Dear radio friends,
Parents often reflect that their children can be so different. For instance, with regard to their studies: you may have a child who studies a lot and worries a lot; then you have a child who seems to study little and worry little. Then parents wonder if there is any way to merge those two children so that the one would be content with reasonable study and less worry and the other would worry more and study more. But we know, as parents, that God is wise in all of His ways.
The approach that children from the same family can take to academic studies illustrates two common, serious, spiritual errors made by God’s children in their approach to the question of assurance, to the assurance that Jesus Christ is in them. Both of these are sins and both are to be repented of before God.
There is, first of all, the approach of doubt. That is a looking only at oneself and a frantic questioning whether one’s faith and repentance is deep enough and then, perhaps, looking for some experience to be finally the assurance of salvation. That on the one hand.
Then there is also the sin of assumption, what is called carnal security, of never questioning, never looking within, unconcerned over the state of one’s own soul, and perhaps materialism or pleasure or the honor of men clogging the arteries of the spiritual heart. And little time is spent in spiritual things and in poring over the Scriptures.
There are the sins of doubt and there are the sins of assumption.
Now, I say that both can be and both are committed by children of God. In between those two extremes, perhaps all of the people of God can be found at various times — either leaning toward doubt or, worse, toward awful indifference to our walk with the Lord. If a true child of God can never be bothered by doubt or uncertainty, then why would Christ address Thomas with these words: “Be not faithless, but believing”? And, again, why would the Lord speak to the father of the demon-possessed boy who said, “Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief,” or again the words of the Lord, “O ye of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”
Yes, a child of God can doubt, can at times have uncertainty. Not that this is to be idolized, not that this is the normal. This is sin. But it can happen.
Still more, a real Christian can fall into the terrible sin of indifference and apathy. If that is not the case, then why do we have the warning of the Word of God with respect to Lot, who was a righteous man and vexed his soul but, nevertheless, pitched his tent toward Sodom. Why would Christ write to us in the letter to Laodicea in Revelation 3 that those people of God said, “I am rich and increased with goods” and knew not that they were wretched and miserable, neither hot nor cold? And the Lord would say of them, “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous, therefore, and repent.” That is, repent of that terrible, sickly apathy.
Now understand once again that neither doubt nor assumption, carelessness, is excusable, permissible, or the norm. They are not simply things that we accept. And, yes, doubt or indifference can be the mark of a hypocrite or of a fake. But the Scriptures are abundantly plain that the children of God are confronted by the temptation of both doubt and indifference.
We want, then, to take the Holy Scriptures as they have come down to us through the glorious Reformation with the Reformed truths and the Reformed confessions — especially the confession of the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt — and steer our way safely between doubt on the one hand and indifference on the other, in order that through the Scriptures we might say with the apostle in Galatians 2:20, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” That is the certainty that God gives to every child of God that Christ is in them.
Let us use the figure of a vessel that is entering into a harbor. The bow must be pointed to the pier and to the safe berth. But on the one side, to the right, is a whirlpool. And on the other side, the tide would sweep the vessel upon the rocks. There is, so to speak, the whirlpool of doubt and there are the rocks of sheer indifference. We must take the Scriptures as they are explained in the Reformed faith and steer our vessel to the haven that God grants of assurance. We must use that rudder of the Holy Scriptures in order that we might, in the words of the apostle John in his third epistle, verse 9, assure our hearts before God.
The teaching of the Bible is that Jesus Christ is indeed in every believer and that every believer knows this, that is, is given the assurance and the conviction that this is so. Christ is in every believer. The Reformation of the sixteenth century said that truth in these words, “The priesthood of all believers.” Can you imagine anything so amazing, so breathtaking, so astounding? Christ is in me! There are certain thoughts that need time to settle, to press down upon the heart. That statement is the greatest wonder that can ever be contemplated. It stretches our hearts and minds. The whole Christ, the risen, the exalted Lord of glory, the One who possesses eternal life and all the blessings of salvation, as well as the One who was given all power in heaven and on earth — this Christ, by His Holy Spirit, is in each child of God. The child of God, you, are to say, “In me.” When God saves us, He does not slice up Christ and place part of Him in you and part of Him in me. But Christ, the prophet, the priest, the king dwells in us through the Spirit by faith, so that we say, “I am His, and He is mine forever.”
This is what we read in Colossians 1:27. “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The apostle Paul is explaining the grace of God that made him a minister. God made him a minister for the purpose of making known to the saints the mystery that had been hid from the ages. That mystery is the riches of His glory in Christ and the riches of this truth: Christ is in you, that is, in the child of God. God puts Christ in us, and thus we have the hope of glory, says the apostle. Of course. If Christ abides within us by the grace of God through faith, then we possess hope, certainty, confidence of eternal glory.
The Scriptures go on to explain the meaning of this. We read, for instance, in Romans 8:9, 10, “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. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Here we have the answer as to how Christ dwells in us. Christ is in us by His indwelling or covenanting Spirit. The presence of the Spirit of Christ constitutes the blessing of Christ in us. Note the words. “If so be the Spirit of God dwell in you….” The idea there is that the Spirit of Christ being in us means that Christ is in us. The Scripture here has its eye on the meaning of the ascension of our Lord and Pentecost. Christ ascended up on high, where He received of His Father the promise of the Spirit, and the Spirit now, as the personal agent of Jesus Christ, takes up all of Christ, all the treasures of salvation in Christ, and comes to us, so that, as the Holy Spirit is in us, so Christ is in us.
Christ, the prophet, the priest, the king
dwells in us through the Spirit by faith,
so that we say, “I am His, and He is mine forever.”
