Assurance by Maxie Dunnam
Most people in the Methodist Wesleyan tradition of the Christian faith know at least the broad outline of Wesley’s life. In 1725, having been nurtured by his mother, Susanna, and his father, Samuel, a priest in the Church of England, John, while a student at Oxford University, had a conversion to the ideal of holy living. There are few examples in history of a more disciplined religious person: he rose at 4:00 am, read the New Testament in Greek for an hour, and then prayed for an hour with his brother Charles and others who had joined him in what was derisively called the Holy Club. He spent time visiting prisons and gave to the poor all of his money except that which was absolutely necessary for his own living. He was a person desperately seeking salvation and assurance of his salvation.
Knowing that bit of biography makes his witness more powerful:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
This was the watershed experience that gave him the assurance of salvation. Naturally, this became a part of his teaching. Assurance is the privilege of every Christian. Persons can know they are saved, and they can be saved to the uttermost.
The Aldersgate prayer meeting was for Wesley an evangelical conversion that resulted in assurance. That assurance is a testimony to present salvation, not presumption about the future. Once the Spirit makes that witness to us, the witness of assurance can be continually verified. It can be verified in at least five ways:
- We can simply remember that the goodness of God once shown to us in Christ is the goodness of God toward us for all time.
- We know that we have repented of our sins, and can continue to repent daily.
- We are aware of change in our lives-and the awareness of assurance grows within us as we see changes continually happening.
- Assurance is ours if we are aware of a new character being produced in us if the fruits of the Spirit are growing in our lives.
- We know assurance if we find joy in the service of God.
There are few experiences that can provide more power in our lives than to have assurance of our salvation. Think what it could do for any one of us:
- Our timidity and uncertainty about witnessing would be dissolved. We would not be intimidated by those “buttonhole witnesses” who come on like gangbusters.
- We would know that tenderness, patience, and understanding are authentic testimonies, as well as words.
- We would not get overwrought with our Christian friends who insist on future security, for we would be assured of our present relationship with Christ.
- We would be joyous in our service for God, but not driven in our works or mistaken in the notion that our works would save us.
- We would be delivered from frantic preoccupation with taking our spiritual temperature minute by minute, because we could relax in our trust of the Lord.
And all of that would help every one of us, wouldn’t it?
Persons can know they are saved. That’s assurance and they can be saved to the uttermost. That’s perfection or sanctification which I will discuss in my next article.