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Addressing the Issue of Doubt

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman
The Truth Network Radio
July 11, 2022 2:00 am

Addressing the Issue of Doubt

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman

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July 11, 2022 2:00 am

Pastor Mike Karns speaks from John's epistle regarding doubt about the evidences of God's work of salvation.


Chosen to consider a passage in John the apostle's first epistle because it deals with issues related to assurance and assurances are really critical of Christian doctrine that will strengthen us and help us on our way to God is possible to be saved and not have an assurance that your say, but how much better to be saved and have an assurance that that is true in its assurances not easily acquired when I say I'm talking about a biblical grounded assurance it's not easily acquired because of the theology that we believe it's were not assured that were saved because we've done something, prayed a prayer asked Jesus into our heart, and various other trite things that are communicated about what it means to be a Christian. John wrote this epistle for number of reasons we not take the time to look at the various texts that show us the various reasons but probably if you or any if you have any familiarity at all with this short letter. You know that one of the primary reasons the John wrote the book was to bring an assurance and its the text is first John five in verse 13 you say. Well if that was the purpose of in writing. Why did he say that at the front and why did he wait till the end of the letter will have to ask him that, but it says these things I have written to you who believe in the name of the son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the son of God. That's pretty straightforward and clear Johnson's I wrote this that you might know that you have eternal life not hope so not wish so, but you might know, and that word no is an experiential knowledge, not just something that you agree to, but something that is fleshed out as you live your Christian life you know that by personal experience. When we come to the Lord's table. It has mixed feelings for us some dreaded direct yes they take seriously this business of self-examination and I know that it's essential that it's necessary that it's commanded.

But the more we look in search and examine our hearts through the aid of the spirit of God is that all were doing, we can become pretty discouraged and assurance can leave us because we think. My goodness, if there's that much remaining sin in me. If there's that yet to be rooted out if I need to grow that much more is it possible that I might not even be a Christian at all, so some dread that, but that's not the only thing we do around the Lord's table. That's a significant part time of self-examination, but it's a time to remember our Lord is a time to worship at the time the common reaffirm our faith and say I have believed, and I continue to believe sorts the balance there.

It's not either/or, it's both damn and in one of the hymns we sang this morning from depths of woe by Martin look Barb Barb by Martin Luther think of this first stanza, and how it focuses on the the sin and the hopelessness that that brings in the wall that it causes as we contemplate and think from depths of woe. I cried to the Lord, hear me, I implore the been down my gracious ear to me. My prayer life come before the Lord saved by searching I don't our sin and our iniquity. Lord, who can stand before the you sent. You see that sense of of a soul language that can come over you if that's your only focus, but it starts with from depths of woe and it ends.

The hymn ends with a firm reliance, and here's the balance that I think we ought to be striving for this going to help us. My help. He says in verse four, I rest than on the Lord and build not on my merit, my heart shall trust his gracious word to stay my fainting spirit is precious word does what assurance me he will my joy and comfort. The this is my firm reliance.

That's what I want for all of us. I want us to have a an assurance that is a firm reliance that you rooted and grounded in the word of God that is carefully thought through and examined as we gather around the Lord's table now doubts doubts are not a bad thing. In fact, doubts I think are healthy thing. It troubles me when I hear someone say I've never doubted my salvation from the first time I prayed and trusted Christ. It may not be true in every occasion, but I fear that that kind of assurance is grounded in a confidence in something that person did I trusted Christ. I haven't renounced that trust.

I continue to trust and therefore I don't doubt that on Christian well our assurance better be based on more than something you did your idea. That's where the Scriptures take us know when Paul says in Romans were talking about the apostle Paul here okay Paul says in Romans chapter 7 of this this business of self-examination. Looking within searching our hearts, for I know that in me that he is in my flesh. Nothing good dwells longer you look within, the more discouraged you going to be.

I know that in me, that is, in my flesh.

Nothing good dwells for to will is present with me. But how to perform what is good.

I do not find for the good that I will to do. I do not do, but the evil I will not to do that I practice now if I do what I will not to do it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law that evil is present with me the one who wills to do good for I delight in the law of God according to the inward man but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Now if you're hearing that what you think. Paul's response is going to be to that reality.

Listen to what he says oh wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death. I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. That's no ordinary run-of-the-mill Christian. That's the great apostle Paul and it is a paradox that it seems the people who are the most concerned about holiness.

