The problem: what can we do?
The problem for all mankind is insecurity. In this Christian context we can be more specific: we lack assurance about our salvation, our forgiveness and God’s purposes for us.
Mankind was created to worship, and we find it hard to live without reference to someone or something greater than us. There are two answers to this
The first answer is to worship Almighty God, as we were created to do, to receive His love and return it, and live in fellowship with Him. But it’s difficult — we can’t see Him: it requires faith, which means believing what we can’t put in a box, measure or even fully understand, and the gap between holy God and our messy lives makes relationship seem too high to grasp.
The second answer is religion, which is a man-made answer, whatever the belief or the deity/deities involved. We create a system for satisfying this greater being for our failings, through an ordered form of actions and devotions. This, we wrongly believe, buys us enough credits to get by (but it doesn’t work that way).
The tragedy and the deception is that we want to turn Christian faith — believing in Jesus Christ for our salvation and redeemed life — into a version of this religious thinking, where God is a harsh and demanding judge. In this commonly-believed but unbiblical version we have to appease Him, probably on our knees and with penitential actions. This is a twisting and misunderstanding the Bible. When the Bible is read with the illumination of the Holy Spirit, it becomes God’s revelation of Himself. The ‘untwisted’ story that emerges, is of His favour towards us without our deserving it, and His desire for meaningful and beneficial relationship with us.
Why do we head down the wrong path? Where Jesus is not real and present for us, we are left with the need to construct something which satisfies our own need, more than doing what God wants. Knowing Jesus, we put faith first in Him, the exact representation of God, but at the same time human like us t hat we can relate to. Then our faith is through Him, helped by the Holy Spirit, enabling us to actually knowAlmighty and all-holy God. In some way we cannot quite understand, we are free and counted righteous so we can approach Him.
The solution: an introduction from the July 26 Sunday readings
God’s assurance of wisdom given to Solomon
Solomon, the 20-year-old who found himself king of a wealthy and influential nation, needed to know how to govern — and he had enough common sense to ask God for an endowment of supernatural wisdom and judicial discernment. In the story ((1 Kings 3:5-12)) this all takes place in a dream where there is two-way dialogue in which the Lord appears to Solomon. He gives him what he has asked for, and more, with the assurance that he can ask for and receive the wisdom to become and outstanding ruler of justice.
That was favour shown to King David’s son Solomon, but what about our plain and undistinguished lives? In Jesus we have become His royal priesthood, also with special responsibilities to represent Him and His kingdom in this world ((1 Peter 2:4-5, 9))— and God reminds us through this story that His gift to us is the assurance that comes from belonging to Him and serving Him.
Assurance in the kingdom rule and reign of Jesus
Jesus being real and present is the approach of the kingdom of God. His rule and order becoming real and present is the kingdom of God being realised. That will happen fully at the end time. Meanwhile, Jesus in His time on earth taught. more about the kingdom of God than anything else. The parables of Matthew 13 each provide a view, an aspect of what God’s order is like – the tiny mustard seed that grows tall, the little bit of yeast that ferments all through the dough, the pearl of the greatest imaginable value, the choosing of the fish to keep.
Our believing and receiving Jesus puts the kingdom of God‚ His rule and reign — in us. And spiritually, it puts us in the kingdom of God. We belong to God, already distinguished to be put aside for Him, not burned in the fire like the weeds. The kingdom rule and reign of Jesus is assurance for us of salvation.
The assurance of our covenant with God: nothing can separate us from His love
How do we know we belong to God, citizens of His kingdom?
Experiences are not. always reliable but they are indicative. There is a particular experience of finding peace with God. Everyone who has come under conviction of their sin and rebellion, and then come to Jesus and asked Him to take the weight of that conviction and be their Lord, know what it feels like to receive God’s peace. No amount of church or charity involvement can help us here — it is up close and personal with Jesus. It is the acceptance of His unconditional love, and it comes through this step of trusting faith and not any other way ((Hebrews 11:1, Romans 5:1)).
Paul, writing to the church in Rome ((Romans 8:26-39)), presents a perspective from beyond the Cross into the awareness of the Holy Spirit who, he reminds us, helps us in our weakness and prays when we find it difficult, taking our deepest feelings and it urning them into intercession that harmonises with God’s will. He is better at it than we are — and this is just one way in which He is always working for our good, showing us that man’s worst efforts cannot break the bond of love between God and His own, those that know their calling.
Other Scriptures that reinforce our security with God
To round off, let’s look at some significant verses that underline our assurance, as those who have believed and received Jesus as Saviour and Lord, of eternal life. New life in Jesus starts the moment we say ‘yes’ to Him, but when our physical, earthly life eventually fades, this spiritual life continues into eternal life with the Father and all the company of heaven.
Believe for eternal life
It’s down to what we believe, rather than a reliance on what we can see:
Eternal life comes by faith — John 6:47
Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.
What or who do we believe? In Jesus, the Son, in whom we have eternal life —1 John 5:11-13
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
And (like Paul in prison) when fears and suffering try to shake that belief? The unshakeable truth of knowing Jesus, the Saviour — 2 Tim. 1:12
That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day
And here are some verses that tell us more about how it works:
There’s the faith mystery, the ‘seeing’ that comes by believing — Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance about what we do not see.
There’s the sense of having a close relationship with people you may not know well or have natural affinities with, because of that shared faith in Jesus and His salvation — 1 John 3:14
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
And the witness of the heart, at one with God — Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit on the inside of us, who takes up residence when we are born anew spiritually by receiving Jesus, provides another avenue of communication — Romans 8:16
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Assurance is a big word for this: knowing because we know because we know, that we belong to God and whatever happens, our future is eternal life with Him. Psychologists says that one of the underlying causes of many fears and anxieties is a deep-down fear of death. For Christians who love Jesus, that fear has been cancelled out, because our heavenly destiny is secure — and very good indeed.
Return to July 26, 2020 post
See also in Believe the Good News:
God’s assurance and the five common doubts we all struggle with