#236, THE TRUE NATURE OF ASSURANCE, #17
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of Gods elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began, TIT 1:1-2.
Take notice how Paul identifies and defines true saving faith. As the chapter proceeds, Paul points out the need of ordaining elders; he tells Titus the qualifications for these elders. Then Paul goes on to show the distinction between the faith of Gods elect and of those who subvert the truth. Verses 10-14 say, "For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision. Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucres sake. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth."
Paul is saying there are many who have not the faith, especially those who make the biggest profession of their faith. They teach things they should not for the sake of gain. Paul is pinpointing Gods elect as those who acknowledge the truth that is based on godliness. Notice that faith is not to be separated from truth and godliness.
The point we want to study now is the assurance of faith. When we speak of assurance, lets begin with asking, assurance of what? Is it that the Scriptures are the inspired and infallible Word of God? That is not our topic of concern here. Is it that you believe in the doctrines of grace, that you are being taught the truth? Is that what you want assurance of? No, we are not speaking of that kind of assurance.
These are not the points at issue when speaking of the assurance of faith. We are speaking about the assurance that you have been born again. When you are concerned about saving faith, you want the assurance that you have the new birth, the work of regeneration of the Holy Spirit in your heart. How do you know this? That becomes the question. Do you know because you have had a certain experience? Is that how a person knows? Does that experience mean that you may now believe that you have experienced justification? That is not what the Scriptures say.
When we are talking about assurance, I want to be able to say, "Thus saith the Lord." I will tell you why. Sometimes our most blessed experiences can be deceitful; we can deceive ourselves and be wrong. So we may not use an experience as the basis of our assurance. It may be a vital experience; it may be valid and true, but it could be a matter of being deceived. Therefore, it is not a basis for assurance for eternity that the work of grace is in the soul.
The faith of Gods elect and the acknowledging of the truth means that the Word of God must be our basis which is after godliness. Where do we gauge our assurance? Is our faith after godliness? Is it founded upon the truth of the Word of God? Is the authority of Gods Word the basis of our assurance? Promises in hope of eternal life by God, who cannot lie, are the basis; therefore, if the Word of God is our absolute basis, we cannot deceive ourselves for "God, cannot lie," is Truth! It must be " the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began," TIT 1:1-2. Our faith must be founded upon His Word, which is after godliness. Now, we have a glimpse of where we must look for the assurance of faith.
It is not just by an outward conversion; a person does not have an assurance of faith on the basis that he used to be a drunkard and did all manner of evil things, but now he is a Christian and goes to church. Does that assure him of salvation? That is an outward conversion, and I have not found that in the Bible so I cant rest on that. The basis for a foundation is a true work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The Bible clearly tells me that if I can establish, by the Word of God, that if I have experienced the work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, that is my assurance that I do have the work of grace in my heart and have the "faith of Gods elect."
The assurance of saving faith is when the Holy Spirit gives us His witness that He has made us a new creature in Christ Jesus. The work of regeneration is a complete renewing of the inner man. The thoughts and intents of the heart need to be renewed old things have passed away and all things have become new. EPH 4:22-24, says "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
Those things which one loved are now hated; those things, which were hated, are now loved. The Psalmist says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me," PSA 66:18. The word regard means cherish in the original Hebrew. In other words, the Lord is looking at the thoughts and intents of my heart. Do I cherish a given sin? I can be lily white as far as committing that sin, but I could be sitting in a church pew in front of the godliest minister while my heart is coveting that sin. The Lord is looking at that intent of my heart. Has the heart been renewed? Do I understand the renewing of the spirit of the mind?
Have I become a new creature? ROM 8:15-16 says, "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." What does the Holy Spirit bear witness of? It is that we have the mind of Christ. Remember the Scripture, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his," ROM 8:9. If you look up the word Spirit in the original, it means the mind of Christ, i.e., in my heart I desire and delight to do the will of God for that is the mind of Christ.
