Editor’s Note: In Harry Ironside’s book Full Assurance: Finding Settled Peace With God, he has a section titled “Difficulties That Hinder Full Assurance.” He begins that section by saying:
It is now my purpose to consider some of the difficulties and perplexities which keep souls from entering into peace and enjoying the full assurance of salvation. The following questions and objections are some that have come to me again and again from earnest seekers after light, and are therefore, I have good reason to believe, fairly representative of the troublesome thoughts that hinder many from seeing the simplicity of God’s way of life as set forth in His holy Word. Perhaps if my reader has not a settled rest of heart and conscience, he may find his own peculiar trouble dealt with here.
Below are some of the difficulties Ironside addresses:
“How may I be sure I have repented enough?”
Very often the real difficulty arises from a misapprehension of the meaning of repentance. There is no salvation without repentance, but it is important to see exactly what is meant by this term.
It should not be confused with penitence, which is sorrow for sin.
It should not be confused with penance, which is an effort to make some satisfaction for sin.
It should not be confused with reformation, which is turning from sin.
Repentance is a change of attitude toward sin, toward self, and toward God. The word, metanoia in the Greek Testament, literally means “a change of mind.” This is not a mere intellectual change of viewpoint, however, but a complete reversal of attitude.
Now test yourself in this way.
You once lived in sin and loved it. Do you now desire deliverance from it?
You were once self-confident and trusting in your own fancied goodness. Do you now judge yourself as a sinner before God?
You once sought to hide from God and rebelled against His authority. Do you now look up to Him, desiring to know Him, and to yield yourself to Him?
If you can honestly say yes to these questions, you have repented. Your attitude is altogether different to what it once was.
You confess you are a sinner, unable to cleanse your own soul, and you are willing to be saved in God’s way. This is repentance. And remember, it is not the amount of repentance that counts; it is the fact that you turn from self to God that puts you in the place where His grace avails through Jesus Christ. Strictly speaking, not one of us has ever repented enough. None of us has realized the enormity of our guilt as God sees it. But when we judge ourselves and trust the Savior whom He has provided, we are saved through His merits. As recipients of His lovingkindness, repentance will be deepened and will continue day by day as we learn more and more of His infinite worth and our own unworthiness.
It is not thy tears of repentance, nor prayers,
But the blood that atones for the soul;
On Him then who shed it, thou mayest at once
Thy weight of iniquities roll.
(Miss Amelia Matilda Hull, 1812-1884)
“I do not feel fit for God; I am so unworthy, I fear He will not take me in.”
What a wretched condition would be yours if you imagined you were fit, in yourself, for Heaven, or that you were worthy of such love as God has shown! It is because of your lack of fitness Christ died to redeem you. It is because you are worthy only of eternal judgment that He “who knew no sin” was made sin for you, that you might become the righteousness of God in Him. If you had any fitness of your own, you would not need a Savior.
When the Roman centurion sought the healing power of Jesus for his servant, he sent the Jewish elders to the Lord to intercede for him. They said, “He was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.” But when the centurion faced the Lord, he exclaimed, “I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof” (see Luke 7:5-6).
They said, “He was worthy”; he declared, “I am not worthy,” and this moved the heart of Jesus so that He exclaimed, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (v. 9).
So long as a man considers himself worthy, there is no salvation for him; but when, in repentance (as described in the previous section), he owns his unworthiness, there is immediate deliverance for him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Weak and unworthy tho’ I be,
Yet Christ, the Savior, died for me;
And I shall see His blessed face,
For I’m a sinner saved by grace.
Weary of sin, to Him I came,
And asked for pardon in His name;
He heard, and now in His embrace
I live, a sinner saved by grace.
(Maggie E. Gregory, Early 20th century)
“But what if I am not one of the elect?”
You can readily settle that yourself. Without attempting to delve into the mysteries of the divine decrees and the divine foreknowledge, it is enough to say that all who come to God through His Son are elect. Our Lord makes this very plain in John 6:37. He says:
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
Now do not linger too long on the first half of the verse. Be clear about the latter half, for it is there your responsibility is found. Have you come to Jesus? If so, you have His pledged word that He will not cast you out. The fact that you come proves that the Father gave you to Christ. Thus, you may be certain that you belong to the glorious company of the elect.
D. L. Moody used to put it very simply when he stated, “The elect are the ‘whosoever wills’; the non-elect are the ‘whosoever won’ts.’” This is exactly what Scripture teaches:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
The invitation is to all:
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Those who accept this invitation are the elect. Remember, we are never told that Christ died for the elect. But what does the Word say? “Christ died for the ungodly.” Are you ungodly? Then He died for you. Put in your claim and enter into peace.
Meditate on the Holy Spirit’s declaration through the apostle Paul:
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)
Nowhere are we told that Christ came to save the elect. The term “sinners” is all-embracing, for “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Are you sure you are a sinner? Then you may be certain there is salvation for you. Do not exercise yourself in matters too high for you. Just be simple enough to take God at His Word.
Sinners Jesus will receive:
Sound the word of grace to all
Who the heav’nly pathway leave,
All who linger, all who fall.
Sing it o’er and o’er again:
Christ receiveth sinful men.
(Erdmann Neumeister, 1671-1756)
“Sometimes I am afraid I am predestinated to be damned; if so, I can do nothing to alter my terrible case.”
No one was ever predestinated to be damned. Predestination is a precious truth of inestimable value and comfort when rightly understood. Will you not turn to your Bible and read for yourself in the only two chapters in which this word “predestinate” or “predestinated” is found? The first is Romans 8:29-30:
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
The other chapter is Ephesians 1. In verse 5, we read:
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
And in verse 11, it says:
Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
You will note there is no reference in these four verses to either Heaven or Hell but to Christlikeness eventually. Nowhere are we told in Scripture that God predestinated one man to be saved and another to be lost. Men are to be saved or lost eternally because of their attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ:
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)
Predestination means that someday all the redeemed shall become just like the Lord Jesus! Is not this precious? Do not try to make a bugaboo out of that which was intended to give joy and comfort to those who trust in the Savior. Trust Him for yourself, and you will know that God has predestinated you to be fully conformed to the image of His Son.
God loved the world of sinners lost
And ruined by the fall;
Salvation full, at highest cost,
He offers free to all.
(Martha M. Stockton, 1821-1885)
“It is not exactly that I do not trust God, but I cannot be sure of myself; I am afraid even my faith is unreal.”
Faith is not the Savior: Christ is. He is the unchanging One—“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Faith is just the hand that lays hold of Him. You are not asked to trust yourself. The less confidence you have in yourself the better. Put all your confidence in the Lord Jesus. He is not unreal, and if your faith is centered in Him, all will be well for time and eternity.
Jesus, I rest in Thee,
In Thee myself I hide;
Laden with sin and misery,
Where can I rest beside?
‘Tis on Thy meek and lowly breast
My burdened soul doth find its rest.
(James George Deck, 1807-1884)
“Must I not strive, if I would enter in at the strait gate? It seems to me just believing is too easy a way.”
Our Lord’s words may well give us pause. They were never intended, however, to make us feel that a hard struggle was necessary in order to be saved. But the great majority of people drift aimlessly and carelessly on, passing heedlessly by the gate to life, intent only on gratifying their carnal and worldly desires. He who would be saved must arouse himself to the supreme importance of spiritual things (“seek ye first the kingdom of God”—Matthew 6:33). He must put first things first. In this sense, he strives to enter in at the strait gate.
He will be like Bunyan’s pilgrim who, when awakened to his danger and realizing the dreadful burden of sin, refused to heed the pleadings of his old companions, and putting his fingers in his ears, cried, “Life, life, eternal life!” as he fled from the City of Destruction. You, too, must determine that nothing shall be allowed to interfere with the settlement of the great matter of the salvation of your soul.
But you do not have to strive with God to save you. He is waiting to do that very thing. Yea, and He will do it for you the moment you cease from all self-effort and put your trust in Christ. To strive to enter in is to be determined that nothing shall keep you from accepting the gracious invitation of the Lord Jesus, who bids you come to Him in all your need and guilt, that He may fit you for Heaven’s glory by cleansing you from every stain. Do not on any account be turned away from this, but brushing every barrier aside, yield your heart to the Savior now!
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Matthew 7:7)
These are just a few of the “difficulties” Ironside addresses in his book. We hope they are a blessing and comfort to you who love the Lord and have called upon His name to save you.