Robert D Pace
Assurance of Salvation
People often face inner conflict concerning their salvation, asking themselves, “How do I really know I am saved?” “Can I be 100% confident I am saved?” “What “feelings,” if any, should accompany my salvation?”
It’s only natural for young Christians to confront these questions, and even doubt their salvation, because Jesus said when God’s Word is sown into hearts Satan comes immediately to steal the Word (Mark 4:15). Satan doesn’t want God’s Word taking root in new Christians and maturing them in Christ!
But mature Christians need not live with the gnawing doubts of their salvation. When Satan attempts to steal our confidence in Christ, we can know, with unmitigated certainty, that we are pardoned from sin and going to Heaven! And the Bible shows how you can live with an inner peace that will surpass any doubt that Satan can use against you.
I am convinced that God wants every Christian to have what the songwriter penned in the hymn years ago: “Blessed Assurance.” And “Blessed Assurance” for Christians is that deep-seated confidence that Jesus is our Savior and Heaven awaits us when this life ends.
(Illustration) Several years ago, I was speaking with one of my cousins. She was raised in a preacher’s home and grew up in church. While she testified to being a Christian, she shocked me with what she said: “You know, I love the Lord, and do my best to follow Him, but we can never be fully certain we are saved. There’s always that one sliver of doubt that makes you wonder if everything is right between the Lord and you.”
I want to make it clear that you don’t have to live that way! “You can know” that you are fully prepared to go to heaven!
(Transition) So why do Christians fall into the trap of doubt and question their salvation? I want to explore several reasons why people lack the assurance of salvation:
Reasons People Lack Assurance of Salvation
1. People lack saving assurance because they question the procedure they used to accept Christ. However, the Bible never says there is one strict, unyielding “formula” for accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.
Don’t misunderstand me. There is only one way of salvation, and that is Jesus Christ the Son of God! Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man can come unto the Father except through Me.” But the Bible never implements a strict “formula” or “method” for inviting Jesus into your heart. Let me illustrate what I mean:
One way people come to Christ is by calling upon his name. Romans 10:13 says, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” And many people have come to Christ by simply calling on his name and saying, “Jesus, save me!”
But for others accepting Christ it was different. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We typically associate this passage as being the “Sinner’s Prayer,” and multitudes have used it to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.
On the other hand, the Apostle Peter said that sinners can come to Christ by repenting. He said Acts 2:38, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”
Yet, notice what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
And do you remember how the thief on the Cross was saved? At his dying hour, he simply turned to Christ and said, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
In those preceding verses the Bible sets forth four manners we can approach Christ and claim his salvation. It doesn’t matter if you “call on the name of the Lord,” or confess your sins to Christ, or repent of your ungodliness, or profess from your heart that “Jesus is Lord” to the Heavenly Father.
God isn’t looking for a particular set of words or some unyielding methodology for everyone on the planet to parrot. He’s looking for people to honestly and sincerely embrace Jesus Christ, and him alone, as their Lord and Savior.
(Illustration) Some years ago, I counseled a young man that struggled with this very issue. He questioned whether he was a Christian because he wasn’t certain he was getting the procedure correct. Each time he read a Scripture that said, “repent” and then another that said, “confess” and another that said, “call” or “believe” he wondered if he was getting it right. So he would pause and re-pray what he thought was the correct procedure to become a Christian. He was literally tormented about getting the procedure right! But remember, it’s not the formula that matters! What matters is that you focus your heart and soul on the Lord Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary for salvation.
God simply wants people to acknowledge that JESUS is the way of salvation! And Jesus can be found through repentance, calling upon his name, confessing your sins, or making a faith-filled profession that “Jesus is Lord.”
(Transition) But there is another way that people doubt their salvation in Christ Jesus. And it’s this:
2. People lack assurance of salvation because they desperately struggle with certain sins.
Yes, everyone has a “specific” sin, or several sins, that cause great difficulty to surmount. The writer of Hebrews 12:1 mentioned “the sin that so easily besets us.” It is normal for Christians to fight against certain temptations. But fighting against temptation doesn’t mean God lifts his grace, removes his Spirit, and revokes his covenant of love. Only Jesus lived the perfect life!
