Tag Archives: Assurance

I Am Not Afraid

Words of Grace

I am not afraid.

But I am!  I am afraid of lots of things: the future, driving, tests, failure as a parent, getting mugged, health problems, death.  Sometimes my fear stops me from doing anything.  Sometimes it just occupies my thoughts and takes away my joy.  But, to be honest, it’s almost always there.  How can I not be afraid?

When someone tells us not to be afraid, as though it were a simple thing to do, they either miss the point of what’s happening in our hearts or they don’t care.  Emotions are difficult to turn on and off, particularly negative ones.  It isn’t as though we want to be afraid.

I think this is why the Scripture talks so much about living in the light.  The darkness holds our fears.  Not knowing, or knowing just part of the truth or believing lies—those are the things that give strength to our fears.  When the light shines on our situation, we often find that there really was nothing to fear.

We all know that turning the light on in the room chases away the things that seem to lurk in the shadows.  But what if we turn on the light and something really scary is standing there?  We understand that many of the fears that trouble us are not real.  They are fantasies or misunderstandings or lies.  But not everything that frightens us is false.  We do face financial difficulties, health problems, relationship stresses, and more.  These things are real and challenging.  The pain and trouble they bring to us are things we would certainly like to avoid.

But do we need to be afraid of them?  That’s the question.

And the answer is, “No!”

Most of us have a healthy fear of pain, but we understand it and accept it as part of our lives.  The same is true with most of our minor fears.  But the biggest fear we face is damage or change to our identity.  “Will I be the same after x happens?”  Losing a job or a loved one or a home—what we fear most in these things is the change in us.  Will weakness steal my security or joy or confidence?  Will I have to become a different person?

That’s why I like to teach about identity.  As long as my identity is based on what I do or my life situation, then my identity is always at risk.  When my identity is secure in Jesus, it will not change.  I will not change because He who is my life will not change.  Minor changes will happen, of course, but who I am in Christ will never change.

Everything in this world is outside my relationship with Jesus.  Inside that relationship there is security and peace forever.  He is my strength.  He is my hope.  He is my peace.

I will not be afraid of what people can do to me or of what the world around me can do.  I will not be afraid of the changes time will bring.  I will not be afraid of my weaknesses.  I will look to Him and remember my peace.

Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.  Psalm 46:2-3 (NKJV)

 

I am not afraid.

I know that He is with me.

I will look to Him and find my peace.

Nothing can change who I am in Him.

I am not afraid.

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Assurance

Grace 101

 

“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

I learned that little saying a long time ago. There are times when you win the argument, but nothing changes. The person with whom you are talking gives in and agrees, but remains unwilling to do what you want. There is something more to being convinced than just being presented with a superior argument.

This seems to be especially true in regard to assurance in the Christian life. No matter what I tell people, they will only receive assurance when they are ready to receive it. I have talked with so many people about their hope in Jesus and the promise of life and peace in Hm. I can tell them all the facts, give them all the Scripture verses, and present an argument they can’t refuse, but they often go away with the same fears and the same doubts.

Almost every time I have been able to sort this out with the person, there has been one simple cause. I believe it is the cause of most of the lack of assurance we see in the church—and lack of assurance accounts for the weakness of believers. Without assurance, we become afraid, timid, and open to compromise. But those who are absolutely assured of the truth of their faith can walk into the lion’s den without fear.  Well, okay, there may be fear, but they will do it because they know what they know.

So what’s the one simple cause I have found?  The unwillingness to believe that Jesus has done it all.  So much of the message of the church has been about what is required of us that it is very difficult for us to accept that Jesus has met all the requirements, done all the work, and offered the finished gift to us freely.  The work of Jesus is sufficient and finished.  He has done it all.

But people have been taught that He does His part and we must do our part.  The only problem is that we can’t do “our part.”  We continue to fail.  We were born failures.  We have never been able to do “our part.”  That’s why we needed a Savior.  We didn’t need a boost or a helping hand or a word of encouragement.  We needed Someone who could and would do it all.

If you look in that amazing gift box Jesus gave in the process of your salvation, you will find a little package marked “Assurance.”  In it you will find the part of your salvation that is your responsibility.  This is what you will need to do to be forgiven and saved.  When you open it, you will discover the secret of assurance.

