the moment of your salvation. Focus on your attitudes and character development instead.

[ For details about the attitudes of Jesus that produce the character of Jesus, take a look at the “Fruits of the Beatitudes” website: http://fruitsofthebeatitudes.org/ ].

TEMPTATION
Another reason many believers lack assurance is they feel the ‘pull’ of their unredeemed flesh and wonder whether they really have a new nature. The believer is occasionally drawn into the Romans 7 ‘battle’ between flesh and spirit, doing what they don’t want to do and not doing what they want to do. Then you’ll wonder, “Did I repent enough? Am I sorry enough for my sin? Do I have enough faith?”

There is a balance in all of this. Test yourself in these ways:
– You once ‘lived in sin’ and loved it. Do you now desire deliverance from it?
– You were once self-confident and trusting in your own goodness. Are you ‘working’ on that?
– Do you now judge yourself as a sinner before God?
– You once sought to hide from God and rebelled against His authority. Do you now look up to Him?

If you can honestly say “Yes” to these questions, you have repented. But remember, it is not the ‘amount’ of repentance that counts—it is the fact that you ‘turned to’ God. That puts you in the place where His grace avails to you through Jesus.

Strictly speaking, not one of us has ever repented enough. None of us has realized the enormity of our guilt as God sees it. Repentance will be deepened and will continue day by day, as we learn more and more of His infinite worth and our own unworthiness.

So, do you see the impulses of the new nature in your life? If so, that’s indicative of salvation. If God’s will has become your highest joy, and submission to His lordship your greatest delight, you are indeed a child of God—no matter how strong the ‘pull’ of sin is.

TRIALS
Some Christians become spiritually unstable because they can’t see the ‘hand’ of God in all their trials. They say, “Where was God when I needed Him?”

Well, the Apostle James said, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” [ James 1:2-4 ]. Rather than causing you to doubt, you will see that they are demonstrations of God’s love on your behalf as He helps your get through them all. Trials are the ‘crucible’ in which assurance is formed!

FLESHLINESS
One of the most important ways the Holy Spirit ‘ministers’ to the believer is by assuring them of their salvation. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” [ Romans 8:16-17 ].

Also, the Holy Spirit illuminates Scripture so you can understand it.

Another way a believer knows that the Holy Spirit is bearing witness that they are God’s child is producing spiritual ‘fruit’ in them: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The ‘flesh’ certainly doesn’t produce those things! The fruit of the Spirit is evidence that the believer belongs to God.

DISOBEDIENCE
Perhaps the most obvious reason for lacking assurance is disobedience—because assurance is the reward for obedience.

A practical way of dealing with sin is to eliminate a major sin in your life and usually the rest will follow. When the ‘general’ is killed, the troops usually ‘scatter’.

Satan will also try to make you doubt your salvation. Fall back on the forgiving grace of God, and it will strengthen you for ‘battle’.

So, with all that being said, here’s a practical ‘exercise’ for you to do. If you are lacking assurance—you’re plagued with doubts, have lost your joy, become useless in Christian service, are empty in worship, cold in your praise, passionless in your prayers, and vulnerable to false teachers—whatever the problem—know that there is a ‘cure’: Obeying God’s Word in the ‘power’ of the Spirit. ‘IMMERSE’ yourself in your Bible!

 

THE “UNPARDONABLE SIN”
Many Christians ‘ring their hands’ with uncertainty about whether they have committed the “unforgivable sin.” They read, “Anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” [ Matthew 12:32 ].

The thing is, this is a verbal, intentional, persistent, and unremorseful rejection of Jesus, despite knowing the truth about Him clearly through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. This definition makes the unforgivable sin more than the plain and perpetual unbelief characteristic of most unbelievers.

Therefore, what this all means is, if you are anxious about the unforgivable sin, then you HAVE NOT committed it! Genuine concern about it can be the work of the Holy Spirit, and it is IMPOSSIBLE for Spirit-indwelled people (“born again” Christians) to commit the unforgivable sin! No one who has the Holy Spirit can ever blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, Christians already have all their sins forgiven, so it is impossible for them to commit an unforgivable one!

Again, you CANNOT possibly have committed the unforgivable sin if you are ‘CONCERNED’ that you have committed it! Those who sin the unpardonable sin are unrepentant. They are so ‘hardened’ that they repeat the sin habitually. Never do they even fell a ‘twinge’ of remorse. But, Christians are ‘terrified’ to even think of such a sin. They would rather die than embrace one pardonless sin. If that is your attitude, you are not guilty, and are a ‘true’ Christian!

In his autobiography, “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners,” John Bunyan, the author of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” said he thought he was destined to the same end as Ignorance did just in front of the “Celestial Gates”—thrown into Hell—thinking that he committed the “unpardonable sin.” However, as was mentioned in the previous “Erode Assurance” section, Bunyan finally came to full assurance.

[ FYI: I did a summarization of his book, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” last month: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/leaving-a-legacy-v242/ ].

 

IT MIGHT BE ‘FALSE’ ASSURANCE!
If you feel like you believed in Jesus at one point, but now you don’t, the biblical explanation is unflinching: Your faith was ‘FALSE’! It may have ‘felt’ it was sincere, but the Bible insists that you were sincerely wrong!

In addition to that, if your current life is marked by an ongoing, unrepentant lifestyle of sin with no remorse, the Bible is brutally honest: “When people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil” [ 1 John 3:8 ]. If you’re not growing in holiness, then you, my friend, are a false convert on the ‘highway’ to Hell!

 

Theologian A.W. Tozer had this to say about this: “Hell-deserving sinners are coming in droves to ‘accept’ Christ for what they can get out of Him; and though one now and again may drop a tear as proof of his sincerity, it is hard to escape the conclusion that most of them are stooping to patronize the Lord of glory much as a young couple might fawn on a rich old uncle in order to be mentioned in his will later on.”

God is not a cosmic heart ‘filler’—He is a glorious Savior. To instruct people to “ask Jesus into your heart to fill a God-shaped hole” is like a surgeon telling someone whose heart has stopped to take a multi-vitamin. People don’t need to fill their hearts; they need a heart ‘transplant’! People don’t need Jesus to warm their hearts; they need Jesus to ‘rule’ their hearts. People don’t need Jesus to improve their hearts; they need Jesus to ‘replace’ their hearts.

Sinners should not believe in Jesus simply because they are scared of Hell—they should repent and trust Him because God has been so kind to save them from Hell. Do you see the difference?

Yes, you should be afraid of Hell, but God doesn’t merely want fear-filled conformists—He wants tear-filled converts! It is the ‘kindness’ of God that should lead a sinner to repentance (Romans 2:4).

There are countless wrong ways to respond to the Gospel, but there is only one right way: repentance and faith (or “belief”). Think long and hard on these following questions: Did you respond wrongly to the right Gospel? Did you respond rightly to the wrong Gospel? Have you repented and trusted Jesus, who died for your sins? Were you ever told that you must lay down your arms and surrender to the King? Were you ever told that you must turn from your sinful ways and place your complete trust in Jesus alone? If not, you are NOT a ‘genuine’ Christian convert!

 

Having a false assurance of salvation is the worst mistake anyone can ever make. Pastor and author John MacArthur said this: “False assurance is a more serious problem then no assurance.” If a person is wrong about being right with God and going to Heaven, ultimately it really doesn’t matter what else they are right about!

So how does it happen? What makes people think that they have a good relationship with God and will spend eternity in Heaven, when just the opposite is true? Here are some reasons:

– They have made a public commitment or outward response to the Gospel
– Baptism
– Involvement with the church
– A strong Christian family heritage
– An abundance of good deeds
– An extraordinary ‘experience’
– A dramatic personal or lifestyle change
– Material blessing or financial security
– A false understanding of God
– A false understanding of sin and Hell

So then, what characterizes people who have false assurance?

– They are either unconcerned or angry when warned about false assurance
– They are either legalistic or loose with spiritual disciplines and duties
– They are either very weak in or very confident of their Bible knowledge
– They have either a vicarious Christianity or an overly independent spirit
– They may be constantly resisting the truth or never able to come to the truth

 

Well, you have now been ‘WARNED’ that there is such a thing as a false sense of assurance—of NOT being ‘safe’ with God and headed to Heaven, because of what you HAVE ‘DONE’. (It’s only by faith, NOT ‘works – Ephesians 2:8-9).

So, it’s UP TO YOU to identify ‘where’ you place your hope for Heaven, and to make sure it is in the only One who can forgive you and take you there—Jesus!

 

Similarly, others are wrongly assured that they are right with God because of what they have NOT ‘DONE’. (Like the Pharisees mentioned in Luke 18:11–12). They are self-confident. They say they are “not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers” they can’t imagine God closing the ‘door’ of eternity in their face. So, while some have ‘sham’ assurance thinking that they are so good, others feel spiritually ‘smart’ thinking they aren’t so bad.

The thing is, the believer’s confidence should not in themselves, but in God and His Word. That should be their primary source of assurance—that they ‘KNOW’ Jesus, and have the salvation revealed in the Scriptures.

False assurance also shows us that it breeds ‘pride’. That they ‘earned’ the favor of God. Some are so prideful about their spiritual condition that they refuse to recognize their own potential for unfounded assurance or self–deception.

Just as Bunyan has also shown us in the character of Ignorance, it is typical for non-Christians to think that they are safe when they are not, and to have a “vain hope”—a false assurance of salvation—about being on their way to Heaven.

So, how do people arrive at a false sense of assurance? Well, the first problem is misunderstanding what salvation ‘entails’ or is mistaken as to whether they have met the ‘requirements’.

A few other sources of false assurance, especially conspicuous in the “Evangelical” world are, praying the “Sinner’s Prayer,” raising one’s hand at an evangelistic event, going forward during an altar call, and ‘making a decision’ for Jesus. These are all techniques or methods that are used to ‘call’ people to repentance and faith. The danger is that people who say the prayer, raise a hand, walk the aisle, or make a decision sometimes end up trusting in that particular act. Outward professions can be deceiving. One can go through the external motions of a profession, but not truly be in possession of the inward reality of salvation!

In addition to these, some people have assurance who have no ‘right’ to it! As the old spiritual put it: “Everybody talkin’ ‘bout Heaven ain’t going there.” Some feel all is well between them and God, when it isn’t. They don’t understand the truth about salvation and their own spiritual condition.

 

In regards to receiving false information about salvation, much of our modern-day preaching and evangelism contributes to what is called, “syllogistic assurance.” However, true assurance is the reward of ‘tested’ and proven faith (James 1:2-4; 12 Peter 1:6-9). It’s the Holy Spirit who gives the ‘real’ assurance! (Romans 8:16).

 

Hopefully, if you have discovered why you are a false convert, but there is only one question that remains. What are you going to do with this newly discovered information? The Bible has your answer: today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Do not let the peace and beauty of this day ‘lull’ you into a false security—falsely secure and unprepared people will sink into the fire and a bottomless pit of Hell forever! Only those who have repented and believed in Jesus and the day of His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8), will be rescued from the wrath of God and brought back with Him to live in true peace and indescribable joy forever!

 

EVIDENCES OF ‘FULL’ ASSURANCE
As we have seen, God wants every believer to enjoy full assurance, and it is very clear in Scripture that He does—He ‘inspired’ the Apostle John to write an entire epistle (First John) for this very purpose. The author of Hebrews also encourages the believer, “to realize the full assurance of hope until the end” [ Hebrews 6:11b ], and “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” [ Hebrews 10:22a ].

When your assurance is nurtured by the knowledge that your heart and life have been ‘changed’ by God, and that Heaven is yours solely because of what Jesus has done, one tends to have a different attitude—a ‘humble’ one.

The Bible urges the believer to make sure that they ‘know’ Jesus and are ‘right’ with God the Father, but as we have already discussed, it also warrants them not to have a false sense of security. So, it is important not only to have a assurance of salvation, but also to KNOW WHY you have it!

The famous British preacher Charles H. Spurgeon, stressed in one of his sermons, “Assurance Sought”:

“I can understand a man doubting whether he is truly converted or not, but I cannot countenance his apathy in resting quiet till he has solve the riddle…How can you give sleep to your eyelids till you have known it? Not know whether you are in Christ or not; perhaps unreconciled, perhaps condemned already; perhaps on the brink of health, perhaps with nothing more to keep you out of hell then the breath that is in your nostrils, or the circulating drop of blood which any one of 10,000 haps or mishaps may stop, and then your career is closed—your life—story ended…I am in treaty, I’ve been 60, take off this sluggishness. I asked the Lord to say unto thy soul tonight, “I am by salvation.” He is able, he is willing;…He will do it for you when you eagerly seek it from him.”

 

In his book, “Assurance of Faith,” Joel Beeke said, “At every point in true assurance, the activity of the Spirit is essential.” For the believer, there is a part of the Spirit’s ministry to communicate to believers an ‘internal’ confirmation of their assurance of their salvation. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” [ Romans 8:16 ].

 

So, how does the Holy Spirit give believers this assurance? Well, he ‘opens’ their minds to understand the Bible in ways that give them assurance. He also ‘guides their thinking about biblical ‘marks’ of salvation in their lives. He also brings Scripture and its truths to their minds in various ways that assure them. He causes an ‘INNER SENSE’ of assurance without words.

The entire paragraph of Romans 8:12-17 presents a tapestry explaining the assuring witness of the Holy Spirit:

– The Spirit’s work in developing a sense of ‘ought-ness’ within us (verse 12)
– The Spirit’s help in mortifying the deeds of the body (verse 13)
– The Spirit’s leadership in living as a Christian (verse 14)
– The Spirit’s impartation of the sun ship of adoption (verse 15)
– The Spirit’s witnessing with our spirit that we are God’s children (verse 16)
– The Spirit’s assurance connected with heirship in suffering (verse 17)

This portion of Romans makes it clear that the witness of the Holy Spirit is an important part of the believer’s life and assurance. It is a gift from the father to ensure his children that we truly belong to him. Let us not be content with trade methods for procuring assurance of salvation. Let us see that God has given us the Holy Spirit of His Son, so that we might cry “Abba Father!”

 

The first ‘work’ of the Holy Spirit of God is to convince people of their sin, its implications, and their need for Jesus to save them from the guilt and judgment for their sins. If you have not had a ‘moment’ of assurance like that, then a possible reason is that you have no assurance of salvation because you still need salvation! Most likely, you ARE NOT a Christian!

Assurance may also be experienced by finding the biblical ‘signs’ of salvation in your life, like the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:22–23). The best way to ensure that your inward sense of assurance is to observe the visible ‘marks’ of God’s grace in your life.

[ To find out more about the “marks” of a true Christian, view the “Discernment” and “Conclusion” areas of this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/growing-in-grace-v240/ ].

 

Returning to Christian from “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” at the end of the story, he and his companion, “Hopeful,” cross the River (which is a ‘picture’ of the death) to get to the Celestial City (Heaven). Hopeful finds it very easy going across, but Christian thinks about the sins of his past and starts to sink into “the great darkness and horror.” In this way, Bunyan shows that some believers leave the world with great grace in triumph, While other true Christians may suddenly, in their last final breath, struggle with assurance of their salvation.

Now, just before Christian and Hopeful cross the River, they pass another pilgrim named “Ignorance.” However, He prefers to make his pilgrimage alone rather than with others who profess to be believers.

After Christian and Hopeful traverse the River, Bunyan tells of how after they both give the “Shining Ones” their certificates (‘proof’ of salvation), the “King” commands that the gates be open to receive them, and they enter into the joy of their Lord amid the shouts of praise by many other believers—including love ones, and famous Christians of the past. (For me, this is one of the most moving descriptions of Heaven I have ever read).

HOWEVER, the last paragraph (of “Part 1”) is about that other pilgrim, Ignorance. Instead of walking into the River and eventually finding firm footing (assurance of salvation), Ignorance is ferried across, without any problem, in ‘calm’ waters by a man named “Vein Hope.” [ By this Bunyan suggests how the unconverted may have an easy passing from this world to the next, confident in what will prove to be a ‘vein hope’ of entering the Celestial City (Heaven)].

At the other shore, no one is there to greet Ignorance. With difficulty, he makes his way up the hill alone (whereas Christian and Hopeful were helped up by “Shining Ones”). As he approaches the gates, he expects them to swing open when he gets to them, but nothing happens. So, he begins to knock. A “Shining One” looks down and asks for his “certificate.” He says he doesn’t have one, and pleads for admittance—but the gates stay closed.

Then, there is a command heard from the King that tells a Shining One to go out and bind Ignorance hand and foot, and carry him away. He takes him “through the air to a door in the side of the hill farther down from the Celestial City.” Then, they open the door, and cast him into it. “Then I saw that there is a way to Hell, even from the gates of Heaven.”

Bunyan’s final scene illustrates what Jesus made very plain: that many who consider themselves a true “pilgrim” destined for God’s Celestial City will, to their untimely horror, be abruptly ‘arrested’ at the portal of Heaven, and be cast into the pit of Hell! Even though, all throughout their life, they had believed that they were truly on the path to Heaven, only to discover, at Heaven’s ‘door’, that they relied on ‘vain hope’—and WILL SPEND ETERNITY IN HELL!

 

[ NOTE: I am writing this ‘post’ to INFORM AND REDIRECT all those who are headed to that destiny! Please ‘heartily’ consider what the Bible says about all this! ].

 

So, how can we know the truth before it’s too late? How can we find out now if God will accept us into His ‘Celestial City’?

Well, one can build the assurance of their salvation on only one ‘foundation’: Jesus. He is THE ONLY WAY TO HEAVEN!!!

The great Scottish theologian, John Murray, put it this way:

“The faith and love of the believer have their eb and flow. They are subject to all sorts of fluctuation, but the security of the believer rest in the faithfulness of God… It is upon the determine what type of nurse and civility of God’s gifts that our hearts must rest if we are not to be driven about either fluctuating temperatures or temperatures of our own experience.”

The writer tot he Hebrews said it this way: “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those through faith and practice inherit the promises” [ Hebrews 6:11-12 ]. We inherit the promises through ‘PERSEVERANCE’—patiently ‘holding’ onto our faith.

Puritan pastor, Jeremiah Burroughs wrote: “Our duty is to labor for the assurance of God’s love, for ‘it will assist us in all duties; it will arm us against all temptations; it will answer all objections that can be made against the soul’s peace; it will sustain us in all conditions, into which the saddest of times may bring us.’” To know full assurance of faith is one of life’s greatest joys—perhaps the greatest earthly thing a believer will ever experience!

As Fanny Crosby, that great hymnist of the 19th century, and one of the most prolific in history (writing over 8,000 hymns and songs) said,

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Air of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of the spirit, washed in his blood…
Praising my Savior all the day long.”

 

Fanny Crosby was physically blind, but her soul had beheld the most beautiful ‘sight’ of all: the steadfast love of Jesus!

