Doubt & Assurance

It's common in our culture to ask questions. In fact, it's encouraged. We're told to question authority, question the "status quo" (whatever that is), question our identity, question tradition, question everything. What you don't hear very often is the need for answers. You never hear anyone talking about the answers authority and tradition provide, just that you should question them, looking for who knows what.

Unfortunately, questions without answers are worthless. They provide nothing more than confusion, eroding any foundation your beliefs and knowledge might have, and replacing it with chaos. Why? Because questions are by nature open-ended, not conclusive, not final. Questions without answers leave us alone with our opinions, shutting us off from those around us, and drowning us in despair from which we cannot escape.

In the past, the Church was a dependable source of answers, both to the questions unbelievers asked, and to those posed by Christians themselves. To put it more clearly: the Church has always been the approved warden of the answers found in the Bible, and its leaders and laypeople alike took seriously the charge to rightly handle God's Word in order to plainly articulate those answers. In the last couple decades, this has largely ceased to be the case.

These days, Christians are at the forefront of indiscriminate question-asking. Whether all these leaders are actually part of the Body of Christ is irrelevant: they're coming in the name of Jesus, and people are convinced that what they're preaching is true Christian doctrine. But it's not, because God doesn't tell us to ask questions, He offers plain answers, and He's recorded them in His written Word, the Bible.

A lot of the current doubt that plagues Christians stems directly from false teachers encouraging us to ask, ask, ask, rather than to study Scripture to find the answers. Guys like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren tell us that we need to "ask the right questions," but endless questions draw us further away from God, not closer to Him. God offers assurance, He offers surety, He offers certainty in a world of doubt and fear.

How do we know God offers these things? He tells us, in the Bible. In Philippians 3:2-21, the apostle Paul doesn't speak of our hope of salvation in terms of doubt, but of assurance. He doesn't hope to be saved in the sense that it's a possibility, he hopes in certainty that Christ will save him, knowing that Jesus' promises are true. This is probably the greatest threat to Christian faith today, the idea that there is no absolute truth, that we can be really sure of nothing, that the authority of God's Word is in doubt and its authorship suspect.

But we are not saved by an all-powerful God only to be afraid and doubtful concerning our status. Many of the perpetual questioners point to Mark 9:14-29, particularly verse 24. This is the story of the man who asks Jesus to cast a demon out of his son from afar, and when Jesus says "All things are possible for one who believes.", the man responds with, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (9:24). "See," the questioners say, "it's okay to lack certainty!"

This is a complete misreading of the text. The man doesn't ask Jesus to bless or countenance his unbelief, he asks Him to help it, to replace it with belief. It is faith that saves—not doubt: faith that Jesus Christ was indeed the God of Israel, faith that He lived sinlessly, that He died, that He rose again, that He conquered death and ascended bodily to heaven in order to secure salvation for all those who believe.

How do we know we are saved? Only by putting our faith in Jesus Christ, and by observing the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. How do we know this? Because the whole testimony of God's Word bears witness to these truths. God saves us from fear of death, giving us instead a spirit of boldness to bring the Gospel to a dying world, taking away our sin and giving us instead the righteousness of His Son.

Doubt doesn't mean you aren't a Christian, but it does mean you've given in to false teaching and the lies of the devil. Positive thinking won't heal you of doubt and offer assurance; only Jesus Christ can do that through His testimony in the Bible. Turn to Him for salvation, for assurance, for faith. These are certainties that really exist for those who seek salvation in God alone, who reject as false everything (including doubt) that is inconsistent with His Word and the promises contained therein.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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