In today’s “Afternoon Tea” session we were talking about assurance. We had a couple of questions about salvation. “Can I know that I am genuinely saved?” and “Is it possible to lose your salvation.” When we are talking about these questions we tend to use two terms.
- Assurance is about knowing for certain that I belong to Jesus
- Security is about my eternal salvation, can I lose it.
Here are some notes from today.
A Christian is someone who has put their faith in Jesus, asked him to forgive their sin and to be Lord of their life. They have asked his Holy Spirit to indwell them. On one level then it should be straight forward. I know the facts of the Gospel and I know I believe them.
However, people can struggle. Questions include
- Was my prayer effective -did God really hear it and answer?
- Was my prayer effective – did I mean it?
Assurance is helpful then because we need more than just intellectual facts. I would suggest there are several planks on which our assurance rest.
- The objective truth of the Gospel – that Jesus did live, die and raise again for me, that Scripture is trustworthy and that God answers prayers.
- The “sacraments” or “means of grace” communion and baptism. The one off act of baptism and the regular taking of communion are meant to provide visible reminders of God’s grace and to help us actively do something to show we belong to Christ. These are coupled with being part of the church family together for mutual encouragement
- Evidence of growth. It is not that I am perfect but that I can see God at work in my life.
- The presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. There is an experiential factor.
We need all of these present. We can rely on one and get false assurance -e.g. that I turn up to church and take part in communion whilst my heart remains unmoved. Conversely, I can feel like I lack assurance if I just rely on my emotions -and so don’t feel the presence of the Spirit.
The work of the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13) suggests the emotional element. I should not pursue an emotional experience but this is an essential element to a relationship. We all react differently emotionally but we can expect some response.
We will hit low points in life because of circumstances, health etc and that is often when the devil thinks there is a weak point where he can attack. Psalm 71 reminds us that God is present and able to defend and deliver us from those attacks.
Sometimes it may feel like I am not growing. This may be a warning sign and it is good to have a spiritual check-up. Growth depends on feeding (God’s Word) and exercise (witnessing, serving, doing good). At the same time, we may feel discouraged because we are unable to see what God is doing in us and through us. We may see that with hindsight or other Christians can and should step in to encourage us.
Additionally, growth is not always upwards and exponential. As churches and individuals we may experience growth, fruitfulness, pruning and abiding/resting. What is it that God believes you need at this stage in life. Taking time to rest in him is as important as the other things we need to grow.
Sometimes we see people who backslide and return to their faith. We should be careful to judge as we don’t know the full story and the ending yet. However we do see people where the fall appears permanent.
I suspect that in those cases you will find that the person may have appeared to have assurance but it was based on only one of those planks and so it was false.
For the believer, our security is not dependent upon what we do. We know that we will not be lost because it is not our responsibility. Jesus tells us that God the Father has given us to him and he will not lose one of us from his hand. Salvation is his work, he loved us before we loved him, brought us from death to life and so he is the one charged with keeping us safe (John 6:37. Our lives are in the hands of the one who is able to keep us from falling (Jude 1:24-25).
Here is the conversation