The work of regeneration has then worked a new man within the heart. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." Now, I have the witness of the Holy Spirit, witnessing in my soul, that sin is an abomination to me, and it is my greatest enemy. I long to do what is the will of God. So I search the Word of God, I study, and I pray, asking, "What is Thy will?" I ask for wisdom and grace to know and do His will. That becomes the longing desire of the new heart. Then we can say we are no longer under the bondage and reign of sin. Fear is gone. Now, I can cry, "Abba, Father." I can now come before the Lord and call Him, "Our Father," because He is all my desire and His will has become my will.
This is what our text refers to as "the faith of Gods elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." Now, we have a sure hope because the Word of God is the truth; He cannot lie, but we could deceive ourselves. The Word of God is the truth and the foundation of our hope. This is what our text refers to as the faith of the elect.
These promises, made before the world began, are to those who have come to trust in Christ as their only hope of salvation. EPH 1:12-13 tells us, "That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise."
Do you see where the trust is? It is in Christ, in the Word of truth. We may not trust in what the pastor says, a friend says, or our frames and feelings. It is not a matter of trusting what we believe or what makes us feel good. We must place our trust in the Word of truth. First, we must hear the Word, then believe. Belief is coming in total submission and surrender to the will of God. Unbelief is an obstinate rebellion against the authority of God. There is the difference. If the Word becomes ones authority, then one is sealed. That Holy Spirit of promise is the earnest or the seal, and it is the absolute evidence of our salvation. The assurance of saving faith is the seal of the Spirit whereby the saints can discern in themselves the graces, which identify those to whom the promises were made.
There is absolutely no question about if we are born again; the difference between being spiritually quickened and being spiritually dead is as plain as the difference between a living man and a dead corpse. Certainly with one glance into our own heart we should be able to tell the difference. When we use the Word of God as our whole authority, we can have full assurance based on the Word of truth. Lets look at a few illustrations out of the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus Christ began His Sermon on the Mount by pronouncing a certain class of people "Blessed." I want to use this illustration from the Sermon on the Mount to show you where we have unquestionable assurance in the Word of God. If the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings, pronounces His blessing upon you, can you find anything more sure? Is there anything that makes you more assured of being blessed than to have that pronounced upon you by the King of kings?
Lets look at those pronounced blessed. Take special notice of where Jesus makes the distinction, identifying this class of people. They are not described as believers, or even as the saints. They are described by their characters! It is vitally important. It is the character that is used by the Lord to describe the people who are blessed. Lets consider the reasoning for this.
God created man to be the representatives, or reflectors of His Holy Character. We have fallen from that place. Therefore, it is only by examining ourselves by comparison with the character description Jesus gave that, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God," ROM 8:16.
At lunch I was struck with the sight of a little boy who was the perfect image of his father. That is how we will be identified. Are we the image of our Father? There are only two fathers: the Father of heaven and earth and the father of lies. Which character are we the image of? The Lord Jesus Christ identifies us by our character. Are you the image of His Father, or are you the image of the devil. The distinction between God, the Father, and the devil is so clear-cut and absolute, there is no mistaking about it. We serve one or the other; we either represent the character of one or the other.
Why is assurance of faith so difficult? It should not be so difficult for Christ identifies the class of people blessed by their character. Then the Spirit itself bears witness right in your conscience and my conscience. Which image do you represent? You cannot represent both. It must be one of the two. That is where we must sort out where our heart is. The Lord looks at the thoughts and intents of our heart; He looks at our character.
See the first character trait set forth that we are to search for in ourselves as a sure evidence that the Holy Spirit has worked His work of regeneration in our hearts. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," MAT 5:3.
To understand spiritual bankruptcy is to have a feeling sense of what the Apostle Paul said in ROM 7:18-19. "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." Do I feel good about myself, that I am okay, or do I see, like Paul, that I am wretched? I have the law of God in my inner man, and I delight in it, but I am poor in spirit. When I am not able to do what I would and those thing I do not want to do, I do, this is spiritual poverty. I know that I in my flesh no good thing dwells. The Lord is not looking for perfection in following His will, but He is looking at the thoughts and intents of our heart.
