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Knowing You Are Saved

Part 4: How to Know That You Are Saved

from How to Keep Your Faith While in College by Dr. Robert A. Morey

n order for you to discern if you have had a true conversion experience, it is necessary to think through some of the biblical evidences and tests of regeneration. The entire book of First John is the fullest treatment of the assurance of salvation in the New Testament.

In I John 5:13 we are told,

I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Just as John gave us the theme for his entire Gospel in John 20:3 1, he also gave us the theme for his entire Epistle of I John in 5:13. Since John is dealing with the subject of how we can know if we are really saved, he lays out his material in a very logical and orderly manner.

An important distinction must be pointed out at this juncture. Salvation and assurance of salvation are NOT the same thing. Salvation has to do with justification which is by faith alone in Christ by grace alone. This is in contrast to assur­ance of salvation which has to do with sanctification, i.e., the Christian life.

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Salvation deals with the issue of "being" while assurance deals with "well‑being." Salvation determines whether you get to heaven while assurance determines how happy you are along the way. While obedience and works do not play a role in sal­vation, they do play a vital role in assurance of salvation. Your life must back up your lip when it comes to assurance of salvation.

Throughout the New Testament we are told that the proof of true salvation is obedience (John 8:12, 3 1; 14:15, 21‑23; 15:14; 1 Cor. 6:9‑11; 11 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 5:19‑23). We do not have the right to say that we are saved if we are living in dis­obedience at the same time (I John 2:4). While the grounds of our salvation is grace alone, the test of our assurance of salvation is obedience.

In his Epistle, the Apostle John constantly challenges our assurance by saying, "Hereby we know Him if…” He demands that we "prove" or "test" our assurance of salvation. This proof is obtained by self‑examination. John calls upon us to examine our lives to see if God has truly given us a new heart.

Examine Your FaithBack to top.

The first thing that John calls us to examine is our faith. John stresses that there are two distinct areas of faith which we must examine in order to see if we are truly the children of God.

The Content of Your FaithBack to top.

First John tells us to examine the content of our faith. This means that what we believe about God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, salvation, sin, etc., is very important. If we do not believe in the historic Christian Faith, then we are not saved.

This is how you can recognize God's Spirit: Every spirit who acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. (I John 4:2)

God abides in the one who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, and he abides in God. (I John 4:15)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God... (I John 5: 1)

You will meet people who openly deny that Jesus was the Christ. Marxist and atheistic professors will even claim that Jesus never existed and thus Jesus is a myth! Other people will claim that Jesus was only a humble Jewish rabbi, a moral teacher or a good example. Occultists will claim that all men are little christs and gods!

The issue of whether Jesus was the Christ is so important that the Apostle John said that anyone who denied it was a liar and an antichrist!

Who is a liar but the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ? The person who denies the Father and the Son is the antichrist. No one who denies the Son has the Father. The person who acknowledges the Son also has the Father. (I John 2:22, 23)

John warned us not to accept false prophets and their false doctrines. We must test all religious claims and teachings according to Scripture.

Dear friends, stop believing every spirit. Instead, test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize God's Spirit: Every spirit who acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist. You have heard that he is coming, and now he is already in the world. (I John 4:1‑3)

Sincerity Is Not Enough!Back to top.

Do not be fooled by the rather stupid idea that it does not really matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. The Apostle John makes it absolutely clear that if someone does not believe in the Gospel, they are already under the just condemnation of God (John 3:18).

What can you say to people who are so foolish to think that sincerity is enough in religion? Point out to them that since sincerity is never enough anywhere else in life, why should it be enough in religion? Is sincerity enough in medicine, law, finances or politics? Ask them,

  • Do you really believe that it does not matter what a doctor does as long as he is sincere?

  • How a lawyer handles a case as long as he is sincere? How a financial manager handles money as long as he is sincere?

  • What a politician does as long as he is sincere?

  • If you got on a bus sincerely thinking you were on your way to New York City, when you actually got on a bus going to California, would your sincerity alter the fact that you are going in the wrong direction?

Sincerity has nothing to do with the issue of Truth. Can't we be sincerely wrong?

Logic and ReligionBack to top.

Logically speaking, since all religions contradict each other, either one religion is the true religion or none of them are true. They cannot all be true. But what do we say if we run across someone who says,

"I have my truth and you have your truth. Truth is whatever you want it to be."

Point out to them that they are hypocrites because they do not really believe such nonsense. They cannot live what they believe. For example, if their bank took away all their money and said, "We have our truth that you never gave us any money, and you have your truth that you did," this person would be the first to say that we must be objective and rational!

The Parent TrapBack to top.

