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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

How Can I Know? A Surprise Answer

Assurance of salvation is a good thing. At least, it's a good thing if it's true. We know there are people with assurance of salvation that shouldn't be so sure (Matt 7:21-23). But we also know that Scripture assures us we can know (1 John 5:13). So we look through the pages of God's Word and we find different hints, different clues, different tests that can help us to know -- rightly know -- that we belong to God. The one I mentioned yesterday was the testimony of the Holy Spirit, but that had to be rightly understood. It wasn't "I feel or sense that the Holy Spirit agrees with me that I'm saved." It was actually living by the Spirit -- "putting to death the deeds of the flesh." Paul says that the deeds of the flesh are evident (Gal 5:16-21) and the fruit of the Spirit are evident (Gal 5:22-25) and we can see which is us and which is not. (And remember, like Peter said, "If these qualities are yours and are increasing ..." meaning that it isn't that you've arrived at perfection, but the presence at all and the direction you're heading.)

Today I want to offer a perhaps surprising biblical test.
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. (Heb 12:5-8)
I suspect you didn't see that coming, did you?

The author of Hebrews is abundantly clear here. First, God disciplines His own. Not maybe -- definitely. Second, it is not pleasant discipline. We know that it includes but is not limited to teaching because the text actually says that He "chastises" every son. The word references the use of a whip -- "scourges." The context speaks of unpleasant discipline (Heb 12:4, 11). The idea is that our loving Father applies directed and painful teaching techniques and corrections for our benefit. No one escapes it because we all need correction and we all need painful correction at times.

I've pointed this out to people in conversations on occasion and I've been told, "No, God doesn't do that" and, worse, "He never has done that to me." If that is your response, then you have a problem. "If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons." Not my opinion. Not my judgment. That's what it says. That is the test offered by God in His Word.

Have you ever been corrected by God? Have you ever been turned from sin, pushed away from where you wanted to go by trial and difficulty? God disciplines His own. His discipline is intentional, corrective, purposeful, and useful. It isn't punishment as much as it is redirection. The purpose of this kind of discipline and chastisement is restoration, not retribution. Paul describes Scripture as "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16). God uses discipline for reproof -- "Here is an error" -- and correction -- "Here's how you get back to the path." It isn't a matter of justice -- payback, making things balanced -- but of restoration and training in righteousness. And, in fact, that correlation of the use of Scripture and God's discipline is important. How do I know if what I am currently suffering is God's correction? Scripture. Read God's Word.

One other point I found interesting in the text. He wrote, "It is for discipline that you have to endure." Interesting, because Jesus said, "The one who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt 10:22; Matt 24:13). Endurance and discipline are interlinked, and endurance and assurance of salvation are interlinked. Interesting, isn't it? Because, you see, as it turns out your salvation and your enduring in it are a product of God's work, not your own. Thus, we endure because He disciplines, and if we endure (because He disciplines), we will be saved. A sure thing.

If you have been corrected by God, especially painfully, this text suggests you are a son who has been disciplined by a loving Father. As such, that pain is profitable, the product of love. If you have not, this passage warns you that you might need to reevaluate your relationship with the Father. Something to think about.

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