Recently, I read “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How To Know For Sure You Are Saved” by J.D. Greear. Today I want to share with you a summary of two chapters which spoke to me.
Christianity contrasts with just about every other major religion in that God credits our faith, and not our works, as righteousness. Jesus commands us to repent, and believe. Sadly, churches have changed this approach to a ‘prayer of salvation’, assuring their followers that if they pray a specific confession of belief then Jesus will welcome them into heaven. So, how can you know you are saved? As we review the Bible, we get a clearer view on salvation and assurance.
In the New Testament, Jesus makes numerous statements showing that once we have received Him in Faith, we cannot fall out of His hands. However, interestingly enough, the apostles never make statements along the lines of “If you say this prayer, with sincerity in your heart, you will be saved!” Instead, we see numerous warnings about salvation. Paul wrote to the new converts in Thessalonica, “For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.” He clearly expressed concern that Satan could somehow nullify the ground they had made.
Other warnings from the apostles to their followers include Phil 2.16, Rom 11.22, Jude 20-21, Heb 12.15, Heb 2.1, and Heb 3.12-14. Jesus himself warned “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15.6). “Whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 10.33). Yet, clearly, “He who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mat 10.22). If the Bible does not contradict itself, what does this mean?
Simply put, it teaches us that faith that fades, no matter how passionate it may be, is not saving faith. These passages teach us something critical, saving faith always endures to the end. Conversely, these passages warn us, when taken at face value, that if we fall away, we will not be saved in the end. In fact, we never had saving faith and true repentance. In Luke 8.13, Jesus gives us a clear demonstration of this principle with the parable of the farmer who planted seeds into various soils. Thorns, shallow ground and dry weather caused many of the plants to die off after growing for a short period of time. They represent those who never had a saving faith, but for a time, appeared like any other believer of Christ. They had zeal and devotion. However, it did not endure.
“Praying a prayer to ask Jesus into your heart, even if it’s followed by a flurry of emotion and religious fervor, is no proof you are saved. Enduring faith to the end is.”
Wayne Grudem, an evangelical theologian, concludes, “The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.” Similar to repentance and faith, perseverance and assurance of salvation are two sides of the same coin. If you want assurance of your salvation, maintain your posture of repentance and faith in Jesus.
When you walk in faith, it produces evidences or fruit, as well. In 1 John 2.3-6, John write, “Now by this we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”
Faith that saves not only enables the follower to persevere until the end, but makes changes in the heart. The Spirit exchanges sinful lusts for a desire for righteousness. Sin begins to feel empty or even dreaded. In its place, a love for God grows. This is important. As God changes our appetites, we find that others do not have to push us to seek Him. No, instead, other cannot stop us from seeking Him. “Christians do not cease to pursue sin because they have developed wills of iron; they cease sinning because they have been given a new nature which loves what God loves.” (See Titus 3.5)
John points out that the born again will have a love for others, particularly believers. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3.14-16)
Those people who have received life saving forgiveness show forgiveness to others. Those who have experienced the love of God first hand, love their brothers. The best sign that you have experienced the grace of God in your life is that you show grace, patience, forgiveness, generosity, delight and compassion to others.
To conclude, we have three foundational points for assurance of salvation. “A present posture of faith and repentance; perseverance in the faith; and evidences of eternal life in our heart – a love for God and a love for others, particularly other believers. These three combine to give us a powerful sense of assurance that we belong to God.”
Does your life demonstrate these characteristics?
Unless otherwise noted, quotes taken from “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Hearts: How To Know For Sure You Are Saved” by J.D. Greear. If this article speaks to you, please consider purchasing and reading the entire book.