The little box is empty.  That’s your part.  Jesus did it all.  He paid the full price.  As long as you believe there is something in that little box, you will not have the assurance you long for.  Only when you open it, when you want to see and understand the truth, will you realize that your assurance comes from what He has done.  It can never come from what you do.

I believe that assurance is possible.  I believe it comes when we finally understand that there is no hope in us.  We cannot provide one tenth or one hundredth or one thousandth of what it took to save us.  Salvation, forgiveness, eternal life—this is the work of Jesus alone.  When I look at me, I lack assurance.  When I look at Him, I have peace.

Let yourself be convinced of Jesus.  You don’t have to trust me or the church or even yourself.  Assurance won’t come from any of those places.  Throw yourself on Him alone.  Offer Him nothing.  Promise Him nothing.  No bargains.  Just the love of Jesus.  That’s all you have and that’s enough.

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Peace

Grace 101

High blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, heart attacks—all of these serious health issues are related to or seriously affected by stress.  There are many more, of course.  Some of the more “modern” diseases, those which are difficult to diagnose or cure, may be caused by stress.  Add to that the health issues that come from behavior precipitated by stress—smoking, drinking, over-eating, etc.  Stress is hard on us.

The Lord designed our bodies to respond to attack or danger in certain ways.  Blood pressure, digestion, conversion of sugar to energy—these things change so that we are better prepared to fight or run or endure.  But when our minds see danger where there is none, our bodies still prepare.  Stress is usually the perception of danger.

Think about the last several times you suffered stress.  Was there real danger?  Did your body need to prepare for fight or flight?  You might have had to make decisions, even serious decisions, but did your blood pressure need to go up?  Probably not.

A good deal of the struggle we suffer comes from our perspective on the things of life.   We can look at the same situation different ways.  From one position, a job loss feels like we are being thrown into the sea without a life jacket or raft, doomed to failure and death.  From another, that same job loss opens the door to a whole new life, one with more opportunity to fulfill our dreams.  Much is affected by how we look at these things.

So, if you continue to sort through what was given to you in salvation, you will find a precious, but under-valued and under-utilized gift, the gift of peace.

Over and over God says that He gives peace to His people.  Yet, I have found so many believers who live without peace.  They live in fear of the future, fear of God, and anxiety because of sin.  They long for peace, but live in stress.  Sadly, they go to church and, instead of being told of the peace that is their gift, they receive more stress.

But the Lord offers peace.  Peace in the midst of any trouble.  Peace for the future and the past.  The call that some teachers bring, the call to worry and fear, is a lie for believers.  We are called to peace.

And this is not the deceptive peace of the world.  You know what I mean.  Just don’t think about the trouble.  Just focus on the good in life.  Block out all negative thoughts.  That’s what the world offers.  In fact, that’s about the best the world offers.  And we always know the trouble is still there.  And we are still inadequate to face it.

The Lord gives us peace in Himself.  We face a world bigger than us and trouble bigger than us.  But nothing is bigger than He is.  He doesn’t push us out into this difficult world to fend for ourselves.  He is with us—always.  He is with us Himself, in person, in relationship.  We face nothing alone—ever.

So we have peace concerning our future because our future is secure in Him.  We have peace concerning our past because He has healed and redeemed our past.  We have peace in the most difficult of circumstances because He is with us.  That’s the amazing promise He gives to His people.

I know that there are times when we fear.  Peace is not the absence of fear.  Peace is the security and assurance we have in the midst of fear.  One of the most powerful verses in Scripture is Psalm 56:3 .

“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.”

That’s peace.

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When Receiving Doesn’t Make Sense

Grace 101

 

Is receiving enough for you?  Do you feel you should do more to be “really” saved?  Do you feel like just receiving is being too passive?  Do you struggle with letting God give what you need when there are so many commands for right living in Scripture?  Does it make more sense that we should be working hard to keep favor with God?

