Thursday, April 05, 2012
The Vision (4/5/12): Am I really a Christian? Answering Eight Doubts
Note: In his spiritual classic “Human Nature In Its Fourfold State,” the Scottish minister Thomas Boston (1676-1732) lists eight “cases” where a true Christian might have spiritual doubts about the authenticity of his faith. Below is a simplification and abridgement of Boston’s first two doubts (with more to come, Lord willing):
True Christians sometimes have serious doubts. Here are eight different kinds of doubts they sometimes have:
First Doubt: I doubt I am really born again, because I do not know the exact time of my conversion. Neither can I trace the steps that led me to becoming a Christian.
Answer: Though it is desirable to be able to describe the beginning of the Lord’s work in your life and the gradual growth you’ve enjoyed, this is not always necessary to prove that you truly are a Christian. We must remember that the work of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. In the Gospel of John, we read about Jesus healing a blind man. This man simply said, “One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). When we see a flame, we know there is a fire, even if we don’t know how it began. Even so, we can know we are Christians, even if we do not know how or when it all happened. Has there been a change in your soul? Does your mind have light? Do you want to obey God in everything for the sake of Jesus who died on the cross? If you answer “yes” to such questions, then you do not need to trouble yourself with this doubt.
Second Doubt: If I am really a Christian, a new creature in Christ, why do I continue to struggle with sin?
Answer: We certainly do not want to lay down pillows, so that hypocrites can rest easy with indulging their sin and making God’s grace a slave to their lusts. On the other hand, we need to remember that “the just man falleth seven times a day” (Proverbs 24:16). Sin may prevail at times even over the children of God. Are you groaning under the weight of sin and the corruption of your nature? Are you disgusted with yourself for the sins of your heart and life? Are you striving to put your lusts to death, fleeing daily to the blood of Christ for pardon and looking to his Spirit for sanctification? Though you might say with Psalm 65:3, “Iniquities prevail against me,” remember that this verse ends, “As for transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.”
The new creature in Christ is like a man who does not live in a house alone. An ill tempered neighbor lives in the same house with him. His name is “remaining corruption.” These two constantly struggle with each other for control: “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh” (Galatians 5:17). Sometimes old “corruption” prevails and makes the child of God a captive to the law of sin (Romans 7:23). Do not let his occasional victories make you conclude that you are not a child of God! Instead, let it humble you. Let it make you more watchful. Let it make you thirst even more intensely for Jesus Christ, His blood and Spirit. This attitude will become a principle of grace in you which seeks the destruction of the very sin that so often defeats you.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle