Many churchgoers (and all church-going Southern Baptists!) know the hymn “Blessed Assurance” by Fanny Crosby. As its title indicates, the hymn speaks of the believer’s wonderful certainty of spending eternity with the Lord in His coming kingdom. Assurance means we know we have eternal life.
All would agree, however, that most people attending church today do not have that blessed certainty. I wonder what they think when they sing that song. Many people wonder if they have ever possessed eternal life. Many others think they can lose it. Still others think they have to continue doing good works in hope of being found deserving of eternal life after they die.
We are talking about millions and millions of people who do not have blessed assurance. Imagine the fear in which they live their lives. They know there is an eternal lake of fire, and they don’t know whether or not they will dwell there for eternity. We all have met many people—many good people—who live with this fear. It seems obvious to me that those who do not have assurance still wish it were true that such certainty could be obtained in this life. Imagine the joy and freedom they would experience.
In the meantime, people living with that fear turn to theologians for comfort. Unfortunately, often, these theologians provide no relief. In fact, they only add to the fear. Some say such fear is a good thing—it will keep a person on their spiritual toes. Fear will keep you from becoming complacent. You don’t want to fall into “easy believism.” Others will say the Scriptures indeed teach that a person can lose their salvation. Keep striving! You can do it!
Still others say that even though the Bible teaches assurance of eternal life, it is no big deal. Lots of good people live with that fear. It works for them. They are able to manage that fear and serve the Lord faithfully, oftentimes in hope of earning His love when this life is over.
My guess is that almost every person reading this blog has found himself in that despair, to some degree. For some, it was crippling. For others, it was manageable. Living a good Christian life was pretty good evidence, on most days, that you stood a good chance of getting into the kingdom. There were days of terror, but the good days outweighed the bad. You were able to push the uncertainty of eternal life out of your mind. We all know people today who live their lives that way. Some readers of this blog still do.
This is a tragedy. On numerous occasions during His earthly ministry, Jesus specifically offered eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:35, 47; 11:25-26). The very promise includes blessed assurance. By definition, when a person believes in Jesus for eternal life, they know they have it.
In May, GES had its annual conference. An emphasis of every speaker was the assurance of eternal life. Jesus did not preach a message saying that if we believe in Him we will need to live in fear and stay on our spiritual toes, always wondering if He will do what He has promised. Because He promised, we know, when we believe, that we immediately and permanently possess what He said He would give us—eternal life.
If you are one of the millions and millions of people who live in fear, I strongly recommend that you watch the sessions presented at this year’s conference. You can find them at the Grace Evangelical Society YouTube channel. With an emphasis on the Gospel of John, you will see the blessed assurance Jesus offers.
If you do, I pray that you will be convinced of what the Holy Spirit shows you from the Word of God. If that happens, I am sure that the next time you sing “Blessed Assurance,” you will sing it a little more loudly, and with a lot more gusto.