The people who are the most concerned of drawing near to God and enjoying God are the same ones who are the most troubled by inner defilement of ongoing struggle with sin. I've been reading about David Brainerd. I want you to listen to a couple of things that David Brainerd said in his diary and here's a man who has drawn the affirmation of thousands of people. They've looked upon his life considered his life in a been inspired by his holiness by his devotion to God by his commitment to the Lord and yet we have his own words that speak of this ongoing struggle in his own life and now he was a man that was given to depression something in his family history.

His father's grandfather.

He says I came by rightly and listen to what he says he's talking about this depression. This discouragement and is drawing a contrast between what it was like to experience it before conversion and the difference it was after conversion. He says there was a difference between this depression after my conversion. There seem to be a rock of electing love under me that supported me, so that in my darkest times I could still affirm the truth and goodness of God. Even though I couldn't sense it for a season so you see it.

It conversion didn't remove the depression is something that he babbled with his entire life. One man whose writing about his life's is often his distress was owing to the hatred of his own remaining sinfulness. Listen to this from his diary on Thursday, November 4, 1942 not 1942, 1742, 40 we got into time travel, something ton or something got got it a couple hundred years quote to is distressing to feel in my soul that hell of corruption which still remains in me sometimes. This sense of unworthiness is so intense that I feel cut off from the presence of God. January 23, 1743. Scarce ever felt myself so unfit to exist as I do now. I saw I was not worthy of a place among the Indians, let alone a place among God's people. This is December 16, 1744 was so overwhelmed with dejection that I knew not how to live. I longed for death exceedingly.

My soul was sunk in deep waters and the floods were ready to drown me. I was so much impressed that my soul was in a kind of horror here. September 2, 1746 was confounded with a sense of my own on fruitfulness and unfitness of my work. Oh, what a dead, heartless, barren, unprofitable, rich do I see myself to be my spirit is so low, my bodily strength so wasted that I can do nothing at all. At length, being much more overdone. I lay down and try and sleep now what we learned from that will David Brainerd was a man of flesh.

He was incredibly used of God, but he had struggles and what I'm wanting to establish here in this introduction is that my subjection be something that you're sitting there and say well I'm not a depressed person not. I've never struggled with assurance of I'm just going to sit and listen but it really doesn't apply to me. I think this message applies to everybody.

I think it's something that we really need to think through someone is asked the question about why David Brainerd's life was so influential how a man whose who lived 275 years ago is still influencing and motivating missionaries around the globe.

This is what one man said Brainerd's life is a vivid powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use week sick, discouraged, beat down, lonely, struggling saints who cried to him day and night to accomplish amazing things for his glory like that.

I think that well said. Now that introduction let's turn to the text of Scripture.

First John three John is confronting attitudes of hatred and indifference there in verse 16 or 17 by this we know love because he lay down his life for us and we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren but whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him know who is he writing to his writing to the church. She's writing to believers. Notice verse 18 my little children talking to believers, let us not love in word or in tong but indeed and in truth. Now the truth of the matter is, we do not always love the brethren to the dues agree that we ought to. We often are given to indifference in the face of need. That's just the honest assessment is what John is confronting the speaking to, and then he's anticipating that those who really are honest and say you know what I need to examine my life in the light of these admonitions does the love of God abide in me, do I see someone in need. A brother in Christ, a sister in Christ, and I love the way indifferent to them.

He's raising the question, how does the love of God abide in him.

He's calling into question whether such a person has legitimate cause to cause the call themselves a Christian.

That's the issue, and then verse 19 and by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him see that word assure it's tied to his purpose statement chapter 5 in verse 13 to assure our hearts before him means to be convinced to be at rest to be settled to have a firm reliance. That's what is advocating. By this we know that we are out of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. John's desire is not to create doubt, but to settle doubt we have an adversary who has a strategy to continually place a? Of doubt where God has placed an exclamation point of assurance again noticed with me in verse 19. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

The Greek word for heart is Cardillo is a reference to our conscience.

