Our Rock-Solid Status and Assurance in Christ
June 5, 2016
Part 1: A Is For Assurance
Assurance is important in life. For example, a father might assure his daughter that there are no monsters under her bed. A review can assure a customer that a product is reliable. One could assure their spouse that they are loved. Assurance is important in life.
And it is also important in Christian life. Believers can enjoy and should enjoy an assurance of God’s salvation and grace. They can know that God loves them. They can walk without shame. They can have joy in the midst of suffering. They can laugh at the face of death.
But believers often have their assurance of God’s salvation and grace shaken and diminished. They may fall into a certain sin that wounds their conscience and grieves the Holy Spirit. They may doubt God’s love during trials and temptations in life. They may neglect God’s word and sacrament.
A lack of assurance of God’s salvation and grace is a very real thing. The Colossians struggled with it. And we may struggle with it too. Make no mistake - our salvation is rock solid. But it is our assurance of that salvation that may not be so solid.
And so believers have two choices when dealing with this thing. They can ultimately get their assurance from God himself. Or they can ultimately get their assurance from themselves. That’s pretty much what it all comes down to.
Unfortunately, the Colossians chose the latter. They looked at themselves instead of looking at God. They put themselves in front of the mirror instead of putting themselves in front of God’s promises. They assured themselves with their own words and deeds instead of assuring themselves with God’s words and deeds. And so the Colossians desperately sought an assurance of salvation in the wrong people, the wrong places, and the wrong things.
But Jesus Christ loves his church. And through the Apostle Paul, he gives a simple but wonderful encouragement to the Colossians - and to us today. Jesus gives us the foundation for our assurance of salvation and grace. And I’m really happy to talk to you about it today. I hope that you would stand on Christ’s foundation for assurance and enjoy this assurance as you wait for the return of Christ and his future kingdom.
Part 2: Alienation
Paul begins to put the Colossians on solid ground by first talking about their old status before God. And it was a really bad one. He says that they were once alienated from God. Hostile in mind. Doing evil deeds. Alienated from God.
Brothers and sisters, alienation from God is pure horror. It is being cut off from a blessed relationship with God. It is God turning away from you. It is the worst thing that a human being can experience.
Adam and Eve broke covenant with God and got devastating alienation. They were banished from the Garden of Eden. They were cut off from the tree of life. They were given the sentence of misery and death. King Saul disobeyed the commands of the LORD and got tragic alienation. He was rejected as king. His kingdom was torn away from him and given to another man. The nation of Israel loved other gods and got catastrophic alienation. They were destroyed by the nations and sent into exile.
Alienation from God is a terrible thing. It is one thing to be away from friends, rejected by someone you care about, or disowned by your family. It is another thing to be cut off from God. It is one thing to die alone. It is another thing to die without God.
Alienation. It is a terrible horror. But for the believer, it is an old status. This is the first thing that Paul says here to the Colossians.
Part 3: Reconciliation and Presentation
After talking about their old status before God, Paul continues to put the Colossians on solid ground by talking about their new status before God. Before, they faced the horrifying status of alienation. But now, they enjoy the blessed status of reconciliation and presentation. For Christ Jesus reconciled them to God in his body of flesh by his death. And Christ Jesus presents them to God as holy, blameless, and above reproach.
Brothers and sisters, reconciliation from God is true blessedness. It is being restored to a blessed relationship with God. It is God turning back toward you. It is the best thing that a human being can experience.
When I think about reconciliation, I think about the story of the prodigal son. The prodigal son took his share of his father’s inheritance and considered his father as dead to him. He left home and lived a reckless life. But he came to his senses and returned home to repent before his father. And so he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Reconciliation with God is a wonderful thing. It is one thing to be forgiven by a friend. It is another thing to be forgiven by God. It is one thing to die with the favor and applause of men. It is another thing to die with the favor of God and the promise of eternal life with God in heaven.
But Paul does not just say that believers are reconciled to God. He also says that believers are presented before God as holy, blameless, and above reproach.
Brothers and sisters, presentation before God as holy, blameless, and above reproach is ultimate comfort and joy. It is being counted as righteous, as if you had never sinned in your life. It is being able to stand without any condemnation or guilt or shame. It is the best thing that a human being can experience.
