Sincerity and Assurance of Salvation
If I were to ask you, “How do you know that you are a Christian?” how would you respond? Where do you look for your assurance of salvation? Do you look inside yourself? Do you look to the past – perhaps to an act or decision you made? Or do you look outside of yourself? I have written in the past about the doctrine of assurance of salvation, a belief John MacArthur rightly calls “the birthright and privilege of every true believer in Christ.” Today I want to tie it in to another topic that is a concern of mine. I speak of “Decisional Regeneration,” a term that describes much of what we understand by conversion in modern evangelicalism.
Before we turn to decisional regeneration we must first define regeneration. J.I. Packer thoroughly defines regeneration as “…the spiritual change wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit in which his/her inherently sinful nature is changed so that he/she can respond to God in Faith, and live in accordance with His Will (Matt. 19:28; John 3:3,5,7; Titus 3:5). It is an inner re-creating of fallen human nature by the gracious sovereign action of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-8). This change is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. It originates not with man but with God (John 1:12, 13; 1 John 2:29; 5:1, 4). It extends to the whole nature of man, altering his governing disposition, illuminating his mind, freeing his will, and renewing his nature.” Regeneration, said simply, is the Spirit’s act whereby He gives to man a new nature which frees his will and gives him a disposition towards God. This definition is thoroughly Reformed, and thus thoroughly Biblical.
A survey of Christian doctrine would find three predominant views on when regeneration occurs. Do note that each tradition would have a slightly different definition for the term.
The first is known as baptismal regeneration. The Roman Catholic tradition, as well as that held by Anglican, and Lutheran groups, believe that regeneration occurs at the moment of baptism. When a child is baptized, the Holy Spirit immediately regenerates that person. The Catholic Catechism typifies this view: “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature,’ member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.” (Pg.354, #1265) This view has been deemed false by the vast majority of Protestants who believe it undermines the plain teaching of the Scriptures.
The second view is that the Holy Spirit regenerates a person at a time of God’s choosing. We could call it “monergistic regeneration” to indicate that it depends solely on God. This regeneration does not depend on man or on any desire or decision on his part. The Spirit moves in the person, giving him a new nature and allowing him the capacity to express faith and a desire to know and trust God. This view is closely associated with Calvinism and the Reformed faith and its high view of God’s sovereignty.
The third view is the one we are concerned with and it emphasizes a decision, hence the term decisional regeneration. This view, quite a late addition to Christianity, was popularized by Charles Finney and is now the majority view in evangelicalism. In this view man has been wooed by the Spirit to the point that is now able to have faith in God and he then expresses that faith in a decision to follow the Lord. When he makes this decision he is immediately regenerated. While the decision is internal, it is often expressed in a prayer, a physical action such as raising a hand or walking to an altar or even in something as simple as marking a decision card.
Jay Adams writes “The great theological difference between modern evangelism and biblical evangelism hinges on this basic question whether true religion is the work of God or of man. At best, the doctrine of ‘Decisional Regeneration’ attributes the new birth partly to man and partly to God.” When God and man cooperate in salvation, it becomes important to appeal to human emotion and desires and to secure a human response to what the Bible tells us is God’s work. We allow man to play the role of God and decide for his own salvation. Man allows the Spirit to enter his heart through an act of decision rather than believing that the Spirit does a work apart from the will of man. Decisional regeneration, then, suppresses the teaching that God alone is active in salvation, in giving life, and that man is utterly helpless apart from Him.
