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Concerned or Assured

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Concerned or Assured

10 minuten leestijd

Through the whole of Scripture we can find the essence of the words of our topic. These words have always been familiar in our circles. Still it is good, especially for our young people, to repeat what the older ones know for sure.

In these words we speak about the spiritual condition of God’s people. So on the question of whether a concerned sinner has faith or not, we can simply say: It is a person to whom the Lord has given grace, but his faith is not in exercise. At such a time that person is concerned about his life.

How can we explain these things of a person who is born again? Regeneration is often compared with the birth of a child. It is the quickening of the dead sinner; he is brought by Word and Spirit from the state of death to the state of life. Our fathers have called it: “A new creation, a resurrection from the dead, a making alive” (Canons of Dordt). As a child in nature comes into this world crying, so the regenerated cry by day and night unto the Lord because they are concerned about their sins. They miss the Lord and they feel their loss of Cod’s image. In the mirror of God’s law they see their uncleanness before Cod. They realize they must die and they cannot die. Still when you would ask them if it would not be better to return to the world, they would tell you that this has become impossible for them. Even when they are pursued by the law and death haunts them, they still cannot go back to their former life.

Now we may not say that God’s children are always in darkness, because that is not true. There are also moments they receive comfort of the Lord under preaching, reading or when meditating on the ways of the Lord. There can be sweet moments for a concerned sinner, when he may believe that the Lord has begun the good work in him. Usually these moments are short. Friends, is this also your experience, or can you not go along with this? Can you always believe and do you always possess that Surety? If so, I am afraid the true work of the Lord is not present in your life because we begin as poor sinners. The Lord convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment. I know it is not nice to be caught as a thief, having taken something which does not belong to us.

Is it not better to hear of what we are missing so that we may turn to the Lord before it is too late, forever too late? If we truly may see what is missing in our life, then we will begin to see the meaning of the word “concerned.” The common conviction of the Holy Spirit leaves us outside of Christ, but the true work of the Spirit shows us what we are and what we ought to be.

The common conviction of the Holy Spirit leaves us outside of Christ, but the true work of the Spirit shows us what we are and what we ought to be.

In the moment of regeneration the elect are cut off from Adam and implanted in Christ. At the same moment they become partakers of all His benefits and will not go lost because of their sins. Often this people do not feel saved in their own eyes; they miss the comfort of these blessings. What then is necessary? They have to grow in faith.

Sadly, there are many in our days, who deny the necessity of the exercise of faith. They don’t only include in regeneration the divine imputation of all the benefits which Christ merited for His Church, but they also include in regeneration personal appropriation. The consequence of this is that they deny steps in grace. Of a concerned sinner they don’t want to hear, because they have everything. You must believe. The influence of such is a danger for the concerned church. They are always able to believe. But what is wrong with this, since the Lord Himself has commanded us to believe? “And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:23a). Yes, this is true, but by our fall in Adam we have become so miserable that it is impossible for man to believe of himself, as the Lord has said: “A man can receive nothing [or take anything unto himself], except it be given him from heaven” Qohn 3:27). We should remember that imputation precedes appropriation.

To summarize, we would say that a concerned sinner, or a child in faith, possesses faith but he often misses the exercise of faith. This means that he has to be brought to the end of his own works and seek life outside of himself by the operation of the Spirit. We don’t expect a little child to act like an adult. As a babe, it cannot walk or talk, but it cries and crawls. That crying can be displeasing for the family, but when a poor sinner cries unto the Lord it is pleasing unto Him.

So we have seen that the faith of the concerned must be exercised. They have to be instructed by the great Prophet Himself. They must come to the school of the Lord as Paul says in Ephesians 4:13: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro.” In these exercises of faith the administration of the Spirit is indispensable because we cannot believe of ourselves. We cannot take anything ourselves except the Spirit gives it.

We have to remember that the circumstances of those concerned sinners can vary much. They have learned to be a sinner; they have a true sorrow and show all the evidences of new life, but under the attacks of Satan they fear they are not upright before the Lord. First Satan allures them to sin; then he points to their sin and says: “For such a sinner there is no hope anymore.” And they believe Satan so readily. Because of their need they begin to cry unto the Lord for help. His service has been precious unto them, but the Lord is hiding Himself from them; they are concerned.

Does not Cod’s Word give great promises to exactly this kind of people which we have described? Yes, but they cannot take hold of it, since their faith is so weak. Most people today are satisfied with historical knowledge. They know that Jesus came for sinners, and believe they are saved because they admit they are sinners. Thus they deceive themselves for eternity.

The truly concerned people cannot build on contemplation. They need a better foundation; they need the exercise of their faith to come to the knowledge of the Savior. The Holy Spirit has come to glorify Christ in the heart of a concerned sinner. They cannot accept Christ of themselves; He must be given unto them. This is not an invention of our church, but is according to Scripture. And it is also the experience of the Church.

Well-known is the example of the daughters of Jerusalem, whom we may call concerned sinners, since they missed the assurance of the spouse. They said: “What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women?” They missed the exercise of faith which the spouse had. Was it not the same with Jacob who always spoke of the Cod of his fathers before he was at Peniel? But when he personally had been there, then he could speak of Cod as his God. The Lord will give assurance to His people that they are partakers of Christ and His merits. His righteousness is the foundation whereon they can be acquitted by the Father of the guilt and punishment of sin and receive a right to eternal life.

A further step in grace is when the Spirit may assure us that we are childrer of Cod and we may say: “Abba, Father.” It is this same Spirit which can give assurance of our election. These assurances given by the Lord are so sweet that even in the darkest moments of our lives, we will not lose it completely. Well-known is the example of Job, who lost everything, but still could say: “The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

A truly concerned sinner does not dare to rest on a foundation outside of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Do you realize what a great blessing it is to receive such an assurance of faith? This is not something to become proud of and seek reasons in ourselves. It is grace alone!

What a blessing would it be if we could hear more of this in our days. God’s Word speaks of the necessity to grow in faith and the divines of the Second Reformation have emphasized that it is necessary to have personal experience in the steps in grace. This fruit will not be missing if a true faith is implanted in our heart.

This kind of experience is ridiculed by many in our days. They say, “It is not necessary at all.” But a truly concerned sinner does not dare to rest on a foundation outside of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

We fear that many are mistaken that their so-called faith is the work of Cod, but when it is tried in the flames of God’s justice, it will burn up. The stamp of the Holy Spirit is missing.

On the other side, many will go concerned through this life, fearing that all that has taken place will be too short for eternity; still the Lord knows about it and He will finish the good work in their life. Small and great will stand before the throne.

Why is it then necessary to show the difference between the concerned and assured? It is necessary for the concerned that they may seek to grow up in the knowledge of Christ and be filled with a true desire for unity with Him in whom salvation is sure. Especially today it is so needful to emphasize that God’s people may not rest on the benefits, but that they must know the Benefactor. Is this shortcoming not bearable for us, most of the time? No rest will be given outside of Christ. We don’t say that the little ones in faith are excluded from God’s grace, but it is more to the honor of God’s Name to be assured of the work of the Lord. And personally we miss so much comfort if we don’t know that Surety in our life. Christ gave Himself to merit all, so that poor sinners could become rich. Of them it is written, “They will walk in the light of Thy countenance.”

Rev. A.M. den Boer is pastor of the Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Sunnyside, Washington.

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van donderdag 1 februari 1990

The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's

Concerned or Assured

Bekijk de hele uitgave van donderdag 1 februari 1990

The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's

PDF Bekijken