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Assurance and Trust

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
November 17, 2023 12:01 am

Assurance and Trust

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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November 17, 2023 12:01 am

When you've examined the progress of your Christian growth, have you ever become discouraged--even to the point of questioning your salvation? Today, R.C. Sproul teaches that our assurance is a matter of where we place our trust.

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This is where the devil majors in the life of the Christian, not as the tempter but as the accuser, who comes to you day after day after day and says, Look at that sin. Look at that sin.

Look what you did. How could you be a Christian and do that? He will take away the peace of God. Christians have peace with God, but as R.C. Sproul just said, the devil seeks to take away that peace as he accuses us and brings doubt, making us wonder, Am I even really a Christian?

Have you ever experienced that? If you have, I'm glad you're joining us for today's edition of Renewing Your Mind as we conclude a two-day study on assurance. How can we resist the accusations of the devil and not find ourselves paralyzed with doubt? That's what Dr. Sproul will help us with today as he challenges where it is that we're placing our trust and encourages us to place our trust in Christ alone. And remember, these messages are part of a larger series, and today is the final day to request it on DVD at renewingyourmind.org.

So here's R.C. Sproul with a message on assurance and trust. In our last session, we considered the four groups of people with respect to assurance of salvation, those who were unsaved and knew they were not saved, those who are saved and know that they're saved, those who are saved and don't know that they're saved, and then the one that muddles it all, those who are unsaved and are sure that they are saved. And we considered in the time that we had some of the reasons why it is that people can come to a false sense of security about their state of grace. And what we want to do in this session is to continue that examination a little bit and then also then turn our attention to the positive and say why it is that people are really in a state of grace but have doubts about it and how they can overcome those doubts and get it settled. But before we do that, let's open with prayer, shall we? Father, we know at the outset that salvation is of Thee.

And without You, we can do nothing. Give to us that inner drive and spirit by which we pursue with vigor our assurance as we press into the kingdom, and if necessary be as those whom Jesus described as the violent who take the kingdom by force. But Father, give us not a moment's peace or a moment's rest until the rest until it is settled within our souls that we know with assurance that we belong to You. For we understand that there is no question under heaven more important for us to have answered and to know where we stand with You. Be with us then, we beseech Thee, in the presence of Christ.

Amen. Now, last time we were talking about some of the false senses of security that people had, and as time was drawing to a close, I didn't have time to elaborate on one point that I want to, and that is those who come to a conviction that they are in a state of salvation based on an evaluation of their own righteousness with the working assumption that they are in fact good enough to merit entrance into the kingdom of God. Now, those kinds of people can be divided into two groups. There are those who have somewhat of an understanding of what God's law requires, but who honestly believe that they have been fully obedient to all matters pertaining to God's righteousness. There's been a movement throughout church history that is still very much alive in our culture today called the perfectionistic movement, the holiness movement, where people are convinced that by a special work of grace through what is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, not to be confused with the neo-Pentecostal doctrine of it, that a person can have a special work of sanctification that brings them to a state of moral perfection right now. I talked to an 18-year-old boy once who was convinced that he had experienced this second blessing, this second baptism, and he was now sure that not only was he justified but that he was sanctified fully and completely, that he was without any abiding sin in his life.

I was astonished to meet somebody who really believed it, but he did. And I immediately turned to the classical text of Romans 7 where Paul expresses his own struggle and turmoil after his conversion, and he didn't try to give me the argument that Paul was referring back to before his conversion. He acknowledged that, yes, Paul the Apostle was speaking about his present state of struggle, his present state of anguish, his present state of falling short of righteousness, and I said, are you suggesting to me that at 18 years old you now are at a higher level of sanctification than the Apostle Paul was when he wrote the book of Romans.

Now, before I tell you what he said to that, let me say this to you. I grant that's a theoretical possibility. It is a theoretical possibility that an 18-year-old boy here, a year old as a Christian, could be so zealous, so committed, so cooperative with the means of grace that he would actually exceed the Apostle Paul. I grant that as a hypothetical possibility.

