The Doctrine of Assurance – Part 2


The Doctrine of Assurance Pt. 2

 

 

AUDIO FOR THIS SERMON CAN BE FOUND HERE

Am I “SAVED?”

Last time we began looking at the doctrine of the assurance of salvation as it is addressed by John in this little letter of 1st John.

Scripturally, this is the “go to” place, since John tells us himself this is one of the 4 major reasons why he wrote the letter: 1 John 5:13

1 John 5:13 ESV

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.

For those who are asking: “How can I KNOW, that I am saved? How can I be sure I am one of Christ’s and belong to Him?” John will lay out his answers.

If you are not yet a Christian – John will speak to you. He wants you to know your true spiritual state so that you can come into fellowship with God and Christ and the rest of the saints in Christ – though the Gospel.

If you profess to be a Christian – John will help you evaluate whether or not that claim is true – he’ll guide you into using Biblical means to arrive at a solid answer.

And if you are as this text says – one who already does “believe in the name of the Son of God”, but for some reason(s) are plagued by an inability to gain a solid and lasting assurance of your salvation – John will give you a series of proofs that taken cumulatively, are intended to settle your troubled heart and mind.

And he’ll do this by two means:

OBJECTIVE PROOFS: What does God say?  SUBJECTIVE PROOFS: What can be Observed?

OBJECTIVE proofs to keep us from depending upon feelings and speculation.

And SUBJECTIVE proofs to keep us from denying what the Bible says are the things which accompany genuine spiritual life.

We looked at the first of these last time, but so that you have a grasp on where we are headed in this study – here is the road map of how John addresses this issue all the way through – even as he addresses a number of other topics.

1 – What is my relationship to the Word of God?

2 – What is my relationship to God in Christ?

3 – What is my relationship to Sin?

4 – What is my relationship to the People of God?

5 – What is my relationship to the World and its Values?

6 – What is my relationship to the Spirit of God?

7 – What is my relationship to the Resurrection?

8 – What is my relationship to Prayer?

Before we dive directly into the text this morning, let me lay down a couple of things I hope will be clarifying for you as you consider this letter by itself and our topic in particular.

A. John’s unique style in this letter.

Theologians agree it is unique in the New Testament and somewhat defies clear structure.

Let me try to illustrate this by referring back the first area we covered last week:

#1 What is my relationship to the Word of God?

John opens the letter talking about the testimony of the Apostles in their having seen, heard, and touched the Word of Life – Jesus.

This witness is what you and I have in the 4 Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. And John goes on to say this is in accord with the rest of Scripture. Hence the point that if anyone wants true assurance of their salvation, they need to stand in a right relationship to the authority of the Word of God.

But you’ll remember John didn’t make that case in one spot and then move on. Instead, he started with this thought in his opening, and then came back to it, amplifying and embellishing it as he went.

We might look at it like this:

He puts the idea out there, then spirals back to it over and over while inserting other topics in between. John will do this with each of the 8 relationships and other topics he writes about here. So it can be a little tricky to pick up on.

B. John’s emphasis is upon RELATIONSHIP, not performance

You will remember that in every instance we cited last week, John never does anything like set quotas.

The question isn’t whether or not I read a chapter or a Psalm or chapter of Proverbs each day, a book a week, etc.

That kind of thinking, no matter how well intentioned leads you right back into a performance based treadmill.  You’ll do a lot but not get anywhere.

Each of us has to wrestle both with the remaining sin within us – which resists putting spiritual priorities first, AND, the temptation to turn those priorities into self-made laws that if we violate – constitute sins the Bible never talks about.

Years ago I worked for a man named Dale who had come to Christ but was in a very legalistic denomination.

And when I say legalistic I mean it. Men could not wear wristwatches or even wedding rings because it was jewelry and thus worldly. Women couldn’t shave their legs because this too was worldly.

As it turns out, he really was quite a gifted guitar player. Apparently there were no Church rules about owning a really expensive and flashy guitar. That said he shared with me one day his experience and something he used to gauge his own spiritual health at times.

He told me that as long as he only played hymns and worship songs on his guitar, he could play like Tommy Johnson in “O, Brother, where art thou?”.

Then he said, “but if I just start to play a secular song, my hand will cramp up, and the Spirit will take away my ability to play until I repent.”

Now my guess is, that sudden cramping and inability issue was in fact a psychosomatic response to an ill-informed conscience. But nonetheless, when it happened, he judged he was in a poor spiritual state, and when it didn’t, he assumed he was OK.

This is what John’s teaching here will help us avoid.

John is asking us to examine what our attitude is toward the Word of God and what place it holds in our hearts and minds, not whether or not we read secular material as well – or how MUCH of the Bible we read how OFTEN.

The question is, is The Word is not something we cherish and seek to understand? If it is not authoritative for us. If there is no sense of its importance, truthfulness and claim on us, then we are in one of two unenviable places.

Either we are not Christ’s after all, or, we are in very poor spiritual health.

Just as a physical illness can result in a loss of appetite, genuine Believers may experience a loss of appetite for spiritual things – especially the Word – at times.

If there has been a long neglect of spiritual things; unrepentant sin, carelessness in spiritual matters, unforgiveness, bitterness, or especially a controversy with God over something in the Word you do not like or a place where you do not want to yield to its authority – you may well be soul-sick.

I might add here too how it is that chronic illness and pain, emotional or physical can have a severely dampening effect on spiritual vitality.

Whether it’s a pebble in the shoe or a tiny speck of dust in the eye, pain draws all attention to itself. It utterly distracts. Which action draws our hearts and minds off of spiritual things. Our spiritual sensitivities become dull and for a time may even seem to vanish.

But if you remember a time when the Word of God was something you sought out and could not get enough of, but now that’s no longer the case – praise God it once was! That’s a good sign.

And now is the time to seek Him for a restoration of that passion and joy.

The key here for all cases is repentance: James 4:8

James 4:8 ESV

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Repentance as turning around, changing course, whether the cause is sin, neglect or legitimate distraction.

But if this has never been the case with you that is another story altogether.

Perhaps you’ve had seasons of interest or curiosity about the Word of God, but it has never occupied a place in your heart and mind you could label a “passion.”

You give lip-service to it being God’s Word, but in truth, you’ve never really applied yourself to study it. You’ve never really sought it out to know it except for comfort or guidance in a particular time of difficulty.

It has never opened up to you and spoken to your heart in a way which makes you tremble at the exposure of your sin, or rejoiced your soul in the revealing of Jesus Christ in it.

Then dear listener, you need to be born again. You are not a Christian. At least not yet.

And John has written these things to you by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for this very purpose: 1 John 1:3

1 John 1:3 ESV

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Stay with us in this study, so that you might savingly come to know the Lord of glory in all of His forgiving grace and the salvation that comes through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.

So, back to our study on the doctrine of assurance, our first help was found in examining:

#1 What is my relationship to the Word of God?

And our second is:

#2 What is my relationship to God?

At first blush this might seem almost a toss-a-way question.

After all, haven’t we all been told about the universal fatherhood of God?

Don’t we hear it all the time – “we’re all God’s children”?

And there is certainly a sense in which that is true.

By virtue of God being our Creator, every human being has the Creature/Creator relationship to God.

But the idea of relationship is a pretty broad category – and relationships occur on any number of levels.

I have a relationship with the President, because we are both citizens of the same nation and he is our elected Executive and Commander and Chief. But I have no personal relationship to him.

And even if I did, I could not claim to have a blood or familial relationship to him.

Coming to grips with the real nature of our relationship to God is absolutely vital, both to our salvation itself, and our assurance of it.

Sometimes in our evangelism we’ll ask people about their relationship to Jesus or some will even say “salvation is about a relationship with Jesus Christ and not a religion.”

Well, yes, and no.

For the reasons we’ve just stated above, that relationship needs to be defined, and ultimately, it needs to be a salvific one. And for that, we need to know what it is based upon.

