Reading through the Bible systematically could be one of the most rewarding new year’s resolutions you make. It has certainly been helpful to me. For one thing, it confirmed for me the reformed Doctrines of Grace. They really became “true for me” as well as “true” as I saw them every where I read. My advice: find a system and try to adapt it to what you’re living through right now. Don’t make it a RULE, but try to be disciplined. For more than ten years, I used M’Cheyne’s Calendar from
Reassuring Our Hearts, Part 4 May 14, 2008
The Bible can be so confusing! Sometimes it seems to contradict itself. Maybe after all the Mother’s Day stuff, thinking your way thru some biblical principles will be refreshing for you…. I’ve been dealing with “old age” medical problems this week so I could use a little refreshment myself.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (I John 5:1).
“Whoever has the Son has life: whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (I John 5:12).
Actually, these two verses aren’t very confusing. God must work in your heart and mind in order for you to believe that Jesus is THE Savior, Your Savior. If He is yours and you “have” Him, then you have life. Spiritual life forever. If you “have” Him, then you have His perfect righteousness to fall back on even when your own heart and mind condemn you and whisper doubts.
That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’ But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his (Abraham’s) sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4: 22-24).
Bank On This
“Whoever has the Son has life…” not shall have life. In a sermon preached on July 20, 1884, Charles Spurgeon points out this present tense of spiritual life. It is not just that we will go to heaven. It is having spiritual life (and therefore, Christ’s righteousness) right now.
So if your Christian character doesn’t measure up too well or the whispers come back about that one great sin of yours, bank on this: Whoever believes in all that Jesus is and all that He did HAS eternal spirituality.
The Apostle John wanted you to joy in assurance that you have Jesus’ perfect life to bank on. But, he didn’t allow that to be an excuse for sin.
“…and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (I John 5:1).
Love everyone who believes in Jesus!!! “It can’t mean that can it? That’s not even possible,” we retort. “How confusing and unassuring can you get?” someone might sadly say.
Cling To Jesus
When you see your own sin and failure in a verse like this, you have to come back to your belief in Jesus. Hold fast to who He is: fully God, fully man. Rejoice in what He did: sacrificed His perfect life for you. Seek to love others as you would like to be loved by not stealing from them, or lying about them, or wishing you had what they have, or being involved sexually in some way that affects them, or killing them. Love is all really very plain and just common sense; not very mysterious at all (I John 5:2-5). But, Oh how we mess up! And need to fall back on the righteousness of Christ. He loved perfectly and God puts that to our account.
The biblical principle here is that loving other Christians is a mark of faith. It is evidence that we have believed. Loving shows us that God is working in our desires and we have Jesus and spiritual life.
But when we fail miserably, what we have left is Our Savior, the Lord Jesus, and His righteousness. It is all about loving Him and leaning on His work. In the end, when doubts assail and our sins assault, clinging to Jesus is all we have left. Learn to apply all of this to your heart. Little by little… It may take a lifetime. The process is very reassuring. Clinging to Jesus no matter what is the most reassuring of all.
Reassuring Your Heart: Part 3 April 23, 2008
“I believe in a Day of Judgment. I want to pass whatever the “test” is and get into heaven. I’ve heard it said if I just turn away from my sins, believe that Jesus is the One and say a simple prayer about it and then try to be “good,” everything will turn out okay. But, sometimes I get worried about it and don’t know what to do. I usually just get busy with something and it passes over. Then, later, that worried feeling comes back.”
“Of course you’ll make it! We’ve been in church together for years. You have always worried too much! If you’re not going to pass the test, then no one else will either!! No one said you had to be perfect. We’re doing the best we can.”
A friend’s light response like this doesn’t help much; it really just makes us more hesitant to speak up about spiritual things next time. What would be a better way to respond?
Helping A Friend
“Wow, that can really be tough. I remember feeling like that myself. I just determined to try harder, to be such a good person I’d be sure of “getting in.” That didn’t last very long. I fell flat on my face!! It turned out that Romans 8 helped me a lot. I learned that this assurance thing is so very individual and personal. It really rests upon our having the Holy Spirit active in our life. That is what gives us hope that we will ‘make it’.”
“You mean like speaking in tongues or seeing into the future or something? Then I’m in big trouble!”
“Oh no. Let me jot down three biblical principles for you to think about as you read Romans 8. I think they will help you see how we can know we have the Holy Spirit.
1. God’s promises about Christ are made real and alive to me resulting in my believing and having faith that Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection has saved me from being condemned on Judgment Day.
2. I can see the effect of the Holy Spirit on my heart because I see myself as God’s child, knowing he loves me and watches over me.
