Struggling for Assurance!
There’s a common problem that many believers have faced or are facing, regardless of their age: a lack of assurance. What I mean by that is the all too common question of, “am I still saved?” or “does Jesus still love me?” comes across the mind with all sorts of feelings of panic, worry, fear, and doubt. It’s honestly a very sad reality that it is as common of a problem as it is. But it’s a common problem with a strong and matchless solution.
The solution is our Savior, Jesus Christ. As simple as that sentence you just read is, the implications of that sentence for those lacking assurance are a warm balm. So allow me to unpack that simple sentence with three truths for the one who is lacking assurance. But I also want to give you three ways to look and behold Jesus so that you can rest upon him for your assurance.
1. The foundation of your assurance is Jesus Christ alone.
Oftentimes when we start to doubt our salvation and have a lack of assurance, it is because we have done something wrong. We’ve done a “big” sin, or maybe it’s a pattern of the same sin over and over. You’ve just had another night of drinking too much. You’ve just looked at pornography again. You’ve just cheated on your spouse. You immediately think, “no real Christian would ever do this… Jesus can’t possibly forgive me this time.” Or maybe, it’s your own mind after a mistake that rips every decision to shreds, finding every sin, and shouting over and over, “you hypocrite! You don’t love Jesus! How can you say you love him when you choose this thing and said that thing and looked at that.” Or maybe you start to doubt because you see Jimmy over there doing all these wonderful things for the Lord, see his passion for the gospel, and then you look at yourself and don’t see the same.
Whatever the thing that leads you to begin doubting your salvation, one thing is sure, so long as you look to yourself or others for the source of your security in Christ, you will never find a steady foundation. It is when we look at ourselves or our good works to prove to us that we are truly saved that all true assurance goes out the window. The only foundation for our assurance, for our surety that Christ is ours and we are Christ’s is in Jesus Christ alone. It’s found in his blood. It is Christ’s blood that washes sinners clean from the guilty stain of sin. It is Christ’s obedience to die on our behalf so that we may be reconciled to God. It is through his death that we have peace with God. That peace isn’t because of us, it’s because of Jesus who died for sinners. It’s found in his faithfulness. As the author of Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” His promises are sure forever. He never turns back on his Word, and if he promises that none that the Father gives him he will ever cast out, then we can trust that he will faithfully never cast us out (John 6:37). No matter how much our sin deserves it. It’s found in his righteousness. Jesus Christ alone was perfect in obedience to God and his commandments. Jesus Christ alone never sinned. And in his grace he gives us his righteousness through faith in him so that when God the Father looks upon the believer, he see Christ’s perfect righteousness. It’s found in his gentleness. As Isaiah says, “the faintly burning wick he will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3). As the flame of your faith is growing weaker and weaker, giving off black smoke of sin, Jesus Christ doesn’t smother it to put it out. Rather, he gently preserves it and brings it back to strength.
So set your eyes to Jesus. He is literally the “founder and perfecter” of your faith. If there is any spark of grace, any love for Christ, any trust in him, then hear what Christ says to you, “I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
2. Our good works can strengthen our assurance.
As believers, we have good works prepared for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). In fact, we as believers should be actively obeying God by continually loving him and neighbor. However, we can easily begin to view our fruitfulness or obedience as the determiner of our salvation rather than faith alone in Christ alone. Rather than viewing our works as sustaining or keeping us in God’s good grace, we need to recognize that it is Jesus Christ through his Spirit that keeps us there. Our good works don’t sustain our salvation, they don’t keep us justified, and they certainly don’t merit us anything from God whatsoever. In fact, your good works need the justifying power of Jesus just as much as your soul does because your good works are still imperfect this side of glory.
But what do they do? They help strengthen our assurance by giving us practical evidences to point to that show that God’s grace is at work in us. Apart from God’s grace in you, you wouldn’t have any real fruit of godliness, nor would you have any faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, when you’re tempted to look at your life and say, “I must not be saved because of this and that sin,” stop and examine if there’s any love for Jesus in you, any faith in Jesus and his work on your behalf, any desire to worship God and obey him, or any desire to stop sinning. If there is, then hope in Christ and ask the Holy Spirit to bring forth more fruit, to enable you to live more and more in righteousness, and to enable you to die more and more to sin. Then go on seeking to be obedient to God out of gratitude for all that he has done for you in Christ Jesus. Your good works can certainly strengthen your assurance, but they can never be the grounds or foundation for it. Rather, your assurance of God’s love for you in Jesus Christ is a foundational piece for growth in good works.
3. He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.
As we think about assurance of salvation, we’re often thrown into doubt because we’ve done some great sin or we’ve been stuck in a pattern of the same old sin for a while. But just think about Paul for a moment in Romans 7:15-25. The Apostle Paul wonderfully speaks of this inward struggle within every believer. He’s describing the nature of indwelling sin and how the perfect law of God reveals our need for Jesus. Notice, also that he doesn’t drive himself to despair because of his failure to obey like he wants to. Instead, he throws himself upon the mercies of God that are his in Christ Jesus (Rom. 7:25). He doesn’t question God’s goodness to him because of how he keeps sinning, rather he sees his sinning and recognizes all the more how much he needs God’s goodness to him in the gospel. In fact, he goes on to say in chapter 8 of Romans that if you’ve been called, you’ve been justified, and if you’ve been justified God will glorify you. It’s a done deal. It’s been purchased in full for you by Jesus on the cross and secured for you by Jesus in his resurrection.
But I want to look at Philippians 1:6 briefly here at the end since the final truth is about God completing this good work in you. Brother or sister, Paul wrote that he is sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. While that was written directly to the Christians in Philippi, God also means it for you. If you have faith in the Lord Jesus, then God has begun a good work in you, and that good work is your salvation. If that is true, then he will bring it to completion when Jesus returns and our bodies are raised and glorified, and when he ushers in the new Heavens and the new Earth and reigns forever in the New Jerusalem with all of us in his presence. Take that promise to the bank because the Giver of that promise is always faithful.
So are you struggling for assurance? May I call you to stop struggling and simply look in faith at the Lord Jesus Christ as he’s revealed himself in the Word. Would you rest in him by faith. “But Jacob, how do I do that?” Well, Jesus has given us those ways, and they’re called the ordinary means of grace.
First, the Word preached – each Sunday, listen to the Word preached. If it’s law, let it drive you to Jesus’ perfect righteousness. If it’s gospel, receive it with gladness.
Second, the Word made visible – each Sunday as you gather with the church, go to the Lord’s Table and receive him by faith, remembering his body broken for you and his blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.
Lastly, the Word prayed – Prayer is the place where we get to cast our anxieties on God because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). It’s the way we go to the throne of Grace for mercy and Grace in our time of need (Heb. 4:16). So if you’re anxious about your salvation, if you’re doubting, then pray and pray and pray. If you don’t know what to pray, pray the Word of God back to him. Ask someone to pray for you. Praise be to God that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Rom. 8:26).
I’ll leave you with the words of the Apostle John:
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. – 1 John 5:13