by Founding Pastor Rick Duncan
Lots of people here at our church, Cuyahoga Valley Church, have doubts about their salvation. “How can I know that I know that I’m going to heaven, that I have eternal life?” I recently had a member come back and ask me about those exact doubts he was having regarding his own assurance of salvation.
Assurance is a privilege. It’s one of the highest blessings that you can know in this life. True believers can sometimes wait for a long time to get assurance. Sometimes, it can be very difficult for a true follower of Jesus to gain assurance.
But as it says in the Bible, it’s the duty of every believer to make our calling and election sure. Why? We’ll have greater peace and joy, greater love and gratitude, and increased strength and obedience to God.
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. I John 1:6
If we claim to have a connection with God but we keep on and keep on stumbling around in the darkness, we’re obviously lying. Staying in the dark means that we don’t really have a connection with God. We’re not living what we claim to be living.
But, it feels to me like you are bringing your sin to the light. Yes, you drifted. Yes, you lived in the dark. But now, it’s exposed. That’s a good sign. A very good sign.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. I John 1:7
This is the verse that is engraved in our weddings rings. When Maryanne and I aren’t doing very well in our relationship, we know that one of three things has to be true:1) I am not walking in the light; 2) she is not walking in the light; or 3) neither of us are walking in the light. But if we are living in the light, since God Himself is the light, then we have connections not only with God but also with each other. The blood of Jesus cleanses us and keeps on cleansing us from all sin.
What is walking in light? We’ll, there’s the light of the Word. There’s the light of the Holy Spirit. There’s the light of the counsel of other believers.
When we “walk in light,” our lives will be open. We won’t have hidden sins. We won’t be living as hypocrites – pretending to be someone we’re not. When we “walk in light,” this will result in deeper ad deeper connections with God and others.
You are seeking to be connected to Jesus or else you would not have written. The fact that you wrote and are concerned is a good sign. You’re seeking to live in the light. You’re not in the dark. You’re not hanging out with the wrong crowd. God has brought you to the point where you can say, “It’s time. It’s time once again to walk in light.”
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. I John 1:8
If we claim that we’re free of sin – that our fallen nature that pulls us toward sin is now powerless over us, we’re only fooling ourselves. To say we have no sin means that we’re denying the truth about us. The truth isn’t in us.
Well, you are not denying your sin. That’s a good sign.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9
If we will say what God says about our sins – that we have missed the mark, that we have fallen short – then God can always be trusted to forgive us. God always does what is right. He’ll forgive our sins and cleanse us from all the wrongs we have done.
When I was a high school basketball player, back in the 70s, the officials would blow a whistle, call a foul, and the player had to raise his hand. Now, I was point guard. I believed that if you were able to foul 5 times before you fouled out of the game, then you should use 4. So, lots of time, I had to raise my hand in front of the whole crowd as if to say, “Yep. It’s me. I fouled that guy.”
This is what confession is like. God’s Spirit blows the whistle. He convicts us of sin. We just need to raise our hands and say, “Yes. It’s me. I sinned. I was wrong.”
You’ve done that. It’s a god sign.
If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. I John 1:10
If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar – we are contradicting God. And that proves that His message really has no place in our hearts.
You do see the sin in your own life. You’re not just saying that you’re simply “struggling” in areas. You’re not softening the blow. You see the sin in your own life. You are not denying it, justifying it, or explaining it away. You’ve owned your own sin.
Note that there is a difference between relationship and fellowship.
If you are a believer in Christ, if you have trusted Him as your Lord and Savior, your relationship with God cannot be disturbed. You have been made a child of God. And once in the family, always in the family.
What kind of mother or father would dare to disown a child? My sons are Duncans. They always will be. Our relationship is secure. They will always be my sons and I will always be their dad. No matter what they say or do, they are still in the family. The relationship is secure. They can be sure they are in the family.
Our fellowship, though, can be disturbed. When they mess up, they can disappoint their dad. And until they own up to the mess up, the hang-out time, the goofing off at meals, the conversations in the car will all be disturbed.
The same true with God. When we confess our sins, we aren’t confessing to restore the relationship with God. That relationship is secure even when we sin. But when we sin, we break our fellowship with God. As our Father, He loves us enough to discipline us when we sin. Our prayer life is hindered by our sin. So, we confess to restore our fellowship with God.
See, when we confess our sins, we are confessing sins that have already been forgiven. When Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished.” All of our sins – past, present, and future – were judged on the cross. Jesus paid it all. So, now, we say, “I agree with you, God, that my pride, my sloth, my greed, my anger, my deception, my lukewarmness, my drunkenness, my lust is sin. Thank you for forgiving me.”
When we confess in this way, the fellowship – the connection – is restored.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. I John 2:1
May I say to you, “Get your eyes off of yourself and onto Christ”? Jesus is always taking up our cause – our case – in the presence of God the Father.
