“Assurance and Humility” by A. A. Hodge

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A.A. Hodge,

I think the first essential mark of the difference between true and false assurance is to be found in the fact that the true works humility. There is nothing in the world that works such satanic, profound, God-defiant pride as false assurance; nothing works such utter humility, or brings to such utter self-emptiness, as the child-like spirit of true assurance. Surely this can be known. If a person is self-confident, there is self-assurance; if there is any evidence of pride in connection with his claim, it is a most deadly mark- it is the plague-spot which marks death and corruption. But if there is utter humility, you have the sign of the true spirit.

This will manifest itself in connection with another mark. If one is really united to Christ in a union so established that Christ is indeed in possession of the soul, the whole consciousness will be taken up with what I would call Christ-consciousness, and there will be no self-consciousness. Little children are very prompt to show their character. There is a great difference in them. Bring a child into a room. She comes thinking about nothing in particular, looking at her mother, then looking at the guests or anything that objectively strikes her, not thinking of herself. That is pure, sweet, and lovely. She grows older, and she comes to think of herself and what people think of her, and her manner has lost its unconsciousness. A great deal of what you call bashfulness is rottenness at the heart; it is self-consciousness. Nothing in the world so tends to defile the imagination, to pervert the affections, and to corrupt the morals, as self-consciousness. You know it is connected with every diseased and morbid action of the body.

A young woman told me that she wanted the witness of the Spirit, and she talked about it everlastingly; she wanted to tell her own experience and feelings always. I told her she must forget herself, not think of her own feelings. The man who is talking about his love unceasingly has no love; the man who is talking about his faith unceasingly has no faith: the two things cannot go together. When you love, what are you thinking about? Are you not thinking about the object of your love? And when you believe, what are you thinking about? Why, the object that you believe. Suppose you ask yourself, ‘Am I believing?’ Why, of course you are not believing when you are thinking of believing. No human being believes except when he thinks about Christ. Am I loving? Of course I am not loving when I am thinking about loving. No human being loves except when he is thinking about Christ as the object of his love.

In Virginia I once saw one human being in whom there was the perfect work of grace, as far as I could see as her pastor…Even on earth she was one of those who had made their garments white in the blood of the Lamb, and she seemed always to walk upon the verge of heaven. I never heard her speak of any one particular of her character or of her own graces. I have come out of the pulpit when the congregation had gone, and have found her upon her knees in her pew, absolutely unconscious of all external objects, so far was she absorbed in worship. When I roused her from her trance, she cried instantly, ‘Is He not holy? Is He not glorious? Is He not beautiful? is He not infinite?’ She did not speak of her own love or of her feelings.

A great deal of Perfectionism is rotten to the core. All self-consciousness is of the very essence and nature of sin. Then, again, true confidence leads necessarily to strong desires for more knowledge and more holiness, for unceasing advances of grace.

I was told once, in a congregation where I preached, that I need not tell a certain young man anything about religion; he had finished it – that is, that, having finished it, he found nothing else to do. That is what the word ‘perfect’ means. Now, when a man has finished eternal life, when he has finished learning all the revelation of God, when he has experienced all the infinite benefits of Christ’s redemption, when he has finished all the mysterious work of the Holy Ghost in his heart, he ought to be annihilated. There is no place in heaven or on earth for such a man.

But a man who really has the love of God in his heart is always reaching forward to the things which are before. The more he loves, the more he wants to love; the more he is consecrated, the more consecration he longs for. He has grand ideas and grand aims, but they lie beyond him in heaven.

A.A. Hodge (1823-1886) was an American Reformed Presbyterian theologian who, like his father the eminent Charles Hodge, both served as a professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey as well as serving as its principal between 1878 and 1886.

(Article credit: Grace Online Library)

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“After I lead people to Christ, should I offer them immediate assurance?” – John MacArthur

“After I lead people to Christ, should I offer them immediate assurance?”

John MacArthur

It isn’t your task as an evangelist to give immediate assurance to people you lead to Christ. The Holy Spirit will do that work: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).

There are, however, many promises in Scripture you can share that the Holy Spirit will use to help your newly converted friends gain assurance of their eternal destiny (e.g. John 3:16; 1 John 5:1). Those promises of the gospel offer what is called “objective assurance” to genuine believers. Even a brand-new believer can look to such promises and find a measure of assurance–the thief on the cross gained it when the Lord promised Him a place in paradise.

There are other passages in Scripture that speak of subjective assurance. For example, 1 John 2:3 says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” That assurance will grow and deepen as person walks consistently with the Lord. Should a Christian persist in sin for a time, he will forfeit that aspect of assurance for as long as he grieves the Holy Spirit.

Both the objective and subjective means of assurance are spoken of in Romans 15:4: “Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance [subjective] and the encouragement of the Scriptures [objective] we might have hope.” That process is part of the Christian’s lifelong spiritual growth.

There’s really nothing to gain by giving new converts immediate assurance of salvation. They will realize true assurance through the promises in Scripture and by sensing the Spirit’s work–the Holy Spirit will bear witness with their spirit that they are children of God. No formulas can bring about such assurance.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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John MacArthur: On Trusting In God’s Grace…NOT Your Ability To Perform

“Conquering Doubt”

by John MacArthur

‘Take the helmet of salvation’ (Eph. 6:17)

The key to conquering doubt is to focus on the preserving power of God.

Doubt comes to Christians in many ways. After you have sinned, your conscience might hiss at you, saying, “Surely you are not a Christian….How presumptuous to think God could ever use you!” Such doubts are common among Christians who focus on their performance rather than on God’s power…..they lose sight of grace and drift into a subtle works-righteousness mentality.

Your performance doesn’t determine your standing in Christ; your standing in Christ determines your performance. Good works are the necessary result of salvation (Eph. 2:10), but they don’t save you or keep you saved. That’s God’s work…..He will continue to protect and cleanse you until the day you enter His glorious heaven perfected.

Sin is a serious issue, and you should never take it lightly. But when you do sin, remember that as a believer you’re immediately cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7). Always confess your sins and turn from them, but never doubt God’s power or willingness to keep you saved. Trust in His grace, not in your ability to perform. (excerpted from the September 21 devotion from, Drawing Near)

(John MacArthur, Drawing Near [Wheaton Ill.: Crossway Books, 1993], excerpted from devotion for September 21)

“Repelling Discouragement And Doubt” by John MacArthur

“Take the helmet of salvation” (Eph. 6:17)

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“To protect us from Satan’s crushing blows, Paul tell us to “take the  helmet of salvation.” Considering all he’s been telling us so far, he was not saying, “Oh, by the way, go get saved.” Paul was addressing believers. Unbelievers don’t have to put on spiritual armor. They aren’t even in the battle. Satan doesn’t attack his own forces…..Paul was encouraging believers to have confidence in the salvation they already possess. He knew that doubting their security in Christ would render them ineffective in spiritual warfare, just as a blow to the head renders one’s physical body incapable of defending itself.

As a believer you should have the assurance that you are secure in Christ. If you don’t you haven’t put your helmet on, and that makes you vulnerable to discouragement and doubt. Romans 8:29-30 assures that all whom God justifies, He sanctifies, and glorifies. No one is lost in the process.

So don’t let your enemy rob you of the joy and assurance of knowing you belong to Christ, for the Lord will never let you go. (Heb. 13:5) – John MacArthur (excerpted from the September 20 devotion in Drawing Near)

(John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith, [Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1993], excerpt from September, 20 devotion)