 

When the believer gets to that ‘point’, Jesus will lead them to more peace and joy than they ever dreamed possible! Their life will then truly become a ‘foretaste’ of Heaven. When one ‘knows’ for certain, that Heaven is your inheritance, they will be moved to radical sacrifice and audaciously risk everything for the Kingdom of God. They can GIVE UP all they have because they know that ‘in’ Jesus they have ALL THEY NEED!

Be thankful for the assurance that you have and let your measure of assurance be reflected in your daily life—good ‘fruit’.

The believer’s primary ‘ground’ of assurance is the ‘PROMISES’ of God in Jesus. Those promises must be applied to a believer’s heart; must bear fruit in their lives, and help them ‘experience’ the Holy Spirit’s corroborating witness with their spirit that they are indeed a ‘child’ of God! Daily God ‘calls’ the believer to live a fruitful life, to speak well of their great ‘assuring’ God, and to serve as the ‘salt’ of the earth.

 

In the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus referred to believers as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14), and that the Christian’s lifestyle should be easily distinguishable from those ‘of’ the world. Just as salt preserves decaying meat, Christians are a ‘preservative’ in the midst of a decaying civilization.

Jesus also compares His disciples to a light set on a hill (Matthew 5:14). It should be evident to those around a believer that their life is somehow ‘different’ than theirs. However, if you do the same things they do—if your life didn’t change when you were supposedly saved—then you probably aren’t a ‘true’ Christian!

 

One of the most critical problems is an inaccurate understanding of the ‘requirements’ of salvation. In other words, bad theology can produce false assurance, and by the same token, good theology leads to true assurance.

A key text of Scripture in regard to the pursuit of assurance is 2 Peter 1:10–11, where we read: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Here, without ambiguity, the apostolic mandate is for us to inquire into the certainty of our election, and not in a cavalier, casual way. Rather, we are to make our calling and our election sure through a DILIGENT PURSUIT!

I cannot think of a more important question to get resolved in the Christian life than the question of whether we are numbered among the elect. If we have a sound understanding of election, and if we know that we are numbered among the elect, that knowledge provides unbelievable comfort and assurance to us as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) and as we encounter the various afflictions that are placed before us in our Christian lives (2 Timothy 3:12).

 

Jesus, in His “High Priestly Prayer,” says that the Father has ‘given’ a certain group of people to Him, to “keep” (John 17:6-12). The Apostle Paul further ‘defines’ this for the believer in what we call “The Golden Chain”: “And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” [ Romans 8:30 ].

Now, this is an ‘abbreviated’ version of the order of salvation, but it gives us the ‘highlights’. [ There are other aspects to salvation besides those mentioned here. For instance, sanctification is not in this list and one has to go back to verse 29 for calling and foreknowledge, then would come predestination, calling, justification, and glorification ].

 

So then, what are the ‘objective’ grounds for assurance? Well, we are assured of our salvation because Scripture promises eternal life to those who ‘BELIEVE’ in Jesus (John 20:31). Our justification before God depends completely upon the Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross and His bodily resurrection. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” [ Romans 5:1 ]. The wrath of God against sinners (you and me), is removed because of what Jesus Christ accomplished total ‘propitiation’ for all believers on the Cross. We are set free from the just condemnation of our sin on the basis of Jesus giving Himself a ‘ransom’ for us on the Cross. God’s Word and the guarantee of eternal life to believers (1 John 5:13-14) is thus the ‘foundation’ of all assurance.

Then, the ‘subjective’ grounds for assurance is that we have the peace of God within us as we understand all that was accomplished for us and realize the relationship we now have with God ‘in’ Jesus. This is the peace of God, that passes all understanding that Paul refers to in Philippians 4:7. Our focus then is to produce ‘fruit’ (i.e. virtues and works) as a way to be thankful for being saved.

 

First off, let me further discuss some of the ‘objective’ reasons for assurance.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” [ John 5:24 ]. That may be the most monumental statement ever made in the Bible relative to the security of salvation. The believer has received everlasting life and will not come under God’s judgment. Jesus also said that, “The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” [ John 6:37 ]. He continued by saying, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” [ John 10:28 ].

The Apostle Paul writing to the Ephesian church, tells them (and us) that we were ‘sealed’ in Jesus “with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession” [ Ephesians 1:13-14 ]. He is saying that Jesus is ‘guaranteeing’ His promises with His ‘seal’ and with His ‘pledge’ that the believer is absolutely assured of eternal life in Heaven.

It also says that when a person becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit takes up ‘residence’, indwelling the believer, to be their Helper and Advocate. He also assures us of our inheritance in Jesus: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” [ Romans 8:16-17 ].

St. Augustine well concluded that, “To be assured of our salvation is no arrogant stoutness. It is faith. It is devotion. It is not presumption. It is God’s promise.”

Now, let me further discuss some of the ‘subjective’ reasons for assurance.—the manifesting of real and righteous ‘fruit’ born out out love for Jesus and the desire to bring Him honor and glory. How does one go about doing that? Well, it starts with ‘remembrance’ and continues with ‘diligence’ (which is made up of excellence, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, and love).

REMEMBRANCE
“Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind” [ 2 Peter 1:12-15 ].

By putting all the spiritual ‘resources’ you have to good use by adding virtue upon virtue. (2 Peter 1-12).

DILIGENCE
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” [ 2 Peter 1:5-7 ].

EXCELLENCE
Beginning with ‘moral’ excellence, the Greek word “arete” came to refer to the quality in a person’s life that make them ‘stand out’—always being in ‘action’.

The Apostle Paul described a believer’s pursuit of excellence as “pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” [ Philippians 3:14 ].

Spiritual excellence is pursuing ‘Christlikeness’. Paul said never give up, but “Excel still more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1e).

KNOWLEDGE
Moral excellence cannot occur in a ‘vacuum’—at it’s ‘heart’ there must be knowledge. The Greek word “gnosis” refers to insight, discernment, and truth properly comprehended.

It is ‘frightening’ to me that our culture has much more interest in feelings and emotions than in thinking and knowledge. Most people ask more often, “How will it make me feel,” instead of “Is it true?” In his book, “Right Thinking” (focused on making disciples), pastor and author Bill Hull said it well: “What scares me is the anti-intellectual, anti-critical-thinking philosophy that has spilled over into the church…making the local church into an experience center…that they are spiritual consumers and that the church’s job is to meet their felt needs.”

Living by emotions rather than right thinking will produce ‘instability’. Pastor and author John R. W. Stott, in his book “Your Mind Matters,” said it this way: “Sin has more dangerous effects on our faculty of feeling than on our faculty of thinking, because our opinions are more easily checked and regulated by revealed truth than our experiences.”

Scripture affirms both of these men’s writings: “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” [ Proverbs 23:7 ]. At the ‘heart’ of all of it is the knowledge that the Apostle Peter says “adds to our faith” (2 Peter 1:5).

SELF-CONTROL
The Greek word used here speaks literally of “holding oneself in” (commonly used to refer to athletes that would abstain from sexual indulgence and unhealthy foods before an event). One exercises self-control when they control their desires rather than letting their desires control them!

PATIENCE
Patience (or “perseverance”), is the godly ‘product’ of self-control. The Greek word “hupomone” refers to endurance in doing what is right and never giving into temptation. It is said of Jesus that “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” [ Hebrews 12:2b ]. That’s Christian ‘steadfastness’—the courageous acceptance of everything that life can ‘throw’ at us, and simply accepting and enduring it.

GODLINESS
At the ‘heart’ of persevering, endurance is godliness (2 Peter 1:6), and the Apostle Paul tell sue that “godliness with containment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).
– The Greek word, “eusebeia,” speaks of a practical awareness of God in every area of one’s life—a “God consciousness” (NOT the ‘new age’ kind!). Giving the God of the Bible His rightful ‘place’ in us by worshipping Him as He ought to be.

The believer is to love and adore God with a life of devotion to His holy will. King David said, “I have set the Lord continually before me” [ Psalm 16:8 ].

The believer is to pursue a practical awareness of God in every aspect of their life.

LOVE
Godliness leads to what the Apostle Peter describes as “brotherly kindness and love” (2 Peter 1:7). The “brotherly kindness” Peter is talking about is a translation of the Greek word, “philadelphia” (yes, like the city). Affectionate might be the best translation.

A love for God leads to a love for others—Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments with “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” [ Matthew 22:37-38 ].

“Agape” love is the ‘highest’ form of log en the Greek language (others are: Eros, Phileo, and Storge). So, what does this love look like? Well, a survey of the “one anothers” in the New Testament gives us a good picture of it:

– Confess our sins to one another
– Forgive one another
– Bear on another’s burdens
– Rebuke one another
– Comfort one another
– Encourage one another
– Edify one another
– Counsel one another
– Submit to one another
– Instruct one another
– Be hospitable to one another
– Bear with one another
– Pray with one another
– Serve one another

These clearly indicate the responsibilities that believers have toward others in their lives. So, as a believer, you must be characterized by brotherly kindness and love.

All of these combine to ‘produce’ FRUITFULNESS. So, if excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and love “are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” [ 2 Peter 1:8 ].

If the believer wants to enjoy spiritual assurance in all its ‘richness’, then they must diligently pursue all of these virtues—which produces a ‘fruitful’ Christian life.

Nothing is more indicative of true salvation than ‘fruitfulness’—a criterion Jesus used in distinguishing between the true and the false convert. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” [ Matthew 7:15-20 ].

 

Believers who are not fruitful go spiritually ‘blind’ because their perspective is limited. They focus on the ‘earthly’ things. By the time they try to ‘look’ to eternity, it is so out of ‘focus’ that they can’t perceive it. They are victims of ‘spiritual myopia’.

So then, how does the believer avoid this fate? Well, the Apostle Peter answered it this way: “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble” [ 2 Peter 1:10 ].

When you are manifesting the reality of your salvation by ‘bearing’ fruit, you will never ‘fall’ from confidence into doubt.

There is nothing worse than to fear Hell, thinking you’re not really saved. In the simplest terms, the way to be certain about your salvation is to ‘grow’ spiritually—again doing what Peter said: ‘practicing’ excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and love (2 Peter 1:8). If the believer does this, they will never ‘stumble’ into doubt, despair, depression, grief, or fear over their spiritual ‘condition’. They will ALWAYS have confidence and FULL ‘ASSURANCE’ of their salvation!

Now, seeing increased ‘fruitfulness’ in your life is a great blessing, but in fact, there are greater blessings: “for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” [ 2 Peter 1:11 ]. By pursuing the previously noted ‘virtues’, not only will the believer enjoy assurance here on earth, they will receive eternal ‘rewards’ in Heaven—the ‘goal’ of the believer’s spiritual ‘pilgrimage’.

[ For more details on the Christian’s ‘pilgrimage’, see last month’s post about the book, “The Pilgrim’s Progress”: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/leaving-a-legacy-v242/ ].

 

If you are truly a Christian, but do not diligently pursue moral virtue, you will live in doubt and despair, perpetually worrying about your spiritual ‘condition’, and wondering whether you are really saved—since you are not seeing any increase in ‘HOLINESS’ in your life. (And you might be right—that you never were “saved”!) In the future, when you enter Heaven, you will not receive the ‘abundant’ supply of rewards that you could have if you had pursued moral excellence and personal holiness!

It is a basic Christian truth that the believer is supposed to live their lives in the “light of eternity” (1 Peter 4:7-11)—“laying up treasures in Heaven” (Matthew 6:19-21). Those who have diligently and faithfully pursued holiness will receive a “SUPERABUNDANT,” VERY EXCEEDING REWARD (Genesis 15:1; 2 Corinthians 3:12; 2 Timothy 4:8).

So, believer, EXAMINE YOUR LIFE! If you don’t see any ‘moral’ virtue, then you really don’t have any evidence to verify your salvation! However, if you do see it, you have considerable reason to be “certain about His [God’s] calling and choosing you” [ 2 Peter 1:10 ].

 

STILL NOT SURE?
Just like “Ignorance” in “The Pilgrims Progress,” a person can feel quite secure and assured that they are bound for Heaven, even up to the moment of condemnation (the ‘gates’ of Heaven), but be wrong! How can this be?

Well, here are a few ‘contrasts’ between true Christians and falsely assured professing Christians. True Christians are ‘fearful’ of sinning away their assurance (sometimes assurance atrophies as the result of sin). They prize assurance enough to try to ‘protect’ and not lose it.

Spuriously assured persons, however, simply take their assurance for granted. Casual and nonchalant would describe their attitude toward assurance. They say things like “I was baptized, “I was confirmed, “I go to church, “I prayed a prayer,” “I was raised in a Christian home,” or “God will forgive me.”

 

How, then, can we know with certainty that our professions of faith are motivated by the possession of true saving grace?

Well, theologian R.C. Sproul says that there are four kinds of people to concern ourselves with:

1) Those who are saved and know it: They have full assurance that they are in a state of grace. It is a ‘settled’ matter for them.

2) Those who are saved but don’t know it: These people are urged by the Apostle Peter to diligently work at making their “calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:3-11).

3) Those who are unsaved and know it: These people deny that they are in any ‘danger’ of the wrath of God, or some even deny the existence of God—but beneath the ‘surface’ and facade, there is an awareness of serious trouble before God.

4) People who are unsaved but do not know it: These people are definitely not in a state of grace, but ‘think’ they are. In short, they have a ‘false’ assurance.

[ I would STRONGLY suggest that you determine WHICH TYPE you are, and then, if need be, address it ASAP! ].

Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones said is this: “Nothing is more important for us than to know that we are indeed the children of God…You can’t really enjoy the blessings of the Christian life unless you’ve got this assurance.”

As established earlier, ‘true’ Christians may lack assurance about the reality and security of their relationship with God. Genuine, faithful followers of Jesus may hear Jesus’ statements in Scripture about false assurance and be deeply grieved. Their consciences tell them that sometimes there are ‘traitorous’ tendencies in their own hearts. So, they may hear the warnings that many are falsely secure in their hope of Heaven, and with grief in their hearts ask, “Surely not I, Lord?!”

So then, what do you do at this point if you still have no assurance of your salvation, and of going to Heaven? Well, PURSUE IT NOW! Don’t wait another minute! (At least read this ENTIRE POST a ‘FEW’ times!)

 

The following is some ‘sure footing’ from the Scriptures, as well as some insights of past generations of godly men:

– Don’t Take For Granted That You Understand the Gospel
Without the knowledge of the Gospel’s ‘basic’ message, you cannot be a Christian.

The ‘minimum’ we must understand about the Gospel to be is a message from God about personal sin, the death of Jesus as ‘payment’ for your sins, and Jesus’ victorious resurrection. To know the benefit of this message, Jesus said we must “repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).

– Think ‘Deeply’ About the Gospel
Theologian John Murray observed, “Too frequently believers entertain far too truncated a conception of salvation, as if, for example, it consisted merely in the forgiveness of sins and freedom from its penalty.” ‘Mere’ forgiveness of sins and freedom from its penalty are only a ‘part’ of salvation. Think not only of them, but of the great doctrines related to the Gospel like adoption, election, justification, sanctification, and glorification. [ See Romans 8 ]. Assurance is drawn from thinking about the Gospel ‘deeply’.

– Repent of All Known Sin
Pastor and author Joel Beeke put it like this: “The Christian cannot experience high levels of assurance while he participates in low levels of obedience.”

When sin ‘dims’ the believer’s perception of their salvation, repentance restores assurance. Although God is not pleased with our sin, He is pleased with our returning, with a broken and contrite heart.

Puritan minister and writer Thomas Watson concluded, “He who is conscious to himself of secret sins, cannot draw near to God in full assurance.” Furthermore, God “will not pour the wine of assurance into a foul vessel.”

When King David was exposed and confessed, He learned that “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Once he had made a thorough work of repentance, God restored to him the joy of his salvation (Psalm 51:12). He will also graciously and fully restore us, just as he did King David, when we wholeheartedly ‘return’ to Him.

[ Consider viewing this video by Todd Friel about “12 Signs of a Repentant Heart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QonlaJ0u8E ].

– Submit Everything to the ‘Lordship’ of Jesus
Repenting of a particular sin is the ‘surgery’ for a specific sin that has made you spiritually ill. Submitting everything in your life to the Lordship of Jesus is the way to maintain good spiritual health.

Puritan preacher and author Thomas Brooks wrote, “The more the soul is conformed to Christ, the more confident it will be of its interest in Christ.”

Theologian R.C. Sproul put it succinctly: “If Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, likewise assurance comes by hearing the Word of God. As I meditate on the Scriptures, my assurance is strengthened.” As we have seen, that is especially true in the letter of First John, the part of the Bible that is specifically written to give the believer assurance.

– Don’t Doubt the Promises of God
The believer must also be careful of needing ‘more’ assurance than God offers to you through His promises. Charles Spurgeon chided those who require more than this for assurance: “They have believed in the Lord Jesus, and they have his promise that they shall be saved, but they are not content with this—they want to get assurance, and then they suppose they shall have a better evidence of their salvation then the bare word of the Savior.”

So, take assurance from the promise of God: “If you confess with your mouth, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” [ Romans 10:9 ]. Not ‘might’ be saved, ‘WILL’ be saved! Believe God’s promise “that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

– Believe as Best You Can and Pray for Greater Faith
For many without assurance, the doubt is not with the truth of God’s promises. What they doubt is ‘their faith’ in the promises. “I want to believe, but have I?”

Well, the ‘place’ to look for evidence of life is the present. it is more important to find the ‘signs’ of the Spirit in your life today than in the past—like the increasing ‘fruit’ of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in one’s life.

[ For more info about the ‘fruit of the Spirit’, view this web site: http://fruitsofthebeatitudes.org/ ].

– Practice Spiritual ‘Disciplines’
God requires that we ‘cultivate’ assurance through the faithful use of the means of grace that He has given to us. He commands believers to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” [ 1 Timothy 4:72 ].

These God-given means of grace are what Christians have called the “spiritual disciplines”—those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth—like Bible study, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship of time and money, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, learning, and more.

[ For more info about spiritual disciplines, view these previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/go-tell-all-the-world-v234/; https://markbesh.wordpress.com/outworkings-of-grace-v241/ ].

 

Thomas Brooks said, “Without the diligent use of means, a lazy Christian has no right to expect to receive assurance.”

The Apostle Paul charged his protégé, Timothy, “for this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” [ 2 Timothy 1:6 ].

When you see the ‘fire’ and ‘fruit’ of the Holy Spirit in your life, your assurance will be more ‘radiant’.

Again, Thomas Brooks said it well: “Grace is most discernible when it is most in action…Were your grace more active, it would be more visible; and were your grace more visible, your assurance would be more clear in full.”

