Doubt is a reality for most, I dare say all Christians. I want to make a few comments on this by means of exposition followed by an exhortation. I hope that all believers in Christ Jesus who read this will find assistance in dealing with doubt.
While I know that there are some great evangelists out there today, I also know that many popular preachers/evangelists are what I call “push-button preachers” who are known for their bag of tricks what I call “gospel gimmicks.” These tactics are used especially in dealing with a Christian dealing with doubt. Such verbage of “nailing down your salvation” is often attributed to provide assurance. Some gimmicks include phrases such as, “I would rather be saved twice and die lost,” “If you are 99% saved, you are 100% lost,” “You might die tonight, so you better come forward now and be 100% sure,” and so on. I actually have created a list of my most awesomely bad gospel gimmicks (totally 15 right now), and it is important for believers to know that these are engineered techniques designed to achieve “results”, therefore validating their effectiveness in ministry. However, this could not be more harmful for the doubting believer.
Second, there is the idea of eternal security which says that as long as you have prayed the “sinners prayers” or walked down the aisle has settled the matter of heaven for you. Salvation is the “get-out-of-hell free” card that has your named assigned to it. The only problem is that Christianity is more than just “missing hell.” There is no assurance for this type of evangelism, so doubt is appropriate if one has such an experience.
Thirdly, there are two main ways of understanding salvation. There is the theocentric (God-centered perspective) as well as anthropocentric (man-centered perspective) that determines on what basis your trust is in. Let me explain via comparison (T for theocentric and A for anthropocentric). T focuses one’s salvation on the basis of God’s revelation to that individual; A focuses on man’s response to that revelation. T believes that it is Jesus who saves; A believes that it is your faith that saves; T says that faith is granted to the believer by God; A says that faith is something you have and use at your own free will; T’s basis for salvation is God’s declaration (justification) of a guilty sinner righteous; A’s basis for salvation is the sinner’s experience. T’s is grounded in God’s character; A’s is grounded in man’s free will; T says salvation is monergistic (God only accomplishing salvation); A says salvation is synergistic (God plus your free will accomplishing salvation); T declares that God is sovereign in salvation (sovereign choice); A says that man is sovereign (man’s choice). That is just for starters, but you begin to see the difference.
In Conclusion, doubt is often the result of trusting in one’s personal experience rather than the character of God and His declaration of justifying a guilty sinner. God is faithful in spite of one’s faithlessness, and therefore, your salvation, if it be grounded in God, is as sure as God is, not on your performance or religious devotion. Many feel that they have to repeat walking down an aisle, getting re-baptized, and praying prayers in hopes of alleviating the doubts. Yet this approach, I submit, is the wrong way of dealing with doubt. We should not focus so much on our response (as fickle as we are!) but rather God’s revelation. God discloses himself to an individual by drawing them and bringing them to a saving knowledge of Him. While some may remember a definite time and place they were saved, it is not necessary to have a congnizant recollection of the time and place for an individual to be saved. This may sound controversial, but were you totally aware of what was happening to you when you were physically born? It was only later when you realized that you were a living being, through appetite, through development, through increasing awareness, etc.
True eternal security comes not from a one-moment-in-time assurance guarantee but persevering the faith. The Bible clearly says that all believers will persevere to the end. Some say that if salvation is monergistic and not based on our free-will, then that let’s us off the hook. This could not be further from the truth!!! You see, now that God is in you, He will cause you to will and work according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). We are called to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling,” and to “make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). Doubt can actually serve to accomplish this goal, if you understand that your salvation and trust in God is grounded in God and His sovereignty, not your ability or experience. So many people, I am grieved to know, are trying to have another experience or feeling that would secure their salvation or give them confidence. Yet, this confidence would only be as real as one spraying water out of a hose up in the air and thinking God is sending you “heavenly rain.”
So if you are reading this, and you have or now experiencing doubt, press on to know the Lord (Philippians 3:12-14). Test yourself and examine your life to see if you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), and the way the test is answered is not if you are a good person, had consistent devotional life, or memorized the Bible, but whether God is IN YOU. For if He is there, then you must know that He will work mightily to bring to completion the good work that He began in you (Philippians 1:6). As Paul said, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is within me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). So I leave you with this exhortation: Flee to Jesus. Cast yourself upon Him. Press on to know Him. Rest and be settled in His Word. Refuse to hear the words of man who are pushing buttons and pulling out their box of tricks. They want numbers in their church, but God already has your name. Persevere and be at peace, my friend, and sing with me the glorious hymn:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Amen and Amen.
Free will – sinking sand. Your experiences – sinking sand. Your feelings – sinking sand. Your performance – sinking sand. Christ Jesus and His righteousness which you are clothed – Solid Rock. So next time they come pushing the buttons, tell them, “Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids.”