(The following is taken from the e-book, “How To Find Peace With God (Answers From The Book About Salvation).” If you missed the first part of this series, please Click Here. If you would like to receive the entire e-book (in PDF format), please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Can We Be Sure?
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
Fewer passages of Scripture are more haunting than the three short verses of Matthew 7:21-23. Clearly, there will be many in the Day of Judgment for whom the “verdict” of God will come as no surprise. For those who spent a lifetime rejecting Christ, never making any pretense otherwise, an eternity separated from God is their anticipated fate, regardless of whether or not they choose to contemplate it at any length here on earth. A certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation (Hebrews 10:27) is their companion, for there shall be none in that day who will be able to accuse God of injustice.
But what of those who are not aware that all is not well between themselves and the Lord? What of those who have deceived themselves into believing that God will ultimately find them blameless? It is difficult to fathom the sheer horror that will grasp the hearts of those who truly believe that Christ will allow them entrance into Heaven as the realization overcomes them that they will spend eternity in Hell!
Is It Possible To Know?
The first question that we should ask is whether or not it is even possible to know what our final destiny will be. An all too common response to the question, “Are you going to Heaven?”, is a very timid, “I hope so.” Even a lot of professing Christians are hesitant to declare their future Heavenly citizenship with any degree of certainty. It is not for us to know, so the thinking goes, it is up to God. While it is true that our lives and destinies are solely in the capable hands of our Creator, God has revealed through His Word that His “verdict” for each of us on Judgment Day does not need to be a mystery.
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13)
In the short, little book of First John, we are given several indicators that show us that our Salvation is genuine. The Apostle John states that his purpose for penning this epistle is so that his readers can know (that is, with certainty) that they possess eternal life. God never intended for any of us to go through life wondering whether or not we will make it to Heaven. In the rest of this chapter, let us look at what the Bible says concerning how we can be certain that the Lord Jesus will not say unto us, “Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Mathew 7:23b), but rather, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!” (Matthew 25:21).
The Witness Of The Holy Spirit
“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the Witness in himself…” (1 John 5:10a)
The Spirit of God is a Witness in our own hearts that we belong to God. Paul writes to the Romans:
This is not something born out of our heads, it is an assurance born out of our hearts. Really, it is an assurance that comes not from our own hearts, but from what the Spirit of God is saying to our hearts. Is it possible to delude ourselves into thinking that we have Salvation, that we are truly trusting the Lord Jesus Christ, even though we are not? Of course. But if our faith is authentic, we will see a testimony that is solid, true, and unlike anything else. A testimony whose conspicuous absence ought to give us pause and lead us to reconsider whether or not the Spirit of God truly does dwell within us. For if He does not, we do not belong to God (Romans 8:9).
It is perfectly normal to have doubts from time to time, but there should be a Witness in our hearts that does not simply come from our own self-assurance; a peace that testifies to the reality of the new creation in Christ that we have become since we placed our faith in the Lord Jesus. If this Witness is absent, it may be time to come to the Lord in prayer and let Him search our hearts. I heard a skeptic ask a Christian lady one time how she knew for a fact that God was real and that she was saved. “I know that I know that I know”, she calmly replied. She had the assurance of the Spirit of God in her own heart.
“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.”
(1 John 3:6)
Now, obviously, this is not to say that a Christian will never sin. We know this is not true from experience, plus we know this from what John wrote shortly before this verse:
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)
Even after we come to faith in Christ and are genuinely saved, we are going to sin. We still have our sin nature. But if we also truly have a new nature, if we are authentically “born again”, then our attitude toward sin will be different. We cannot continue to live in sin if the Spirit of God indwells us. For the unbeliever, sin is his way of life, he practices a lifestyle riddled with sin. The Christian lives a lifestyle that becomes more and more conformed to the holiness of God. He may fall into sin, but he won’t stay there. John writes:
“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3)
The hope to which John is referring is not something that we desire to happen, but may or may not. Rather it is a trust that we have in what God has promised. That promise is eternal life — Salvation. If we are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life, then we will seek to be pure as He is pure. The Spirit of God will compel us to live a righteous and holy life and sin will no longer be a pleasure to us, but something which brings an overwhelming conviction of guilt. If we are living a sinful lifestyle without any regard to offending the holiness of God, we must turn to the Lord Jesus Christ in earnest. John warns us that the man who habitually practices sin does NOT know God.
Love For Others
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:14-15)
One very good indicator that we possess eternal life and are truly saved is our love for others. This is not a “warm fuzzy” feeling of general goodwill toward others of which even those of the world are capable of imitating. This is not some sort of non-specific concern for the welfare of mankind, nor the carrying out of the occasional charitable act or “good deed”. No, this is real love, the kind of love that is exclusive to God and those to whom His Spirit imparts it. This love is sacrificial (1 John 3:16), giving (v. 17), and a love of action, not just words (v. 18). The unbeliever might be able to imitate this kind of love for a season based on his own desires and affections, but in order to abide in this kind of love, one must be born of God. An ongoing feeling of hatred toward others or the lack of any desire to serve others in love, particularly those within the Body of Christ, can be a good indication that something is probably wrong.
Love For God
“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 grievous.” (1 John 5:2-3)
One of the biggest ways we demonstrate our love for God is by demonstrating our love for those who belong to Him. Another way is to keep His commandments. This is, therefore, the reason that motivates us to righteous living and to love our brethren. We love God because He first loved us and showed us what love truly is (1 John 4:19). Jesus told us that if we love Him we will keep His commandments (John 14:15), just as John reiterates here in his first epistle.
When we are genuinely born again, there is a change in allegiance. We no longer follow after the things of the world nor do we live for our own pleasures and desires. We live for Him because we love Him. We love him because He loved us and gave Himself for us. John wrote:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:15-16)
If our affections are invested firmly in the things of this world which perish and pass away, then it is crucial that we make sure that we are really trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. This doesn’t mean that we are to behave irresponsibly concerning our earthly obligations, but this does mean that we recognize that we are not of this world, even though we live in it. When we are focused on the things of God, we will live for Him and not according to the ways of this world.
I don’t think that John intended these things to be a concise “checklist” to measure the validity of one’s Salvation, and neither do I. But I do think that these were to be considered sober warnings that, if any of these things are conspicuously absent from one’s life, then it behooves them to turn to God in Spirit and in truth so that their Salvation might be made sure and their faith be proven authentic. To slip up and fall into sin, to harbor the occasional angry thought at someone, or to be guilty of greed, covetousness, or being “worldly-minded” does not mean that you were never really saved. But to live a life where these things go on unchecked and undealt with, to walk in a manner where such shortcomings do not even concern the individual belies a much deeper problem than a momentary break in fellowship.
On the other hand, these indicators, when present in our lives, can also serve as comforting reminders that our Salvation is genuine and our faith is real. A lost person can copy many of these behaviors, but they are never truly part of their character. A lost person has no real desire for the things of God; they might be interested in what God can do to improve their life, but their own agenda remains unchanged.
The Apostle John wrote of these qualities in order to demonstrate to believers the efficacy of their faith, that a real change had occurred, that they were now saved by the blood of Christ, that their Salvation was real and that they possessed eternal life. Eternal life in Christ is not something that begins the day we die, no, it is something that begins the day we come to Him in faith. We do not need to wait until we stand before Jesus, face-to-face, to find out whether or not we will enter into Heaven. It is possible to know right now what our eternal destiny will be. The child of God does not need to worry about what will happen to them after they leave this world, they can know for certain today.