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Negating assurance of salvation

September 16, 2009
Lack of acknowledging what God has done

Some of God’s people might know the marks of a saving change, but they are afraid that they don’t possess those marks in sufficient strength and clarity. For example, one mark of grace is a hatred of and fleeing from sin. Some people may have experienced such aversion to sin but, at times, their hatred of sin and holy warfare against it become weak. They then conclude that their soul is not right with God. They are not willing to acknowledge God’s work in them unless it meets their requirements and expectations.

In his work Heaven on Earth, another classic on assurance, Thomas Brooks pictures the heart of man as a courtroom—the old nature on one side, the new nature on the other. The old nature is the result of Satan’s work, and the new nature the result of God’s work. Brooks says that some Christians take the side of the old nature, trying to prove that the new nature doesn’t exist or is not really part of God’s work.

Brooks writes:

“Let me tell thee, it is thy wisdom and thy duty to remember the command of God that doth prohibit thee from bearing false witness against thy neighbor. That same command doth enjoin thee not to bear false witness against the work of grace upon thine own heart, against the precious and glorious things that God hath done for thy soul. How dare you bear false witness against your own soul and the gracious work of God upon thee? If this be not the way to keep off assurance and to keep thy soul in darkness, I know nothing.”

Brooks’s point is that there are good signs and bad signs in every believer’s life. It is wrong to acknowledge only the bad signs while failing to acknowledge the good things that the Lord has done in our hearts and in our lives.

Are you having trouble with assurance? I exhort you to examine yourself according to what is written above. Do not rest in the pious cliché, “God has to give it to me.” God has to give assurance to you, no doubt, but He has also revealed how He sovereignly gives it: through the use of right thinking and the use of our own minds as we prayerfully meditate upon and appropriate His promises, examining our lives by the marks that He has given us in His Word. As the Puritans were fond of emphasizing, we need a Spirit-assisted self-examination that arrives at a conclusion, yes or no. Too much or too little self-examination arrives at no conclusion. It ends with a “perhaps” or a hope or a rash presumption. We should never be satisfied with a “perhaps” or with any kind of presumption. God says to us all, “Make your calling and election sure.”

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