Friday, January 18, 2019

Why Don’t I Feel Like I Am Saved? If I Am Saved Why Don’t I Feel Like It?

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

Continued from:

Imagine you have a very rich uncle, and when he died you are informed by his attorney that he left you 100 million dollars. Suppose this happened but when you heard the news you refused to believe it; it seemed unreal—too good to be true. So, for several months the full amount of the money was in your bank account but you made no withdrawals on it; it just sat there unused. That would be sad and unfortunate wouldn’t it, especially if you are struggling mightily just to make ends meet? You are a millionaire many time over but it has not made a bit of difference in your life; indeed you live as if you were a pauper when you are incredibly rich!

Similarly, by virtue of our union with Christ, we have NOW at our disposal all the spiritual riches imaginable, including the firm assurance of our eternal salvation; look at this verse in Ephesians.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (Eph.1:3)  He HAS blessed us…with every spiritual blessing. Pretty amazing deposit in our spiritual bank account! But how many of us live in light of this blessed truth? Lack of assurance will certainly make one feel like a spiritual pauper, but having assurance is heaven on earth!

In his lovely prayer which begins at v.15 Paul basically prays that we would deeply understand the fullness of the riches we have received in Christ. He knew that it was easy for Christians to live as if they were spiritual paupers, when we have no idea of how spiritual wealthy we are now. Like the rich uncle who died and left his inheritance, we have been left an incalculable inheritance in Christ but most Christians devalue or are unaware of how blessed we are in Christ. This ‘richness’ would certainly include the full assurance of faith; a deep sense that our faith is real and that God will not let us go. I said last time, that Christians with a robust assurance live as if they were experiencing heaven on earth!

How can we grow in our assurance? I touched on this last time but there are more issues to address.

First, we must not confuse the foundation of our salvation with its superstructure. Justification (foundation) is an eschatological reality; it is the verdict of the last day brought forward into our present experience. It is complete and nothing can be added to it. Justification is complete and perfect the moment we believe, and cannot be augmented or diminished. Sanctification is the superstructure built on top of this and sanctification IS progressive. But justification is final, complete and irreversible.  Justification is the Last Day declaration of ‘not guilty’ as well as the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to me. Please see the first segment which argues for the perseverance of the saints—without this foundation, it is impossible to attain to full and robust assurance.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)  Where does your faith come from? God.

We are justified by faith alone but our faith contributes nothing to our justification—it is 100% God’s gift to us—that could not be more clearly stated in above text. Faith is the instrument by which we lay hold of Christ. Yet the very folks who quote those verses all the time to show that we are not saved by good works, often do not see that it also indubitably affirms that we did not generate that faith; it was a grace gift from God. Faith is the empty mouth that feeds on Christ, or the empty hands that receive God’s free gift. The faith you express to receive justification is given to you by God; it is not self-generated from your flesh. Please listen: as long as we think that WE generated faith and it contributes to our justification/salvation, then instead of: experiencing weak faith which should lead to rejoicing in a strong Christ…when we experience weak faith it leads to loss of assurance of our salvation. So, when we experience bouts of weak faith, let that lead us to the object of our faith—an omnipotent Christ! We are not saved by faith in faith but faith in Jesus Christ. No matter how weak our faith may be, does not diminish one iota the strength of the object of our weak faith—King Jesus! Our assurance lies in the strength of our Savior and not the strength of our faith.

In some circles there is such a strong emphasis on remembering your conversion, that those who are uncertain about the timing of their salvation are then led to doubt the reality of their salvation. But as with physical birth where it is not important that we remember our birth, but the important thing is that we are alive now, and that entails that we most certainly were born physically! Similarly, you may not remember the moment of your conversion (I don’t) but the important issue is this: am I spiritually alive now? That is all that is needed for assurance of salvation.

Second, inconsistent obedience will lead to lack of assurance. Do we think that the indwelling Holy Spirit will give us inner comfortings regarding our salvation, when we are living in unholiness and grieving Him? A sweet and robust assurance is connected to striving for holiness. We are certainly not speaking of perfection, but a passion to please God in all areas of life. Low levels of personal holiness will lead to low levels of assurance of salvation.

Third, a misunderstanding of affliction or suffering will lead to problems with assurance. If you ask people how they know if God loves them, many will refer to His blessings as the evidence of His love. But what happens when God’s providence becomes hard and difficult? What happens when there is a ‘crook in the lot’? Do we base our apprehension of God’s love on our circumstances? If so, then we are in trouble because we live in a fallen world in which the godliest are promised by Jesus that we WILL experience suffering in this life. Circumstances neither indicate one's character (as Job’s wretched counselors assumed) nor are they indicators of God’s attitude towards us. God’s providence is mostly a mystery to us, and it often has harsh realities—we live in a terribly broken world in which we (and our loved ones) get sick and die. If you live long enough, you will experience suffering of some kind. The cross, and not our circumstances, is God’s evidence of His love for us.

In fact, many people will attest that their lives got more complicated and more painful after they believed in Christ. When the Holy Spirit indwells us, then that is when the warfare begins between indwelling sin and the indwelling Christ. The Lord promised peace IN the problems, not a guarantee of a route around the problems.

Lastly, the devil will throw up hindrances to assurance. He is a better theologian than most people. He knows that a true believer cannot be damned, so he will do all he can to make them doubt their salvation and drive them to despair. The Holy Spirit will convict you to lead you to repentance, but the devil ‘convicts’ to accuse—“You cannot be a Christian if you act or talk like that.” To which we reply: look to Jesus—He is my righteousness.

Building your assurance. In addition to things said in previous message, let me say this: make it your first priority of the day to GET YOUR HEART HAPPY IN THE LORD (George Mueller said this). What I mean is:  read your bible every day and ask God to touch your affections and to apply it to your life, with the expectation of coming away with your heart happy, assured and energized by the Holy Spirit. This is a general rule of thumb because there are valleys when darkness abounds and it is difficult to find happiness.

There are 3 areas that we should apply the bible in order to maximize its effectiveness in assurance: orthodoxy (right belief), orthopraxy (right action) and orhtopathos (right affections or feelings). Different denominations tend to be strong in one area but weak in the others, but biblical faith that leads to full assurance will need to be applied to all three. Reformed folks (like myself) tend to focus on orthodoxy but often neglect orthopathos. If you read the psalms or Philippians (e.g.) then one can see a strong focus on right belief and actions leading to proper feelings (e.g. joy—depending on what emotion the text calls for), and vice versa. There is a web of mutual reciprocity; they mutually influence each other.

Please be aware of the close connection between the physical, emotional and spiritual. If one is suffering chronic and acute physical pain, then it often affects the emotional and spiritual, and vice versa. Depression can make assurance a difficulty.

Lastly, let me mention meditation, which is a lost art. Biblical meditation is a way of abiding in Christ moment by moment. We take a verse or thought and think about it during the day and maybe even mutter to yourself about it. Unlike eastern meditation which is content-less and focuses on nothing or some placid scene, biblical meditation turns over and over in the mind some particular thought you gleaned from your daily reading of God’s Word. This helps immensely in bringing all 3 foci together (orthodoxy, orthopraxis, and orthpathos). By meditating on God’s Word we abide in Christ and the Holy Spirit assures us supernaturally of our status as God’s children, as He delights to work in conjunction with the written Word.

Next: how to deal with depression, loss and suffering.

Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook forma

No comments: