"This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" --1 John 3:11,14,16,17
"This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us."
--1 John 3:19
"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to see Me. I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.' " --Matt 25:34-36,40
With very good reason, many of us who claim Christ are continually searching for assurance of our salvation. We want proof, solid evidence that we are saved, that Christ is in us, that all the Bible says is true, and that we will meet Jesus in heaven.
We want this assurance, because many of us are not saved.
Among 'Christians' in America an epidemic rages. This disease is evidenced by hearts sick with fear. Book after book, song after song, sermon after sermon throughout the land tries without great success to assure those who call themselves Christians of the love of God, rock-solid proof of salvation, and comfort in the storms of life. We hunger and thirst after evidence that we are truly God's children.
Our churches trumpet warm, comforting messages. Our pulpits spend thousands of hours talking endlessly about salvation, and repentance from dead works, and grace through faith, and Christ's sacrifice for us. Yet the crowds hunger still, and the assurance is tenuous at best, and when the storms come, or the temptations come, or the ridicule and persecution come, we are scattered, and fall by the wayside like so many unproductive seeds.
We don't have assurance of salvation, because many of us are not in truth disciples of Jesus. God will not tell us a lie. Our hearts are condemning us, yet we want to be assured of what we don't have. So we struggle and fail to find comfort from the Holy Spirit.
Read carefully several times each of the Scriptures plainly spoken at the beginning of this teaching. Are we so deaf and blind that we miss the clear truth here?
We must fall on our knees, brother or sister, and ask the Lord to take the scales from our eyes so that we might see the clarion call of God. It is literally, for you and me, a life or death matter.
Many of us have been taught that belief alone is salvation. Wrong, wrong and wrong again. It is belief coupled with obedience that matters.
Jesus said it continually, over and over, and the apostles and early disciples trumpeted it loudly throughout the New Testament. The Old Testament, just as surely the Word of God, declares faith accompanied by works. It is not just James, but John, Paul, Peter, and the writer of Hebrews who declare that faith without works is dead. And dead faith is no faith at all.
So why are we asking for assurance of salvation, when true faith, saving faith, as James says, has eluded us?
For fifty years I was a Christian'. And I mean a sincere, Bible-believing, church-going Christian' as I thought it was defined. Yet I know now that had Christ come back, I would not have been recognized. Though I had prayed often, and considered myself to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ', and had been born again', yet I was not obedient to the Lord, and lived my life more for my own interests than for the interests of the Lord Jesus. The fruits of the Spirit were few in my life. The fruits of self-will and self-interest were evident, except to my blinded eyes. I had not left all behind to follow Jesus. I was traveling heavy, doing my own thing, but still hoping Christ was there close by.
Many who claim Christ today have the same terrible life, doubled over with hidden doubts and sins, torn by insecurity. That's because we can't have assurance of salvation without proof in our own life, which comes in the form of obedience to His commands. (see Part Two, published next)