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November 11,2018 Assurance of Salvation, Part Two

 

 

Scripture Reading: 2 Peter 1:3-11.

 

[I. Introduction] There are fantastic and uplifting promises in these few verses of 2 Peter 1. The apostle reveals that, for those who are called of God, his divine power has provided what we need for life and godliness. Not quite. I purposely understated the promise. His divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness! There is nothing that we lack so that we have and experience both life and godly living!

 

The apostle goes on to tell us that God’s glory also grants us precious and very great promises. By believing these promises we become partakers of his divine nature. The very life of God, the very nature of God, will be a part of us when we believe. Peter does not mean only the gospel message. That is the beginning and a rather important one! Without the gospel we have no access to all the other promises. Yet, Peter means believing all that God has said.

 

Then, beginning in verse 5, Peter lists several character qualities that we need as followers of the Lord Jesus. He ends with the highest one, love, in verse 7. In verse 9 he states that whoever lacks these qualities is blind.

 

In view of these matters he calls us to be diligent to confirm our calling and election.

 

If one wishes to have the assurance of their salvation, for it can be doubted, then we must be diligent. Although salvation itself is a gift of God and there is nothing that we can do to earn it, the assurance of salvation partly depends upon us. I say “partly” because even our assurance comes from the Lord. But, unlike our initial salvation, there are things that we ought to do to confirm it.

 

Previously, I had taught on the assurance of salvation[1] and I pointed out that there are five conditions that the follower of Christ must fulfill in order to have assurance of their own salvation. They are:

 

  • An understanding of the nature of our own sin and of salvation. We must know what sin is and the only means of deliverance being the cross of Christ. If there is confusion or doubt about these crucial matters then there can be no assurance.
  • Obedience to God’s commandments. If there is an area of our life where we are aware that we are not living within God’s will then not only will we not have assurance, but we should not have assurance. A true child of God will live in accordance with the Lord’s will. If one is intentionally choosing to live by their own desires that are contrary to the Lord’s commands then one should question their own faith.
  • Loving the brothers and sisters. The apostle John tells us that not loving our brothers and sisters is proof that we have not been born again. Conversely, he says that if we do love our brothers and sisters then this is proof that we have been born of God. There is good news and bad news about this truth. The bad news is that some brothers or sisters are harder to love than others. Some are weak, meaning that we perceive sin in their lives that they may not see. Some are meddlesome and some are overbearing. (On the other hand, we can be too easily offended.) That means that we may experience a lack of love for some. This is a natural phenomenon. The good news is that love is a choice! If we recognize that we are not loving someone, we can choose to love them! If we choose not to love a brother or sister then this is evidence that we have not been born of God.
  • We must be actively involved in a local church in order to have assurance. According to the apostle, if we are not regularly meeting with a local church then we are not truly part of Christ’s body.
  • Lastly, the Spirit with us confirms that we belong to Christ. Hallelujah for the Spirit in our spirit testifying to us that we are his!

 

If a person practices these five things then they can have and will have assurance of their salvation.

 

One of these conditions, though, has caused some problems. You might say that it can be misunderstood so that a person can doubt that they have fulfilled it. It is number 2: Obedience to God’s commands. If a person has a sensitive conscience they may sense that they fail to obey God’s commands often and, as a result, they can lose their assurance. Therefore, this condition deserves more attention.

 

Just as I gave five general conditions that provide assurance, I will give five specific conditions that can give assurance when sin is recognized within the life of a Christian.

 

As I stated, some precious believers may recognize sin in their lives. They may even have a particular sin that they fall into frequently. This, in turn, may cause them to doubt their salvation. First, though, it must be reemphasized that if there is a sin that does not bring the one who commits the sin to repentance, that does not cause sorrow in the heart of the sinner, then that person should not have any assurance. Persistent violations of God’s commands, we have seen, is evidence that the person is not a true Christian. I am not addressing that condition. I am addressing the person who tries to overcome sin yet fails, while still fulfilling the other conditions of assurance.

 

Can such a person still have assurance? The answer is yes! There are five questions that one may ask themselves. If your answers to these questions are “yes” then you can have assurance even in the midst of failure.

 

[II.] Do you fear God? The fear of the Lord is evidence of belonging to Him.

 

as it is written:

       “None is righteous, no, not one;

11        no one understands;

no one seeks for God.

12    All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;

no one does good,

not even one.”

13    “Their throat is an open grave;

they use their tongues to deceive.”

       “The venom of asps is under their lips.”

14        “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

15    “Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16        in their paths are ruin and misery,

17    and the way of peace they have not known.”

18        “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” [2]

 

Here, in Paul’s description of the unsaved, he concludes with, “There is no fear of God…” Those who belong to Him fear Him. Those who do not belong to Him do not fear God.

 

Do you fear God? If you do, the Holy Spirit has done a work in your heart and you are his.

 

[III.] Have you experienced the discipline of the Lord when you have disobeyed him? Have you gone through a difficult time and you knew that it was because of a sin in your life? This is the pattern that we see in every man of God in the Bible. David sinned and he received great chastisement from the Lord. Abraham disobeyed the Lord and found that he and his wife got into quite a bit of a mess! Jonah refused to follow the Lord’s direction and he found himself in the stinking, putrid belly of a fish! The author of Hebrews has something to say about the Lord’s discipline.

 

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

6    For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.[3]

 

When we experience the Lord’s discipline it simply means that God is treating us as his children. But, who does he treat as his children? Only his children! Note what the author says in verse 8: If we do not get discipline this is evidence that we are not his child! Do you wonder why some celebrities, and maybe even people we know, seem to get away with all kinds of misbehavior and nothing seems to happen to them? It’s because they do not belong to God!

