Reasons People Lack Assurance Part 3
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/08/2003
"Reasons People Lack Assurance"
2 Peter 1:5-11
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Tonight I want to spend our time in the lesson from the Word of God, completing what I had hoped to complete last Sunday
evening. And so I invite you, if you will, to turn back to the text, that is the basic text for our study, 2 Peter chapter 1. And in
this wonderful chapter we are embarking upon the section in verses 5 through 11. The theme of that section is really summed
up in verse 10 with the words, "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing
you." That introduces us to the subject of the assurance of salvation. And this is the third in a series on the assurance of
salvation. Next Lord's day we will actually embark upon the text itself and get into details about what Peter has to say. But
continuing by way of introduction along the theme, I want to fill in some of the blanks that I think that are most helpful to all
Let me say that having the assurance of your salvation, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are forgiven, knowing
that you are indwelt by the Spirit of God and headed for eternal glory in heaven, is the supreme blessing of the Christian life.
Because all of the other blessings of the Christian life can only be partially enjoyed if I do not know for certain where my
eternity will be spent. If there's any diminishing of my assurance then I cannot fully enjoy the other blessings of my Christian
life. So we can say that assurance then among all of the good things that God grants to us for joy and blessing is the best, the
most precious of His gifts to believers.
Now we've been noting in this study that even though assurance is the best of the Lord's gifts to His people, there are some
people who don't enjoy assurance. There are the Roman Catholics, for example, who do not believe that anyone can know
for sure whether he or she is going to heaven. In fact, they decry those who would affirm an assured salvation, believing that
if you for once thought that your eternity was settled once and for all it would effect your holiness negatively because once
you knew everything was secure you would run amuck and you would not be able to restrain yourself because the fear of
falling into hell is what restrains you from evil. And then there are the Arminians as that brand of theology is known who also
believe that you cannot know for certain that your salvation is secure, you cannot enjoy assurance because in fact salvation is
a cooperative effort and though God may not fail, you might. And so because it is possible for you to fall away and fail,
consequently you can never be guaranteed of assurance.
So there are those then who do not enjoy the assurance of salvation from a theological viewpoint. But then there are those
who do not enjoy the assurance of salvation for other reasons. They unlike the Catholics and the Arminians believe that a
Christian can have assurance, they might even believe a Christian should have assurance, they might even want assurance but
they do not enjoy it. And we have been looking at that particular issue because it is so very very important.
In Hebrews 6:11 it says, "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of
hope to the end." The writer of Hebrews says, "I want you to be diligent so that you have full assurance." And here in our
text just read Peter says, "Be all the more diligent to make certain about His...that is God's...calling and choosing you." So
while the Roman Catholics and the Arminians and others might deny the reality of assurance, the Bible says you should
know your salvation is for sure. In fact, you should be diligent to come to the experience of assurance. It is true that
someone can be saved and doubt it. As one writer said, "One may go to heaven in a mist, not knowing he's going but that's
certainly not the way to enjoy the trip." And while our salvation does not depend on our feelings about assurance, our joy
does, our peace does, our blessedness does.
Let me talk about the blessedness of assurance for a moment and give you a little list of things that assurance does to bless
us. First of all, assurance elevates the heart to live on the highest level of joy. Assurance elevates the heart to live on the
highest level of joy. When the Apostle John wrote his epistle of 1 John as we know it, in the epistle of 1 John he gives a
series of tests by which one may know whether his salvation is real. You remember them. If you confess your sin. If you
walk as Jesus walked. If you love your brother. If you do not love the world. If your life is not characterized by an unbroken
pattern of sin. If you demonstrate compassion to those in need. If you confess Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, etc., etc.,
etc. John's whole purpose in 1 John is to lay out test after test after test of a genuine salvation. But the sum of it comes in 1
John 1:4 where he says, "These things I write unto you that your joy may be full." Why? Because assurance of salvation lifts
the heart to live on the highest level of joy. Takes away all the doubt and all the despair and all the despondency and all the
depression and all the fear if I know for certain my destiny is sealed in Christ forever.
