Some people base their assurance on the fact that they can name the day and hour when they prayed a prayer. While I do believe that conversion takes place at a specific moment in someone’s life I believe that for conversion to be real it must show itself with appropriate fruit. Conversion is a work of God that brings an inevitable transformation.
On the other hand some people lack a sense of assurance because they can not name a day and hour in which they prayed the prayer. A person who grew up in a Christian home may even declare that they cannot remember a time when they did not love Jesus. However, they need not worry about ‘when’ they were converted. It is the current evidence that will demonstrate that they have been born again.
Some people may have a false sense of assurance based on a false image of God and a false image of self. For example they may say that a loving God could not possibly condemn anyone to hell. Similarly they may believe that they are essentially a good person whom God could not possibly be angry with.
On the other hand some people rob themselves of assurance because they too have a false image of God. They think that God is reluctant to save people from their sin. These people have no problem believing that God is holy but they fail to realise that he is merciful; they have no problem accepting that they are sinful but they fail to realise that God is willing to forgive even the worst of sinners.
False assurance is dangerous. The person who thinks they are a Christian no longer believes that they need to be converted, just as the person who believes that they are well sees no need to go to the doctor for treatment. It is really important that our grounds for confidence are solid.
The absence of assurance is tragic. The true believer who does not realise their sure standing before God is robbed of the joy that is so vital for spiritual health. If those who have been forgiven much love much then those who struggle to believe that they have been forgiven find it difficult to love God. Before the reformer Martin Luther became convinced that God was indeed gracious he exclaimed: ‘Love God! Sometimes I hate him!’
True assurance is a great thing. The apostle John wrote a letter with the purpose of giving believers grounds for confidence in God. He said, I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life (1 John 5:13). In the next few blogs I want to examine the grounds on which real assurance should be based.