 

— Non-Christians Don’t Love God Passionately
One of the best indications that you ‘KNOW’ God is by an abiding, sacrificial, and demonstrable love for Him (1 Corinthians 8:3). If you find your most satisfying pleasure in God, then it has been changed by the grace of God. Such affection for God is not natural—it is ‘supernatural’.

St. Augustine said, “Love God. You will not find anything more worthy of love. You love silver, because it is more precious than iron or bronze. You love gold still more, because it is more precious than silver. Still more precious stones, for they are prized above gold. Last, you love this light; which all who dread death fear to leave. You love light, I say, as he loved it, with deep longing, who cried to Jesus: Son of David, have mercy on me.”

If it grieves you that you do not love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, then YOU ARE a Christian!

 

— Non-Christians Don’t Hate Their Sin Deeply
Still, there are times when Christians cry out with the Apostle Paul, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” [ Romans 7:24 ]. Christians ‘ache’ for the day of deliverance from their own sinful desires.

The insightful Puritan theologian John Owen put it this way: “Your state is not at all to be measured by the opposition that sin makes to you, but by the opposition you make to it.” So, don’t judge whether you are simply saved by how much sin fight against you, even when you feel saturated with sin. The question is, “How much do you hate it and fight back?” Instead of being devastated by the presence of sin, take assurance from your hostility against it!

 

— Wait Patiently on God To Give You a ‘Fuller’ Assurance
The Westminster Confession of Faith says of assurance, “A true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it.” If you have done all you know to do and still don’t have assurance, then stay faithful, keep praying, and wait! (Yes, that’s VERY HARD to do!)

So, while waiting, Thomas Brooks recommended, “Don’t sit down discouraged be up and doing.” Don’t wait passively. Assurance is often like a ‘seed’, it takes time to grow. Your job is to remove any ‘weeds’ (sins) that could hinder its growth. You should then ‘water’ with the Word of God in prayer, and cultivate it with other spiritual disciplines. But, only God can make it grow.

God often gives this testimony to the person who has waited in a pit of despair about assurance: “I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay”
[Psalm 40:1-2]. (Yes, that’s what U2’s song “40” is all about!)

But, no matter how long it takes, Thomas Brooks was right when he said: “God never hath failed, and never will fail the waiting soul…Assurance is a jewel worth waiting for.”

Just like salvation is the mysterious ‘teamwork’ between God and man, assurance is a mysterious ‘gift’ from God—since it is freely given, and sometimes you don’t even know you have it—and it is not given to you because of your efforts. However, it will not come without your efforts either! Hmmm…very mysterious!

Again, Thomas Brooks instructs us: “Remember, Christians, that the want of the exercise in grace is the reason why you do not discern your grace, and why you have no more assurance of your future happiness.”

An English Puritan pastor, Anthony Burgess, suggested that God sometimes withholds assurance so that we might taste and see how ‘bitter’ sin is. He keeps assurance from some in order to keep them from spiritual pride. With others, He waits to give assurance so that when He does give it, they will prize it all the more and never take it for granted the way some do. There are other cases where He delays assurance so that as His ‘children’ continue to obey Him by faith—and He is honored all the more. Then there are those believers who must wait a long time for assurance so that through their experience they may be able to comfort others who believe but lack assurance. If God still has not given you assurance, perhaps Burgess has revealed His reason. Regardless, the key question is not “What is God doing?,” but “What will YOU DO?” Will you continue to obey God, seek Him, and live for Him, even if He never gives you assurance?

 

To keep living by faith like this and not by spiritual ‘feelings’ is in itself a good evidence of salvation. Only one who has been ‘elected’ would make for assurance of God’s love, would keep hungering for the things of the Spirit, and would keep persevering toward Heaven.

When God had allowed him to lose his family, wealth, and health, Job exclaimed, “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in Him” [ Job 13:15 ].

God IS ‘GOOD’ and WANTS to grant the believer assurance of their salvation! But, sometimes He does wait to grant it. However, He is gentle and wise, and has reasons to allow His children to be without a sense of assurance. So, as a believer, don’t doubt His goodness or compassion on this. Thomas Brooks can give us a final word on this:

“If you would strengthen and maintain your assurance, then see to it that your hearts run more out to Christ than to assurance; to the sun then to the beams, to the fountain than to the stream, to the root than to the branch, to the cause than to the effect, Song of Solomon 1:13. Assurance is sweet, but Christ is more sweet. Assurance is lovely, but Christ is altogether lovely, Song of Solomon 5:16. Assurance is precious, but Christ is more precious…Therefore, thy eye and heart, first, most, and last, be fixed upon Christ, then will assurance bed and board with thee.”

 

PERSEVERANCE
‘True’ believers can have confidence that they will endure until the end because it is the God who ‘KEEPS’ His people faithful (Ephesians 1:13-14; John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39).

Now, just as believers’ salvation is not their own doing, neither is their perseverance. The AMAZING GRACE of God which saves wretches (like you and me) is the same amazing grace that will take them ‘home’.

[ Link to the specific spot in the video: https://youtu.be/wF3FX43F-7Y?t=93 ].

 

Therefore, the true Christian WILL ENDURE ‘rotten’ things with joy because their biggest ‘problem’ has been solved—total forgiveness of their sins!

 

Now, this raises a big question: Did you believe in Jesus for the right ‘motive’? Did you come to Him seeking Him and the forgiveness He offers, or did you believe in Him because you wanted your life to be enhanced? If “life enhancement” (the “prosperity gospel”) describes your reason, then YOU NEVER BECAME a Christian. Becoming a Christian does not necessarily make life better—it makes you acceptable to God!

[ However, if you are still reading this, then you STILL HAVE A CHANCE to become a Christian! ]

 

Again, in John Bunyan’s classic, “The Pilgrims Progress,” ‘protagonist’ Christian encounters many people on his path to the Celestial City—many that were wanting to get to the Celestial City only to ‘turn away’ from the path when the going got rough. These people, in Bunyan’s view, were never saved, despite their initial confession and beginning steps of faith. Bunyan’s message was clear: those who do not persevere until the end are not saved, and will not end up in Heaven!

Theologian Wayne Grudem concludes: “The perseverance of the Saints means that all those who are truly born-again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born-again.”

Or, in a slightly less academic form from a pastor and the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear, “Faith that fizzles before the finish was flawed from the first.”

So, like repentance and faith, perseverance and assurance of salvation are two sides of the same coin. One can never be possessed apart from the other. So, if you want to know for sure that you are saved, you must maintain your ‘posture’ of repentance toward God and faith in Jesus. Persevering in the faith is how you “make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).

As a believer, we all will struggle with indwelling sin for the rest of our lives, and note that the greatest of ‘Saints’ (some listed in Hebrews 11) all experienced bitter, unsuccessful struggles within that it almost drove them to total despair! The hymn writer Robert Robinson wrote about this: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, Lord, take it and seal it, seal it for the courts above!” (“Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing”).

 

That kind of heartfelt prayer is really good ‘proof’ of saving faith. The struggle against sin should ensure the believer of their salvation, not make them doubt it!

As theologian Tom R. Schreiner says it, “Perseverance is not perfection; it is a new direction. The believer may sometimes fall, but each time they get up again, looking heaven word, the righteous man falls seven times and get back up again.”

 

As I have said, the Bible gives both warnings and assurances, and that, the Apostle Paul said, we should “Examine yourselves as to whether you are [really] in the faith” [ 2 Corinthian’s 13:5 ]. It’s the Holy Spirit that assures us that we ‘belong’ to Jesus, that we are safe in His ‘hand’, and that when we are faithless, he will remain faithful (2 Timothy 2:11-13).

 

The Apostle Paul tells us that God’s promises in Jesus cannot fail because His character is true and faithful (2 Corinthians 1:18-20). Specifically, the irrevocability of God’s gifts (Romans 11:29; 1Corinthians 2:12); the inviolability of God’s ‘oath’ (Hebrews 6:17-20); the perfection of Jesus’ work as a Mediator (Hebrews 10:19-23); and the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit’s ‘application’ of Jesus’ work in the believer (1 Corinthians 2: 10-14).

Know that, as assurance grows in the believer, God’s promises become increasingly real, personally and experientially. Jonathan Edwards believed that assurance is, first of all, based upon an awareness of having spiritually applied the promises of God to one’s heart: “A spiritual application of the Word of God consists in applying it to the heart, in spiritually enlightening, satisfying influences.”

In “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” when Christian was confined in “Doubting Castle,” “Giant Despair” beat him and threaten to kill him the next day. But, that night Christian remembered (with the help of Faithful) that he had the ‘key of promise’ in his pocket. Using it, he quickly opened all the castle’s locks and both escaped. Bunyan’s message is unmistakable: we don’t need a personal ‘revelation’ or experience to believe that those promises are given specifically to us!

So ask yourself: “Do I know something experientially of what the Reformers and especially the Puritans called “The Three Acts of Faith”?

1: Are you experientially acquainted with a saving ‘KNOWLEDGE’ of faith, which you understand that you are saved only by Jesus’ ‘passive’ obedience paying for your sins, and His ‘active’ obedience in obeying the law perfectly on your behalf, so that God can “be just, and the justifier of him which believe in Jesus” (Romans 3:26)? Has the Spirit shone the supernatural ‘light’ of the Gospel into your soul (2 Corinthian’s 4:6)?

2: Are you especially acquainted with a saving ’ASSENT’ of faith, whereby you wholeheartedly commit to God’s Gospel truth in terms of salvation—that salvation is all through God’s Word alone, by grace and faith alone, in Christ alone, to His glory alone? (The “Five Solas”).

3: Are you experientially acquainted with the saving ‘TRUST’ in the triune God and His Gospel of salvation, such that you truly ‘rest’ in Jesus and His finished righteousness as a compellingly full, rich, and glorious Savior for you needy soul?

[ For more info about how the Bible defines faith or “belief,” view this section of “The Search For Meaning” web site: http://4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q10_d4_1of10.html ].

 

God ‘warns’ us about the dangers of falling away because He wants to ‘rouse’ the falsely assured out of their ‘slumber’ before it is eternally too late! At the same time, He also wants to ‘compel’ believers onward to the “Celestial City.”

For me, it’s ‘assuring’ that God constantly reminds me that “He who has begun a good work in [us] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” [Philippians 1:6].

 

CONCLUSION
I darted this post with a verse of Scripture that I (and MANY others) consider to be the MOST TERRIFYING in the Bible—when Jesus said that He “never knew you; and depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” [ Matthew 7:23 ]. The thing is, He said that to ‘very religious’ people who thought they were an easy ‘in’ for Heaven!

Jesus was making a clear distinction between those who merely ‘claim’ to be Christians, and those who ‘truly’ are. The difference is that ‘true’ believers DO THE WILL of God the Father. In the words of the Apostle James, they are “doers of the Word, and not just hearers only, deceiving yourselves” [ James 1:22 ].

“Hearers” translates the Greek word “akroatis,” which speaks of ‘auditing’ a class—if a student doesn’t do the work in a class, the ‘auditor’ (teacher) will fail them. The phrase “deceiving yourselves” speaks of being ‘victimized’ by one’s own faulty reasoning.

People who ‘listen’ to God’s Word but never obey it are spiritual ‘auditors’ who delude themselves by thinking that hearing the Word is all God requires of them. Unfortunately, many churches are full of such people. They attend services and hear the sermons, but their lives never seem to change. The are content to hear the Word but never ‘apply’ it! Like those whom Jesus condemned in Matthew 7, they have chosen ‘religious activities’ over true faith in Jesus!

How tragic to think that all your life you think you are saved (like “Ignorance” in “The Pilgrim’s Progress”), only the hear: “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” at the ‘gates’ of Heaven from Jesus!

The thing is, that will NEVER HAPPEN if you are a ‘DOER’ of the Word!—and that is what this entire ‘post’ IS ALL ABOUT. To make sure YOU ARE A ‘DOER’!!!

 

Now, this can sometimes be REALLY ‘TOUGH’ to do in these unstable and ‘uncertain’ times, where rock-solid ‘assurances’ are hard to come by. But a ‘true’ Christian CAN DEAL IN ‘CERTAINTIES’ in this uncertain world—and that is where the ‘rub’ comes in. It is an ‘offense’ to most people that you are certain or ‘ASSURED’ about something. They think it is a really ‘intolerable’ position to take. But GOD PROMISES IT to the ‘true’ believer!

Pastor John MacArthur said that, “The Bible is a book of ‘absolutes’ and ‘certainties’. Christians are certain how the universe began. Christians are certain how it will end. Christians are certain why God created and how His purpose in the beginning will consummate in the end. Christians are certain about why people behave the way they behave. Christians are certain about what is right and what is wrong. Christians are certain about the elements that make for good human relationships. Christians are certain about what is necessary to go to Heaven. Christians are certain there is a Hell and certain about how people get there. Christians are about God’s Son, Jesus, our Savior. Christians are certain about Jesus’ substitutionary death, His literal resurrection, and His Second Coming. Christians are certain about all these things, absolutely certain.”

For the believer, God has even given them a ‘guarantee’ for the truth of His redemptive promise. “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory” [ Ephesians 1:13-14 ].

When you became a believer, because you put your trust in Jesus as your Savior, God promised you eternal life—and ‘secured’ that for you! He then had the Holy Spirit immediately take up ‘residence’ in your ‘heart’ to guide you through life.

 

The Apostle John, reiterating what Jesus’ said, notes that there are TWO ETERNAL ‘CERTAINTIES’: “He who has the Son has the life [ eternal life in Heaven ] and he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” [ eternal life in Hell ] (1 John 5:12).

The ‘true’ born-again believer can ‘KNOW’ FOR CERTAIN they are headed to Heaven…forever! “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” [ 1 John 5:13 ].

[ FYI: In most Bibles, the ‘section’ from verse 13 until the end of the letter (verse 21) is called “This Is Written That you May Know” ].

 

The Apostle John’s purpose in this letter is to create ‘certainty’ in the minds of true Christians, and to assail any unnecessary fears, doubts, and uncertainties. That is why he used the word “know” 39 times in his letter, seven times in the closing section.

John wants the believer to ‘KNOW’ that God wants them to live in certainty of their salvation. So throughout his epistle, he gives doctrinal ‘tests’ to determine the genuineness of anyone’s salvation. So that, if a person ‘passes’ the tests, then they will ‘KNOW’, FOR SURE, that they are saved, and can live with that certainty their entire life!

 

So then, let me try to list the ‘highlights’ of what I have discussed about John’s first letter here:

First off, the Apostle John says that to really ‘KNOW’ a deep, lasting joy, the believer must ‘know’ Jesus: “…eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us…so that our joy may be complete” [ 1 John 1:2,4 ].

Then John tells the believer that they were made to live ‘substantive’ lives in Christ: “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 cleanses us from all sin” [ 1 John 1:7 ], “…whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” [ 1 John 2:5-6 ], and “…it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” [ 1 John 3:10 ].

Another major teaching is that the believer’s sin IS ‘REAL’, but God is willing to forgive them when they repent, and then they are fully ‘cleansed’ from them: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [ 1 John 1:9], and “…Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins” [ 1 John 2:1b-2a ].

John then ‘warns’ the believer of the incessant ‘fleshly’ desires of the world, and to let Jesus ‘fill’ that hunger: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” [ 1 John 2:15 ].

The believer is then reminded of Jesus’ ‘primary’ mission—to rescue and redeem His creation (primarily humanity): “God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” [ 1 John 4:9-10 ].

In addition to being ‘redeemed’, the believer is then told that they are also to be ‘formed’ into the likeness of Jesus: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him” [ 1 John 3:2 ].

Now that the apostle has given a “new commandment” to the believer (“Whoever loves his brother abides in the light” – 1 John 2:10), he says that since they have been forgiven of their sins, they should now then “lay down their lives for their ‘brothers’” (1 John 3:16), and when they do love others, they can be assured that the love of God is ‘in’ them (“…if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” [ 1 John 4:12-13 ]), and that the believer is ensured that the Holy Spirit ‘indwells’ them. The believer is to show true love through many forms of ‘sacrifice’.

John then puts the ‘cherry on top’ by telling the true believer that they can ABSOLUTELY ‘KNOW’ that they have eternal life!: “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.” [ 1 John 5:13 ]

 

The Apostle John then goes on to give four other ‘assurances’:

1) “…if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” [ 1 John 5:14b ]. So, while we are waiting to ‘enter’ into eternal life, we have needs, problems, struggles, concerns, and issues to deal with. So, in the meantime, the believer ‘KNOWS’ that God will ‘answer’ their prayers—anything according to His will.

2) “We know that no one who is born of God sins. But he who is born of God keeps Him and the evil one does not touch him” [ 1 John 5:18 ]. This means that the believer can ‘KNOW’ that they have ‘victory’ over sin. Just remember, it’s not ‘perfection’ he’s talking about, it’s ‘direction’. It’s not the complete absence of sin he’s talking about, it’s a ‘pattern’ of righteousness replacing the pattern of sin.

3) “We know that we are of God and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” [ 1 John 5:19 ]. The believer ‘KNOWS’ that they ‘belong’ to God. He bought them with a ‘price’. They are His. The thing is, they have really been His since He purposed to redeem them “before the foundations of the world”! (Ephesians 1:4). We have ‘access’ to the throne of God. [ On the other hand, the whole world ‘belongs’ to the evil one, Satan ].

4) “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” [ 1 John 5:20 ]. The believer ‘KNOWS’ that Christ is the true God. They know that the Son of God has come and has given them understanding in order that they might know Jesus is “true God of true God” (the Nicene Creed), and that they are ‘in’ Him (their ‘identity’). The believer’s faith is not theoretical, it is based on an abiding reality: Born of a virgin. Lived a sinless life. Died a substitutionary death. Rose literally from the grave. Ascended to the right hand of the Father, and is interceding for them. Someday in the near future, He will come back to earth to ‘set up’ His Kingdom.

 

So, there you are…John’s ‘letter’ ends. The believer can ‘KNOW’, FOR SURE, that they have eternal life! They KNOW along the way, to get to their eternal life, their prayers will be answered (either “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait”). They KNOW they have victory over sin. They KNOW they belong to God and they KNOW Jesus Christ is the one true God and eternal life. Therefore, if they KNOW those things to be true, it is evidence that they belong to God, and their lives should manifest a pattern of righteousness.

 

So we’ve come full circle back to the ‘issue’ I started this post with: “How do you tell if someone—especially yourself—is a believer?” Well, you look at their life. If there is a constant pattern of virtually unbroken sin, one would know that their ‘slavery’ has not yet been eliminated. The one ‘born’ of God does not continue in that same ‘pattern’ of sin.

 

Now, just a bit of ‘cautionary’ advice. There are two ‘extremes’ to be avoided in this matter of assurance. One is the error of settling for assurance that comes too easily. This can lead to a shallow, false assurance, and a fatal spiritual apathy. This false assurance is the ‘bane’ of our age! At the other extreme, is the chronic uncertainty that leads to a preoccupation with oneself, one’s fears, in one’s feelings. It results in a vacillating, feeble faith. Sadly there are still entire denominations today where true, settled assurance is almost unheard of.

 

Toward the end of the Apostle Paul’s final letter—with his death looming on the horizon—he wrote, “for I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing“ [ 2 Timothy 4:6-8 ].

My prayer is that when you come to the end of your life, you will be able to say the same thing!

 

We live in a world of opinions, but a believer lives with facts. We live in a world of relative ideas, but a believer lives on absolutes. We live in a world of uncertainty but the believer is fixed on certainties. We live in a world of lies, but the believer lives by the truth. We live in a world dominated by “the prince of this world” (Satan), but the believer lives with the ‘presence’ and power of God!

The true believer bases their lives on what God has said in Scripture as ABSOLUTELY TRUE—divine truth revealed from Him to them!

 

One day you will be before the ‘gates’ of Heaven. It will be the most ‘solemn’ moment of your existence. All ‘preparation’ for this moment is over. There is NO SECOND CHANCE!

Okay, now imagine you are actually ‘standing’ in front of the ‘gate’. How ‘CONFIDENT’ are you?…

Are you are ‘CONCERNED’ that it WILL NOT open for you? Then let me STRONGLY SUGGEST that you REPENT and BELIEVE in the only One who can open those doors for you—Jesus—and DO IT NOW!

Are you ‘HOPEFUL’ but NOT SURE? Then you need to pray and meditate over the letter of First John until God makes your spiritual condition known to you.

Are you ‘UTTERLY’ CONFIDENT that they will ‘open’ for you? If you ‘KNOW’ it WILL OPEN for you (as it did for Christian and Hopeful in “The Pilgrim’s Progress”), and you know why, you need to THANK and WORSHIP God, and rejoice over the most glorious news in the world, that your name is ‘written’ in His ‘books’ to allow you into His heaven!!!

 

The letter of First John was written to give the ‘true’ born-again believer ‘ABSOLUTE’ ASSURANCE!!!

Do you ‘KNOW’ this ASSURANCE? If not, WHY NOT?!

 

 

[ Excerpts from: Charles Spurgeon; Mike Fabarez; R.C. Sproul; John MacArthur; J.D. Greear; Bryan Wilkerson; Todd Friel; Donald S. Whitney; Mike McKinley ]

 

RELATED POSTS:

“Leaving A ‘Legacy’”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/leaving-a-legacy-v242/

“‘Outworkings’ Of Grace”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/outworkings-of-grace-v241/

“‘Growing’ In Grace”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/growing-in-grace-v240/

“Amazing ‘Grace’”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/amazing-grace-v239/

“Go ‘Tell’ All The World”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/go-tell-all-the-world-v234/

“It Will ‘Cost’ You”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/it-will-cost-you-v233/

“New ‘Identity’”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/new-identity-v220/

“Greatest ‘Comeback’ Ever”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/greatest-comeback-ever-v217/

“The Purpose of ‘Tests’?”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/the-purpose-of-tests-v213/

 

‘PRAYER’ OF REPENTANCE
In the Bible, there is a parable that Jesus told about a Pharisee and a tax collector praying in the Temple. He notes that the tax collector didn’t even dare to lift his eyes toward Heaven as he prayed. Instead he “beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner’”—and Jesus said that the tax collector “went home justified,” he had been “born again” and ‘reconciled’ by God. (Luke 18:9-14).

If you are ‘sensing’ something like that right now, let me strongly encourage you to HUMBLE YOURSELF, CRY OUT to God, and PLEAD for Him to mercifully ‘SAVE’ YOU! None of us have a ‘claim’ on our salvation, nor do we have any ‘works’ that would cause us to deserve it or earn it—it is purely a gift of Divine grace—and all any of us can do is ask. So, CONFESS YOUR SINS and acknowledge to God that you have no hope for Heaven apart from what He provides through Jesus.

There is no ‘formula’ or certain words for this. So just talk to God, in your own words—He knows your ‘heart’. If you are genuinely sincere, and God does respond to your plea, one will usually have a sense of joy and peace.

Jesus said, “He that comes to Me, I will not cast out” [ John 6:37 ].

[ NOTE: If you have ‘tasted the kindness of the Lord’, please e-mail me—I would love to CELEBRATE with you, and help you get started on your ‘journey’ with Jesus! ].

 

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RESOURCES:

—————-
Saved without a Doubt: Being Sure of Your Salvation
By: John MacArthur Jr.

All believers have wrestled with this question at some point in their spiritual walks. So what answers does God provide to challenging questions like: Am I really saved? Am I going to heaven? How can I know for sure?

Renowned pastor and author John MacArthur believes every Christian should enjoy the reality and security of being saved without a doubt. Drawing from a background rich in Bible study and teaching, John examines key scriptures, tackles tough questions, and sheds light on the true nature of salvation. Throughout, you’ll be encouraged to embrace the perfect grace found in Jesus Christ.

Saved without a Doubt includes a guide for both personal and group study, which features discovery questions, suggestions for prayer, and activities, all designed to connect life-changing truths with everyday living.

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How Can I Be Sure I’m a Christian?: What the Bible Says About Assurance of Salvation
By: Donald S Whitney

Nearly everyone wants to go to heaven when they die. Nearly everyone assumes they will go there. And yet the Bible paints a picture of the “road that leads to eternal life” being found and traveled by few. Careful students of the Scriptures often find themselves wondering, How can I be sure of my salvation?

Veteran Bible teacher Donald S. Whitney guides us carefully and patiently through the Bible’s teachings on salvation and eternal life – steering us clear of misplaced confidence and pointing us always toward Christ, our hope. If doubts about your salvation ever disturb your peace, turn again and again to this audiobook for refreshing clarity and confidence in the God who guides your steps.

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Am I Really a Christian?
By: Mike McKinley

You may think you are, but you may not be. After all, Jesus himself said that some people will do seemingly “Christian” things in his name but will not truly know him. Or maybe you know you are not a Christian and you wonder what it really means to be one.

To be sure, however, there is clarity from God’s perspective. He is not confused about who does and does not know him. And though our self-awareness is certainly limited, we have been given biblical criteria to help us evaluate whether we are indeed followers of Christ.

Mike McKinley shows us the importance of examining our standing with God and helps us to fearlessly ask the hard questions, ultimately allowing us to see whether we are in the faith and what exactly that entails.

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That You May Know: Assurance of Salvation in 1 John
By: Christopher D. Bass

The fifth book of the New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology series, That You May Know closely examines the theme of eternal salvation in 1 John. No other New Testament book speaks as frequently and explicitly to the believer’s confidence in everlasting life. The epistle writer grounds his reader’s assurance of salvation on the person and work of Jesus Christ and demonstrates that the believer’s lifestyle serves as a vital corroborating support for that assurance. This gives the commentary’s author Christopher Bass an opening to further discuss John’s emphasis on living righteously and what it truly means to be born of God.

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The Assurance of Our Salvation (Studies in John 17): Exploring the Depth of Jesus’ Prayer for His Own
By: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

One of the most moving passages in the Bible is Jesus’ High-Priestly prayer in John 17, in which He prays to His heavenly Father on behalf of His followers. Here unfold the majestic themes of our assurance of salvation, our union with Him, our sanctification, and His loving care for all who believe in Him.

When you are discouraged, uncertain, or anxious, you can turn to this passage for comfort and reassurance—and find that the Lord Jesus Christ has already claimed you as His own. Before you were born, before the world was made, those who belong to Him were destined for an eternal inheritance.

In this masterful, verse-by-verse exposition of our Savior’s prayer—originally four books and now brought together in one volume—the great preacher and Bible teacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones gleans timeless truths of the faith for Christians today. With rare insight and power, Dr. Lloyd-Jones lays before us the richness, the depth, the wonder—and the assurance—of God’s plan of salvation.

Inside Front Flap

In John 17 Jesus prays for His disciples and all believers. In this book, one of the century’s most gifted preachers looks at why and what Christ prayed to reveal the eternal truths of these beautiful verses. Martyn Lloyd-Jones also studies the passage’s grand themes of salvation, Kingdom unity, God’s provision for His followers, and the process of sanctification that enables us to live as new creatures in Christ in an ungodly world.

Previously printed as four individual books, this unequaled exposition of the Savior’s prayer for His own ends with a glimpse of the glory to come when our sancitification will be complete. Lloyd-Jones’s deep theological insights and grasp of Scripture are evident, yet his classic style brings a simplicity that everyone can understand.

Back Flap

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), minister of Westminster Chapel in London for thirty years, was one of the twentieth century’s leading voices in evangelical doctrine and preaching. He wrote many books that have brought profound spiritual encouragement to millions around the world. His Crossway works include Revival, the Great Doctrines of the Bible series, Why Does God Allow Suffering?, and the Studies in 1 John series.

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Assurance” (eBook)
By Charles H. Spurgeon

This booklet was formed out of three sermons that Spurgeon preached on the subject of assurance. Here Spurgeon deals with objections to assurance, the sealing of the Spirit, and the tests of assurance found in the First Epistle of John.

https://www.monergism.com/assurance-ebook

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The True Position of Assurance
By Charles H. Spurgeon

Sermon: https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-true-position-of-assurance#flipbook/

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Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure?
By: Charles F. Stanley

Do you ever find yourself wondering . . .

– Is it actually possible to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am going to heaven?
– If you say that my salvation is “eternally secure” and that I can never lose it, does that mean that I can commit any sin and still go to heaven?
– How can an understanding of “eternal security” make a difference in my Christian life?

With the wisdom and skill of a man who has personally wrestled with these questions, internationally-known pastor and bestselling author Charles Stanley addresses the age-old issue of grace vs. works in this compassionate, straight-forward book.

With questions at the end of each chapter, Eternally Secure is an excellent choice for individual or group study.

“I know from experience that until you settle once and for all the question of whether or not you are eternally secure, joy will elude you. Therefore, it is my prayer that God will use this book in your life and that in the very near future you will be able to face life with the confidence that comes through knowing you are eternally secure.

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The Letters of John
By: John Stott

“John evidently loves the people committed to his care,” says John Stott in the preface to this commentary on 1, 2 and 3 John. “They are his ‘dear children,’ his ‘dear friends.’ He longs to protect them from both error and evil and to see them firmly established in faith, love and holiness. He has no new doctrine for them. On the contrary, he appeals to them to remember what they already know, have and are. He warns them against deviating from this and urges them to remain loyal to it. Whenever innovators trouble the church, and ridicule whatever is old or traditional, we need to hear and heed John’s exhortation, to continue in what we have learned and received, and to let it continue in us.” The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries have long been a trusted resource for Bible study. Written by some of the world’s most distinguished evangelical scholars, these twenty volumes offer clear, reliable, and relevant explanations of every book in the New Testament. These Tyndale volumes are designed to help readers understand what the Bible actually says and what it means. The introduction to each volume gives a concise but thorough description of the authorship, date, and historical background of the biblical book under consideration. The commentary itself examines the text section by section, drawing out its main themes. It also comments on individual verses and deals with problems of interpretation. The aim throughout is to get at the true meaning of the Bible and to make its message plain to readers today. The original, unrevised text of this volume has been completely retypeset and printed in a larger, more attractive format with the new cover design for the series.

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The Pilgrim’s Progress
By: John Bunyan

Often rated as important as the Bible as a Christian document, this famous story of man’s progress through life in search of salvation remains one of the most entertaining allegories of faith ever written. Set against realistic backdrops of town and country, the powerful drama of the pilgrim’s trials and temptations follows him in his harrowing journey to the Celestial City.

Along a road filled with monsters and spiritual terrors, Christian confronts such emblematic characters as Worldly Wiseman, Giant Despair, Talkative, Ignorance, and the demons of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. But he is also joined by Hopeful and Faithful.

An enormously influential 17th-century classic, universally known for its simplicity, vigor, and beauty of language, The Pilgrim’s Progress remains one of the most widely read books in the English language.

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The Pilgrim’s Progress
Originally By: John Bunyan (In Modern English)

IN EPUB. MOBI & .PDF FORMATS

https://www.monergism.com/pilgrims-progress-modern-english

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Pilgrim’s Progress – Journey To Heaven” (2008 Movie)

“The Pilgrim’s Progress” (Part 1). Danny Carrales (Director); Daniel Kruse (Actor); Jeremiah Guelzo (Actor)

Movie DVD: https://www.amazon.com/Pilgrims-Progress-Journey-Daniel-Kruse/dp/B001AYJ2Y0/

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Christiana” (2007 Movie)

“The Pilgrim’s Progress” (Part 2). Ken Anderson (Director); Liam Neeson (Actor)

Movie DVD: https://www.amazon.com/Christiana-Various/dp/B000EQHX7I/

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Pilgrim’s Progress, Part 2: Christiana
By: John Bunyan (Author); Jim Pappas and Jim Pappas Jr. (Adapters),

The journey continues, as Pilgrim’s wife, Christiana, disregards the ridicule of her neighbors and follows in her husband’s footsteps toward the Celestial City. Accompanied by her four sons and Mercy, a young neighbor, Christiana is in for an adventure. Travel with them as they gather wisdom and confront internal and external dangers along their path of faith. They meet up with Great Heart, a noble warrior with the Sword of the Spirit, as he defeats the deceitful Giant, Grim, and his pair of fierce lions. The insight of the Interpreter comforts them when he explains that God sees not the faults of the sinner, but the perfect likeness of His Son, in whom the pilgrims believe.

Travel with Christiana and her little troupe as they encounter Vanity Fair, the Enchanted Forest, and the Great Chasm, experiencing perils and triumphs on their quest of faith for the Celestial City.

—————-
Assured By God: Living in the Fullness of God’s Grace
By: Burk Parsons

All Christians have asked themselves the question: “Am I really saved?” This new book, edited by Burk Parsons, editor of Tabletalk, cuts through the confusion over the assurance of our salvation and shows how professing believers can be certain they belong to Christ.

Featuring chapters by Joel Beeke, Jerry Bridges, Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur, Keith Mathison, Al Mohler, Burk Parsons, Rick Phillips, and Philip Ryken this volume addresses the ground of our assurance, the experience of our assurance, the means of our assurance, and many other topics. R.C. Sproul provides the foreword and epilogue.

“I would like every believer to read Assured by God, a helpful collection of essays on the assurance of salvation. It is edited by Burk Parsons, editor of Tabletalk magazine.”
—R.C. Sproul

https://www.amazon.com/Assured-God-Living-Fullness-Grace/dp/1596381019/

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Can I Be Sure I’m Saved?
By: R.C. Sproul

Many people in the church today are plagued by doubts about their salvation. However, it’s not only possible for Christians to be sure that they are saved; it’s their duty to make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).

In this booklet, Dr. R.C. Sproul seeks to help believers reach this goal. In short, accessible chapters, Dr. Sproul defines assurance, shows how we can gain it, reveals the blessings it brings, and warns of the dangers of false assurance.

The Crucial Questions booklet series by Dr. R.C. Sproul offers succinct answers to important questions often asked by Christians and thoughtful inquirers.

—————-
Quest for Full Assurance: Legacy of Calvin & His Successors
By: Joel R. Beeke

Against the background of the sixteenth century Reformers (with special attention to Calvin), Beeke examines the theological development of personal assurance of faith in English Puritanism and its parallel movement in the Netherlands, the Dutch Second Reformation.

https://www.amazon.com/Quest-Full-Assurance-Legacy-Successors/dp/0851517455

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Knowing And Growing in Assurance of Faith
By: Joel R. Beeke

In his 100th work, Joel Beeke writes on the power and beauty of true, secure assurance of faith: the heartfelt conviction that one belongs to Christ through faith and will enjoy everlasting salvation. This title opens up Dr. Beeke’s expertise and learning for anyone ‘trapped in a background of easy believism or trapped in the opposite fear of assurance being the certain mark of being presumptuous and so crushing the young shoots of hope and assurance as they appear

—————-
HEAVEN ON EARTH: The Assurance of Salvation
By: Thomas Brooks

Can anyone have assurance of his salvation? How? And if so, is it possible to lose your assurance of salvation? Would this mean that salvation itself is lost, or that you only lose your confidence in the reality of your salvation? “Heaven on Earth” is one of the best books you can read on this topic. Filled with casuistry, examples, and hypothetical circumstances, all analyzed through the lens of the Scripture, this book is unique by its clarity and its profound care taken to a very sensitive, though very important topic of the Christian faith. This book has been originally published in 1667. Current edition has been proofread, typeset for eBook readers, and slightly updated for modern readers. About the author: Thomas Brooks (1608–1680) was an English nonconformist Puritan preacher and author. He wrote extensively and with a keen eye on devotional Christian life. Brooks died after over 40 years of Gospel ministry, in 1680

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The True Christian; Or, the Way to Have Assurance of Eternal Salvation
By: Thomas Jones

https://books.google.com/books?id=QklnAAAAcAAJ&pg=PP7&lpg=PP7&dq=%E2%80%9Cthe+true+Christian,+or,+the+way+to+have+assurance+of+eternal+salvation+Thomas+Jones&source=bl&ots=nFY_Wfx9pb&sig=ACfU3U1ugF7QChtrK-xHKRXTSqkzmRX20A&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj35biWoNLiAhVLvKwKHZusCR4Q6AEwAnoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9Cthe%20true%20Christian%2C%20or%2C%20the%20way%20to%20have%20assurance%20of%20eternal%20salvation%20Thomas%20Jones&f=false

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Faith Seeking Assurance
by Anthony Burgess

It is not uncommon for professing Christians to question the genuineness of their faith. In seasons like this, they can wonder whether it is even possible to know for sure if they are in a state of saving grace. In this book, Anthony Burgess shows that Christians not only can come to an assurance of their salvation but should pursue it. Burgess provides helpful advice for avoiding a presumptuous spirit while developing a humble confidence in grace. Here is a book that will help you understand the marks of grace and avoid some common abuses associated with self-examination. Read it with an open Bible and a prayerful heart, looking to the Holy Spirit as your faith seeks assurance.

Table of Contents:
Preface
1. The Necessity and Advantage of Assurance
2. Additional Advantages of Assurance
3. Can Hypocrites Attain Practical Knowledge about Religion?
4. Assurance May Be Experienced
5. The Adjuncts of Assurance
6. The Difference Between True Assurance and Presumption
7. Remedies for Carnal Confidence and Directions to the Godly Who Lack Assurance
8. Marks of Grace and Assurance
9. Using Signs for Assurance and Proving That They Evidence Justification
10. The Lawfulness and Obligation of Proceeding by Signs, and Answering Doubts
11. How People Miscarry in Self-Examination by Signs
12. The Duty and Particulars of Assurance
13. The Assurance of Our Calling Demonstrated, and Answers to Objections
14. Assurance versus Presumption, with Directions to the Godly

https://www.amazon.com/Faith-Seeking-Assurance-Anthony-Burgess/dp/1601783698

Read Online:
https://ebooks.regent-college.edu/Burgess-Spiritual-1652/files/assets/basic-html/page-1.html#

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Gospel Assurance and Warnings” (Recovering the Gospel)
By: Paul Washer

It should come as no surprise that misunderstandings about the gospel message and the nature of true conversion result in a problem with genuine assurance of salvation. A pseudo-gospel of easy believism has led many into careless presumption, and a poor understanding of salvation has abandoned tender consciences to near spiritual despair. In Gospel Assurance and Warnings, Paul Washer shines the light of gospel hope as he cautions against the dangers of making an empty profession of faith and carefully explains from Scripture the basis for establishing and maintaining a sound assurance of faith.

Table of Contents:
Preface
PART ONE: Biblical Assurance
1. False Assurance
2. Examine Yourself
3. Walking in God’s Revelation
4. Confessing Sin
5. Keeping God’s Commandments
6. Imitating Christ
7. Loving Christians
8. Rejecting the World
9. Remaining in the Church
10. Confessing Christ
11. Purifying Self
12. Practicing Righteousness
13. Overcoming the World
14. Believing in Jesus
PART TWO: Gospel Warnings, or Warnings to Empty Confessors
15. Gospel Reductionism
16. The Small Gate
17. The Narrow Way
18. The Outward Evidence of an Inward Reality
19. The Dangers of an Empty Confession

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Reflections on Christian Assurance
By: D.A. Carson

http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/carson/2000_reflections_on_assurance.pdf

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Religious Affections
By: Jonathan Edwards

In Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards (the central figure in New England’s first Great Awakening) offers his most detailed description of false and true signs of religious revival, while highlighting the role truly balanced emotions play within the Christian life. Espousing a theology foreign to most postmodern Christians, Religious Affections lays out the cornerstone of Christian thought of the mid-18th century. Impossible to ignore, Religious Affections demands a response. No one can read it and be unchanged. The level of discipleship it asks is shocking to modern readers, but ultimately necessary for our salvation.

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Assurance: How to Know You Are a Christian
By: J. C. Ryle

It is right to have confidence in your Christian life, if that confidence stems from God’s saving power. J.C. Ryle shows us that assurance is something every Christian should desire. There are steps we can take in our search for that goal; these are clearly marked out for us by Ryle. Do you know that you are part of God’s family?

https://www.amazon.com/Assurance-How-know-you-Christian/dp/1871676053/

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Assurance: Overcoming the Difficulty of Knowing Forgiveness
By: John Owen

How can I be sure that God has forgiven me? In this volume, essentially an exposition of Psalm 130, John Owen pinpoints the causes of such spiritual distress, not merely with the clinical skill of a spiritual diagnostician, but also with the understanding of someone who had profound experience of those ‘depths’. And Owen does not stop with diagnosis. He maps out a biblical path of faith and obedience for distressed believers who long to say with full assurance, ‘God has forgiven me.’

https://www.amazon.com/Assurance-Overcoming-Difficulty-Knowing-Forgiveness/dp/1845509749/

 

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THE SEARCH FOR MEANINGWEBSITE

This site presents discussions on the 12 most commonly asked questions about the Christian faith.

The 12 discussions are accessed by the “tabs” at the bottom of the page. The tabs are numbered 1-12. Roll your mouse over them and you will see the question displayed at the right. Click on the number to select that question.

Within each question (i.e. tabs 1-12), there are subtopics (or dialogues) to select that appear as smaller tabs underneath the numbered tabs. Roll your mouse over them and the title of these topics is also displayed to the right. Click on the open rectangle to select that dialogue.

For each question (1-12), a link to related resources and an optional flowchart is provided. To access this material, click on the respective words, “Related Resources” or “Options Flowchart.”

To play a more detailed discussion of the subject, between two people, select the desired dialogue and click on “Play Audio Dialogue.”

In the upper right-hand corner of the page, there is an icon that looks like binoculars looking at a question mark. Click on this icon to return to the homepage.

In the upper right-hand corner of a “Related Resources” page, there is an icon that looks like some books. Click on this icon to get to an “overview” page that has links to all of the resources for all of the questions. There also are additional “appendices” for most of the questions.

In the upper right-hand corner of a “Flowchart” page, there is an icon that looks like an Org chart. Click on this icon to get to an “overview” page that has links to all of the flowcharts.

http://4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q1_d1_1of10.html

[ Content by: Bill Kraftson and Lamar Smith; Website by Mark Besh ]

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“FRUITS OF THE BEATITUDES” WEB SITE
(The ATTITUDES of Jesus that produce the CHARACTER of Jesus)

CLICK ON THE LINK to view:
http://fruitsofthebeatitudes.org/

FACEBOOK PAGE:
https://www.facebook.com/FruitsOfTheBeatitudes/

[ Mark Besh ]

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[ P.S.: If you would like to investigate further about how to be sure you have eternal life, and will not lose it, visit the following link:
http://www.4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q11_d1_1of10.html ].

 

ARTICLES:

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Assurance of Salvation: How You Can Know You Are Saved

This question troubles many Christians. If you have believed in Jesus and received Him as your Savior but still doubt whether or not you’re really saved, it’s nearly impossible to progress in your Christian life.

But here’s good news. Your faith isn’t based on your changing feelings but on the unchanging Word of God. God Himself wants you to know without a doubt that you are saved. Watch this video to see how the Bible clearly shows that you can and should be sure that you are saved.

The contents of this video are based on “Basic Elements of the Christian Life,” vol. 1 by Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. If you would like to read more concerning this topic, order your free copy today at http://biblesforamerica.org/order/.

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtBUu7Rmwyk

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How to KNOW you are a Christian

[ Paul Washer ]

Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Cud_Iztbp4

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Assurance: Tests of True Faith

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uyx92edCAXk

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Being a True Christian, How Do I Know I Am Saved

Sermon Snippets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmK9X_AIO6g

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Examine Yourself

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?– unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ky8dTyPpiAo

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Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart

[ J.D. Greear ]

Sermon Series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RD33ItEWy98&list=PL2Qwkyk6brMVO9HUN_ZTJ8IqLtJeYoYju

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12 Signs of a Repentant Heart

How does one know if he or she is genuinely repentant? How do we know what repentance is? The Bible uses the term consistently and constantly perhaps most specifically in 2nd Corinthians 7—a laundry list of repentant signs. You feel a certain way. You do certain things, That is the demonstration that you’re actually desiring to turn from your sins, and not just get busted. [more…]

Sermon:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QonlaJ0u8E

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14 Signs Of Regeneration

The “old you and the new you” discussed. The 14 points are made by Rick Thomas.

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muKOFeHQ6_w

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Eternal life, Prayer, and the True Jesus” – 1 John 5:13-21

This week, we wrap up the book of 1 John. In these verses, we find the writer John encouraging us to have confidence in the eternal life that is in Him. We see that there is a certain type of prayer that He will always answer. Also, we see how we know that we are in God who is true. Listen in as Pastor Jason Fritz unwraps this rich text.

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viJZcWxKOAY

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How Do I Know if I’m Saved?

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyHnAKrDFNE

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1 John 1:5–10 // Fake Christians Walk in Darkness

Owls, bats, and raccoons are creatures of darkness — Christians are not. In this lab, Pastor John reminds us that if we say we are God‘s children while we walk in darkness, we lie.

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69KI1PL52Qg

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First John 5

Pastor Paul LeBoutillier of Calvary Chapel Ontario (Oregon) teaches through the Bible from the book of 1 John.

1 John 5:1-5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXWRYCF-8TQ
1 John 5:6-12: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfbGdRNUK60
1 John 5:13-21: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8fK-_D-w-8

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First John 5

We continue in our verse by verse Bible study in the Epistle of 1 John on Wednesday Nights with Pastor Gino Geraci at Calvary South Denver in Littleton CO.

1 John 5:1-5, Are You Born Again?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X556V__vZ6w
1 John 5:6-13, The Holy Spirit’s Witness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79QGhjkcDI0
1 John 5:14-17, Your Prayers Answered: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzZUpLNwAQg
1 John 5:18-21, Living Free From Sin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1-4OCjH9rY

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6 Ways to Know If You Are Saved

How can you know if you are saved by God? What signs will there be if you truly are saved? How can you have assurance of salvation?

[ Mark Ballenger ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmhsHaQxKHQ

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Am I Really A Christian?

[ Mike Fabarez ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-mGtKhyx8k

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Are You Really a Christian? Take the Test!

Todd Friel goes through a 15 question test by John Piper on “Wretched”

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tq4Y2Nq2DrI

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Am I Saved? – Ask Pastor John

[ John Piper ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHZaoOP-DuI

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Am I Saved? – Am I A Real Christian? – Will I Go To Heaven?

Self Examination Sermon on Salvation.

[ John Cichy ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKCGoNTTtrQ

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Am I Saved? 10 Tests of Assurance

[ Tim Conway ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XacW3FHajM

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Are You Saved?

The Bible says “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Cor. 13:5). Well, are you in the faith? Have you examined yourself? It is easy to ask and sometimes difficult to answer.

The Christian faith is as follows. There is one God in all existence who is eternally existent from the past through to the future. God is a Trinity of three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14); they are not three gods, but one God (Is. 44:6-8). Jesus is the Word who was God and was with God that became flesh (John 1:1,14) and was made under the Law (Gal. 4:4). Because we are sinners (Rom. 3:23), who have broken God’s law (James 2:11), and because we cannot be saved in anyway by our own works (Rom. 4:1-5), Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24), died, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-4), in the same body He died in (John 2:19-21) so that as many as receive Christ (John 1:12) are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1) and escape the righteous wrath of God (Rom. 5:9).

What a lot of people fail to realize is that Jesus is not saving us from sin. Jesus is saving us from God! You see, when a person breaks the Law of God, there is a punishment that must be carried out upon that person. God is the one who carries out that punishment. This punishment is eternal because God is eternally holy and righteous. Our sins against God take on an infinite quality not because of who we are, but because of who God is — because we have offended an eternal and infinite God. Therefore, the sinner incurs an eternal and infinite offense against God. This means there is absolutely no way that a finite, sinful creature can undo the offense against an infinitely pure Being. This is why we need Jesus who is God in flesh. This means that His sacrifice has eternal and infinite value and it is infinitely sufficient to save us from our sins. Therefore, this means that it is only through Jesus that we can be saved and not by our own efforts in any way.

It is God who damns. It is God who judges. Sin does not send people to hell. God does. Of course, this is not a popular or “feel-good” notion that God is the one who is righteously judging the sinner and righteously condemning him to eternal hell. But, that is the truth. Yet, thanks be to God that because He loves us, He sent His son to save us from our sins so that we might escape the righteous judgment of God. God is not some eternal ogre waiting to spit His wrath upon the weak and helpless. Not at all. He is loving and good and gracious and He desires that all be saved. He offers the sacrifice of His Son as the loving and gracious means by which we may be saved. It is a miraculous and wondrous act of love.

Now, what about you? Have you completely trusted in Jesus and in nothing else for the forgiveness of your sins? Have you received Christ? Are you relying on Jesus and Him alone for your righteousness, for your safety, your forgiveness, or are you putting even the smallest bit of your works before God as part of the reason you are to be saved? If you are relying in anyway on your efforts, then you are in great danger of damnation, if you’re saved at all. Righteousness before God does not come by your efforts, but through the sacrifice of Christ; otherwise, Jesus died needlessly (Gal. 2:21). If you could get to heaven by being good, then there was no need for Jesus to die for sins.

You are to examine yourself, to test yourself to see if you are in the faith. This means that you must first know what the Christian faith is and what it means that to enter into that faith. Furthermore, you must know and acknowledge that there is only one God in all existence, that Jesus is God in flesh, that you are a sinner, that you need to repent of your sins, and that the only way to find forgiveness is to trust in Jesus alone, by faith alone, through grace alone.

Don’t waste any time wondering. If you aren’t sure, ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins (1 Cor. 1:2). Receive Him (John 1:12). Turn from your sins and to Him. Trust Him alone.

[ Matt Slick ]

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Assurance of Salvation: You Can Be Sure

How would you respond if I asked you right now, “Are you saved?”
You ought to be able to say, “Praise God! Glory to God! I know that I’m saved!”

Yet many Christians don’t know they’re saved. They go around with their shoulders all bent over—drooping, wondering, and worrying. They remind me of question marks with their heads bent over, rather than exclamation points standing straight and tall and saying, “I know whom I have believed!”

Rather than being shouting Christians, they’re doubting Christians. Rather than having a “know-so” salvation, they have a “hope-so” salvation.

Somebody once said, if you could have it and not know it, you could lose it and not miss it. But the truth is, if you have salvation, you know it; and if you have it and know it, you can never lose it.

I met a young man once in a hospital room. I had just led his dying mother-in-law to the Lord Jesus Christ, and I turned to him and said, “Isn’t it wonderful that she has been saved?”

“Oh, no one can know that they are saved,” he said.

Now this man was not an unbeliever; that is, he did not repudiate Christianity. He simply held some doctrinal stance that would not allow him to accept the assurance of salvation.

But the Apostle John wrote an entire chapter to assure God’s people that they are indeed God’s people. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God: that ye may know that ye have eternal life and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13).

The word know means absolute assurance. According to verse 13, it is possible to be saved and know it. But the very fact that John wrote this verse shows that it is also possible to be saved and doubt it.

Is doubt good? No. Doubt is to your spirit what pain is to your body. Pain is a warning, a signal that something is wrong. It does not mean you are dead. It just means that something is wrong.

If you have doubts and you are truly a born again child of God, you are suffering from some spiritual sickness. All Christians doubt from time to time. A woman once told Dwight L. Moody she had been saved for 25 years and never had a doubt. He said, “I doubt you’re saved.”

But while we may all be bothered by an occasional doubt, it is a problem that must and can be overcome. John said he wrote chapter five to us as God’s children so that we may know that we have been saved. The words know, knoweth, or known appear 38 times in this epistle on assurance.

The next logical question, then, is “How can I know?” I know, not because of any confidence that I have in myself, but by two infallible proofs.

The Root of Our Belief
What is it we believe? Are Christians just gullible? Do we believe in fairy tales, or is there a basis for our belief? Why do we believe what we believe?

Faith is the root of our belief. But faith is not walking on eggshells and Jello. It is evidence and substance (Hebrews 11:1). It has some spiritual steel and concrete in it. It is real, and God has given us some authentic, bona fide witnesses, a testimony that we might know we are saved and going to heaven.

John says these witnesses are the eternal work of the Savior, the internal witness of the Spirit, and the external Word of Scripture.

1 John 5:6 says, “This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.” When the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, a soldier put a spear in His side, “and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34). This is the eternal work of the Savior, that we are saved by blood and sanctified by water.

The tabernacle is an Old Testament picture of Christ. When you entered, you came first to the brazen altar upon which the bloody sacrifice was made. Next was a laver, or great basin, in which the priests would wash. First the blood, then the water. The blood of Jesus Christ pays the price for our sins, and the sanctifying water keeps us clean.

Sound familiar? In “Rock of Ages,” we sing “Let the water and the blood / from Thy wounded side which flowed / be of sin the double cure / save from wrath and make me pure.”

I know I am saved because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died to purchase my salvation. That is a historical fact. That is the saving work of Christ.

I also know I am saved because of the internal witness of the Spirit:

It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one (1 John 5:6-8).
How do I know there was a man named Jesus Christ? How do I know He was the sinless Son of God? How do I know that God sent Him? How do I know that He actually died on that cross and took my sin?

Thank God I don’t have to depend on somebody’s argument. The Holy Spirit of God is here to make that real in my heart. You see, God gave us the work of Christ. But to make the work of Christ—the water and the blood—real to us, He gave us the Spirit.

“If we receive the witness of men,” John says in 1 John 5:9, “the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son.” The word if may also be translated since. Since we believe the witness of men. All of us believe the witness of men.

One night I was in Augusta, Georgia, preaching at a missions conference. The next morning I went to the airport and flew back to Memphis. In order to do this, I had to exercise faith in an airplane pilot I didn’t know. I never saw his credentials. I never saw him fly before. But Delta Airlines put its stamp of approval on this man, so I just got on the plane and never thought too much about it. We accept the witness of men.

Before I went to the airport, I had breakfast in a restaurant. How did I know the food was not poisoned? I had faith in that lady who served it. We receive the witness of men.

When your doctor writes you a prescription, you look at it, and although you can’t read it, pronounce it, or understand it, you give it to a pharmacist who puts pills in a bottle. Then, without a second thought, you take them home and swallow them. Why? We receive the witness of men.

In the same way, through faith we receive the witness of God through the Spirit that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead for our sanctification. There is, therefore, no excuse for not believing. The Bible promises that the Holy Spirit will help anyone to believe who wants to believe. First the Spirit witnesses to us; then He witnesses in us.

“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself” (1 John 5:10). Before I got saved, He witnessed to me. He told me what Christ did is true. Now He witnesses in me. I have the witness in myself.

Suppose I am enjoying myself by eating a piece of apple pie, and you come to me and say, “There is no such thing as apple pie. I don’t believe in apple pie. And if there is apple pie, it is no good.”

Despite your arguments, I have the witness within me. I have the witness on the inside. A Christian with a testimony is never at the mercy of an unbeliever with an argument, because he has the witness in himself.

Finally, the external Word of Scripture assures me that I am saved:

He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:10-13).
Here is the basis of our belief. Here is the reason for our certainty. We are not just gullible fools. Jesus Christ died. He came by water and blood. The Holy Spirit of God says yes, that is true. It is all attested by the Word of God.

To doubt the Bible is to call God a liar. Some say, “Well, I’m trying to believe.” But they have called God a liar, plain and simple. Either this is His Word—His inerrant, infallible Word—or it is not. And the work of Christ, the witness of the Spirit, and the Word of God all say it is. It is fact, a matter of record.

Let me give you another example. Suppose I am in a courtroom, and the judge says to me, “Mr. Rogers, are you married?”

I say, “Yes I am.”

“Well can you prove you are married, Mr. Rogers?”

“Yes, I can. You see, I was there in the church, and I saw Joyce coming down the aisle. My heart got all twitterpated, and I was so happy. Your honor, it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world to be married.”

When I’m finished, the judge will say, “I’m sorry. While I am glad you feel that way, your feelings are not evidence in this courtroom. Do you have some proof?”

Then I go down to the courthouse. And I get that document, notarized, signed, and sealed, and I bring it before the judge. And he accepts my marriage as proven fact.

My salvation does not hinge on my emotions. I have an official record. I have the Word of God: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God: that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

One night while out soul-winning, I asked a man if he wanted to receive Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. After we prayed together, I said, “Now, sir, I want to give you your spiritual birth certificate.” And I turned to John 5:24 and read, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”

We started to read it through again. “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” I read. Then I told him, “It’s Jesus who is speaking. Do you believe this?”

