Today we are going to talk about the Spirit’s role in our assurance of salvation.
This series is about an experiential understanding of the Holy Spirit.
Our faith does not rest on our experience. (thank God for that!)
It rests on the finished work of Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.
Our faith does not rest on our experience, but the Holy Spirit is a person to be experienced! There is a living relationship to be experienced. There are tangible benefits to be experienced.
Oh, how I want you to know this experience.
When we experience the Spirit’s work in our lives . . .
Our hearts warm.
Our step lightens. Our burdens don’t feel so heavy. Our suffering doesn’t seem so acute.
Our spirits are readier to transition into prayer throughout the day.
Our mouths are more prone to smile and break out in song.
Our fellowship is sweeter.
Sin isn’t so attractive.
The Bible comes alive.
We are quick to forgive, to serve and to witness for Jesus.
When the Holy Spirit is in the room, anything can happen. Chains of bondage that have held a life captive for decades can dissolve in a moment. Wounds carried for a lifetime can be healed in an instant. Clouds of despair and depression can be swept away with a breath.
The great dilemma of this series is that there is an experience described in the New Testament that many of us, perhaps most of us, do not know.
Why is that?
There are denominations and churches where it is the norm.
There are periods in the history of the church where it is the norm.
Here are a few reasons we don’t experience the fulness of the Spirit:
We don’t know it is available. Where the Scriptures that reveal the Holy Spirit are taught, He is expected and He is experienced.
We are too distracted. Where saints make room in their lives to listen for and yield to the presence of the Holy Spirit, He is experienced.
We are experiencing Him, but we don’t realize it because we feel it as conviction of sin.
We haven’t received the Spirit yet.
Let’s read Romans 8:1-17.
Eternal security, or the perseverance of the saints, is one of the great doctrines of the Christian faith. When a believer is in Christ, she in in Christ forever. God’s gift and his call are irrevocable. A soul regenerated in the Holy Spirit is eternally alive.
It’s wonderful. The question is – am I regenerated? How do I know if I have been called?
A companion doctrine to eternal security is assurance of salvation.
God wants you to know that you are saved.
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
1 John 5:13.
God wants you to be saved and he wants you to feel saved.
God wants you to rest secure in his arms and he wants you to feel secure in his arms.
God wants you to be loved and he wants you to feel loved.
God wants you to be his beloved child and he wants you to feel like a beloved child.
Where does this feeling of assurance come from? What should I look at in my life to determine if I should have that assurance?
There are 3 testimonies that affirm the salvation of an individual.
The testimony of the Word.
The unchanging, eternal Word of God is the beginning of our assurance. The Word tells us that all who come to Jesus in faith are saved.
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
This is the beginning of our assurance, the Word testifies that those who believe are secure in Christ.
The testimony of Works.
The Word is clear – we are not saved by works. We can never be saved by works. We are saved by grace through faith.
We are not saved by works, but we are saved for works. A genuine faith will always be followed by works. The first epistle of John gives us the marks of a genuine faith.
True faith lives openly in the light
“If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.”
1 John 1:6
True faith keeps Jesus’ commands
“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.”
1 John 2:3
True faith loves.
“Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.”
1 John 2:10
True faith confesses Jesus as Lord .
“No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”
1 John 2:23
This is how we know that we have genuine, saving faith – however imperfectly, we are striving for the works of faith. You may feel that your obedience, your love, your witness are a battle. You may feel that you lose the battle more often than you win, but the presence of the struggle is the greatest sign of authentic faith.
The testimony of the Spirit.
The final testimony of assurance is the Spirit of God, bearing witness with our spirits that we are God’s children.
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”
To bear witness means to show that something exists or is true.
“The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
1 John 3:24
“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”
1 John 4:13
The New Testament describes the Holy Spirit as a seal in a believer’s life. The word seal had multiple meanings in the ancient world. One type of seal provided security – protecting something valuable from the elements or from theft. Another type of seal provided authenticity. A ring stamped in wax served as a signature of authenticity.
