How do we know we are eternally secure? How do we become certain we are one of God’s elect children? Is there any way for us to be confident that Jesus’ atonement covered all our sins — even our sins of unbelief? What ought we to look for in order to be assured we have truly been redeemed and reconciled? Can we know for certain we are not a duplicitous, hypocritical, superficial Pharisees waiting to be surprised and outed on the day of judgment?
The Apostle John provides help for us in his first letter:
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:13-21)
We know we are united with Jesus Christ because we have his Holy Spirit dwelling within. Well, that begs another question, “How exactly do we know we are the temple of the Holy Spirit?” Are we supposed to glow? Is there some feeling we should have; ought we to walk about with an never-ceasing tingling in our toes? Is the Holy Spirit’s presence verified by our ability to speak an unlearned and unknown heavenly language? Tell me again, how exactly can we be assured we have Christ’s Spirit living within?
John helps us further. Here are three evidences of union with Christ and the filling of the Holy Spirit:
The Spirit Affects My Head
We know we are united with Christ and filled with his Spirit because we believe and confess that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the world. Both of these conclusions and confessions are evidence of the Lord’s sovereign, irresistible, and effective work. It is not natural for one to believe God came to earth in human flesh. It is not normal to believe men are totally deprave and salvation can come only through one man. However, that being true, you and I find ourselves believing. Friends, let us take confidence in the fact that our ears have been unplugged, our eyes have been opened, and our head has had the cobwebs removed. Let us rejoice that we who were blind now see; we were once were dead but now live. Find comfort in coming to the right doctrinal conclusion and confession.
Yet we say, “Aren’t there men and women who make false professions of faith? Do not even demons believe this bit of Christological information?”
The Spirit Affects My Heart
We know we are united with Christ and filled with his Spirit because we are growing in our knowledge of God’s love for us, and we are also growing in our affection towards him. Brothers and sisters, rejoice that our appreciation of God’s love is on the rise. In addition, be comforted by the fact that our heart-felt affection is also increasing. Friend, this desire to love God is odd; it is truly peculiar. Such divine affection is a supernatural sign of our regenerated and sanctified hearts, for we had no such love prior to our inclusion in Christ.
And what are we to do with the nagging reality that we do not love God as we ought? Do not explain this away. In addition, do not be deceived into doubt. Take confidence in the fact that you are troubled by your sin. Find assurance in the prayer from your soul that says, “Father, I do not love as much as I ought, but I really want to love you more than I do.” This prayer comes from the heart of one touched by God’s Spirit. It is the repentant prayer that comes from one of Christ’s own whom he is in the process of discipling and improving.
And what are we to do with the nagging fear that still shows its ugly head? A more proper understanding of God’s Gospel — his perfect love — eradicates fear. The Gospel, rightly understood, fixes what ails us. Friends, our fears will be fully relieved when God’s Gospel is fully perceived.
The Spirit Affects My Hands
Finally, we know we are united with Christ and filled with his Spirit because our internal and external love for neighbor is on the rise. We find ourselves, from the inside-out, responding to others more and more like Jesus. We rejoice in the fact that Christ’s imputed righteousness is working itself out in our life. We find joy as we experience a growing desire to be more selfless and other-person centered. And, when we hear all that the Law requires and see our fleshly selfishness that remains, let us find comfort in the fact that our soul is troubled by sin. This too is an evidence that Christ is not satisfied to leave us in an untroubled condition.
Brothers and sisters, we can know we abide in him and he in us. Such wonderful assurance comes through our understanding the free Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, let us be confident in what he has done for us. Let us find assurance in the fruit of his labor: Our Gospel knowledge, Our Gospel profession, Our Gospel affection, Our Gospel confidence, and Our Gospel charity. All of this is proof of his unconditional love for us — his beloved elect children.
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