Sunday, May 31, 2009

Conversing with Satan

I didn't want to even give the enemy the dignity of using his image, even in clip-art. So here's a nice one of a woman conversing with Christ instead.

Here is a great quote from John Macarthur, who is in turn quoting a Puritan writer on how Christians will often fall into the trap of questioning their salvation and even God's love for them. Taken from a phenomenal sermon on the doctrine of assurance, which you can read here. It is from a three-part series in which Macarthur examines reasons people lack assurance, reasons for false assurance, and why a biblical assurance of being eternally in Christ is not "the sin of presumption".

Here is the excerpt:

"The heart of a person with a strong compelling conscience, the heart of a person with a strong understanding of holiness, righteousness and the law of God, the heart of a person who understands justice may find it difficult to accept forgiveness. By the way, may I suggest to you as a footnote that people who feel that way have willingly crowned the devil king. That's right. You have crowned the devil king because the devil is the accuser of whom? The brethren. The devil speaks of guilt. He speaks of violation of a holy standard. He speaks of violation of the law of God. He speaks of justice and he will tell you you're too bad to be forgiven, you belong to me. And if you buy it you crown him king and you say guilt rules, condemnation rules, sin rules. Christ is not king. Grace does not rule. Mercy does not rule. Forgiveness does not rule.

Believe me, Satan wants to do this. Satan wants you to doubt your salvation, that is why you have to put on the helmet of protect your head from the smashing crushing blows of Satan who wants you to doubt. One Puritan writer wrote this,

"Yea further, he that lacks assurance of God's love converses too much with Satan. As he that has the assurance of God's love converses with Christ, the Spirit bearing witness to him that he's a child of God, so he that lacks assurance converses with Satan and Satan, though falsely, bears witness to his spirit that he is not a child of God. And is it not a misery to be in these conversations with Satan, to be under his hellish droppings? O what a pain it is then to lie bedridden of an unbelieving heart. The devil is always following and tempting me to suspect the love of Christ and he does it that he may attain his mind upon me. For the devil knows well enough that the more I suspect Christ's love, the more I shall embrace Satan's love. The truth is, beloved, this lack of assurance of God's love or interest in Christ is an inlet to many sins and miseries, for first a man doubts of his own salvation, afterwards he has continued doubting, then he rises up until a full conclusion saying, `Now know I that Christ does not love me. I did but doubt before, but now I know He does not love me.' And after he has risen to this conclusion, then shortly he rises higher and he goes further thus, `If Christ does not love me now, He will never love me. And if I have not an interest in Christ now, after all the preaching I have heard, and ordinances I have enjoyed, I shall never have it. And so the longer I live the more I shall aggravate my condemnation,'" end quote.

If you crown Satan king and let him crush your head with the law and your guilt and justice, you will will doubt. Both strong preaching of a high and holy standard and a refusal to accept forgiveness cause people to doubt."

In my own observation as a Bible study teacher and discipler, I have noticed that doubts about assurance seem to plague us ex-catholics more often than those who were raised with a biblical understanding of grace. Because of the Jesus + works soteriology in which we were raised, our "default mode" tends towards synergism. Understanding that good works and holiness are the result of a regenerate, born-again spirit and not the catalyst of salvation goes a long way towards transforming one's walk. Ironically, it is most-often the struggling Romans 7 Christian - a true child of God tormented by one's own sense of missing the mark - rather than the adherents of "cheap grace" that most often doubt and question their own assurance.

This is a great series that deals with both the reasons Christians doubt their election and the biblical tests and basis for assurance.


Barbara said...

Here's another piece of that, from the 1689 London Baptist Confession:

Sometimes God may withdraw that assurance as a part of a sanctifying work, a means of causing us to see where we are on our own and thus seek Him more deeply. Another great document on it, for those who may question the difference between assurance and presumption is one of Spurgeon's early sermons cautioning folks against presumption, which is very helpful:

There is a reason why Peter warned us to make our calling and election sure, and why Paul warns us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and why John gives us his first epistle so as to assist us in making complete the joy of our salvation, and why such things as falling into sin and other forms of the rod/staff may for a time rob us of that joy and that assurance. All in God's perfect sovereignty, all means God has ordained to keep us close enough to hear the Shepherd's voice.

Marie said...

Barbara, you're definite go-to woman for all Puritan wrings!

I especially liked this clause: This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope, but an infallible assurance of faith founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel; and also upon the inward evidence of those graces of the Spirit unto which promises are made, and on the testimony of the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God; and, as a fruit thereof, keeping the heart both humble and holy.

Marie said...

'writings', that should be. If I didn't try to type semi-horizontally, maybe I'd have more dexterity with the keyboard.

Barbara said...

And here I thought you meant "wirings"....after all, I do that (and plumbing) too!


Ashley Weis said...

Wow. That was a nice read.

I don't really consider myself to have been an ex-catholic before I became a Christian, although I did go to Sunday School until seventh grade.

But I can say that I don't ever doubt my salvation, although George does and he was raised as a fundamentalist, I think that's what he calls it. :) haha.

But I do doubt the existence of God sometimes. I hate that one. I hate, hate, hate that one. Sometimes I think too much. That's my big problemo. I analyze everything, in detail. And I try to rationalize and fix things that sometimes aren't mine to fix.

Sometimes you just have to believe.

But sometimes that's really hard for me. I never really considered myself a "facts" person, but I am a sceptic.


What always brings me back to truth is Jesus.... the way, the truth, and the life.

Marie said...

That's funny, isn't it, how the enemy 'gets' us in different ways? Analogous to how he can cause division in churches - through many different avenues (which is why we have to be so diligent). See, I don't think (even as a very young child) that I've ever doubted the existence of God, or the historical reality of Jesus Christ. Now, of course, knowing more it's easier - the fulfilled prophecy described in the book of Daniel alone would be enough to convince me. But even seeing the world and creations of so many unique all points to a Creator.

God is not the question - but His personal interest in me and/or calling on my life has been. Of course, I've long since recognized this sort of doubt as coming from the devil, who wants to steal our joy - but I really like the way Macarthur summarized it and this Puritan describes it as crowning the devil king. Very visual, and even a bit shocking. But, the reality is - that's what we're doing.

Re: George - if he was raised as a fundie, it could well be that some extreme "lordship"/works based righteousness snuck in there (" " because a true understanding of lordship = obedience out of love and gratitude; not legalism). I've read that there are such churches, and they add to Scripture and pile up rules - that can cause a person to doubt his/her salvation. Recently, I purchased a book for my daughter online - it purported to be a "health" (sex ed) book, from a home school curriculum company.

Well, the author was (I think) an IFB pastor; very old, and very rigid. Among other things, it is a sign of unregenerate carnality if a girl wears pants; goes to a school dance; has short hair; is seen at a movie theater; or goes out on a date. I am not making this up. I can totally see how someone raised in that atmosphere could have a skewed view of grace because they'd think they could never measure up to the demands put on a Christian. (I have an old friend who thinks I'm not saved because I don't read the KJV of the Bible. No joke.) I don't know if that was George's experience, but it is one common to fundies.

Ashley Weis said...

Whoa. I better run out and get a KJV! I know that theology is important, obviously. But really, the more I think about stuff the further I feel from God.

George has been getting into this church history/catholicism stuff BIG TIME and I can't help but get distracted by it.

but all the stuff you said about that strange-o book you found... yeah... i could easily go down the legalism trail with my extreme personality... thankful i have people like you to remind me when i might be... but it's like you said on my post about makeup... does it really matter that much?

i think theology on BIG THINGS is important. but if someone is wearing jeans or a long jean skirt, does it matter to God? if someone is kneeling in a catholic church and is truly a lover of Christ or kneeling in a non-denominational church and is truly a lover of Christ... does it matter to Him?

if someone reads KJV or the message, does it really matter?

if someone kidnaps a child and sells them into the sex industry, does that matter? yeah... i think there are more important things.

as for doubting God's existence, that only happens on my really, really down days... and it goes something like this... "what if the entire bible was made up? what if all of it is?"

then i think... BIG BANG?

eh, don't think so.

Hahahaha... so I always go back to Him, but I hate those doubtful thoughts.....

I love Jesus though. I love Him so much and I just want to rest in Him. He's teaching me that!

Love ya!

Marie said...

then i think... BIG BANG?

God said BANG, and then it happened!

I couldn't agree with you more, re: priorities and having a heart of love for Christ. At the same time you were posting this, I "just happened" to be listening to this Paul Washer sermon in which he talks about exactly that tendency (he's primarily addressing preachers) to develop a love for doctrine and/or principles, but without the love for Christ, it will lead to sensuality and carnality (he specifically mentioned pornography and why Christians fall into it). Here is the link, it's SoS Part 1 (it's 30 minutes - the best half hour I spent this week):

Bob said...

I can tell you, some Penecostals also struggle with the "am I really saved?" question.

Intellectual individuals, I think, also have the problem..."did I really mean what I said?" kind of thing.

Thanks for the may help when I try to reassure some friends who waver. :)