Just as I grant there's a hypothetical possibility that there may be little green men living on the other side of the moon. It's hypothetical, and that's all it is. I can't conceive really of an 18-year-old boy surpassing the Apostle himself. But I said to him, are you saying that to me that you are at a more advanced state of righteousness right now than Paul was when he wrote Romans?

And he said yes. And I thought to myself, how could that be? It can only mean to me one of two things. Either he doesn't understand the full dimension of the demands of God's law, or he has completely deluded himself about his own performance. And I thought immediately of the rich young ruler who came with the same kind of casual, cavalier view of the law of God to Jesus, and he came asking the question that we're asking.

Good teacher, how can I inherit eternal life? And what did Jesus say? Well, the first thing you do is this, the second thing you do is that.

No. He answers the question with a question. He said, why do you call me good? Now critics of Christianity have jumped on that statement of Jesus and say, you know, Jesus says, why do you call me good? Only God is good. And they said, well, here we have Jesus clearly repudiating any claims of deity when He disassociates Himself from this kind of flattery at the lips of the rich young man.

But that was not the point. Jesus understood that in that man's eyes, that man didn't have any idea who Jesus was, except that He was a teacher, a rabbi, maybe even a prophet. And He comes throwing this word good around very loosely, saying, good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus now undertakes to teach this fellow about what the law is all about. And He said, well, you know the commandments, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery. What did the young fellow say? Is that all?

All these things have I kept from my youth. And then what did Jesus say? He doesn't say, oh no, you haven't.

You've deluded yourself. Jesus was far more clever than that. He was far more insightful. He got down to the heart of the matter. He said to the young man, fine.

You know, if you think you've kept the law, it's okay. Just one thing that you lack, just one little thing, go and sell all that you have, give it to the poor, take up your cross, and follow Me. And the young man walked away sorrowfully, shaking his head, for he had great possessions. Now, how in the world did Jesus move from eternal life and an exposition of the law to a thing about money? The point of our Lord there is not to teach us that it's mandatory for every Christian if they want to get into the kingdom of God to dispense of all their worldly goods.

What was Jesus doing there? The guy had just said, I've kept the law from the time I was a little boy. So Jesus starts with number one, thou shall have no other gods before Me. Let's see if you keep the law. Your money's a god.

Get rid of it. He couldn't do it. He flunked the first point of the test. And Jesus taught that man something about what God's holiness requires. You see, this is another thing that people misunderstand about Martin Luther. Luther, in a sense, I have a sermon on it.

I've talked about it at length. Elsewhere, I won't get into it now in depth, where I call it the insanity of Luther, because Luther has been judged insane by people involved in psychoanalysis. And there's some reason for it, because some of his reactions were indeed bizarre, not the least of which was his reaction to the torment of the fear of hell. He was out of control. He was neurotic. He couldn't sleep. He'd spent three, four hours in the confessional every day, confessing his sins. How much trouble can you get in a monastery?

Why? Well, we can say because he was nuts, or we can look at another dimension of Luther's personality. People don't know this about Luther, but before he ever went into the monastery, he had already distinguished himself as one of the most brilliant young scholars in Europe in the field of jurisprudence. He was a master of law, and he took that genius and examined the Old Testament law.

And then what he did was he measured himself by the law of God, and it was driving him crazy. Now, it doesn't drive you crazy, and it doesn't drive you crazy, and it doesn't drive you crazy. You know why? Because you've learned the most rudimentary process of self-defense for survival psychologically. We can't stand the oppressive feeling of guilt that makes you sick at the stomach, but we've learned how to isolate ourselves from the pain of it.

All right? The first time I lost my innocence as a young boy in a sexual encounter, I was 12 years old, and I'll never forget what happened to me. I came home, and I vomited. I was not a Christian, torn apart by remorse for my sin, but I knew the pain of guilt. Even as a stranger to Christ, I knew what I had done was wrong, and I did not like myself. But you know what? By the time I was 15, I had a callous on my soul, and it didn't bother me anymore. Because somewhere between 12 and 15, I took my standards and my ideals, and I adjusted them down to where I was. And I'm not the only person that's ever done that.

We all do it. Luther was too smart. He saw through it.