Jesus is our Advocate. It means He’s our defense attorney. Satan prosecutes believers night and day before the Father due to sin. The Bible calls Satan our accuser (Rev. 12:10). So, Jesus intercedes and pleads with God on the basis of His own work on the cross.
You may very well be hearing the accuser’s voice. Hear, instead the voice of your Intercessor.
If you are guilty of a crime, you need to get a lawyer who pleads for you. And that’s what Jesus does.
And here’s why we can be confident. He is righteous. He’s not going to say to the Father, “This guy, didn’t know what he was doing.” He’s not going to say, “Just let her off with a lesser penalty.” He won’t argue that way. He will plead His own merits before the Father. He will say, “See My hands, My feet, My side, My brow. See the wounds on My back. I paid the price for you. You don’t have to pay.”
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2
Jesus died to take upon Himself the wrath of God that we should have suffered because of our sins against God. He sacrificed Himself not only for us, but for the sins of the whole world. He is the propitiation, the hilasmos, an appeasing, a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it to favor
As the perfect sacrifice for sin, Jesus turns away God’s wrath.
Think about the fact that between now and the day you die you will commit too many sins to count. I know you don’t want to and that you’re working on sinning less. There will come a day when you will commit your very last sin. That means that your sin is finite. But what about God’s grace? What about the propitiation of Christ Jesus? That is infinite! Propitiation is never ending. Grace is greater than all our sin. And propitiation will last for eternity.
The longer I live as a follower of Christ, the more I am seeing my own depravity. The big stuff – the blatant sins – that’s not the problem. But my heart, my motives…
And when I think that I’m a pastor who has studied the Bible for so many years, I should be so much more holy than I am. I’m ashamed. I am more selfish and self-centered than I really want to admit. I am more lazy and undisciplined than I should be. I am far more easily hurt than I should be. My motives are worse than I used to think. I hate my sin.
I’m understanding more and more what John Newton said, “I am a greater sinner than I ever thought and Jesus is a greater Savior than I’ve ever known.” This is why we love Him. This is why we worship Him.
Christianity is not “You must do,” but “Christ already did.” We spell our faith this way: “DONE,” not “DO.”
Are you living in the freedom of the gospel? Or are you in bondage to religion? Real slavery is living your life to gain favor. Real freedom is living your life because you already have favor. Because I possess the benefits of the gospel of Christ, I don’t have anything to prove or anything to protect. We need to hear less about all we need to do for God and more about all Christ did for us.
Be really excited about having Jesus as your Advocate and Propitiation!
My college coach, Larry Schmittou, gave me a scholarship to play baseball at Vanderbilt. He saw me playing on a summer league team and took a chance on me. My parents never could have sent me to Vanderbilt. Today, tuition and fees alone are almost $40,000. My coach made it possible for me to get a great college education. He did for me what I could not do for myself. And as I reflect on what my coach provided, I am grateful and I want to connect. A few years ago, we drove through Nashville when Coach Schmittou was then president of the Nashville Sounds pro baseball team. I wanted to stop and take in a game and thank him. So, we did. It was fun to sit there and to reconnect with my old coach.
Look away from yourself and look to Christ! Appreciate enough what He’s done for you.
Start each day with the thought that you are accepted, that you have an advocate, that Jesus has taken the wrath that you should have taken.
Thanks for sharing with me.
Read verses like John 10:28-30, Romans 8:31-39, and 1 John 5:11-13. Ask the Lord if you can claim these verses for your own life.
My sense is that you have been “wandered from the truth” in the past, but God has used His people to “bring you back” as James 5:19 says.
Watch out! Beware of an over-scrupulous conscience. We have this tendency to think that we are saved by grace through faith, but then try to stay saved by works. What God began in the Spirit, don’t seek to perfect in the flesh.
Look at the cross. Which of your sins did He not die for? When He said, “It is finished!” why was that not good enough for you? God is at work in your life causing you to once again see the futility of your goodness. As you see the effects of ongoing sin, He wants you to come to Christ anew, afresh. And see that what He did there on the cross was enough. He’s comforting the afflicted.
O Lord we are not worthy to have a glimpse of heaven and unable with our words to redeem ourselves from sin, death, the devil, and hell. Nevertheless, Thou hast given to us Thy Son, Jesus Christ, who is far more precious and dearer than heaven, and much stronger than sin, death, heaven, and hell. For this we rejoice, praise, and thank Thee, O God, that without price and out of pure grace Thou hast granted us this boundless blessing in Thy dear Son through whom Thou takest sin, death, and hell from us, and dost grant to us all that belongs to Him. Amen.
A prayer of “Praise to God for overcoming evil” by Martin Luther