Monday, December 7

Marking Your Bible For Assurance

In the classes I teach at church, the question has frequently arisen, "How do we find assurance for our salvation?" Or, its corollary, "How can we help another person who doubts their salvation?" This is a wonderful question which shows a true yearning to help another.

Here's the short answer. Assurance comes from the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). I like to mention this first as the foundational truth we need to lay down before moving on to other biblical means. Salvation is of the Lord, and so is assurance OF that salvation.

Next, I direct fellow Christians to do what I had learned to do when I was still in college at Bob Jones University. I can't remember from whom I heard or read this. But for assurance they directed me to 1 John. As most of you may know, the gospel of John was written specifically in order that "you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life through his name" (20:31). John is careful to tell us his purpose in penning his account of Christ's life. Likewise, he reveals his purpose in writing the little letter of 1 John: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life" (5:13). So, the Gospel was written to help man believe, and 1 John was written to help man KNOW that he has believed. Essentially, then 1 John is a book of assurance.

While it is not OUR calling to GIVE others assurance (that belongs to the Holy Spirit); it is our privilege to direct them to the Scriptures whose purpose is to do just that. An important note here. Please do not tell your children or anyone else that YOU know that they are saved! That is neither biblical nor wise. You cannot give them assurance, that belongs to the Spirit. And you can be deceived while the Spirit and the Scriptures cannot. What I like to say to folks if they come to me looking for assurance is this, "Let me show you how you can discover where you stand with God." Then I tell them of Romans 8:16 and of 1 John. Obviously, 1 John is not the only place to turn. The entire Bible can be used for assurance. But for one concentrated location, 1 John is excellent. 

Next, in order to to make 1 John more useful as a tool, do this. Read through the letter slowly and mark in the margins next to verses that are positive aspects of Christianity a "plus" sign and a "minus" next to negative aspects. For example, 1:3 says that John writes so that Christians may have fellowship with one another and with the Father. There are two positive characteristics right there. An example of a negative is verse 6, "If we say that we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." If you read through the entire letter this way, your faith will be strengthened and you'll have a quick and useful tool to encourage others. 

One further tool for the slightly ambitious. Mark doctrines as well. For instance, 2:22, "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?" So, to mark this, I'd put a "minus" sign in the margin and then to denote that it's a doctrine, circle the minus sign. In doing this, you'll have a compendium of positive and negative signs along with doctrines that true Christians believe or practice.

I trust that this little tool will greatly benefit your Christian walk . . . or, perhaps reveal to you if you ARE a believer! May you prosper in assurance and thus find joy in Jesus' name!


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