in CCQs

Assurance of Salvation

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I have often thought myself a believer, however, I have recently heard there are many things I should be feeling in my heart that I don’t. Since I’m not sure, if I’ve ever felt this heart change, am I truly saved?

When I was in elementary school, the Left Behind books hit the evangelical world like a hurricane. Growing up going to a private Christian school, I was always surrounded by people reading the New York Times bestsellers. Those books along with more kid-friendly, “Junior Novelizations,” described people who were roughly my age living through the rapture and the tribulation. What most haunted me about those books was the fact that many of the characters thought they were Christians only to find out when Jesus came back that they actually weren’t. So began my great childhood phobia of finding out that I wasn’t really a Christian because I was left behind.

I really empathize with this question, because it’s so similar to the one I asked myself every time my teachers showed the Kirk Cameron movie adaptations in my elementary school class:

How do I know that I’m really saved?

Right up front, I want to affirm the goodness of this question. The very fact that someone is troubled about their salvation is a sure sign that they take these issues seriously. I am far more concerned for the person who never grapples with this issue rather than the one who occasionally struggles to feel confident in their security. So, the question still remains, how do we know that we’re saved, where do we turn for confidence?

Don Whitney is right to say, “we must begin by looking for assurance in the right places.” As far as the right places go, examining our hearts isn’t necessarily bad. Especially since the role of the Spirit is to convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-10). When we wonder about our salvation, it’s worth it to ask, “Do I feel convicted about my sin?” That’s not to say that you will always feel this way, or that it may not take time to feel conviction over particular sins. However, we are all growing into the image of Christ, and that takes time, but no conviction at all should give us pause.

On the more positive side, Paul describes for us the fruits of the Spirit, which should accompany our salvation (Galatians 5:22). We should look for these in our life as a sign that the Spirit of Christ is at work sanctifying us. Of course, real fruit does not grow overnight, nor does the fruit of the spirit. So, it’s important to recognize that we may not notice the change that God is working in us if we measure in weeks. Instead, we should seek to discern how God has matured us in these areas over the course of our salvation.

Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes alone with their thoughts knows that feelings are fickle. Scripture teaches that our hearts are deceitful above all things because of the stain of sin. And as we go through different circumstances, how we feel can shift radically from one moment to the next (Jeremiah 17:9). So, if we rely too strongly on how we feel inside, our confidence will be perpetually in flux. In fact, John seems to indicate that we can have confidence in our salvation in spite of our feelings even when our hearts condemn us (1 John 3:20). With that being said, I think we should start somewhere else.

A better place to start is to look outside of ourselves because that’s where redemption originates in the first place. Salvation does not come because we have first loved God, but because God first loved us. Because of that, we look to God’s character rather than our own(1 John 4:10). Doing this we find that, “He who calls you is faithful” and that He has sworn to keep us, “blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he assures them of something similar, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Sam Storms is right to summarize, “God will do whatever it takes to uphold the Philippian's faith in Jesus and you in your faith in Jesus.”

So while reflecting on our sense of conviction, and the fruits of the Spirit are all helpful grounds for assurance, it should never rest solely on those things. If we look for our assurance in our own hearts, and how we feel at any given moment, we will be tossed back and forth.

Look instead to Christ and his character, find the anchor for your soul, and the foundation upon which to build your confidence.

Some further resources to consult:

Sam Storms: Kept for Jesus

Donald Whitney: How Can I Be Sure I’m A Christian


in CCQs

Casting Lots and Finding God's Will

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Throughout the Old Testament, we see the saints of old casting lots before making decisions. Why do we not practice this today?

Often we come across strange things while reading Scripture. Gruesome battles, overwhelming acts of kindness, and accounts of old saints who murdered, stole, or destroyed and yet were men and women after God's heart.

We also read about events and decisions made by casting lots. The Old Testament bears witness to many different accounts of casting lots (Lev 16:8-10; Jos 7:14, 18:6; Prov 16:33, 18:18; Jonah 1:7; etc.). All of them try to determine the sovereign will of God for their respective situations.

Should believers cast lots to determine the will of God for our lives today?

Fair question. A good thing to keep in mind when tackling a question like this one is that believers approach the Bible with faith that seeks understanding. This means that we necessarily believe what God has presented to us in his Word and then strive to understand our lives and his word from his perspective.

That being said, upfront I want to answer with a "no," casting lots is not how believers engage God to determine his will any longer. Here’s why.

Acts 1:15-26 narrates the disciples casting lots in the Old Testament style for a replacement for Judas. Some keys in the passage will not only unlock why, but also explain the process the Apostles undertook before they cast a lot. Notice that the whole narrative happens in the community of the disciples, they did nothing apart from the church.

  1. Peter lays out biblical precedent for replacing Judas. vv 16-20
  2. He recalls how the Apostles were chosen by the Lord Jesus, they walked with him from his baptism to his ascension. vv 21-22
  3. They prayed based on knowing the Lord is sovereign. vv 24-25
  4. They cast lots and Matthias is chosen. v 26

As you can see, the Apostles did not merely roll dice to fill Judas' vacant position. They sought the Lord's will from Scripture, someone with a similar testimony to theirs', then they prayed, and followed Proverbs 16:33, "the lot is cast...but every decision is from the Lord." So trusting in God's sovereignty, the Apostles selected Matthias by lot.

Two things to note:
  1. Acts 1:15-26 is the last time casting lots happens in the Bible,
  2. This is all before the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost.

The coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 changes everything, the Apostles’ lives and ours. He is the truth in us, our helper and source of life, and our pointer to Christ and his glory in all that we are and do (John 16:4-15). So, the blessing of the Holy Spirit for every believer is more than lots, we have God himself residing in our very souls, and he has given to us a new heart to love him!

Also, this side of Pentecost, we have the full Word of God, the Bible. Even in Acts, the only Word of God they possessed was the Old Testament and the verbal teachings of Jesus. But now we have the Bible, God's Word to the world. He reveals his character, his people, and how they should worship him in its pages. So, we follow Romans 12:1-2 and seek to renew our minds according to his Word.

God reveals all he wants the world to know in the Bible that we might glorify his name, find salvation through faith in his Son, and renew our minds to live like Jesus all by the power of the Holy Spirit and in community with the saints.

Therefore, we rely on the Spirit and the words of Scripture to guide our thoughts and actions, because our hearts are new and our minds are being renewed. We faithfully seek understanding through the same avenues that Peter and the Apostles did just without lots: Scripture, the Spirit, and the community through prayer.

Casting lots does not cut it anymore. So, with a new heart and a renewed mind, the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), the next time you have a difficult decision to make, consult Scripture, pray that the Spirit would give you wisdom (Rom 8:31-32) and direct your actions, and then go to the people of God and ask for clarity. Then ACT knowing that you are relying on God and his sovereign hand to use the situation for your good and his glory (Phil 2:13; Col 1:29).

With Peter, I want to encourage you to "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6-7, ESV).

Some further resources to consult:

Kevin DeYoung: Just Do Something

John Piper: Don't Waste Your Life

Matthew Harmon: Asking the Right Questions: A practical guide to understanding and applying the Bible.



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