“Yes,” he said.
“‘He that heareth My word. . . .’ Have you heard His Word?”
“Yes.”
“‘. . . and believeth on Him that sent Me. . . .’ Have you believed on the God that sent the Lord Jesus?”
“Yes.”
“‘. . . hath everlasting life. . . .’ Do you have everlasting life?”
“Well, I hope so,” he said.
I said, “Let’s read it again.” And we did. Again, he answered yes to every question except the last. Again, he said,
“Well, I hope so.”
“Let’s read it again,” I said. This time, when I asked him if he had everlasting life, the light went on inside.
“Why, yes! Yes!” he shouted.
“Who says so?”
“God says so! God says so!”

That is the basis of your belief. That’s the source of your certainty. Isn’t it better to have God’s Word than Adrian’s or your neighbor’s or your opinions, emotions, wishes, or whims?

The Fruit of Our Behavior
In addition to the root of our belief, we need only look at the fruit of our behavior to know whether or not we are truly saved. What has Jesus done in me? Is this all just some intellectual exercise, or has there been a change? The Apostle John is very practical here. He shows us how our salvation ought to show up in our behavior, and he gives three tests.

The Commandment Test
And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him. He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked (1 John 2:3-6).
I wonder if John had been in a testimony meeting where somebody was bragging about being saved—saying he was, but his walk and his talk did not get together. If you say you are saved, it is absolutely going to show up in your life. You are going to be keeping the commandments of God. You do not keep the commandments of God in order to be saved; you keep the commandments of God because you are saved.

This presents a serious problem, because not one of us has always kept all of God’s commandments. I haven’t since I’ve been saved, and you haven’t since you’ve been saved. Yet the Bible says that we know we are in Him in that we keep His commandments.

Both the problem and the solution are found in the word keep. It is actually a mariner’s word. In the apostles’ day, sailors navigated by the stars. And a sailor setting his course by the stars was said to be “keeping the stars.” It was his intention to sail by the stars.

To keep God’s commandments, then, means to use the Word of God as the Guide for our lives. It is the desire of every child of God to live by His Word. While we may be blown off course, distracted, or confused, the goal of our lives is to keep the commandments of God.

Ever since I gave my heart to Jesus, there has been a deep, divine, radical change; and there is in me a burning desire to live for God. And there should be in you, too, if you are saved.

This is not to say that I don’t sin anymore. The difference is that before I got saved I was running to sin; now I am running from it. And if I fail, I turn right around and start running away again.

The commandment test says: if you can willfully and knowingly sin against the will of God with no conviction, no compunction, and no remorse, you need to get saved. A lot of people say, “Well, I walked down an aisle somewhere, and I got saved. I know I’m just an old backslider now, but I’m still saved and going to heaven.”

No, you are not. If you are living that way—high, wide, and handsome—and it does not break your heart, then you do not know the God of the Bible.

The Companion Test
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14). When I am saved, I want to be right with my Father, and I want to be right with my brother.

But there are some who would say, “Well, I’m saved, but I have no use for the church.” But the Bible says if we love Jesus, we are going to love what Jesus loves; and Jesus loves the church.

The word saint (singular) appears in the Bible only five times. The plural appears nearly 100 times. Now, going to church will not make you a Christian any more than going to the garage will make you an automobile. But when you realize that you have been bought by the blood of Christ, when the Spirit of God comes into you, you receive a new nature, and you are going to keep His commandments and love the brethren.

The Commitment Test
The greatest and strongest test is the commitment test. All of the others grow out of it. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself. . . . These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:10, 13).

In the Bible, the words believe and commit are the same word. Concerning Jesus, it says, “Many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men” (John 2:23-24). They said they believed in Him, but He did not believe in them. He knew that they were just miracle-mongers. He knew that they were not true believers.

Biblical faith is not just an intellectual exercise. You do not believe about Jesus, you believe in Jesus. You commit yourself to Jesus.

I did not believe about the plane that flew me from Augusta to Memphis; I believed in it. I committed myself to that airplane. I did not just say, “Those things can fly. I’m going to Memphis. I believe it can fly. I believe that man is a good pilot. I have confidence in the airline.” No, I got on board and entrusted that pilot and that aircraft with my life. He who commits himself to that plane flies to Memphis. And he who commits himself to the Son of God lives forever with Him. I committed myself to that plane. He who commits himself to the Son of God is the one who is saved. Have you done this?

Notice it doesn’t say, he who has believed; it says He who believes. It is always present tense. Have you ever asked someone, “Are you saved?”

They say, “Yes, I’m saved. I remember walking down the aisle when I was nine years old, giving my hand to my pastor and my heart to Jesus Christ. Now, I may not be living for God right now, I’ll admit. But I know I’m saved, because I remember what I did when I was a nine-year-old boy. I remember believing on Jesus Christ.” The Bible never uses such an experience as proof of salvation. It never points back to some time when you believed on Jesus Christ.

I even hear people say, “If you cannot show me the place and the moment when you received Jesus Christ, you are not saved.” That is not biblical. The Bible never says you know when or if you are saved by something you remember in the past. It says, “He that believes.”

I am not saying there is not a time when you received Christ. There was a day. Absolutely. But that is not the test. The test is, do you believe in Jesus Christ now? Are you trusting in Him today? Is there evidence in your life today that you are the offspring of the living God? That is the proof of your salvation.

A Closing Plea
My friend, have you given your life to the Lord? Do you have the assurance that if you were to die right now, you would go straight to heaven? If not, please let me tell you how you can be saved.

Admit Your Sin
First, you must understand that you are a sinner. The Bible says, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Abandon Self-Effort
Second, you must understand that you cannot save yourself by your efforts. The Bible is very clear that it’s “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).

Again, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Acknowledge Christ’s Payment
Third, you must believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for your sins. The Bible says, “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). That means He died in your place. Your sin debt has been paid by the blood of Jesus Christ, which “cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Accept Him as Savior
Fourth, you must put your faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone for your salvation. The blood of Christ does you no good until you receive Him by faith. The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Have you ever taken this all-important step of faith? If not, I urge you to do it right now. Why? Because Jesus is the only way to heaven!

Speaking of Jesus, the Apostle Peter said in Acts 4:12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6). It couldn’t be any clearer than that.

Are you willing to offer the following prayer to God today?

“Oh, God, I’m a sinner, I’m lost, and I need to be saved. I know I can’t save myself, so right now, once and for all, I trust You to save me. Come into my heart, forgive my sin, and make me Your child. I give You my life. I will live for You as You give me strength.”

If you will make this your heartfelt prayer, God will hear and save you! Jesus has promised that He will not turn away anyone who comes to Him in faith (John 6:37). He will make you a child of God, if you will turn to Him (John 1:12).

[ Adrian Rogers ]

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Biblical Tests of True Faith

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNFfgQtS528

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The Assurance of Salvation

In 2 Peter, Peter exhorts all who read his letter to make their calling and election sure by diligently pursuing the fruit of the Spirit. “For in this way,” he writes, “there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11, ESV).

In this series, Dr. R.C. Sproul addresses the importance of living in pursuit of holiness over against “easy believism.” He explores the doctrine of assurance as he helps to explain the relationship between the Christian life and the work of Christ Jesus on our behalf.

[ R.C. Sproul ]

Sermon: https://www.ligonier.org/store/assurance-of-salvation-dvd/

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Counseling Those Who Say, “Am I Really Saved?

[ Kevin Williams ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-38bYk-UFU

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Does Jesus Know You?

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon Jam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nc26PJx7j4M

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Examine Yourself

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon snippet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ogip9_vpEj4

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Examine Yourself

Psalm 1

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8TlRd-K268

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For Christians Who Struggle With Assurance

Kevin talks about some ways that the devil tries to attack the Christians assurance, and cause them to lose their firm persuasion that God is for them and has lovingly saved them.

[ Kevin Williams ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h71Y6dsRYBA

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How Can I Be Sure I’m Saved?

Lately, I just don’t feel anything when it comes to my faith. Now, I’m having doubts. How can I know I’m saved?

I became a Christian two years ago, but lately, I just don’t feel anything when it comes to my faith. Now, I’m having doubts. How can I know I’m saved?

That’s a great question, and I’m going to answer it by referring to the Bible, because we’ll always find the truth in God’s word.

We’ll start with Romans 10:9, which says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Not, “You might be saved,” or “You could be saved.” But, “You will be saved.”

What does it mean to believe in your heart? Well, it’s more than just an intellectual thing. It’s more than just saying Jesus was a great teacher or even saying that Jesus was God’s Son. To believe means to trust him with your life, to give him your heart and soul, to be willing to follow him for the rest of your life.

The verse also says we should “confess” that Jesus is Lord. That simply means telling others that you follow Jesus. Now, telling people about Jesus doesn’t make you a Christian, but it is evidence that you are a Christian.

Another good verse is Ephesians 2:8, which says, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” You can’t earn salvation. That’s what “grace” means. It’s God’s unmerited favor. You cannot earn God’s love. It’s not for sale. It’s a gift he wants to give you. And it’s a gift you accept through faith, and faith alone.

Now turn to Revelation 3:20, where Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Ask yourself, “Have I opened the door and invited Jesus into my life?” He promises that if we invite him in, he will come in. And if you’ve taken that step, you can know that you’re saved. (See 1 John 5:11-12.)

People sometimes get confused because they base their faith on their feelings. I think “feel” is one of the most dangerous words in Christianity. Our feelings can be affected by circumstances, by our health, by the humidity, by how much sunlight we get. A lot of things affect your feelings that have nothing do with whether or not you are a Christian. You are a Christian based not on your feelings, but on the promises of Jesus and the words of Scripture, period.

Finally, look at John 10:27-29, where Jesus says that no one can snatch us out of his hand. That’s the punch line. We are in Jesus’ grip of love and faithfulness, and his grip is so strong, there isn’t anything that could get us out of that grip.

So keep believing. God keeps his promises.

[ Dawson McAllister ]

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How Can I Know If I’m Really a Christian?

[ William Blackburn ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEU4ebNxHCg

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How Can I Tell If I’m Really Saved?

Christians live in the tension between indwelling sin and ongoing sanctification. How can we if we’ve truly been born again?

[ John Piper ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jTApS8uUSg

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Don’t Look to Yourself for Assurance

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFRkew_-ENQ

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Satan’s Methods of Attacking the Christian’s Assurance

[ Tim Conway ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYprxmUUy-Y

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How Do I Know I’m Saved? – Ask Pastor John

[ John Piper ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0zEjOQ8Yn0

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How Do I Know If I Am Saved?

[ Todd Wagner ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtooOQYvffo

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How Do We Know That We Are Christian?

A true Christian is a person that repents and believes in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone for salvation. We can add nothing to what Jesus has already done for us for salvation. The only reason a true Christian does good works is because it is God working in and through them. They are a new creation in Christ Jesus. We are saved to do good works not saved by them!

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ2N7M8kjzQ

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How Do You Know You Are Saved?

If you are plagued with this question, consider whether you run to or away from God when you mess up. The imperfect pursuit of holiness will be the story of our lives.

[ Matt Chandler ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bw8OJ58dIYQ

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“How to Be Sure of Your Salvation

According to the Bible, assurance of salvation rests on four unshakable pillars.

After I said I was writing a book about how we can be sure we are going to heaven, she marveled, “You mean you can know that you are going to heaven?”

Realizing God had opened a door for me to tell her about Christ, I reinforced that we can know for certain our eternal destiny, saying, “We can afford to be wrong about going to Sisters, Oregon, but not about going to heaven.”

The truth is, we can be sure about where we will spend eternity. We can know with certainty that when we die, we will go to heaven. But how can we be sure? Many people struggle with the certainty of their salvation, especially new believers.

How can we know where we stand with God? The Bible teaches that the assurance of salvation rests securely upon four unshakable pillars:

Pillar 1: God Cannot Lie!
First, assurance is based on the absolute trustworthiness of Scripture. Throughout the New Testament, we read God’s promises to save all who will believe upon His Son. The Bible says, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”(1) This is a promise! All who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ may have the firm confidence of salvation based upon the infallibility of God’s Word.

Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”(2) If you come to Jesus with genuine repentance and faith, He promises that He will save you. We can know Jesus has received us because, quite simply, He said so! When the Bible speaks, God speaks. And what God said, He will surely do. He will save all who call upon Jesus Christ. You have His word on it.

Pillar 2: Jesus Paid It All
Second, assurance rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, He bore our iniquities, enduring God’s wrath, and cried out, “It is finished!”(3) By this, He meant that the full atonement for all our sins-past, present and future-has been made. His work of redemption now completed, our entire sin debt is paid in full.

Just as salvation comes from believing in Christ alone, so does assurance. As we trust in Christ’s perfect sacrifice for our sins, the certainty of eternal life floods our hearts. No matter how great your sin, God’s grace is greater still. The Bible says, “Come now, and let us reason together. … Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.

Pillar 3: The Great Convincer
Third, assurance comes through the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. A divinely produced gift, assurance is bestowed by God’s Spirit to all true believers. It is the Holy Spirit’s ministry to convince our hearts of our salvation.

In actuality, no preacher, evangelist, parent or friend can give us assurance. Neither can we work it up within ourselves. Only the Holy Spirit Himself can give us the absolute certainty of our eternal salvation.

The Bible says, “We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.”(5) … “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”(6) … “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”(7) This means, the Holy Spirit who convicted, called and converted us also convinces us that we belong to Christ. It is the Spirit’s inward witness that persuades us of the genuineness of our salvation.

Pillar 4: New Life in Christ
Fourth, assurance comes through the evidence of a changed life. Ultimately, assurance is confirmed within us as we see God conforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. All who have been born again will see clear evidences of a new life in Christ. While we will never become perfect in this life, we will, nevertheless, experience a changed life. It is this inward transformation that provides strong confirmation of our salvation.

The book of First John details what are the vital signs of our new life in Christ. The Apostle John writes, “We know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”(8) In other words, we may be certain that we know Christ as we see within us a desired and willing obedience to God’s Word.

Likewise, John writes, other vital signs will follow: Love for other people,(9) love for God,(10) refusing the world,(11) understanding biblical truth,(12) righteous behavior,(13) opposition from the world(14) and answered prayer.(15) As we see this spiritual fruit produced in our lives, we may be confident that Christ lives within us.

Here are the four sturdy pillars on which the assurance of our salvation rests. Giving “full assurance of hope”(16) regarding our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, these pillars provide unshakable confidence of eternal life.

As I told the woman on the plane, we can be wrong about earthly directions but not about our eternal destiny. In our salvation we must be sure. Assurance of salvation is God’s blessed gift for all who believe: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”(17)

Be absolutely sure!

[ Steven J. Lawson ]

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How to Know For Sure That You are Saved GUARANTEED!

[ Allen Parr ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDi5YOPZ8U4

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The Ground of Our Assurance

[ D.A. Carson ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJRz5fLCmM8

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What EXACTLY is the Unforgivable Sin?

What is the unforgivable sin? Some call it the “unpardonable sin.” What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Are you afraid you’ve possibly committed the unforgivable sin? Is it suicide? Murder? Adultery? Is there a sin that a believer can commit that is too great for God to forgive? In this video we take a detailed look at Jesus’ statements in 3 of the 4 gospels regarding the unforgivable sin and discuss whether that applies to believers or not.

[ Allen Parr ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HAtnBdRz34

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How to Tell if You’re a Christian

What is a Christian? What do Christians believe? How do I know if I’m a Christian? See, many people claim to be Christians without really know what it means to be one. So is there a way to know? All these questions and many more are answered in this episode of Impact Whiteboard. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Impact…
Don’t forget to share and subscribe!

Many people claim to be Christians, but how do we know for sure? One great place to start is to examine their “fruit” or their life. Do they show evidence of having received the Holy Spirit? Are they showing the “Fruit of the Spirit” as described in Galatians? Above everything else, we can know a person is a Christian by his or her love both for God and for others. This love isn’t as the world describes but is called Agape love, which means self-sacrificial love as Jesus demonstrated with his life/death on the cross. Here’s a great supplementary video to watch: https://youtu.be/ppx87iUh_as . So, how do you know if you’re a Christian? What in the world is a Christian? If a person really is a Christian, you should be able to see signs of God in that person’s life, above everything else, namely love.

[ Impact Video Ministries ]

Illustration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3MIe0V4YY8

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How You Can Know You’re a Child of God

[ John Piper ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGg-aNbuOSQ

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I Don’t Feel Saved

[ Bible Flock Box ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZZLl-pwi3I

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Introspectionism: A False Hope in Your Repentance

[ Conrad Murrell ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIlBq8MRykU

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John MacArthur – Assurance of Salvation

During a one of the regular Q&A sessions at Grace Community Church, Pastor John MacArthur answers a pressing question on a woman’s heart. Hear him explain to her the difference between security in salvation and assurance in salvation. This has to be one of the the most heart felt answers I have heard him give.

Q&A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHivtfyUmMc

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How Can I Know If My Repentance Is Genuine?

[ John Piper ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAS7EROchqE

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Many Christians are Headed to Hell

[ [Francis Chan ]

Sermon snippet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNA6tAlArnY

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Many Who Expect To Be Saved Will Be Lost. (Part 3 of 5)

[ William Blackburn ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbXuTgDT1D0

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Matthew 7:21-23, The Make-Believer

[ Gino Geraci ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAqTC7rUbAA

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Assurance Of Faith

[ Paul Washer ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlFkQ_6QwwQ

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Fact! Faith! Feeling!” – Testing a Common Slogan – John Piper

The virtue of slogans is brevity. Their vice is ambiguity. So they are risky ways of communicating. They are powerful and perilous. So we should exploit the power and explain the peril. I would like to venture a corrective explanation to the slogan “Fact! Faith! Feeling!”

It’s an old and common evangelical slogan. F. B. Meyer, A. T. Pearson, and L. E. Maxwell all preached sermons by this title. Today a Campus Crusade booklet uses it powerfully. The point of the slogan is the order. First, the facts about Christ. Second, the response of faith. Third, the feelings that may or may not follow.

So what’s the ambiguity? There are two: changed “feelings” may be essential to true Christian conversion, not incidental; and “faith” may not be completely distinct from feeling.

In the Campus Crusade booklet the slogan appears as a train: the locomotive is “fact.” The coal car is “faith.” The caboose is “feeling.” The explanation reads: “The train will run with or without the caboose. However, it would be futile to attempt to pull the train by the caboose.” But what are the “feelings” the train of Christian living can run without? Do “feelings” refer merely to physical experiences like sweaty palms, knocking knees, racing heart, trembling lips, tearful eyes? If so, the slogan is clear and accurate.

