MEMBERS: Assurance (Transcript)

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Jimmy Buehler: Welcome to the members’ podcast. This is where we get to take the conversation to the next level and just want to give a shout out to our members to those who support us. We’re so grateful for you and your support during this time, particularly right now as we sit, we are in the middle of the shelter in place Coronavirus pandemic. The support that we’ve received during this time has just been really encouraging to us, so thank you for that.

Welcome to those of you that aren’t members. You get to kind of come into the lounge a little bit this time and experience what it’s like to be a member of Theocast. We have plenty to talk about in terms of assurance. JP, I think you had some things that you wanted to jump on. So, I’m going to pass the mic over to you.

Jon Moffitt: This is where you see Justin get a little more heavy.

Justin Perdue: This is the member’s podcasts, but I think this is going to be a little different than our typical members’ podcasts in that we’re just continuing the themes directly, and I’m going to try to control ourselves here.

So, Jon, at the end of the regular episode, you were talking some about how our good works.  Even the fruit of the Spirit can bolster our assurance. The thing that’s interesting to me, and I agree with that completely, and the confessions say that. That we can have our assurance bolstered by our good works and by the fruit in our lives. We agree with that, but what we want to consistently explode is the notion that we can derive any sense of peace before God from our obedience or our good works or our fruit. It is a guarantee that the Holy Spirit of God works in all of us who are trusting Christ like that. We are just to use this language and define it briefly.

In terms of our understanding of salvation, and we mean that in the way that we’re justified, sanctified, and glorified. We understand that there is one worker decisively, and that’s God. We participate even in our own growth and sanctification in as much as we participate in life by being alive.

The Spirit is at work in us. We’re promised that it’s a guarantee. The Holy Spirit, one of the things that he works in us to produce, I believe biblically, is peace before God. The love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Romans 5, right? He works in us to give us peace. That is not debatable. But in doing that, this is critical, in the Spirit working in us to give us peace, it’s not as though he has given us something within ourselves to draw our peace from. He is working in us. I hope that’s clear. A lot of times we think that the Spirit’s going to work in us in such a way. He’s going to produce stuff in us that we would then look to and find peace. No, the Spirit works in us to provide and give us peace before God by strengthening and confirming and sustaining our faith in Christ, teaching us more about his sufficiency and his adequacy in our place. It’s not that he transforms us and then says, hey, look to your own transformation for the ground of your peace.

It’s critical that we understand that distinction or we’re never going to be secure in any of our moments of clarity because we’re going to see that even my best works are tainted. They’re mixed, and nothing that I’m doing is perfect and God only etcetera, is perfection.

Jon Moffitt: When we lower the standard of the law, which if you look at the law given to us at Sinai and that from that moment forward, it is required perfection. Jesus says, if you fail in any point of law, you failed them all. Just because you may just told a little white lie, but you didn’t murder someone, you don’t understand. The law is not relative to a scale of the majority of humanity. The law is comparative to Christ, and at that moment, it’s the holiness of God.

When you think about your good works, do you believe that you offer them pure every time that you do them? Let me just phrase it this way. Is there a second of your life from the moment that you were regenerate, that you lived you could not be held guilty of some sin, and let’s just think about this. Loving God with all your heart, loving your neighbor. You cannot please God unless it is done by faith. You mean to tell me that you lived your entire life loving God, loving your neighbor, and in complete faith without fail every second from the moment of your regeneration, I can guarantee you haven’t because it’s impossible to do with the sinful nature.

Therefore, if you are going to find your peace in your performance, as Justin says, you will have little to no peace at all.

Jimmy Buehler: If your grounds of assurance as found in your performance and specifically your obedience to the Christian life, there’s two things that are going to happen. Both may happen, but most likely, it’s going to be one or the other.

One, you will come to a place where you realize that your obedience is not enough, and you will become an emotional train wreck because you will never find the assurance that you’re looking for.

Jon Moffitt: Are you speaking from experience there, Jimmy?

Jimmy Buehler: Just a little bit.

Number two, because I’ve been guilty of this as well. If you find the grounds of your assurance in your obedience, a lot of times, what happens is you become a self-righteous jerk where nobody measures up. Not even to God’s law, but nobody measures up to you. You become the standard by which you measure everybody else’s obedience, and you become –

Justin Perdue: – a horrible human being.

Jimmy Buehler: Oh, absolutely. What’s interesting is that people who seem to find their assurance within themselves often become some of the least tolerable people to be around because everything becomes a measuring stick. Everything in their life becomes a measuring stick that they kind of wave in front of other people. Just to be so mindful of that, that if you ground your assurance in yourself, you’re either going to become an emotional train wreck or you’re going to become that self-righteous jerk that nobody can stand.