In the Scripture, Jesus’ brothers had a blood relationship to Him. But as we read in John 7, before His crucifixion and resurrection: John 7:5

John 7:5 ESV

For not even his brothers believed in him.

Judas had a relationship with Jesus – a long, intimate and even co-laboring relationship. But it did not save him.

In the end he betrayed Jesus, took his own life and died lost.

What is being addressed in the text is something much deeper.

Something John teases out in a succession of statements in the letter.

For as James warns us: ‌James 2:19

James 2:19 ESV

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Simply believing that God exists and even having some theological accuracy to your belief, may be nothing more than the belief demons have!

And so here we are back at the beginning of John’s letter and his 1st point in this regard is: Do I have a right relationship with God the Father through the Gospel of Jesus? 1 John 1:1-3

1 John 1:1–3 ESV

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— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The 1st aspect of being in a right relationship with God is that that relationship is through having believed the Gospel – the witness of the apostles and the Word.

Have I believed the apostolic witness of Christ, and by IT, been brought into right relationship with God the Father, and the Son?

Have I believed the Gospel?: That Jesus Christ is God’s Son, very God and very man, come into the world to die a substitutionary atonement on the cross for human sin.

For the proclamation of eternal life that John mentions in these opening verses is the proclamation that eternal life is nothing less than Jesus Christ Himself, and that John and the others really saw Him, really heard Him, really touched Him, really believed Him and really trusted Him themselves.

And so is that you today?

Is what Paul says is true of Christians in Eph. 2:11-13 true of you?

Ephesians 2:11–13 ESV

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Is your relationship to God one of having been once alienated from Him by your sin, but now reconciled to Him through the blood of Jesus?

Are you personally trusting in the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross for YOUR sins?

Is He YOUR sin bearer?

No one can make one step toward any assurance of salvation whatever, if they do not know that they stand justly condemned before a Holy God, but by faith have taken hold of the pardon from sin and guilt He holds forth in the death of Jesus. Romans 3:21-26

Romans 3:21–26 ESV

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Forgive my repetition here but this is so absolutely vital both your salvation and the assurance of it that I simply do not dare leave it in any possible doubt.

Is my relationship to God based upon having believed the Gospel? And having believed, am I now in service to God, in partnership with His goals?

Am I now in fellowship with Him? In partnership with Him?

Have His goals become mine? Specifically: The Propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and personal conformity to the image – to the character of Christ?

Everything else which will follow both in this letter and in our study hangs upon it: Have you believed the Gospel?

Not just believed what the Gospel is, are you trusting Christ alone for your relationship to the Father?

You see it is not enough to know the truth of the Gospel message, you must actually trust Christ.

If you are not trusting Him, you my friend are not a Christian. You do not have salvation yet. And the reason why you have no assurance of salvation is that you are not yet saved!

John begins by advancing the fact that we need to be in a partnering fellowship/relationship with God through Christ.

Since Jesus IS the eternal life which was manifest – we receive that life in Him.

But then, John goes on to amplify the nature of this relationship even more as the letter progresses.

And so we come to a  2nd aspect of a right relationship with God.

So to the question: What is my relationship to God?
  1. I must be able to answer – that I have been reconciled to Him through believing the Gospel and trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for my sins.

What he mentions next as part and parcel of being in union, in fellowship with Him is: 1 John 1:7

1 John 1:7 ESV

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.

And oh what a wonderful part of our relationship to Him this is!

Those joined to God in Christ Jesus have continual cleansing from our sins.

Little can be more important to a solid sense of the assurance of our salvation, than to know that even as life progresses and we fall into the very sins we struggle against over and over – there is CONTINUAL CLEANSING available to us.

Salvation wasn’t hitting a cosmic reset button and now we’re left to ourselves not to mess it up again.

It is not a 3-strikes and you’re out proposition.

