October 15, 2017
Assurance: Why We Don't
2 Peter 1:1-11 by Ross Fotheringham
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Series: Christian Assurance

Why we don’t

2 Peter 1:1-11

 

Assurance of your salvation is a wonderful, wonderful blessing.  Assurance is having surety that you belong to Christ and that he knows you, and that on the Day of Judgment he will say, “Welcome”.  This is a really wonderful blessing, and one that you may not realise you have because may have taken it for granted.

 

The writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 10:22

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

 

Hebrews 4:16

16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

What blessings come from being certain of our salvation!

 

Imagine sitting an examination when you already know that you have passed. Imagine fighting a war which you know has been already won. Imagine searching for a survivor who you know will be found safe and well.

These are just small things compared to your salvation.

 

Alternatively, the one can lack certainty, and one can have doubt on this the most important of questions: our eternity. Uncertainty here can breed a hopeless anxiety, a depth of despair that can paralyse the believer and remove all joy in Christ.

 

Assurance is a wonderful blessing in ways that you may not have realised.

 

Peter in his second letter is speaking about that blessing in helping us mature in godliness. If you want to grow in your Christ likeness then assurance is necessary.

 

2 Peter verse 5

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith (this person is a Christian) with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

These are beautiful qualities. Peter is instructing the person, who is a Christian to seek to live in a Christ like way. He is not saying this is how you become a Christian, instead he explains that to become a Christian, it is the faith, given to you by Christ which enables you to believe. When you are a Christian however, do all you can to live in a Christ like way and make every effort to supplement your faith.

 

One of the ways in which you have the ability to do this (to live like this after you have been saved) is in verse 10.

 

10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

 

In other words, we are encouraged to seek the assurance of our salvation and that is in order that we might bear fruit.

 

A person who is truly converted but does not have that assurance, is in a position of easy prey for the enemy to come and accuse them thus paralysing them in their Christian life.

 

It is hard to be concerned for others, to show ‘brotherly affection’ whilst being terrified because one is unsure of one’s salvation. It is hard to be steadfast when every day you are up and down emotionally with fear for your eternity you can never just rest in Christ. Christians like that will bring forth Christian fruit, but it will be meagre because they are not living the Christian life out of confidence in their standing before the living God.

 

Peter is saying “do all you can to settle it, so that you may be fruitful.”

 

Like the tree grows poorly when it is under certain stress, so the Christian grows poorly when they are under this sort of stress. It is the stress that comes from not being sure if they belong to the Lord or not, of never being able to just rest in the joy of being safe in Christ. I am saying all this to remind you that God does not expect you to go through your life worrying and wondering about whether you really belong to Him.

 

Let me ask the question. “Why do we not have assurance? There are times and occasions when we lack assurance. If you speak this morning to any mature Christian here, they will say there are different times in their walk with Christ they have struggled to one degree or another for various lengths of time with doubts and lack of assurance. Every day will not be like your first day with Jesus.

 

This morning I want to talk about four areas in which we can find ourselves with a lost assurance of salvation.

 

1.    You are not saved

 

This first one is different from the rest. I am really nervous about saying it because there are some here for whom this does not apply, but you may immediately resign yourself to this being you. I am therefore going to make this the first one, with the hope of you forgetting it, but others here need to desperately hear it. It is simple and terrifying. You can doubt your salvation because you are not saved. This is why you struggle with doubt, because you are not a believer in Jesus Christ.

 

At some point in your life, you have entered into some sort of shallow commitment to Christianity. I don’t know what it may have been but you were afraid of hell. Maybe you were by your nature conservative, so you like that moral box that you saw Christianity to be. Maybe you have grown up with it and have enjoyed the praises of people as you pretend.

 

Some here will have entered into some shallow commitment to Christianity, and if you could sit down and talk with someone to allow them to push you and you are honest for the first time, really honest. Instead you do not love Jesus, and you do not hate your sin, you do not love holiness, you do not pray, you feel no deep guilt over prayer-less-ness, you have not been transformed by the presence of the Holy Spirit and Christianity is a pretend game that you have been playing.

