1 John 5:12 “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”
So how many of us in those difficult times of faith when no one else is around, when all the noise of the last church service is over, and after discussions and prayer meetings have subsided wrestle with the assurance of faith. The ultimate question… “Am I saved” We’re going dig into this today, and build each other’s faith so we can leave with a better understanding of the issue. Before we press into it, I want you to consider the following.
The Bible clearly teaches we are in a spiritual warfare (Eph 6:11-13) I am convinced the church is woefully ignorant of just how deep this rabbit holes goes. Now if we are truly in a battle you would want to beat your opponent and if there was an effective way before battle you could seriously damage the opponent even compromise their ability to wage war what would be one of the most effective ways of doing it?
Undermine their confidence and their belief in their effectiveness…
That would do it… Any army who’s spirit’s been broken performs very poorly even with the best of equipment. This is why our adversary, Satan takes great pains to specifically do that in the life of the believer. Its why many of us end up questioning the legitimacy of our faith.
This is so important I want to hang here for a moment while you consider the Biblical history of Satan’s interactions with the planet earth. In particular consider his title which translates “accuser.”
Ask yourself, what does an accuser do? Well they make accusations (true or false) for the purpose of hurting others but more often to diminish or destroy another’s credibility. Now we all know the reveling of our shortcomings is painful especially when an allegation is true. It’s hard to dodge the truth and our accuser will land a punch eventually and it will have its effect. For that’s what accusations are meant to do; create despair and discouragement. The entrenched areas and liabilities of sin in our lives are used against us by the accuser in our own minds, and painfully through the voices of others serving him. It’s in this spiritual exposure of our shortcomings that Satan and his employees (demons and people) has the greatest impact on us and it’s a circumstance where we find one of the most significant spiritual truths of our walk in Christ taking place: The reality of the ongoing process of being transformed into Christ which strangely enough is the mystery of God and is part of our assurance of salvation. Remarkably, the same process that leads to holiness is used by the enemy to cultivate despair. The very same process the Bible informs us that confirms our faith is used by the enemy to derail our faith as opposed to providing freedom in Christ or our assurance of faith.
Lets digest for a moment 1st John 4: 17. It’s one of those verses worth a week of meditation, really in it is incredible truth about the reality of our walk in Christ. In fact the chapters leading up to it involve one complete thought meant to be experienced as an assurance of faith, summed up (my condensing) in the thought, “He who has Christ in them expresses the love of Christ in his walk and towards his fellow man.” I John is actually a much simpler litmus test of our faith than we realize. “If you don’t love, you don’t have Christ in you.”
John doesn’t leave us confused thinking if we had not expressed love to someone on a particular occasion we would conclude we in fact might “not be saved.” He explain this process of becoming conformed to the image of Christ is actually the Spirit of Christ living within us, changing us; “but if we walk in the Light as He is in the Light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, If we say we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves and the truth does not live in us.” Look at the assumptions of this passage written to Christians. 1.) when we walk in the light, we walk as He was in the light 2.) not only are we cleansed perfectly for purposes of our enrollment in heaven, (justification) the “blood shed” keeps cleansing us from our post salvation sins, “If we say we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves..” 3.) and if anyone sins (again referring to believers) in Johns passage we have and Advocate with God the Father Jesus Christ the Righteous.
The spiritual stalemate of the uncertainty of your faith is accomplished by the failure to let Jesus be Jesus as our Advocate for our sins, not just the pre salvation sins but the post salvation sins as well. Our enemy spends immense time confusing us on the issue making us question our salvation which is extremely effective in robbing us of joy, producing guilt, and the accusations from others that destabilize our faith. If you are confused about the believer’s ability to commit sin “post salvation” consult Psalm 51 prayfully and Psalm 19 verses 10-14.
You see we Christians have a terrible tendency to forget to see ourselves from the position of needing Christ for the purpose of transformation (sanctification) and we let the accusations of the enemy or others used by the enemy and our own immature conscience diminish the work of the cross. As I age, while I see the process of transformation taking place in my life I am still well aware of the entrenched sin and attitudes that reside within. Thank God for the cross! I need it every day and I must remind myself in faith that He who started the work within me will finish the work which is still being completed in me until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6) (my paraphrase).
Now let’s wrap this up with what the assurance of salvation is meant to be in 1John 4 :16- 17
“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world…”
John is telling us the basics, “We have believed who God is and that love dwells in us.” It’s our choice to believe this truth it is an anchor to faith and by doing this, love, (God living in us) is perfected.
You see when God lives in us, we can no longer live formally in “deeds of darkness” (John’s earlier point). We’re changed. All followers of Christ know what this means as God reveals the shortcomings in our lives and the areas that need to be cleaned. (The transformation of Romans 12: 1) and those (sins of presumption of Psalm 19:12-13) it’s painful, but the result is clearly stated by John in verse 16, “We walk like Christ” in the world! Our grounded belief and trust that what God says is true produces this walk “like Christ” dealing with all the messiness and is what “love being perfected in us” means. John gives us clear examples of what it looks like earlier in the letter. We despise darkness and learn to love fellow man. Your and my struggle to conform to the image of Christ is the very proof of his residency in us! Love being perfected is our assurance of faith! You should have confidence from it Christian! The non believing world has nothing to do with this process of spiritual transformation but often copies it though legalism and ritual (a separate message) However; what the enemy uses to accuse us and defeat us, Jesus uses to transform and confirm us! Your very struggle is one of the great assurances of your faith, which if you accept it, gives you confidence on the day of judgment that God has been working in you all this time to glorify himself on earth. God glorifies himself by bringing to light our weakness matched up against the compassion and perfection of Jesus. This is why Paul in 2nd Corinthians 12 can write “When I am weak I am strong” and God himself tells us in the same chapter “My power is perfected in weakness!” Its also why the message of the cross is foolishness to the perishing world. 1 Cor 1:18) Who wants our weakness to be revealed?
A spiritual stalemate is always plagued by this twisting of what Gods considers good and necessary i.e. our transformation into an occasion of accusation and defeated faith. This is why so many Christians waste so much time battling over the feelings produced by the accusations of the accuser. We may be convicted by Gods Spirit for sure, and it’s for our good he does it but
“The Spirit that comes from above is first pure, it loves peace is reasonable and gentle full of mercy and good fruit, unwavering and without hypocrisy.” James 3: 17. Recognize the accusations for what they are and who they come from. They do not define us in the eyes of God with who we are more precious than anything and loved with the same love the Father has for His son Jesus!
J.P. Grier is the founder of SentinelforChrist com – A network of Christian men helping each other to press deeper in Christ.