The risk we take in telling people that they have been saved after they have marked a card or raised their hand, is that we know only that they have made some type of decision. This decision may be sincere and well-intentioned, but it does not necessarily indicate that the Spirit has regenerated the person. The legacy of Charles Finney in church history is largely one of failure, of creating masses of people who believed they were Christians, but most of whom showed no evidence. They were assured by their decision which they could always regard as a milestone in their lives, but while they had raised their hand, and no doubt felt sincere when they did so, they had never turned to Christ. Why had they not done this? Because the Spirit had not done any work in them and they were, thus, unregenerate. They had attempted to make themselves believers, a task which can only be done by God. The same problem prevails today. When we tell people that their decision is indicative of their salvation, we may give them false hope. We may give them assurance that is not ours to give. The biblical reality is that God gives salvation to whom He wishes. “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” (John 5:21)
In the past I have focused on the outward sign of a person’s belief that he or she has been saved, whether this sign be marking a decision card or raising a hand. Recently I have become concerned with another facet of evangelical conversions. While I have struggled with this for some time, a web site I visited yesterday spurred me to write about it. To further my research on a topic I will soon be writing about I was visiting the site raptureletters.com and noted the letter the site contains that exhorts people to turn to the Lord. It climaxes with the following prayer: “Father I admit I am a sinner, and I will turn from my sin and do good. I believe that Jesus was your son and that He came here to die for me so that my sins would be forgiven. I ask you to forgive me and I will repent of my sins. In Jesus name I pray.” The author of the site then writes, “If you just prayed that prayer and meant it with all your heart, then God will know you as one of His own.”
What struck me in that letter, which is quite typical for the content of an evangelical altar call (and, in fact, I have heard many, many similar appeals) is that there is an undeniably clear human requirement for salvation. The prayer will only be effective, we may note, if the person means it with all his heart.
Now while all Protestants affirm, at least in theory, that salvation is wholly an act of God, it must be admitted that in such an appeal for salvation there is added a human requirement: sincerity. And so I return to the question with which I opened this article. When you seek assurance of your salvation, where do you look? Will you take refuge in the sincerity of your prayer? Will you comfort yourself by saying, “I meant it with all my heart”? If you take refuge in your own sincerity or in the passion you felt years ago when you prayed a prayer, you are building your assurance on shakey ground.
I will continue this discussion tomorrow with some suggestions on how we can build assurance on the solid truths of God’s Word.
Assurance of Salvation (Part 2)
On Tuesday we began a short series on assurance of salvation, a series that was rudely interrupted by my site crashing. I sought to show that, in many ways, contemporary evangelicalism can create an atmosphere in which many who consider themselves may have false assurance of their salvation. A decision-based system of conversion and regeneration has been historically proven to create many who believe they are Christians, yet who show little evidence of conversion. I looked in particular at assurance given to people based on their sincerity such as in an appeal that says “If you just prayed that prayer and meant it with all your heart, then God will know you as one of His own.” Such an appeal is dependent upon at least one human factor: sincerity.
Today I will begin to tie this into assurance of salvation, beginning with three affirmations.
It is possible and even normal for the Christian to experience assurance of salvation.
John MacArthur calls assurance of salvation “the birthright and privilege of every true believer in Christ.” This assurance is not only possible but should be the normal experience for any believer in Christ. Romans 8:16 teaches that assurance of salvation is part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” Matthew Henry says the following about this verse: “But those that are sanctified have God’s Spirit witnessing with their spirits, which is to be understood not of any immediate extraordinary revelation, but an ordinary work of the Spirit, in and by the means of comfort, speaking peace to the soul. This testimony is always agreeable to the written word, and is therefore always grounded upon sanctification; for the Spirit in the heart cannot contradict the Spirit in the word.” 2 Peter 1:10 goes so far as to command us to pursue this assurance. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”
Yet even more clear than these verses is 1 John 5:13. As John wraps up this epistle he reveals his purpose in writing it. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” God has seen fit to provide us an entire book in the Bible that will teach us to know that we have eternal life. Surely, then, we can agree that God intends that we have assurance that we are His children.
Having seen that it is both possible and normal for the Christian to experience assurance of salvation, we now turn to a second point which seems nearly contradictory:
It is possible and even normal for the non-Christian to experience a false assurance of salvation.
A foreshadowing of one of the most terrifying scenes the world will ever experience unfolds in Matthew 7, in a section often titled “I Never Knew You.” “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 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.’” When the final judgment comes, there will be many who will be shocked to learn that they are not true believers. They will go to the grave confident that they are saved, but come to the judgment and find that they are to be cast out of Jesus’ presence. This ought to be sobering for all who consider themselves Christians. No wonder that Paul sought confidence in his salvation, declaring in 2 Timothy 1:12 “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”
It is educational, of course, to look at the grounds for assurance of those who only think they are true believers. We will look at this in more detail in our next article, but for now notice the short phrase, “Did we not…” There is much we can learn from those few short words. Those who have false assurance have placed their hope in themselves and in their own efforts. They appeal to their own work rather than Christ’s.