 

The Holy Spirit has not given you a heart of flesh, a new heart, a heart that loves God, pursues God and has been transformed by the indwelling presence of the Spirit. Instead, you are just a good person. Good people go to church, good people do not lie and good people do not cheat on their spouse. That doubt, that nagging doubt in you, may in fact be God’s mercy to you because he is ringing the alarm in your soul that something is not right. That is merciful because God does not owe you that. That is merciful because there are people for whom that alarm does not ring at all ever. In His mercy however, that alarm has begun to ring in your heart and in your soul, so I want to say to you this morning: listen to it! If you are not a believer in Christ, it is the same as my belief in in Justin Bieber. I know he exists, but that is about the extent of it.

 

Talk to someone about that this morning, do not neglect God’s kindness to you as an anxious soul.

 

So that is the first reason: you are anxious because you are not a Christian.

 

 

2. You have a hard time leaving yourself out of the work of salvation.

 

The second reason that causes a lot of doubt, is that you have a hard time leaving yourself out of the work of salvation. This is what I mean by that. You are a Christian, you believe you are saved by Christ, and his work, butut in the back of your mind you feel it only makes sense if you add just the littlest bit, maybe .0001%. I think that is who Peter is talking about when he says in verse 9

 

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

 

When you came to Christ, you did not think you had anything to offer. Let us be very clear: you cannot save you; Jesus saves you. You don’t partner with Jesus in your salvation; Jesus saves you. If it  if it were up to you, and if it were up to me, even just that little bit, that is the bit that would be wrecked. Even if your salvation rested in the smallest way on you, you are in trouble.

 

We speak about faith in a very unhelpful way sometimes. I think this is the biggest hijacking of truth that has befallen Christianity that you somehow partner with God in your salvation by your faith. We speak about faith as if it is us who created it. It’s simply not true. “Well, I confessed and repented.” Yes, but have you forgotten your Bible.  Where does the grace to confess and repent came from? It was a gift to you by faith, and even the faith was a gift.

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Do you have friends like that? Are you like that? You forget the gospel of free grace, and wonder you lack assurance.

 

Just this week past I heard of a woman who had come out of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

She said was about to commit suicide because she just could not do enough works to give herself the assurance that she felt she had to have. (She had believed that assurance could only be gained by works.)

Before attempting suicide however, (which was on a Good Friday evening), somebody had told her to read through the Gospel of Luke. She knelt down at her bed and she began to read through the whole Gospel of Luke. This was pre-suicidal, to see if there was any last hope, and when she got to the final chapters, it was the beholding of Christ on the cross forgiving a thief that broke her. It was looking at Christ crucified that rescued her from a suicidal lack of assurance.

 

Lack of assurance comes whenever we think we add to our salvation.

 

A third reason is similar but slightly different. People lack assurance of salvation because:

 

3. All you can see is the ballast and not the sail

 

Before you were a Christian, before you began to think seriously about Jesus Christ and his claims, (not to mention his death and resurrection), you probably lived your life with only minimal ideas of right and wrong which you had absorbed from your family and friends. Becoming a Christian, all of that changed.

 

Prayerlessness would not have made you feel guilty before, but now it does. Resentment at some slight, (real or imagined), never troubled you before but now it does. Your bitter responses trouble you. Now you are appalled that such self-serving behaviour is so deeply rooted in your personality. Prolonged pandering to secret lusts never struck you as evil before, nor did crude jokes of overt flirtation.  Now you find that you are more chained to lust than you could ever have imagined. Moreover you discover how impossibly difficult it is for poor sinners like you and me, to love God with all our hearts and soul and mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. You see in one scene, this feeling that you are awash with sin. It means that you are taking sin seriously, and that is one of the marks of a true believer.

