Friday, August 25, 2017

Experiencing the Full Assurance of Hope

There is no way to exaggerate or overestimate what you could achieve by the grace of God if you were living in the full assurance of your hope in Christ. Continue reading . . .

There is no way to exaggerate or overestimate what you could achieve by the grace of God if you were living in the full assurance of your hope in Christ. There is no way to exaggerate or overestimate how deeply you could enjoy the blessings of being a child of God if you were living in the full assurance of your hope in Christ.

Let me turn that around and say the same thing in different terms. God wants you to know that you belong to him. His desire is for every one of his blood-bought children to be gripped and captivated by the certainty of the hope we have in Jesus. He wants you to rest in the full assurance of that hope so that you will live out of the overflow of his love for you. He wants you to rejoice in the assurance of that hope so that you can be both holy and happy in Christ.

Nothing cripples Christian zeal and joy quite like fear, anxiety, and uncertainty regarding your relationship to God. When you get up each day wondering whether or not God really loves you and is for you, it’s hard to find the passion and strength to resist temptation and to live wholeheartedly for Jesus. When your mind is filled with doubts about whether or not God even likes you . . . when your heart is riddled with fear that there might not even be a God who could like or love you . . . when you wonder if he’ll continue to put up with you . . . when you obsess over whether or not the promises you read about in Scripture are really yours and will actually come to fruition . . . the Christian life becomes very burdensome and unappealing.

But when your heart is filled to overflowing with the rock solid assurance that your hope will not disappoint and that your relationship with God is unshakably certain, there is no limit to the joy and satisfaction and spiritual success that you can experience.

That’s what the author of the letter to the Hebrews is saying to us in 6:9-12.

“Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6.9-12).

Now, that may sound strange to you who are familiar with what he said in Hebrews 6:4-8. There we read a very sobering assessment of a certain sort of people who have tasted and seen and learned much of Christianity but fall short of entering into the fullness of salvation. There the author of Hebrews spoke of men and women who eventually walk away from Jesus Christ and put themselves beyond the hope of repentance. The warning he issued to such people was serious and sobering.

But he doesn’t want that to undermine the assurance of salvation on the part of those truly know Christ. The aim of Hebrews 6:4-8 is not to cause those who are truly saved to be fearful that they aren’t. Its aim is to cause those who are not truly saved but think they are to repent. There are a lot of people who are truly and eternally saved who live in fear that they aren’t. And there are probably even more people who are not truly and eternally saved who live in the false belief that they are. Hebrews 6 is written to the latter group. So again, Hebrews 6:4-8 is not designed to undermine the confident hope and assurance of salvation in those who have truly been born again. It is rather designed to warn and sound an alarm to those who haven’t been born again but presumptuously think they have.

The author of Hebrews knows that the sort of language he used and the warning he issued about such people might create undue anxiety in the hearts of those he is confident really know Christ. So he says this in v. 9 – “Though we speak in this way [that is, in the way just stated in vv. 4-8], yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that belong to salvation.”

Clearly he believed that most to whom he is writing this letter were born again. “We feel sure,” he writes, “that you are truly saved.” As if to reinforce his confidence in them, he refers to them as “beloved,” the only place in the entire letter where this term appears. In other words, they are “beloved” not only by God but also by him.

That word “beloved” is important, so let me briefly pause to say something about it. Curt Flood, an excellent baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1960’s, like Jackie Robinson, was one of the first African-American men to play in the big leagues. He endured unbelievable racist venom. The names he was called are simply unrepeatable. At one point, Flood said: “I’m happy God made my skin black. I only wish he hadn’t made it so thin.”

Well, although it has nothing to do with race or ethnicity, Christians ought not to be thin-skinned. We, dear friend, are “beloved” of God: chosen by God before the foundation of the world, redeemed by the Son of God, reconciled to God, adopted into the family of God, and indwelt by the Spirit of God. There is absolutely no reason why we should feel threatened or vulnerable or insecure. No matter what anyone says to you, about you, or does in an attempt to destroy you, you are beloved of God! We should be the least self-defensive people in the world. Say what you will about me: God loves me! Criticize me if you wish: God loves me! I will not take offense at anything: God loves me!

In the next article we’ll look at the reason or ground of our author’s confidence.

To be continued . . .



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