There was a period in my life when I wondered quite frequently whether I was a Christian or not. Thankfully that period is gone. It is not that I don’t examine myself, but that the examination does not take on the form of morbid introspection. Examination ought to be a communal exercise. The apostle John brings these themes in I John when he discusses assurance in context of believers one-anothering one another (to use a common phrase in our circles). Examination is not meant to be isolated. It takes on a communal dimension. Similarly, Paul in I Corinthians 11 uses this idea of examination in relation to the Lord’s Table, which is an ecclesiastical meal.
So where does assurance come from? Assurance comes from those things which we see. Our own sense of who we are causes us to look to Christ and to the means he provides for his own. If one is to focus their attention on inward motives and feelings he is bound to doubt the work of Christ on his behalf. Assurance comes from the experience of the community.
Fundamental to the sins of the Israelites was a desire to do that which was pleasing in their own eyes. Deuteronomy 12 stresses that Israel’s failure was a failure to worship the true God. They concocted worship to their own taste. God gave them over to slavery. You become enslaved to what you worship. When worship is corrupted the community of faith is corrupted also. Thus, assurance is lacking. A false worshiping community loses its sense of assurance, but a true worshiping community has no reason to doubt.
To examine oneself means to ask questions about one’s worship. Of course, none of this serves to discourage us from personal and private meditation on God’s revelation, yet it should discourage us from finding true satisfaction in this alone. True satisfaction and assurance is found at the service Yahweh prepares for us in Word and Sacrament.
In Christ his promises are yes and amen, not perhaps. Assurance is by faith in the Christ who provides for his people.