But most people don’t think of feelings that way. Feelings include things like gratitude, hope, joy, contentment, peacefulness, desire, compassion, fear, hate, anger, grief. None of these is merely physical. Angels, demons, and departed saints without bodies can have these “feelings.”

Apart from the Bible I think Jonathan Edwards has written the most important book on feelings in the Christian life. It’s called The Religious Affections. The definition of these “affections” (or what most people today mean by feelings) is: “the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.” In other words, the feelings that really matter are not mere physical sensations. They are the stirring up of the soul with some perceived treasure or threat.

There is a connection between the feelings of the soul and the sensations of the body. This is owing, Edwards says, to “the laws of union which the Creator has fixed between the soul and the body.” In other words, heartfelt gratitude can make you cry. Fear of God can make you tremble. The crying and the trembling are in themselves spiritually insignificant. The train can run without them. That’s the truth in the slogan. But the gratitude and the fear are not optional in the Christian life. But these are what most people call feelings. That is the peril of the slogan. It seems to make optional what the Bible makes essential.

Minimizing the importance of transformed feelings makes Christian conversion less supernatural and less radical. It is humanly manageable to make decisions of the will for Christ. No supernatural power is required to pray prayers, sign cards, walk aisles, or even stop sleeping around. Those are good. They just don’t prove that anything spiritual has happened. Christian conversion, on the other hand, is a supernatural, radical thing. The heart is changed. And the evidence of it is not just new decisions, but new affections, new feelings.

Negatively, the apostle Paul says that those who go on in the same old way of “hostility,” “jealousy,” “rage,” and “envy” “will not enter the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:20-21). These are all feelings. They must change. The train won’t get to heaven without them. Positively, Christians are commanded to have God-honoring feelings. We are commanded to feel joy (Philippians 4:4), hope (Psalm 42:5), fear (Luke 12:5), peace (Colossians 3:15), zeal (Romans 12:11), grief (Romans 12:15), desire (1 Peter 2:2), tenderheartedness (Ephesians 4:32), brokenness and contrition (James 4:9).

Moreover, faith itself has in it something that most people would call feeling. Saving faith means “receiving Christ.” “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). But receive as what? We usually say, as “Lord and Savior.” That’s right. But something more needs to be said. Saving faith also receives Christ as our Treasure. A non-treasured Christ is a non-saving Christ. Faith has in it this element of valuing, embracing, prizing, relishing of Christ. It is like a man who found a treasure hidden in a field and “from joy” sells all his treasures to have that field (Matthew 13:44).

Therefore, let us affirm the slogan when it means that physical sensations are not essential. But let us also make clear that the locomotive of fact is not headed for heaven if it is not followed by a faith that treasures Christ, and if it is not pulling a caboose-load of imperfect, but new, affections.

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Lord Lord – “Depart from Me I Never Knew You

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon snippet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tq1wDbzV9Fo

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Assurance of Salvation

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLE55jzhUT8

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How Can I Be Sure That I Am Among The Chosen/Saved?

[ R.C Sproul ]

Q&A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uB3y16RSAQw

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Assurance in Salvation Question

[ R.C. Sproul ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAKCXdlb_rA

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Saved or Self-Deceived

[ John MacArthur ]

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b47CJlE-ut0
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ztj_jyOPTVg

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Self-Examination!

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

[ Charles Spurgeon ]

Sermon (audio only): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXyv8fxcXL0

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Should You ‘Feel Something’ When You’re Saved?

[ Charles Stanley ]

Teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGCKQywLppw

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So How Do I Really Know I’m a Christian?

A few weeks ago I wrote a short piece entitled How Do I Know I’m a Christian? The post flowed from a semester of preaching through 1 John. Like John Stott (and others), I see 1 John as a letter about assurance, a brief book in which the Apostle John outlines (over and over) three signs that confirm what John already knows: namely, that the recipients of his epistles are beloved children of God.

The first sign is theological. You should have confidence if you believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God (5:11-13).
The second sign is moral. You should have confidence if you live a righteous life (3:6-9).
The third sign is social. You should have confidence if you love other Christians (3:14).
There is nothing original about these points. Stott calls the three signs “belief” or “the doctrinal test,” “obedience” or “the moral test,” and “love” or “the social test.” As far as I can tell from the commentaries I consulted, my understanding of 1 John is thoroughly mainstream. I made clear that “These are not three things we do to earn salvation, but three indicators that God has indeed saved us.” I also explained that looking for these signs was not an invitation to look for perfection. “Lest this standard make you despair,” I said at one point, “keep in mind that part of living a righteous life is refusing to claim that you live without sin and coming to Christ for cleansing when you do sin (1:9-10).” In other words, the righteous life is a repentant life.

Surprisingly, the post elicited a strong response, much of it critical. As these things go on the web, some of the critiques were petty and personal. But others raised genuine concerns worth engaging. Because they raised questions people in my own congregation might have, I took time in my sermon on May 17 to explore several of these concerns and respond to them from 1 John. I hope to have a transcript of the sermon available soon.

In the meantime, I thought it would be helpful to engage more substantively with one particular response. After my initial article, a number of people on twitter directed folks to this post by Chad Bird as a much better answer to the question “How do I know I’m a Christian?” I don’t know Chad except that he is a contributor at Christ Hold Fast, a former Lutheran pastor and professor, and an occasional blogger at Liberate. I want to interact with his post not because it is so bad, but because it is, in so many ways, terrifically good. It is heartfelt, well-written, and points people to Christ. At the same time, by my reckoning the post evidences a number of theological and exegetical missteps (or at least, half-truths). My overarching concern is that when talking about the need for personal holiness we need to find categories besides “sinless perfection” and “filthy rags.” I hope that in taking the time to respond to this brother’s article I’m not stirring up more heat, but producing more light on these thorny and perennial issues of sanctification, good works, and assurance. I’ve reprinted Bird’s article below in bold italics, with my commentary in regular print.

There are questions about ourselves that are easily answered, and there are other questions that present more of a challenge.

If someone asks me, “Are you a husband?” I can show them my ring, present my wedding certificate, point to the woman standing next to me who shares my life and my last name. Yes, I am 100% sure that I’m married.

If someone asks me, “Are you an employee?” I can show them where I work, present my pay stubs, point to the truck with which I make deliveries. Yes, I am 100% sure that I’m an employee.

Other questions are not so easily answered. If I’m asked, “Are you a good husband?” what immediately comes to mind are the times I’ve failed my wife, acted selfishly, and been anything but a good husband. I have no real external, tangible, objective way to answer that question. I must rely on feelings and speculations. Similarly, if someone asks, “What kind of employee are you?” my mind goes to the labor I’ve put in, but also to the times I’ve slacked off yet expected a full paycheck for a half-hearted performance. What if I think I’m doing an okay job but my boss thinks different and fires me?

There are questions about ourselves that are easily answered, and there are other questions about ourselves where we have to explore our hearts to test their sincerity, take account of the good and bad things we’ve done, focus inwardly to find the answer.

What about the question, “Are you a Christian?” Does this one belong to that second category, where we must explore our hearts, test our actions, focus inside ourselves to get to the right answer?

That’s certainly what some people think. So they urge folks to ask themselves if they really believe, if they really love their neighbor, if they really live a moral life. But no matter how well intentioned such an urging might be, rather than helping, it is pouring the poison of doubt into the souls of those for whom Christ died.

Here Bird makes a direct reference to my blog post mentioning the three signs I argue are put forth for our assurance in 1 John. In these opening paragraphs we get a sense of Bird’s overarching concern: when it comes to answering the question “Are you a Christian?” we should not look at ourselves or in ourselves. We will never find confidence by looking at ourselves, only misplaced doubt. To be sure, this is a real problem for many Christians, which is why pastoral care and one-another counseling must take into account all of Scripture and all of the life for person we are trying to help. But is it right to present these three signs (theological, social, moral) as only leading to poisonous doubt? Three quick thoughts.

1. There are people externally connected to God’s covenant community who ought to doubt whether they truly belong to Christ. Isn’t this the point (at least one of the points) when 1 Corinthians 6:9 announces “that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God,” or when Galatians 5:21 warns “that those who do such things [works of the flesh] will not inherit the kingdom of God,” or when Galatians 6:8 reminds us that “the one who sows to the his own flesh” will not reap “eternal life” but “will from the flesh reap corruption”? Weren’t many of Jesus’ statements meant to disturb the comfortably religious? It is possible to say “Lord, Lord” and not actually know the Lord and enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21-23). Some people honor God with their lips, but have a heart that is far from Christ (Matt. 15:8). To be sure, the purpose of 1 John is to provide comfort for believers (1 John 5:13) not pour out the poison of doubt, but doubting our salvation is not a bad things if we are not saved.

2. The call to examine oneself does not have to lead to crippling doubt and self-loathing. When Paul enjoined believers in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to examine themselves to whether they were in the faith, he fully expected them to pass the test (“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”).

3. While it is never a good idea to “focus inside ourselves,” it is impossible to make sense of 1 John if looking for moral, social, and theological evidence is entirely inappropriate. For example, 1 John 2:5-6 says “By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” Likewise, 1 John 3:10 says, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” We see similar “by this we know” language in 1 John 2:3; 3:14, 19, 24; 4:2-3; 4:13; 5:2. Clearly, we are meant to know something about the person by looking at what he believes, how he lives, and how he loves. One doesn’t have to be in favor of morbid introspection to understand that 1 John urges Christians to look for evidences of grace in themselves and in those who might be seeking to lead them astray.

Look inside yourself to answer, “Are you a Christian?” and you will find a heart that is deceitful above all things (Jer 17:9); a heart from which flow evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander (Matt 15:19); a conscience that testifies that nothing good dwells in you, that the evil you do not want to do, you nevertheless keep right on doing (Rom 7:18-19).

Look at your deeds to answer, “Are you a Christian?” and you will find that all your righteousness is as filthy rags (Isa 64:6); and if such be your righteousness, how dirty and defiled must be your unrighteousness. Look at your deeds and you will find that even when you have the desire to do what is right, you don’t have the ability to carry it out (Rom 7:18). Even if you did all that you were commanded, you must still say, “I am an unworthy servant; I have only done what was my duty,” (cf. Luke 17:10). If such be the response of a person whose has kept all God’s commands, then we who have broken those commands are worthy of nothing but punishment, now and forever.

Thus, to answer, “Are you are Christian?” by looking inside ourselves, or by looking to our deeds or love of the neighbor, is to drink the poison of doubt. In fact, the more Christians look at themselves to see whether they are Christians, the more they will become convinced that they are not Christians.

Let’s deal with Scripture first. Except for the reference to Romans 7, I don’t think any of these passages make the point Bird wants them to make. Jeremiah 17:9 is true for the unredeemed, but is “deceitful above all things” an accurate description of the hearts of those who have been born again? What about the promise of the law of God written on our hearts in Jeremiah 31? Or the promise of a heart of flesh in Ezekiel 36? Isn’t the Christian being renewed into the image of Christ (Col. 3:15) and created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10)?

Likewise, Jesus’ words in Matthew 15:19 are not describing the regular life of a born again disciple. If they were, how could we make sense of the instructions in the Sermon on the Mount, let alone the description of those outside of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:8?

I’ve written before that “filthy rags” in Isaiah 64:6 refers to perfunctory ritual obedience. The fact that Isaiah 64:5 speaks of the Lord smiling upon “him who joyfully works righteousness” proves that God does not turn his nose up at everything we ever do in his sight. Your heavenly Father is not impossible to please.

I don’t see the relevance of Luke 17:10. The discussion is not whether our obedience makes us worthy of anything, but whether obedience is a helpful (and even necessary) sign of our belonging to Christ. We are talking about the fruit of our justification, not the root.

Romans 7 is notoriously difficult to interpret, but assuming the passage is speaking about the converted Paul (which is what I think), these self-recriminating verses do not mean it is wrong to look for the sort of signs 1 John outlines. Elsewhere, Paul seems quite satisfied in his conscience that he has been walking in faith (and presumably in repentance) with the Lord (1 Cor. 4:3-4; 2 Cor. 1:12). Romans 7 expresses the very real sense of conviction and inner turmoil we can experience as Christians, which is why I would never say Christians should only look to their own lives for assurance. It is the testimony of most great saints that the closer they got to God, the more of their sin they began to see. Assurance is not a task for the navel-gazer, but a community project that relies (among other things) on evidence and on the spiritual sense of our brothers and sisters.

The answer is found not within us but within Christ. Our assurance is in his objective, external work of salvation on our behalf. Not in our hearts but in the heart and life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we receive assurance that we are the children of God.

This is the crux of the matter. Is the Christian’s assurance based on the objective, external work of salvation won by Christ on our behalf? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Are there other grounds of assurance? Also yes. The Reformed confessions (Dort and Westminster) mention three grounds of assurance: “the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces. . . .[and] the testimony of the Spirit of adoption.” On the second point regarding inward evidences of grace, Westminster lists four prooftexts:

2 Peter 1:4-11 which urges us to make our calling and election sure by the diligent effort to grow in godliness and bear spiritual fruit.
1 John 2:3 which testifies that we know we belong to God if we keep his commandments.
1 John 3:14 which assures us that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers.
2 Cor. 1:12 which speaks of rejoicing in the testimony of a good conscience.
Clearly, the Confession teaches that a transformed life is one sign (though not the only sign, and certainly not the the cause) of our right standing with God. Whether Lutheran Orthodoxy agrees with Reformed Orthodoxy on this point I cannot say, but the Defense of the Augsburg Confession does state: “It is, therefore, manifest that we require good works” (III.19).

In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19)—the world of which you are a part. In Christ you are reconciled to God, at peace with the Lord, adopted as a child of the heavenly Father. God loved the world in this way: by sending his only begotten Son to die as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And if the world’s sin is taken away, then your sins are taken away. God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us in order that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). His worthiness covers our unworthiness.

Your name is written in the wounds of Jesus. He has dipped his pen in the crimson ink of his veins and written your name, indelibly, in the Lamb’s Book of Life. He has engraved your name on the palms of his hands. He has tattooed his name onto your soul and heart and mind and body—you are completely and everlastingly his and his alone. In baptism you did not commit yourself to Christ; he committed himself to you. More than that, in those waters he crucified you with himself, laid your body with his in the tomb, and he carried you forth into the light of life again. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. That believing, that faith, is not a conviction you created but a gift you received. By the Holy Spirit you confess, “Jesus is Lord.”

Beautiful stuff. I think I detect a universal atonement in the first paragraph and a little Lutheran sacramental theology in the second paragraph, but outside of this these are wonderful gospel truths that I hope every Christian would warmly embrace.

Do we still struggle to believe? Of course we do, for we are far from perfect in this life. As a father once prayed to Jesus, so we also pray, “Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief,” (Mark 9:24). And he does. He enlivens and strengthens our faith by continuing to forgive us, to love us, to heal us, to give us himself. It is not our faithfulness that saves us, but the faithfulness of Jesus. For even if we are faithless he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself (2 Tim 2:13).

Setting aside the question of how to interpret 2 Timothy 2:13 (which some take to be God’s faithfulness to save us and others interpret as God’s faithfulness to judge those who deny him), Bird is being both biblically true and pastorally wise to remind us that “we are far from perfect in this life.” No one is without sin, and if we claim to be without sin we call God a liar (1 John 1:8, 10). The problem is that whenever mention is made of obeying God or pleasing God (manifestly biblical categories), some Christians–whether because they have an axe to grind or (more likely) because they have a tender conscience–hear in that language: flawless, spotless, meritorious obedience. As I said earlier, when explaining the need for personal holiness in the life of the Christian, we need categories besides “sinless perfection” and “filthy rags.” Employing this category is one of the strengths of 1 John and is necessary if we are to make sense of Hebrews 12:14, the Sermon on the Mount, qualifications for elders and deacons, the fruit of the Spirit, or almost anything in the New Testament.

We are capable of doing what is good–not perfectly, not without blemish and weakness, but truly, sincerely, and in a way that is pleasing to God. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, our sins are not only forgiven in Christ, our works are also accepted in Christ, such that God, “looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections” (WCF16.6). It is equally a denial of Scripture and of the grace of God to say that the Christian cannot do good as it is to say that the Christian never does what is bad (1 John 1:8, 10; 2:1, 3, 12-14, 15-17; 3:2-3, 4-10; 5:1-5; 18-20).

How do you know you’re a Christian? Not because your heart is good and pure but because the heart of Christ pulses with a love for you that will never end. Not because your deeds are righteous but because he has been righteous on your behalf and clothes you with that righteousness. Not because you have lived for him but because he has lived and died and risen again for you. Not because you asked him to be your Savior but because while you were yet a sinner, Christ died for you, chose you, called you, and washed you clean in his own divine blood.

If someone asks you, “How do you know you’re a Christian?” the answer is as simple as it is beautiful: you know you’re a Christian because Christ has made you his own because Christ will hold you fast because nothing can separate you from the love of God because Christ knows you, forgives you, washes you, and will never let you go.

That’s how you know you’re a Christian.

I love a lot about these concluding paragraphs. I love the emphasis on the work of Christ on the cross. I love the focus on Christ’s never-failing love. I love the reminder that we do not hold on to Christ, but he holds on to us. I love what Bird affirms in this closing section. My concern is in what he denies. I find this to be a recurring problem in recent sanctification debates. It’s not the affirmations of grace that trouble me, but what so often shows up as the antithesis to grace. If the question was “How do I become a Christian?” then the “nots” would be well placed. But the question is how do I know I’m a Christian? In which case what we believe, what we do, and what our hearts feel is not irrelevant. What should we make of someone whose heart is bad and impure, someone whose deeds are unrighteous, someone who does not live for Christ, someone who has not asked Christ to be his Savior? I suppose in one sense–and this is likely what Bird means–we could still conclude that this person was a Christian, if we mean someone whose heart still struggles with sin, someone whose deeds are not always righteous, someone who does not live for Christ as well as he would like, someone whose confidence is not in faith itself but in the object of his faith. I assume that’s what Bird means, but by themselves these statements say too much. They claim that looking at the heart, looking at our deeds, looking at a life of discipleship, looking at a basic faith commitment has no bearing on whether you know you’re a Christian. Even if these were absent there would be no grounds for questioning your position in Christ. Is this good biblical counsel and pastoral care? Is there anything a professing Christian can say or do or fail to manifest that would suggest a profession is false?

If you can hang with me a few more paragraphs, read through this tedious but important section from (Lutheran) Defense of the Augsburg Confession:

We, therefore, profess that it is necessary that the Law be begun in us, and that it be observed continually more and more. And at the same time we comprehend both spiritual movements and external good works [the good heart within and works without]. Therefore the adversaries falsely charge against us that our theologians do not teach good works while they not only require these, but also show how they can be done [that the heart must enter into these works, lest they be mere, lifeless, cold works of hypocrites].

