Monday, October 10, 2011

Professing or Possessing

Years of experience in the “soul-winning” culture of fundamentalism have caused me to reexamine some things. One thing in particular has to do with the assurance of one’s salvation. The pat answer is something like this: First, one must be able to pinpoint the exact time that he made his decision to trust Jesus for salvation. That date should be clear in his mind. It would also be a good idea to write it in the fly leaf of his Bible. Second, one must arm himself with a verse or two to quote in order to encourage faith, such as Romans 10:13: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Third, one should publicaly confess his decision in order to get courage to stand for Jesus. Fourth, one needs to connect with other believers and be faithful to the services and activities of a local church.

I have no particular qualms with any of the above advice, per se. However, I would note that I have known many believers who cannot recall an exact time of their “decision” and yet are fully assured of salvation. My beef is that these points miss the mark. It is possible for one to make a decision, publicaly confess Christ, memorize verses, etc., but still not be saved. Salvation is of the Lord, and the ones He saves are changed. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In other words, one’s assurance of salvation should not be his own insistence that he made a choice, but rather to question whether Jesus has really saved him. A new creature will take on the characteristics of his Heavenly Father in the same way one takes the characteristics of his earthly father (1 John 3:7-10).

These changes will not necessarily be immediately noticeable. A new believer may falter and doubt at first because assurance needs evidence of change. Growing takes time. Juvenile trees do not bear fruit. However, Jesus made fruit the obvious indicator of one’s condition. “You will recognize them by their fruits . . . A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit . . . You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16-20).

Paul argued that a little doubt is good for the soul. It prods one to look deeper. The Corinthian church’s problems led Paul to write, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5). What is the test? Is it that one professes faith? Jesus warned (to paraphrase His words), “Not every one who confesses my name shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). It is not enough to be a regular church attender or even faithful to visitation. God’s will is worked into the life of a true believer by His power, and then it is worked out in obedience and fruit (Philippians 2:12, 13). It is that fruit that assures our hearts before God. Are you fruitful?

No comments:

Post a Comment