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Friday, February 22, 2013

Be Sure - Christian Assurance

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Be Sure - Christian Assurance -  Michael J. S. Austin, Ph.D.

In an earlier article I discussed the main issue of Christian assurance - true and false. Now in this follow on article I need to look a little more closely at this and add some further clarity. Short articles are great for introducing topics that may then be expanded or developed in subsequent ones.
  • I NEED CLARITY
Now, we need clarity in this area of confused religious assurance. This is serious because many people are sincere in their Christian beliefs, but are basing their hopes of heaven on a mixed foundation - Jesus' death and their religious devotion. This sort of religious experience comes in many shades of colour, but the one thread running through them all is this mixed approach: Yes, I believe Jesus died for my sins, but I must show my sincerity in what he has done by my prayers, church attendance, or receiving sacraments and making confession and practicing good works, and all this, added to what Jesus has done, will help to get me through to heaven. Many people are on this confusing religious road.
  • I NEED ASSURANCE
Do they have assurance of salvation? No, they must never think they have acquired enough merit, because that would be shockingly presumptuous, as heaven would be a reward already gained. So what they must do is strive to gain merit and hope they have done enough, without ever being really sure. That sort of thinking can be applied to many church settings and practices, but all have this idea that Jesus has done a lot, but now I must do my bit to prove I am worthy of his love and that he will hopefully accept me when I leave this world.
The big question now is; is this mixed approach, as I've called it, the essence of Christianity? Consider, for instance, Jesus' words about how he had come 'to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mark 10:45), and even at the announcement of his birth, his name 'Jesus' fits his mission, 'for he will save his people from their sins' (Matthew 1:21).
  • ASSURANCE NEEDS A FIRM BASE
Jesus clearly taught assurance, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life' (John 5:24). Later, he continued his teaching, by the Holy Spirit, in all the New Testament Scriptures. Thus we hear Paul explain, 'while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly' (Romans 5:6) and see this developed 'But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself' (Hebrews 9:26).
Oh to accept that the loving Son of God has actually done all this! There is so much teaching on the finished, sacrifice of Christ on the pages of God's word that it shouts at us - 'He saves lost sinners, never by their good works, but on the basis of his perfect sacrificial work, completed once for all on behalf of others!'
This is why there is the repeated emphasis in God's word, such as 'he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy' (Titus 3:5), and 'by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast' (Ephesians 2:8). Notice the word 'saved' as past tense and how this is 'not your own doing'!
  • ONLY THE FINISHED WORK OF CHRIST IS SUFFICIENT
Do you see it now? Salvation, receiving God's full forgiveness of our sins and our adoption into his family, is freely granted on the basis of Christ's finished sacrifice. Jesus has paid the price in full. And all who turn from their own proud way and trust in the Lord Jesus are given peace with God. Now, the great verdict 'not condemned!' is completely undeserved, but received in heartfelt trust - that's the essence of 'grace' - it is the heart of the New Testament gospel. That is why it is such extraordinary good news!
So, does that mean that all who accept this great gift by faith are free to forget about good works, now they will never earn eternal life anyway? No way - now they know they were saved from sin for a transformed life as the fruit of salvation. Now God's children aim to live for him in a relationship of his full acceptance, because in Christ he has loved them and given himself for them.
  • FULL ACCEPTANCE
Here we also see a clear distinction between the objective basis of assurance - the rich gospel promises based on the fact of Christ's finished sacrifice, and then the subjective basis, the beginnings of a truly changed life that gives my conscience this practical or subjective assurance. This is where the fruit of the Spirit begins to emerge (See Galatians 5:22), and why Christians are challenged to 'Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith' (2 Corinthians 13:5). The objective ground of assurance is finished and settled for ever and I am justified by faith. I will never be more justified than I am now, because it is Christ's perfect righteousness that is credited to my personal account, while the subjective ground of my assurance is in my conscience and the beginnings of a genuine changed life that flows from my being saved by grace through faith.
Hopefully we have now seen how religious good works are never able to give a basis for assurance of salvation. In large comparison salvation by the grace of God is received as a gift by faith, which being living faith leads to changed lives as God works in us, his new creation, re-fashioning us after the likeness of his Son - for his glory and praise.
ASSURANCE OF SALVATION - FOR SURE!
Michael J. S. Austin, Ph.D. Hello, my big goal is to show that biblical Christianity appeals to careful thinking, and is powerfully relevant today. So, I aim to share the good news of Christ crucified, risen and ascended - a Saviour who is worthy of your full confidence. And I write to help you find faith or to strengthen your faith, so that you may be SURE. I share Evangelical and Reformed convictions and have a Ph.D. for work on the validity of reason. Use this link to my very latest Amazon Kindle e-book: 'FOR SURE! - Assurance and Evangelicalism' http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AG0WK84 And this challenging title, 'I saw Him Die - viewing Jesus' death TODAY' http://www.amazon.com/saw-Him-die-Viewing-ebook/dp/B007TX696U/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_t_2 Read and enjoy, and please recommend to others - Thank you! Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_J._S._Austin,_Ph.D. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/7469711


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