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Continued...

 Full Assurance of Understanding

Please do not misunderstand me. I do not discount the emotional element in conversion of the previous lesson, but I insist it will not do to rely upon it as an evidence that one has been forgiven.

When a man is awakened by the Spirit of God to realize something of his lost, undone condition, it would be strange indeed if his emotions were not aroused. When he is brought to repentance, that is, to a complete change of attitude toward his sins, toward himself, and toward God, we need not be surprised to see the tears of penitence coursing down his cheeks. And when he rests his soul on what God has said, and receives in faith the Spirit’s witness, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more,” it would be unthinkable but that, like Wesley, his heart should be strangely warmed as he rejoiced in God’s salvation.

But what I am trying to make plain is that assurance is not based upon any emotional change, but whatever emotional experience there may be, it will be the result of accepting the testimony of the Lord given in the Scriptures. Faith rests on the naked Word of God. That Word believed gives full assurance. Then the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the believer’s heart and to conform him to Christ. Growth in grace follows naturally when the soul has trusted Christ and entered into peace with God.

When writing to the Christians at Colosse, who had been saved largely through the ministry of Epaphras, that man of prayer and devotion, the apostle Paul said: “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:1-3). The expression I desire to draw particular attention to is found in the second verse: “the full assurance of understanding.”

The initial question of salvation having been settled, one is not to suppose that there will never arise any further doubts or perplexities. The child of God is a stranger and a pilgrim passing through an unfriendly wilderness-world, where he is beset by many foes who will seek in every way possible to impede his progress. He still has an enemy within: the old fleshy nature which is in constant warfare with the spiritual nature imparted in new birth.

Then outside, our adversary, the devil, goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. We are called upon to resist him, being steadfast in the faith. He knows he can never destroy the life hid with Christ in God, but he will do everything that satanic ingenuity can suggest to hinder the believer’s progress in spirituality and retard his growth in grace. By fiery darts of doubt and incitements to carnal pleasure, he will endeavor to hinder communion with God and so to destroy the Christian’s happiness and annul his testimony. Therefore the need of being built up on our most holy faith and nurtured in sound scriptural instruction. “Through thy precepts,” says David, “I get understanding.”

Thought Question:

What does Satan, our enemy, try to do to us?

 

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      Thomas A. Tarrants: I was not raised to be racist or anti-Semite. Growing up, my family had a black maid and we all loved her. A black man who worked for my dad also did some work on our cars from time to time. He was an honest, hardworking man and we thought highly of him.

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      Thomas A. Tarrants: As I read more deeply in extremist literature and talked with racists, I became more fully indoctrinated into far-right ideology, hatred grew, and I became radicalized. Later, I got involved with the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, the most violent right-wing terrorist group in America, according to the FBI. One night, an accomplice and I were ambushed by a SWAT team while attempting to bomb the home of a Jewish businessman. My accomplice was killed and I was shot four times at close range with shotgun fire. At the hospital doctors said if I lived 45 minutes it would be a miracle. And it was a miracle—a miracle of God’s grace and mercy, for I certainly deserved to die.

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      Thomas A. Tarrants: I was given a 30-year sentence in prison for the bombing attempt, and six months later I escaped with two other inmates. When we were recaptured, one of them was killed. I was taken back to prison and put in a 6’ x 9’ cell in the maximum-security unit, by myself, 24 hours a day. I was in a desperate situation, “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12 ESV). To keep from going crazy, all I could do was read. Eventually, my reading turned into a search for truth, wherever that might take me. This search started with a study of classical philosophy and eventually shifted to the Gospels. The shift was not because I was trying to find God, because I thought I was already saved.

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      Thomas A. Tarrants: What little reading of the Bible I had done in the past had been dry, not very interesting, and didn’t make much sense to me. It was just as Paul had said, “the natural person does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV). But this time, reading the Bible was different. My eyes were being opened to spiritual reality. It was as if I had been blind all my life and was now beginning to see. The meaning of the Scriptures and their application to me, personally, was becoming clearer and clearer. I was convicted of my sins and brought to a place of repentance. I thank God that growing up in church I had been taught that, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV).

      One night, I got on my knees and asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and take over my life, and something changed deep inside of me. The next day, God was real to me in a way I had never known. I was spiritually alive, and my life began to change. God gave me love, and I publicly renounced the Klan and hatred. Friendships developed with people who were very different from me and this has continued ever since.

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      Thomas A. Tarrants: Even before I came to Christ, he enabled me to see the errors in racist and anti-Semitic ideology which had blinded my mind and to abandon those ideas. I would describe this as a kind of pre-evangelistic liberation of my thinking from demonic deception and blindness. This was essential, for as Paul says, “the God of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV).

      Then Christ began to shine the light of biblical truth into my mind and heart, convicting me of my sins and opening my eyes to the fact that I had never been saved. Finally, he gave repentance, drew me to ask for forgiveness, and answered by bringing me out of death into life. As Jesus put it, “truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death” (John 5:24 ESV).

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      After coming to Christ, I was alive to God and had a hunger to read the Bible for hours every day, and to pray, and to live for God. Paul said, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. the old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). That had become true for me.

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      Thomas A. Tarrants: Here are two:

      “For the LORD is good;
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      “I have been crucified with Christ. it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV).

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