Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Another Word on Assurance

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

This verse, and the verses that follow, are a wellspring of hope and peace. By these verses, we are taught that our justification is received by faith, and that the object of that saving faith is the Lord Jesus Christ. The better we understand this, the more comfort and peace we will have as we traverse the difficulties of this life.

When the Reformers taught that we are saved by "faith alone," they did not mean that faith, by itself saves. That is, a faith that is not attached to Christ as its anchor. In other words, it is by faith alone in Christ alone that we are saved. Faith must be attached to the Lord Jesus in order to work for our salvation.

I have heard the analogy made before that faith is sort of like a plug for the television set. In order for it to work and carry the needed electricity to the TV, it has to be plugged into the wall. It simply cannot function apart from the power source, and neither can the television. In the same way, the source of "power" for the Christian is Christ, and the conduit for that power is our faith, and we are the TV that is brought to life by that power.

When we are "plugged in" to Christ, we are walking by the Spirit. Or rather, when we are walking by the Spirit, we are plugged into Christ. As the Scripture says, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:5). The way, then, for the Christian to be attuned to Christ to receive power from Christ is to set one's mind on Christ. If we do this, we will know the peace of God.

It would be a mistake, I believe, to try and concentrate on faith itself to see if your faith is "real." Faith does not get stronger by looking at faith. Indeed, your faith will most likely shrink if you do that. By that I mean if you look only at your conversion experience or how much you really believe God's promises. However subtle it may seem, any time you take your eyes off of Christ Himself you begin to wane in strength. Faith grows stronger by examining and keeping one's eye on Christ.

So what does it mean to examine and to keep our eye on Jesus Christ? Essentially, I believe that this means to reflect upon what Christ has done for us and the things that He has promised to do for us in the future. I like to think on the fact that Jesus came to save sinners like me (1 Tim. 1:15). So then I must wonder if He is able to save the sinners he purposed to save, and Scripture again tells me that He is most able to do that very thing (2 Tim. 1:12). Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (cf. Rom. 8:38-39).

Perhaps a gloomy soul might balk at such a promise and say, "Surely, Christ could not do this for me because I'm too (you fill in the blank.)" What a mistake to look to the unworthy soul to attempt to find something there worth salvaging. No wonder people look to themselves and despair, for there is nothing there that would ever compel us to believe that one so great and glorious as Jesus would stoop to suffer on its behalf. Keep your eye on the promise, not on the one to whom the promise is given. Christ is able to save, and Christ is willing to save, and Christ Jesus is eager to save those who will love Him.

Assurance is not simply a static thing. Assurance is a blessed gift that waxes strong with our faith. The more we look to Christ, the strong our faith gets, and the stronger our faith gets, the more we are assured that Christ is mighty to save sinners like us, and the more we are assured that Christ is saving us, the more we will know peace in our life.

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