"Does God Love Me?"- A Review of 'Assured by God'
Reviewed by Pastor Charles R. Biggs
The Apostle Peter exhorts all believers in his second letter to be diligent to make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). The Apostle Peter writes with a desire for Christians to have assurance of their right standing before God in union with Jesus Christ, and to experience the joy, comfort, and hope of this special favor of God.
A new book edited by Burk Parsons entitled â€˜Assured by God: Living in the Fullness of Godâ€™s Graceâ€™ seeks to help Christians in knowing that there truly is no condemnation for those who are united to Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1), and that if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31). Many Christians struggle with their assurance and whether they are loved by God. If you have ever asked (or are asking presently in your life):
â€œI believe God loves, but does he love me?â€ then you should read this book prayerfully and carefully.
You may wonder if Christians can have real assurance in the Christian life, as we struggle against our sins and temptations in this present evil age. Can we really know the extent and comprehensiveness of the love of God in Christ together with all the saints as Paul prays? (Eph. 3:16-18). This new book edited by Burk Parsons teaches us that the Word of God says we can have confidence in Christ and eventually grow in our assurance.
Pastor Burk Parsons reminds us in his introduction to the book that God has secured for his people not only assurance of His love on some future date when we will be with him at home in heaven, he has secured us in Christ for the here and now. â€œTherefore, he not only has promised us eternal life, but he assures us of our eternal life each and every day. We are reminded constantly of his sustaining grace every time we are convicted of our sin, every time we repent, every time the fear of God comes upon us, and every time we are disciplined by our heavenly Father.â€ (pg. 33)
During the Reformation (and throughout the Medieval period of the Church), many Christians were unable to be comforted and encouraged by the assurance of Godâ€™s love. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church officially denied at the Council of Trent that most Christians could ever know for sure whether they were the elect and therefore loved by God. In response to this unbiblical teaching, the Westminster Confession of Faith declared:
â€œAlthough hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and estate of salvation; which hope of theirs shall perish; yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; which hope shall never make them ashamed.â€ â€“Westminster Confession of Faith, 18.1.
As we confess with the Westminster Confession, Godâ€™s people dare not to have a false assurance by placing confidence in themselves, or in their contribution to Christâ€™s Kingdom; this can be bring eternal damnation to rely on oneself and oneâ€™s works as the ground of our assurance and hope. We must seek to locate our assurance in the Person and Work of Christ and how Christ lived, died, was resurrected and ascended for us in order that we no longer live for ourselves, but for him who died and was raised for us (cf. 2 Cor. 5:15-17).
The book is written from a pastoral tone and with a caring eye toward making Christ known to his people. I was encouraged with how faithful to the Westminster Confession of Faith this book was, and how the writers teased out and unpacked the important aspects of the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 18, section 4:
This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure; that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance: so far is it from inclining men to looseness.
Many of the teachers who contribute to this book are also those who have hearts nourished by Godâ€™s Spirit as pastors. Philip Graham Ryken writes on being assured from the foundation of the world; Albert Mohler, Jr. writes on being guarded by faith; Richard Phillips writes on our assurance in Christâ€™s covenantal work and obedience on behalf of his own; Sinclair Ferguson writes on our assurance in justification and how that justification and sanctification are distinct, but can never be separated because they are both fruits of union with Christ; Joel Beeke writes on the fullness of grace found in Christ and in our assurance of love in him; John MacArthur writes a chapter on the glory of true repentance; Keith Mathison writes on Godâ€™s means of assuring his people through Word, Sacrament and prayer; Jerry Bridges writes on the blessing of Godâ€™s disciplining his children; and R. C. Sproul writes a brief epilogue on the anatomy of why the people of God doubt and how we can be assured of Godâ€™s love.
Assured by God is highly recommended because it is faithful to scripture, pastoral in its instruction, and owes a great debt to the Westminster Confession of Faith. This is a book that is easily accessible to the layperson and also tremendously helpful for the pastor as he prepares his sermons and studies to exhort, correct, encourage the people of God with faithfulness to Godâ€™s Word.
It is fitting to close with the benediction of R. C. Sproul in the Foreword of this outstanding book: â€œThe possession of full assurance of salvation is too important to leave to a superficial search. It must be an earnest quest, fueled by the impetus of the Holy Spirit who impels our souls to seek the truth of our own condition, in that truth that God reveals to us in sacred Scripture. May your journey in pursuit of full assurance be guided at every step by the unvarnished Word of God, by Godâ€™s grace and for his glory.â€ (From the Foreword, pg. 9).
Pastor Charles R. Biggs
Purchase the book here and support Monergism Books: http://www.monergismbooks.com/assured0292.html