Better hang on to that salvation pretty tightly.*
If you’re a Christian who makes it a daily habit to second-guess yourself (guilty wave), you might relate to that panicked feeling of wondering if perhaps, maybe, just maybe, your faith in God is not authentic.
Maybe it is, in fact, wobbly. Surface-level. But you don’t realize it. After all, surfacey people don’t know they’re surfacey. Are you surfacey? You may be surfacey.
Let me try this again.
I found an article called 10 Steps to Maintaining Your Salvation. One of the steps was attend worship services regularly. And I’m like, define regularly.
But apparently, outside my insulated bubble of Calvinism and Reformed Christianity, there’s this idea that you have to “maintain your salvation.” And you can start by determining if your faith is authentic, deep-rooted, real.
That’s right: real. Let’s not get postmodern here.
R. T. Kendall. World-renowned theologian. His book Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 struck a chord in me because it challenged the notion of spiritual introspection. Yeah, introspection (cue eye-roll). Kendall writes on how Puritan teaching encouraged deep introspection, or asking yourself, “How can I be sure that I have real faith?”
The problem for me is what Kendall cleverly calls the “endless introspection—the constant checking of the spiritual pulse for the right ‘effects.’”**
The maintaining. The checking. The assuring. The looking within.
If we look to ourselves for signs of real faith, then we will fall into a rabbit hole of, God forbid, introspection.
Wait. Let me try this again.
If we look to ourselves for signs of real faith, we will never find it. That’s what I meant to say. Kendall writes:
“For even if the reprobate experience ‘almost the same feelings as the elect,’ [John] Calvin warns against looking to one’s feelings….We must never look to ourselves for assurance.”***
As Savvy and I have affirmed, we are fallible human beings who make mistakes. As someone who second-guesses myself all the time, I don’t trust my emotional convictions.
But I’m not going to throw introspection under the bus completely. Because, turns out, John Calvin—the theologian that I unknowingly grew up with, like that kid who apparently went to the same elementary, middle, and high school as you did but you didn’t realize it—believed in one important thing about self-reflecting.
Calvin writes in Institutes of the Christian Religion:
“We cannot seriously aspire to [God] before we begin to become displeased with ourselves. For what man in all the world would not gladly remain as he is—what man does not remain as he is—so long as he does not know himself….Accordingly, the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.”****
Whoa-ho. Effective spiritual introspection is not wrapped up in analyzing your faith and your relationship with God. It involves recognizing how broken you are, how desperately you need God, and how you have to ‘deny yourself’ to be a Christian.
It’s not I need to read the Bible more, I need to attend more worship services, it’s not Heaven points—although, reading the Bible and attending worship services ARE important.
The heart of real faith is not a churchgoer’s checklist. It’s self-sacrifice. It’s being a servant.
*”The Bee Explains Calvinism Vs. Arminianism,” The Babylon Bee
**R.T. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (Oxford: OUP, 1979). pg. 208
****John Calvin, ed. John T. McNeill, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), pg. 37