Can I Really Be Sure of My Salvation? - 2 Peter 1
A service plan focused on assurance of salvation in a series addressing difficult questions of the faith.
Also in this Series
Knots of the Faith
This series of worship services explores seven tough questions and struggles that Christians often face.
- How Can I Know the Will of God? - Ephesians 5
- Why Do Good People Suffer? - Job 1, 2
- Why Isn't God Answering? - Psalms 10 and 13
- Is Christianity the Only True Religion? - Galatians 1, 1 Timothy 2
- Why Isn't My Christian Life More Dynamic? - John 11, 1 Corinthians 3
- How Can I Forgive Others? - Matthew 18
Theme of the Service
The sermon title captures the theme of the service very straightforwardly. The question of whether I may be firmly assured of my salvation in Christ is an important question for each believer. Some find it much easier to answer than others. Some possess such assurance firmly. Some believe it cannot be possessed. Others believe they ought to be able to have it, but can't find it, for whatever reason.
While the assurance of salvation is the theme of this service, the intent of the service is not only to talk about whether assurance is possible but to pastorally lead all, hopefully, to find it. So the theme of the sermon must saturate the entire liturgy.
WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
Prelude: "Jesus Lives, and So Do We," Leupold, Cherwien [organ]
"Christ Is Alive! Let Christians Sing," Burkhardt [organ]
The Call to Worship
*Song: "Christ Is Alive! Let Christians Sing" (st. 1-4) PH 108, PsH 413, RN 300, TWC 243, UMH 318
*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting
Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
*Response: "Christ Is Alive! Let Christians Sing" (st. 5)
WE ARE RENEWED IN GRACE
The Call to Confession
Our Sung Confession: "Just as I Am, without One Plea" (st. 1, 3-4) PH 370, PsH 263, RL 468, RN 140, TH 501, TWC 445, UMH 357
The Assurance of Pardon
Even as the risen Lord Jesus Christ stepped into the room with the disciples and pronounced,
"Peace be with you" (John 20:19), so he proclaims to us this day to live in peace. Just as we
have confessed our sin to him, he extends his forgiveness and peace us.
*Song of Thanksgiving: "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" PsH 479, TWC 492
*Passing the Peace
The Children's Moment
The Presentation of Our Offerings
The Offering of Gifts
The Offering of Music: "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" Tucker [handbells], Honoré [organ with
optional instrument], or Krapf [organ or piano]
GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS WORD
*Song of Preparation: "Faith Begins by Letting Go" SNC 172
Our Prayer for Illumination
The Reading of Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3-9 and 2 Peter 1:10
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
Sermon: "Can I Really Be Sure of My Salvation?" (Knots of the Faith - #5)
WE RESPOND TO GOD'S WORD WITH FAITH
*Our Profession of Faith
What is your only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own,
body and soul,
in life and in death-
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me whole-heartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him. (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1)
Response: "Take, O Take Me As I Am" SNC 215
What do you believe concerning the "holy catholic church"?
I believe that the Son of God
through his Spirit and Word,
out of the entire human race,
from the beginning of the world to its end,
gathers, protects, and preserves for himself
a community chosen for eternal life
and united in true faith.
And of this community I am and always will be a living member.
(Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 54)
*Anthem Response: "Neither Death nor Life," Haugen
The Prayers of the People
WE GO OUT WITH CONFIDENCE
*Song of Faith: "Blessed Assurance: Jesus Is Mine" PH 341, PsH 490, RL 453, TH 693, TWC 514, UMH 369, WOV 699
*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!
*Song: "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" PsH 552
Postlude: "I Will Sing of My Redeemer," Vaughan Williams [organ]
* you are invited to stand
- The subject of this sermon calls for great pastoral sensitivity. The preacher must exude confidence and assurance in his/her own standing with Christ, yet must be willing to admit that arriving at that certainty has involved questions along the way. The sermon should illustrate understanding of the questions and struggles many hearers may be having. "Questions are normal and welcome here," should be an implicit message built on the assumption that many are dealing with various degrees of uncertainty. It might be wise to spell out some of the sources of uncertainty and doubting.
- Proclaiming the biblical permission for certainty and assurance can begin with 2 Peter 1:10; here Peter encourages suffering Christians to aim for certainty. In his first epistle (1:3-9) he sets forth the foundation of such certainty-the resurrection of Christ and our new life in him. We find that reinforced by the testimonies of others in Scripture.
- Our profession of assurance is based on three matters/convictions: (a) taking God at his word and trusting God's promises, (b) our trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and (c) the evidence of fruit in our life which gives evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is vitally important that we make it clear our assurance is not based on the degree of obedience or maturity in our life lest it seems like an achievement of our own. Those with firm assurance still see much that needs to be improved; sanctification is still going on!
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)
- The prelude suggestions, based on the Easter surety of Christ's resurrection, are strong pieces that portray confidence and hope. They can be found in the following sources:
"Jesus Lives! And So Do We" [JESUS, MEINE, ZUVERSICHT] by Anton Leupold in An Organ Book, published by Chantry Music Press  (E-M] and by David Cherwien in "Interpretations vol. 8," published by AMSI SP-105  (M-D).
"Christ Is Alive! Let Christians Sing" [TRURO], arranged by Michael Burkhardt in "Four Hymn Improvisations for Holy Week," published by Morningstar MSM-10-318  (E-M).
- The offertory suggestions, all based on HYFRYDOL can be found in
"Meditation on 'Hyfrydol,'" arranged for 3 octaves handbells by Sondra K. Tucker, published by Choristers Guild CGB182  (E-M). This piece is also effective played on hand chimes.
"Classic Embellishments," arranged by Jeffrey Honoré for organ, published by Augsburg 11-11075  (E-M). This piece can have the melody line played by an instrument.
"Sing and Rejoice" vol. 2, an organ collection by Gerard Krapf, published by SMP KK235  (E-M). This could also be played on piano alone.
- The response anthem "Neither Death nor Life" can be sung by an SATB choir with or without congregational participation. Written by Marty Haugen, it is published by GIA G-5650  (E-M) and includes a reproducible refrain for congregational use.
- The postlude, based on HYFRYDOL,can be found in "Three Preludes" by Ralph Vaughan Williams, published by Galaxy (Stainer and Bell) (M).
- Note that the opening hymn of this service is an Easter hymn, by which we immediately raise the awareness that the resurrection of Christ is the solid basis for all our hope and assurance. Note too that the prelude suggestions reinforce this theme.
- The worshipers "pass the peace" to one another after they have received the assurance of God's pardon. This act of passing the peace is different from greeting each other. When we greet each other it's usually "Hello, Good morning . . .," but when we pass the peace we take what God has given us and extend it to one another with, "The peace of Christ be with you."
- We have placed the Children's Moment after this act of passing the peace so it can be explained to them. Children are often overlooked in such times, but we encourage you to use this opportunity to address the children. "Do you know what we just did? We gave Christ's peace to each other. Let me explain it to you and then let's do it with one another . . ."
- The profession of faith, which is the first element of the response section of the service, should be integrated as part of the conclusion of the sermon. If the sermon ends with pastoral encouragement and exhortation, the worshipers can immediately respond with their testimonies through the words of the Heidelberg Catechism. The words of the first Q&A are combined with the words that explain the article of the Apostles' Creed about the holy catholic church so that we catch the vision that we are part of worldwide body of people who profess with certainty that we belong to God.
- Especially in a worship service with this theme, the prayers of the people should be marked by caring sensitivity. Let it include intercessions for those outside the church whose lives are empty and need to hear about this certainty. Let it also include intercession for those in the pews who are struggling with doubts and fears. Honest intercession will mean much to those who struggle.