This is in total contrast with the Laodicean church. There is such an absolute distinction, there is no blending between the two; you are one or the other. Look at the Laodicean in REV 3:17. "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." The Apostle Paul did not boast of his riches. Both men were wretched and poor, blind, and naked. Both characters were the same, but one knew it and the other didnt. One mourned over his character and saw his spiritual poverty.
He prayed the Lord would spare him from evil and preserve him and go before him to make all crooked ways straight. The other could walk in his own strength. The Laodicean didnt understand that flesh and heart had failed. He could be a religious person, even more religious than those who have the faith of the elect, but he lacked the faith of the elect. He did not have the spiritual poverty for he felt rich in himself.
The second characteristic given by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount teaches that to believe the theory that we are spiritual bankrupts is not enough. A person can intellectually tell others they are spiritually bankrupt because they can read it, it makes good sense, and agree. There must be a feeling sense of it in the soul. A legalistic approach that says, "Yes, I am spiritually bankrupt because I understand and realize that I am not observing the law of God as I would," is not sufficient. So the Lord gives us a second characteristic.
"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted," MAT 5:4. We must look at this characteristic. We are spiritually bankrupt, but what effect does it have on us? Does it cause us to mourn? It must cause grief and mourning that I come so short. It may not be passed off as something I cant do; therefore, its Gods fault. That is the fatalists answer. One can understand their spiritual poverty and be the biggest fatalist that ever lived. So the second characteristic we must understand is the need to mourn over the bankruptcy and sin and offending such a loving God. Sin becomes their greatest enemy. They become so afraid of sin and mourn over their inability to do the will of God.
True spiritual mourners have a deep sorrow of heart over their spiritual poverty as we see in ISA 24:15-16a. Notice the language of one who truly mourns. "Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the fires, even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea. From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous. But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me!" That is the language of those who have the faith of Gods elect. They see their leanness; they should be able to glorify God in the tribulations, in the furnaces of affliction. Paul and Silas were able to sing the praises of God in prison even though they had received were whipped and had many stripes; their feet cast into the stocks, but they sang praises unto God. They glorified God in the fire. That is the second identifying mark of the character of the elect. They say, "Woe unto me!" for they see how far short they come, and mourn over it. The second identifying characteristic of those who have the faith of the elect is to mourn over this leanness.
This deep anguish of soul is so often caused by seeing how little true godly fear we have by comparison with the greatness of Christs sacrifice, which He made for our sin. When we see the sinfulness of sin and Gods wrath upon sin, how He brought His wrath upon His own Son rather than let one sin go unpunished, we mourn our shortcomings; They cause such mourning in our soul to see how we are sinning against such love.
As we learn to see the power of rebellion and unbelief, the lack of love for our fellow man, and the swellings of pride in our hearts, we often find our hearts crying out with the Apostle Paul, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" ROM 7:24. Such wretchedness comes from a great desire in the inner man to do the law of God and seeing that he comes so short. In spite of such love for Christ and knowledge of the heinousness of sin, he was not free of it. "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" That is the language of those who have the faith of Gods elect.
This exercise of saving faith is what raises our eyes away from self unto the beauty there is in Christ as Paul said in the very next verse. "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin," ROM 7:25.
When our eyes are lifted to the Lord Jesus Christ, the power of sin is broken. Satan came in the form of a serpent, which has the power of fascination; as long as we will keep our eye on a sin, it has a fascinating power to draw us beyond our ability to resist. However, when our eyes are taken off that sin and Satan, and lifted to the Lord, He will draw all men to Him. Moses was told to hold up a brazen serpent; He would also have that drawing power.
Are our eyes fixed upon the fascination of sin or are they fixed on the brazen serpent which was a type of Christ? Jesus said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me," JOH 12:32. That is why Paul thanks God through Jesus Christ; his eyes were lifted above the things of this world unto Christ. He sees that bleeding, dying love, and sin loses its power of fascination. Then his heart and mind are lifted up to the Lord even though the flesh may still long after things of this world. The power of sin is broken when our focus is on the Lord Jesus Christ.
