Summary: The certainty of knowing you are a child of God
Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)
Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ
Sunday, May 31, 2015
by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter
The Doctrine of Assurance: “A Conflict of Interest” [Part One]
If I were to ask: “Why are you in church today?” “What would your answer be?” Some might sheepishly admit, “My spouse made me come!” Others might reply, “I’m looking for answers to some of life’s most perplexing questions.” Or, maybe you are wanting to learn more about God. But whatever your reasons might be, it all comes down to this: “How do I know if I am saved?”
In the ensuing weeks, we’ll have an opportunity to know with certainty that “I am a child of God”! And because of anything we can say or do. But rather what Christ has done for us; He died so that we might live!
In his book, The Doctrine of Assurance, A. W. Tozer remarks: “Anxiety is bad enough in our daily existence; it’s far more troubling to be unsure as to where we will spend eternity…True assurance sets us free from the painful bondage of uncertainty; even to removing the fear of death.”
The apostle Paul admits to struggling with a “conflict of interest.” He’s consciously aware of his inner torment; it’s something we all must grapple with. In this passage, Paul laments over four very intrusive conflicts which continually plagued him.
Paul’s first lament has to do with having two natures: THE SPIRIT VERSUS THE FLESH (repeat).
Paul begins by saying, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine what Sigmund Freud’s diagnosis would be in assessing Paul’s mental state! His diagnosis would undoubtedly be “acute schizophrenia.” But in spite of Paul’s mental anguish, his condition was symptomatic of something far more complex.
His anxieties and frustrations had infiltrated the very fibers of his being!
Paul goes on to say, “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.” But this appears to contradict what the scriptures tell us! After all, no one is able to perfectly keep the Law. So why does Paul say that the Law is good? Earlier Paul wrote: “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law” [Romans 7:7].
Paul concludes this first lament by saying, “So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” So now we’re getting to the ‘crux’ of the problem…SIN! Paul informs us that the Law is spiritual. And we know this to be true because these laws were conceived by God and for our benefit. After all, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” [John 4:24].
Paul, however, argues that we are of flesh and blood! Our bodies are diametrically opposed to the things of the spirit. Paul is not suggesting that our flesh is inherently evil; it is not! But because of our fallen nature, we have a proclivity towards the lusts of the flesh.
St. Jerome (circa 347-420) was a great scholar among the early Church Fathers. He was credited with having translated the Bible from the original languages into Latin, called the Vulgate. According to historical archives Jerome lived in a cave for thirty-two years! Now by all accounts, he was rather contentious who had a penchant for sarcasm, which infuriated his peers. Of one opponent he once glibly remarked: “If he will only conceal his nose and hold his tongue, he might yet be taken as handsome and learned.” If my memory serves me correctly, Jerome indulged himself with, shall we say rather provocative or alluring literature, which prompted him to lament: “Lord sanctify me wholly…but not yet!”
Tozer writes: “...as I examine myself, I come away knowing…there still remains much corruption. The authentic Christian finds clear evidence of two natures at work…where there’s so much conflict, it is difficult to be sure of his actual state.”
Paul’s second lament involves having to cope with: MIND OVER MATTER (repeat).
In verses 18-20, Paul continues: “For I know that nothing good dwells in
me, that is, in my flesh.” Again, let me emphasize that our bodies are not inherently evil. However, because of our fallen nature, we have a proclivity towards sin, which finds refuge in our fleshly being.
But once our minds are attuned to God, we desire to do what is right. And herein lies yet another problem! We lack the will, the fortitude, and the ability to carry out what is pleasing to God. In essence, there’s a conflict between mind over matter. Put another way, “Its matter that doesn’t mind” or “don’t mind; it doesn’t matter”!