Part 4: How to Know That You Are Saved
How to Keep Your Faith While in College by
Dr. Robert A. Morey
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.
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
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.
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!
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 Religion
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 Trap
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 God
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
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:
Thirst after the living God (Psa. 42:2).
Hunger after righteousness (Matt. 5:6).
Talk about the Lord and seek Christian fellowship
Be fervent in prayer (Gal. 4:6).
Be interested in, read, and enjoy Scripture (Psa.
1; 119:9, 11).
Love the Law of God (Psa. 119:97).
Go to church because they want to (Psa. 84).
If you are truly saved, you will show it by the way you
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
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.
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 Yourself
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
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
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.
The Apostle John tells us to
examine the way we live. He calls us to examine our lives in two ways.
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.
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
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 world—the
desire for fleshly gratification, the desire for possessions, and worldly
not from the Father but is from the world. (I John 2:15, 16)
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
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."
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
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
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
What If You Fail the Test?
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."
precious promises point you toward the Lord Jesus Christ as the only one
who can save you.
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
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.
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
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 is—what 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
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."
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.
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
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
Do I desire to serve the Lord to the best of my
ability or do I think only of personal pleasure, affluence, and
Do I view God, the Bible, the Church, and God's Law
as hindrances or helps in my life?