As Proverbs 24:16 notes:

Proverbs 24:16 ESV

for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,

but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

If we are in fellowship with Him, we walk in the confidence that our daily sins and remaining iniquity are also provided for in the shed blood of Jesus. And that our relationship with Him, our intimacy with Him can be renewed constantly in His grace: Lamentations 3:22-23

Lamentations 3:22–23 ESV

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

What is my relationship to God?

I can detect whether or not I have believed the Gospel. That is a SUBJECTIVE thing I can check out for myself.

But we will move from that subjective reality, to some marvelously wonderful OBJECTIVE things to cling to.

If I have believed the Gospel and am trusting Christ alone – then I am:

  1. Reconciled through Jesus
  2. Continually Cleansed from sins

And there is objectively much, much more more!

John tells us that Jesus doesn’t just bring an end to the hostilities between us and God, He brings us into perfect union with the Father. 1 John 2:23

1 John 2:23 ESV

No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.

The word “has” used 2x’s in this verse means just what you would think it means when we hear it in some wedding vows: “Do you Heathcliffe take Betty Sue to be your lawfully wedded wife, to HAVE and to hold from this day forward?”

It implies a bond of belonging to each other. It is used this very way in Matthew when John the Baptizer was rebuking Herod for having married his divorced sister-in-law –

Matthew 14:4

Matthew 14:4 ESV

because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

You can’t “have” her – you can’t have the bond you want with her. It’s not right before God.

But as our text says here, no one who denies that Jesus is the Son of God HAS – is joined together in a bond – with the Father.

BUT! Whoever confesses the Son – DOES have such a bond with the Father. There is a true union brought about and not a mere acquaintance.

Do you confess that Jesus is the incarnate Son of God?

What is my relationship to God?

  1. Reconciled
  2. Continually Cleansed
  3. In a genuine union with the Father

But John comes to another aspect of the nature of this relationship in 1 John 2:28

1 John 2:28 ESV

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

Having been reconciled through the blood of Christ, experiencing continual cleansing from sin and bound to the Father – He also guarantees our acceptance at the judgment.

And the best way I can think of expressing what that looks like is to co-opt the description used of Adam and Eve in the Garden before the Fall: They were naked, and unashamed.

Because our relationship to the Father is rooted in our union with Christ – Christ IS our righteousness as  Philippians 3:8-9 tells us.

Philippians 3:8–9 ESV

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

So there will come a day, when we all stand before the judgment seat of God. The Writer to the Hebrews says: Hebrews 4:12-13

Hebrews 4:12–13 ESV

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

It is Christ in this passage who is living, active and sharper than any double edged blade, able to slice down and separate things we can’t – able to detect not only our actions but our thoughts and every motive.

No creature – nothing is hidden from His sight – but everything is naked and exposed to His eyes.

Well how then will any of us stand before Him naked and unashamed, fully accepted in that day?

By abiding in Him. By virtue of our union with Him in Christ, we will not need to shrink back even the slightest from His all-seeing gaze.

What is my relationship to God?

  1. Reconciled to Him in Jesus
  2. Continually Cleansed by Him
  3. In genuine union with Him
  4. Fearlessly unashamed before Him

5th – Jesus brings us into an adoptive relationship with the Father 1 John 3:1-2

1 John 3:1–2 ESV

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. 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.

Now this is a truly astounding thing to consider isn’t it?

Scripture is plain, Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. He is the only one who is ontologically God’s Son or one who shares God’s nature. He IS God.

But in Christ, every Believer is brought into relationship with the Father that staggers the imagination. What is bestowed upon the Believer is sonship!

So much a part of the family of God that Paul can say of Believers in Romans 8:17

Romans 8:17 ESV

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.

Now let that sink in just a bit.

It is one thing to be God’s creature. Another to be reconciled to Him after being His enemies; enjoying the experience of daily cleansing from our sin; bound to Him and so accepted that we need not be ashamed even though He knows the very worst about us; – but to be adopted into the divine family so as to be an actual co-heir of Christ.

This is mind boggling.

Perhaps the clearest way of understanding the nature of what this includes is captured for us in Genesis 24.

