Yet there is one certain, one absolute truth that supersedes all uncertainty, a gift from God which allows us to live with confidence and hope. The things of this world are temporary, but there is hope in the Lord. The one great certainty that belongs to all that trust in Christ: we can live with confident assurance of eternal salvation. Live with assurance in Christ, and everything else is secondary. Everything else unimportant, of course not. It’s perspective. Problems will effect us, but to know victory is coming gives confidence and assurance.
Here’s today’s scripture in another translation (NLT): 5:9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Paul is speaking to a people who are uncertain. Shaky. For so many people it is common to live with uncertainty. If you live in a state of fear as you face the things of this world, the odds are, if you are a Christian, you too often doubt God’s love for you and if you are really saved. Once many years ago a woman came to talk to me, she told me about some issues in her life of her own doing, and she said, “Carl, if I were to die right now I think I’d go to hell.” That is likely not your exact thought, but a lot of people live with uncertainty in their spiritual life, not really sure if they believe, shaky in their faith, hesitant to be too confident… God wants us to live on this earth with assurance. The things of this world are uncertain, but the assurance of God’s love and the hope of eternal life outweighs that which is temporary. Assurance of salvation is a powerful testimony…
Lot’s of people want us to fill us with confidence. There is such a thing as false confidence. The first car Sally and I bought at a used car lot…that guy absolutely assured us we were getting a great deal for our money. In retrospect we did everything wrong – went when it was getting dark, told the man how much money we had to spend, told him we were moving away soon – amazingly, they had a car that perfectly fit our budget…
You need to test people in this world. …obviously there are very honest used car salesmen, but you have to test them and let them prove their trust. I don’t want people to even automatically trust me…they need to ask questions, watch, observe, and when they are ready… Take me as an example…how does a person learn to trust me? Am I consistent, what is my motivation, do I do what I say I will do, how do I respond in certain situations, and whatever other questions you need to ask…
In Romans, it is not any different with God. How do you trust God? This is the beginning of assurance: learning to trust God. How can you have assurance of your salvation? You grow in your confidence, because it takes time to trust, to spend time observing… In v. 9, Paul starts out with a reminder of an amazing act of God: “Since we have been justified by his blood…” This is an affirmation of the previous verse, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul has been explaining the benefits of justification: peace with God, ongoing standing in grace, radiant hope, perseverance in troubles, the abundant life of God's love by the indwelling Spirit. Paul lingers at just this point of God's love. He is staggered by it! You learn to trust other people by watching, observing, listening, their consistency… You learn to trust God by watching, observing, listening, learning, his consistency.
I recently had a funeral in which the man was a life long alcoholic and all the inconstancy and uncertainty that came with it. The two now grown boys never could depend on their father. They loved him, he was their father, but they never did trust, never understood. He’d disappear, even in the last years of his life, for weeks at a time while he binge drank. Contrast with a person who is always there, who gives sacrificially, who wants the best for you.
I was extraordinarily blessed to have a trustworthy father. I remember going rappelling on ropes down a cliff. I am not naturally an aggressive daredevil. That moment of rounding the corner to go from the solid ground, round the corner, to walking down the side of the cliff with all your weight on the rope, and I can remember my father assuring me that I could do it. I knew my father, I knew my father had more experience, I knew the ropes, and the trust still came hard.
What is your experience with God? At what point do you trust him. Make it a way of life to see God in your life, to see what he does, to appreciate his watchful care, to give you opportunities, for his words to be true, for his promises to come to fulfillment. Open your eyes to what God is doing and learn to trust him, practice trusting him.