He saw that you're kidding yourself. God is holy, and He demands holiness from His creatures. And if a person really thinks that they've achieved that holiness, they are in the worst of all kinds of forms of self-delusion. The only way you could do it, as I say, is to bring the standards down.

And that's exactly what we do. I mean, most people still aren't walking around this world thinking that they're sinless. You know, the rank is pagan. We'd be quick to admit, hey, nobody's perfect. I'm a sinner. Of course I'm a sinner. I know that. Everybody sins.

But what's the big deal? Sure, I steal. Sure, I commit adultery.

Sure, I do these things. But at least I'm honest about it. And when I say that, what I'm doing is I'm saying, look at the balance scales of justice. Yes, I recognize that I have faults and I fall short, that I have sin and I'm guilty and all of that, but I have these redeeming virtues over here.

I'm honest. I'm not a hypocrite, as if the only sin that could send a person to hell was hypocrisy. And what that person is assuming is that God grades on a curve, that as long as I could conceive of myself being worse than I am, then I'm going to slide in.

That is deadly to base your trust in that kind of situation. Or what about the person who comes to church and who assumes that membership in the church is his ticket into heaven? Hey, there are people like that by the scores who really equate church membership with entrance into the kingdom of God. Did you ever wonder why it is that we have the phenomenon in American culture of the swelled attendance on Sunday morning, on Easter Sunday, or on Christmas, and we joke about that particular percentage of the church membership who come like clockwork, whether they need it or not, to church twice a year? And that's the only time they're there. Did you ever ask yourself the question why they do that? Why bother just twice, two out of 52 times?

Why do people do that? I mean, let's look at it for a second. Let me make this statement theoretically, just like I said a minute ago about the 18-year-old boy. I think it's theoretically possible for a truly regenerate Christian to fall into such slovenliness in his spiritual growth that he neglects the means of grace, that he neglects the assembling together of the saints, and that he actually gets himself into a system where he doesn't come to church except twice a year. That is conceivable, and it is possible that if you are numbered among those people that only come to church once or twice a year, that you are in fact a Christian.

But, dear friends, the odds against it are astronomical. It was Augustine who said, "'He who does not have the church for his mother does not have God for his father.'" When Christ redeems a person, He places them into His body, the church. And He imposes a new obligation to come together into communion with the Christian community. That's one of the most important of all of the means of grace is participation in the body of Christ. How could a Christian survive without it? How could a Christian who's truly loving Christ and in fellowship with the saints persistently and repeatedly absent himself from it?

And so I say to a person, if you're trying to find out what the state of your soul, that's one thing to look at. If you repeatedly miss church, that may be a clear indication that you are in fact out of grace. It's not an absolute necessity that you're out of grace.

It's possible to be in grace, as I said, but highly unlikely. Why do they come twice a year? It's almost like to keep their names on the roll. Say, I paid my dues. I showed up to keep my membership active. So I can say, I am a Christian.

I am in the kingdom of God. If you're trusting in that, you're in trouble. You're in trouble, big trouble. But what if that's not your case? What if you're there every Sunday and you make sure you're going to get your ticket punched every week? Even that is no guarantee of salvation, because participation in the church is not the basis of salvation. The church cannot save you. You desperately need the church.

You know, I don't think you can be sanctified without the church. But the church cannot save you. The church did not die on the cross for you. The church is not your mediator. The church is not your Redeemer. The church is the servant of the mediator. The church is the body of the mediator, but it is not Christ, and only Christ can save you. And the question is, do you trust Him, or are you banking on your church attendance? Again, we go back to St. Augustine, who formulated the doctrine in the first place, who said that the visible church is always a corpus per mixedum, a mixed body, as our Lord Himself told us.

It's a net with different kind of fish. It has wheat and tares growing side by side, that these people can honor Christ with their lips while their hearts are far from Him. And here I am talking about the assurance of salvation, and some of you are becoming less and less and less assured. And the whole point of this course is to give us ways in which we can grow spiritually, and I'm saying that you're not going to make any progress until you get that assurance settled, and all I'm talking about here is a false sense of assurance.

