Monday, March 18, 2019

Anonymous Asks (31)

“How do I know I’m saved?”

This is a question which occurs to nearly every young believer at one point or another. Some struggle with it more than others.

If you’ve run your question by fellow Christians, someone has probably quoted you Romans 10:9: “[I]f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Confess With Your Mouth

Now, the “confess with your mouth” part is pretty straightforward. If you haven’t said, “I’m a Christian” or “I love and serve Jesus Christ” or something similar out loud to anyone ever, you haven’t really properly acknowledged the lordship of Jesus. Saying “Jesus is Lord” is telling the world you are not your own, and that you are no longer free to live by the world’s standards. You have accepted the rule of another and you follow him exclusively.

Moreover, if you haven’t yet been baptized, you haven’t made the biggest and most obvious public confession of all, and I can quite understand how you might find yourself wondering whether you are saved or not.

I mean, if you won’t talk about it, why would anyone believe it’s real, including you?

More Than a Historical Fact

But lots of people announce to the world they are Christians, then catch themselves sinning in ways that make them question whether they are really believers. So let’s consider the other part of the verse, the part about believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.

Now, that’s obviously not just having head-knowledge of a historical fact. It means more than just saying to yourself, “Yeah, I think the resurrection actually happened.” It’s understanding what that means, and it means this: that God accepted the sacrifice of his Son on the cross on your behalf. If God raised Jesus from the dead, it’s because he was completely satisfied with what Jesus had accomplished. This is what the apostle Paul says about him: that he was “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Those words “for” in that sentence mean “because of”. Jesus was delivered up to die because your sins needed to be dealt with, and he was raised because you had been declared righteous, along with everyone who puts their trust in him.

William MacDonald comments:
“The fact that He rose tells us that the work is finished, the price has been paid, and God is infinitely satisfied with the sin-atoning work of the Savior.”
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is your greatest proof you are saved, provided you have trusted him for salvation rather than your own track record at keeping some arbitrary set of religious rules. If God remained unsatisfied, Jesus would still be in the grave. When you really believe that, you stop working for your salvation and start trusting in the fact that Jesus already accomplished it.

Shots of Pineapple Vodka

There is a further question, though, isn’t there, and that is “But how do I know I believe that?”

Belief is a subjective thing. It’s awfully hard to measure. Lots of people say they believe things, but don’t act like it. For instance, just this week I read a story about a police officer in Georgia. In 2016, he was acknowledged by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety as their Drug Recognition Expert of the Year. This week he was pulled over after enough shots of pineapple vodka to warrant testing his blood alcohol level. Under such circumstances, it is not unreasonable to question whether he really believed the things he formerly taught and in which he was said to be expert. He is probably questioning that himself.

But even if belief is hard to measure, there are some strong indications people have really trusted Christ that the writers of the New Testament use to encourage their readers. The apostle John, for instance, says this:
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”
So the good news is that it IS possible to be sure about salvation. John wrote so that you would be sure.

Measuring Belief

Here are some of “these things” John said:
  • People who have trusted Jesus Christ may sin from time to time, but they do not make a practice of deliberately sinning. They do not “walk in darkness”, as John puts it.
  • People who have trusted Jesus Christ do the things Jesus commanded. Sure, they may fail at it, and even fail regularly, but they make it the object of their lives to do the kinds of things Jesus told his disciples to do. If you wonder what those are, Jesus gave four full gospels of instructions. You can read about them there.
  • People who have trusted Jesus Christ seek to live the way Jesus lived. “By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” “[Y]ou may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”
  • People who have trusted Jesus Christ lose their appetite for the things of this present world. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” So long as your life is all about what you can see, what you can get, and what you can own, you are never going to be confident you have been saved. Saved people characteristically do not live for this world, but for the world to come.
  • People who have trusted Jesus Christ love their fellow Christians: “[E]veryone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.” “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.” This love John refers to is not some intangible sentiment. It too can be measured, in terms of our generosity to our fellow believers (“If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”) and our willingness to go to the wall for them (“we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers”).
Uncertainty and Obedience

Still uncertain? It’s possible you are only doing some of these things, and maybe not doing them very well. Maybe you are not consistently doing any of them. That happens, and I will not be the one to tell you it means for sure you are not saved. I don’t know that. Only God knows that. The sacrifice of Christ is an amazing and powerful thing, and I suspect it has saved some people who will surprise all of us one day.

What I can tell you is this: when you really believe something, you act on it. If you are not regularly doing at least some of these things and gradually growing into the others, you won’t be very confident in your salvation. Your certainty about your relationship with God will come and go with the emotional highs and lows of life, rather than being determined by what you read in his word.

That is not a fun way to live. I don’t recommend it. Here is the best way I can put it: Christian confidence is directly proportional to Christian obedience.

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