 

Someone has even observed that, even among God’s children, some can do certain things with little consequence (there will still be some) and others (like you!) cannot get away with anything. This shows that God loves some more than others (John 20:2; 21:15). The more God loves you the more he will discipline you. Hence, if you have lived what some would characterize as “a hard life,” this shows that God loves you greatly. He is not content to leave you as you are but is transforming you. The Lord disciplines the one he loves! (Heb 12:6 above)

 

Sometimes the Lord gives us the mildest of warnings.

 

Dennis Miller shares this story: Out of parental concern and a desire to teach our young son responsibility, we require him to phone home when he arrives at his friend's house a few blocks away. He began to forget, however, as he grew more confident in his ability to get there without disaster befalling him. The first time he forgot, I called to be sure he had arrived. We told him the next time it happened, he would have to come home. A few days later, however, the telephone again lay silent, and I knew if he was going to learn, he would have to be punished. But I did not want to punish him!! I went to the telephone, regretting that his great time would be spoiled by his lack of contact with his father. As I dialed, I prayed for wisdom. "Treat him like I treat you," the Lord seemed to say. With that, as the telephone rang one time, I hung up. A few seconds later the phone rang, and it was my son. "I'm here, Dad!" "What took you so long to call?" I asked. "We started playing and I forgot. But Dad, I heard the phone ring once and I remembered." How often do we think of God as One who waits to punish us when we step out of line? I wonder how often he rings just once, hoping we will phone home.

 

There are other times that he comes down very hard, as he did with David. Whether he chastises us Oh so gently or in a hard way, it is what we need and it is evidence that we are his.

 

[IV.] Do you hate your sin? When you fall into a sin are you sorrowful? Do you hate to disobey your Lord?

 

Consider King David’s great regret for his sin with Bathsheba:

 

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!

3    For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4    Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

       so that you may be justified in your words

and blameless in your judgment. [4]

 

David did not make excuses for his sin and neither did he take his sin lightly. It weighed heavy upon his heart. To the child of God her own sin is detestable. The unregenerate sin with impunity.

 

Do you hate your sin? Then this shows that you belong to him.

 

Our own sin can be a source of great discouragement to us and can cause us to question our salvation. We need to look beyond our current state and consider from where we have come.

 

[V.] Has there been any sanctification in your life at all since you became a Christian?

 

Instead of focusing on your current condition, ask yourself, “Am I better than I was the first or second year I was a Christian?” God changes us at different tempos. He may work in one person’s life speedily, bringing about great changes, one after another. Then, for another person, he may only remove one sin at a time with much time in between. Do not compare your life with someone else’s. The real question is have you been changed at all? If you have then God is doing a work in you!

 

The final question is:

 

[VI.] Are you trusting in Christ to guard your salvation or are you trusting in yourself?

 

Every Christian knows that we can only rely on Christ for our salvation and not on our works. They should also know that the Lord is the one who keeps us. However, even if they know this, some will begin to think that their preservation in the faith depends upon them. If they do not think this way they may feel this way.

 

There can be confusion on this topic. In order to avoid confusion we ought to keep two things distinct in our minds. These two things are sanctification and preservation. Sanctification is the process by which we are changed from being selfish and sinful persons to those who reflect the image of Christ. This is a lifelong process. Sanctification depends on both God and us. God is faithful to sanctify us but we must be faithful to pursue it. We are given good means of grace to pursue. Things like knowing the Scriptures, prayer, meeting with other Christians, baptism, the Lord’s Table, and witnessing (and others, too; e.g., solitude, fasting). When we participate in these blessed activities then the Lord uses these means to transform us. If we fail to use the means of grace then we inhibit our own sanctification. There will still be some sanctification, but it will be limited.

 

Preservation, meaning that we are preserved unto a final salvation – that our salvation is protected and inviolable, is a work of God alone. If the maintaining of our salvation depended upon us then few or none could keep their salvation. If Adam, who had no sin nature to contend with, could not keep his place in paradise, what hope can we have – we, who possess a sin nature? None!

 

I ask, are you trusting in Christ to guard your salvation? Paul did.

 

18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. [5]

 

Who will do it for Paul? The Lord! And he will do it for all who belong to him.

 

If we begin to trust our own efforts the result will be doubts about our own salvation. If we trust in Christ then our hearts are at peace.

 

Trust Him!

 

[VII. Conclusion and Application] Sin can rob us of our assurance. A true disciple of Christ will turn away from sin when they recognize it. If someone does not struggle against a known sin at all then this shows that they are not a child of God. Yet, a disciple can wrestle with sin and still find themselves stumbling often. We can still have assurance in that situation.

 

 We need assurance. Not only is it promised, but assurance brings us peace and confidence which, in turn, actually strengthens us to overcome the very sin that may afflict us.

 

Answering these questions in the affirmative testify that you have salvation:

 

  • Do you fear God? The fear of the Lord is evidence of belonging to Him.
  • Have you experienced the discipline of the Lord when you have disobeyed him?
  • Do you despise your sin?
  • Has there been any sanctification in your life at all since you became a Christian?
  • Are you trusting in Christ to guard your salvation?

 

What should we do? If you have answered “yes” to these questions then all you have to do is believe what God has spoken. You are both saved and secure! If you have answered “no” to one or more of these questions then there is where you must read the verse (or verses) that pertain to your condition and believe the promises of God. The passages that we have looked at this morning are the promises of God. They are precious and very great!

 

We must trust the promises of God and not our feelings. Indeed, this is what we are called to do: trust the Lord. Trust him and experience the peace and contentment that is your birthright!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] See http://nsbcwinfield.com/february_25_2018_assurance_of_salvation.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 3:10–18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 12:5–8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 51:2–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Ti 4:18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.