The most important question for anyone is, “How can I be assured that I am saved?” The answer is really quite simple, ““Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
You wanted more? Well, let us unpack that simple phrase. What does it mean to “believe?” Belief means to accept, as true, a statement as it is presented. The Biblical statement about Christ is that He is God (John 10:3) and that He provided the ultimate sacrifice for individual sin (I John 2:2). Do you accept that two-part statement as true? If so, you are saved! (For more on the concept of faith, see Faith: What It Is and What It Is Not.”
“That’s all?,” you ask. “There has to be more.” Well, not really. Inherent in that statement is that you believe that the Bible is true. Inherent is that statement is that a statement believed is a statement acted upon.
That is, if you believe that two-part statement, then you will act like a Christ-one. (Christian is what “believers” in Christ are called.)
Well, then, what do Christians do? Christians read and study their Bibles. They pray. They are baptized and participate in The Lord’s Supper. They are members of a church where others believe this two-part statement to the extent that the Bible is taught and preached, the two sacraments just named are practiced, and erring members are disciplined. They evangelize. They raise their children “in the nurture and admonition” of the Lord. They experience the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). They do not regularly and flagrantly practice the evils of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). They “love their wives (husbands) as Christ loved the church.“ And, they practice all the other “good works” that the Bible calls them to practice.
Indeed, herein is the failure of most of those who want assurance, and those who counsel them how to find that assurance: the consistent and fervent practice of good works is the evidence of one’s belief. And, being active in good works, Christians “strengthen their assurance” (WCF: Chapter16, Section 2). The reference verse of this assurance is, “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 (I John 2:3-5, NKJV).
So, the Christian who wants assurance and who is not active in a full life of good works, is avoiding perhaps the most crucial area that can give him assurance! In fact, he will decrease his assurance, because he is living a sinful life. Sin, without active confession and active obedience (applied practically in putting on right behavior), actually increases one’s true guilt and feelings of guilt, driving the person further from assurance!
The error of those who want assurance, and those who counsel them, is to focus on “feeling” saved.
Feelings are Transient. God and His Word are “the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever” (Hebrews 13:8)
I feel good one moment, discouraged the next. I crawl out of bed some mornings ready to attack the day. Other mornings, I literally crawl out of bed. When I get sick, I feel bad. When I get well, I feel good. Someone imposes on me, I get angry. I barely avoid a serious auto accident and find myself trembling with fear. I worry about the safety and welfare of my children. Dear readers, feelings come and go, moment by moment, hundreds of times each day. Do we want to trust in those frail moments?
Or, do we want to trust in God and His Word which never change? Who always speaks true? Yes, the choice is that simple: feelings or God and truth (the Bible). God is perfectly just. He is completely trustworthy. Surely, we can rest our eternal salvation in His hands, not our own feelings.
Still, you may ask, “But I don’t know if I really believe.” You cannot escape that way. I have already said that if you believe, your life is characterized by all the activities above. There is evidence of belief or there is not evidence of belief.
You may persist, “But I don’t do many of those things. I believe that I should, but I don’t!”
Ah! Pay dirt! Gotcha! Nailed! The crux of the matter. If you don’t practice those things in some consistent and complete way, you don’t truly believe! This notion that you can believe and not practice consistent with that belief is the problem of doubt of modern Christians that they do not “feel saved.” The Bible’s use of faith (the noun form of “believe”) is always succeeded by action. When Peter doubted, he began to sink. He did not say, “Lord, I believe, but I am sinking!” The father of the demon-possessed child cried out, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). He did not cry, “Lord, I believe, but not enough to help my son.” If fact, in the previous sentence, Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).
“For as (a man) thinks in his heart, so is he,“ Proverbs 23:7. What a person truly is (believes) in his innermost being (heart), that he cannot avoid practicing. “For out of the abundance of the heart (belief), the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).
Reader, You May Have Work to Do!
1) If you do not believe that “belief without action is a lie,” then you must prove me wrong from Scripture, for the Bible has definitions that often differ from secular ones. You can do a word search on “faith,” “believe,” and “belief” here. 2) If you believe that you are a Christian and are not practicing the many activities of the Christian’s life (above), then you must implement those in your life. If you need practical help, read The Christian Counselor’s Manual, and other books by Jay Adams and Wayne Mack. They will give you clear and practical directions. 3) If you consistently practice these activities, then read on, and praise God!
I want to add one qualifier. No one practices everything that God requires perfectly. At issue here are the overall activities and direction of the life. If you do not want to practice the activities of the Christian life in a full and meaningful way, you are not a Christian, pure and simple. If the large majority of your activities and conversation is what God requires, then you are a Christian and are saved, pure and simple. The fact that you falter in these activities only means that you are not yet made perfect. That state is reserved for heaven.
The power of individual Christians and that of churches is being neutralized by church people who spend too much time worrying about whether they are Christians or not, instead of attacking the Gates of Hell. God is fully trustworthy in everything that He said. If you believe it, you will live it, fully but not perfectly, pure and simple. “Trust and obey, for these is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Other resources on this website will help you understand these matters. Get on with the life of a Christian. Stop wanting something more (feelings, an audible voice from heaven) than God gives. “Believe (and act) on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be (are) saved.”
- Understand that “faith” is the noun equivalent of “believe” and a synonym of “faith.” Do a word search for “faith” on this website. See the Section The Relevance of Faith in Truth: Concepts…
- Do a word search for “emotion” on this website or read all the articles in the Worldview Area of Psychology, Counseling and Emotions
- Do word searches in the Bible and read all verses that contain them on these words: heart, belief, believe, and faith. http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/
- Other articles on this website: Regeneration and Salvation.
- Read my book, Without Faith It Is Impossible to Please God.