Another possible snare you must avoid at all costs is the blind faith of some parents. Now it is clear that Christian parents should desire that their children come to know and love the Lord Jesus early in life. This desire is one evidence that they are saved. A parent who claims to be saved but does not manifest any concern to see his children saved is no more saved than a stone.

While the desire to see your children saved is proper and necessary, some parents become so desperate to believe that their children are saved that they will grasp at anything. Even when their son or daughter openly denies the faith and engages in gross wickedness, they will still comfort themselves by saying,

"Well, at least my son is saved. He may not act like it now but I know he is saved because he accepted Jesus when he was five years old. He doesn't go to church anymore and married a Catholic but I still say he is saved."

Instead of facing the reality that their child is on his way to hell, some parents will cling to false hopes so they can sleep at night. But instead of seeking their own psychological comfort, they should seek the conversion of their child by telling him the truth. Many sons and daughters have ended up in hell because their parents repeatedly told them that they were saved even while they were living in wickedness. Instead of helping their children, they damned them forever.

Salvation Is a Work of GodBack to top.

The basic problem is that we tend to forget that salvation is a work of God and not a work of man. We are not saved because we prayed but because God gave us a new heart. In such places as John 1: 13; 3:3, 5 and Rom. 9:16, we are repeatedly told that God saves us by His power and not by our prayers.

Some people have a magical view of prayer in which if anyone, regardless of his age or understanding, prays certain words such as "Come into my heart, Lord Jesus," he is automatically saved! It never dawns on them that salvation is something the Lord does. Salvation is not worked by such magical incantations.

God is viewed as a vending machine that mechanically dis­penses salvation the moment someone pushes the right button by saying the right words. Thus they get their children to ask Jesus into their heart and then they sit back and comfort themselves that their children are saved regardless if there is ever any evidence that God has truly done a work in their hearts.

The only way that we can know if God has saved our chil­dren is by their lifestyle. If they are saved, they have become new creatures in Christ and will show it by a change in their attitudes and actions (Il Cor. 5:17). In other words, there will be clear evidence in their lives that God has worked true repentance and faith in their hearts. Thus they will:

  1. Thirst after the living God (Psa. 42:2).

  2. Hunger after righteousness (Matt. 5:6).

  3. Talk about the Lord and seek Christian fellowship (Mal. 3:16‑18).

  4. Be fervent in prayer (Gal. 4:6).

  5. Be interested in, read, and enjoy Scripture (Psa. 1; 119:9, 11).

  6. Love the Law of God (Psa. 119:97).

  7. Go to church because they want to (Psa. 84).

If you are truly saved, you will show it by the way you live.

The Character of Your FaithBack to top.

John not only tells us to examine the content of our faith but also the character or kind of faith we have. This is why in the Greek, John always uses the word "believe" in the present tense. He never refers to a date or a decision in the past as the basis of one's assurance of salvation.

Not once in the New Testament does anyone claim to be saved because they "made a decision" in the past. Rather we are told that assurance of salvation is always based on the present fact of personal trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God... (I John 5: 1)

In John 3:16, John refers to faith in the present tense.

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his unique Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.

When people apply for membership in a church, if the only question they are asked is "When were you saved?" a terrible mistake has been made. Where was such a question ever asked in Scripture? Far too many people base their assurance of sal­vation solely on some decision they made in the past when there is nothing presently in their lives to show that they love God! Far too many churches are filled with unregenerate peo­ple whose unspiritual lives are excused by calling them "carnal Christians" or "nominal Christians." They only show up Sunday morning. They never volunteer for anything. They are not interested in studying the Bible. They don't witness at work or have private or family devotions. They are more concerned about the building than the ministry. They are pragmatists who consistently ignore or disobey Scripture. In short, there is no evidence in their lives that they are really saved. Their "assurance" of salvation is based solely on some event in the past which has no bearing on the present. Such professions of faith are quite worthless, says James (James 2:14‑26). While works do not save us, once we are saved, we will work for the Lord (Eph. 2:8‑10). When someone wants to join a church, they should be asked,

"What evidence do you see in your life right now that would lead you to believe that God has given you a new heart?"

This kind of question will reveal false confessions of faith and lead to true conversions. It will focus on the present spir­itual state of people and deal with their present situation.

Questions to Ask YourselfBack to top.

  • Am I really a Christian?

  • Have I really been saved?

  • Do I truly love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ?

  • Do I have a personal relationship with Him?

  • Do I live to bring glory to God?

  • What evidence is there in my life that proves that I am saved?

Many people, like Judas, thought they were Christians. But in the end, it was revealed that they had never truly been saved. You must search your soul to make sure that you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior. If you have never made that step of commitment on your own then you should do so now.

