J C Ryle states…..
(4) The possession of inward joy and assurance is made essential to believing. Yet assurance is certainly not of the essence of saving faith. There may be faith when there is no assurance. To insist on all believers at once “rejoicing,” as soon as they believe, is most unsafe. Some, I am quite sure, will rejoice without believing, while others will believe who cannot at once rejoice.
“How do you feel”? It is a question posed over and over to the newly converted. Though well meaning it can have a cancerous effect. To equate the salvation of a person with a feeling is most counter productive. It alludes that our salvation is in proportion to our joy. What about those days when you just don’t “feel like it”? When problems arise and you are angry, agitated, nervous, stressed, or despondent, have you lost your salvation”? The answer of course is no.
I can honestly remember dozens of times that “sales pitch” evangelism has been made only to follow a commitment prayer with “How do you feel”? It has even happened to me. I praise God for 1 John. Lately as I reread this great book I am reminded that with great compassion John writes to remind us of where our assurances lie. They reside within the working of the Holy Spirit abiding within us.
Now do not get me wrong. Emotions are highly important, especially joy. Remember, we were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. How can we enjoy someone and glorify them without joy in them?
When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well He made a profound truth known, “God seeks worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth”. The truth is the doctrines, the correct theology, and adherence to the word of God. The spirit is that joy and treasuring, that love for God that glorifies Him above all the entrapments of the world or pleasures of sin. Thus as Ryle states, it is essential to have joy. A worshipper without inward joy is a fake, or at best confused. I often tell our people to wake up every day and realize that their greatest need has been met in Christ upon the cross. With that perspective we ought ot have overcoming joy in our trials, we ought to be worshipping in whatever we do, and unto the glory of God.
As C S Lewis states, “Joy is not complete till expressed”. Thus, to be a worshipper means that joy from within is then poured forth. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. Let the joy of the Lord be the strength to worship, and do so based upon His truths. True worship is an upward spiral. Truth brings joy which brings a deeper understanding of truth that brings more joy. Praise God that we were created to be worshippers in spirit and in truth.
Let us return to the topic of assurance. Ryle notes that assurance is not necessarily saving faith. You can believe something and be wrong. Columbus believed he had made the voyage to India. Doctors once believed that by bleeding patients they would save them. We need to believe and find assurances in Christ. We grow in this by discipleship. And yet, you can truly believe and not have assurance. I think of the father who came to Christ after the disciples could not help his son. He cried to Jesus “I believe, help my unbelief”. We are told that if we have faith like a mustard seed we can be saved. Remember, new Christians are often marked by a lack of knowledge, which is born through experience with Christ.
We all have moments when we lack assurance. These can be most beneficial. That is to say we do need to question our salvation. Are we trusting in ourselves or totally in Christ? We need to look at motives, experiences, and at the moment of commitment were our emotions getting the best of us. Then we need to call again upon Christ. Beg for His presence and saving work. We need to see our need of Him and treasure Him, thus making it certain to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. Questioning my salvation at times has served to further reveal my need for Him and to wane my self reliance. This moves us from making salvation a moment in time experience (the get out of Hell Free Card) to a changed life experience.
Truly, we can not ascertain in the experiential moment if someone is truly saved.
The solution is time abiding in Christ. Just like 1 John reveals as well as the parable of the seed and sewer. Those who abide, last, and bear fruit can be then assured of their salvation.