From time to time we all go through short periods, or even prolonged seasons of doubt about our standing with God. There can be many reasons for this. Assurance is not automatic. In fact, very little in the Christian life is automatic because the very nature of it is relational. We are saved (justified and forgiven) in order that we can relate to and find our deepest satisfaction and joy in God. That’s why He gives us His Spirit to enable a genuinely experiencial walk with Him.
There are three main ways that assurance works, or better, how it is gained. Firstly it is derived through believing the truth of Gods word. If the word says “all those that call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13), and you have called on His name for salvation through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, you can trust that God is true to his word. You are saved! That’s the first level of assurance. The second is looking for the fruit of regeneration: a transformed life. If we have embraced the Saviour by faith, we are united to Him. He in us and we in him! It is the indwelling presence and power of the Spirit that makes this union ‘real’, effective and increasingly fruitful in producing Christ-likeness in us. In other words, as Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruit.” (Matt. 3:8; 7:17; Jn. 15:18) The second level of assurance is derived from the change in behaviour we see when our lives, by God’s grace, are now radically God-centred rather than self-centred. Finally, the third level of assurance has to do with the direct witness of the Holy Spirit to our heart. Paul says in Gal. 4:6, “And because you are sons, God sent has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying “Abba! Father!” And again in Rom. 8:16, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are Children of God.”
If we have little assurance the whole of our Christian life is affected. Our joyful praise and worship of the Saviour will be muted, our endeavour to obey and please the Lord will be lacklustre, and our witness and testimony to the world will be weak.
Here’s some helpful comments from John Piper on this subject of assurance.
John Piper says:
FULL ASSURANCE IS GOD’S WILL FOR US. “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end.” Hebrews 6:11
ASSURANCE IS PARTIALLY SUSTAINED BY OBJECTIVE EVIDENCES FOR CHRISTIAN TRUTH. “To [his apostles] He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days.” Acts 1:3
ASSURANCE CANNOT NEGLECT THE PAINFUL WORK OF SELF-EXAMINATION. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5
ASSURANCE WILL DIMINISH IN THE PRESENCE OF CONCEALED SIN. “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.” Psalm 32:3
ASSURANCE COMES FROM HEARING THE WORD OF CHRIST. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:31
REPEATED FOCUSING ON THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST IS CRUCIAL FOR ASSURANCE. “Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” Hebrews 10:21-22
WE MUST PRAY FOR EYES TO SEE THE TRUTHS THAT SUSTAIN ASSURANCE. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19
ASSURANCE IS NOT EASILY MAINTAINED IN PERSONAL ISOLATION. “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.'” 1 Corinthians 12:21
ASSURANCE IS NOT DESTROYED BY GOD’S DISPLEASURE AND DISCIPLINE. “Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, and I will see His righteousness.” Micah 7:8-9
WE MUST OFTEN WAIT PATIENTLY FOR THE RETURN OF ASSURANCE. “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD.” Psalm 40:1-3
ASSURANCE IS A FIGHT TO THE DAY WE DIE. “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life.” 1 Timothy 6:12 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
ASSURANCE IS FINALLY A GIFT OF THE SPIRIT. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” Romans 8:16 “The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself… And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” 1 John 5:10-11