This turning from self-will, i.e., yielding to the kingship of Christ, is what Jesus taught as the next characteristic of those who have the exercise of saving faith. MAT 5:5 says, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." Meekness is synonymous with submission to Gods will as we see in PSA 119:27-32. I want you to see who the meek are. "Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works. My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word. Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously. [See the meekness of David, now.] I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me. I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame. I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart."
Blessed are the meek. See the spirit of meekness before God in David. In the beginning of this passage of Scripture we see meekness; David is meditating on the will of God in this Psalm. He understood his own heart; he knew that lying was a weakness that lay within his heart. It was a fruit of the fall. He also understood the character of Satan. He could not represent the character of Satan; he had to represent the character of the truth. Look at the thoughts and intents of Davids heart; they are those of a meek man. Gods elect acknowledge the truth, which is after godliness. Do you see the meekness of David before God? It is the characteristic of one who has the assurance of faith. Do we have these characteristics instilled by the Holy Spirit in our heart? We must look to the Word of truth and examine our own heart.
These first three graces, which characterize those whom our Saviour calls "blessed," do not consist of actions. Take notice. The next three characteristics are showing the work of conversion: merciful, pure of heart, and the peacemakers. They are the fruits of the first three qualities. The first three are not made up of actions, but "...to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man," EPH 3:16. It is the strengthening of the Holy Spirit in the inner man; it is not something that we can get up and do. It is the character of the heart. That is where our assurance lays. Do we understand the true poverty of spirit? Do we understand true mourning over that poverty? And do we understand that true spirit of meekness? Do we ask the Lord, like David did, to show us His precepts and stop me from following Satan and representing his character? "Grant me thy law graciously," is a plea that reflects true meekness.
This is all pointing to where our evidence lays, as EPH 3:16 says, "That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." You see, it is not the outward work; the outward work is the fruit of these things. The outworking of these graces is the evidence of the faith of Gods elect.
As The Holy Spirit works these graces in the "inner man" of the heart, we will say with the Apostle Paul in ROM 7:22, "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man." Then we can join the Psalmist in saying, "Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments," PSA 112:1. Fearing the Lord is to hold Him in the greatest reverence. Can you picture even one God-fearing soul in hell? No! Never! Do I fear the Lord? The fear of the Lord is one of our greatest assurances of salvation. Do I understand that holy reverence for God? The work of regeneration, "to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man," is to have the new heart with holy reverence for God and His will.
The most blessed assurance we can have of the exercise of saving faith is when the witness of the Spirit in our heart enables us to say with Job, "Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food," JOB 23:12. Do you see where his priorities are? Gods commandments come ahead of friends, gold and silver, and even ones necessary food. He has esteemed his love for Gods will ahead of his necessary food.
When Abraham put Isaac on the altar, he placed the will of God ahead of his own souls salvation because in Isaac would come the Messiah. He would rather obey the Word of God even if it meant his salvation was on the line. Then we read in HEB 11:19, "Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." Abraham received Isaac when he was passed age, over 100 years old and Sarah was 100 years old; in a figure he received him as from the dead, and he believed God could raise Isaac up again. So strong was his faith, but so godly was his fear, his reverence, for the will of God that he obeyed.
The characteristics of these graces do not render the possessors popular in the world. It is a fact we must understand. Those who feel their spiritual poverty have nothing in common with the wealthy Laodicean. Have you ever tried to visit with someone about their spiritual poverty when they feel rich within themselves? They scoff. You have nothing in common with them. They will hate you because you are tapping their conscience. They realize they are not as rich as they proclaim to be. They will hate you for undermining their confidence.
Those who mourn over their leanness, barrenness, and sinfulness will not be the friends of the self-righteous. The self-righteous Pharisee has nothing in common with them; they are sufficient within themselves. They dont understand their language. Those who are truly meek will not be sought out by the self- centered, self-sufficient Pharisee. They will mock and scoff at them. Those who have these characteristics will be looked upon with contempt by those who boast their zeal in the letter of the law, but are strangers of the spirit of the law.
