Spirit Home > Rest Assured
"In repentance and rest you
shall be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength."
---- Isaiah 30:15 (NASB)
It is said by some that when a Christian speaks of being saved, and especially when they speak of being sure that they are saved, they're expressing a kind of religious arrogance. After all, only God is privy to such things. Besides, what if we're deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us? Not at all unlikely, given our sinful nature. We can hope we are saved, but what right do we have to say that we know it or are secure or assured about it?
A game question. Lip service is not service at all. The people of today have learned how to con ourselves and each other in ever better ways. Our ability to 'know' anything for sure is quite limited. In a deeply fractured world even the knowledge of so-called 'hard facts' such as those of science requires a lot of trust -- trust in the source of the facts, trust in how they found out, trust in how they measured, trust that they checked the facts, trust that they communicated it right, trust that we understand what they communicated. Many Christians forget how much we material beings depend on trust, and lapse into talk of 'certainty' and 'absolute knowledge'. No. We do not have unqualified 'certainty' about anything. We're not God, we're just people. However, it is possible to have 'assurance': a confidence that is so aware and secure that we can entrust and base our actions and our lives upon it without fear.
For a Christian, assurance comes by trusting the source: a God who loves us so much that it just would not do for God to sit around and sob over a fractured relationship with humanity. Assurance comes because of a God who loves us so much that God made the move to re-establish the relationship and get to work at fixing the brokenness of the world. Assurance comes by trusting the source's way of communicating: in Jesus, God walked among us, even suffering death for our sake (the 'good news'). God revealed the divine purpose and will through certain people (in the Bible). Assurance comes by trusting that there has been a lot of checking and cross-checking over the course of 4000 or so years of Jewish and Christian history, to see if we understand God's communication rightly.
Perhaps it's not right to act as if the case is closed merely because Scripture or the early Church Fathers or the Reformers speak. Their world was different than ours today, in no small part because of what they did in their eras. But still, they did speak. Assurance is part of the message of the New Testament (with hints in the Old), the earliest leaders of the Church, and the Reformers (especially Luther) that we be bold in what we do, and dare to take risks to follow Christ. They didn't want us to hesitate to live a Christian life from being afraid that we'll sin so bad that God would not rescue us or would disconnect us from God's grace. They didn't want anyone to be afraid to follow Christ, even when others in the Church and in government wanted people to have that fear. They wanted us to have enough assurance to dare to take action. Their concern for our confidence was not pulled out of thin air.
In those days, as now, the Spirit was opening their eyes to see people living under the heavy burden of their own sin, personal and collective. Christ took this weight off of us, gratis. Christ is for losers, even for the bottomest folks. Shame has no place where there is Jesus. So we can't stoop low enough to duck His forgiveness. Do I believe in this Christ? Yes!! Then what do I have to be afraid about?! If God (not me) reconciled me to God, even with this burden, even with this blindness, what on earth can I do to separate me from God? Perhaps if I don't care anymore; the Spirit won't work within me if kicked out. But even then God will not give up on me. God will be the father keeping his eye on the horizon down the road, looking for a lost son who may well choose to live and die with the pigs at the swill and never return home. Only we can ultimately wreck ourselves, and even then, in effect, Christ said on a Friday long ago, 'you'll have to do it over My dead body'.
This is about as secure as one can get. So we need not quiver in fear like Luther did back when he was a monk. We can be bold. We can even be real jerks. Not that God wants us to be jerks; when we are, we often hurt others and undermine the truth. God wants us to be as responsible as we can be. But we all are irresponsible at times; error-laden, self-deceived, easily tricked by flim-flammers and promotion and emotions and brash ideas and ego trips. God knows this better than we do, and can count the countless times we didn't remember it. And God still saves us. If our worst didn't stop God, what are we afraid of? If that leads some of us to be so confident that we're smug, well, God's seen worse from us than mere smugness, and God tries to break that smugness through the work of the Spirit within us. Smugness doesn't change the fact of what God has done. Handling smugness takes place in the context of God's making us good again, not vice-versa.
"Living life to the fullest" isn't a matter of getting a steady stream of thrills, achieving your 'bucket list', or traveling the world, or becoming rich, or accomplishing some big task. It's a matter of doing what you're here to do, taking care of what you're responsible for, giving love at each opportunity, and trusting the Spirit to lead you through it. When it comes to having a 'full life', it matters what your life is full of.
It's true of all of us. We do doubt that Christ has saved us, even when we have no cause to. God's Yes keeps on yessing. God is trying to teach us to live confidently in the gift of our rescue even when we are doubting it. Seekers of God can trust in the God who seeks us. We can be confident in a way that stills us so we can trust that God is there: "Be still, and know that I am God."
Where are you in this? The world just keeps getting more complex, and no matter how complex you get you can never keep up. You just keep seeming like a ever-smaller speck in the big picture. But God chose to become the same kind of speck you are - that's what Christmas was all about - and proceeded to show us just how meaningful and powerful a 'speck' could be, through Jesus, and then through Jesus' followers. You're no speck to God. You're a colleague, or at least a potential colleague, in the reshaping and rebirth of all that exists. You're like the son who left and returned, or like the son who stayed; you're part of the family. You can have the assurance that God has you in mind in all of this. You're intended to be part of the whole whom Christ calls His bride. This is the Big Picture, and you're in it!
To the beginning
There's more: God has made some promises that we can have confidence in.
"You, who grieves over your
sin: know that no fire can burn straw as fast as the grace of
God and the blood of Jesus can take your sins away."
--------- Christian Scriver, *The Soul's Treasure* (transl.)
"The Holy Spirit is no
skeptic. He has written neither doubt nor mere opinion into our
hearts, but rather solid assurances, which are more sure and
solid than all experience and even life itself."
--------- Martin Luther, to Erasmus
"For surely I know the plans I have for you,
says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give
you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and
pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will
find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you
find me, says the LORD"
--------- Jeremiah 29:11-13
"The existence of grace is
prima facie evidence not only of the reality of God but also of
the reality that God's will is devoted to the growth of the
individual human spirit..... We live our lives in the eye of
God, and not at the periphery but at the center of His vision,
--------- M. Scott Peck, *The Road Less Traveled* (Touchstone, 1978), p.312
Have courage for the great sorrows of life and
patience for the small ones. And when you have finished your
daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
--------- Victor Hugo
"All the persons of faith I know are sinners,
doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are
sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of
--------- Eugene Peterson, *A Long Obedience In the Same Direction*
"I am like a child who awakes
At the light, so safe and secure
Free from night's fears when dawn breaks,
In Thee I am ever secure."
--------- Rainier Marie Rilke (transl. J. Lemont)
"This is what gives Him the
greatest glory - the achieving of great things through the
weakest and improbable means."
--------- Thomas Merton
To the beginning
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|ver.: 10 May 2012
Assurance - God Says 'Yes". Copyright © 1996-2012 by Robert Longman.