This morning we begin a series that I hope and pray will help each one of us be better established in our faith and relationship with God. I am calling it Bible Jeopardy: We Know The Answer, But What Is The Question? (Overhead)
The reason for this title is that a good question gets us to think. And good thinking helps us find good answers. And good answers provides with a base upon which we can build a good life.
We never stop questioning things or asking questions. Questions are very important in our relationship with God. In fact, they can be the doorway to a greater relationship with God.
For example, Nicodemus, a person who many thought had all the answers, found that questions opened up some new possibilities that he had never before considered. In John 3 he meets with Jesus and in response to a statement he makes as to Jesus’ miracles as evidence “that God is with you,” finds a question coming out of his mouth when Jesus responds from an entirely different direction. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
The question gave Jesus the opportunity to clearly explain what God was up to and John 3:1 – 16 has since been a passage used to explain our questions about salvation and eternal life.
Another reason that I have brought the concept of Jeopardy into play is that I want us to have some fun, in a respectful way, because the Christian faith is a joyful and wonderful faith. We are going to start each week with two to three statements that I am going to ask you to respond to by stating the question. Just like on Jeopardy! So, are you ready? Here we go?
Statement number 1: (Overhead)
I am confident that my sins are forgiven and that I will spend eternity with God in heaven.
Okay, what’s the answer?
(What is assurance of salvation?)
Statement number 2: (Overhead)
I have demonstrated that I trust in Jesus Christ for salvation by telling family and friends what Christ has done for me and by being baptized.
What’s the answer?
(What is assurance of salvation?)
Statement number 3: (Overhead)
My assurance of salvation is based on faith in the promises of God’s word, not my feelings.
What’s the answer?
(What is assurance of salvation?)
The question for today is “What Is Assurance of Salvation?” Or, “How Do We Know That We Are Saved?”
Now why is this an important question? I’m glad you asked! I will tell you in a few moments. But, first I want to briefly recall the Biblical basis of salvation. (Overhead)
In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.”
We are saved; we are forgiven of our sins by grace, God’s grace. Another way of defining grace is “special favor.” Have you ever had a special favor done for you? Some kind of gift or honor that you did not ask for or seek? It made you feel good, didn’t it?
God’s special favor for us is salvation. God made it possible for us to be forgiven of the wrong in our lives. He is one who initiated the plan that sent Jesus to earth to make it possible for us to come back to God.
Paul also notes the gift aspect of salvation in this passage. Salvation is a gift of God. Again, have you ever been given an unexpected gift? Maybe it was money at a time when you least expected it and most needed it. Maybe it was an article of clothing that you needed and value still today. Or maybe it is one of those keepsakes that you treasure because of both the person who gave it to you and the reason for the gift.
God wants us to have salvation. He wants us to live forgiven and free. He does not like to see us living in sin and gloom and doom and despair. He also wants us to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we are forgiven. How is that possible? How can we be assured of our salvation? (Overhead) God has given us three witnesses of assurance.
First of all we have to base it on the Bible. The Bible contains the truth, the facts, and the reality about salvation. I John 5:11-13 says this, “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have his Son does not have life.”
One of the ways that we know that we have experienced salvation is when we ask God for forgiveness and invited Jesus Christ, His son into our lives. When we have done this, and we can recall that we have done this, we can know that we are forgiven of our sins and that we have experienced salvation.
Second, we rely on three witnesses of confirmation. The first witness is the witness of scripture. John 1:12 says, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”
The Bible is the written record of God’s plans and desire for us. It speaks with God’s authority about our salvation. It confirms, in writing, the assurance of our salvation. In fact, it is a primary way of being assured of our salvation.
The second witness of confirmation is the witness of the Holy Spirit. In Romans 8:16 we read, “For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.”
Now as the Bible is an external witness, the Holy Spirit is an internal witness. God sent the Holy Spirit to both confirm both our need for salvation and our assurance of salvation. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our life serves as a reminder of God’s work in it to help us live out our commitment to God as we obey the Holy Spirit. We experience the Holy Spirit’s work as we experience guilt, (true guilt, not false guilt) when we confront with sin in our lives and we also experience joy and relief as we experience forgiveness and assurance.
The third witness of confirmation is the witness of a changed life. In I John 2:6 we read, “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Christ did.”
Someone has said, “The only Bible that some people will ever read is your life.” When people read your life, do they see Jesus Christ? That’s a loaded question! But, it is important for the assurance of salvation. Why?
Because the changes that take place in our lives give both the evidence of and the assurance of our salvation. When we are saved, when we are forgiven of our sins, changes in us take place both immediately and over a course of time. There are changes in our attitudes. There are changes in our habits. There are changes in our relationships. There are changes in many, many ways. These changes give evidence of God’s work in our lives. These changes also serve to assure us that our salvation experience was not some emotional high or mere intellectual exercise. Which brings us to the third of three witnesses of assurance.
We base our salvation not on feelings but on the trustworthiness of God and the Bible. Now emotions are a part of life. And some of us are more emotional than others.
When I experienced salvation now nearly 36 years ago, it was an emotional time for me. But, that was because my emotions were deeply moved by God’s action in my life. I experienced some deep emotions as I confessed my sin and asked God to forgive me.
Emotions have been the subject of much debate in the church over the years. Some think that emotions are misleading and should be discounted. Others have embraced emotions to an unhealthy degree and discount careful thought.
I like what Gary Smalley has said about emotions. They are like the lights and gauges on a car’s dashboard. They indicate changes that you need to be aware of. When they move or go on, pay attention to them!
I am also reminded of the story of the third-world believer who pointed out to a friend the tree under which he had been converted. The friend went over to the tree and did not experience salvation like his friend had.
Which should give us pause for reflection about the dynamics of conversion and their affects on the assurance of salvation. A profound conversion experience is more than an emotional moment. To solely rely on emotions for spiritual growth is relying not on the Holy Spirit but on one’s self. And self is not the basis of our salvation. God is the basis of our salvation.
Emotions come and go. Great spiritual experiences come and go. But, what matters is the changes that either begin, continue, or finally take place in our lives in those moments that assure us, through the witness of the Bible and the Holy Spirit that we are assured of God’s salvation!
Now I have given a lot of facts today. And we need facts to help us grow in our faith in and relationship with God. We need the objective record of the Bible to remind us of God’s work on our behalf.
But, there is a story in the Bible that is a wonderful story of both salvation and the assurance of salvation and I believe that we need to hear again it this morning. It is found in Luke 15:11-24.
Question, “When was the son assured of his relationship with his father?” When dad took him home!
How is your relationship with God? Is it what it needs to be? Are you assured that your sins are forgiven? Do you have assurance that you clearly are a child of God?
God is the father in this very important story. He is standing, waiting for you to come home! He looks eagerly for you to come up over the hill where he can get a good look at you and say, “that’s my child! Yesss! He’s/she’s coming home!”
I can think of no greater way to start a new year than to do so with the assurance of God’s salvation in your heart and life. We are going to stand and sing “Just As I Am” a wonderful reminder of how we can come to God – just as we are. Do the right thing this morning and gain assurance of your salvation to start 2002, and the rest of your life, off right. Amen.