Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Vision (5/10/12): Am I really a Christian? (Continued)

Am I really a Christian?  Answering Eight Doubts (Continued)

Simplified and Abridged from Thomas Boston

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.  Here is the seventh of the eight doubts:

Seventh Doubt:  I have never read in the Bible or known about a true child of God who was as tempted or as without God as I am.  Since I do not know of any Christian who has ever been in my condition, I can only conclude that I must not be a believer.

Answer:  This doubt comes from ignorance both of the Bible and of the actual experience of Christians.  Those who have this doubt should try speaking with a mature Christian friend or a godly minister.  Doing this has brought peace to some when they realize that their case is not exceptional and that many Christians have had the same struggle.

The Bible provides many examples of Christians suffering with horrible temptations.  The devil tempted Job to blaspheme (Job 1:11; 2:9).  Asaph was tempted to think religion was vain and to throw it off (Psalm 73:13).  Christ himself was tempted to “cast himself down from a pinnacle of the temple” and “to worship the devil” (Matt 4:6-9).  Many Christians have not only been attacked with temptations, but they have even been overcome by them and fallen into gross sin for a time.  Peter denied Christ, and cursed and swore that he did not know him (Mark 14:71).  Some Christians were compelled to blaspheme under persecution by Paul, before he was converted (Acts 26:10-11).

Many Christians can bear witness to their own sad personal experiences in this area.  They have suffered very great temptations which have astonished their spirits, made their bodies tremble, and made them sick to their stomachs.  Satan’s fiery darts can cause great damage.  It takes great diligence to extinguish them or to block them with the shield of faith (Eph 6:16).    Sometimes Satan throws so many fire-balls at our house that all we can do is constantly run back and forth to extinguish them.  We must remember, however, that it is not a sin merely to be tempted.  It is sin only when we consent to the temptation.  If one is tempted to sin but does not consent to the temptation, he can no more be accused of that sin than a chaste man can be charged with fathering a child out of wedlock.

Suppose you go to a mature Christian friend or minister and share your problem, but they say they have never known anyone exactly in your condition.    You still should not think that your case is exceptional.  You certainly should not give up hope!    Even a mature Christian or godly minister cannot know every difficulty a child of God might face.  Some have had struggles known only to God and their own consciences.  Though Scripture provides directions for every condition a believer might be in, it does not exhaustively list every struggle a Christian might face.  Though you cannot find your specific case in the Bible, bring your case to the Bible, and you will find a remedy.  Do not worry with trying to find out if anyone has ever been in your condition.  Strive instead to apply Christ to your condition.  Christ has a remedy for all diseases.  Even if you found a true Christian who was tempted in the same way you are what would that prove?  Your situations would not be exactly the same in every way.  Consider the human face.  In some ways, every human face is the same.  Each has the same features.  At the same time, every face is also different and can be distinguished from all others.

Conclusion:  If you see the marks of Biblical regeneration in your life, you should conclude that you are in the state of grace.  This is true even if you are struggling with temptations that are unique to you (which is not very likely).                       

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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