It would be a terrible thing for children--or adults--to wonder how they fit in their families. When I was growing up, I never really knew if my stepfather would be in a good mood or a bad mood. The uneasiness in my young soul often was troublesome.
And while that is terrible in an earthly family, it is even more unsettling in the spiritual family. Many Christians live with the thought that they are just not sure how God sees them. Is He in a good mood or a judgmental mood? Are they in the family, or has their Father decided He has had enough?
What a horrible way to live! How incredibly sad for children of the King to live as beggars! I surely am not being critical. I find it heartbreaking for people whose sin debt has been paid in full to squirm under the uncertainty of whether they belong in the family of God.
Let's look at some basic reasons people tend to doubt their salvation:
First, sin in their lives.
Sin brings a feeling of estrangement from God, a feeling of isolation. In John's first epistle, he warns Christians to take close inventory of their salvation if they continue in sin and do so merrily and often and long: "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him" (1 John 3:9 NASB). In other words, if sin is the constant bent of your life, you should wonder about your salvation.
On the other hand, if you sin and feel perfectly miserable, this is really an indication that you belong to Him. The non-Christian can sin all day long and not sense any isolation from God; only His children experience a lack of harmony with their Father.
But sin in the life damages faith and could make someone doubt his salvation.
Second, false teaching.
This false teaching is primarily in two camps. The first camp includes liberal pastors who do not hold to the view that all the Bible is the Word of God. They discount certain parts, verses, and authors. How is a person to know 1 John 5:13 is even in the Book to stand on it? Or John 3:16 for that matter?
False teaching that deletes portions of the Word of God leads to doubts of salvation; the other camp includes teachers who believe the Word of God from cover to cover but overemphasize performance. I have been criticized for emphasizing grace so strongly. But I was raised in a legalistic church where performance was stressed. I was also taught that my salvation depended on my works. I was saved at twelve, but many times I was afraid that I hadn't worked hard enough or long enough to keep my salvation. How does someone know when she has worked enough? What is the standard?
Third, an overemphasis on emotions.
There are those who place a lot of importance on "feel good" religion. I am all for joy in the Christian life. But when the entire Christian life is based on emotions rather than doctrine, assurance is rare. Heartaches will come. Financial setbacks come. Sorrow comes. Disappointments come. Doubt multiplies.
We can't live on feelings. We don't live on feelings in the world-for instance, when the alarm clock rings. When we sit in the dentist chair and hear the whir of the drill, we are not thrilled. We do not send a check to the IRS because it makes us deliriously happy. Why do we think the Christian life is always going to feel euphoric?
Fourth, failure to take God at His Word.
Follow this logic. Pastor asks, "Do you believe Acts 16:31 that whoever believes in the Lord Jesus shall be saved?" Parishioner: "Well, yes. But I don't know if I am." Pastor: "Did you believe on His name?" Parishioner: "Yes, but I don't know if it worked." Pastor: "Why do you insist on calling God a liar?" Red-faced parishioner: "I would never call God a liar." Pastor: "Did He or did He not say, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved'?" Parishioner: "He said it. I know He said it. I just don't know if I'm saved."
You see, there is very little logic. If I came up to you and said, "I am very happy you're reading this book," and you responded, "Oh, I don't really believe you mean that!" you are doubting my sincerity.
That is exactly what we are doing when we doubt what God has said. We are doubting His trustworthiness.
Sometimes I meet people and they say, "Well, I used to be saved." I will ask, "How'd you get lost?" They name something they've done or thought. But John wrote, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
I have written a whole book on the subject of eternal security, so I will not deal with that issue here. But if we take Him at His Word--and if He is indeed trustworthy--we won't wonder if we were bad enough to lose it. Or good enough to keep it, for that matter.
Fifth, satanic attacks.
Satan will be happy to whisper, "Look at you. Look how you're acting. A Christian doesn't act like that." Not only will Satan whisper that, but he often uses others as his unsuspecting agents. A mother scolds her child, "A Christian girl wouldn't behave like that." What conclusion is the little girl supposed to reach? And the mother can't understand why her daughter doesn't have assurance of her salvation.
Satan is the accuser of the brethren. We need the Word of God to answer him.
There are, however, some truths God wants us to understand to counter the enemies of assurance.
First, we understand God's will for our salvation.
In referring to God, 1 Timothy 2:4 states, "[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." God's desire is for us to be saved, not for us to be condemned. Peter tells us that He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). He is standing with open arms, just like the father of the prodigal son, to welcome us into His family.
Second, we understand the provision God has made for our salvation.
He has done everything possible to get us saved. He gave "His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). He "Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24). He paid the price for salvation, and it would be totally illogical to think, after He paid such a high price--the shedding of blood--that salvation is capricious. He died in our place so we should know we belong to Him.
What earthly father would provide everything his child needs, only for the child to wonder, "Are you sure you wanted me to have it, Daddy?" Of course, that is what the daddy wants. He is grieved that his child is so insecure in his love. Our heavenly Father is the same way. He has provided everything we need for salvation.
We have a responsibility. Jesus did not die, rise again, ascend, and thus automatically save us. The Bible doesn't teach universal salvation--that is, that all people by virtue of the fact they're created are Christians. John says, "But as many as received Him, to them, He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name" (1:12). And John further says, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life" (3:36).
A verse in John 5 summarizes the issue: "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life" (v. 24).
We need to believe in Christ and receive Him as our very own. There must be a definite decision. You may not remember the definite time--such as the very date and minute--but you know that you received Christ and have passed from death to life.
If you are still struggling with assurance, apply these three tests:
* Do I believe the Word of God? God said it; I believe it; that settles it.
* Do I have the witness of the Holy Spirit? Read 1 John 5:6, "And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth." It is conviction, not feeling. "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16).
* Do I have the walk of the believer? Are you different? Do you have a deep desire to please the Lord Jesus? "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). You will sin from time to time, but the Holy Spirit convicts you. The unsaved person feels guilt when he sins, but he can harden his heart so that eventually his conscience doesn't speak anymore.
Those who were saved very young often need to reaffirm or make sure of their salvation when they are in their teens. This does not insult God. Teens go through a long process of making sure they are making their own choices and not resting on their parents' decisions for them. They may need to resettle the issue. Don't be alarmed. Many who were saved at a young age have never doubted their salvation. People are different, and God deals with us where we are.
As I have said, I was saved at the age of twelve. I remember where I was sitting in the church. A woman was preaching, and I went forward and accepted Christ. So much emphasis was subsequently placed on performance, I wondered if I was still saved. But as I would get down beside my bed to pray, I would say, "God, I know I'm not doing everything right. But something inside me says I'm not lost."
I didn't know that was the witness of the Holy Spirit in my young heart. But He was there, assuring me that I belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ. There was no ethereal feeling. I had a blessed assurance.
Based on His wonderful Word--all of it--we can know that we have eternal life. It has nothing to do with feeling. But it has everything to do with the trustworthiness of God. He wants us saved. He has done everything possible through Christ to make that happen. Once we receive Him as our own, we can rest on the Word of God and in the witness of the Spirit.
Once you're in the family of God, by faith in His Son, your name is written in the Book of Life.
This material has been adapted from: The Glorious Journey
IN TOUCH MINISTRIES®, ITM, Inc. All rights reserved Used with Permission