There is an element of both senses in the NT description of the Spirit.
“[God has] set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
2 Corinthians 1:22
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,”
The presence of the Holy Spirit is a testifying, authenticating stamp over a believer’s salvation.
Why is this important?
Let me give you a picture. Imagine you are at an airport. You have arrived at the terminal to await your flight’s departure. At the terminal are two men, both are returning home from a business trip. Both are eager to return to their families. One has purchased a ticket, he has received confirmation and the QR code is ready on his phone. The other would like to have ticket, he would like to get on the plane and arrive at his desired destination, but the flight is full and he is on standby. You can see the difference, can’t you? The ticketed passenger is laid across several seats with his head on his luggage, sleeping. The other is anxiously pacing back and forth and continually approaching the counter to check on his status. The ticketed passenger has the settled peace of assurance. The passenger on stand-by is unsettled and restless.
There are believers who rest in the settled peace of assurance. And there are others who go through life unsettled and restless, waiting until Christ arrives to reveal their destiny.
Listen with me to JC Ryle:
“Now assurance goes far to set a child of God free. . . . It enables him to feel that the great business of life is a settled business, the great debt a paid debt, the great disease a healed disease, and the great work a finished work; and all other business, diseases, debts, and works, are then by comparison small. In this way assurance makes him patient in tribulation, calm under bereavements, unmoved in sorrow, not afraid of evil tidings; in every condition content, for it gives him a FIXEDNESS of heart.
It sweetens his bitter cups, it lessens the burden of his crosses, it smoothes the rough places over which he travels, and it lightens the valley of the shadow of death. It makes him always feel that he has something solid beneath his feet, and something firm under his hands—a sure friend by the way, and a sure home at the end. . .”
This is God’s desire for you.
Without this assurance, you will never walk in the fulness of faith, you will never walk in holiness.
Romans 8 is all about a holy and victorious faith. It’s about the victory a believer wins over the flesh. Paul teaches us that victory does not come from battling the flesh, it comes from the Spirit.
You can’t live a holy life out of fear. You can’t live a holy life out of constraint. Holiness is the overflow of the Spirit. It comes from a life led by the Spirit. It comes from the assurance and peace given by a Father’s love.
It is assurance of God’s love that precedes good works and not the other way around.
Now how does this help the person who believes in eternal security and assurance of salvation, but just doesn’t feel saved?
First of all, we have to recognize that it’s possible that some here are not saved. If you do not feel saved, it may be because you are not. You may have been born into a Christian family. You may live in a ‘Christian’ nation. You may have gone to a Christian church your whole life. This is all wonderful, but it won’t save you. It is only through an individual, direct encounter with Christ through the Holy Spirit and through faith that person is saved. Have you had that encounter? Do you want it?
Trust in Christ. Come to him in faith and receive the Holy Spirit.
I want to acknowledge two questions.
I believe that God is a loving father, but my heart is fickle, I am conflicted. I often don’t desire God. I go on sinning. How could I believe God loves me?
There is help for you in Romans 8. Read with me verse 15. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
There are two words I want you to see.
The first is adoption. Why does a family adopt a child?
Is it because they need something? Is it because they would like a perfect child, with no problems, who will love them perfectly? No!
The heart of adoption is sacrificial love. Adoption is costly. The adopting couple sees a child in broken circumstances, in desperate need. The couple is moved by that need to take on a significant financial sacrifice to bring a child with great emotional and often physical problems into their homes. Why? Because they have love to give. Because they have compassion.
Because they long to give a needy child a new identity, a home and security, a family and a hope for the future.
God is our great adopting father.
“4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
1 John 3:1
John is expressing wonder at the greatness of God’s love. What does he see that makes him feel that he has seen how deep God’s love really is? That he calls us his children. And who are we? In the eyes of the world, we are ordinary, insignificant folk. In the eyes of God we are unworthy sinners. And God calls us his children! What great love! There’s nothing extraordinary about love in response to loveliness. What is extraordinary is God’s love where there isn’t anything lovely to him.
