What would you say if someone asked you in a very matter-of-fact way, “Have you been saved?” Would you quickly say “yes” in order to avoid an embarrassing situation? And if you did, would there still be some nagging doubts as to the truth of your answer?
We often sing “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine,” and if we have experienced that blessed assurance, then we ought to be filled to overflowing with hope, joy, peace, and encouragement. Do you know for certain that you are in the right relationship with Christ? Indeed, is it possible to have a personal assurance of salvation? Is it possible to work through your doubts and emerge at the point of faith?
The answer, I believe, is yes! It is possible to receive the promise of Christ’s presence at this very moment. You are not alone: you have a wealth of resources in Christ! Yet we all want and need some sense of spiritual assurance.
But… there are some things that we must recognize about this assurance. It’s not the same for everyone. Rev. Billy Graham claimed that he could point back to a definite time in his life when he experienced conversion. But his wife, Ruth, said that she grew gradually into the faith and can point to no definite starting point.
Her experience is similar to the testimony Count von Zinzendorf gave to John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. When Wesley asked him if he knew when he was saved, he replied, “I have always been saved!” Zinzendorf meant that he was saved nearly 2,000 years ago, on a hill called Golgotha, outside the city of Jerusalem. And this is the main point of the biblical witness: Our salvation was accomplished nearly 2,000 years ago in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The meaning that this past event has for us today, our response to that event, and our willingness to believe, is crucial for us. It doesn’t matter so much when we come to believe as it does that we believe.
This inner witness of the Spirit is more to be experienced than to be explained. It’s what John Wesley recorded in his journal regarding his own sense of salvation when he said, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
I have contemplated Wesley’s words many times, and here in its simplest form, is what I believe he’s saying: It is an inner conviction that goes beyond emotions or feelings, and yet it is often described as such. Theologian Paul Tillich described it as being “struck by grace.”
But how does one come to the realization of something like this? Last Sunday I began my new summer sermon series, Hymns My Mama Taught Me, and this Sunday we focus our attention on the great hymn of the church titled, “Blessed Assurance.” We will consider the story in St. John’s Gospel chapter three where a man named Nicodemus came to Jesus with some similar questions about inner assurance of faith.
It’s going to be an exciting summer together and I look forward to seeing you in worship this week!
Rev. Dr. Kip Laxson
P.S. I’m thrilled to inform you that you can now watch Traditions sermons on demand. If you’re traveling this summer, have friends and family who might enjoy the hymns and lessons that lie therein, you can watch—and sing along with me—every Monday.