Last night we picked back up on our fishbowl question series, and the question asked was “How Can I Know I’m Saved?” We examined a couple passages, and the verses I used for this were 2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 John 5:13, and John 3:3.
This is a deeply personal and very delicate subject. On one extreme I do not wish to build barriers to the Gospel and make it impossible to have any confidence in salvation. On the other hand, an equally dangerous extreme is giving false hope through the “prayed prayer” or any other ritual. One of the scariest things I can think of is being a stumbling block to the Gospel. What you are reading is my humble and faulty attempt to try to make sense of the difficult issue of assurance. I am by no means speaking this as an expert, and there may be honest disagreement with what I have written. I’m OK with that, you don’t have to agree with me on everything, I’m not that insecure.
The only ground for our salvation is Christ, not in anything else that we have done. We aren’t saved because we have prayed the prayer, and we are not saved by “asking Jesus into our heart.” Our salvation comes from regeneration, being born again. The prayer of confession and cry out for Christ to come into our lives is a result of that regeneration, that conversion. Many people have trusted in something else besides Christ, and the results of this are incredibly haunting. Jesus’ own words in Matthew 7 should drop us to our knees when He says “Depart from me, I never knew you.” So much of what I hear from people and their assurance of salvation is more based on something they did rather than something Christ has done for them. At the core of this, I believe, is biblical ignorance but also I believe there is an element of selfishness. Why selfishness? Because many times we cannot completely let go, we cannot completely give up control and give up our part in salvation (and other things too). So, we have baptized selfishness and now salvation in many churches is reduced to something you did, rather than the work of the Spirit to bring life to death (did the bones in Ezekiel 37 ask, or was it a work worked on them?). I’m not denying the human response, but that response is to the working of God in our lives, not the initiation of God’s work. This approach is called “monergism” and you can learn more about it here: http://monergism.com/
All that said, here is the outline from last night with some additional notes, explanation, and commentary:
What is Salvation?
- Key word – Regeneration (Being born again, new life, new person); 2 Corinthians 5:17
- Salvation is not – “Getting your life right,” behavior modification, being a good person, etc.
- Illustration: Two enemy nations becoming allies This is not the time or place to really get into depth on this, but we have so trivialized being a “friend of God” that we have reduced it to being Jesus’ buddy. The end result is that we have a friend who reads our journal rather than a Savior who gave His life for us. When we talk about friend, we mean ally. I take the “friend of God” in that sense. Other don’t and that’s fine, so long as Christ is Lord and more than just a pal
- Crossed over from death to life John 5:24
- Salvation is a gift – Not from anything we’ve earned or done to deserve it
- This is where I really want to camp out – We think God owes us, that He’s somehow obligated at our beck and call
- When you get to thinking you’ve earned salvation or deserve it, you’ve missed the point
How are you saved?
- Entry point is faith, by grace – Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:8-9
- Faith – Not in an event, a circumstance, or even in faith itself, but in Christ
- Everything we believe about Jesus comes from the fact we have faith that He was who He said He was; If He wasn’t, then nothing else matters!
- The Resurrection, Miracles, Virgin Birth, etc. all hang on this – These are what are called “Primary” Doctrines, fundamentals is another word. In short, these are such key elements to the Christian faith that the truthfulness of the Gospel depends on them
- Saving faith contrasted with other faith
- Illustration: I have faith that one day UofL football will be relevant again. My life isn’t grounded or based on this, but I have faith that it will. Does this mean it will? Is it guaranteed to happen? No – Converse this with Christ, who is trustworthy, who is good, whose words are reliable
- Saving faith – Involved repentance, giving yourself to Christ, submitting to His Lordship
- In short, saving faith is dying to yourself and living in Him Galatians 2:20
Is Salvation a Mystery?
- How easy would it be with people who were saved had it tatted on their forehead?
- Two unhealthy extremes to avoid
- Unhealthy morbid self-examination and doubt – No real confidence, only way to know for sure is to die, spend your life questioning, wondering, not being sure
- Easy-believism – Reduces Christian faith to 3 questions, a handshake, and a card; This position is an extreme because it places the hope for salvation in saying yes at the right points in some questions; Doesn’t require repentance or death to self – Gospel becomes intellectual assent rather than conversion
- Illustration: Tug of War, the answer is found in the tension between these two positions that says Yes and No to both – You have a mysterious confidence in salvation that requires self-examination and asking hard questions, but also has a confidence that comes from the free gift of the Gospel
So How Can I Know?
- Challenge is to “Test yourself” – So… Look in the mirror. Who is there? What do you see?
- I’m attaching a link to the source I used for this, but here are a few we went through last night
- Time of Decision – Is there a point in your life when you made a faith commitment? Cannot be born a Christian, born lots of things but entry into Christ is not something you can be born into.
- Conviction/Repentance of Sin – Is there guilt and conviction over sin? Does it lead to godly sorrow? Or does it not bother you?
- Fruit Displayed – Galatians 5:22-23, are you showing these?
- Growth – Since #1, have you grown or are you in the same place? Adults eat adult food, not Gerber’s Squash
- Joy – In prayer, among God’s people, in the Word, doing ministry Joy distinct from “happy,” joy invokes pleasure, satisfaction, etc.
- Humility – “Get-It” people illustration; The humility that comes from recognizing you don’t deserve the King of Glory dying for you and making you His brother/sister; Too many in the Church stink of pride, self-righteousness, boast in how great they are (compared to other people) instead of seeing the ground being level at the foot of the Cross
- Separation from World – Are you any different from other people? What makes you distinct?
Here is an amazing, if you have an hour to watch, sermon on trusting in Christ alone by John Piper: http://vimeo.com/10951333