The word condemn notice. By this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemns us. That word translated condemn literally means to know something against someone to know something against someone and what John is saying is that our conscience knows something about us that condemns us a sincere Christian has a sensitive conscience that can easily condemn us to the point that we question whether we are even a Christian now notice what John writes next in verse 24 elf our heart condemns us our conscience that's functioning properly says you have not done what you ought to have done or you have done. You have failed to do what you ought to have done either/or sins of omissions and sins of omission for high-rises up condemns us our conscience says you are guilty. What do we do for if our heart condemns us know not notice what he says God is greater than our heart and knows all things. How do we how do we apply what John says about God and he draws our attention to what aspect what attribute of God there in verse 20 he knows all things. He's omniscient. How does the omniscience of God help us when our conscience condemns us for our failures for our sins will God knows everything. He knows everything about you. He knows every sin that you've ever committed a knows the wrong thought you have even now he knows the sins you will yet commit.

He knows it all.

He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows you better than your conscience is trying to inform you even now in of God, who knows it all has forgiven us has received us as accepted us then we fight against this form of doubt, this condemning conscience by reminding ourselves and perhaps the enemy who is accusing us.

God knows everything about me. He knows more about me than I know about me and old devil. He knows more about me than you know about me and I'm accepted in the beloved. That's how we battle against doubt I we need to be careful, we can easily be deceived but again he's writing to believers and I'm speaking to the church tonight. I'm speaking to those of you who are believers.

Know yourself to be a believer have a track record that attests that you're a believer, but we've already established.

Despite all of that, however long you may have. Walk with the Lord and profess faith in Christ doubts are a part of our Christian experience. What are we going to do with them.

How we going to combat them. Do we just ignore them or is there a biblical strategy that addresses these legitimate doubts. Well, he's given us instruction here.

By this we know that we are of the truth. This is how we can know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

For if our heart condemns us.

God is greater than our heart and he knows all things. God is gracious and kind.

Because if he pulled back the curtain and allowed us to see the awfulness of sin that still remains in us, it would be hard for us to continue William Blumer once said, no man has thought himself a worse Christian or a worse center than he had just cause to believe himself to be no man has thought himself a worse sinner than he had just cause to believe. What does that mean there's there's there's an element of sin in us that we have yet to see that we've yet to face the got is yet to reveal to us and it's bared out in the Scriptures. How could Paul the apostle who wrote half or two thirds of the New Testament say that he was the chief of sinners. Come on Paul is that hyperbole or did he really think that about himself.

Yes, the closer he got to Christ the more he saw his unworthiness. The more he saw his sin.

So my point is that when we come around the Lord's table and we are asking the spirit of God to search our hearts.

Let's not be alarmed at what he reveals that still remaining. That's disgusting that needs removed that's unbecoming of a Christian. Let's acknowledge that, but at the same time. Let's say you know what God knows that about me is know not about me long before I ever believe defining the didn't disqualify me. God hasn't cast me off some so we are laying a foundation for people to throw off all restraints and just doesn't matter how you know I'm not.

I'm arguing on the basis of Scripture. What John is giving us here for instruction on how to have biblical assurance when our conscience that's been informed by the word of God condemns us rises up and says you are guilty.

By the way, I hope is a Christian that that something that happens for you on a regular basis. We ought not just to be confessing sinfulness, we ought to be regularly confessing sins.

Specific sins particular sins that the spirit of God is brought to our mind and our attention that he is wanting to root out of our life so that doubt don't fixate on your personal sins right.

Don't fixate on your personal sins and shortcomings in the biblical remedy for those who have the tendency is the reminder that God already knows God already knows.

Praise the Lord. Mr. Barkman was speaking this morning about objective salvation and is not something we often talk about or draw comparisons to, but there's two aspects of salvation there's objective salvation and there is subjective salvation. Objective salvation is that which happens outside of us has nothing to do with us. Didn't change its fixed is what God is done in Christ for hell deserving sinners and that is where our faith needs to be anchored. That is where we find firm reliance subjective salvation is those aspects of salvation that deal with me personally. What about all of that. Well, it ebbs and flows its it's on change are its changing its well, listen to what John not John but the Paul David Tripp as to say about this. He says now this is objective salvation. He says the gospel exists independent of us, and its events remain completely unaffected by whatever is agitating our feelings and our emotions. The gospel is objective not going to contrast this with the these subjective aspect. He says that which is subjective. Changes regularly. It's like shifting sand, but that which is all objective is built on the solid rock of the gospel when we look inward.

