Building our confidence in the gospel (part one of three): being secure in our relationship with Jesus.

Our confidence is in God. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Rom. 15:13) This is the kind of verse I may well read at the end of a worship service, as a blessing and to give encouragement to the church scattered during the week.

Aslan is on the move. Just as in one of my favourite books, the impact is felt far and wide:

Beaver introduced the great lion: ”They say Aslan is on the move – perhaps he has already landed.” When the children first hear the name Aslan, they had mixed reactions: Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous.

My conviction is God is up to something afresh, across our nation. I’m seeing and hearing the evidence now on a weekly basis. People are coming to faith in Jesus. That’s always been true, but the distinctive shift I’m noticing is in the number of those who are encountering Jesus for the first time, without any significant engagement with existing Christians or a church.

That’s all great and cause for much rejoicing. People are more open to our Christian faith and the claims of Christianity now than at any time in my experience, but my sense is our confidence in the gospel is lower. Therefore, I’m exploring how we can grow our confidence in the gospel and for myself, I find it helpful to remind myself of some of the key elements, which anchor my relationship with Jesus, so that’s where I’m beginning.

Jesus tells us we need to be born again, that is born ‘of the spirit’, as well as born physically. Confidence comes to a large extent, from knowing we are a child of God. However, whilst I believe my identity, security, value, significance, meaning, all arise from being created in the image of God and being in relationship with him, I recognise not every Christian, as yet,  has adopted every element of their salvation by Christ to the point it impacts their daily experience.

To me this is an inevitability: whilst we can have confidence we are saved, it is also true we are being saved. Paul addresses the church as a whole, but it applies to us all individually:  ”being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.“ (Philippians 1:6)

We are in process! We are intent on becoming Christlike but none of us have arrived. My assumption is, everyone reading this, has a concern to share their faith in Jesus Christ, but we long for the effect to be more fruitful (and quicker!) I can return to our expectations regarding timeframes another time, but for now, I want to propose we all re-check the elements of our birth as a Child of God.

If you read Acts 2:38 again you’ll see there are four key elements, which together make up what I regard  ‘the Normal Christian Birth’: [1]

  1. Repenting towards God.
  2. Receiving the Holy Spirit.
  3. Believing in the Lord Jesus.
  4. Baptism in water.

These four elements belong together and our human tendency, to try and separate what God has joined together, is at the root of our human problem of sin, separation from God.

My confidence in the gospel, in the practice of the everyday, is related to my sense of the security of my salvation, or the assurance of my relationship with God. So the four questions, which form part of my self-talk sound something like the following:

Am I seeking to align every element of my life with the way of Jesus? If this is my intention today, I am not deterred in sharing my faith, by a sense of guilt, which arises from unconfessed sin. Trusting God’s desire to forgive me gives me confidence.

Am I trying to ‘keep in step with the spirit’? Paul describes nine elements of the fruit of the spirit of God, which added together, better equip me to be the answer to the prayers of the people around me. Believing God is at work in and through my life today gives me confidence.

Am I willing to take the next step of faith God calls me to take in following Jesus? The day I first encountered the reality of Jesus was the day I look back on as the day I became a Christian. In my case, that was simply the first step of becoming a disciple. I didn’t know I was a ‘sinner’, I didn’t know there was ‘Holy Spirit’, I didn’t know, or realise so much.

Am I willing my life is drenched by the spirit of God? Does my inner reality today have integrity, as a reflection of all my baptism (many years ago) symbolised?

Whether you use my questions, or not, if you are wanting to enhance your confidence in the gospel, I encourage you to do some self-examination and one thing I do know is the Lord will delight.  

[1] The Normal Christian Birth was the title of a book by David Pawson

Nigel Coles

Nigel is Regional Team Leader of the West of England Baptist Network. He facilitates the life of the webnet team and oversees the missional strategy for the region. He also works to develop missional strategy over a wider geographical area with our partner Associations and Baptists Together. Nigel believes that when Jesus sent out seventy-two others, he meant everyone who was there, and this passion to help everyone find their way in the mission of God is what inspired the development of Seventy-two.