Why does Christ come into us? Well, John 17:23 is the answer to that. There Jesus said, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” Jesus, there, in John 17, is explaining in simple words, yet words that have no bottom that you can search out, the eternal purposes of the almighty God in the sending of His Son in the flesh. What was that purpose? That purpose finally comes down to one word: covenant. Christ is in us for this purpose, that we might be a people for the Lord, for His fellowship. That we may be perfect, that is, complete, received unto God, and thus the world might know that God has sent His Son.
Is Christ in you? Then you will know that. You will know it by a deep and abiding desire to abide in fellowship with God. God will be glorious to you and you will seek your life in God.
What lived, at bottom, in the heart of Jesus Christ? It was this: He said, “My Father, I do always those things that please Thee. I am not alone, but My Father is with Me. I am going to go back to Him.” What lived in the bottom of His heart? Fellowship with His Father. What will live in the heart of those in whom Jesus Christ, by grace, takes up His dwelling? The Father — fellowship with the Father. The soul will cry out for the living God, “When shall I come and appear before God?” This is what is expressed in Psalms 63 and 73. When Christ is in us, we are made God-centered, that is, our heart now understands that God alone can be the source of our strength and life. Is Christ in you? You will be a God-centered man, a God-centered woman.
Christ is in us for this purpose,
that we might be a people for the Lord,
for His fellowship.
Jesus said in John 17 that all the world will know this. This is what will set you apart as a child of God — Christ being in you and making you God-centered, you are now radically different, you are living from a totally different principle of the world, an alien principle, a principle that they cannot understand, a principle that they despise, but a principle that they see and feel.
Still more. Is Christ in you? That fact will be known. You will know it. God will give to you the knowledge of the fact that He has placed His Son in you. I have had guests in the house. And my wife has said that they are so quiet and so shy we do not even know that they are here. But that is not the way it is with Jesus Christ in the heart of the believer. If so be that Christ dwells in you, then you will know that.
How will you know that? You will know that by faith in Jesus as the Son of God, faith that is certain knowledge and personal assurance and faith that Jesus is the eternal Son of God in the flesh. I John 4:15, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” How do you know that God dwells in you? Through some experience? Through some tingly, warm fuzzy that you receive through an emotional appeal? No, this is how you know that God is in you — through the Holy Scriptures, as they are preached, leading you to faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the flesh and, therefore, the only Savior. Do you know that? Do you confess that He is the Son of God in the flesh, given of grace to die for your sins? Do you know that? That is because God dwells in you.
But there will be other evidences. There will be the enduring love of the brethren. We read in I John 3:18 and 19, “My little children, … hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” in that we have love one for another. “Let us not love,” says the apostle, “merely in word, but let us love in truth and in deed.”
Let me ask you a simple question: Does Jesus Christ love His people? You answer me, “Well, of course. Love them? The depth of the love of Jesus Christ for His people remains forever unfathomed. He loves them perfectly and eternally.” All right. If Jesus Christ loves His people and if Jesus Christ is in you, will you now love your brother? The evidence, then, of Christ being in us is that He creates within us this beginning principle (be it in the midst of our sin and pride and the awful hatred of our nature) that, by the grace of God, we love our brother. Do you do that? That is only because Christ is in you.
Still more. There will be a desire for the Word. You will search the Scriptures and the words of Jesus for, “these are they that testify of Me.” Is Christ in you? You will have a hunger and a thirst for that living, precious Word of God in the Bible.
Still more. You will have an affection for spiritual things. Colossians 3:1 and 2, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above.” You will have an interest in the things that are spiritual and heavenly.
Still more. You will have a holy carefulness before the world. Christ is in me? Then all the world will see Christ in me. I will want the world to see that Christ is in me. In fact, what the world sees of Christ so often is what they see in us in whom He lives. There are many people in the world who may never open a Bible. There are many who will never go into a church. But that does not mean that the witness and testimony of Jesus Christ will not be brought to them. It is brought to them in the life of His children in whom Christ lives. Does it concern you what the world will say about Jesus Christ because of you? Does it live in your heart that you would not want the holy name of the Lord Jesus to be blasphemed on your account? Do you give a care for what the world will think about Christ as the world witnesses your life as one who confesses Him? Then that is because Christ is in you by grace.
Does it concern you what the world will say about Jesus Christ because of you?
Now the Scriptures call us to inspect our hearts. We must inspect our hearts through the Scriptures. We bring our hearts to the Holy Scriptures. That is the healthy inspection of our hearts where we might detect the spiritual diseases that so readily fall into them, and whereby we might ground our assurance in the Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures speak to us, for instance, in II Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” In II Corinthians Paul is battling that small segment in the church of Corinth that is still resisting his ministry. They said that they sought a proof of Christ speaking through him. Paul answers the church, that the proof would be found in the fruits of his ministry, the fact that the Corinthian church stood in Christ and confessed the name of Christ was proof of Paul’s divine commission as an apostle. Then he goes on to say, “Prove yourself. Establish beyond any doubt that you are indeed in Christ.” Look within yourself for the fruits of Christ.
What are those fruits of Christ? They are a repentance over your sin, a sorrow in your heart over sin, and a desire more and more to put those sins away and to live in those works that God has called you to, those works that express thankfulness to Him.
Christ is in each believer. Each believer is given to know that Christ is in him through the fruits of the grace of God produced in him by the Holy Spirit. And each believer rejoices in the fact that Christ is in him, the hope of glory.
Let us pick up this subject at this point next time. Until that time, may the Lord God be with you.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Holy Word. Grant that our assurance might be based entirely upon Thy Word as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes that we might see Christ in the Scriptures and that we may lay hold of the grace that Christ is in us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.