Apr 26, 2012
This week a reader emailed and asked — “how can I know that I am saved?”
Because her questions are so important I asked and received permission to post them here — so others could read them.
I’m hoping many of you will respond in the comments section below — how do you answer the question — “how can I know that I am saved?”
Then in the next few days I hope to share my thoughts.
Here’s her email —
Dear Pastor Steve —
The Bible makes it clear that we are to follow Christ not only because “it’s the right thing to do” but because we have a reward waiting for us. That “reward” of course, is to be with Jesus forever! So if that’s true…. that must mean we can be assured that we are the child of God who will inherit this reward! With that said, I hate how it seems like the Bible is so vague and “gray” in its attempts to help people understand whether they are “in” or “out” of this divine privilege.
So let me share with you these verses… in hopes you can help me navigate all this unwanted confusion.
1 John 2:3 “And by this we know that we have come to know him if we keep His commandments.” Ok, so I guess the reason this isn’t helpful is because I don’t always keep the Lord’s commandments. At the same time, there are definitely times when I do. When I put this all in context of 1 John 1:8 (If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”) it just adds to the confusion… So I’m not a Christian if I think that I am sinless… but in order to be a Christian I must keep His commandments. So somewhere between following God’s commandments perfectly, and not following them at all, it’s as if there is some magical line that signifies you’re a Christian.
Let’s move on… 1 John 2:6 “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked…” again… same confusing comment. To this, however, I add that I most definitely have seen non–Christians who have “walked” in Christ-like ways. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that this person could look at their life and think “hey, by these standards I pass the ‘salvation’ test.” (yes, I know they’re missing the CORE part about trusting in Jesus).
Here’s another verse that FREAKS me out… “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” I would be completely lying if I told you I don’t inwardly love the things of the world. I understand that as a Christian it is my duty to fight off these worldly desires (or at least submit them to God), but I find myself not able to pretend that I don’t love the taste of good food, or love getting new clothes, or even love the thought of watching my favorite TV show (which doesn’t happen to be some good Christian Bible-reading program). So, when I read this verse, look at my life and realize the things that I seem to love- it does seem like I love the things of the world. And that again leads me to believe that I really haven’t been sincerely born-again.
There are SO many verses that are just like these—the ones that list several characteristics that Christians should or shouldn’t have. And I know that I don’t live up to those lists… maybe partially, but certainly not perfectly. You might say “well, no Christian is perfect” but couldn’t I argue that nearly everyone lives up to those lists at least partially? So what sets my imperfect execution of these characteristics apart from their imperfect execution?
To sum these thoughts up – there is one more verse that haunts me more than any other… Matthew 7:22 “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.” Steve, in complete seriousness and with not a lack of exaggeration- I am haunted by these words. I cannot tell you the number of vivid dreams I have had where I am on the verge of dying and am struck with a tormenting fear because I have no idea whether my death will usher me into heaven or hell.
From that verse, it seems these people who the Lord denies would’ve passed all of the 1 John tests- they were able to prophesy in His name, do mighty miracles, etc. This verse indicates to me that this may be a common occurrence… that there are many people who will experience this horrifying reality. That there are people who genuinely believe they will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, but they will not. And how can I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will not be one of these people?
I know that some people have a strong enough faith that they can simply “trust” that Jesus died for them and they’re good to go… they don’t ever worry about this kind of stuff. But for someone like me, who has battled this nearly my entire life- I can’t be pacified with the instruction that I simply have to “trust” or “have faith” that I will be with Jesus in the end and that I will not be sent away into a burning lake of fire for eternity.
I am truly baffled when people tell me they have complete assurance. For that to be a reality in my life would be (sincerely) the greatest blessing I can imagine. I (cognitively) know what Christ has done for me – but it fails to be a living, breathing reality in my life because I can’t lay hold of the assurance that this salvation is mine!
I pray God will give you the words and the wisdom to completely shatter these thoughts of mine and to help me rewrite this terrible framework I’ve got myself wrapped up in.
I look forward to hearing from you!
So there’s her email — what are your thoughts?
How do you answer the question — “how can I know that I am saved?” Use the comments box below — thanks.
Lord willing I’ll share my thoughts in the next few days.
If you know of others who might have helpful thoughts to share — email this to them using the “share” button below — or share this on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.
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And here’s some related posts which might stir your thinking on this topic —
How To Be Forgiven by God
3 Ways We Can Miss the Point of Salvation
What is faith?
My father explains how to experience the Holy Spirit
(Picture is from everystockphoto by megyarsh.)