The result convicts hypocrites, who by their own powers endeavor to fulfill the Law, that they cannot accomplish what they attempt. [For are they free from hatred, envy, strife, anger, wrath, avarice, adultery, etc.? Why, these vices were nowhere greater than in the cloisters and sacred institutes.] For human nature is far too weak to be able by its own powers to resist the devil, who holds as captives all who have not been freed through faith. There is need of the power of Christ against the devil, namely, that, inasmuch as we know that for Christ’s sake we are heard, and have the promise, we may pray for the governance and defense of the Holy Ghost, that we may neither be deceived and err, nor be impelled to undertake anything contrary to God’s will. [Otherwise we should, every hour, fall into error and abominable vices.] Just as Ps. 68:18 teaches: Thou hast led captivity captive; Thou hast received gifts for man. For Christ has overcome the devil, and has given to us the promise and the Holy Ghost, in order that, by divine aid, we ourselves also may overcome. And 1 John 3:8: For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

Again, we teach not only how the Law can be observed, but also how God is pleased if anything be done, namely, not because we render satisfaction to the Law, but because we are in Christ, as we shall say after a little. It is, therefore, manifest that we require good works. Yea, we add also this, that it is impossible for love to God, even though it be small, to be sundered from faith, because through Christ we come to the Father, and the remission of sins having been received, we now are truly certain that we have a God, i.e., that God cares for us; we call upon Him, we give Him thanks, we fear Him, we love Him as 1 John 4:19 teaches: We love Him, because He first loved us, namely, because He gave His Son for us, and forgave us our sins. Thus he indicates that faith precedes and love follows.

Likewise the faith of which we speak exists in repentance, i.e., it is conceived in the terrors of conscience, which feels the wrath of God against our sins, and seeks the remission of sins, and to be freed from sin. And in such terrors and other afflictions this faith ought to grow and be strengthened. Wherefore it cannot exist in those who live according to the flesh who are delighted by their own lusts and obey them. Accordingly, Paul says, Rom. 8:1: There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. So, too, Rom. 8:12-13: We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. Wherefore, the faith which receives remission of sins in a heart terrified and fleeing from sin does not remain in those who obey their desires, neither does it coexist with mortal sin.(III.15-23, emphasis and paragraph breaks mine)

I find in this section so much of what is often denied by those on the “stop looking at yourself” side of the sanctification discussion.

We can grow as Christians (the Law being observed in us more and more).
As the fruit of our justification, good works are necessary for the Christian.
By the conquering power of Christ, good work are possible for the Christian.
Genuine faith in inconsistent with living according to the flesh.
As I read the books and blogs and tweets of my brothers and sisters on the other side of these debates I often find myself saying, “Yes, I love that too! But saying yes to that doesn’t entail saying no to this.” We have to deal with people in the full range of their problems, fears, hurts, and idols. We have to sing all four parts of the score and from more than our favorite oratorio. We have to be more careful with what we affirm and what we deny. And above all, we must be relentlessly biblical. If someone’s sermon or book or article makes you feel condemned or feel uneasy or feel out of sorts with God that is not inconsequential, but neither is it by itself conclusive. Maybe the message was off. Maybe the messenger was clumsy. Or maybe the fault lies with the one receiving the message. If we want to be good Reformed Christians or good Lutheran Christians (or any other kind of good Christians) we must keep going back to the Bible. We have to think carefully and speak carefully. This is an important conversation with lots of theological, personal, and pastoral ramifications. If we deal with slogans and caricatures, all will be in vain. If we talk calmly and dig deeply, much can be gained.

[ Kevin DeYoung ]

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The Assurance of Jesus’ Love: 1 John 5:13-21

[ Ekklesia Church ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooju_zvqf9M

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The Christian’s Assurance of Salvation

[ John MacArthur ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mi53UwZ5br0

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The Most Terrifying Verse in the Bible – Matthew 7:21-23

[ Bruce Goettsche ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpEjhOlqvrk

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Understanding the False Convert (Matthew 7:21-23)

Jacob Reaume ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDzZ9mb4vkM

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Are You Lacking Christian Assurance?

[ Todd Friel ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xW0YOZ9Mps

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Finding the Narrow Way to Heaven

[ John MacArthur ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OV_FTsieQw8

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Eternal Security of Believers

[ Dr. Steven J. Lawson ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoymeMPFqZE

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Eternal Security

[ Charles Spurgeon ]

Sermon (audio only): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i27b4cE4xyo

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Pilgrim’s Progress – Journey To Heaven” (2008 Movie)

STORYLINE:
An allegory of the life of a Christian believer on a journey from the “City of Destruction” (this ‘world’) to the “Celestial City” (Heaven).

SYNOPSIS:
“Pilgrim’s Progress, Journey to Heaven” is a modern adaptation of John Bunyan’s beloved classic. It is the #1 Children’s fantasy of all time. The novel has been heralded as a literary masterpiece around the world, as it has been published in over 100 languages and is the most read book other than the Bible.

Amazing visual effects, beautiful locations, and a wonderful cast bring to life the story that has inspired each generation for hundreds of years. Follow Christian and his companions on a great Journey from the City of Destruction to the gates of Heaven as they face obstacles large and small, man-made and demon spawned.

Beyond the gripping drama, Bunyan’s powerful allegory teaches us all the hazards and hopes of the Christian life, and it features the triumphant glory that awaits all who faithfully follow the King of kings!

————-

Produced by DRC FILMS (Danny R. Carrales) in 2008, in my opinion, is the most ‘faithful’ rendition of part one of John Bunyan’s classic “Pilgrim’s Progress” book (even including the new 2019 animated version by Revelation Media).

For more information about this movie, and to buy the DVD, visit their website:

HOME

[ NOTE (Editor, Mark): In my opinion, this is the most ‘faithful’ rendition of “The Pilgrims Progress” book by John Bunyan I have ever seen ].

Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_Q1NZ9q5_Y

Entire Movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_Q1NZ9q5_Y

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Blessed Assurance (My King Is Coming)

Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His spirit, washed in his Blood

This is my story
This is my song
Praising my Savior
All the day long
This is my story
This is my song
Praising my Savior
All the day long

Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my savior am happy and blessed
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His Love

This is my story
This is my song
Praising my Savior
All the day long
This is my story
This is my song
Praising my Savior
All the day long

My King is coming soon
He will roll the clouds away
Light of Heaven bursting through
Oh what a glorious day!
Yes, my King is coming soon
He will roll the clouds away
Light of Heaven bursting through
And until that glorious day

This is my story
This is my song
Praising my Savior
All the day long
This is my story
This is my song
Praising my Savior
All the day long

This is my story
This is my song

My King is coming soon
He will roll the clouds away
Light of Heaven bursting through
And until that glorious day

This is my story
This is my story
This is my song

[ Matthew West – “Jesus Firm Foundation” album ]

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Before the Throne of God Above

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God

One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God

[ Kristyn Getty ]

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O for a Closer Walk with God

O for a closer walk with God,
a calm and heav’nly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!

Where is the blessedness I knew
when first I sought the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
of Jesus and His Word?

What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their mem’ry still!
But they have left an aching void
the world can never fill.

Return, O holy Dove, return,
sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn,
and drove Thee from my breast.

The dearest idol I have known,
whate’er that idol be,
help me to tear it from Thy throne
and worship only Thee.

So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.

[ William Coper – 1772 ]

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Feels Like First John
(Parody of “Feel Like the First Time” by Foreigner)

I would write an announcement
Rail on gnostic heresy
But back in the late First Century
He wrote out what you need to read
And I guess it’s just the Word of His Truth
That brings out the enemy
I know I can’t help myself
With knowledge and worthless deeds

It feels like in First John
It feels like we’re there in First John
It feels like in First John
It feels like we’re there in First John

And First John 4:2 and 3
He’s God and He’s man, too
Together — it’s a mystery
And I know that trusting the Word of His Truth
It brings life eternally
I know I have that myself
It’s all in 5 verse 13

And it feels like in First John
Like they neeeever met the Lord
It feels like in First John
Like he’d spoken of before
It feels like in First John
Like in chapter three again
7 through 10

It feels like in First John
(It feels like we’re there in First John) Don’t you know it feels
Oh, it feels like in First John
GUITAR

Open up the Book
Won’t you open up the Book?
Yeah

It feels like in First John
It feels like we’re there in First John
It feels like in First John
It feels like we’re there in First John

And it feels like in First John
It feels like we’re there in First John
Oh, it feels
Feels like in First John
Yeah, it feels like in First John
It feels like we’re there in First John

[ ApologetiX – “Zebraic” album ]

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God’s Presence (the Christ in Your Life)
(Parody of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day)

Another sermon point, you’re bored, ya hit the road
I’m glad the Bible gives a test of where you’ll go
So the take the test – is His presence in your life?
It’s in the Second book of Corinthians, 13:5

It’s socially unacceptable, but in the end, it’s right
I hope you have the Christ in your life

So make a note of that — you still can change your mind
Take it off the shelf – read Romans 10, verse 9
Back in the heavenlies your test is on file
You’re on this earth for a very short while

It’s socially unacceptable, but in the end, it’s right
I hope you have the Christ in your life

It’s socially unacceptable, but in the end, it’s right
I hope you have the Christ in your life

It’s socially unacceptable, but in the end, it’s right
I hope you have the Christ in your life

[ ApologetiX – “Very Vicarious” album ]

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Child of God
(Parody of “Shining Star” by Earth, Wind & Fire)

Yeah, yeah – hey – huh
Bet you wish you were a star
You dream of fame and fancy cars, yeah
But when you’re with the Nazarene
Life ain’t always such a dream, oh yeah
What you’ll be now’s not so clear, hey
Yet to Christ you’re very dear, yeah

You’re a child of God – don’t matter who you’re not
We’re the bride to be – of Jesus, you and me – His church in unity
LEAD

Child, what’s gotten into you?
Child it’s not quite “what” — it’s “who”? Yeah!
It’s His Spirit there along, yeah
Yeah, makes His Body quick and strong, yeah
We’re goin’ to mansions of the Son — yeah
Yeah, sowin’ God’s Word to everyone
Yeah, God will help, His Spirit will move, yeah
Well, yes, He will, I got my proof, oh yeah, oh yeah
So edify yourself and read
I know you’re facin’ some adversity
Jesus Christ is greater than
Are you His? Say, yes, I am

You’re a child of God – don’t matter who you’re not
We’re the bride to be – of Jesus, you and me
You’re a child of God – don’t matter who you’re not
We’re the bride to be – of Jesus, you and me
You’re a child of God – don’t matter who you’re not
We’re the bride to be – of Jesus, you and me

Child of God, though you can’t see what you’re like and soon will be
Child of God, though you can’t see what you’re like and soon will be
Find First John 3:2 and read — and Philippians 2:15

[ ApologetiX – “Very Vicarious” album ]

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Feeling Stronger in the Faith
(Parody of “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” by Chicago)

I do believe in You and I know You’re redeeming me
Oh yeah, oh yeah
And now I realize I’m not all that I’m s’posed to be
Oh yeah, oh yeah

And though I’m not too good at walkin’ in this grace
I do believe I’m feelin’ stronger in the faith

I know You really died to get Your sheep to the other side
Oh yeah, oh yeah
So now that Christ has come, Your chosen ones can live on and on
Oh yeah, oh yeah

And though I’m not too good at walkin’ in this grace
I do believe I’m feelin’ stronger in the faith
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Oh

After blood You shed for me
Ooh, daily now I can praise You easily
Yeah, yeah, yeah
I know that on Calvary (ahhhh)
The worst thing to happen to You (ahhhh)
Was the best thing to happen to me (ahhhh)
Yeah, yeah, yeah

LEAD

Feelin’ stronger in the faith
Feelin’ stronger in the faith
Feelin’ stronger in the faith (No turnin’ back now)
Feelin’ stronger in the faith (No turnin’ back now)
Feelin’ stronger in the faith (No turnin’ back now)
Feelin’ stronger in the faith (No turnin’ back now)
Feelin’ stronger in the faith (No turnin’ back now)
Feelin’ stronger in the faith (No turnin’ back now)

[ ApologetiX – “Unconditional Releases” album ]

*****************************

 

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DEEP THOUGHTS:

“No matter what I feel, I hold the assurance that God never leaves me.”
[ Craig Groeschel ]

“It is possible for a man to know whether God has called him or not, and he may know it too beyond a doubt. He may know it as surely as if he read it with his own eyes; nay, he may know it more surely than that, for if I read a thing with my eyes, even my eyes may deceived me, the testimony of sense may be false, but the testimony of the Spirit must be true. We have the witness of the Spirit within, bearing witness with our spirits that we are born of God. There is such a thing on earth as an infallible assurance of our election. Let a man once get that, and it will anoint his head with fresh oil, it will clothe him with the white garment of praise, and put the son of the angel into his mouth. Happy, happy man! who is fully assured of his interest in the covenant of grace, in the blood of atonement, and in the glories of heaven! Such men there are here this very day. Let them ‘rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice.’

What would some of you give if you could arrive at this assurance? Mark, if you anxiously desire to know, you may know. If your heart pants to read its title clear it shall do so ere long. No man ever desired Christ in his heart with a living and longing desire, who did not find Him sooner or later. If thou hast a desire, God has given it thee. If thou pantest, and criest, and groanest after Christ, even this is His gift; bless Him for it. Thank Him for little grace, and ask Him for great grace. He has given thee hope, ask for faith; and when He gives thee faith, ask for assurance; and when thou gettest assurance, ask for full assurance; and when thou hast obtained full assurance, ask for enjoyment; and when thou hast enjoyment, ask for glory itself; and He shall surely give it thee in His own appointed season.”
[ Charles Haddon Spurgeon ]

“Let not your heart be troubled: …believe in God.” Yes—the God of the Old Testament, the God of the promises, the God of the covenants, the God of whom it is said, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up” (Ps 27:10). This is the same God who has told mankind from the beginning that His desire was to bless them, and to give them peace and joy, and to have them as His children. Trust Him…”
[ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones ]

“[ … ]when we have been brought very low and helped, sorely wounded and healed, cast down and raised again, have given up all hope–and been suddenly snatched from danger, and placed in safety; and when these things have been repeated to us and in us a thousand times over, we begin to learn to trust simply to the word and power of God, beyond and against appearances[….]”
[ John Newton ]

“For we are not saved by believing in our own salvation, nor by believing anything whatsoever about ourselves. We are saved by what we believe about the Son of God and His righteousness. The gospel believed saves; not the believing in our own faith.”
[ Horatius Bonar ]

“Nothing consoles and comforts like certainty does.”
[ Amit Kalantri ]

“Hope is an enthusiastic assurance.”
[ Lailah Gifty Akita ]

“The assurance of Heaven is never given to the person. And that’s why at the core of the Christian faith is the grace of God. If there’s one word I would grab from all of that, it’s forgiveness – that you can be forgiven. I can be forgiven, and it is of the grace of God. But once you understand that, I think the ramifications are worldwide.”
[ Ravi Zacharias ]

“We have joy for the assurance of the promise.”
[ Lailah Gifty Akita ]

“O God, we praise Thee for keeping us till this day, and for the full assurance that Thou wilt never let us go.”
[ Charles Spurgeon ]

“I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
[ John Wesley ]

“The Gospel comes in power and the Holy Spirit, with much assurance. If you call upon the name of the Lord, God will transform you on the inside, give you the shock of your life, and give you everlasting life on top of that.”
[ Ray Comfort ]

“I’m afraid that when it comes to the Christian life, and especially the issue of assurance, too many of us adopt the Barney Fife approach. That is, we let the enemy bully us into believing that were only safe as long as were wearing our Christian ‘uniform.'”
[ Tony Evans ]

“God never fails. No matter how long it takes, the promise will be fulfilled.”
[ Lailah Gifty Akita ]

“We are no more secure in Christ with a strong faith than with a small faith, so long as that small faith is true faith.”
[ Jared C. Wilson ]

“The knowledge of faith consists in assurance rather than in comprehension. . . . We add the words “sure and firm” in order to express a more solid constancy of persuasion.”
[ John Calvin ]

“It is true that we need to make a onetime decision to follow Jesus. But a true onetime decision is followed by the everyday decision to follow Jesus.”
[ Mike McKinley ]

RELATED SCRIPTURE VERSES:

Assurance Of Salvation

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FIRST JOHN

1 John 1:1: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life–

1 John 1:5: This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:7: 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 cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 2:1: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

1 John 2:15: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1 John 3:1: See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

1 John 3:2: Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

1 John 3:5: You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

1 John 3:16: By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

1 John 4:4: Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

1 John 4:7: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:8: Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:10: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:12: No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:19: We love because he first loved us.

1 John 5:10: Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

1 John 5:12: Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5:13: 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.

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John 5:24
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Matthew 24:11-13
And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

John 3:36
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Hebrews 10:26-27
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

Matthew 7:21
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

John 8:31-32
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 10:28
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Romans 10:9
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Hebrews 6:4-6
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Romans 10:13
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:38-39
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Timothy 2:10-13
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

John 10:27-30
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

Romans 8:16
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

John 6:37
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

Romans 10:13-14
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

John 1:12
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

Ephesians 2:8
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

Titus 3:5
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

Acts 2:38-39
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Acts 2:21
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

John 20:31
But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Acts 4:12
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Philippians 1:6
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 4:7-8
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Acts 16:31
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Romans 5:8
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Acts 2:20-21
The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Mark 16:16
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

2 Timothy 1:12
Which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

Romans 8:1-39
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. …

Romans 8:15-16
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:32
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

John 6:39
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

John 3:3
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

1 Peter 1:5
Who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 3:18-22
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Romans 10:9-10
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Jeremiah 17:7-8
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Colossians 2:2
That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,

Ephesians 2:5
Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

John 3:16-17
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:1-5
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Hebrews 10:10
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Romans 8:35
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Hebrews 6:18
So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

Philippians 2:12-13
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Romans 11:19-22
Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Romans 2:6-8
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

John 6:47
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

Ephesians 1:4
Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

Romans 1:16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Jude 1:24
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,

Hebrews 6:11
And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end,

James 2:19
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Hebrews 10:21-23
And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

2 Timothy 3:15
And how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 2:14-15
To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

John 11:25-26
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Isaiah 52:6
Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I.”

1 Corinthians 11:27-30
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

John 20:19-23
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

James 2:14-26
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. …

Hebrews 7:25
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Matthew 9:6-8
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

1 Corinthians 11:1-2
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

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“A quick summary of the Christian “Gospel”:
JESUS’ PROPITIATION made our SINS FORGIVEN and IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS to us so that we have GOD’S ACCEPTANCE into His Heaven and ETERNAL LIFE.”
[ Mark Besh ]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

 
FOCUS VERSES:

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”
[1 John 5:13].

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
[ 2 Corinthians 13:5 ]
 
Mark

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If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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