How can you have assurance of your own salvation?
Another question a reader asked me on my blog was this: Even though I gave my heart to the Lord a long time ago, I always struggle with thoughts that when I die, I will find I am not saved. That produces a lot of fear. I know the Bible says to believe, but how do you know what is really in your heart, since only God can see and know what is in our hearts?
That’s a good question, and a very heart-felt one that I think plagues a lot of people.
The good news is 1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” John goes on to write about the confidence we have in approaching God. We can know we have eternal life.
The promise of God is that if we believe in Him, we are His children—as it says in John 1:12, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." The Greek word translated "right" or “authority” is exousia, a very strong word. It means if we believe in God—if we believe in Christ—we will be saved.
Abraham’s faith was reckoned to him as righteousness. It was his belief. Now, what does believe mean? Certainly belief in the Bible is not merely mental assent. It is not simply crossing off the boxes and saying, “I agree with that. I believe Jesus was God. I believe He died on the cross.” Rather, it is trust. It is a yielding of ourselves to Him, and saying, “God, I give myself to you.”
Yes, I believe the facts, but I trust in Christ by giving over control of my life to Him, recognizing my sinful state, and repenting of my sins. No, I won’t think of every sin, but as I confess sins and grow in my faith in Christ, God will bring other ones to my mind. The Holy Spirit of God has the power to convict us. When that happens, it is not by our virtue and our strength and our power that we become children of God. Only God can make us His children, and only He can make us want and long to be His children.
We are saved by faith, and we stay saved because of the sustaining, persevering work of God in our lives. We don’t have to live in fear of losing our salvation. We don’t have to live in fear that our salvation wasn’t genuine in the first place.
If we truly long for and desire to know God and be His child, that in and of itself is from God. If you find yourself saying, “Oh, I love Jesus, or at least I really want to love Jesus. I’ve repented of my sins and gone forward. I keep asking God to forgive me. But has He really forgiven me?” That is when you trust and say, “It is the very Spirit of God Himself that is making me long and yearn for this, and it is Satan who is projecting these doubts in me.”
It’s true many people are not genuinely saved. But those are people who think they’re fine as they are, and all they had to do was check off the box by saying, “I believe.” In their hearts they have not yielded themselves and demonstrated the longing for and the loving of God that the person asking this question has.
I would say, trust God, believe His Word, and put yourself in a position to grow in your faith in Christ. Reject the accuser of the brethren—the evil one—who is trying to make you doubt the salvation that has been granted to you in Christ by His work, not by you somehow mustering up enough faith.