What is wonderful about our reconciliation to God and presentation before God is how it is all made possible. Alienation was removed from us because Jesus Christ took our alienation. In crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” Jesus was, in the words of Isaiah 53, “cut off” from the Father. Though he was perfect in his obedience to the law, Jesus traded his record of righteousness for our record of sinfulness. And Jesus was crucified on the cross as though he were a sinner. Jesus experienced the worst thing that a human being can experience. But he humbled himself and endured humiliation so that his people would not be alienated from God the Father. He reconciled us to God in his body of flesh by his death… in order to present us holy and blameless and above reproach before the Father. Our reconciliation to God and our presentation before God came with great cost. Therefore, let us praise Jesus Christ and never forget his life and his death, his suffering and his pain, his body and his blood, his sacrifice and his love.
Part 4: The Foundation of Our Assurance
Recently, our brother Pastor David got ordained as a teaching elder of the PCA. And just the other day, Ken and Jenny graduated from Stevenson High School. For all of them, their status changed. David went from unordained to ordained. Ken and Jenny went from high school students to college-bound students. It’s a big deal and a real change for them. And so I asked them if they felt any different after their change in status. They pretty much said no.
Brothers and sisters, we may not feel God’s salvation and grace in our lives. We may not feel the difference between alienation and reconciliation. But the objective fact of the matter is that your have a new status. It’s a big deal and a real change for you.
Here is the payoff of Paul’s words. He reminds the Colossians that their assurance of salvation and grace comes down to their new status before God. They are in a new relationship with God because of Christ. And that relationship, that status, and that blessedness does not change. Given that fact, the Colossians can rest in Christ and be assured of God’s salvation and grace in their new relationship status before God.
Brothers and sisters, this reconciliation, this change in status from old to new, is the foundation for your assurance of salvation. Jesus reconciled you. Period. Past tense. Do you really think that you can undo what he did? Are you stronger than Jesus? Can your person and work override the person and work of Christ? No way! Jesus reconciled you. Jesus made you right with God. Jesus did that in his real body and through his real death. Jesus alienated your alienation. Jesus is your assurance of salvation.
Praise the Lord!
Many believers turn to human philosophies or man-made traditions in order to feel better about their salvation and standing before God. They try to present themselves before God in their own ways and on their own terms. They fear that they are not really or fully reconciled with God, and so they seek to get right with God over and over again in order to be secure and assured of salvation.
Paul puts before the Colossians the true and mighty source for Christian assurance. Their lives are changed once-and-for-all and there is nothing more for them to add to their salvation because their status is set. Christ has done all the work and his righteousness presents us as holy, blameless, and above reproach before God. To think otherwise is to really say that Christ’s righteousness is uncertain. This is most ridiculous. Christ’s righteousness is solid and unchanging. And since our status depends on and rests on the solid rock of Christ, our status cannot and will not ever change. And if our status is solid and unchanging, then let’s place our assurance of salvation on just that - our status. Let us not place our assurance on ourselves. Let us not place our assurance on how we do as Christians. Let us not place our assurance on any philosophy or tradition. Let us place our assurance on the person and work of Christ. We cannot add to the status that Christ’s secures for us, as if it were not enough.
Part 5: Faith and Hope
Unfortunately, believers in Christ are susceptible to forgetting about this - about this big picture. And so Paul tells the Colossian church to continue in the faith and not shift away from the hope of the gospel. His words, “if indeed,” make it very, very clear that this continuance of faith and this shiftlessness from the hope of the gospel is crucial to Christian life. Paul is not giving a condition for salvation. He’s not saying, “If you continue in the faith and if you don’t shift from the hope of the gospel, then you will be presented as holy, blameless, and above reproach.” Paul is just showing that faith and hope are important for Christian life.
And so this means that there are no secrets to Christian living. The hope of the gospel has been proclaimed in all creation. It’s out there in plain view. All can hear it. And you won’t get it a supernatural way. You’ll get it from good old-fashioned first-hand witnessing and testimonial accounts from the apostles. That’s why Paul mentions that he is a minister of the gospel. The Colossians don’t need to go to anyone else for the truth about Christ. The apostles knew Christ and saw Christ live and die and rise again. And then they talked about it, traveled far to share it, and wrote it all down for the rest of us. No need for lights, camera, action. No need to tune in to the inner voice in your heart. No need to follow the latest spiritual trends or celebrity gurus. Just read your Bible, come to church, listen to God’s Word, hear your pastor explain it some more, pray, take part in the Lord’s Supper every so often, and just have faith in Christ and hope laid up in heaven and love for all the saints. That’s Christian life.
Part 6: Epilogue
In closing, brothers and sisters, I want you to be encouraged as we wait for the return of Christ.
Your hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
You do not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may you then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, you stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
Soli Deo Gloria