You will recall that as Sarah had died, and the aging Abraham was concerned to secure a wife for his son Isaac.

Abraham sent his servant off to see of there might be a suitable bride among his extended relatives.

Eleazer heads out to Mesopotamia with a caravan loaded with all sorts of gifts as a token of what the prospective Bride would  be gaining if she agreed to marry Isaac.

At the meeting with the family Eleazer says: Genesis 24:34-36

Genesis 24:34–36 ESV

So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old, and to him he has given all that he has.

In the very same way, the Holy Spirit is the one now seeking out the Bride of Christ. And Jesus Himself tells us about His ministry in these words: John 16:14-15

John 16:14–15 ESV

He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

This is what the Holy Spirit is doing through John in this letter.

He’s beginning to take out some of the treasures which the Father has given to Christ – and letting us see them now as tokens of what we inherit as co-heirs with Jesus. And what is that? “All that the Father has is mine.”

Beloved, I don’t have the slightest idea of how to unpack that. We just have to take Him at His word that it is far beyond anything we can begin to imagine. For these are just the tokens, just the foretaste of being in right relationship to Him in Christ.

What is my relationship to God?

  1. Reconciled to Him in Jesus
  2. Continually Cleansed by Him
  3. In genuine union with Him
  4. Fearlessly unashamed before Him
  5. Adopted children OF His

6th. He brings us back to life in God from death in our trespasses and sins: 1 John 4:9

1 John 4:9 ESV

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

And this life is not mere existence, it is life characterized by the most amazing word: ETERNAL!

He brings us more than just life, our relationship to Him in Jesus grants us eternal life: 1 John 5:11-13

1 John 5:11–13 ESV

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have 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.

Again we did not just get a mere reset or second chance – by being reconciled to God in Jesus we received an everlasting, inextinguishable life WITH HIM!

The nature of the life Jesus gives us is ETERNAL life. Not TEMPORARY life – eternal life.

The very name of it assures us that once possessed, it cannot be lost. That which is eternal, by its very nature is that which abides and endures and remains forever!

What is my relationship to God?

  1. Reconciled to Him in Jesus
  2. Continually Cleansed by Him
  3. In genuine union with Him
  4. Fearlessly unashamed before Him
  5. Adopted children of His
  6. Eternal life in Him

And there is one more thing we need to stop and contemplate: the last amazing thing which is the Believer’s heritage and portion because of being joined to God the Father in Jesus –

  1. He brings us access to God in prayer: 1 John 5:14-15

1 John 5:14–15 ESV

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

We cannot unpack the focus of John in telling us this last point here, we’ll do that later.

But that Christ has given us free access to the Heavenly Father’s ear at all times and in all places is something to be really investigated. It is an amazing reality that throughout my day and life, I can come to the Father completely unfettered and always received with joy.

In closing, let me summarize what we’ve covered so far.

  1. That one key reason John wrote this letter, is so that Believers might have a solid assurance of their salvation.
  2. That such an assurance begins by having a right relationship to God’s Word in treasuring and cherishing it as God’s authoritative self-disclosure.
  3. That assurance cannot be had apart from having entered into a partnering relationship of fellowship with God through faith in the Gospel of the finished, saving work of Jesus on the Cross.

And that relationship when teased out looks like this:

What is my relationship to God?

  1. Reconciled to Him in Jesus
  2. Continually Cleansed by Him
  3. In genuine union with Him
  4. Fearlessly unashamed before Him
  5. Adopted children of His
  6. Eternal life in Him
  7. Unfettered access to His heart

So the the question which remains today is: What is my relationship to God?

Subjectively – have I believed the Gospel and trusted Christ alone for bringing me into right relationship with  God the Father?

Have I been reconciled to Him and brought into a fellowshiping partnership with Him through believing the Gospel and trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for my sins?

If so – then OBJECTIVELY, all this is yours.

If not – why not? Why not come to Him today? Confess your sin, rebellion, unbelief and alienation, and trust Jesus’ sacrifice for your reconciliation to Him.

 

 

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