I do that because we have to get it clear in our minds where our salvation is, and from whence it cometh. And so right now I'm telling you all the things not to trust in, because there are many, many reasons to become identified with the church, other than out of a genuine love for Christ. I've spoken many times for the leadership of the Young Life organization, which is in my opinion the most effective Christian organization with a special ministry to young people that I've ever seen.

In fact, like most organizations, their very strength is their weakness. Young Life is so effective in communicating with high school kids that the church can hardly compete with it, because the leaders of Young Life are experts in how to befriend kids, to get close to kids, to be sensitive to the pain that kids are feeling. They know how to reach out to kids. They know how to have fun for kids. They have put on camps.

They're terrific. And in fact, they're so good at it that it's very possible to convert people to Young Life who I'll never be converted to Jesus, not because that's the goal of Young Life. I mean, Young Life is very sensitive to that, but they are so effective, so appealing, so attractive that people can come and join and become immersed in that organization for the sheer joy of the fun and the fellowship with other people, and the fact that there they are being loved, there they are being treated with acceptance, there they are being treated kindly, and it's exciting, and it's fun, and everything else, and never deal with Jesus. Okay? Now, so the simple answer to assurance is our assurance can only come when we trust in Christ and in Christ alone for our justification. But let me expand on that and give you some more bad news.

It's as simple as that. I have to ask you, what are you trusting in for eternal life? If you're trusting in the church, you're in trouble. It's a false sense of assurance. If you're trusting in your own righteousness, you're in trouble. That's a false sense of assurance. What if you say, well, what I'm really trusting in is grace? Be careful.

Why? Isn't that the ticket? Isn't that the answer that I must rest ultimately on the grace of God alone?

Yes. But be careful how you understand grace. We have a culture who has a distorted understanding of grace. They say, yeah, I can only get into heaven by the grace of God alone.

I recognize that. I'm a sinner. Only grace will save me. But if God's really gracious, He'll certainly include me.

He owes it to me. And deep down underneath there, I'm really convinced, you know, that if God is just, He'll be gracious to me. And I've confused justice and grace at that point. So be careful how you understand grace.

Grace is when you get something you don't deserve. Now, again, I say the simple thing is that salvation comes by trusting in Christ and in Christ alone. But the next question has to be asked, what Christ?

Christ. What Christ do you trust? Do you know who Christ is? Because we can go out into that culture and find fifty different, and in many cases mutually exclusive, views of the identity of Jesus. I mean, every philosophical system practically in the last five hundred years has tried to embrace Jesus as its spokesman. Is Jesus a political revolutionary? Is Jesus an authentic existential hero? Is Jesus a teacher of value judgments?

I mean, these are the accents we find from culture to culture, from theology to theology. The only Christ that can redeem you is the one who really exists. And the only Christ in whom faith will redeem you is the biblical Christ.

And so that's the question you have to ask yourself. And in very simple terms, I don't know any simpler way to get assurance of salvation than this, than to go to the meat of Holy Scripture, come into contact with that biblical Jesus, and ask yourself with as much honesty as you can measure up, what is my posture to Him? Where do I stand with this Jesus? Now, let me elaborate on that a bit. When I look at my sin, my confidence in my redemption is shaken for this very simple reason, a logical reason.

The logic here I think is impeccable. I have to admit to myself that whenever I commit a sin, whatever sin it is, at the moment that I commit that sin, which I know to be sin, at that moment, I desire that sin more than I desire to please Christ. Now, isn't that simple? I mean, why else would you do it? You'd rather sin than obey. It's not because you're just, you know, you're sacrificially throwing your righteousness away by choosing this sin for some crazy reason. You say, well, you know what? I'm going to do it.

I'm going to do it. For some crazy reason, you sin because you want to sin. I sin because I want to sin, and I want to sin more than I want to obey Jesus at that point. Now, if I just focus on that one sin, what will I conclude about my salvation? I'm as far from the kingdom of God as I can be because I'm saying, how is it possible that a person who is born of the Holy Spirit, who is redeemed by the Savior, could prefer to sin rather than to obey the One who has died for him?

That mystifies me. That's the mystery of iniquity, that sin that is still alive in my members that I abhor within myself in more sane moments. But nevertheless, I am the One who sins. That sin is in me, and I'm doing it.

