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5th May, 2008

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Christian confidence, warranted and unwarranted

At times I feel envious of the confidence that some people have about the robustness of their relationship with the Father and Jesus Christ. I believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and in Jesus Christ Whom He sent. I have not the slightest doubt of the truthfulness of Jesus' statement recorded in John 5:24:

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24).

I am reasonably sure that I respond to Jesus' words and believe in the boundless sovereignty of His Father and that, therefore, I have passed from death to life. But I'm not absolutely sure that I am "home and hosed". Some readers may feel sorry for me (or feel anger towards me), and judge that my lack of confidence shows that I have not come under Jesus' blood. They are 1000% certain that their names are written in the book of life and that they will rise to meet Jesus in the clouds at His coming; to them belong "unconditional election", "irresistible grace" and assured salvation. This blog is written for such readers.

You see, the envy I mentioned above doesn't last long. Scripture shows that, in spite of the assurance of salvation for "true" believers, a degree of humble uncertainty is a virtue, not a vice. We should not harbor the slightest uncertainty towards God; but who can be absolutely sure he is on the path to the kingdom of God? Believers should be totally convicted that God sent Jesus to save and that ultimately almost every living soul will enter the kingdom of God (2 Peter 3:9). But Jesus did say,

But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead. (Luke 20:35).

Hmm. "Counted worthy" suggests that mere acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord and Savior does not suffice for salvation. Lest we think that confessing Jesus as Lord itself makes one worthy, remember His sobering words:

Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord" shall enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 7:21).

Even more sobering is this saying:

Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?" And then I will declare to them "I never knew you." (vss. 22-23).

In 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul implies that God's judgment doesn't always coincide with ours:

Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His." (2 Tim. 2:19).

Confidence that the Lord does "know us" can be greatly strengthened if we fear and tremble before the last words of Matthew 7:21 quoted above:

. but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

We believe in Jesus - excellent. But mere "belief" does not save. To be counted worthy of the kingdom, one must also do God's will. Jesus did. He observed all the will of His Father as recorded in biblical law. He was scrupulously just, always loved His neighbor, and kept the Sabbath and mandated holy days.

Look, even if we have the laudable attitude of "what's good enough for Jesus is good enough for me", and so seek to obey the same laws He obeyed, we need to recognize that our own hearts can be corrupted and lead us astray. Can we be absolutely certain that our deepest motive is to glorify God rather than ourselves (John 7:18)? A spirit of spiritual "O.K.ness" is not wise. May we not repeat the mistake of Amaziah:

And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart (2 Chron. 25:2).

Confidence in God cannot be criticized. But let us not judge ourselves, either indulgently or stringently (1 Cor. 4:3). May we temper our trust in God to save us with a healthy dose of Philippians 2:12:

. work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12)

Fear and trembling, not strutting and boasting, is the order of the day.


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