We’ll now turn to our third affirmation, which should provide great comfort to those who struggle in this area.
It is possible and even normal for Christians to have doubts about their salvation
There is nothing unusual about occasionally doubting one’s salvation. The only thing unusual about doubt would be to experience it and not deal with it, wrestling with it, until it has been quelled by the power of the Spirit. A survey of many of the great believers of our day or of days past would prove that it is common to deal with some level of doubt. This is usually not a consuming doubt that drives a person to constant depression and despair, but a more occasional doubt that can be overcome by the ministry of the Spirit.
Don Whitney lists several important understandings about this type of doubt. First, doubting assurance is not the same as experiencing unbelief. A person can have a strong, vibrant faith in Jesus Christ while still feeling some level of doubt. We must not make doubt and unbelief synonymous terms, lest a person feel that his brief periods of doubt indicate serious unbelief in his heart. Unbelief presupposes a denial of many important points of doctrine where as doubt is mere uncertainty about them. Second, there are many causes of doubt. We can doubt because of the attacks of Satan, because of trials or difficult circumstances, because of sin in our lives or even a mental or physical condition. Doubt is not necessarily brought about by overwhelming sin in our lives. Third, spiritual immaturity may contribute to doubt. With greater maturity comes a greater understanding of God and our position before Him through Jesus’ atoning death. Thus we would generally expect doubts to decrease as a person grows in spiritual maturity. Fourth, sensitivity to sin may cause confusion about assurance. Believers, through their reborn hearts, are blessed with a greater sensitivity to sin. This heightened understanding of the gravity of sin may lead young Christians to doubt. Yet it should be noted that this increased understanding of sin is actually a mark of the Spirit’s work with a person’s heart. Fifth, comparisons with other believers may cloud assurance. Comparing oneself to other believers may emphasize the immaturity of a person’s faith. We must understand that people mature only with great effort and over a great amount of time. It is often unrealistic to compare oneself with a believer who is far more mature. Finally, childhood conversion may affect assurance. A person who was converted as a child may feel that he was deceived when he made the decision. He may feel that his decision is somehow less meaningful because Christianity is all he has ever known.
We see, then, that there are many possible reasons that may lead Christians to lose their assurance of salvation. Some of these are internal factors and some are external. Some of them may, in fact, be given by God Himself to test and sharpen us. So the believer can have confidence that some doubt is common to the Christian life and that, while doubt is a symptom of living in a sinful world, it is not necessarily sinful to struggle with it.
By way of brief review, we have seen that assurance of salvation is possible for the believer, that false assurance of salvation is possible for the unbeliever and that it is normal for Christians, from time to time, to experience doubt about salvation.
We will conclude tomorrow by looking to the basis of true assurance.
Assurance of Salvation (Part 3)
Today we will conclude this short three-part series dealing with assurance of salvation by discussing first the basis of assurance and then some marks of salvation.
We have all known people who think they are saved when all the evidence points elsewhere. It is a sad fact, and one we examined in the second part of this series, that many who think themselves Christians are not. At the final judgment many will approach Jesus convinced that they are saved only to be told that Jesus never knew them (and hence that they never knew Him). We can often discern these people today simply by asking others how they know they will be given entrance into heaven. The answer to this question reveals a great deal about a person’s understanding of the gospel.
Far too many people depend ultimately upon themselves for assurance. This applies, I suspect, equally to believers and unbelievers. A person may be truly saved yet look to himself for assurance of this salvation. This is dangerous ground to tread for when a person experiences a time of doubt he may drive himself to despair because of his misplaced assurance. In an article I wrote a year or two ago I warned against statements of assurance that begin with, “Because I…” When our assurance rests on something we have done, a promise we have made or a prayer we have prayed, we have placed our assurance on shaky ground.
