Picture being in a Bible study (could be a Sunday School class, a neighborhood Bible study, a married couples group, etc.). The study addresses the issue of how sure we can be that we are God’s children. The Scripture passage being considered comes from the Apostle John’s first letter in the New Testament.
Many of those in attendance are “cool’. They don’t express many, or any, uncertainty about being “saved” or “being a Christian”. Their explanations as to why they are so sure about their relationship with Jesus appear to satisfy them.
Then at a particular point in the discussion, the leader of the group, who in this case is a fellow, mentions that he had gone through a severe case of depression several years ago, and assurance of salvation was a significant component of all the affected sides of his life.
Well, that statement and the ensuing elaboration by the leader, broke the ice, and various folk expressed that they too had experienced doubts. It became quite a session of people saying, “Yes, I know what it means to be unsure about what would happen to me if I were to die tonight.”
It may be that by the time the study had concluded some of the attendees were feeling more secure than they were earlier. On the other hand, some left with a level of doubt they did not have when they walked into the room. Some were newly settled; others were newly unsettled.
The fact is that assurance is a psychological state. We feel sure of something, such as being God’s redeemed children. That sense of assurance, however, only guarantees that we have a particular sensation. Having the sensation doesn’t guarantee that we are God’s redeemed children.
The sense of assurance, to be valid, must correspond to reality. One can feel loved without being loved. Of course that state of affairs would be tragic. But the fact is that for the sense of assurance to be substantive, we actually have to be loved. To feel married requires being married. Otherwise, if we feel married without being married, we are fooling ourselves. To feel sick requires being sick (in some way). Otherwise, we are living in a dream world.
To feel that we are God’s children requires being God’s child. Without the reality, the assurance may or not be there. But, without the reality, there is no reason to feel assured. In fact, to feel assured without the corresponding reality is a serious sickness or anomaly.