Posted by: Bro. Lawrence D. | July 10, 2008

Agonizing over Assurance

Maybe you’ll see yourself in this post…maybe not. But my goal here on this blog is to be honest about things that I agonize over. So here goes:

If you would have interviewed me a few years ago, asking me theological questions, you would have deduced that I was an ignorant Arminian. Sincere yes, but ignorant. I was your typical “If once saved always saved is true, then I can go out and sin all I want to and still say I’m saved!” defender of Arminianism. For a mainline “hand-clapping, foot-stomping, tongue-talking (although I actually didn’t do this), run around the church 3 times (I did do this, lol)”  Pentecostal, the idea of infinite grace and complete atonement was simply odious to me. This of course shows how ignorant I was of the doctrines of grace. This also shows how I would have defined salvation as a cooperative work between me and God. I would have also made an unwarranted distinction (there is a theological one) between regeneration and santification. Regeneration, for me, was a forgiveness of all sins up until the point I said the “sinner’s prayer”. Sanctification was the result of all the work I put forth to be a good church member and “not be like the world”, as both were defined by the COGIC. In other words, getting saved was easy but staying saved was hard work. Nothing was final.

In spite of all this, though, I was 100% confident that I was saved. Even during periods when I would fall into (really walk right into) grevious sin, my attitude or belief was that at any moment I could just cry out to God in sincerity and my sins would be forgiven. My slate would be wiped clean and I could begin the massive effort of trying to live a sinless life all over again in order to “stay saved”. Now of course this became a seemingly unending cycle but still I was confident that if I died, I would be welcomed into Heaven.

Then about three years ago, I met a brother on my job who introduced me to Calvinism and the whole debate. My love of reading, the fact that I had just purchased a new computer and the fact that I was between churches, opened a wide door of opportunity for me to fully engulf myself in the whole issue. As I began to study more and more, I became fully convinced of the biblical accuracy of the five points of Calvinism (the Tulip). The last domino or letter to fall being, of course, “Limited Atonement”. Ironically, though, at this present moment I don’t have the same confidence of my standing with God that I had as an Arminian.

Now this same brother on my job had introduced me to Way of the Master and Paul Washer. And here’s where the problems began. Despite having what I now consider to be a more sound and biblical theological foundation, these two particular ministries went a long way to shake up my confidence in my salvation. It became disturbed on two fronts. First of all (and you can read about this on the About Me page), I didn’t enter the Christian life under the most pristine conditions. I did believe that the prayer I prayed was my entrance into the fold. And on top of that, the gospel that I had been given presented Christ’ atoning work on the cross as only sufficient for conversion but the rest was on me and my ability to confess each sin I identified in my life before I died. Secondly, I saw sin in my everyday life. Some that would/could be considered habitual. Sure I prayed and read my bible. I witnessed (occasionally and with at best an incomplete gospel) and I went to church everytime the door swung open. I fasted twice a week and gave tithes of all my earned money. (just like the Pharisee) But I had an ongoing battle with sin and according to these guys that was a sign that I truly wasn’t a Christian. I didn’t share my faith with everyone I saw everyday. I didn’t have a devotional hour where I sat and read the bible with deep meditation daily. My definition of holiness wasn’t the same as what they said God required. (which I believe is just another version of the Pietism/Puritanism that I was already exhausted from trying to live up to.) And did I mention, I had an ongoing battle with sin? Oh yeah. I did. Moving along….

This all leads to the subject of assurance. What is it? Can we have it? How do we get? On what should it be based? And finally, is it subjective or objective?

Remember, I’m agonizing, so be honest!

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Responses

  1. Hi bro,

    Just catching up on some of your older posts.

    One of Satan’s favorite tactics is to get us to doubt our salvation.

    The bible gives us an objective standard, though, by which we can measure ourselves to examine whether we are saved.

    I think it’s important that we do so, because it gives us the confidence to walk in the authority and power of Christ.

    From what I can see, there are at least 3 ways to measure:

    1. Do we have a living faith in Jesus Christ?

    2. Has our attitude toward God changed to reflect our new status as His child? Do we call out Abba Father?

    3. Have we begun to show some of the characteristics of the fruit of the spirit?

    My message today was on how we can know if we are saved. if you’d like to listen, it’s at http://sermon.net/sermoninfo.php?clientid=13939&sermonid=112265

    Warm regards,

    Larry

    3.

  2. Bro. Laz,

    Since you’re catching up, check out the next two post on this same subject as soon as possible. Especially check out post #3. I think in it I addressed the real issue. I will give your sermon a listen. By the way, would it be ok if I addressed any concerns I may have with the sermon? Would you like a phone call or an e-mail about it rather than on this blog?

  3. hey Lawrence – If I teach publicly I should welcome public discussion. Just lay it out. There’s only two real possibilities if you take issue:

    1 – I’m wrong in my teaching (and understanding)

    or

    2 – I’m correct in my teaching but not getting the message across well.

    Either way, I welcome discussion.

    (If Pastor John listens he’ll tell me I didn’t keep it simple enough, and he’ll be right LOL)

    Larry

  4. Bro. Laz,

    I heard the first line and I had to stop it. Check out post #3 on this subject. Just as a heads up, 2 Corinthians 13:5 had another context that I think you should research. It had nothing to do with believers going around examining their own salvation. That reduces down to nothing but “check-list” monitoring, which actually prove nothing even if a person can convince themselves that they measure up.

  5. Wait a sec – you’re telling me you rejected the entire message based on the first line?

  6. I’m that good at discernment! (Just kidding, LOL!!!) I think PJ would say, “If the premise is wrong,…”. Wouldn’t you agree?

    I do believe it is possible to preach the right message but use the wrong text so I’m going to listen to the whole thing brother. Don’t worry.


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