Sunday, October 25, 2009

Should struggling with sin cause a lack of assurance?

In preparation for preaching on Galatians each week I try to read several sermons on the particular passage in focus for that week. I want to share a wonderful observation by Dr. Kim Riddlebarger who is senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California. This excerpt comes from one of his sermons on Galatians 5:16-26 with specific reference to "walking by the Spirit":

Many times Christians are told that the struggle with sin and any perception of lack of victory, or lack of continual progress, are reasons to doubt the assurance of their salvation, or God’s favor towards them. But as Paul makes very clear, it is only the Christian, indwelt by God’s spirit, who experiences a struggle between the Spirit and the flesh or “indwelling sin.” Non-Christians are only “in the flesh,” hence God’s Spirit is not provoking such internal conflicts. Thus the struggle with sin is perhaps the clearest sign that one is actually converted! Non-Christians do not have the intense struggle between the sinful nature and the indwelling Spirit. This is why we must draw our assurance of salvation and God’s favor toward us primarily from the promises given to us in the Scriptures, rather than attempting to draw assurance from our own progress in holiness. Some of those who have progressed the farthest in sanctification are also those most dissatisfied with the progress they are making in the Christian life. Assurance should be drawn primarily from the promise in Scripture that God will save sinners, from the witness of the Spirit to those promises, and only secondarily from our progress in the Christian life. While we will indeed make progress, it is at times very difficult to gauge it.


Rick Calohan said...

Knowing that we are saved by Grace alone, justified by Faith alone in Christ alone and not in our own righteousness but Christ righteousness, along with knowing that we are adopted by God the Father, and that we are Sanctified by the Holy Spirit in an on going work of the Holy Spirit gives me hope not in my own abilities but on the promises of God.

Q35: What is sanctification?
A35: Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

Michael Lockridge said...

As a converted non-Christian it has been fascinating (and sometimes sad) to see the various perspectives on the assurance of salvation held by the many different groups with whom I have fellowshipped.

My mother-in-law is from and Adventist/Seventh Day Adventist background. They seemed particularly uncomfortable with being assured of their salvation, as if assurance was license to sin.

As for me, when I came to accept the existence of God and the concept of sin, I became very aware of the depth of my depravity and the scope of God's saving grace.

The sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice is not subject to question. Nothing can now snatch me from His hand, especially not me.

Sadly, this is something my mother-in-law seems unable to understand.


Brother Titus said...

As Dr. R. said, it's the very struggle with sin that is the biggest indicator that we are alive, in Christ. We didn't have that great struggle with our very nature before we were saved. However, if we deal with that struggle at every turn and see it through to the other side, we can claim the victory, in Christ, when it comes, as our sin nature dies piece by piece; yet, it's His victory in us. But, if we fail the test, there's always confession and repentance before God to make us right with Him and blameless and whole again, in Christ. And, God is well-enough pleased with that.

Woody Woodward said...

These past three weeks of power-filled exhortations have hit very near to home. Each week these keen enlightenments about the ongoing battle of the flesh, takes to heart someone very near and dear. As Rev. John Stotts so wonderfully portrays, “What takes place within the heart, mind soul, and body of the believer is nothing less than civil war, a violent confrontation between opposing forces, an irreconcilable antagonism.” This powerful truth is manifested daily in the battles my daughter faces. I feel strongly that she made a sincere profession of faith when she was 8 years old, even surrounding to special services when she was 10. But because of her fierce fighting against the Holy Spirit, she is miserable! And the reality is, she will remain in this desperate state, never finding any peace, until she repents. But I will never cease to pray for her, my grandkids and her husband.

Pete said...

For years in the Baptist church I was always told that "assurance comes from our own progress in holiness".
Even John MacArthur holds this position.

Several years ago I came to the same conclusion as Kim.

We either base what we believe on the objective WORD of God, or upon the subjective feelings we have.

I don't think the absence of spiritual growth should be disregarded, but should not be considered the primary basis of assurance.

Regardless of how I feel, Gods Word is still true. If I am trusting Christ alone, that is when the Spirit gives assurance.

Don't look at yourself - "look up" young man!

P.S. The last time I saw Kim he had black hair!