“Everyone is a child of God.” That’s how I remember my mother and grandmother talking about family members who died. No matter how lasciviously and ungodly the family member lived, those at the funeral marched the deceased strait through the pearly gates into the eternal felicity of heaven. Practically every obituary I remember reading began with the same words: “He was baptized and committed his life to Christ at an early age.” Though it was not spoken of in technical terms, the predominant theology coming out of our funerals was justification by death. In other words, the only thing necessary for one to be counted righteous in heaven is to die. Not only do all dogs go to heaven, but apparently so too do all family members.

Historically, the black church in America has been an accommodating, welcoming, and forgiving institution. She tends to think the best of people, and allow not just second chances, but third, forth, fifth, and many, more. While this forgiving spirit is commendable, the downside to this attitude is that it makes light of biblical assurance. Consequently, many in the church have a false assurance. Too many believe they are good with God because they have known others who lived openly sinful lives (far worse than they have) and yet were funeralized and ushered into heaven right from the altar of the church. In other words, assurance is nothing more than a name on a baptism certificate or membership rolls. However, biblical assurance is much more important and far more significant.

The Lord delights to grant to his people the confidence that they belong to him. Like any loving parent, God desires for his children to know they are loved. (2 Tim. 1:12) “…for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” The assurance of salvation is real and it belongs to God’s beloved. Someone once asked me how can I be confident that I am saved. I am as sure of my salvation as I am sure that God exist. The same assurance I have in the existence of God is the assurance that I have that Christ has redeemed me. This is not simply an intellectual assertion. It is an experiential truth. It is not just read in the Bible. It is revealed in the Spirit (Rom. 8:16).

How can the testimony of the Spirit assure you of your salvation? Sadly, assurance is the bane of too many Christian lives. The majority of counseling situations have some element of the confidence the counselee has in Christ and the work of the Spirit in his life. If you are saved, the work of the Spirit in your life is inevitable and indispensable. He produces real results. God desires for us to know it, but how? Here are a few questions to ask to help you in you or others with confidence in Christ and the assurance of grace.

Do You Loathe Sin? Does your sin bother your? Do you desire to be delivered from it (Rom. 7:24)? The Spirit of God is a convicting Spirit. (Jn. 16:8) “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…” Being saved and assured of salvation does not mean we have no sin. Anyone who says they have no sin makes God a liar (1 Jn. 1:10). Clearly the Bible reminds us, “For all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). Our loathing and regretting of the remaining sin in our lives is the gracious reminder that the Spirit is at work in our lives causing us weep for our sin and cry to God for relief. Before I was saved, my sin was an inconvenience, if I got caught. Through the Spirit’s work in my life, now my remaining sin is a burden from which I daily seek to be delivered.

Do You Love Christ? Do you find yourself desiring to know and love Christ more? The Spirit comes to glorify Christ (Jn. 16:13). He exalts Christ to you so that you might know and love him more. To love Christ is to love the biblical Christ, not the Christ of your imagination or the one the world likes to talk about, but the Christ who is revealed as Savior and Judge. Do you love him, though imperfectly, inconsistently, and incomplete? Despite your shortcomings can you say, “I do love Christ. I love to hear him preached. I love to hear him in song.”

“There is a name I love to hear; I love to sing it’s worth.

It sounds like music in my ear; the sweetest name on earth.

O how I love Jesus; O how I love Jesus because he first loved me.”

Do You Look Fruitful? Jesus said, “You shall recognize them by their fruits” (Mt. 7:16). The Holy Spirit is a fruit producer. The Holy Spirit unites us to Christ, through whom we bear fruit. Jesus said, (Jn. 15:5) “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” The Spirit is working the Fruit of the Spirit through those who are saved. Is there any love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control? These are evidence of the Spirit’s work assuring God’s people that they are his.

Do You Long for Heaven? “Eternity has been set in our hearts…” (Eccl. 3:11). The Spirit is conforming us to the image of Christ so that the desire of the believer is to see Jesus. The cry of the Spirit and the church is “Come!” (Rev. 22:17). The cry of the Spirit-filled believer is “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, Come!” The Spirit-filled believer is living in this world always looking for and longing for the next. The Spirit-filled Christian has his mind set on things above and not things below (Col. 3:2). The Spirit-filled Christians is the heavenly-minded Christian. Heaven is bound up in his heart and his deepest satisfaction is to be in the presence of Christ (2Cor. 5:8).

One of my favorite hymns growing up as a kid in the church was the well-known Fannie Crosby classic, Blessed Assurance. It is one of those songs that every church sung. In most churches no hymnal is needed or words projected on the screen. Neither is there any doubt what the songs teaches us. There is a blessed assurance that comes to me as I am reminded that Jesus is mine. And it is only a foretaste of glory divine. It reminds me that I am an heir of salvation. I am purchased by God. I am born of His Spirit. I am washed in his blood. This is my story. This is my song. This is my assurance all the day long.

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Tony Carter

Tony Carter

Anthony Carter (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary) is lead pastor of East Point Church in East Point, Georgia, an organizing member of the Council of Reforming Churches, and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of several books, including Black and Reformed: Seeing God’s Sovereignty in the African-American Christian Experience. Anthony and his wife, Adriane, have five children.


The Front Porch

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faithfulness in African-American
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