As many of you know, I’ve spent the last several weeks studying for ordination exams. As I was studying, I was struck by one of the questions and answers in the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Question 36: What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification?
Answer:…. Assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.
I think this Q &A shows us at least two things:
1. The benefits Jesus gives us can never be counted on one hand. Justification (I’m forgiven, accepted, and have Christ’s righteousness credited to my account), adoption (I’m part of God’s family and an heir of the promises), and sanctification (God is transforming me) are incredible truths. But they’re just the entrance into a mansion full of benefits. They’re the top of the iceberg.
2. The blessings we get from Christ are never supposed to just swim around in our heads, leaving our hearts unaffected. The content of these doctrines are deeply personal and life-altering. They’re bursting with encouragement and are supposed to penetrate our hearts and bring comfort.
Here’s my attempt at fleshing out each part of the answer to question 36. I hope it encourages you.
- In a world where we love imperfectly and we’re loved imperfectly, God loves us perfectly and wants us to be assured of that.
- Our consciences are often burdened with guilt and shame, but from God’s vantage point there is nothing but peace between Him and us.
- Life is hard and sometimes disappointing, leaving us frustrated and even miserable. But we’re not alone—Jesus is present with us by the Spirit, shaping us through trials, and leading us to New Creation. We can have joy in His presence and purposes for us.
- Our sin is often like a house that was smoked in for fifty years—no matter what you do, the smell lingers and never seems to go away. We feel helpless and wonder if God’s really working in us. But God hasn’t abandoned us or stopped the flow of grace in our direction. He’s in the middle of a remodeling project with each of us.
- We fail people and people fail us everyday, but God will never fail us. He has us in his grip and will hold us until he brings us into glory.