Recently I listened to my wife speaking with one of my children about the weight of their certainty about knowing if they are really saved. How can we believe when we can not see? How do we know for certain that we really believed or really believe about God? Our child in effect was asking how they could trust something and believe in the midst of not being certain.
How did they know?
That is not just a great question. That is perhaps the question.
The question of certainty is really the central questions of reality. Certainty is about how we control our thoughts about reality. It is the ultimate act of being human. Humanity revolves in part about what we choose to believe because belief offers us a form of control.
We need to be honest in that our existence is frightfully out of our control.
We can not control when or where we were born. We likely will not control when or how we are going to die.
We can not control the feelings of others. We can not control the perceptions of others.
We can not control very much. This ranges from the political reality like who is going to be elected to cosmic reality like the eternal destiny of ourselves or others.
There are so many outside variables that we can not control all which affect where we are going to end up economically, socially, or physically. We humans are a frail species. In cosmic terms we are no more significant to the universe than the life span of a worm is to us. A single mutated cell of a virus can kill us. A single person acting out their ideology or circumstances outside of our control can kill our bodies.
I say all this to remind myself and perhaps you that we can really only control this exact moment in time. What is a proper response to such a weighty reflection of this moment of reality?
Being certain that reality is far from perfect and the feeling of hope that there is something out there greater than ourselves.
Most people I have met from pessimists to realists to optimists believe that our world is broken. They are certain that the world is somehow meant to be better. They are certain because reality just does not seem right. We hope for paradise.
The Bible states that long ago, in a land far far away, humanity lived in paradise. The first man and woman were faced with a question. The one who asked the question came to be known as the Devil, which means the adversary.
He said, “Did God really say?”
This was humanities first chance to define the reality around them. They had somewhat recently just met God. They had witnessed his authority and power over his creation. They were then faced with a command by God. Do not eat of a certain tree because it was the gateway to experiencing the knowledge of good and evil.
The first people responded to the adversary’s question by doubting God’s ability to control their reality. They doubted God’s authority. They doubted God’s goodness. They doubted God’s version of reality in favor of attempting to seize control. They doubted God in the midsts of seeing. They doubted in the midst of a version of reality that was certain and good. Everything was perfect until the moment they ate of the fruit.
They ate the fruit and as the story goes everything went wrong forever more in this world.
The story of course does not end there. God promises to punish the adversary and humanity but also offer the hope and eventual reality of redemption for humanity. The reality for humanity though changed in that instant of rebellion. Gone was the certainty of a perfect view or reality based solely on the goodness of observing God. Instead the only hope for certainty was based on the future hope that God would somehow keep his promise to fix our mess.
Some folks asks why God would allow this to happen. Why was there a fall? If God was good then why did he allow the adversary in the garden? Why did he allow humans the ability to question his perfect version of reality for them?
Perhaps, just perhaps one of the purposes was so that we could be certain that God is the God who is worthy to believe in all circumstances. He is the God that we can believe in both the midsts of seeing and believing and in the midsts of not seeing and still believing.
Perhaps, it was so we could be fully devoted to being certain that he is God and that we are his.
For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.
The author in Hebrews builds a whole book up around why Jesus is the answer to all our questions. In what we have as our 6th chapter in verses 16-19, the author states that God in wanting to show his immutibility gives us a present tense promise of three things that touch on the past, present, and future nature of God.
First his oath. That is his word which was spoken in the past is unchangeable. It does not ever cease to be true regardless of circumstances. That which he has said in the past is always good and true. It is immutable. Second, he gives us hope. Hope is forward focused and is something that is future focused. Jesus was prophesied by God directly after the events of fall. The author of Hebrews was writing after Jesus resurrection and ascension and states that those who believe have “a hope both sure and steadfast.” Third our hope though future focused on the advent of eventually seeing Jesus face to face is paradoxically a present anchor of the soul that keeps us grounded in this certainty that we are able to trust God.
Jesus for those of us who believe is linking us to God. Jesus life and his work on the cross unites us to God and his promises in the past, present, and future of redemptive history. It place us in the midsts of the unchangeableness of his purpose. Jesus was, is, and becomes our certainty of what God is, has, and willed to be done.
So when our children asks the question of certainty about things like salvation then let us begin to point them to the reality of God’s promise of Jesus. There is certainty in Him. We simply must trust that Jesus is who he said he is. We can be certain that God will finish what he has started for us in Jesus.