 

John Owen once said that he that has small thoughts of his sin but never has great thoughts of God. Here is the thing, if your consciousness of sin does not lead to a deeper awareness of the grace and power and love of Christ, it does nothing but achieve a deep apprehension, depression and uncertainty.

 

John Piper tells the story of Charles Simeon – (an English pastor who was deeply aware of his own sinfulness), in a way that would have crippled many of us. Piper says Simeon was a bit like one of the old sailing ships.

 

They carried massive sails that drove the ship along and the only reason they could carry these enormous sails was they had a great weight of ballast in the bottom of the ship.

 

Piper says, “two things were the heartbeat of Simeon's inner life: growing downward in humility and sadness over sin and growing upward in adoring and trusting God.”

 

Charles Simeon had a deep sense of his wretchedness before a holy God. It was like his ballast and therefore he had great sails of adoration for the mercy and forgiveness of God. He new he was a great sinner and looked down at the ballast, but only for a time. He then looked up to the great saviour who saves great sinners 

 

Friends we live in a time when even Christians are saying, “Throw the ballast overboard. Don’t talk about sin, don’t talk about our vileness.” Look down at the ballast and then look up to the saviour.

 

Can you focus too much on myself for assurance of salvation? Yes, you can. You can become fixated on yourself which, in effect will not produce the very thing you are trying to produce. The person who is analyzing their motives all the time, analyzing their fervor all the time: “Am I lukewarm and going to be spit out of his mouth?”, or analyzing their doctrinal clarity all the time will defeat the very thing they are after. The reason that this happens is because we look into the mirror for assurance instead of looking at Christ and the sufficiency of his work on the cross.

 

This is not to say that we do not practice spiritual introspection, because 2 Corinthians 13:5 says to test yourself to see if you are in the faith. The whole book of 1 John is written to give tests of faith, such as "If you hate your brother you don't know God".

 

Once you have completed the introspection and seen what there is to see, repented the best you can of what is sinful, and taken heart from the little evidences of grace, what do you do next? You do not get assurance from that glimpse mainly. Do what you need to do there. Do your spiritual business, and then you get your eyes focused on the hope-giving promises.

 

Some doubt because they are not Christians

Some because they are Christians but they have forgotten they do not partner in salvation.

Some because they are Christians but cannot take their eyes off their sin. No doubt there are other reasons.

 

But there is the last one for this morning:

 

4. Some doubt because they are walking in secret sin

 

What I mean by this is you are in habitual sin, but instead of confessing and repenting, you bury that and hide that. When King David sinned with Bathsheba it was un-repented.

 

This is what he said in Psalm 32

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

 

Do not rush on from here. Stop and think. This is what David says happens when you as a believer live with un-repentant sin. He says, “I have a physical response. My bones are wasting away. I have an emotional response. I feel like your heavy hand is on my heart, and I’m not able to sleep.” Then he ends it with something we can all relate to. “My strength, my vitality in life is being sapped out of me as by the summer’s heat.” Do you know a little bit about that?

 

Secret, unacknowledged, un-repentant sin is damaging and exhausting and will destroy your assurance, and rightly so.

 

Psalm 32:5

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

 

Sometimes I wonder if we do not help each other in this regard, we make it so hard for people to tell us that they have failed really badly.Sometimes people need your strength as a Christian and sometimes they need your weakness. People do not always need you to be the person that says, “Let’s memorise the New Testament together” Sometimes they need me to be the person who says, “My heart is still sinful and I hate it”, because here is what happened this week. I confessed some attitudes of my heart and thoughts of my mind, and I received grace and mercy, and maybe it means then that they can stop lying about their sin.

 

Friends, today there will be people here who are struggling with Christian assurance for different reasons.

Some will not be Believers, some will be introspected and need to see Christ.

Some will be caught in sin and need to be changed and loved.

 

Let us stand with each other in this area weeping with those who weep.

 

Most of all, point with all clarity, each other to a saviour who saves sinners like us.

 

 

 

 

 

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