Let’s turn to the Bible to discover the true basis for our assurance.
Assurance of salvation rests on God’s character
In the last article I quoted the words of the Apostle Paul as we find them in 2 Timothy 1:12 “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” What was the basis of Paul’s assurance? He rested in the character of God. He knew whom he had believed and trusted that God was good and would preserve him. He trusted in the goodness of God and in God’s desire to save His people. He rested in the words of Jesus that “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” He knew that Jesus would never reject anyone who came to Him with humility and sincerity.
Assurance of salvation rests on God’s promises
We must not allow our assurance to rest on the basis of the words of any mere human. It is God who saves us and thus we must hear His heart on the matter. Hear some of the promises of God regarding salvation.
- “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31).
- “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
- “And this is the promise that he made to us -eternal life” (1 John 2:25)
- “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
- “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).
God’s promises are sure. In recent days I have been reading a new book by Mark Dever which is a survey of the New Testament with one chapter dedicated to each book. The book’s title is The Message of the New Testament and the subtitle is “Promises Kept.” The title is telling for the New Testament is a book of fulfilled promises. We should need and require no greater proof that God keeps promises than the New Testament where we witness God fulfilling promise after promise after promise. If God assures us that He accepts us on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ, how can we argue? How can we doubt? If the Bible is trustworthy in telling us how we can be saved it must also be trustworthy in how it prescribes assurance of that salvation. If we will not trust the Scripture what can we trust?
Assurance of salvation rests on the completed work of Jesus Christ.
Before the birth of Jesus, while Joseph pondered Mary’s pregnancy and formulated a plan to be rid of her, he was visited by an angel who assured him that this child was of the Holy Spirit. The angel also told Joseph what Jesus’ life would accomplish. “…He will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Three decades later, as Jesus prepared to draw His last breath He cried out, “It is finished!” He cried out for all the world to hear that He had accomplished the purpose for which the Father had sent Him. When Jesus died He did not merely make salvation a possibility for those who would grab ahold of it, but He fully and effectually saved those who believe in Him.
We can build our assurance on the fact that Jesus Christ died having accomplished our salvation. His work was finished. And so the question we face as believers is, “Do we believe this?” Do we believe that Jesus actually accomplished His mission? In his first letter to Timothy Paul writes, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” Did Jesus accomplish what He came to do or did He merely allow the possibility of that work being accomplished?
And so we see that the basis of our salvation is God Himself. We can have great confidence that God does wish for us to have assurance and that He is ready, willing and able to provide it to us.
Marks of Salvation
This is an area, that for some reason, I feel woefully inadequate to discuss. I am going to turn to Don Whitney, whose work on this subject has done much to shape my understanding of assurance. I will provide an outline of the marks of salvation that he provides. He begins with a discussion of the inner confirmation from the Spirit. He shows that the Holy Spirit ministers to us through the Word of God to open our hearts and minds to the Bible in ways that give us assurance. He then teaches that assurance may be experienced partly through the attitudes and actions the Bible says will accompany salvation. Here are several questions which can guide us as we seek assurance:
- Do you share the intimacies of the Christian life with other believers?
- Do you have a deep awareness of your sin against the Word and love of God?
- Do you live in conscious obedience to the Word of God?
- Do you despise the world and its ways?
- Do you long for the return of Jesus Christ and to be made like Him?
- Do you habitually do what is right more and sin less?
- Do you love Christians sacrificially and want to be with them?
- Do you discern the presence of the Holy Spirit within you?
- Do you enjoy listening to the doctrines of the apostles taught today?
- Do you believe what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ?
These biblical principals, taken as a whole, will do much to assure the believer that God is working in his life.
Ending at the Beginning
The impetus for this series was a web site I read where a Christian encouraged unbelievers to pray the following prayer. “Father I admit I am a sinner, and I will turn from my sin and do good. I believe that Jesus was your son and that He came here to die for me so that my sins would be forgiven. I ask you to forgive me and I will repent of my sins. In Jesus name I pray.” The author of the site then writes, “If you just prayed that prayer and meant it with all your heart, then God will know you as one of His own.” But is that necessarily true? This man has made the sincerity of the person praying the mark of a true conversion. It may well be that a person praying that prayer has become a believer. But I hope he will look beyond his sincerity and look to God for his assurance.
There is a great deal more we could discuss about this topic, but I am going to close this series nonetheless. I trust, though, that you have come to understand that assurance of salvation is the privilege of the Christian and that we are blessed to be able to seek after it. I trust that you have come to see that our assurance of salvation must not rest in our sincerity or in anything we have done. Rather, our assurance rests entirely in the character of God, the promises of God and the completed work of Jesus Christ. We can have assurance and I pray that both you and I will find and experience it to God’s glory.
If this is a topic that would you like to study, I would point you to Don Whitney’s excellent book on the subject, How Can I Be Sure I’m A Christian? .
Biblical Assurance of Salvation – Part 1
Posted on April 1, 2010
We all need Biblical assurance of our salvation. Suppose you have doubts because of the lifestyle you are living. We cannot trust ourselves to whether we are saved, we must go to the Word of God to determine God’s will and His sure-fire test of how we can know we are saved. It’s what God’s Word says about our life, not what we say about it or what others say for us.
There are many who believe there one-time confession or “decision” for Christ is all they need to spend eternity in heaven. If this is you, have you ever examined yourself in light of Scripture? Do you believe you can live any way you want to regardless of what God clearly says in His Word of what a Christian should look like and how a Christian should live? Are you banking on the modern message of “carnal Christianity” and think that you might just get to heaven by the skin of your teeth?
Have you ever considered you have been taught wrong? Have you ever considered what you believe is not Scriptural at all? Have you ever considered you are living a lie? Have you ever considered you have believed in vain? Have you ever considered your faith is dead? Have you ever considered you’re not saved at all? Have you ever considered you’ve been pretending all along? Have you ever considered you may be on your way to an eternal hell?
Do you want to change that? Do you want to KNOW that you are saved? Do you want proof of that?
Are you ready to do it God’s way?
Are you ready to examine yourself? 2 Corinthians 13:5,
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
The following is part 1 of 5 from a series by Paul Washer on Biblical Assurance of Salvation. This is serious business, my friend. We must all examine ourselves by the Word of God to make sure what we believe is true and make sure there is clear evidence of the salvation we profess in our lives. The Bible is our guide and we must use it, study it, know it, live it, and love it as if our life depended on it – because it does. Are you prepared to leave earth in the state that you’re in? Are you sure about that?
Please take the test so you can know. Don’t rely on past experiences or previous words or prayers you’ve spoken. You must examine yourself God’s way. After all, the Bible says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Don’t trust your heart. Take the test. Listen to these upcoming messages and get your nose in the Word of God. Time is running out.
If you need someone to talk to after watching this video, just as Paul Washer says, I will talk to you and guide you until you understand what salvation is, and until God has convicted you by the Holy Spirit to surrender your life to the Lord Jesus Christ. As long as it takes, I will serve you by the grace of God. May He be glorified.
For Parts 2-5 see:
Biblical Assurance of Salvation – Part 2
Posted on April 6, 2010
Last week I posted the first part of this series Biblical Assurance of Salvation – Part 1 where Paul Washer made the call to examine oneself as the Apostle Paul exhorted the church in 2 Corinthians 13:5:
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
Washer continues in the series with a focus on 1 John 1:8-10:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
If we do not acknowledge our sin, if we say we do not sin, we greatly deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. More than that, we call the Lord over all creation a liar! Let it be known that a new relationship with God means a new relationship with sin. If you are not sensitive to the sin in your life, if you claim to not be sinning when you are living in it, then your very soul may be hanging in the balance.
Please watch this 30 minute message and use it as a tool to examine yourself. Please pray for the Lord to soften your heart and gives you ears to hear. Throw away your pride and take a few moments to examine your heart. If you have not watched the first message, please do so. If it sounds like I am begging – I am.
For Parts 3-5 see:
Biblical Assurance of Salvation – Part 3
Posted on April 7, 2010
In Part 3 of Paul Washer’s series on Biblical assurance of salvation, he again opens with 2 Corinthians 13:5:
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
There is a weak Gospel preached in America today that has led many to a false assurance of salvation. Many preachers tell you if you said a prayer once and were sincere, then you are saved. They have no concern whether there has been a heart transformation that has generated a new creature in Christ. The truth is, however, that if we profess to be born again believers, we must examine ourselves in light of Scripture to see if our faith is true.
The book of 1 John is filled with a number of tests for us to examine ourselves. 1 John 5:13
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life,and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
We do not have to live in doubt as to whether our salvation is secure or not. Carefully studying 1 John and all of Scripture with diligence will reveal to us God’s will for our lives and give us discernment as to whether or not we truly believe in our hearts. The characteristics of a child of God are evident, yet professing a relationship with God while walking in darkness makes us liars and we do not live by the truth as 1 John 1:6 says
If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
Washer goes on to say that if the professed Christian lives a style of life that completely contradicts the nature and will of God, if this style of life reflects a character of our own nature that is completely different than the character of God, if this lifestyle contradicts what He has revealed about His will in the Word of God – we are not saved.
We must be sensitive to sin, for this is evidence that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. 1 John 1:8 tells us, “
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Many professed Christians are numb to sin. They don’t even acknowledge their sins although God has plainly told us in Scripture that those who practice a lifestyle of sin will not inherit the Kingdom of God. When we are sensitive to the sins we commit as believers, the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance and confession. If we say we have a new relationship with God, we must also have a new relationship with sin. We will grow to hate it, and our love for God’s Word will increase. This will lead to obedience as 1 John 2:3-6 says
Now by this we know that 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 that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
Because salvation is a supernatural work of God, the regenerated believer will grow in a style of life given towards the Word of God to know and obey it with some measure of victory. We will develop a new relationship not only to God and sin, but to the Scriptures. This is not to say, at all, that believers will not sin; however, the believer will no longer live a habitual lifestyle of sin. We all struggle and this battle will continue until we receive our glorified bodies. But we as believers do not relish in our sins, justifying these actions that are great offense to the Lord of lords. We are convicted by the Holy Spirit to confess our sins before God and turning from them.
The heart of the unbeliever is different, however. They do not have a concern with walking in the light, sin is no big deal to them, and the Word of God has no place in their hearts. And this is true of many professed Christians because their hearts were never changed. They deceive themselves because of a prayer they once said, yet their life produces no fruit of God.
God loves us so much, and the more we understand how deep His unconditional love is, we will want to increase in our obedience to Him. 1 John 2 says
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
His commandments are not burdensome to those who love Him. If we say we have the desire to walk with Him, we will strive to walk like Him. Yet some who profess the name of Christ have no passion for Him. Rather, they look like the world, talk like the world, and act like the world. If one says they walk with Christ, there will be some reflection of Him in his walk.
The validity of our faith comes through a changed life.
For Parts 1, 2, 4, and 5 see:
Biblical Assurance of Salvation Part 4
Posted on April 15, 2010
Paul Washer continues in the book of 1 John in Part 4 of this 5-part series on assurance of salvation. The true test of salvation does not come from praying, participating in a religious organization, or observing rites; the evidence of salvation is the working of God in our lives that causes it to grow in conformity to His character and in conformity to His will. 1 John 2:7-11,
Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. 8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
Possibly the greatest sign that we are a true believer is that we love the brethren. Are we willing to risk our lives for a brother or sister? Are we willing to lay down our lives? Jesus says in John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
Love is not just something – it’s everything. It is more than not doing the negative, but what positive actions of love are we demonstrating to people of Christ? If we are truly converted, we will love the people of God because we are one! Born again believers are marked by love. If you have not love, then you are in spiritual darkness. Our great goal is to be like Jesus, to love people in the truth with all of our hearts.
1 John 3:14-15 says,
14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother[c] abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
A murderer? One who hates his brother is a cold-blooded murderer. It’s a habitual practice of hate. A serial killer, killing over and over and over again. We are are commanded to love our brothers and sisters. It is impossible to have a vertical relationship with God with no horizontal relationships with the Body. If the extent of our Christianity is going to church and hearing a sermon and worshiping, we’re not loving. We must love the brethren in practical ways. 1 John 3:17-18 tells us
17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
So, how’s your love life?
For Parts 1, 2, 3, and 5 see:
Biblical Assurance of Salvation – Part 5
Posted on September 24, 2010
This is the final message in this 5-part series on Biblical Assurance of Salvation by Paul Washer. He begins in 1 John 5:13 where John clearly states,
13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
The purpose of the book of 1 John is to provide us a means to examine ourselves to see if we are truly in the faith. We should study the message of 1 John to see whether its truths are realized in our daily lives. Are we conforming to Christ? Are we sensitive to sin? Are we keeping His commandments through a habitual life of obedience? Are we walking as Christ walked? Are we loving our brothers? Are we loving our enemies – those opposed to us? Are these things spiritual realities in our lives?
One of the great tests in 1 John is found in chapter 2 where we see,
15 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. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
Do we love God, or do we love the world? Many American Christians seem to think it is ok to have a love for the world. But that’s not what it says! God clearly says in verse 15 that if anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in Him. So, do you love the world? And what is the world? It is everything that does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord, it’s every thought that does not measure up to the Word of God, it’s everything that contradicts what God says about Himself and His will.
A Christian will come to disdain everything God hates, and love what God loves. And what does God hate? Sin! He hates sin! We as born again believers will learn to have a great disgust for our sin. We will hate sin with a passion and flee from it. And when it overtakes us, as it can, we will come to repentance out of godly sorrow.
But many professed Christians actually love their sin. They justify it, they even deny they are sinful, or at least claim the one sin in their life is not sin at all, but just “who they are”. Maybe it’s sex outside of wedlock, maybe it’s a lifestyle of partying, or perhaps it’s a lifestyle marked by hatred, idolatry, pride, theft, lying, self-worship, or lust. God calls them a liar not having the truth in them in 1 John 1:8-10. They love the very things for which Christ was crucified! They profess the name of Jesus, but they are indeed lost!
We are called to be separate from the world. And Scripture promises that those who are not separate now will become separate later at the throne of judgment. So what about you? Is there any discernible difference between you and those in the world? Would a jury have evidence to convict you of loving God, or would they find evidence that you obviously love the world and the things of the world?
Are you a new creature who desires the things of God? Are your desires realized and evidenced in your walk? Are you pursuing holiness? Or are you pursuing the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life? Are you seeking temporary happiness through superficial pleasures or permanent joy through the work of Christ? Do you have a desire to be pure, or is your desire to be fulfilled by your own selfish wants and lusts?
This is also how we know we are children of God – do we practice righteousness? 1 John 2:28-29,
28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.
Or is your life marked by sinfulness? 1 John 3:7-9
7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
If your life is marked by sin, you are not of God. If your life is marked by love of the world, you are of the devil. Whoever is born again leaves the lifestyle of sin. There is no such thing as a continuously habitual, carnal, fruitless Christian. If this is you, you are a Christian in name only and you deceive yourself. If you justify your sin knowing full well what God’s Word says about your sin, then you deceive yourself and do not practice the truth.
Let God change that today. Let Him change you. The call here is for repentance. Come to Him with nothing in your hands. Repent from loving the world, repent from following after this deadly master who has control over your life, and turn to the One who offers you Life so that you can be freed from your captivity and enter into eternal life.
Jesus came 2,000 years ago, and He is coming again just as He said He would. The clock on the wall is just seconds from striking Midnight. Will you continue down this path of destruction, fooling yourself that you are saved, when all accounts of your life seemingly prove otherwise? Repent and believe in the Son of God, and be changed. For you will be changed, IF the Spirit of God is within you.
May God bless the ones who have read and listened to these messages. May the Holy Spirit prick you to examine yourself to make sure you are His child. And whether you find yourself in a temporary state of carnality, or whether you have never known God to begin with (or rather He has never known you), come to repentance today and surrender your will, your desires, and your entire life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
For Parts 1-4 see: