“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20
He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me…and on and on it goes. There was a time in my Christian life when uncertainty over belonging to Christ depleted my spiritual strength. Shouldn’t there be more power in me to do good? I am so selfish…if I were really a Christian I would be in the jungles of Irian-Jaya preaching to the animistic headhunters and sleeping with one eye open at night. But wait a minute, wasn’t it said, “by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified,” that Galatians 2:16 thing? And now am I trying to be justified by the law? “Wretched man that I am.” [Romans 7:24] Help!
How can I rest in a love I am not sure of? It is like drinking from a water bottle with a cap on it. To get that water I must first remove the cap. Likewise, to enjoy Christ’s love I must allow myself to believe He really does love me, but it almost seems arrogant to insist that I am Christ’s, that I am the object of his love…me? Really? There is this complexity, this contradiction that exists in the human heart—we know we are not good enough, yet we need to see ourselves as being good enough. On the other hand, does my behavior matter at all? Should our behavior enter the calculus of assurance? Is it in ALL cases right to claim assurance?
In this next verse Jesus gives us a window to a future event that is very frightening: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” [Matthew 7:21]. False assurance is a real thing, and according to Jesus, there are many under its influence.
Notice in the verse above that the reason Jesus rejects these persons is because they have been “PRACTICING LAWLESSNESS”. The key word here is the word “practicing”. Unfortunately, we still sin, but stumbling or falling is different than practicing. Practicing implies that we have not repented from our sinful predilection’s. A certain theology, and I will not mention names, had produced the false notion of the “Carnal Christian”. This can also be described as “Antinomianism”, which has its roots long into the past. An Antinomian can be defined as “one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation” [Meriam-Webster]. I heard the story of a pastor counseling a young man in his congregation who was dealing drugs and living with his girlfriend. When the pastor tried to explain that it was entirely wrong for a Christian to live this way, the young man replied, “Don’t worry pastor, I’m a Carnal Christian”.
“Free from the law, oh blessed condition,
I can sin as I please and still have remission.”
[From the book “Do I know God” by Tullian Tchividjian]
This poor young man wanted Jesus and his sinful lifestyle. He was laboring under that false notion that being carnal was acceptable to our Holy Lord. Jesus has quite a different view, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” [Luke 13:5]
Assurance is not a license to believe you can live as you please and claim you are a Christian. “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” [Galatians 5:19-21] Notice the use of the word “practice” again.
So now, that other part of your thinking begins to kick in. Are you telling me that I must perform good works to be accepted by Jesus? YES! Well, not exactly. But before you stone me for being a heretic, please let me explain. If you think that the Almighty, Holy, and Sovereign God can live in you and you remain unchanged—you are foolish beyond belief. This is what Jesus is trying to tell us when he says, “I never knew you”. If there is no change, there is no Jesus. Even if you call Him Lord, Lord. Even if you have been busy prophesying in His name, or casting out demons in His name, or performing miracles in His name. Or, to put it in modern circumstances, even if you have been visiting homeless shelters or leading bible studies.
To be clear, you are saved SOLEY by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, washed clean SOLEY by the blood of Jesus, and justified SOLEY by His righteousness. The point is that if this has happened to you, you will repent from your sin, you will begin a life of sanctification, and you will be changed into a person who loves righteousness and seeks to do good. To believe anything other than this is an insult to our Sovereign God’s monergistic work in the lives of the saved.
It is essential that we pursue assurance or recognize and abandon false assurance. It is necessary that we know we are in Christ for our faith to be effective: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” [James 4:8] Assurance is not an option for someone who desires a rich and joyful life in Christ.
Through assurance the cap is removed from the water bottle and we receive the refreshment of Christ on our soul, we receive His joy. The joy of Christ is not some magical spiritual mist floating through the air, brimming with clichés, that happens upon you. It is the state of mind you experience when you are at a place of humility and repentance and you accept that you belong to Christ. This is the place where the heart values Him above all else. This is the place where you will find true joy and strength.
SO HOW DO WE ACHIEVE THIS ASSURANCE?
Assurance is a thing you as a believer must grasp. Unlike salvation itself, which is accomplished by the power of God in you, you must choose to grasp that golden ring, otherwise you will be tormented by your doubt and your effectiveness as a Christian will be diminished. Examine yourself. If you are living a repentant lifestyle, if your desire is to please and serve Him, then go ahead, grasp that ring, it is there for you right now. Know Him and enjoy Him, this is what he died for.
I want to make sure that you do not think I am preaching perfectionism in any way. Unfortunately, we will be sinners until we die. A practice of thoughtful repentance is a necessary component of Christian growth and sanctification.
God forbid if we, as teachers, pastors, counselors, even as friends, encourage anyone to come to Christ without the charge to repent. We would be guilty of leading them toward the perilous state of false assurance. How can genuine love not warn an unsuspecting person about this truth?
If you are struggling with assurance, pray about what was said here and think deeply about what might be holding you back.
If you have assurance, do you feel it is based on the principles of biblical salvation?
Think about the people you have shared the gospel with. Was a discussion on repentance included? Do you think those people understood what a repentant lifestyle is?
Lord, give me the strength to uncover everything I am holding back from you. I want to be free in Christ and know His love. Amen.
Guest Discerning Dad
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