“let us draw near with a true heart and full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.” Hebrew 10:22 HCSB
One of the things Christians often struggle with is the concept of assurance, specifically the assurance of salvation. Jesus spoke warnings against those who did works in his name but did not know him in their hearts. (Matthew 7:23 ESV) So it is a valid question to ask, and scripture also instructs us to examine ourselves as to the genuineness of our faith.
Some people struggle with assurance because they view faith as if it were temperature on a thermometer. The more faith they feel, the more assurance they have in their minds. But assurance is not necessarily about the “level” of our faith. One’s faith cannot be measured as if we were pouring water into a rain gauge and watching it rise in volume one inch at a time. There is no universal standard to measure the depth or strength of a person’s faith. People of different ages, backgrounds, and life stages have different levels of faith. And there will be times when our faith feels weaker or stronger, depending on the joys and trials of life. So when our faith “feels” weaker, it does not mean that we have less assurance of salvation.
Others struggle with assurance in the “evidence” of their faith. Questions in this regard usually sound like, “Am I doing enough for God? Is there something else God wants me to be doing? Am I serving as faithfully as I can?” When we struggle in this regard, it is easy for Satan to distract us by comparing ourselves to others. There will always be people out there who are doing more, serving more, praying more, etc. So if we are not careful, when we look around us it is easy to slip into an inferior mindset, which chips away at our assurance.
Some people struggle with assurance because they have genuine doubts. These doubts may be intellectual, or more emotional. Some people doubt that “God would save someone like me” if they have committed what they consider to be very bad sins, or they have hurt others in ways that have caused irreparable harm. I have known people who have struggled in this way, and specific, previous sins can be a nagging doubt that lays low for a while, then all of the sudden it is triggered and returns to the surface of someone’s mind and wreaks havoc.
Thankfully, assurance of salvation for the Christian is not about what we do, or how we feel at a certain time, but it is based on what Christ has done for us, and the promise of his work in us. The book of Hebrews makes this clear in chapter ten. Christ is better than all the Old Testament priests, because their sacrifices had to be repeated year after year. Christ gave himself as a sacrifice “once for all time” and “once for all sins”:
“But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. He is now waiting until his enemies are made his footstool. For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”
Hebrews 10:12-14 HCSB
God does give us other indications of assurance such as the ones listed above: our perceived level of faith, the fruit of our good works, and the peace of the Holy Spirit as doubts are resolved in our minds and hearts. But the foundation of our assurance is what Jesus has already done on our behalf! So when the Scriptures instruct us to “take heart”, we are not being instructed to take up some new level of courage or bravery that is foreign to us. We are being reminded and exhorted to base our feelings, attitudes, and actions on what Jesus has already accomplished, and on the fact that he has promised to take care of us until the very end.
“My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life,
and they will never perish–ever! No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Jesus’ words in John 10:27-28 HCSB
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” 1 John 5:11-14 ESV