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In the previous post, we examined the question, “If God has testified that His children can know that they have received eternal life in Jesus Christ (I John 5:11-13), why do so many Christians still have doubts about their salvation?”  If, at the time our sins were washed away by the blood of the Lamb, we believed that we had been saved and were headed to heaven, at what point between then and now did we lose that confidence?  When did we stop “knowing” that we were saved and start “thinking so” or “hoping so?”

For me, it took less than 24 hours to move from confidence to doubt. 

I confessed my faith in Jesus and was united with Him through baptism in His name on a cold, January night in 1973.  My faith was very simple at that point: I believed that I was a sinner and that Jesus was my only hope of salvation.  That was faith enough.  My family and I were staying with my grandparents on their farm in Middle Tennessee at the time as we awaited our visas to move to Monrovia, Liberia.  During those few months, I attended the rural, K-12 school from which my father had graduated years before. 

On the bus ride to school the next morning, I made a comment that drew a quick response from a friend.  I have absolutely no recollection of what I said, whether it was grossly inappropriate or just mildly off-color.  But, I can never forget the reply of this young lady who was aware of my baptism the night before.  She said, “Well, it’s obvious that last night didn’t do you a bit of good!” 

Her comment stung me and stunned me; and nearly 40 years later I can still remember the tone of her voice and the expression on her face.  It was contemptuous. 

Was she right?  Was I really any different?  Had anything changed?  Had my sins really been washed away?  Was I really a Christian?  Was God mad at me?  Was I still going to heaven?  I didn’t know.  And just that quickly, doubt and anxiety replaced the joy and excitement that I had felt only 12 hours earlier.

My problem was that I had not yet worked out the difference between faithfulness and flawlessness.

The God who saved us through Jesus Christ expects, even demands, faithfulness and obedience as a demonstration of our faith and love for Him (I John 2:3; 5:1-3; John 14:15; et al.).  John Stott writes that throughout the letter of I John, the author repeatedly identifies three marks (or tests) of the new birth: belief, love, and obedience.

However, we know that the obedience demanded by I John 2:3 cannot mean sinlessness or perfection because of what precedes it in 1:6 – 2:2, an affirmation of our ongoing struggle with sin. 

Revelation 2:10 instructs us to be faithful until death; faithful, not flawless!

My imperfection is an inherent and understood part of my faithfulness, not a denial of it.

For 23 years I have been a faithful husband to Kim.  A perfect husband?  Are you kidding?  I’ll gladly let you call me a “work in progress” as a husband, but I will get in your face (metaphorically and rhetorically, of course) if you accuse me of unfaithfulness in my marriage.

I can know if I’m faithful.  I can know if I’m not.  Does that make sense?

This is getting long.  Part Three to follow…      

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life,” (I John 5:13).

Are you saved?  Have you received eternal life?  Are you going to heaven?

My experience in ministry has taught me that many people who should be able to respond to those questions with an enthusiastic “yes” will instead offer a tentative, qualified answer of “Well, I hope so,” or “I think so,” or “I’m trying to.”  If you are among those sincere believers who constantly live with a question mark upon your soul, let me ask you a few questions.

How did you feel when you accepted God’s gift of salvation, confessing your faith in Jesus as God’s Son and being united with Christ through baptism in His name for the forgiveness of your sins?  Did you trust Him at that moment to be your Savior?  Did you know that your sins had been washed away by the power of His cleansing blood?  Did you believe that you were saved?  Did you know that you were going to heaven?         

If your answer to these questions is “yes” (and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be), what has changed between then and now?  At what point during the intervening weeks, months, and years did we stop “knowing” that we were saved and start “thinking” or “hoping” that we were.

I am aware of the standard objections.  “Well, sin has taken place since then.”  Yes, indeed, it has; and no one is more aware of that than God.  Even as believers, we continue to struggle with sin and stumble in sin.  To deny this is to deceive ourselves and accuse God of falsehood (I John 1:8,10).  But, for believers with confessional hearts who are seeking to walk in God’s light, we have the promise (guarantee, confident assurance) of continuous cleansing from sin through the blood of our Advocate, Jesus Christ (I John 1:7,9; 2:1-2).

The sacrifice that saved us from sin then is the same one that cleanses us now.  If we trusted in the power of Jesus to save us then, why do we doubt Him now?

Another objection is that confidence in one’s salvation is presumptuous and evidences a lack of humility.  I would suggest that this is false humility and that real presumptuousness lies in questioning the promise of God and the testimony of His word.

God’s testimony of our salvation has been verified by three witnesses: the Spirit, the water, and the blood (I John 5:6-12).  If two or three witnesses sufficed for the verification of human testimony (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:15-16), how much more for Divine testimony.  “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son,” (I John 5:11).  Do we dare question His testimony or ask for cross-examination? 

John R.W. Stott has written concerning this text:

“… it is common today to dismiss any claim to assurance of salvation as presumptuous, and to affirm that no certainty is possible this side of death.  But certainty and humility do not exclude one another… presumptuousness lies in doubting his word, not trusting in it.

But, what about faithfulness, obedience, and the possibility of forfeiting the gift of God?  These are all good questions which will be considered in the next post.

For now, resist the temptation to presumptuously doubt God’s promise and testimony.  Rejoice that you have received eternal life in Jesus Christ!  Rejoice in your salvation!

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December 2022