So, I can't ask myself if I want to be sure of myself. I can't ask myself, do I ever sin? I take comfort in the fact that Paul sinned and Peter sinned and everybody else sinned, and they still had assurance of their salvation. So, the Bible at least gives me this kind of consolation at the outset that I know it's possible to sin and still be a Christian. Simul justus et peccator.

I'm aware of that peccator. It's the justus that drives me crazy. So, I have to ask myself, not do I love Christ perfectly, but I want to ask myself this question. Do I love Him at all? Do I will the triumph of Christ? Do I look forward with joy to His coming? You see, it is impossible for the natural man to have any authentic religious affection for Jesus. The natural man is at enmity with God.

Now, he may be enamored by a phony Jesus, a plastic Jesus, a Jesus who doesn't exist. There are people who say, yes, I love God, and then they define God as pure love and mercy who never makes any demands on Him. I say, do you love the holiness of God?

Well, whenever we talk about the holiness of God, you get angry. Do you love the sovereignty of God, or does that cause you to turn away? Do you love the righteousness of Jesus? Do you acknowledge the fact that He is altogether lovely?

Do you want to love Him more? You see, you couldn't have that desire, really, unless the love of God was already shed abroad in your heart, unless you were already quickened by God the Holy Spirit. So we look not at our own success or at our own achievement, but we look to Christ, who is the author and the finisher of our faith. And in that sense, we can, in our abiding sin, sin bravely, not that we ought to sin arrogantly, but what Luther was saying there was what? The same thing Paul is saying in Romans when he says, who shall lay any charge to God's elect? It is God who justifies you. It's Christ who died for you, because Satan comes to accuse the Christian and rob him of his peace, to rob him of his… Remember that the battle is the world, the flesh, and the devil. This is where the devil majors in the life of the Christian, not as the tempter but as the accuser who comes to you day after day after day and says, look at that sin, look at that sin, look at what you did. How could you be a Christian and do that? Who will take away the peace of God that again is the first fruit of your justification. And it's when Satan comes at that point that you say with the Apostle Paul, who shall lay any charge to God's elect.

Sticks and stones Satan, get out of here. My righteousness is in Christ and in Christ alone. I'm pursuing my sanctification, but I'm not going to pursue my sanctification paralyzed by anxiety.

I'm not going to pursue my sanctification in a state of moral hysteria, but I'm going to be pursuing sanctification out of a spirit of gratitude to a Christ who has already secured my salvation. I believe Him. I repent. He forgives me.

And He said, now go, keep my commandments. And so we walk in the security that the peace that God has given to us is not a fragile truce where the next time I slip up, He's going to start rattling the sword at me again. We, being justified, have peace with God. The battle's over. We're forgiven. We're cleansed.

We're justified. And that's what the Bible means and what Luther was getting at. Paul, you know, quotes it three times from the Old Testament book of Habakkuk, that just shall live by faith. Not that simply that the just shall be justified by faith, but the just shall live by faith.

Sanctification is as much by faith as justification is, which means what? Trust. That's where our assurance comes from, not out of an arrogant self-appraisal, but I'm trusting Christ to keep me, to preserve me, to help me, to hold me, to save me.

So that's the question, what are you trusting? Only trust in Him can bring the assurance that we have to have if we're going to grow in His kingdom. I'm thankful for that reminder as it's something Christians need to hear and tell ourselves every day.

That was R.C. Sproul on this Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Today concluded a two-part study on the crucial topic of assurance. Without genuine assurance, we can find ourselves paralyzed in our Christian growth, but these messages are only two of twelve in a series titled Developing Christian Character. You can own this series on DVD when you support the outreach of Renewing Your Mind with a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. If you prefer, you can also call us at 800 435 4343 and when you do, you'll also receive digital access to the series and the study guide. So visit renewingyourmind.org today while there's still time. It's not news to you that not everybody believes in God, but why are there atheists? Beginning Monday, R.C. Sproul will consider the psychology of atheism here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-17 08:02:58 / 2023-11-17 08:14:31 / 12

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