Friend, you may hear a voice of accusation in your ear – you are not good enough, you haven’t served God well, you heart is polluted. You are not enough.
Let the Spirit speak to you this morning. All of those things may be true of you – but that is not the point! Listen! Your unworthiness is just the beginning of the gospel. You are unworthy, but that is not the point! The point is that our God is a merciful and compassionate Father. He is a great, wealthy, generous Father, walking the streets sweeping up dirty street urchins to adopt into his family.
The point of adoption is not the worthiness of the child. The point is her need. The point is the generous mercy of the adopter.
The second word I want you to see is Abba. You may have heard that Abba means Daddy. Have you heard that? It was taught widely for many years, until a man named James Barr wrote an article in the Journal of Theological Studies called Abba Isn’t Daddy. Barr, like many, was concerned about the reverence and fear of God. Many people are concerned that calling the Almighty daddy may be too familiar. It may diminish his glory.
Let this story settle the question for you.
A famous preacher was in Jerusalem. As he browsed a shop a young boy ran in to embrace his father, crying out “Abba! Abba!” In that moment, the preacher fell on his knees in worship.
All over the streets of Jerusalem you hear the voice of little children – “Abba!” “Imma!” All over the world the first word babies speak are the simple, easily pronounceable words for Mom and Dad. The word “Dada” in the mouth of a baby is linguistically simple, but it is charged with meaning.
Don’t look to your feelings of worthiness for peace. Look to the Word. Look to your father. Receive the Spirit of sonship.
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'”
“And oh, if I am speaking to any to whom that text, with all its light and glory, has seemed to lift them up into an atmosphere too rare and a height too lofty for their heavy wings and unused feet, if I am speaking to any Christian man to whom this word has been like the cherubim and flaming sword, bright and beautiful, but threatening and repellent when it speaks of a Spirit that bears witness with our spirit-I ask you simply to take the passage for yourself, and carefully and patiently to examine it, and see if it be not true what I have been saying, that your trembling conviction-sister and akin as it is to your deepest distrust and sharpest sense of sin and unworthiness-that your trembling conviction of a love mightier than your own, everlasting and all-faithful, is indeed the selectest sign that God can give you that you are His child.”
“Oh, [brothers] and sisters! be confident; for it is not false confidence: be confident if up from the depths of that dark well of your own sinful heart there rises sometimes, through all the bitter waters, unpolluted and separate, a sweet conviction, forcing itself upward, that God [has] love in His heart, and that God is my Father. Be confident; ‘the Spirit [himself bears] witness with your spirit.’”
How can I believe God is a loving father when he has allowed so much suffering in my life?
Some of our suffering is not only not a contradiction of God’s love for us, but direct evidence of it. Listen to Hebrews 12.
“5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.”
At times when I discipline one of my children I say, “what kind of father would I be, if I knew this was hurting you and I didn’t do anything about it?” My children know the answer – a poor excuse for a father.
God is a good Father. He will not standby when He sees something in your life causing harm or withholding good. If we understood that we would praise Him for the pain of discipline.
Does that mean I deserve all the suffering that comes my way?
I didn’t say that.
We live in a cursed world. We have all contributed to the sin that broke the world.
God has taken on enormous suffering in order to save you from that curse.
Though the effects of the curse continue in this world, soon his salvation will be complete and he will remove every tear from your eyes.
“18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
Do you groan under the burden of suffering and sorrow? The whole world groans with you! Some day, some great and glorious day, that groan will break out in shouts of glory when Christ returns and the fulness of salvation is revealed.
As we finish with communion, I want you to turn with me to Mark 14:36.
The word Abba is used three times in the New Testament. It’s here in Romans.
It’s in Galatians 4, in another version of the argument of Romans 8. And it’s in Mark.
Jesus is in the garden the night of his betrayal. He is anticipating the suffering that is coming. He is praying.
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown