Posted by: Bro. Lawrence D. | July 12, 2008

Agonizing Over Assurance Part 2

I was informed by someone that I trust that the connecting points of my last post did not connect. (He’s a professor who grades papers where students must articulate their points of view with clarity so he would know) So here’s my second attempt:

For every human being that is living now or has ever lived (with the exception of Christ) the most dangerous position to be in is one in which your status before God is uncertain. Being that an eternity in either total bliss or total agony is at stake, nothing, it seems to me, could be of more importance. But what about the Christian? Shouldn’t the Christian be completely confident of his/her standing with God? Shouldn’t their having placed faith in Christ’ finished work on the Cross be enough to convince them that they’re saved?

Not according to some. There are many ministers who are making it their personal mission to see to it that no professing Christian is resting in a false hope. This I vigorously applaud. But the ones who should be confident are being swept up in the broad net that these gentlemen are casting. And partly because of a question of methods. If those who do this would be honest, they can no more provide a more sure methodology than what the person tried before. Sure they can raise a lot of questions about how an individual came to Christ and how that person would describe their conversion experience. But they can’t provide assurance that any of it is valid. These ministers have managed to cancel the validity of the salvation of all those who came to Christ during altar calls or while saying the so-called sinner’s prayer all while failing to provide them with a better understanding. These poor people, no matter what message they were responding to when they did these acts, even if it was the true gospel, should not be confident that it either meant or signified anything. And here’s where I have a problem.

I’ve read the books of these ministers and I’ve listened to their sermons and do you want to know what they provide as an alternative to these methods? More subjectivism. You see, I’m not saying that anybody’s method is guaranteed to grant entrance into the kingdom. I’m not saying that any of us get saved because of some effort we put forth nor because of our sincerity. I’m saying that if you’re going to invalidate an individuals salvation based on the method by which they came to Christ, then my friend your method ought to be solidly scriptual and a more sure foundation for the person to stand on. Should anybody question the validity of their salvation because they didn’t get saved “your way”? 

And what about the self-examination test that these ministers are preaching about? I’ve heard several sermons where 1 John was being used like the law of Moses. The whole time I was listening to these sermons I was thinking to myself “Man, I have a lot of improving to do in every area that he’s talking about. Does that mean I’m not a Christian?” And when the ministers would expound on specific points all they gave were generalities. One minister said “Do you look like the world, sound like the world, dress like the world, act like the world? If so, then what makes you think you’re a Christian.” All I could say was “HUH?” Is what this preacher asked indicative of what it means to be holy? Was he describing the biblical definition of worldliness in an attempt to warn professing believers of its danges. If these people would look at the second chapter of 1 John they would know that at the end of the self-examination you should be confessing some sin or short coming discovered in the examination. If you feel squeaky clean, that would seem to be more cause for concern than finding out God’s not through working on you. 

Now I said that nothing was more important than where you stand before God and I meant it. The message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ can not be over emphasized. Neither can an honest self-examination of one who professes to be in Christ. However, I believe the end result should be a heart of repentence that is looking to Christ and His finished work on the cross for rescue. As far as I can tell, that’s the only way to have real assurance.

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Responses

  1. Man this is addressing many of my popular preachers and truth be told. I applaud this brief exhortation. Why? Because the “Gospel” is a stake my man! The entire Gospel and through this Gospel Christ saves! So there should be two questions.

    1. What is the Gospel?

    2. Exactly what do Christians have to “do” to be saved? The answer is found in Acts 2, Acts 10 and Acts 16. Not to mention John 1 and John 13.

    And let me ask you this?

    What should be our response?

  2. Well, I’m 17 and very exhausted, but I will try and add my two cents to the discussion.

    Ultimately the issue of assurance asks…dare I say, begs the question: assurance in what?

    Brother Lionel is right, when he says the main question is what is the Gospel? Ultimately, to quote R.C. Sproul: “The Gospel is the objective message of the person and work of the Lord Jesus” When one is justified, that objective work is subjectively applied by faith to the believer.

    In terms of assurance, may I suggest Romans 8:16 – “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God”. Further to that, the Bible gives full assurance that when one repents and believes the Gospel, they will be saved.

    That’s my contribution to the melting pot – as small as it may be. I pray that God will continue to open His Word to you as you search this out.

  3. Brothers,

    First of all, let me say that I respect and love both of you very much.

    Bro. Lionel, If you’re asking what our response to the gospel should be, I’d have to describe it as “desperate trust”. Very rarely do I hear “our favorite preachers” who stress the “examine yourself” sermons, emphasize the need to fly desperately to Christ for rescue. Most of the time I walk away feeling like I have a lot of behaviors to improve. But if I could be good enough for God, then I wouldn’t need Christ. I definitely feel that there is such thing as Christian behavior (all governed by love not duty) but I don’t believe it should be the basis of assurance for anyone’s salvation. Every failure and realization of sin in our lives should cause us to fly to the cross not to another list of do’s and don’ts. We’re having this discussion in a similar way over on your blog. We’ve forgotten how powerful God’s Word is when the Holy Spirit is trusted to do His work. For example, we’ve been going over and around over modesty and what it means. But why not teach that the bible says that we should be modest and then just step back and watch God change us?

  4. Bro. Doug,

    You are really getting at the heart of the matter with that question. “Assurance in what?” As much as we desire for people to be on firm grounding, we have to make sure that we’re not asking them to let neither how they came to Christ nor how well they behave be in any way the basis of their assurance. I like this quote:

    “When one is justified, that objective work is subjectively applied by faith to the believer.”

    This is probably most indicative of why I wrote these two posts. This is not the normal message that I hear. We must ground all questions of authentic conversion in the objective and not in the subjective.

    Your contribution has been tremendous and thank you for your continuing prayers.

  5. Greetings brothers, I wanted to state that I think that the bible says in Romans 3:25 that Father God has set Jesus to be a propitiation through faith in in his blood, to declare righteousness for the remission of sins that are PAST, not future(emphasis added), through the forbearance of God. This is why I believe that we have to confess our sins daily in order to be forgiven. We cannot abide in habitual and unconfessed sin. Thank God that jesus sits at the right hand and makes intercession for us. Just my two cents.

  6. I only know of one preacher/teacher who has preached numerous times on examining the basis of your salvation. He was confronting the way most American Christians try to bring people to Jesus: get ‘um to a church service or crusade, have ‘um walk down the aisle, make ‘um recite a certain prayer, then tell ‘um they’re good to go. Even if their lives look exactly the same after that experience as they did before. Is conversion simply a magic incantation recited at one point in your life, or an ongoing relationship with God that brings continual transformation? I believe that is the question at the heart of the matter.

  7. Seeker of Truth,

    The purpose of this site is not for theological arguments, however, I really believe that at times it can’t be avoided. You should go back to the text and research the context of the passage.
    If you stuck to your interpretation, then Romans 5:1, just two chapters later, would become null and void.

    But let’s look at the verse you cited. I’ll back up to verse 24 and go to verse 26. It reads in the NASB, “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Please note:

    1. Justification is a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ not in being able to remember all our sins and successfully confessing them.

    2. “Passed over the sins previously committed” does not refer to all the sins we committed up to the point of our conversion. This is a reference to God withholding His judgment from the beginning because of the plan of redemption that would be accomplished in Christ. And it applied to all those who looked forward to Christ.

    Now let’s look at Romans 5:1

    The NASB says “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Note:

    1. “Having been” is past tense also but like chapter 3:34 of Romans it is describing a declaration by God that we are (presently and forever) justified.

    2. This justification is by faith, and is not maintained by our confessing our sins constantly. This would also beg the question about the sins for which you are not aware. What happens if we fail to confess those?

    3. Also it says, “we have peace with God”. This describes a present and ongoing condition which is not changed because it is through our Lord Jesus Christ. Since it is through Christ it must be unchangeable. At what time would Christ be unacceptable before God whereby our status would immediately be on shaky ground to say the least? So again, we have peace through Christ and not through being diligent to confess our daily, hourly, minutely (is that a word), sins!

    What do you think? Let’s honestly agonize!

  8. Sis. Tameka,

    For the most part I believe that you and I would agree on the overall state of false converts in the church. I also agree that people should not be deemed “good to go” because of some pious act nor for any other thing for that matter. But if you read my post, it addresses another concern and that is the true convert who’s assurance is being shaken because he doesn’t live up to the standard of the preacher. No one’s assurance should rest in their lifestyle no matter how pristine it is. Our assurance should rest in Christ alone. But these preachers do not emphasize Christ and His imputed righteousness. They emphasize behavior testing and I don’t believe that scripture supports that as the basis. Remember the hypocrite looks just like the true Christian but he will hear “I never knew you” on the day of judgment. Read the parable of the Pharisee and the publican and tell me which one Jesus said was justified. Our standing in Christ does not rest in our ablility to measure up to some preachers standard of holiness, a subjective standard I must add. I John does indeed put forth a test or a measuring stick but re-read it. It is dealing moreso with heart attitudes than externals. James deals with externals and he’s not questioning anyone’s salvation he’s questioning the consistency of the profession with the attitudes that the people were displaying.

    That’s really where I’m coming from. Stick around and agonize with me on it! I’d love to have you around.

  9. Usher: Hey Deak, how did the thief on the cross next to Jesus know he was getting into heaven?

    Deacon: Beats me?

    Usher: Hmmmm – no confirmation, no baptism, never read the word, never visited a church, never answered an alter call……

  10. Hey Deacon and Usher,

    Nice satire but give us a little more commentary next time to help us in agonizing over this very serious subject.

  11. Send seeker my way BLD, Let me grind the axe with him. If this brother believes this he denies the Gospel.

  12. Bro. Lionel,

    Thanks bro. We’ll wait and see if he post a comment and then find out if he’s really seeking for truth. If so, then maybe he’ll wrestle with the text and become an agonizer as he is forced to reevaluate his position. By the way, did you notice I used the approach you taught me in my response? Thanks for the influence you’re having on me bro! Blessings!

  13. Somebody always told me to put it back on them. I can’t remember who it was. But no problem. Brother we have sharpen each other greatly and haven’t even seen each other once! LOL

  14. Hello again brothers, Sorry for the delay in responding to you as I am very busy with school at the time. Let me preface that it is sincerely my desire to seek the truth of the rightly divided word of God. In light of the particular scripture that I mentioned, please note that the verse in question says that Father God has set Jesus to be a propitiation through faith in in his blood, to declare righteousness for the remission of sins that are PAST… And not to declare righteousness for the remission of sins,,,,,, that are past. There is a difference. Additionally there are lots of scriptures that declare if we do this or that that he will do this or that, ie if we abide in his word and his word abide in us etc. This implies a responsibility on the part of the believer. Also, jesus said that if your hand causes you to sin cut it off, for it is better to enter in…… You know the rest. The scripture also states that there will be a falling away. Another scripture of note is the verse where it is said that when the son of man comes , bless is that servant who is faithful, but whoa to the hippocrite. Sorry for the lack of book and verse. I am working with a very limited time allowance. In christian love, and berean diligence.

  15. Usher: Deak, you believe if you don’t confess your sins every day, you’ll lose your salvation?

    Deacon: The sins I know about or the sins I commit that I don’t even know about?

  16. Seeker,

    You have redefined the term and doctrine of Justification friend. Let me explain. As Paul is defining Justification he actually talks about how God once “winked” at our past sins or “pass overed” our sins (Romans 3:24).

    But you see that was the way the Old Testament would work. Year after year they had to come to get their sins atoned for Hebrews 9:11-14. But Christ becomes a perfect offering. He not only cleanses us from past sins but He also removes the guilt of ALL sins of those who put faith in Him (Rom 3:26-28). Thus we come to Romans 8:1 when Paul says “there is therefore now no condmenation”. You see if we follow your view then we are still condmened by our sin. Paul leaves no stone unturned in Romans 3-8 for someone to say such a thing. If our sins are held against us then Jesus sacrfice was insufficient for what it came to do.

    You see Justification means a legal right standing before God permenantly. It is not a temproary deal. This is the beauty of the book of Romans and why it is preached so fervently friend. Finally we must ask if a man is declared righteous by his works or must maintain his right standing before God then there is room to boast. Paul kills such arrogance in Romans 3:21-4:25. No man can boast and he makes crystal clear that your works are not acceptable by God apart from being found in Christ.

    Pauls thoughts are also made clear in Galatians 2:15-21. By saying:

    15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

    Seeker your type of salvation is foregin to the scriptures and the doctrine of Justification, Regeneration and the Doctrine of the Atonement. You are infinging upon the works of Christ and the free gift of salvation. You are advocating a salvation by works and I hope you know as a Christian I can’t stand with you on this critical issue.

  17. Hi brother Lionel, I really appreciate you and brother Lawrence taking the time to reason with me. Referencing the scripture you qouted in romans, I believe the totality of that scripture reads .. there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh BUT AFTER THE SPIRIT. Hence condemnation to those who walk after the flesh. Also very briefly in Revelation 3:5 Jesus mentions blotting out a few names of the saints of Sardis out of the book of life. Just trying to consider the full counsel of God. If your eye cause you to sin, cut it off… Just a few thoughts

  18. So let me ask Seeker?

    How is a man justifed?

    What does justification mean?

    What does Paul say that trying to be justifed by law does?

    What does Romans 8:28-30 mean?

    Finally what does Jesus mean in John 5:24?

  19. Hi brother Lionel, Just a question to ask you . What is Jesus doing at the right hand of the Father, and why?

  20. He is interceding for the saints! Why? Read Romans 8 read verses 35-39 and tell me! Please note that Paul asks a few rhetorical questions and answers who condemns in 34 by the very position of Christ interceding.

    Then let me ask you a question. Is their a logical answer to Paul’s question in the following verses? Or is this rhetorical? Can you find something that WILL seperate us?

  21. Now can you answer the questions I provided in my previous comment?

  22. Brother Lionel, my simple answer is yes ,there is something that can separate us and that something is our unconfessed and unrepentant sin. If you would notice, all of the things that Paul listed are without or external to us and has nothing to do with sin. In regards to your previous post, I had written a response but it was somehow deleted when I tried to submit it.So here is a brief excerpt of what I prosed. A man is justified and redeemed by Jesus the Christ alone and not of his own accord.We can`t be good enough or holy enough apart from him empowering us. In other words He choosed us, He empowers those that are truly saved ,through the Holy Spirit ,and enables us to submit to His Lordship. In response to John 5:24, Jesus was declaring His authority as saviour to the unbelieving Jews.

  23. Seeker of Truth,

    (By the way, I haven’t deleted any of your responses)

    It appears to me that you aren’t seeking truth at all. It appears to me that your mind is already convinced and perhaps you should change your moniker to “Possessor of Truth”. Anyway, as I’ve watched the exchange between you and Bro. Lionel, I don’t see you being honest with the scriptures at all. I am really considering banning this discussion because I believe that if we’re going to agonize honestly, we must submit to the scriptures and I don’t see that from you.

    Here are my thoughts:

    1. You appear to believe that we can lose our salvation. Try as you may, that boils down to being good enough to not lose it. Even if you believe that God “empowers” us to be good enough, that is still a concept that is foreign to the text.

    2. Also you don’t seem to believe or either understands what Christ meant by “It is finished”. Unconfessed sin is itself a sin. But all sins of God’s elect were paid for on the cross. Therefore, even unconfessed sin could not cause us to lose our salvation. Now if you meant “separate” in another way, then please explain. Also, if you believe in the “unconfessed sin” doctrine, then please explain to me how you remember EVERY sin that you’ve committed in order to confess it. And, do you wait until right before you go to bed before you confess your sins for the day? And, what happens if you die before you get all of your sins confessed? What if you had 10 sins and suddenly you died while confessing number 9, would you go to hell?

    Seeker, I am not trying to be insulting but you need to think these theories (unbiblical concept are theories) through. I’ll let you respond but it better be with some scriptural insight or I’ll have to ban your further commenting on this post.

  24. Brother Lawrence ,forgive me if I seemed to imply that you purposedly deleted my last response.(I deleted it upon trying to post it without filling in the required info in the response section) Instead I was explaining to Brother Lionel, why I had not responded to his last line of questions while moving on to another subject. In responding to you and brother Lionel`s most recent post, I realized that these issues have been battled before and with all probability will continue to be battled until Jesus returns. My sincere prayer thus,is that I hope that I am found wrong. But if I am somehow right, that you and the countless others souls would repent before it is to late.I also pray that all of our eyes will be opened, and that the Holy Spirit will lead us and guide us into the truth of the Word. I would like to ask you to pray and explain the following scriptures again.Matthew 18:8, which talks about cutting your hand off if it causes you to sin, rather than enter into everlasting fire. Matthew 24:51 The parable of the lord and the hypocritical servant. II Peter 3:10-17 which says that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.. and warns us about falling from our own steadfastness. Revelation 3:5 which warns about having our names blotted out ..in addition to other warnings to the church to repent. I Peter 4:18 which speaks of the godly scarcely being saved. Romans 8:1 which says that there is condenmnation to those who are in Christ Jesus , who walk after the flesh. Additionally, in the Gospel it is written that to these people He will say ,depart from me you workers of iniquity or sin, I never knew you. Also see the entire epistle of I John . Romans 3:25, I believe, tells us that Jesus is the propitiation or substitute for the remission of our past sins. Hebrews 10:26 which says if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of truth , that there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation… Remember that Jesus must be both saviour and Lord. How can we call Him Lord and not do the things that he commands us to do. To answer your question on the probability of forgetting to confess a sin or running out of time , Jesus and the Holy Spirit according to Romans 8:26,27,34 and Hebrews 7:25,forever live to make intercession for us. I know the devils seeks to deceive seeing he has but a short time , but he is unable to deceive God`s elect. Out of this confidence I will defer from further commenting on this post ,unless beckoned In Christ, Tarre Stanley A seeker of truth

  25. Please don’t ban him. Lawerence. We really need to work through this. So Seeker can you answer the questions in a straight way?

    1. How many sins does it take for a Christian to lose their salvation? Which sins are they?

    2. So what if you died with sin you didn’t know you committed before you could find out you committed them? What happens in that situation?

    3. As Lawerence asked. If you committed 10 sins and while you are on number 9 you die. What happens to you?

    4. Finally what does Justication mean biblically speaking. What does Paul mean in 2 Corinthians 5:21 and finally what about Romans 8:1? Or do we move in and out of Christ but wouldn’t that contradict the entire chapter of Ephesians 1?

  26. Brother Lionel, with all due respect, could you first address the post I made to Brother Lawrence. This will hopefully shed some insight on these areas that I have raised and then I will attempt to answer your questions.

  27. There is a lot of information. Can you ask me direct questions. It would be easier for me. Thanks.


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