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.