BAD NEWS IS GOOD NEWS
Often I pull out a well-worn devotional book that guides me into moments of worship, confession, gratitude, and prayer. One of its prompts suggests this: Today, thank God for His spiritual blessings in particular. These things will never change, and they are worthy of our thanks even when we are having a bad day. Intentionally focusing on the spiritual blessings that I have been given a reminder of how rich a life in Christ really is. The Holy Spirit’s presence in my life, mercy, grace, redemption, forgiveness, an eternal inheritance, unshakeable hope, and resurrection power available to me are just some of the spiritual blessings that I give thanks for.
One of the more under-appreciated spiritual blessings is assurance, and I find myself becoming more and more fond of it each day.
Hebrews 10:22 says: Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings…
This week, we have been reminded in our current message series of the “bad news” that there is no one righteous, not even one. (Romans 3:10). No one is good enough in fact, no one is good. Christ alone is good enough to be in the Father’s presence in heaven.
But many of us don’t want to hear this. We would rather assess our virtues than be reminded of our sinful state. And the image of a great heavenly balancing scale comes to mind. God envisioned more like a Heavenly Clerk sets stones or marbles or coins on the pan labeled “good” whenever we do something good. Likewise, the same type of object is added to the pan labeled “bad” whenever we do something bad. And so it goes, every moment of every day until we die. And as we walk up to the pearly gates, we will finally discover which side is more heavily loaded. And the imbalance of the scale will be our eternal predictor.
Can we just agree that would be terrible?! God does not use a scale or anything like it to judge a person’s relative goodness. This is not how He operates. I guess He could have chosen to do it that way, and justifiably. Because He alone is the one who could truly judge what is good and what is evil.
But He chose to do it another way, probably for 100 great reasons. I suspect that one of those reasons was that He loved us too much to put us through that kind of uncertainty. Can you imagine the striving that would consume our lives if He did keep score? Can you imagine the comparisons we would be making, the exhausting and never-ending striving until our last breath? Because in front of us would always be the need for one more stone to drop onto the side labeled “good.”
Now life is not always easy–we still have troubles. And sometimes living as a Christian in this world does take considerable sweat, blood, and tears. But we were not made or saved for a life of striving. Remember the gentle yoke and the rest for our souls that Jesus offers us in Matthew 11. You know what else we were not made or saved for? A life lived on a knife’s edge. Millions do live daily not knowing where they stand with a higher power, a Creator, gods, or God, always questioning whether they’ll end up in heaven or end up in hell. But I can’t imagine living that way. For me, that would already be a type of hell.
If you are struggling with anxious thoughts of uncertainty, if you continue to wonder and worry that somehow you will lose the gift of salvation that God has given you, fight against these oppressive thoughts. The enemy would want you to be held down and caged in by your doubts. If you are going to strive for something, strive to understand God’s character and His actions. Strive to understand what He is offering you. And then, accept the offer.
I am wholly and eternally grateful for the blessing of assurance. When we believe in who Jesus is and what He did for us on the cross and at the tomb, and when we accept his forgiveness and ask him to be our Savior and Lord, we have assurance. Period. I know whose I am, and I know where I am going. And that is not just some gut feeling, it is the Truth found in God’s Word. The Bible tells us that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30), that our names are written in the Book of Life (Revelation 21:27), and that no one can snatch us from His Hand (John 10:28-29).
Think about the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus he had no time to turn his life around and accomplish enough good to balance his scale.
The Prodigal Son was hugged, welcomed, partied over, restored as a loved son and as one who had authority in his father’s household. And all of this occurred without the son doing one good, restorative act. His scale still hung in imbalance with a heavy pan labeled “bad.”
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. I John 5:11-13.