How Do We Know We Are Saved?
July 6, 2016
Are you saved because you prayed a prayer at church when you were a little child? The Bible never teaches us to go to church and pray a prayer in order to be saved. Rather, Jesus told people to do these things:
2) Follow me
3) Obey my commandments
4) Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind
5) Believe in me
6) Deny yourself
7) Take up your cross
8) Be baptized with water and with the Holy Spirit
9) Be born again
The teachings of Jesus go well beyond praying a prayer at Vacation Bible School. I'm not saying people cannot come to know the Lord by praying a prayer at church. They certainly can come to know him that way or any number of ways he chooses to reveal himself to them. But I'm saying, praying a prayer at church does not guarantee anyone's salvation. In fact, if one's life wasn't changed after such a prayer, it was probably nothing more than a vain attempt to secure a ticket to heaven. The very good news is there are guarantees of salvation given to us! Read on:
Life is so fragile and so short. The Bible tells us that we are a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes.
"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." - James 4:14
Of course at the end of that life, what matters is do we know Jesus, and more importantly does he know us?
"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" - Matthew 7:21-23
The Bible tells us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith:
"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" - 2 Corinthians 13:5
According to that, everyone who considers themselves to be a follower of Christ should welcome the opportunity to examine themselves to see whether their faith is genuine.
Personally, I believe beyond any doubt that I am saved by my faith in Jesus Christ. I believe that because:
1) I am a new creation.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." - 2 Cor. 5:17
I do not live according to the desires of the flesh. Rather, there is a continuous repentance of sin going on in my life. I make mistakes because I am a sinful human being. Jesus' brother, James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said:
"For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body." - James 3:2
1 John 1:8-10 says:
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
I sin, but I cannot go on in willful sin without it weighing upon my conscience. The Lord gives me an awareness of sin, and leads me to repentance when I mess up.
I'll give you a great example. A week or so ago, I found myself grumbling. I had been grumbling a lot. I had been grumbling to the Lord and to those around me. The Lord commands us in Philippians 2:14 to "Do all things without grumbling...". I was falling very, very short of that mark. I knew I wasn't supposed to have that kind of attitude and yet I somehow justified it to myself, probably for a couple of weeks straight. The Lord made me very aware that what I was doing was sinful and would have serious consequences if I did not stop. I had to repent. I had to turn away from that behavior and ask the Lord for help in obeying his command.
Now, it's possible that I could ignore God's commands to the point of developing a seared conscience, which would lead to number 3 (below).
2) I am sealed by the Holy Spirit. I experience interaction with him on a daily basis. He leads me and guides me and indeed, he is my conscience. He doesn't let me act the way I used to act. He doesn't let me live the way I used to live. In fact, his love and his leading compel me toward good deeds, not works of lawlessness. I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is living inside of me, instructing me and teaching me in the way I should go.
"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." - Ephesians 1:13-14
"and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." - 2 Corinthians 1:22
3) I experience God's discipline and correction when I willfully disobey his commands.
"For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” - Hebrews 12:6
"If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons." - Hebrews 12:8
There have obviously been times in my life during which I strayed far and wide from the will of God. I went long periods where I completely ignored his commands and got a long way away from him. At some point, I experienced very severe, very painful discipline and correction when I did that. For example, I lost everything I owned, lost my family, was placed at the mercy of people who were my enemies, and so on. So, in my view, that is strong evidence that I am a true son. Now, suffice it to say, not every Christian experiences the kind of discipline I experienced because not everyone strays as far as I did away from the Lord. I think it’s also worth noting that God deals with each of us individually. So, I can’t say for certain what kind of discipline and correction (or how severe) another person should experience when they go astray. I can simply say that God definitely disciplines and corrects those who belong to him because his word is crystal clear on that point.
The Bible is also crystal clear on that point that there are some people out there who only think they know the Lord. Maybe you go to church every now and then. Maybe you post Facebook statuses about how you love Jesus. Maybe you even like to listen to Christian music every now and then. But you aren’t making a serious effort to follow him, to obey his commands, or to deny yourself and take up your cross. Maybe you are even living with things in your life that you know the Bible says are sinful, and it doesn’t even bother you. Maybe you think you are doing just fine, in spite of the fact that you don’t even try to obey the Lord’s commands. If those things are true, then you are in a dangerous situation. Jesus has this to say to anyone in that situation:
"‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." - Revelation 3:15-17
If we know him, then what will matter to us at the end of our lives on earth is only what we have done for Jesus. So, let's be diligent in serving him faithfully for whatever time we have left on this earth! Let us also encourage others to do the same!
P.S. If you are making every effort to love, obey, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ, but for some reason you still experience anxiety and worry regarding your salvation, then you may be experiencing a different kind of attack from the enemy. I would point you to this article as a good source of encouragement.
NOTE 8-24-2016: I came back to add a note here regarding other Christians who may have influenced this particular post. I am influenced by many other Christian teachers. I'm not sure I've ever found one with which I agree totally on every single point. But I find so much value in listening to and reading the views of other Christians who are serious Bible students/teachers. But back to this particular post, I wrote much of this originally as a letter to share directly with another person. Later, I polished it a little and then shared it on personal social media. However, shortly after that, I believe I ended up watching a Paul Washer sermon on YouTube that was centered around the same topic. My memory is fuzzy, but as this post comes back in my mind, I think Washer may have said something in his sermon that was very similar to the opening of this post. In other words, he may have significantly influenced the opening portion of this post. I may have added that part after seeing his sermon, and maybe even other sermons on the topic. Again, my memory is not perfect in regard to how and when I wrote everything, but I know that it is a document that was not written all at once. Beyond the opening portion, there are other similarities to the Washer sermon that were already present due to a similar understanding of the Bible and its teachings on this topic. I also know that David Platt has addressed similar issues, so his influence may also be showing through in this post. Plagiarism is a tricky topic among Christians because we are all just relaying biblical teaching. Still, I wanted to make a note of it to be on the "safe side" of the issue. I have great respect and appreciation for Paul Washer, David Platt, and many, many other Christians teachers. I thank them and commend them for sharing their insight so freely and boldly! I thank you all for reading!