I believe that I may have the spiritual gift of faith. I became a Christian when I was 19 years old and there has not been a single time in my walk with Christ where I’ve ever doubted my salvation or God’s love for me. No matter what situation I’ve found myself in, I’ve always been able to maintain a firm resolve in God’s sovereignty, His goodness, and His involvement in my life. I understand enough about the human condition to know that this isn’t exactly normal, which is why I have no reason to boast about this in myself. The only way this could be possible is through the grace of the Holy Spirit. I don’t make a habit of sharing this with people because I don’t want to come across as insensitive to those who have struggled with assurance, which as far as I can tell is pretty much everybody. So why did I read this book? Well, it was on sale for $1.99 and I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. I’m also a new pastor and would like to learn how to sympathize with those who doubt and learn how to counsel them. How could this book benefit me and why is it rated 5 stars? Because this book proved to be more than just a book about assurance. It’s one of the most clear, concise, and thoroughly biblical surveys of the doctrine of salvation that I’ve ever read.
Despite the connotations inherent in the title, this book is not an argument against the sinners prayer. Greear says that: “My purpose in this book hasn’t been to rail against the sinner’s prayer. I have led many to pray that prayer as an expression of their faith and, hopefully, will lead many more to do so. My purpose is to get at the basis of assurance.” What Greear is trying to do is to convince you to stop repeatedly asking Jesus into your heart. In the first chapter, “Baptized Four Times,” Greear frames the situation he is addressing, which the title tells you exactly what that situation is. Then he shows us that God not only wants us to have assurance of our salvation, but has done such an exceedingly thorough job of saving us through the work of Christ that a right understanding of the Gospel is all that’s needed to provide bulletproof assurance. Next, in what I consider the high-point of the book, Greear devotes two chapters to developing a biblical understanding of “belief” and “repentance”, respectively. The chapter on repentance is especially noteworthy for the discussion of how our less-than-perfect repentance can be accepted by God (not going to spoil it here. You’ll need to read it for yourself :P). Greear then does an amazing job interacting with several passages of Scripture that seem to suggest that you can lose your salvation (I will spoil this though: you can’t). The book is concluded with two chapters cataloging the evidence of true faith shown by a genuine Christian and an encouragement for those who continue to doubt.
This book is a much needed antidote to two different problems that are extremely prevalent in our culture today: lack of assurance and false assurance. There are many people who, no matter what you tell them, never seem to be convinced of their salvation and struggle with a continual doubt. This is a detriment to the church because it can paralyze a true believer, making them spend an unnecessary amount of time and energy worrying about being accepted by God when they already are. Satan is a deceiver and convincing true Christians that they are outside of grace is one of his deadliest weapons. But this weapon of deception swings the other way, too. Ironically, I’m certain it has a lot to do with the staunch distortion and abuse of the sinners prayer. But there are simply too many people who have been deceived into thinking that they are true believers when they are not. Greear’s exposition of the Scriptures, and as already noted, his excellent treatment of the doctrine of repentance, is strong enough to leave either of these deceived fully convinced–either of their inclusion in the Kingdom, or their exclusion.
I’m definitely going to be passing this book on to those who are struggling with any assurance about their salvation, because I feel that it will adequately address all of the reasons for their doubt as well as some they probably didn’t know they had. But I’ll also recommend this book to any and everybody. The Gospel truths contained in this short book are too rich to not take the time to feast on. Whether you struggle with assurance of your salvation or not, you will find your faith strengthened by reading this book.
“Salvation does indeed happen in a moment, and once you are saved you are always saved. The mark, however, of someone who is saved is that they maintain their confession of faith until the end of their lives. Salvation is not a prayer you pray in a one-time ceremony and then move on from; salvation is a posture of repentance and faith that you begin in a moment and maintain for the rest of your life.”
“‘Praying the sinner’s prayer’ has become something like a Protestant ritual we have people go through to gain entry into heaven. As ‘gospel shorthand,’ it presents salvation as a transaction one conducts with Jesus and moves on from rather than the beginning of a posture we take toward the finished work of Christ and maintain for the rest of our lives.”
“Salvation comes not because you prayed a prayer correctly, but because you have leaned the hopes of your soul on the finished work of Christ.”
“God wants the intimacy of sons, not just the service of slaves.”
“Faith starts with mental assent, but if this mental assent does not lead to obedience, it is not yet ‘faith.'”
“If you follow Jesus in 99 percent of His teachings but deliberately hold back 1 percent, you have not repented. You are still choosing which 99 percent to surrender and which 1 percent to keep, which means you are still in charge.”
“The validity of our faith is revealed not by the intensity of our first reaction to it, but by our perseverance in it.”
Also published on Medium.