There are often reasons people feel this way.  Let’s look at a few:

  1.  You feel guilty for your past.  It is one thing to hear that you are forgiven and quite another to feel forgiven.  But there is no truth contrary to God’s truth.  Whether you feel like it or not, all your sins have been forgiven in Christ.  You did nothing to earn or deserve that forgiveness.  It was a gift of His love.  That’s the truth and you can go through life denying it and missing the peace or you can accept it and be grateful. 
  2. You feel guilty for your present.  Your life doesn’t measure up to the standards you have learned.  You should be able to stop doing some of the things you do.  You feel that you don’t deserve to be saved.  Well, let’s establish right from the beginning that you didn’t deserve to be saved and you don’t deserve to stay saved.  But it wasn’t about your behavior then and it isn’t now.  There are certainly dangers in sinful behavior, but losing your salvation is not one of them.  Let the Lord lead you to right living, but trust in His love.
  3. You are getting bad teaching.  Many churches and preachers know nothing except the law and performance spirituality.  Sunday after Sunday they call Christians to repentance and salvation.  They take the gospel of works to people who are already saved.  Make a distinction in your mind between the message to the lost and the message to the saved so that you can discern which you are hearing.  If you are constantly hearing the message to the lost in the context of the saved, you may want to find another church.
  4. The evil one is whispering his lies.  You may not be able to do much about his whispers, but you can learn to ignore them.  They are lies, after all.  You don’t even have to argue with him.  Just tell yourself the truth.  If the evil one whispers that your secret might not be forgiven, just tell yourself that God knows all the hidden things and has forgiven all your sins.  The love of God is our strong weapon against the lies.  If the lies of the evil one consistently draw you to the truth of God’s love, the evil one loses.

These are just a few reasons that come to mind when I ask why some people would have trouble receiving God’s grace.  Jesus said that the truth will set us free—free to receive the wonderful grace of God’s love!

What are your thoughts?

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Filed under Freedom, Grace 101, Legalism

What I know about you. . .

. . . you are safe!

 

What if I lose my job?  What if this strange feeling is cancer?  What if I said the wrong thing and she’s mad at me?  What if I forgot to pay a bill?  What if the car has problems?  What if I bomb this test?  What if he is seeing someone else?  What if I have an accident?

Life is full of what-if’s.  Worry, anxiety, is the expression of the flesh’s fear of not being self-sufficient.  We simply are not smart enough, strong enough, or influential enough to control everything in our lives.  We feel unsafe because we aren’t in control.

Some people compensate for their fear by setting up all kinds of rules and standards and contracts in their lives.  Others become aggressive or narcissistic.  Still others go through their lives dependent on someone else, who also is not able to control life.  And some just live in fear almost every day.

But we were never made to be self-sufficient.  The Lord created us to be dependent on Him.  If He were a normal person, you might think that was a bad thing because normal people are undependable and self-serving.  But the Lord is faithful and gracious.  He really does care about us and He will protect us and deliver us.

In fact, the plan from the beginning is that we would live our lives in close relationship with Him.  He would provide for us and we would have a life without fear and worry.  Sin took that life away from us, but Jesus gives it back.

The normal life of the believer is one of safety and assurance.  I know that we often view our circumstances out of our flesh, the system of living we designed when we were apart from the Lord, but the flesh doesn’t see the truth.  The flesh is always afraid because it doesn’t trust anyone but itself and knows that it is unable to control everything.  But when, in the Spirit, we are able to look at the Lord and see reality, we understand that nothing can hurt us.

The Bible is full of little stories designed to give us encouragement.  In 2 Kings we read the story of a great army from Syria that had come to capture Elisha.  Elisha’s servant was very much afraid.  But Elisha knew the truth.

And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.   2 Kings 6:15-17

The army of the Lord surrounded Elisha to protect him.  There was no danger.  (You might want to read the rest of the story for yourself.  Some impressive faith!)

What if you and I could see the Lord’s protection or provision gathered around us?  What if we could see that check coming that would bail us out just at the last moment?  What if we could see the angels of the Lord surrounding our home or our car?  What if the Lord opened our eyes to what He does on our behalf?  What would happen to our fear?

Yes, I understand that bad things happen.  Actually I have to qualify that.  I understand that things come into our lives that are uncomfortable and don’t fit with our plans. The things that come into our lives, however evil they may be, are only the ones the Lord allows for good in our lives.

How can cancer or job loss or physical abuse be good for us?  That is a very reasonable question and it is hard to answer from the outside.  But I have seen too many people in the midst or in the aftermath of terrible suffering who sing praises and give thanks to the Lord.  Those who suffer find that there is One who stands with them and loves them.  And the love of the Lord is greater than their pain.