For some people trust might be easier. We each come to God with our own personalies and experiences, our own past, our own way of thinking. A long time ago when Esther was just a small girl, we were up at the gold mine, a coral for the horses, tied along the fenceline, I was told that because most of the horses were not familiar with each other, if you just let them loose inside the coral, they’d jostle and establish the pecking order, it would be a time of tension and chaos. While we were there, a man let Esther sit on his horse while he held the reigns. As he started walking Esther around, a man came in on another horse. As the two horses met, suddenly there was tension. Esther’s horse started backing away, going in a circle, and I’m watching as this little inexperience girl is on this large animal that is threatening to rear, to bolt, to flee, and the man leading Esther’s horse kept hold of the lead, and the horse circled once, twice, maybe three times until the two horses were separated and calm was restored. And Esther took it all in stride, not a worry in the world. An innate trust that all would work out…
Trusting God. For some it’s easier than others. We come to God with our unique personalities and experiences, our own expectations, sometimes misguided ideas. One of the purposes of the Bible is to give us an assurance of our salvation so that we can live with confidence. Confidence comes when we see the love of God in action, when we sense that he wants the best for us, when we understand that God even sent his son Jesus Christ to die for you. I like the way one person said it, “Jesus did not die for good people. He died for sinners.” How amazing is that?
If you understand the fact that God died for you, a sinner, a far from perfect person, “how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath…” God’s wrath, God’s anger, God’s love demands that he have standards, like a parent that punishes a child that disobeys, a teacher that marks down errors on a test…Hell is real. Do you have assurance that you will not face God's wrath even though you know that you deserve it? To know God’s character is to give confidence. To understand grace and to know that Jesus died not for good people, but sinners, is amazing.
Today’s message is not about me trying to get you to question your salvation, the question I want to consider: how confident are you? Some Christians live with confidence while others worry, thinking they are not good enough. God's love for us in Christ secures our salvation forever. God’s grace is the only way to salvation! Some wonder if sin and failures might tip things the wrong way. Others, without intending it, think that their beginning is in Christ but it is up to them to make a good finish in order to eventually avoid God's wrath. So how do we uproot this sort of anxiety-producing, sleep-robbing, guilt-inflaming way of thinking? How easy for the uncertainty of our health, our future, money, relationships rob us of living a joyful life of confidence in Christ?
Bill Hybels has a wonderful illustration of living with confidence vs. uncertainty: “Sometime when you're in an airport, observe the difference between passengers who hold confirmed tickets and those who are on standby. The ones with confirmed tickets read newspapers, chat with their friends or sleep. The ones on standby hang around the ticket counter, pace and smoke, smoke and pace. The difference is caused by the confidence factor. If you knew that in fifteen minutes you would have to stand in judgment before the Holy God and learn your eternal destiny, what would your reaction be? Would you smoke and pace? Would you [have assurance God will say, “Welcome Home Child”]
For the Christian, God’s judgment is a good thing. Sally and I met in the art department. We took many art classes. The standard pattern was to fulfill the assignment, then display it to the class for everyone to critique. What was wrong with it, what is right with it… with criticism you cannot improve. God’s wrath, God’s judgment is a good thing. God’s wrath is the opposition of the divine character against sin; We admire the character of a father who is opposed to disobedience in his children, and who expresses his opposition in a proper way. We admire the character of a ruler who is opposed to all crime in the community, and who expresses those feelings in the law. Why shall we not be equally pleased with God, who is opposed to all crime in all parts of the universe, and who determines to express His opposition in the proper way for the sake of preserving order and promoting peace?
We begin new life in Christ through trusting in him and him alone. No amount of good deeds can approve us to God. Trusting in Christ is simply believing what God says. We each come to the question with our own personalities and experiences. We need to see God at work in our lives to learn to know him, to appreciate his character. The Bible says that Christ died for your sins and was raised from the dead. This is the gospel. Do you believe it? Do you trust your life to what it says? Is your trust for salvation in the fact that Christ died for you and was raised for you? Do you trust in Christ's death and resurrection on your behalf? If the answer is "yes", then you can be assured that you have eternal life and will spend eternity with Christ. God wants us to live with confidence. The world/Sumas needs to see Christians living with assurance and confidence, because there is so much consuming uncertainty that compromise whole living. The Lord wants us to live with confidence and assurance that his promises are true and that we have a future glory awaiting us of eternal life. Amen.