We live by the subjective, the temple, the ever-changing, the unreliable, the likely to be false. When we look outward to the gospel. We live by the objective, the never changing that which is perfectly reliable and always completely true. That's so helpful to to make those distinctions and when I when I and I'm not being critical of David braided my goodness. The man was a giant of the faith he is impacted Christendom in remarkable ways. But when I read his diary. There's an awful lot of self reflection and awful lot of feelings being expressed in and he's wrestling in the subjective realm and that's why he's so prone to ebbs and flows in despair and and you would be too if that's where your focus is our focus. The ground of our the ground of my profession is Jesus and his blood.

It's outside of me. It's him it's what he did on Calvary's cross. So changing and growing only take place as we fix our eyes on our Savior and pin our faith and hope in what he did for us rather than what were trying to do for him. Too many people are trying to do for him. Earn acceptance to earn merit earn credit, no, no, so that's the first issue that John raises here sees trying to help us deal with doubt, is another aspect of doubt that he wants us to see and that is doubt feeds our spiritual uncertainties.

Doubt feeds our spiritual uncertainties. Notice what he says it back down to verse 22 to verse 21 beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God and whatever we ask, we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight don't miss read that verse.

That's not a so I say this not a bargaining thing. If you do this I'll do that no just on the face it, sounds that way. Whatever we ask, we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight, so one could read that on the surface, I will. That means if I keep his commandments do those things that please him that he's promised to give him anything I asked for is not what is saying at all what he saying is that as we obey his commandments.

And as we do, and give ourselves of those things that please him, then our desires going to be changed and be conformed into what he wants for us, so that when we're praying were praying in line with the will of God.

That's what he means that he says in verse 23 and this is his commandment that we should believe on the name of his son Jesus Christ, and love one another as he gave us commandment. See doubt feeds our spiritual uncertainties. What I mean by that doubt feeds our spiritual uncertainties.

The more we give ourselves to doubt in question are relationship with God, the more it will cause us not to draw near to God.

The cause us to two distance ourselves from God and that's why we have these reminders before the writer of Hebrews ever says the come boldly to the throne of grace, we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

What is he say before he says that he says this.

All things are laid bare before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

Doubt feeds our spiritual uncertainties. We can feel uncertain about whether we can come to God.

Draw near to God. Knowing what we know already about the deficiencies or in our life. The sin that still there that still remaining the God wanting to deal with and it can cause us to say well I'm not I'm not aware the child I'm not. I'm not a God honoring child therefore had no right to be in God's presence. No, all things are laid bare before the eyes of him with whom we have to do so. God knows everything about you and therefore you should come boldly. You should come boldly to the throne of grace because it's there that we find grace to help in time of need.

God is always assessable to us. This table is a beautiful reminder of a God who wants to commune with redeem saints when I say redeem saints, saints, and not everything we ought to be. Not everything we want to be.

Not everything. We will be with God wants to commune with us around this table. He wants to have fellowship with us and we see that beautiful picture on the night in which he was betrayed, he longs to be with his disciples, knowing that within a few hours they were deserting your client have people over to your house knowing that if you knew that the next day there were going to turn on you, miss, absolutely not.

With friends like that, who needs enemies right and that way we think. But the gospel turns everything upside down.

That's why we need the word of God to transform our minds. We might think correctly so there's a tendency for us to think because God knows all the bad about me knows things about me that I wanted somebody else know about. Therefore, I'm really reluctant to go to him. I really don't want to draw near to him. There's an uncomfortableness in the presence of holiness that Isaiah the prophet say new year can use either.I saw the Lord. I lifted up in his train filled the temple whether the say woe is me and say woe is me until he saw the holiness of God.

But once he saw the always holiness of God. He said woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the presence of people of unclean lips, and my not because mine eyes have seen the King, Peter was busy fish and Jesus was in the boat with him they were doing what fishermen do, but the curtain was just turned back a little wee bit for Peter and Peter fail on his knees in the boat and he said to Jesus, Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man that is our human tendency in the presence of holiness not to draw near to God, but to retreat from God. What do sinners that are being sanctified and growing in being conformed to the likeness of Christ. We don't need to retreat from him. Why there's nothing to fear judgment has been satisfied wrath has been set aside because Jesus board in our place with nothing to fear. So draw near, near the theater for doubts there's help here for lingering sin, and attitudes that were ashamed of, and thought patterns that are unbecoming to a Christian could draw near to God, doubt feeds our spiritual uncertainties were uncertain whether we really have access to God and God is not annoyed with us.

