Book Review by Cassie Watson
I didn’t think I needed this book. I grew up in a Christian family and I’ve never really struggled with doubts about my salvation. But as I chose my next book to review, I was sitting with a friend and reading out each blurb to her. One of them said:
“Despite our professions of belief, our baptisms, and our membership in the church, many of us secretly wonder, Am I truly saved?...this steals the joy of our salvation and can lead us into a life characterized by legalism, perfectionism, and works righteousness—the very life Jesus freed us from at the cross!”
Upon hearing that, my friend gave me a deeply significant look. She knows me better than most people, so I immediately requested a copy of the book. That’s how I came to read Greg Gilbert’s Assured: Discover Grace, Let Go of Guilt, and Rest in Your Salvation. Turns out I needed it more than I realised.
Who is this book for?
My friend could see that doubt doesn’t always mean openly questioning the truth of the Bible. She saw patterns in my life, like overwork and anxiety, that pointed to a lack of settled assurance. Too often I feel like I need to reach a certain standard to be approved by God and other people—even if I don’t articulate it that way. I deceive myself by painting it as faithfulness or a good work ethic.
One of the things that makes Assured such a helpful book is that it deals with the source of the issue rather than just the symptoms. Doubt manifests in different ways. Gilbert writes in the introduction:
“Before we start, though, I should be straightforward: you're not going to walk away from reading this book with some silver bullet that will put an end to doubt altogether. Why? Because there's no such bullet.” (p. 16)
His audience is both those who are in a crisis of doubt, and those like myself who feel quite settled in their faith but whose behaviour reveals issues under the surface. We all need to be reminded about the true foundation of our salvation: the gospel of Jesus Christ and the promises of God. This isn’t a quick-fix; it takes time for the Spirit to press these truths deep into our hearts.
by Greg Gilbert
Why does this book matter?
Every Christian will benefit from exploring the concept of assurance. You might be surprised by how warped your understanding is. Gilbert gently counters the various misconceptions we tend to have about assurance—like the two extremes of self-righteousness and gloomy panic which comes from focusing too much on our good works.
Of course good works are important in our assurance, but they act as confirming rather than driving sources. This is explored thoroughly in Assured. Gilbert also covers the role of the Holy Spirit, the lies we tend to believe which undermine our assurance, and how we should think about besetting sins. He finishes by explaining how we can pursue greater assurance.
Gilbert also helped me understand repentance better. After we’ve sinned, we must not approach the throne of God based on a pledge to do better in the future. We can come confidently before God, but on different grounds: “Our confidence that we belong in the presence of God is not self-confidence; it's Christ-confidence.” (p. 30)
That’s one of the main strengths of Assured: it consistently puts the gospel at the centre. Gilbert wants us to look at Jesus more than we look at ourselves. I was reminded time and time again that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the best news we could have, and that the good promises God makes to us will never fail. That’s the core of this book, and a message I want to keep putting into practice in my life.
by Greg Gilbert