It seems to me that the fear of nominal professors, those with a false assurance, has led many to press home the question to people, “Do you trust Christ enough?” “Are you really resting and receiving Christ?” “Have you really repented?” I think it can be a mistake to proceed along these lines, to ask ourselves whether there is something in me that is enough. That is the route to doubt and despair, or else really false hope and pride in myself.
Instead, I ought to ask, “Is Christ enough? Is His death enough? Is His perfect righteousness enough to secure the favor of the Father?” Of course, my faith in that is necessary, and that faith must be genuine and sincere. But if I can sincerely answer that question in the affirmative, that is the same thing as faith. We don’t really need to ask ourselves whether we really believe what we just said. A man can’t be saved by lying to himself; that is obvious. If he is lying to himself about that, then it will require the Holy Spirit’s regeneration to reveal that truth to him, and all my thundering at him will change nothing. If he is speaking the truth in answering that Christ’s righteousness and death really is enough, then his life will be shaped progressively by that truth. So the question should simply be, do we actually believe that proposition to be true? Rather than, do we believe it with sufficient intensity? The focus should be on the proposition- that Christ’s life and death is sufficient for my salvation- and not on the subjective, on how strongly or intensely I believe that.
I think we have been too often driven by the fear of the nominal Christian, those who profess but do not truly believe, and by the desire to shake him out of his nominalism. I think this is a mistake. Only the Holy Spirit can really do that. If a man lies to himself about believing, then he will go to hell, and there’s nothing we can do. We ought not let concern about him cause us to shake the assurance of those who do truly believe by turning them inward on themselves, to look within themselves to see sufficient evidence of their salvation. There are always going to be nominal professors, and it has always been pointing people to Christ, not their own subjective experiences, that has truly led people to salvation, including shaking the nominal professor