Q: I was born in a Christian family, my parents served God. I attended many meetings and answered many altar calls, confessed my sins many times, accepted Christ many times. I don’t no whether I’ve sincerely prayed and am convicted—still lacking the assurance of salvation. I face nagging doubts. It almost drives me off. I don’t really understand how to come out of it. I want complete freedom in Christ and the assurance of salvation and assurance of sins forgiven. —Paul
A: I’m sorry that you are struggling with feelings of unworthiness and lack of assurance of salvation. Jesus’ strongest words of criticism were reserved for Pharisees, who—unlike you—were unwilling to acknowledge their own sinfulness (Luke 11:39,46). One of their worst sins was self-righteousness (spiritual pride): “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth” (1 John 1:8).
In Romans 7:15, Paul told of terrific struggles he faced as he found himself doing the very things he hated. The more the Spirit sanctifies us, the more we will be aware of our sinfulness and our dependency on God’s grace. The “accuser of the brethren” sometimes uses even our growing awareness of sin to make us feel insecure (Revelation 12:10).
This is why one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to gauge the reality of our salvation on our feelings. So many different things affect our emotions that it’s misleading to base our security on them. Each of us grows up with emotional scars. Everyone feels anxious and tense at times because of events in their past. Others are afflicted with anxiety because of neurological disorders or imbalances in their body chemistry.
Since our salvation is based on the fact of Christ’s death on our behalf (Ephesians 2:4-5), the road to healing is not in directly seeking the right emotional experiences but in behaving in a manner that reflects basic trust in God. By changing our behavior in a consistent, long-term way, we will experience a spiritual healing that will extend even to our feelings and emotions. This, however, is a gradual process, and one that involves occasional setbacks.
Your salvation is based in the provision of our loving heavenly Father through Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8). Satan wants us to distrust God and agonize over our salvation (Remember the serpent’s strategy in the Garden?). The less we give in to Satan’s accusations and lies, the stronger our faith grows. Don’t be surprised or alarmed by times of spiritual depression and doubt. —Dan VanderLugt
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