The bottom line is that the people of God are safe.  If you lose your job or have an accident or get sick, the Lord will walk through it with you and, if you let Him, He will bring much good even through the suffering.  You can trust Him.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

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What we are vs What we do

Do you see the opportunity for deception in the idea that we are what we do?  Let’s look at just a few of the lies that come out of this idea.

First, this suggests that the lost could save themselves by changing their actions.  Think about that.  Legalist preachers often call those who have never come to Christ to change their behavior.  That’s the way they will be accepted.  The gay man has to stop being gay and then he will be welcome to come to Jesus.  The couple living together without being married have to separate before they can come to Jesus.  I had a pastor tell me very bluntly one day that he believed people should get their lives straightened out before they came to Christ.  But the whole point is that we can’t do that.  If we fix one sin, we overlook another.  We would never be clean enough.

Here’s another one: even those who do come to Christ will never have assurance of salvation because they will never measure up to what they are supposed to be.  Any sin would be enough to disqualify them.  If telling a lie makes a person a liar and liars are excluded from Heaven, then we had better never tell a lie.  Anyone who does is in trouble.  But we are still learning that sin is unnecessary in our lives.  We still think according to the flesh most often and we still react the way we used to.  So the legalists have to create a whole system of confession and repentance and penance just to give us a little hope.

If I am what I do, then the work of Christ is unnecessary and unfruitful.  Nothing has changed in my life.  If I am still judged by my works, good or bad, then I am just as lost and just as much without hope as I was before.  What good is salvation that lasts a moment after confession and then is lost because of a wrong thought?

You see, because this is what is taught, much of the church today has no assurance, no hope, no joy.  They still see themselves as sinners.  They might proclaim that they are saved by grace, but they also feel unsaved by their works.  And they pass that feeling on to others.

I know that some people are uncomfortable with anyone saying that he or she is no longer a sinner because of Jesus.  There is a context to that statement.  It does not mean that we never do anything sinful.  It means that we are no longer sinners.  We are saints, according to the Scripture.  Why are we no longer sinners?  Because Jesus is our life and our righteousness.  Sinner is what we were.  Saint is what we are.

What we do (even if it is sin) is not what we are.

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Tomorrow is Today

What is the difference between someone who is mature in the faith and someone who has just opened his heart to Jesus?  When the church teaches about leaders and elders and pastors, is there any substantive difference between those positions and that of a new believer?  Is the 90-year-old believer who has been in Christ for 85 years any different than the five-year-old who has just asked Jesus to take his life?

We want to point out the differences, don’t we?  After all, there are mature believers and immature believers and that means something.  But all it means is that some have had the time or the inclination to receive more of what Christ has already given them.  In other words, all of Christ is available to anyone in Christ.  Nationality, gender, age—these things make no difference in the spiritual nature of the individual.

I have always enjoyed the teaching of Major Ian Thomas.  He said it like this: the Christian life is the process of becoming who you are.  Yes, there is growth, but it is growth in understanding the riches in Christ that are already yours.  All that you will ever have is yours today in Jesus.

Why?  Because you have entered into eternal life.  The life that will be yours in the future is yours today.  There is much that you and I don’t understand and we will learn much more, but nothing will really change for us.  Even when we die, the only change will be that we will become even more of what we already are.

Eternal life brings the past into the present and redeems us as whole people.  Eternal life also brings the future into the present and sanctifies us in Christ forever.  We belong to Jesus just as much today as we ever will.  Our sins are washed away and we are whole.

When you think of your life in Heaven, don’t you think of it as a relief, a rest from the labors and frustrations of today?  Haven’t we been taught that life in Heaven will be good, while this life is evil?  But what if that was not true?  What if this life, the life we have in Christ, is just as good as life in Heaven will be?  What if the victory over sin that we long for and expect in Heaven is already ours in Jesus?  What if the reconciliation and peace we look toward is already available to us today?  This is what eternal life means.

All that you look forward to is already yours.  The more you look to Jesus and away from the struggles and distractions of this world, the more you will understand that peace He has already given.  The struggles and distractions are the things that will no longer be in the life to come because they are inconsistent with who He is and who you are.

The joy of the Christian life is already ours.  The forgiveness, the reconciliation, the acceptance, the love—these are all ours now.  We just have to begin to understand who we are and what Jesus has done for us.  He has given us eternal life.

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