Well, can one really know if he or she is saved? Can those lingering doubts ever be put to rest? Must we have to make that fifteenth profession of faith? Or in a few weeks will it be what it always comes to–the pain of just not being sure if you are going to Heaven or not?
Perhaps this issue is the ultimate elephant in the living room for Christians. Over the years I have come to the opinion that it touches more Christians than it does not. I have not personally dealt with it in my own heart, but I have certainly worked with those who have. That I have not doubted has nothing to do with living so highly that I was insulated from it. To the contrary, I have done plenty enough to raise doubts since I was saved all those years ago. I credit an incredibly clear presentation of the Gospel for sparing me. I have always known it was Him and not me. I praise God for it too.
Still, many have a storm raging in them. Happiness always runs just out of reach. It makes sense. Who could be happy if you just didn’t know if you would open your eyes in Heaven or not someday? To make it worse, it is hard to fathom exactly what is at stake if we lack assurance. Our entire Christian life gets tied up in knots if we can’t get out of this struggle. Obedience struggles too because obeying to gain salvation is flawed and doomed to failure. It can only thrive when we know where we stand.
A book I recently read, “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart” (reviewed below), got me thinking about it again. I have read plenty on it, but apparently we don’t have enough written on it as of yet.
I don’t think we can give generic advice as all cases of doubting one’s salvation don’t spring from the same place. If you battle a lack of assurance, I suggest you figure which category you are in:
You hear much preaching and teaching that throws you onto the merry-go-round. Just when you think you got it, along comes another sermon and presto, there you go again! It is not a matter of not really wanting to be saved, or of being insincere, or any such thing. It is an intellectual misunderstanding of a heart that truly loves Christ.
Since salvation is as eternal as the fact of physical birth, The Lord uses different means to reach us when we go the wrong path. A lack of assurance is actually a tool from His toolbox to help us. Such a lack of assurance really traumatizes and can lead us back. First John is a whole book about dealing with a lack of assurance and joy.
Of course it is an option. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:23, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you:depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” These folks have a false assurance. Surely at times they hear the little voice that says you are not saved. To trust something other than Christ can’t satisfy,and in such a case, a lack of assurance is a glorious gift.
Now let’s talk solutions to these cases of doubting one’s salvation (in reverse order):
You need to see your condition before a Holy God and throw yourself on His mercy provided in the Person of Jesus Christ. There is no other hope for you! ( please write me if you have questions).
I imagine you know exactly what to do. Just remember this gnawing will never go away till you do!
You likely are putting yourself through needless torture. Do you love Jesus? Do you want desperately His salvation? Do you really think One as loving as Him wants to make it so hard? We are the ones who make it so hard by always thinking that some of His work is ours to do. Ours is but to see the absolutely helpless conditions of our souls, the gory depths of sin in ourselves, and the infinite grace of Jesus Christ. Run to Him! If you did, He did save you as He expressly promised in His Word.
Examine your heart. Are you downplaying your sin and imagining that you just need a little help? If not, I think you can trust His Word. Spend your days looking at Jesus. Learn of Him. Don’t stop until you learn once and for all what grace is. Until you do, the torture may dog you.
The main thing is that it is Jesus, not you. You bring your brokenness, He brings His peace; you bring your failure, He brings His righteousness. You don’t contribute to your salvation, you only bring your lostness. It might be that you just need to remember your part (nothing) and remember His part (everything). It can be no other way.
And by the way, heaping more guilt on yourself will only add to the problem. Being ashamed of your situation is pointless too as you are one of so many. The right approach is dealing DIRECTLY with the problem with no One other than Jesus! Get the other voices out of your head and His voice will be kind, calm, loving, and will lead you back to peace.
J. D. Greear has given us a thought-provoking volume. The title (Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart) alone titillates! I do not agree with everything he says (there is some Calvinism), but he helps us get away from a life of multiple professions that plague so many. The book digs into the subject and helps us wrestle with this critical subject.