Justin Perdue: It’s true.

Jon Moffitt: It’s right, and that does not understand the difference between law. That, which we must do and gospel, which has done for us. They mix them, and that’s where the pride comes.

Justin Perdue: Yeah. There are no imperatives. There’s no doing anything in the gospel, right? We talk about this all the time.

The law tells us to try new things. The gospel tells us that things have been done for us and receive it, believe it, trust it. An observation from me, and this is certainly true in the Lordship world, in the discipleship world, and even the radical world, the things that we were describing in the regular podcast. It’s crazy that simple faith, trust, and reliance upon Christ is almost viewed like it’s a presumption. Don’t be presumptuous. Do not presume upon God that just simply by faith and trust and reliance, all is well. Of course, nobody would ever say that. Right? But that’s the implication that you are presumptuous if you’re saying it’s just simple faith and trust in Christ. It’s as though we need to do all of this stuff in order to qualify ourselves. If we do enough, then we’ll be qualified to call ourselves Christians. And it’s absolute crazy town. It’s contra-gospel. People who imply such things are enemies of the cross of Christ.

You’re not sincere enough, or you’re not dedicated enough, or you don’t feel the right ways. It’s like, well, no, I don’t, but take a number and get in line because none of us do. We’re not justifying sin. We’re not trying to give sin a pass, but we’re just trying to talk honestly about what and who we are, and we’re all sin-sick wretches who are desperate for the work of Christ in our place. So why don’t we point one another to him and Herald the good news, that simple fate, trust, and reliance upon Christ is the gospel. From out of that, a number of things flow that there’s no debate about that part.

Jon Moffitt: I think that the person who emails us, calls us, you know, reaches out, and even you guys in our past. The question is, how do I know I’m elect? How do I know if I’m saved? How do I know that God truly has transformed me? And every time you ask them this question, you ask them a return. Well, why? Why do you think this?

The number one answer, which Jimmy has already pointed out, but I want to emphasize this; the number one answer is self-examination. They are looking at their emotion. They’re looking at their dedication. They’re looking at their discipline. They’re looking at their decision. They would never say this cause this sounds like Catholicism.

Did I save myself? No. Then why are you asking the question? Are you sure, as if God’s done his part? Now you do your part. Listen, there is no your apart. You either are saved, and you believe that, or you are not, and you reject that. Meaning is God loved the world that he sent his son, his son came and died. The Holy Spirit comes and regenerates you. Do you believe that to be true? Yes, I believe that. Do you trust in anything else other than Jesus Christ as your representative? No, I don’t trust anything else. Do you believe that it is by faith alone that God justifies, he makes, right? He declares, right? Yes. I believe that.

Then you are saved. That is what Jesus says. Those who believe that I am God and that I have come are my disciples. He does not say believe in me. He says believers and disciples are one.  There aren’t two different levels. My encouragement to the weary believer who is looking and examining their life, I want to encourage you to stop examining your life and examine the gospel, Paul to the Corinthians who are just debaucherous people. You name what they shouldn’t be doing, they’re doing it. Paul says he’s not coming to do anything except for that. He says I want to make nothing known among you except for Christ, and him crucified. Why? Because he wants to turn their eyes back onto what they should be doing, which is examining Christ, and it’s the exact opposite.

These people were actually not struggling with their assurance. They were presuming upon God and living in sin. I would say those who struggle with their assurance or those who are running headlong in the sin, it’s the same conclusion, which is Christ and him crucified. The glorious gospel is what brings us out of sin and what brings us into assurance.

Jimmy Buehler: Yeah. So a couple things that I want to mention. When people ask, well, how do, how do you know that you’re saved? Well, because Easter Sunday is a thing that Jesus Rose from the dead. That was the day that I was saved was Easter Sunday over 2000 years ago. The other thing to say, let us not forget that even the faith that we have, however frail, guess what it is? It is a gift of God. I think so quickly in the evangelical world, the thing that leaves is that we will talk about all sorts of good things and say, our faith is a gift. Our faith is a gift. But the minute we bring assurance into the conversation, we begin to ask people, how’s your faith?

How’s your faith? Well, wait a minute. Faith itself is a gift that God has by the Holy Spirit pulled me from the deepest parts of the ocean, breathe life into me, and given me faith. Why. It’s, it’s never, never, never, never, never times in infinity, about the quality of my faith. It is always, always, always times infinity about the object of my faith, which is Christ, and Christ alone.

Jon Moffitt: Yeah. Jimmy, just to that, and we’ve answered this question a thousand times, how much faith is enough to have assurance.

Jimmy Buehler: Any.

Justin Perdue: Yeah, that’s right. Any faith.

Jon Moffitt: No matter how weak it is.

Justin Perdue: Right.

Everybody’s experience and strength of our own faith can ebb and flow by the moment. I mean, at one moment, I feel like my faith is quote-unquote strong. The next moment I feel like my faith is faltering. That has been the experience of all of the redeemed from all time.

That’s why we say any faith. When Jesus is giving an illustration about the kind of faith that will move mountains, he doesn’t talk about a large amount. He talks about a very small amount. I think we oftentimes miss the point of what he’s saying there, but that’s maybe something to say at another time.

I’m going to go ahead and do the member’s podcast thing and say something punchy if you guys are okay.

Jon Moffitt: Uh, oh.

Justin Perdue: This is another observation. I think that many evangelicals become Roman Catholic in the way that they think about the Christian life. What I mean is this. The council of Trent, which took place in the middle part of the fifteen hundreds, was an ecumenical council of the Roman church in response to the Protestant reformation. In session 6, I believe it’s Canon 23-24 this would’ve been in like the 15:46-47 somewhere in that range.

They will talk on justification, and they obviously say that our understanding of justification is by faith and everything else. That anybody who believes that should be cursed. But they will say that good works in obedience. They say that good works, preserve, and increase the justice that’s been credited to us.

Now, no evangelical will say that our good works increase our justification, but I think there are tons of evangelicals that implicitly, if not explicitly, understand that our good works keep us justified. Yes, we’re justified by faith, but we keep doing good works, and we obey so that we remain in good standing.

And that is not the gospel. That is not Protestant. That’s Catholic theology. And I think that’s a big deal and I think that that’s just rampant, all over the place. No, you cannot reverse engineer this thing. You cannot reverse engineer the relationship and flip it on its head, or you kill everything.

You can’t say, keep doing good work so that you keep yourself saved. Negative. You trust Christ alone, and then you will do good works. But that is supernatural produced by the Spirit of God, and those works are not meritorious.

Jimmy Buehler: Yeah. So let’s just play a little game, shall we?

To the person, you could ask them the question how do you know that you’re saved?

Well, you know, I trust Christ and you I feel like my life kind of reflects that.

Okay, well let’s, let’s talk about that. So how does your life reflect that?

Well, you know, I read scripture, and I pray.

How much scripture do you read?

Well, I read a little bit every day.

How do you know that’s enough?

Well, you know, I feel like compared to other things,

How do you know that you pray enough?

Well, I feel like…

…and you could just go on and on, and you begin to unravel or peel back all of the layers of their own obedience. Eventually, what you’re going to find is, what are you trusting in? What you’re trusting in and how much faith you have. What we are trying to say is, how do you know that you’re saved?

Well, full stop. The answer is because God promises us in the gospel of Jesus Christ, period. End of story.

Justin Perdue: That’s it.

Jon Moffitt: He made me a promise, and I trust that promise. He promised me.

Jimmy Buehler: That’s right. That is all we are trying to say.

Justin Perdue: And he always keeps his promises.

Jon Moffitt: Yeah.

Jimmy Buehler: And to Justin’s point, the minute that you want to mingle, the smallest shred or ounce of something that you do with what Christ has done, welcome to Catholicism. It’s good to see you, right?

Justin Perdue: Right. As soon as you’re cooperating.

Jon Moffitt: Yeah. There’s a quote by a Calvin that I recently came across, and it has the word contribute in it, and it says this, “all the sorrows we endure contribute to our salvation and final good.” This is a commentary on Romans 5. We were just talking about what we do to contribute?

Do you know what sorrows and trials and suffering is? It is the sin of our life coming to the surface or sin around us in our lives coming to the surface. What sorrows, suffering, and trials expose is how horrible we are at saving ourselves. We’re horrible at it. We can’t do it, and what it does, what did you contribute to your salvation? Sin. That’s the only thing you have ever contributed, and sorrows and suffering is the proof of that. It is so dangerous to think that a level of obedience would ever bring assurance. Let’s just put it this way. Let’s examine some of the most famous Christians in the New Testament.

Mr. Peter, who promised that he would die for Jesus. And then what does he do to a little girl? That little 10-year-old girl, he buckles and completely denies Christ. People will say, well John. He didn’t have the Holy Spirit then. Okay, well, then he has the Holy Spirit, and he buckles again, and Paul has to come in and rebuke him for denying the gospel.