3. I’m not what I used to be! My character and conduct is changing as I love God and others more. It’s the result of the Spirit on my spirit and showing itself in how I live and relate. Yet, I rely on Jesus’ life being perfect instead of mine.
Study Romans 8 and see if it doesn’t help you understand these principles. All three need to be true of you at least a little bit. You can’t just rely on #3 by itself without the other two. You’d become a legalist if you do that. If you can see just a little bit of each three in yourself, then you can have some hope. Call or email me if you have any questions.”
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
Reassuring Your Heart: Part 2 April 14, 2008
We are looking at how to rightly use three biblical principles to know for sure that our belief in Jesus Christ is the real thing. And how to use these three principles to counsel others instead of giving someone false assurance.
Romans 8 tells us our assurance rests upon our having the Holy Spirit. I John 4: 1-6 tells us the Holy Spirit always points us to Jesus as the Savior and makes real to us the promises regarding Him. The Holy Spirit applies these promises to our hearts and minds leading to our belief and faith. That is the first principle. Learn to recognize if and when this has occurred in your own personal experience.
The Second Principle
The second principle is the Holy Spirit will have another effect upon our heart. He will give us a sense that we are a child of God–that God is our father.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,…(Romans 8:14-16)
Being Led Is Not Hearing a Secret Voice
The key to understanding this second principle is to see the context in which “led” is used in this passage. Paul is telling us in these verses that our spirits and our bodies will be strengthen by the indwelling Spirit to resist sin and not live according to our fallen nature. The context is about holy living not seeking to determine God’s will in our circumstances.
Jonathan Edwards pointed out in the 1700’s that being led by the Spirit was not hearing a “secret voice saying you are a child of God.” Unfortunately, “being led” is often used that way today and can lead to false assurance while living a life of worldliness and carelessness.
“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors–not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8: 11-13).
So look at yourself closely when you hear the whispers that you might not be a Christian after all. See if you live within a consciousness that God is your father: you are loved and cared for; you are no longer under condemnation and fearful of the coming Judgment Day. But, this consciousness is in the midst of a childlike desire to please your father, seeking to live a holy life in body and spirit.
See how this is a matter of the heart? How can you know this about another person? It is possible for a friend to be burdened by her sins and to hate the consequences of them. Don’t give her false assurance to make her feel better. Instead, rightly apply this principle by showing her there is no condemnation ahead for her if she trusts in Christ and lives in the consciousness of His love. She can recognize it in her own heart and have assurance of her salvation. You can too.
Reassuring Our Hearts:Part 1 April 9, 2008
John, a personal friend of Jesus, eye-witness to the resurrection, and a founding leader of the Jerusalem church, wrote I John. His purpose was to show how they could be sure of their own relationship with the risen Lord and have confidence their prayers would be heard (I John 5:13-14). He wanted their joy to be complete now (1:4) and their confidence strong in the Day of Judgment (2:28;4:17). Sometimes our hearts whisper, “You really aren’t a Christian. You have just fooled yourself and others.” At times like that, we need to be able to rightly reassure ourselves or plainly admit we have been deceived.
Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us (I John 3:24).
Our assurance rests on our having the Holy Spirit. We know we are accepted by God because we possess His Spirit. But, during times of whispering, how do I know I have the Spirit?
Effect On Our Heart and Mind
The Holy Spirit takes the promises of God about Christ and makes them come alive and personal to us, resulting in belief and faith. For instance,
For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
It (i.e. righteousness) will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:24).
When promises like these are made to come alive to us, they are personalized. Our emotions are stirred. Our minds are stimulated to believe the promise. It is the Spirit working in us having an effect on our heart. Another effect is that we believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose again so we could be declared right with God. We believe He was the final sacrifice. Both the mind and the heart are affected.
When you hear the whispers, call to mind times when promises like these were real and personal to you. Make a list of those that have come alive to you. Read them again and again or memorize them, asking God to renew their reality to you. It is one of the ways you can reassure your heart before God.
Seeing these promises made real to us by the Holy Spirit is also a cure for other types of spiritual depression. Sometimes falling into an especially grievous sin with all its consequences can be pretty depressing! How could we do that? Can we ever be of service to our Lord again? Remember the promises. Pray for the Holy Spirit to enliven them to you.
In addition to helping yourself, you can use this principle with others. Can you know your child’s heart? Or your friend’s? Then don’t give someone false assurance. “You’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer, haven’t you? Of course, you are saved!” Wrong. Instead, take them back to the promises of God in Christ and teach them to watch for the Holy Spirit’s work in their heart. Even two year olds can begin learning these promises now so they can use them later.
The promises made real is the first of three principles we can use to reassure ourselves. All three are to be used together. If you use only this first one, you could become antinomian. Watch for the other two in later posts.