Since it is written in our hearts that, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that, the judgment,” we have a natural aversion to death and a great fear of what comes afterward. If we have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and professed to believe it, we have a natural tendency to look for some evidences or proof that we are, indeed, believers in Christ and heirs of God’s promise. Religion and our natural conscience are all too ready to provide us with various standards by which we may judge our faith: Is it doctrinally sound? Has it been confirmed by some deep emotional experience or some strange and otherwise unexplainable event? Have we experienced the ability to lay aside notable sins? Do we love the brethren sufficiently? Do we regularly testify of Christ to others? Do we read our Bibles and pray enough? But there is a deadly poison in such self-examination for in each of them there is a looking to self and our assurance must never arise from anything about us.
If we would know our hearts, we must not look at them or listen to what they tells us for, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Our hearts might needlessly condemn us, or worse, they might falsely acquit us. We must never trust our own judgments about ourselves. Rather, we must let the Word of God (which, according to Peter, is the gospel) expose our hearts and reveal the truth of them to us. And this gospel exposure can be accomplished by considering the events of Calvary and these questions: Who is that on the cross? The Son of God. What is He doing there? Bearing the Wrath of God. Why did He die? To fulfill the Demand of God in payment for sin. Why was He raised from the grave? His death satisfied the Justice of God. Why is He now seated at the right hand of God? He has the Acceptance and Approval of God. And, quite miraculously, the knowledge of these things will reveal our hearts to us. When the child of God makes these things the object of his spiritual examination, God’s Spirit witnesses with his spirit that he is, indeed, a child of God.