So assurance, then, elevates the heart to live on the highest level of joy. Secondly, assurance lifts the soul to seek holy
purposes. Assurance lifts the soul to seek holy purposes. In other words, if I know I am saved and I know I belong to God
and I know I'm a part of His kingdom forever, then I will be concerned about kingdom issues. It is expressed a number of
ways in Scripture. One that comes to mind is in Matthew chapter 6 verses 8 to 10, remember these familiar words? "Our
Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." What is
the significance of that? Just this, you are concerned about the hallowing of God's name, you are concerned about the
coming of His kingdom, you are concerned about His will on earth as it is in heaven when you are assured that He is your
Father. The affirmation of our Father draws me into the conscious awareness of my relationship to the living God and makes
His holy purposes the highest aim of my life. If I'm not sure I belong to God, then I'm not so caught up in His purposes. So
assurance lifts the soul to seek holy purposes.
Thirdly, assurance fills the heart with songs and prayers of gratitude. A praising person is a person who has assurance. If I
know my salvation is forever secure and nothing can separate me from the love of Christ, then my heart is filled with joy.
Listen to Psalm 71:14, "But as for me, I will hope continually." And the psalmist says, "Because I have that continuous hope,
I will praise Thee yet more and more." The assured heart is the grateful heart. And where you have the assurance of
salvation the heart is filled with songs and prayers of gratitude. Listen to Psalm 103, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that
is within me bless His holy name, bless the Lord, O my soul..." Why? Why such a grateful heart? "And forget none of His
benefits." Why? "Because He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your diseases, redeems your life from the pit." And when
you know that you've been redeemed and when you know that your sins are forgiven, it fills your heart with songs of praise
The next point. Assurance strengthens the soul against temptations and trials. Assurance strengthens the soul against
temptations and trials. In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 Paul says, "Put on the helmet of the hope of salvation." What is that in
essence? It is the fact that Satan comes against us with temptation. He comes against us with testings and trials, endeavoring
to make us fall into sin and doubt. And when you have the hope of salvation firmly in place, his blows are but glancing blows
off of that protective cover. If I know my hope is sure and that I'm headed for heaven, then all of Satan's efforts against me
cannot hit me, they only deflect off of the helmet of the hope of salvation.
Furthermore, assurance compels the heart to love obedience. Assurance compels the heart to love obedience. If I'm not
sure that I'm going to heaven, I'm a little bit loose in my living. If I'm not sure that God has really forgiven me and given me
eternal life, if I'm not sure that I'm on my way to heaven, if I'm not certain that God's salvation is secure then it has a negative
effect on me because it is in that insecurity that I fall more readily into sin. Psalm 119:116 says, "I hope in Thy salvation, O
Lord, and I do Thy commandments." Because I have hope in eternal reality, because my hope is fixed in Christ in God,
because I'm secure in that and assured of that, I do what You say.
Assurance elevates the heart to live on the highest level of joy. Assurance lifts the soul to seek holy purposes. Assurance fills
the heart with songs and praise of gratitude. Assurance strengthens the soul against temptation and trials. Assurance compels
the heart to love obedience. Let me give you a couple more. Assurance calms the soul with perfect rest and peace in the
midst of life's storms. It definitely calms the soul in the midst of life's storms. No matter what goes on around me, if I know
I'm secure forever in Christ what do I fear? Listen to Hebrews 6:19. "This hope, this eternal hope, we have as an anchor of
the soul, a sure and steadfast anchor." No matter what batters and beats the hulk of our ship, we are anchored in the
confidence of our eternal hope. And so the soul is calmed with rest and peace in the confidence of a secure salvation.
Another point to ponder. Assurance teaches the soul to wait patiently upon God for needed mercy. If you're not sure of
your salvation, guess what happens when you pray and God doesn't answer immediately? If I don't know that I'm a
Christian, I'm not sure I'm really saved and I pray to God and I don't get an immediate answer, what is my response in the
flesh? Boy, God must not be listening. God must not care. That means I'm not His. But if I am sure of my salvation and
secure in my salvation and assured of my salvation, then I have the patience to wait for God to act in His own time. And I'm
not cast, as it were, into great fear. That's the patient heart that is exhibited by the one who is confident of his eternal destiny
and the eternal care of God. In Romans 8:25 it says, "If we hope for what we do not see with perseverance we wait eagerly
for it." If your hope is strong and your hope is based on fact and reality, then you can persevere in waiting for the realization
of that hope. Read Psalm 130 if you want another illustration of that.
Another point, assurance purifies the heart...assurance purifies the heart. First John 3:3, "Everyone who has this hope fixed
on Him purifies himself just as He is pure." When your hope is fixed, not moving and shaking and coming and going, when
it's fixed then you purify yourself. It has a purifying power. If I know I'm going to see God, I know I'm going to see Christ, I
know I'm going to see them face to face, I'm going to give an accounting for my deeds, I'm going to spend eternity with the
Lord bearing the reward for that which I have rendered to Him by way of service, that's going to change the way I live my
Now those are very important matters and I just listed them. You might think of more than I thought of, but they are the very
essence of what is essential in the believer's life to experience the full joy that the Lord has designed the Christian to have.
And if you don't have that joy, if you don't have that full assurance, you can...you can have it. Wouldn't you like to live on
the highest level of joy? Don't you desire to seek holy purposes, to be filled with songs of praise and gratitude? Don't you
want to have a soul that is strong against temptation and trial? Don't you want to have a heart that is compelled to obey?
Don't you want to experience calm in the soul, perfect rest and peace? Don't you want to be able to wait patiently on God
for needed mercy and don't you want a pure life? Those things are the fruit of assurance.
It's a sad thing to realize that people who, one, deny assurance as a possibility, those who theologically deny that you can be
eternally secure will never know these blessings. And those of us who believe it but don't live the way we ought to live will
not enjoy them either. Assurance really equips the soul for every spiritual battle in every way.
I wish I could say all that is in me, and my words are not adequate. So let me borrow from the theologian Berkhof, listen to
what he said. "The Christian's life is intended to be a life of service in the Kingdom of God. He is a vessel of honor
sanctified, meat for the master's use prepared unto every good work. And the service that is required of him is arduous and
even partakes of the nature of a warfare. The believer is a soldier of Jesus Christ engaged in earnest battles with the powers
of evil. Hence, he is urged to put on the whole armor of God that he may retain his position in the Kingdom of God and
frustrate the works of the devil. He needs all the spiritual strength at his disposal, especially the strength that comes from a
living and active faith and from the assurance of salvation. If his gait is halting and uncertain, if his arms are unsteady, if his
eye is not clear and true, if he is lacking in confidence, he will not be able to do his best for the captain of his salvation. But if
he stands in the assurance of faith, he will march to the battle with confidence. He will occupy a strong position. He will aim
with precision and he will fight with the strength that comes from the confident expectation of victory. They whose hearts are
always filled with doubts and are constantly engaged in seeking assurance are like the soldier that spends all his time seeking
his armor, or putting it in shape and meanwhile loses sight of the oncoming forces of the enemy," end quote.
Excellent statement. If you spend all the time fussing with whether or not you have your armor on, you're not going to be
able to fight the battle. It is the confident Christians who have the assurance of salvation who are out there in the fray. Even
James said, "A doubting Christian is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind, double minded and unstable
in...what?...all his ways." Only the assured believer, the confident believer can say these words of the Apostle Paul, "I have
fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith, in the future there is laid up for me the crown of
righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge will award to me on that day." That's the word of a confident soldier, right?
A man who was assured of his eternal destiny. Beloved, to deny the doctrine of assurance or not to experience the doctrine
of assurance is to short circuit your spiritual blessedness and usefulness.
Now, in spite of all of that, many Christians don't enjoy assurance. And we've been asking why, haven't we? We said, first
of all, some lack assurance because of being under strong preaching on God's holy standard. Because the standard's held so
high they feel they can't ever meet the standard and so they feel they must not be saved. Secondly, we noted that some lack
assurance because they can't accept forgiveness. They think they're too bad. What they've done is too terrible. And they just
cannot believe that they could be forgiven. Thirdly, some lack assurance because they do not comprehend the gospel. They
just don't understand the nature of the gospel and what the Lord has provided and in the place of knowledge they become
tyrannized by their emotions. Fourthly, some lack assurance because they don't know the exact moment of their salvation.
And since they can't identify a moment, they feel maybe they're not saved. Fifthly, some lack assurance because they still feel
the flesh strongly and wonder if they have a new nature. Because the pull of sin and the flesh is so strong they wonder
whether they really are a new creation. And number six, some lack assurance because they don't see the hand of God in all
their trials. In other words, when things go wrong they think God's abandoned them rather than that God is using that for
their growth. Now that's all review.
I want to give you the last two reasons why people doubt their salvation. Number seven, some lack assurance because they
fail to walk in the Holy Spirit thus his affirming, confirming ministry to their hearts is forfeited. Did you get that? This is very
very vital. Some lack assurance because they fail to walk in the Spirit and it is the Spirit's ministry to the believer to affirm his
salvation. Go with me to Romans chapter 8 again. We were there last week, we return. It is the single greatest chapter in
Scripture on this matter of security and assurance. And I want to draw you to Romans chapter 8 verses 14 to 16. It says in
verse 14, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." If you want to put it the other way, you
could say sons of God are all being led by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is involved in leading all believers.
And in verse 15 he says, "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of
adoption as sons by which we cry out, Abba Father." Look, if we belong to God and the Spirit is in us leading us, we should
never fear our condition. We have been adopted into God's family and we cry Abba Father, which means daddy, papa, it's
a term of intimacy. And then verse 16, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if
children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ."
Now listen. For every believer the Holy Spirit dwells inside. And from that perspective inside the believer He leads everyone
of us. We should never fear because He is leading us to the conclusion that we are the children of God. That's one of the
things He does. Now let me give you a little background of this.
In Rome it was very common to adopt...very common. And when a child was adopted there was a legal ceremony to go
through. Roman adoptions had to be verified, get this, by seven witnesses. Seven witnesses had to sign the affidavit that this
was a legal adoption. Why? Well let's imagine you had a very wealthy man. He was interested in adopting a young boy. He
adopted that boy into his family. And then he died. And that boy immediately laid claim then to his inheritance. Who's going
to verify that? Let's say there was one witness, and he was dead. There was nothing on computers, probably nothing in files
anywhere. Everything was confirmed by a document and word of mouth. And so they stacked up seven witnesses for the
purpose of always having someone to confirm the legitimate claim of the heir to his inheritance.
On the other hand, it could well be possible that if a wealthy man died, some fake might come along and say, "Look, he
adopted me as his son," who's to prove it or disprove it? Back to the seven witnesses. One, two, three, four of them may
have been dead, there may have been three remaining. And the whole idea of having seven witnesses was to affirm that
indeed this adoption was legitimate, these seven witnesses had to be present at the adoption. Did you get that? They had to
be present at the adoption. And they had to sustain the claim of the adopted child to the inheritance.
Here's Paul's point. If anybody questions your claim to your eternal inheritance, if anybody questions that you are a child of
God, there is a witness who was there at the moment of your adoption. Who was it? The Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit
will step forward and bear witness that you indeed are a child of God by adoption and have a lawful claim to your eternal
inheritance. It is also an interesting coincidence that in Isaiah chapter 11 and verse 2 Isaiah presents the Spirit as a
seven-fold Spirit. The seven-fold Spirit becomes the witness to affirm that I belong to God.
So it is the ministry then of the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the legitimacy of my adoption into God's family and my right to
claim an eternal inheritance. Isn't that a marvelous truth?
You say, "How does the Holy Spirit do it? How does He bear witness?" A number of ways. Look with me at 1 Corinthians
chapter 2...1 Corinthians chapter 2 verse 9, "It is written, Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which
hath not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him." All right, Scripture promises immense
blessings for those that love God. Those are taken out of Isaiah. Now verse 10, "For to us God revealed them through the
Spirit." The first way in which the Holy Spirit affirms our salvation is through illumination. In other words, the Spirit
illuminates the Scripture. He makes the Word live. As we study the Word of God about these promises, the Spirit
illuminates them to our hearts. That's what that text is saying. The Holy Spirit allows us to think and comprehend with the
mind of Christ.
So the first way the Holy Spirit witnesses to me of my sonship and inheritance is by illuminating
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