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Biblical Assurance: Part 1

June 5, 2009

Biblical Assurance: A Gospel Doctrine

Biblical assurance is a much needed doctrine for the church today. Throughout the history of the church, God’s people have sought to understand this truth in regards to their standing before a holy and righteous God. How is that sinful man can stand in the presence of an Almighty, All-knowing, All-holy God and not tremble? The simple answer is to have our sins forgiven so that there is no basis on which the Holy One can condemn us. If there is no sin, there is no condemnation. If there is no possibility of condemnation, there should be no fear. But often that is not the case. Why not? Why do we so often struggle in regards to our standing with God? It’s because we struggle understanding and experiencing our assured standing with God. In other words, ‘How do I know that I know I am really ‘ok’ with God in terms of my sin and His holiness?’ is a valid question.

                Has God left us without help other than the assurance that our plea for help will not go unnoticed? Those who struggle will object here and say, “Yeah, but how do I know I REALLY called on Him for salvation? How can I be assured of that?” So now we are back where we started. How does one know that they are a fellow heir of the grace of God? Is the biblical doctrine of assurance all about convincing us intellectually that we are ‘ok’ with God or is there a further (and better!) dynamic involved?

Let me state what the bible teaches up front: full assurance of salvation is not to be reserved for a special class of believers – those who have reached a special level of sanctification and growth. It is for all God’s children, not as a special privilege, but for all to be able to rejoice in. It goes further than this – assurance is the key to living a productive, emboldened, joyful Christian life. The unsure believer will be tossed to and fro doctrinally and emotionally. The unsure believer becomes easy prey for the devil and his schemes and unsure believers will never take a bold approach in conquering the world for Jesus. Yet, the assured believer will be as bold as a lion in the face of any situation, even in dealing with their own sins and shortcomings!

Biblical assurance gives joy to the downcast, strength to those weak in fighting against sin to renew the fight, and boldness to the otherwise timid to do great things for God. Perhaps some of the church’s failure to act today is due to lack of assurance. Perhaps the church suffers the loss of fullness of fellowship because we are accustomed to hiding our sins from each other which in turns encourages us even more so to hide from God. Why? Well, if some can’t accept me and my sin and I’m not as good as them, then how can God accept me when His standard is SO much higher? Who can have assurance in the face of those situations? Or maybe we don’t witness as we should because our boldness is hampered by the thought: “What if they know how I struggle with sin? What if they point out some major sin/fault of mine? I don’t have a credible testimony so rather than bring shame on the church when I witness, I’ll just keep quiet and let the holy people in church share the gospel.” Some of us think this way.

A tender conscious will be more likely to lose the sense of God’s assurance. And some of us are weaker than others in different areas. Full assurance may be just our thorn in the flesh. Or some may struggle with assurance because it is unbiblically based on feelings rather than truth but that’s another article. I note this to give an example that there are valid and invalid reasons for HAVING assurance and for NOT HAVING assurance. It cuts all ways. I want to begin the articles by talking about FALSE grounds of assurance. Why? Because sometimes you can’t build the right foundation until the wrong one is taken up. For some, I know this may make you struggle more in your assurance than you already are. But hold on for the next several weeks and I’ll get you to the biblical bases. If you’ve been holding onto whatever works at giving you a sense of assurance, this is not healthy and it won’t in the long run give you God’s assurance. Assurance built off of a ‘whatever–i-can-convince-myself-of-that-I-am-ok-with-God’ mentality is man based assurance and not Divine! It’s not God’s will for you to have such a faulty understanding. John tells us that, “I have written these things that your joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:4) John was writing to believers so that they would understand their position before God and so that God’s ‘love would cast out [their] fear.’ (1 John 4:18)     

God doesn’t motivate His people out of servile fear to get His will done or as the basis of His relationship with us. It’s ALL of RADICAL, FULL, AND AMAZING FREE GRACE! Paul knew that the deep, deep love of Jesus is what the believers needed to understand to live the fullness of life Christ has called us to. (Eph. 1:15ff) Living by do’s and do not’s creates fear; living by He did’s will give us assurance!

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