Friday, April 17, 2009

4-17-09 Assurance of Faith

Jim Daly- 1988 "On Thin Ice"
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

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. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (I John 5:13).

Calvin: “The Christian life can be lived only if we have assured consciences and are certain that God is propitious to us and that our lives are accepted by Him…Those who fluctuate in uncertainty between hope and fear can never sincerely and honestly obey God, however anxiously they may labor to do so.” (Sermon on Luke 1:73-78).

Belief on this side of heaven is tinged with doubt. But in our skeptical culture, we wallow in our doubt and downplay the encouragement, inspiration, hope, and strength that comes from faith. Belief in its essence is a move away from doubt and towards assurance. In Calvin’s day some in the church were saying that we should doubt that God will save us so that we will try that much harder to be saved. But it was a never-ending trap. For no matter how hard you tried, or how many sins you confessed, you were taught that you couldn’t have assurance of your salvation. Calvin and Luther both taught that you could have assurance of your salvation. We could in part because we are saved not by what we do but by what God has already done in Christ. The watch words of the Reformation were grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone. If salvation were from grace AND works we couldn’t be assured. If salvation were from faith AND works we couldn’t be assured. But salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9).
Faith enables you to live with confidence. For example, when I get in my car this morning, I believe the brakes will work. I believe the tires are trustworthy. I believe the steering cable is strong and will not snap. I could doubt, but that doubt is useless worry that would consume energy that I would better spend on more constructive and fun things. Why think about everything that could go wrong? I have faith in my car and those who made it. Cars fail. They are not altogether trustworthy. But God never fails. He is worthy of our faith. Living in that faith means having confidence in Him and assurance that He will do what He says in scripture.
Calvin emphasized that we do not put confidence in our flesh, or in ourselves, or our abilities alone. Our confidence is in God alone. Indeed, we may fail and mess up big time. But God never fails. Faith is a beautiful
Thing when it is meshed with assurance. Faith combined with worry or uncertainty is a weak faith. On this side we are all weak. But our goal is not to wallow in our weakness, but to put our trust in God.
Someone said if you have a very thick piece of ice on the pond and you refuse to step out on it- then it is sad. But if you have a very thin piece of ice and you have great confidence in it that is sad too. My point is that we have a thick piece of ice in God. He is solid and will uphold us. It is such a joy when we find that we are putting our whole weight down on Him.
I remember once reading of a man who wanted to translate the word “faith” to a native tribe. They had no word for it. He noticed that they slept in hammocks, and when they were ready to rest, they would put their whole weight on the hammock. So he translated faith as “putting your whole weight down.” It is so true. Faith brings assurance and confidence in life.

Prayer: Lord, help me to invest myself fully in you. Help me to give up doubt and strengthen my faith. Amen.

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