If we are going to use the word “assurance”, we should use it in a meaningful way. It means you are sure of something, you are confident of it. If you keep thinking that your salvation is unsure because you sin, that is up to you, but realize you are no longer able to talk about having assurance.
I think assurance is a valid concept concerning our salvation. What about this passage:
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
(1 John 1:8-10, NIV).
Obviously, John understands that you can be a Christian have less than perfect fruit. If some level of sinfulness can break your assurance of the sufficiency of Christ’s blood, where do you draw the line? What is the purpose of all this fruit checking? There is a place for it, there is no denying. I’m not even trying to deny it. As in James 2, deeds are a window into someone’s world to possibly see the authenticity of their faith. It is faith which is all-important. Repentance means going back to the throne of grace, and getting help. As in 1Peter 1:5 it is our FAITH which supplies moral excellence. I think most Christians agree with that.
The place for fruit checking is to see the general arc of someone’s life, as a possible clue that they have entered into grace, and if not, to ponder how, by hook or by crook, to get them there. This can include mature walking Christians. Real scandalous broad grace is such a game-changer. Assurance that we are the beloved of God, the bride of Christ, favored and desired, the pearl worth everything, changes the way we live. There is a difference between someone who walks around thinking they are Christ’s favored beloved bride and someone who thinks it is all about moral fortitude and that God is watching so they can (in one guy’s flawed exegesis of 1John 3:19-20) be condemned even more. I have had many struggles with sinful and horrible addictive behaviors, and this way of living is the one thing that has brought sustained change. All the accountability partners in the world did nothing for me but tempt me to lie.
I am saying that real assurance of unbreakable acceptance and love from our Father is the kind of faith that produces moral excellence. I am not saying we should throw moral excellence out the window. I am saying that if we let our lack of moral perfection undermine our assurance, we can no longer go boldly to the throne of grace in our time of need. How shall we persist in our pursuit of moral excellence if we cannot go the the throne of grace and receive mercy when we actually need grace and mercy? Assurance kicks in when it is required.
As I said in another post, it is God’s love that is the engine of His justice, and His justice is the engine of His good wrath. Jesus has stepped in as the just justifier, and the more truly and non-mythologically we see His suffering on our behalf, the more we live in the light of that. the more we agree with God’s wrath as just love, the more we purify ourselves. The law, gospel imperatives, and the like, serve to bring us to that throne, but it is a throne of mercy. We are changed, not as slaves coerced, but a with a transformation from the heart, unrequired and desired.
15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:15, 16, NASB).