One of the reasons why we must examine ourselves to see if we are really saved is that childhood conversions seldom work out. Indeed, most of the young people who stop attending church after they reach the age of 18 had a childhood conversion in which they prayed to "receive" Jesus. But their conversion was psychological instead of spiritual.

The sad truth is that the vast majority of childhood conversions never pan out. Most churches experience a 75% or greater drop out rate for their young people. While it is true that God can save a child, it is also true that we can get a child to pray to "receive" Bozo the Clown or Jesus with equal suc­cess. Beware of false assurance.

Examine Your LifeBack to top.

The Apostle John tells us to examine the way we live. He calls us to examine our lives in two ways.

Examine Your Heart: Your AttitudesBack to top.

One of the clearest evidences of true conversion is a proper attitude toward God's Law. In I John 5:3 we are told that God's commandments are not grievous or burdensome. This means that the true child of God does not view God's Law as a straightjacket which keeps him from true happiness. Instead, a real Christian will view God's Law as containing the principles of success and true happiness in life.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)

In order to examine your own heart to see if you are truly saved, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I love the Law of God or do I view it as something that is keeping me from true happiness?

  • Do I prize God's Law as principles of success or as a club to beat me down?

  • Do I view the Law as a hindrance to what I really want to do?

One of the clearest evidences of salvation is when some­one comes to love the Law of God with all of his heart. In Psalm 119:97, David reveals the child of God loves the Law of the Lord. When someone is saved, God writes His Law in his heart (Jer. 31:33‑34) and he will never depart from Him (Jer. 32:40). If your attitude toward the Law of God is neg­ative then you must question whether or not God has ever given you a new heart.

The Apostle John not only tells us to examine our attitude to the Law of God, but he also calls upon us to examine the emotional focus of our lives (I John 2:9‑11, 15‑17).

Do we love what God loves and hate what God hates? If we love what God hates then we are the enemies of God (James 4:4). If we hate what God loves then we are not on God's side. We are to think God's thoughts after Him and to love what God loves and hate what God hates.

If someone is truly converted, he will love the people of God and seek out and enjoy Christian fellowship. He will love to talk about the Lord with those who know Him. This is how the righteous can be distinguished from the wicked according to Mal. 3:16‑18. John also teaches this truth in the N.T.

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love one another. The person who does not love remains in death. (I John 3:14)

Dear friends, let us continually love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. (I John 4:7)

On the other hand, if we hate what God loves and love the things of this world instead, then we know that the love of the Father is not in us.

Stop loving the world and the things that are in the world. If anyone persists in loving the world, the Father's love is not in him. For everything that is in the worldthe desire for fleshly gratification, the desire for possessions, and worldly arroganceis not from the Father but is from the world. (I John 2:15, 16)

This means that we must ask ourselves some questions. Do I naturally gravitate toward other Christians or do I naturally hang out with non‑Christians? Do I seek out the company of "spiritual" Christians or do I seek the company of "carnal" Christians?

It is a wise saying that, "Birds of a feather flock together." This means that who you choose to be your friends will in­dicate the true spiritual state of your heart. If you seek the company of non‑Christians who are worldly in mind, attitude and actions, then you are probably not saved no matter how many times you have "prayed" or run down an aisle. The Apostle Paul warned us in I Cor. 15:33,

Stop being deceived: "Wicked friends lead to evil ends."

During your high school experience, did you seek the company of those who loved the Lord or did you run with the non­Christian crowd? If you naturally gravitated to the company of non‑Christians, you did so because you felt more comfortable around them. This is a good indication that you are not saved.

Examine Your Life: Your ActionsBack to top.

Those who claim to love and know Christ and yet willfully disregard and disobey His Law do not give any evidence of true conversion.

The person who says, "I have come to know him," but does not continually keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. (I John 2:4)

Jesus explicitly taught that obedience to God's Law is the clearest evidence of true conversion.

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. (John 14:23)

If you continue in my word, you are really my disciples. (John 8:31)

The kind of obedience demanded in Scripture is purposeful obedience, not perfect obedience. While a true Christian sins in many ways every day (James 3:2), yet he continues daily to purpose in his heart not to sin against God's Law. Sin aggravates him and disturbs him. It is an unwelcomed guest. He yearns for holiness more than happiness.

The Apostle John was very wise in calling upon us to ex­amine ourselves to see if we are truly saved. What if we were to gain the whole world but lose our immortal soul? Of what profit would there be if we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are saved when we are not saved?

