Section 7: Salvation – Part 2
Week 3: Perseverance
Day 5: If We Want to Experience Assurance, Too Much Introspection Is a Bad Thing
We naturally want to be sure about our salvation. And, as we saw yesterday, God wants us to be sure about it as well. That’s why the Holy Spirit provides us with evidence of his work in our lives and then reminds of the biblical significance of that work, especially what it means concerning our adoption as God’s children and ultimate perseverance.
When I was in seminary, I met a friend for dinner. My friend wasn’t a believer, but we talked about the gospel that night. At one point, he asked me if you had to be 100% sure the gospel was true in order to have faith. He wanted to know because he said he believed but didn’t know if he was 100% sure. He had questions and a certain amount of doubt. Did that mean he couldn’t be a believer? I told him we aren’t 100% certain about anything in this life. The key question was whether he believed the gospel enough to take the step of giving his life to Christ. He said he was and he committed himself to Christ right then and there.
The next day, on my way to school, I was thinking about the conversation the night before. And the question occurred to me: Could I be sure I had enough faith? 100% certainty might not be required, but presumably there is a percentage below which you can’t drop. How could I be certain I was above that line? After all, I had questions too. There were even times when I wondered if it was possible that I had been deceived and this whole Christianity thing was a mistake. It was possible, wasn’t it? I had been wrong about things before. Did admitting in theory I could be mistaken mean I didn’t have enough confidence for my faith to count as true faith?
By the time I made it to school, I was in a panic. I didn’t want to go to hell. I didn’t even want to think about the possibility of going to hell. I was desperate to get rid of the uncertainty. What was I to do?
What I did was get ultra-introspective. I searched within myself for every sign of faith that I could find. Specifically, I was looking for certain feelings I associated with faith (e.g., confidence, love for Christ, etc.). The problem is, when you’re searching for signs of your own faith, you’re no longer focused on the thing that gave you faith in the first place.
Imagine you’re on the 30th floor of a building and you need to walk across a platform to a building on the other side of the street. When you get on the platform, you look it over. You notice it’s a little narrow, but it looks wide enough. You feel pretty confident you can get to the other side safely. When you get halfway across though, you look down. What happens? Poof! Your confidence vanishes and you start thinking about what is going to happen if you fall. Why is that? Well… you took your eyes off the platform.
Now suppose you’re looking down at the ground, and you want to regain your confidence so you can get moving again. Would it do any good to search within yourself for signs of confidence? No. You wouldn’t find any because you took your eyes off the thing that gave you confidence in the first place. If you want to feel confident, you need to focus on the platform again.
The same thing happens when we take our eyes off Christ. If we start looking inwardly for faith-like feelings, we can quickly get into trouble. If we look inwardly for too long, we’re not going to find a whole lot of confidence because we’re no longer focused on the thing (in this case, the person) that instilled us with confidence in the first place. As a result, the confidence we once felt will inevitably start to dissipate.
If we want to gain assurance, endless introspection isn’t the answer. We’re better off focusing on Christ and his work in our lives through the Holy Spirit.
Have you ever wondered if you have enough faith? How did that make you feel? What were you focused on at that time? Did it help?
Keep your focus on Christ and his work.