Despite our professions of belief, our baptisms, and our membership in the church, many of us secretly wonder, Am I truly saved? We worry that our love for Jesus isn't fervent enough (or isn't as fervent as someone else's). We worry that our faith isn't strong enough. We struggle through the continuing presence of sin in our lives. All this steals the joy of our salvation and can lead us into a life characterized by legalism, perfectionism, and works righteousness--the very life Jesus freed us from at the cross!
But Greg Gilbert has a message for the anxious believer--be assured. Assured that your salvation experience was real. Assured that your sins--past, present, and future--are forgiven. Assured that everyone stumbles. Assured that Jesus is not your judge but your advocate. With deep compassion, Gilbert comforts readers, encouraging them to release their guilt, shame, and anxiety to rejoice in and follow hard after the One who set them free.
Most believers will struggle with assurance during their journey as a Christian. Whether that doubt is self-inflicted or forced on them by circumstances or others' opinions, it's important that we know how to combat that doubt with the words of Scripture. Gilbert subtitles this book "Discover grace, let go of guilt, and rest in your salvation", and his first three chapters deal with the three main sources of assurance. These three sources don't save us, but if we are trusting in the cross of Christ, then we will find confidence in our salvation or conviction of our sin (if we are not saved).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the first source: because of Jesus, we have assurance and confidence that we are permitted to stand before God's throne. Because of a works' based society and mindset, we tend to believe that we must prove our righteousness or make ourselves sinless for the moment that we enter God's presence. But not so..."our confidence that we belong in the presence of God is not self-confidence; it's Christ-confidence." Interestingly, Gilbert also notes that we must understand the complete bleakness and hopelessness of our own lives because of our sin. Knowing this leads us to realize that there is absolutely nothing we could do to even pretend to be righteous for a small amount of time and "earn" entrance to God. However, in Jesus, we have complete, unhindered, unlimited, access to the throne of God because He never failed. That is where our assurance and rest comes from. "...what the Bible actually teaches is that true assurance grows from an abject realization of our hopelessness. Why? Because that hopelessness drives us to Jesus, who is infinitely trustworthy and therefore a solid foundation for assurance."
The second driving source of assurance is the promises of Christ. Sometimes we tend to make salvation and belief something harder than what Jesus offers to us. We believe our faith isn't strong enough, or our doubt is too strong. But that ends up turning faith into something that we muster up on our own, something that we ultimately make and provide. That's not the faith God gives. His promises of assurance in His word span eternity past and future. We will never have faith that is good enough or worthy enough. We will never bring something to the table that is more than what God expects, and despite the fact that we're broken people, God promises rest to the unfailing, unfaithful, and hurting and holds His promises as sure and steadfast because of His perfect Son.
The third supernatural assurance of salvation is that of the Spirit's witness in us. I appreciate how Gilbert talks about this. Sometimes people can mention the Spirit and His work in us as something abstract or something we can't grasp. Or just something silly altogether. But Gilbert takes us to Scripture, showing us that during our silent whispers of fear and dread, the Spirit inside us flashes the "Abba! Father!" into our hearts taking hold and reminding us that He stands before God and claims us as a child of God. Gilbert mentions that the Spirit isn't something special given more to some than others at the time of salvation. It's something each Christian has at the moment of salvation, and you have it all. Every bit and completely whole. If you don't have His Spirit, you are not of the kingdom of God. I loved how Gilbert also mentioned the times when it seems like the Spirit is silent or gone, and in those times it should spur us to seek the promises of God in Scripture for purposeful gospel study. He also says that these three sources of assurance, are on an equal level. They work together to provide an unconditional foundation for the believer.
Gilbert uses the last half of this book to discuss the lies of assurance, fruits of obedience, good works (and how people misuse them), besetting sins, and the perseverance of the saints in seeking assurance. I found the chapters on obedience and good works most helpful because people tend to teach and believe that our good works demonstrate our salvation. They do, but not in the sense that they keep us saved (or save us in, the first place). Our good works flow from a grateful heart for salvation. He also talks about the passages in Scripture which lists many grievous sins and how those are meant to assure us that we are not continually walking in them which confirms our salvation. His explanation of 1 John and how to read that book with the eyes of a believer was very encouraging as well. It is not meant to make Christians doubt their salvation. It is meant to help us know that we are already saved--that was John's purpose in writing.
"Besides, the very mark of a Christian with regard to sin is that they will keep fighting, keep wrestling and striving, keep running the race set before them. And that's exactly what you're doing. Listen, your battle with sin will not last forever, and the Bible's promise is that you will outlast your sin. You will live to see it pulled from your heart by the roots and vanquished. It will take its last breath as you take your first in the bright air of eternity. Live and fight and trust Christ for that day." -Greg Gilbert, Assured, pg. 135
*I was given this book free from the publisher. All opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review.