God is pleased with us. God wants us to draw near to him there's uncertainty about that. Sometimes with this, but God is always assessable one more down. This is his commandment that we should believe on the name of his son Jesus Christ, and love one another as he gave us commandment doubt forgets the Gospels simplicity. I don't want to oversimplify the gospel, but this is the gospel believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved another's other aspects of the gospel.

But if you will do biblically what that means. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. You shall be safe. Now what is it mean to believe means to entrust yourself wholeheartedly to God on the merits of his son Jesus Christ abandon any hope in anything else and deliver him that's that's why he ties this is his commandment that we should believe on the name of his son Jesus Christ, and then do what love one another love one another as he gave us commandment your faith alone saves right faith alone saves by saving faith is what is never alone. It will always be accompanied by good works will be in obedience to be a desire to obey the commandments of God to love one another to strive to do that now. He who keeps his commandments abides in him and he and him and by this we know that he abides in us by the spirit whom he has given us.

I think it's always good for us to keep an eye for how the Scriptures intermingle these two different aspects of salvation. The objective aspect to it in the subjective aspect to and I agree with what Pastor Barton was saying this morning that many people get themselves in an unhealthy place because too much emphasis is on the subjective side and not enough emphasis is on the objective side but we need both and he's drawing our attention to the spirit of God, who abides within who bears witness with our spirit that were children.

If he is now is that is that objective or is that subject will the spirit bearing witness with my spirit that I'm a child of God is a subjective element of salvation. I want that, don't you don't you want the spirit of God to bear witness with your spirit that your child of his wife. You want that your something you don't want to do.

You don't want to grieve the spirit of God.

How do I grieve the spirit of God. The same when you grieve anybody else that you're close to in a relationship, ignore them sin against them. Create a breach against them.

The Holy Spirit is a person or not to grieve him or not to quench the spirit. I think if we can skip, consider that more often than we do, we would be more careful in the loop the way we conduct our lives read a verse that really should I say I found it to be wonderful deterrent against sin and fearful reminder that the same time.

Listen to this proverb.

Proverbs 8 verse 36 he who sins against me wrongs his own soul. All those who hate me love death. You may have a translation that renders it something like this.

He who hates his he who sends willfully hates his own soul. He who sends willfully hates his own soul not to know about you but the next time I'm tempted to willfully sin that is say something, do something that I notably sin. I know to be a violation of the word of God. I want to be reminded that if I do that I am saying something by that action.

What am I saying I hate my own soul. I don't care for my never dying soul. That's a sobering thought is an so tonight I've tried to help you with this matter of doubt because it's something that we are not going to escape. It's going to be with this in various degrees as we pilgrim in this life, but I'm thankful that the Bible gives us some help here in John is speaking to it. He wants us to have a grounded assurance of salvation that were right with God. So when we come to the table I we don't ask you to come but when we participate in the elements.

What what are we asking you to do what were asking you to do a number things were asking you to to realize that were doing this in obedience to the Lord's command. Do this as often as you do it, in remembrance of me were doing it first and foremost to remember him not to remember you, but to remember him what about him. What he did for hell deserving sinners he died on the cross of Calvary, he shed his precious blood.

He died for sin, not for his own sin, but for the sins of his people. So were asking you to remember him were asking you to affirm your faith when you come to the table and you take the elements you are making a statement, you're saying to God I believe in you. I believe you did this for me. I want everybody around me to see that I'm identifying with this body. I'm not ashamed of Christ.

One of his what else we asked you to do what were asking you to affirm afresh your your your your feasting on Christ. You are a strengthening your faith you're saying.

I have believed I am continuing to believe I'm not turning back and were asking you to enter into a time of serious self-examination. Maintaining this balance between really wrestling was sin but at the same time not letting it, letting that wrestling throw you in the ditch and cause you to think so unworthy on. I'm so far less than what to be, I could've no way could be a Christian. He sees writing to Christians I believe I'm speaking to Christians, now it's possible that I'm speaking to somebody who's deceived and I wouldn't want you to go away with further delusion thinking well I guess I am a Christian, God will have to deal with you about that. He's able soul is about for prayer father, thank you for your worded soul-searching. But it's helpful. It's profitable. Lord we want to we want to be in a healthy place in our relationship with you. We want to have a biblically grounded assurance we want to know joy and peace. We want to rejoice that we are children of yours. So Lord help this body of believers that are gathered here tonight and those were listening by lifestream to be helped is the spirit of God takes the word of God and applies it to our hearts do it Lord for our good and do it for the honor and glory of our Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen

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