I haven’t experienced anything more heartbreaking than watching the collapse of a professing Christian’s faith (11). When faith gives way to unbelief, there’s no controlled explosion or neat collapse but rather just a slow, sometimes even imperceptible, dwindling until one day you look up and realize there’s simply nothing left. Everything has been consumed (12).
Greg Gilbert argues that the whole of Scripture is not one of doubt, but one of assurance. However, if that’s the case, then what is this dark, horrifying figure of doubt that glides through the experience of so many Christians, quieting the rejoicing and delight of assurance? Where does it come from? And why do so many Christians find it difficult to say with John, with Paul, and with the author of Hebrews, “I know. I am sure. I have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of my soul”?
Have you ever struggled with the assurance of your salvation? If so, this book is for you.
Greg Gilbert, pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, has written Assured: Discovering Grace, Let Go of Guilt, and Rest In Your Salvation, with the hope that as the reader considers doubt and assurance, they will understand more deeply the architecture of Christian assurance and that doubt will begin to lose some of its destructive power in their lives and maybe even drive them to cling more tightly to Christ as their only hope of salvation (16-17).
For many people, the question of assurance is on their minds because of their struggle with sin. For some, the issue is that we don’t see the growth in holiness that we’d like to see, even over time. For others, it’s that we don’t experience the victory we’d like to have over a particular sin (18). With all of that, how does one find assurance in their salvation?
Gilbert writes with the aim to ask and answer questions such as:
- What does the Bible teach is the right foundation of Christian assurance?
- What role do our good works play in our assurance?
- What lies do we tend to believe that undermine assurance?
- How do we go wrong in considering our good works?
- And, how do we strengthen assurance or even regain it if it’s been lost (19)?
In Gilbert’s introduction he lays out the roadmap for the following chapters. He states, “our goal in the next few chapters is to better understand the sources of our assurance-the gospel of Jesus Christ, the promises of God, the witness of the Spirit, and the fruits of obedience (24).”
Gilbert begins by outlining the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a driving source of assurance. He states, “Our confidence and assurance that we can enter God’s presence-that we can in fact stand before Him with no fear of being thrown out- are actually created by our recognizing that our access to him is based not at all on anything in us or about us but rather on Jesus Christ’s work for us (29).”
Through looking at Scripture, Gilbert states that “our confidence that we belong in the presence of God is not self-confidence; it’s Christ-confidence (30).” We must get our eyes off of ourselves, and rightly place them on Christ. If you think you can commit a sin so bad that your salvation would be lost, I want to know why you think you haven’t already committed it (34).” We cannot lose our salvation because we didn’t do anything to deserve it in the first place. If God saved us when we were enemies, why would He cast us away now, when we are a part of His family? Gilbert rightly takes the focus on ourselves and places them on the beauty and majesty of God’s grace.
The second driving source of assurance is found in the promises of God. God promises in His Word that He will save and keep those that are His. Gilbert rightly asks the question, “Why is God so determined to keep his promises, especially his promise to save and preserve all those who come to Christ by faith (58)?” He responds, “The first reason God is determined to keep his promises is rooted in his own divine character (59).”
Understanding the character of God is necessary to trust in the promises that He gives. When we understand God’s holiness, unchangeableness (immutability), righteousness, etc. we will be more equipped to trust Him at His Word. There’s a second reason that God is determined to keep His promises, though: his unbreakable devotion to His Son and His commitment to glorify and honor Him (59).
As Paul shows us in Philippians 2:9-11, God desired to exalt His Son. Therefore, as Gilbert states, “If God were to revoke his promises, He wouldn’t be revoking only his promise to you. He would be revoking his promises to His Son (60).” He ends by saying, “If you are a believer in Christ-united to Him by faith-then your salvation is not ultimately grounded in your waffling, wavering commitment to Him. It’s grounded in God’s eternal, unbreakable determination to honor His Son by saving you. That’s why not one of those the Father has given to Him will be lost (60).”
Gilbert ends his book by looking at the Spirit’s witness to our salvation, how our works assure or condemn us, sins that hurt us, and how we can strive for assurance.
Many years ago, I struggled with my assurance. I doubted whether or not I was a true believer in Jesus Christ. I questioned my salvation. By God’s grace, He patiently walked with me through those moments. Now, on the other side of that, this book helped remind me of the goodness of God in my life. This book was devotional for me and brought joy to my heart as I read its pages. Greg Gilbert consistently points to the gospel of Jesus Christ as the focus of our Christian lives. The gospel of Jesus is the anchor of our souls in the darkest of nights.
As Richard Sibbes once said, “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” This book exposed that fact. I am grateful for Greg Gilbert’s work and I highly recommend it for anyone struggling with this issue. Further, I would recommend this book to all pastors as they will no doubt have individuals under their care that struggle with this issue.
If you would like to purchase a copy of Greg Gilbert’s book, you can do so by clicking here.
Soli Deo Gloria,
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