The point of it is, we as sinful creatures, have a tendency to rely on the flesh. I will tell you if you’re relying on your good work, so you were going to end up relying on your flesh because it doesn’t require the Holy Spirit to read your Bible or to love your neighbor. You don’t need Jesus to come out that I know.

I know good Mormons who read the Bible and love their neighbor, but you absolutely need Jesus if you want God to accept you because nothing you ever do will be enough to be accepted. Therefore, that’s why we live sola fide faith alone.

Jimmy Buehler:  Yeah. I know plenty of Muslims who live a far more quote-unquote spiritual life than many of the Christians.

Justin Perdue: Absolutely. Or a much more morally upright life.

Jimmy Buehler: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, that’s right.

Justin Perdue: We could do an entire podcast, or a number of them, on all the things that are preached and promoted in the church that you don’t need Jesus for. I mean, Michael Horton wrote an entire book called crisis Christianity on that very subject where you know so much of what we do in the American church, the Western church, you need Christ for none of it. What you need Christ for uniquely is to atone for your sin, to satisfy the wrath of God, and to provide you with righteousness. And Jesus has done that work perfectly. That’s the message to the sinner out there, to the person who is in touch with his or her own corruption and feels and struggles with that. Who wrestles with this reality of being promised that you’re God’s child, but feeling like his enemy. The message is center Jesus Christ, and his work and your place are sufficient. To satisfy for your sin and to provide you with all the righteousness that you will ever need.

It is counted to you completely by faith, and so you are in Christ. You are absolutely safe. God, John, to your point just a moment ago, God has made promises to us, and he is faithful to keep every one of them. That’s ultimately our confidence.

My favorite benediction text whenever I get to do it at church. A lot of times, one of our other elders will do this. First, in Thessalonians 5:23-24, I’m just going to read those really quickly, and this is probably a parting shot from me. Paul writes this, “now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely.” So there we have sanctification, and “may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What a lofty thing. And then he says this, “He who calls you is faithful.” He will surely do it. We are resting in not our faithfulness, but God’s faithfulness. And we trust the fact that God has called us, that our faith is a gift from him, and that Christ is enough and that God will ultimately bring us home to heaven. We’re not looking anywhere internal. We’re looking outside of ourselves to God in Christ.

Jon Moffitt: Yeah. And as we leave, I want everyone to hear clearly that each one of these pastors practice church discipline, and we think that sin is damaging to the rest of a believer. Sin actually steals from our assurance.

We do not think someone could profess Christ and go live in sin. That goes against Galatians 6 those who are trapped in sin go to such a want to restore them. We are not justifying sin, so please don’t hear us that we are the easy believe-ism guys or the antinomianism guys. What we’re saying is, yes, as Justin just said, God is the one who sanctifies us, but you cannot place your assurance. Which those who find rest, I believe, are the ones who truly see growth.

Those who are pursuing assurance through means of discipline never rest. I think they actually stay in sin longer because Paul says you cannot overcome sin with the flesh. It cannot be done. It has to be done through the Spirit. So please hear us say, and I would even go back and find one of our older podcasts, which is a good works is not a dirty word. It’s not bad at all. So as we close this down, please hear us. We are not saying to live in sin is okay, but we’re talking to the one who struggles with their sin, that rest is found in Christ, not in you faithfully being faithful to God.

Justin Perdue: And we believe that the transformation of life is real. The great irony at a human level for us is that when we take our eyes off of ourselves and we take our eyes and our focus off of our own transformation, and rest in Christ and trust him completely and concern ourselves with loving our neighbor. That’s when the most substantial real transformation actually happens.

It seems counterintuitive, but it’s how the Lord works.

Jimmy Buehler: Yeah. Well, as I said, we could keep talking about this all day. Let me just say something to the listener as we do bring this to a close. If you are beginning this process of kind of just rethinking the Christian life and seeking to develop a posture of rest, you need to know something.

That one is going to take time. A fair amount of deconstruction is probably going to need to take place in your head and your heart. You have been quote-unquote catechized or trained to believe that assurance is found in what you do. I know I can speak for all of us to say that it’s probably going to take a long time, but let me just encourage you that the outcome is good and to keep pursuing and just know that we as guys around the mics, we are still continually reforming our own thoughts and our own minds and our own hearts. That as we seek to rest in Christ, we are looking outside of ourselves.

So again, thank you to our members for your support and your love and encouragement to us. Without you, it would be impossible to do what we do.

For those of you that are not members, we encourage you to be one, and you can find more information about that at theocast.org. We hope this conversation is helpful and beneficial to you. You can subscribe to our podcasts wherever you get them and ask that you would share it with those who you think could benefit from this message.

Thank you for listening. We hope to see you again soon.

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