Please hear me carefully because I don’t want any misunderstanding here. While God doesn’t approve of sin; nobody is perfect, and nobody can live without sin. 1 John 1:8: “If we say we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. . . (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.”
Everyone wrestles with sin! And when we succumb to sin our immediate recourse should be to repent!
One way that helps you determine whether you are a Christian regards your very disposition toward sin. Do you really despise sin? Does the transgression of Adam and its deathly consequences upset you? Do you hate how sin destroys lives and how it deceives and steers young people down ruinous paths? Does it anger you in that it has misled you at times? God wants Christians to hate what he hates and that means we must maintain a healthy disgust of sin!
(Example) The difference between Christians that sin and sinners that sin is the difference between a sheep and pig. When a pig falls into the mud it relishes and wallows in the experience. It makes no attempt to leave the mud. But when a sheep falls into the mud it does its best to get out as quickly as possible. So it is when Christians: when Christians fall into sin, they hate it and do their best to get out of it. Conversely, sinners love their sin and make no attempt to escape it.
3. People lack saving assurance because they attempt to improve on Christ’s work at Calvary by relying on their works.
Notice Paul’s opinion of man’s “works” as it regards salvation:
Romans 4:4 says: “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. (5) But to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, (6) just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works.”
Ephesians 2:4 says: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, (5) even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace [not human works] you have been saved).”
The Bible describes the plan of salvation that came through Christ as a “finished work.” The last words Christ spoke before dying on the cross were: “It is finished.” That meant no other human work could be added to bring salvation to man. That’s why Paul said in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; (9) not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”
Romans 4:1-8 (Read)
4. People doubt their salvation when they fail to use a genuine faith toward God for salvation.
The only faith acceptable for salvation is the faith that comes from God! It is impossible for people to muster or manufacture faith for salvation. That’s because it doesn’t originate with man. Faith for salvation comes strictly from God! I want you to notice what Ephesians 2:8 says:
“by grace you have been saved through faith;
and that [faith] not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Paul is telling us that real, saving faith originates with God, not man! You cannot come to Christ at your own wisp and will. Some people think they can live as they please and come to Christ when they’re finished sowing their wild oats. But faith is a divine deposit from God that we cannot conjure up. That means it is important to accept Jesus as your Savior while his Spirit is drawing you.
Another point about genuine faith is this: Saving faith is not of the intellect. Many people attempt to use a “head faith” for salvation rather than a “heart faith” and it never brings peace. The genuine faith for salvation comes from God and goes all the way to the heart. That’s what Paul meant in Romans 10:10 when he said: “with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
5. People lose assurance of salvation when they rely on their emotions rather than trusting God’s Word. Salvation must never be based on “feeling” like you’re saved. We must cast ourselves fully on what God has declared in the Bible.
Scripture is the divine, unerring word of truth that God sent to man. Because the Bible comes from God you can be assured it is without error and completely reliable.
Listen to the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 5:11–13. “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (12) he who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. (13) These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”
It is the written Word of God (the Bible) that records the plan of salvation and points to Jesus Christ as man’s Savior. This is one of the convincing proofs that testifies that Christians are saved.
6. People often lack assurance because they cannot remember a specific time when they received Christ. Some accepted Christ as Savior when they were young and when they matured they couldn’t remember the circumstances of their conversion. Consequently, they question their salvation.
The assurance of salvation does not depend on you identifying a specific “moment” you accepted Christ. Here is what’s important:
a. Do you believe, from the depth of your heart, that Jesus Christ is the “way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)? If so, this is actually a work of the Holy Spirit win you!
Acts 16:14 shows how the Holy Spirit opened a woman’s heart to God’s Word to Paul’s preaching.
Luke wrote that, “a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”
b. Do you—from the depth of your heart—believe Jesus paid the penalty for your sin on the Cross, and trust his work alone to save you? If so, you are Born Again!
c. Do you, from the depth of your heart, have a love for God that cannot be broken?
7. The seventh, and final, point I’ll make is this: You’ll doubt you’re salvation if there is no evident change in your worship and your love toward your fellow man (John 13:35.;1 John 3:23).