Do not be deceived. The truth is never afraid of examination. The light is never afraid of exposure. If you are saved, all the self‑examination in the world will not unsave you. If you are truly converted, you will not lose your salvation because you question it. Doubts have never damned anyone but false confidence has led millions into hell. If you are not converted and you do not examine yourself then you will go on thinking you are saved when in reality you are still under the wrath of Almighty God.

What If You Fail the Test?Back to top.

What if you have come to the conclusion that you do not have the evidences of true conversion as given by the Apostle John?

First of all, face reality. Don't try to evade or ignore the fact that your life does not have the evidences required by Scripture as manifesting true conversion. Don't try to run from the problem or cover it over with cheap shoddy prayers or quick decisions. Don't run down the nearest aisle and make some emotional demonstration in the attempt to delude yourself into yet another false conversion.

Second, tell your pastor that you doubt your salvation and that you want the real thing this time. Ask him to pray for you as you seek the Lord by yourself for the first time in your life.

This perhaps is the most important turning point in your life. Jeremiah 29:13 says that if you seek the Lord with all of your heart you will certainly find him. In Rom. 10: 13, the Apostle Paul says,

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

These precious promises point you toward the Lord Jesus Christ as the only one who can save you.

Perhaps the following prayer will help you in your commitment to Christ. Such a commitment could well be the turning point in your life. The words are not magical. This is just an example of how to cry out to the Lord for salvation.

"Lord Jesus, I confess to you and all of heaven that I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. You have done everything that is needed for my salvation. I ask you to give me a new heart. Work salvation in me. Save me as I now submit to your Lordship over all of my life. Please make me your servant."

The issue of assurance of salvation involves submission to the Lordship of Christ. Don't be deceived by those who peddle a cheap assurance in which you can have Jesus as Savior without bowing to Him as Lord (Rom. 10:9; Col. 2:6). You cannot cut the Lord Jesus Christ into pieces and accept only a part of Him.

After one is saved, the Lordship of Christ over all of life must be reaffirmed daily. This is why the Apostle Peter when writing to fellow Christians reminded them to renew Christ's Lordship in their hearts.

Exalt Christ as Lord in your hearts. (I Pet. 3:15)

The Lordship of Christ means that you are willing to live for the glory of God and to demonstrate that God's will for your life is perfect, good and acceptable. Thus in Rom. 12: 1, 2, the Apostle Paul tells us to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God.

I therefore urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercies, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God, for this is the reasonable way for you to worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but continually be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God's will iswhat is proper, pleasing, and perfect.

Have you made a definite commitment to serve God all the days of your life? Have you surrendered everything in your life to the Lordship of Christ? Have you made Christ the Lord of your life? Do you seek to serve Him in all you do? Do you seek His will for your life or do you seek to do only what you want?

The Lordship of Christ is not something that we once affirmed and then never bother with again. It is not to be viewed as some cheap decision that we made at an altar years ago. Since we face temptations to sin and to unbelief daily, we must reaffirm our commitment to the Lordship of Christ daily. This is why the Lord Jesus Christ emphasized that we must take up our cross and deny ourselves daily.

If anyone wants to come with me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross every day, and follow me continually. (Luke 9:23)

Perhaps the following prayer will help you to reaffirm the Lordship of Christ in your life. This is not meant to be a once and for all experience or commitment to Christ. Neither should you view these words as magical. Merely saying these words will not do anything. But it is the God to whom you pray who may can work true repentance and submission in your heart. This prayer is intended to be an example of the daily affir­mation of the Lordship of Christ that should take place in the life of every true believer.

"Lord Jesus, I love you because you first loved me. Just as you gave your life for me, I now give my life to you. I present my body as a living sacrifice to you that I may prove that your will is good and acceptable. I now reaffirm your Lordship over all of life."

SummaryBack to top.

The Bible calls upon Christians to bow before the Lordship of Christ. We cannot say, "Come in Savior, but stay out Lord." We must put our trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ for if the foundation be false, the house cannot stand. The first step toward Christian maturity is to discern where you stand in your relationship with God.

Questions for DiscussionBack to top.

  • What are my goals in fife?

  • What role does God play in the decisions I make and the goals I set? What conclusion must be drawn if God does not really make a difference in my life?

  • Do I live for the glory of God or only for my own personal pleasure?

  • What evidence is there in my life that God has given me a new heart?

  • Do I hunger and thirst after righteousness or only after the things of this world'?

  • Do I feel more comfortable among non‑Christians or among Christians?

  • Do I desire to serve the Lord to the best of my ability or do I think only of personal pleasure, affluence, and popularity?

  • Do I view God, the Bible, the Church, and God's Law as hindrances or helps in my life?

Foundation Principles Salvation Arguments Answering Questions Knowing You Are Saved


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