Assurance of your salvation -and- eternal security. These are related issues but also different ones. A person can be a genuine believer but lack assurance of it for various reasons. The primary concern is: am I really a Christian? While eternal security concerns the permanence of salvation. Can salvation be lost? The primary concern is: Did I lose what I had?
I don’t want to delve deeply into these topics for this post, but rather share some general thoughts about approach. Maybe, at least in some cases, we are asking the wrong questions or approaching this from the wrong angle.
At some point, we have probably had concern about the genuineness of the salvation of a loved one. We wonder if they are really a Christian. We are concerned for them. Perhaps we sense little (or no) spiritual vitality, or their behavior is not what it should be for a Christian. We put our main focus on trying to figure out if they had a genuine conversion. Are they really saved?
But isn’t that above our pay grade?
We can’t know that; only God can know that.
Appearances can also be deceiving. There may be little evidence that we can see, yet someone may be internally going through a time of spiritual enlightenment that hasn’t become apparent yet. God works in his time, and much can go on in private as God works in a life. The opposite is true as well – someone may have the outward appearance of being a Christian but actually be spiritually dead. But again, we can’t know these things. My point is this:
Rather than being focused on whether someone is a Christian or not, simply encourage them spiritually. No matter where we are on our spiritual journey – we need spiritual encouragement! And the gospel is for everyone. It is not just a message for unbelievers. We all need Jesus everyday. Point people to Jesus, and let Jesus take care of the rest. Don’t worry so much about what you can’t know about the internal state of another person.
To consider concerns we may have about our self. In a book I recently read, the author said that when he was a campus pastor, the question he most often heard was “Can I lose my salvation?” -rather than- “How can I grow as a Christian?” I thought that was a fascinating (and revealing) observation. As I said at the beginning of this post, we may be asking the wrong question or focused on the wrong thing.
If you feel your present or past behavior is not pleasing to God, it seems the ideal question would definitely be “How can I grow as a Christian?”. Seek Jesus, and how you can mature in your faith. When we seek Jesus first, and seek to obey him, other things should eventually fall into place. Walking in fellowship with God should bring us assurance of our faith. That is a theme of First John.
It is normal to have ups and downs in our spiritual life. We are human after all, and still living on the present earth, awaiting the return of Jesus. There wouldn’t be Bible verses about revival and restoration if we were always on a spiritual high. Right? At times we may feel closer to God, and other times more distant. The Psalms are a testament to this. But God is still there! He holds believers in his hand (John 10:28).
I definitely do not want this post to come across as though I am over-simplifying an issue. Neither am I making light of someone who lacks assurance of their salvation. But perhaps, for some, you may just need to look at this from a different angle and that can bring resolution or help you move forward.