A Test of Your Salvation
By Shawn Thomas
Not long ago I visited with the parents of one of our new church members. The mother of this young woman told me how her daughter had made a profession of faith in Christ and was baptized when she was very young — but a few years later she came to her with questions about whether she had really been saved. This mom wisely told her: “I don’t want you to live your whole life with doubts about your salvation,” and so she helped her make sure that day that she really was saved. I talked to the daughter about it later and she said, “I am not ashamed of that testimony!” In fact, she said, “I’m so glad I ‘nailed it down’ before the pressures of high school and then college in California and then marriage and mothering 2 sons, one of which has special needs. Over the past 30 years, I can’t imagine having doubts about my relationship with Jesus, especially in the darkest of times.”
I appreciate her testimony because her experience is very common. Many, many people in our churches ask, “How can I know for sure if I’m really saved?” There is nothing more important than knowing for sure that you have eternal life in heaven. So how can you know?
Sometimes people say, “Well, if you ‘made a decision’ once, then you can know that you’re saved. But Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “NOT everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” So you can’t know you’re saved just because you supposedly “made a decision” some time in your past.
So how CAN you know that you’re saved? Thankfully, God’s word gives us the answer. One of the best places in the Bible where we can test ourselves and find assurance for our salvation is the Book of I John. I John 5:13 gives us the purpose of that book: “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.” The whole purpose of I John is to assure Christians of their salvation. And it does that with a series of tests, throughout the book, about things that will be present in the life of a person who is genuinely saved.
One of the most important tests John gives us in his book is the TEST OF YOUR LIFE. John emphasizes this repeatedly throughout this book:
— I John 1:6-7, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
— 2:3 “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ but does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
— 3:3 has a similar test: “Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies Himself just as He is pure.”
— 3:7-8 says: “the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil.”
— 5:3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.”
All of these verses say virtually the same thing: if you really know Jesus, your life will not be characterized by sin and disobedience. You will live a holy life, and you will keep His commandments.
We need to understand: There is NO assurance of salvation for the person who just CLAIMS to know Jesus, but who has no marks of holiness in their life, and who is not obeying His word.
In David McCullough’s book, The Wright Brothers he includes a testimony that the Brothers’ niece, Ivonette, shared about them. She said that when they were kids, and their toys got broken, “Uncle Orville” and “Uncle Wilbur” would fix them up, and make them better than new — with improvements they made with their ingenuity and mechanical expertise.
When I read that, I thought, “That’s what Jesus does for us!” When He finds us, we are like those toys — “broken” in our sin and disobedience. But Jesus takes us, and He “fixes” us, and He makes us better than we were before. He comes into our lives and He changes us.
Think about people we know who have met Jesus:
— Here’s a woman in John 8 who used to be an adulteress, but now she has “gone and sinned no more.”
— Here’s a Zacchaeus in Luke 19, who used to rip people off on their taxes, but now he’s no longer doing it, and he’s given the money back to the people he stole from.
— Here’s an Apostle Paul, who used to hate and persecute Christians, but now he LOVES them!
— Here’s a John Newton, who used to buy and sell human beings as a slave trader, but then he met Jesus and became a pastor and writer of the song “Amazing Grace” with a counseling ministry through letter writing with people all over England.
— Here’s a Chuck Colson, who lied and stole and did whatever he could to make President Nixon a success, but then he repented and put his faith in Christ and began a prison ministry to people who were in prison like he had been!
We do not doubt that these people really met Jesus. They once walked in unrighteousness, but now they’re walking in righteousness. They were breaking His commandments, now they’re keeping His commandments. Their lives were changed. They aren’t doing what they did before. They were going one way, and now they’re going a different way. So we know they were saved.
What about YOU? Is your life characterized by KEEPING His commandments, or BREAKING His commandments? Are you walking in sin, or are you walking in righteousness? Has your life been changed by Jesus, or has it not? Your LIFE is the best indicator of whether you are really a Christian or not. Show me one person who says, “I can’t remember the exact date I was saved,” but they are serving Jesus today; and show me another person who says, “Oh yeah I was saved and baptized on July 27, 1968!” but they are living in sin today, and I will have much more confidence that the FIRST person was saved than that the second person was! The way you are living your life RIGHT NOW is a better indicator of whether you are really a genuine Christian than anything that supposedly happened in your past. What assurance does your obedience to Jesus, and the holiness of your LIFE today give about your salvation?
Now I know many will say, “I saved as a child, so I didn’t have that ‘big change’ like some people did.” That is legitimate. And thank GOD you didn’t get into a life of sin. But you can still evaluate: is your life different than it WOULD have been if you had not been saved? Is your life different from how other people are living who have not been saved? Or is your life just the same as all the lost people around you? Is there any difference? If there’s no difference, you do not have Jesus. When someone really meets Jesus, He “fixes” them; He saves them; He changes them.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you will be perfect as a Christian. But it means you care enough to TRY! Ken Keithley of the Southeastern Baptist Seminary wrote: “The genuinely saved person hunger and thirsts for righteousness, even when he is struggling with temptation or even stumbles into sin. In fact, I am not overly concerned with the destiny of those who struggle nearly as much as I am about those who do not care enough to struggle. Indifference is more of a red flag than a weakness. The absence of a desire for the things of God clearly indicates a serious spiritual problem, and a continued indifference can possibly mean that a person confessing faith has never been genuinely converted.” (‘A critique of Perseverance of the Saints,’ in “Calvinism, A Biblical and Theological Critique” ed. by Allen and Lemke, p. 209)
Some people may say: “Pastor, you are making me uneasy; you are making me doubt my salvation.” Listen: according to I John, there are a lot of people who quite honestly, SHOULD be worried about their salvation! Sure, they’ve “been to church,” and “made a decision,” or “got baptized,” but they have never stopped sinning, and they are not living anything like the way Jesus commanded His followers to live — and worse, they don’t CARE to! If that’s the way you’re living, then you have every reason to doubt whether you were ever really saved.
But if you can look at your life honestly, and say, “You know, I am not perfect, but with God’s help I am trying not to sin” — then you have every reason to be comforted and have the assurance of your salvation.
There are several other tests of one’s salvation in the Book of I John:
- the test of your LOVE for the people of God (3:14, 4:7-8);
- the test of your SPIRIT (Is the Holy Spirit in you? (3:24, 4:13);
– and the test of your DOCTRINE: do you hold to the Biblical faith (4:2, 6, 14)?
But perhaps none of these tests is stronger than this one: what does the test of your LIFE say about whether you are genuinely saved?
“Test yourself to see whether you are in the faith.” (II Cor. 12:5)
Shawn Thomas has been a Southern Baptist pastor for almost 35 years, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Angleton, Texas. You can read more from Pastor Thomas Here.
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