The place of assurance

A few thoughts from Philippians 3.1-4.1 that have helped me refocus again.

A key question that all people must answer concerns how we may be made acceptable before God. The glorious answer God gives us is that we cannot accomplish this. But then, we don’t have to. God has accomplished it for us in Christ. Following on, a common plague that has clung to the people of God through the years deals with the assurance we have in regards to this question. Why is it that we sometimes wonder if we are acceptable before God, or perhaps question our salvation? Surely we often need our faith increased and God’s Spirit to bring this assurance to us, but often the questions arise from misplaced faith or seeking assurance from the wrong things. The short answer is to believe the promises of God, but what does that mean? Paul begins this passage by stating that true believers ‘put no confidence in the flesh’ (vs 3). The moment we put our confidence or seek our assurance in the flesh (in our determination, our decision, our will, or our performance) trouble is headed our way. Paul had the most reasons to put confidence in the flesh (vss 4-6), but he considered those things refuse/rubbish. Our faltering faith and assurance can spring from our lofty estimations of our works and ourselves. I don’t often think of my achievements as bin-worthy, but I should. The alternative, and the only place of true and unshakable assurance, is found in the righteousness that is from God by faith, the righteousness of Jesus Christ (vss 8-11). His work and righteousness are full and complete, such that, if I am faltering in my assurance the first question I should ask myself is ‘What part of Christ’s work is lacking or inadequate?’ Of course, no part is. It is perfect. If you are in Christ we have nothing to fear. There are no questions. Our assurance is neither in our works, our determination, promises, our decisions, or ourselves nor in our faith or the strength of it; our assurance is in Christ and his work, the object of our faith. And it is when our hope and assurance are in the perfect Son of God and his great redeeming work that we will then be able to ‘stand firm’ (4.1). To seek our assurance from our standing firm is to put the cart before the horse. We have tragic illustrations of this throughout the history of the church where churches or denominations abandon the gospel to focus on works and become places of social work and help, but not places of salvation. Let’s not forget the key question we started with!

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