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But I Don’t FEEL Saved . . .
Assurance of salvation is of utmost importance for the Christian. When a believer does not “feel” saved it can cause severe anxiety. Many of us have struggled deeply with this issue. At times it may be almost crippling, spending hours in God’s Word to find what it means to be assured in Christ. The “I never knew you” verse from Matthew 7 may rest heavily on our minds. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23
So, what do we do when we don’t “feel” saved?
Understanding The Realities
When we’re struggling with assurance, we’re struggling with our own hearts to know whether or not we are a Christian. Frequently, our underlying assumption may be that our assurance is directly connected to our feelings and emotions. In other words, our belief is “If I don’t feel saved, then I must not be saved.” A problem with approaching assurance in this manner is that it allows our emotions, which shift and sway daily, to govern what’s true. As people, we are far more fickle and frail than we’d like to believe. Our emotions and feelings can change on a dime. In light of this, why would we allow what we feel to shape what we believe about our status in Christ?
Ultimately our assurance lies in the promises of God in Christ, not in our particular feelings on a specific day.
Saint and Sinner
As a believer, our never-ending battle with sin is a big cause of a lack of assurance. How many times have we promised ourselves that “I will never sin in this way again,” only to fall once again the next day? Many of us fight this battle. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19) about his battle with sin. It can be so disheartening to one day we find delight in obedience, only to then find pleasure in sin the next. This experience can open up a flood of inner turmoil: “Am I genuine?” and “Would a real Christian struggle this much?”
Romans 7 tells us that as Christians we are simultaneously saint and sinner. As we pilgrims travel through the Christian life, we continually struggle with sin and failure. But in all of our battle with our flesh, Romans 8:1 brings us great gospel hope: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. “No article of faith is more difficult to believe than ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins,’” preached Martin Luther. But the good news of the gospel is that our status in Christ is not contingent upon our best days of obedience or worst days of failure, but rather upon the perfect work of Christ on our behalf.
Outward and Upward
There’s a great Latin phrase that brings comfort to a weary heart and soul: extra nos. It means, “outside ourselves” and serves to remind us where our salvation truly lies. Often, what can cause a great deal of personal anxiety in terms of assurance is constant introspection. Certainly, there are times to look within, but when we long to find security in ourselves, we will constantly come up short. Assurance of salvation will never be found in measuring our obedience, the amount of sins we have overcome, or how holy we think we are. God’s moral standard in His Law is far too high (i.e., perfect) for us to think we can find comfort in our works.
Our assurance lies extra nos; namely, that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone (Titus 3:4-7). When we long for the comfort of being assured that we are saved, looking at our good works (or lack thereof) is like a mirage in a desert—it always promises but never delivers. Instead, the focus of the Christian life is outward and upward. When our souls are troubled and begin to doubt, comfort lies outside of ourselves in the grace of God given in Christ (Psalm 42).
The great hymn writer Horatius Bonar gives us great words in the hymn Not What My Hands Have Done.
“Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers, and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.
Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin
Thy blood alone O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free!”
Some thoughts –
God made Adam and Eve the way He did, fully knowing that they would disobey His single requirement that they not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And yet “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
Ages before God “knit us in the womb”, He knew He would draw us to Himself as Christians, and He knew all of the successes and failures that we would experience in our lives. After all, God chose to make us the way He did. Our successes and failures are part of God’s plan for our lives, and, specifically, for our Christian walk. We don’t understand this now, but God assures us that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
We Christians are not adopted into God’s family as children because we attended church with our folks twice on Sunday and on Wednesday evenings, or because we went to a revival meeting with friends, or responded to our pastor’s invitation and said a prayer with him in front of the congregation, or because we’re a member of a local church, or because we routinely participate in some rites our church thinks are the duty of practicing Christians.
We are God’s children because God gave His Son, Jesus, to die as full payment for our sins, to absolve us of guilt, and to count us as righteous. He raised Jesus from the dead as a promise to us to be raised from the dead at the last day. And Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding on our behalf.
We are God’s children because God then drew us to Himself, and He will never let even one of us slip from His loving arms. All God asks of us is that we believe . . . that we have faith in His Son. And, as incomprehensible as this may sound, even the faith that we have is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8) and is given by God’s mercy (Romans 9:15-16), by God’s election, and not by any works of ours (Romans 9:11).
All of God and none of me!
Some verses to think about –
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:44
And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of those He has given Me, but raise them up at the last day. John 6:39
For it is My Father’s will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40
Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never drive away. John 6:37
For You granted Him authority over all people, so that He may give eternal life to all those You have given Him. John 17:2
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:16-18
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Believest thou this? John 11:25-26
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Romans 5:10
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:32
He that believes on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him. John 3:36