Some people will tell you they have been born again and are saved. They will recount the evils in their former selves. It is a litany of I, I, I. With a beam of glee in their eye they will tell you about it for hours. You soon know they have never come to hate their sins; perhaps they have come to the point where they have left some of these sins through personal restraint. However, the glint of glee is in their eyes as they remember the fun they had doing those things. Do they really hate sin? If not, they are the self-righteous Pharisee. When you begin telling them of true meekness, you will find you have nothing in common.
What greater assurance can any person have for salvation than for our Saviour to call you "Blessed"? What greater consolation can we have in Christ, than to have the Word of truth, the King of kings, pronouncing us blessed, what greater assurance could we have? That is where I want to find my assurance.
We do not have time to consider each and every one of these "Blessed[s]," but I must confirm the positive distinction between those who are "Blessed" and the world in MAT 5:10-11. "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."
The world has nothing in common with such blessings, and if you can walk arm in arm with the world, then put a question mark behind your assurance. JAM 4:4 says, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." If the world welcomes you as a bosom friend and you are not an offense to them, while you claim these graces, your claims are very shallow.
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake," MAT 5:10-11.
Lukes counterpart says, "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of mans sake," LUK 6:22. Then, like JAM 4:4, Luke says in Verse 26, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets."
Those who are persecuted for self-righteousness, haughtiness, pride, or evil-speaking, etc., have no consolation in this "Blessedness." Many people claim to be persecuted for righteousness, but if they examined themselves and humbled themselves, if the werent quite so proud or involved in other peoples affairs, they wouldnt be shunned as much as they are. Yet, they take comfort from these Beatitudes.
We need to examine ourselves very closely in these matters. It must be for godliness in our walk of life. It isnt that we are persecuted for evil speaking or for being a busy body in others lives or for our pride; it must be that we are being persecuted for righteousness sake.
This "Blessed" is for those who are persecuted and reviled for a Christlike character, where their godliness and righteousness condemns the ungodly and the unrighteous. They reflect a loving spirit, the Spirit of Christ, and that in itself is an admonition to those who are filled with hatred and bitterness. Those who are walking contrary to the law of love find your walk of life to be an admonition to them. It is a reproof to them when you are loving and tender to the very ones they are bitter against. They are the ones who are blessed; they are the ones who are persecuted for godliness and righteousness.
The most blessed assurance of saving faith is when the Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are truly possessors of these graces which characterize those whom Jesus says is blessed. Lets go to PSA 112:1. "Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments."
It is interesting to look at the verse that lays just before this one. It is the last verse of PSA 111. They are from two different chapters; there may not be a connection, and yet I like to see the parallel in the language. Both speak of the fear of the Lord which is holding reverent respect for His will. PSA 111:10 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever." Do you see the parallel and the similar language? We have the beginning; Christ is wisdom. We have the beginning of wisdom if we have the fear of the Lord. That is where it begins; if we do not have fear of the Lord, we have no wisdom.
This delighting in Gods commandments springs from the heart as we see in PRO 3:1-3. "My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart." Lord isnt looking at the dos and donts or the letter of the law. He is looking at the heart. Is it keeping the commandments? The hearts desire is the important factor; the heart must keep His commandments.
As we see how far we come short of these things, do we not begin to learn of and understand our spiritual poverty? You see, the Word of God so clearly shows us the will of God. Now, who is there that really have the characteristics that the Lord Jesus spoke of who doesnt begin to understand their spiritual poverty. As we examine our own heart, we see pride raising its ugly head. We must plead for the Lord to keep us from old Satans service, from serving the prince of the world.
Do we not often mourn over our lack of conformity to the Spirit of Christ and our coldness to the law of love? Are the principles that Jesus taught in our heart? Do we not have much mourning over our lack of meekness? We find in PSA 51:15-17, "O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
The Psalmist understood that he was dependent upon the Lord to open his lips so he could praise Him. He was aware of the things the Lord did not want. He knew the Lord wanted a contrite heart; that means a heart that is unconditionally and totally surrendered to His will.
Those who thus hunger and thirst after righteousness will use the means of grace. Here is another evidence of our assurance by which we can measure our heart. Can we live from week to week without the Word of God, meditation, or prayer? Is our heart meditating with the Lord while we are working? Often while we are doing a routine job, our heart is going out to something. What occupies our mind during those times?
The people who have a contrite heart will not neglect the means of grace; they will not forsake the assembling of themselves together. They will search the Scriptures, begging for wisdom to know the will of God, and the grace to do His will. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever," PSA 111:10. In other words, where heart is, the conversation will be also. When it becomes our delight to do His will, then we will receive a good understanding.
Our assurance of faith is not dependent upon how fully these graces are developed because we cannot attain unto that in this life, but whether or not they are truly present at all. It is important that we understand this point.
We do not ask if you have been fully emptied of self, but is it your deepest sorrow when that monster raises its ugly head? Does the ugly monster, "self," cause you grief?
It is not a question of whether you mourn as you ought over indwelling sin, but have you felt the plague of your own heart. We see this in the prayer of King Solomon in 1KI 8:38, "What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house." Solomon is saying that when there is a prayer by the people who have known the plague of their own hearts, they will turn toward the Lord. It is so precious when we understand the elements of effectual prayer.
We do not ask if your meekness is all you wish it to be, but is there unmistakable proof that the root of it has been seeded in your soul? Do you see a growth in these graces that you may believe have been planted in your soul? The Lord teaches us how these seeds must be planted, cultivated, watered, and they grow. Farmers know there are several things needed to raise a crop. The seedbed must be prepared, seeding follows, the seed grows, the blade comes first, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. There is growth. Do we cultivate these graces? Have they been seeded in our soul at all?
MAR 4:26-28 says, "And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear."
The Lord Jesus Christ is illustrating that the kingdom of God, the serving the Lord, is like a man casting seed into the ground. Is the root of the matter in your soul? Do we see a growth of these graces? Do we see unmistakably that these graces are spiritual poverty and a cause for mourning and meekness? Has the Holy Spirit planted them in our soul? Are they being cultivated and watered so they might grow and mature?
The stage of maturity is not as important as the question, has the seed of these graces been planted in the soul? Can you identify them in your soul? 1PE 1:23 says, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." Has the Word of God been planted in your soul?
We are not to assume or take for granted that these graces are planted in our soul. The Apostle Peter tells us in 2PE 1:10, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." How do we cultivate these graces? "...for if ye do these things," we will not fall.
"These things" are the fruits of these graces of the graces we spoke of in the preceding paragraphs. Lets analyze this. Are we bearing the fruit whereby we have the full kernel in the ear? 2PE 1:4-8 says, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. [Now, see the growth that takes place.] And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness [loving God above all]; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity [undeserved love, mercy]. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
There we have the evidence of these graces, the fruits of "these things." We are talking about the assurance of faith. What does the Lord Jesus Christ say about those who know Him? If we do these things, if you have this fruit, if these graces have been planted in your soul, you will not be lacking the fruits that are listed in the above verse. These fruits will be revealing themselves. Godliness is the first table of the law, to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. Brotherly kindness refers to righteousness, the second table of the law to love our brother as ourselves.
To grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ is to grow in the assurance of saving faith. Why? "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent," JOH 17:3. Our Saviour is speaking; it is absolute. It is the Word of truth as the apostle says in our text, "Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of Gods elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began," TIT 1:1-2. Do you see the point; all these promises hinge on godliness.
We will never be barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus if we seek and follow after godliness and brotherly kindness and charity. We must examine ourselves to see if we have the faith of Gods elect. Do we have the Spirit of Christ where we follow the law of love? It must be the rule of our life; it is that upon which we meditate day and night. Do we search and bear fruit? Do we go forward to try to help those in need and bear each others burdens? That is the translation of brotherly kindness from words to deeds.
We are looking to the Word of truth to see the characteristics of those who have the blessedness spoken of by the Lord Jesus Christ. They are the assurances of our faith. Amen.
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