David Jeremiah - How Can I Be Sure of My Salvation?
10 Questions Christians Are Asking
01. How can I be sure of my salvation?
02. How can I overcome temptation?
03. How can I get victory over worry?
04. How can I find forgiveness?
05. Is there only one way to God?
06. Why do Christians have so many problems?
07. Why don't my prayers get answered?
08. Is there a sin God cannot forgive?
09. What is faith?
10. What is the greatest commandment?
How can I be sure of my salvation? I'm David Jeremiah, and I've been asked that question many, many times through the years. It's a fair question, one I'm always eager to answer. In fact, it's life's most important question since all eternity hangs in the balance. It's one thing to become a Christian and be assured of salvation, but what happens if I sin again, or struggle with me faith? How can I know if I'm still saved? If you have wondered about your own salvation, you'll want to join me for today's edition of "Turning Point". I'm beginning a series entitled, "10 Questions Christians Are Asking". And today, I'll answer the most important one of all, "How Can I Be Sure of My Salvation"? I hope you'll stay tuned for today's edition of "Turning Point".
If you're not sure of your salvation, it's hard to pray. If you're not sure of your salvation, you would never witness. Why would you want to help anybody else have all the questions you have? If you aren't sure of your salvation, worship is an empty experience, and sermons often are more harmful than they are helpful to you. If you don't have the assurance of salvation, the peace that passes all understanding passes you right by. God wants you to have the assurance of your salvation. God didn't save you so you could live the rest of your life wondering whether it was real, or whether it worked, or whether it was for sure. No, he wants us to know. In fact, listen to these verses from Hebrews and see if you don't pick this up. "We desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope". He wants us to have full assurance of hope. Hebrews 10:22, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of our faith".
Let me ask you something, do you have the full assurance of your faith? Peter wrote these words in 2 Peter 1:10, he said, "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and your election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble". The importance of knowing what you believe and being sure of your relationship with Jesus Christ is dealt with in many places throughout the New Testament. Almost all of the epistles speak of it here and there. But John, the apostle that Jesus loved, wrote about it more than any of the other writers in the Scripture. As you know, the Apostle John is the human author of five books. He wrote the gospel, he wrote 1, 2, and 3 John, and he wrote the book of Revelation. In two of those books, he devotes the books almost entirely to the issue of salvation. In the Gospel of John, he talks about believing. But in 1 John, he talks about knowing.
The first keyword of 1 John 5:13 is know. "These things," speaking of 1 John, "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". In the Gospel of John, we read for the very first time in the third chapter about somebody being born again. Jesus was talking with Nicodemus, the rich man. And he said to Nicodemus, "Nicodemus, unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of heaven". Jesus said that becoming a Christian is like having a new birth. It's like being born the second time, born the first time physically, born the second time spiritually. When John gets to his first epistle, he picks up on that concept. And over and over again in the chapters of 1 John, he talks about being born of God, being begotten of God. And these phrases in 1 John give us what we might call the birthmarks of a Christian.
How do you know you're a Christian? How do you know you've been born of God? John the apostle tells us about that in his first letter. And I want to give you five birthmarks of a Christian today, five things, and there probably are more, these are the five main ones, five ways you can know for sure that you have been born again, that you're a Christian. The first birthmark is what we might call the birthmark of confession. In every one of these Scriptures, the term "born of God" will appear, and I've kind of highlighted it on the screen. 1 John 5:1 says this, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves him who begot also loves him who is begotten of him". John said if you want to know for sure that you have been born again, you have to have made this confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and he's the Savior of the world.
If you've been born again, you have come to the Lord some time in your life, and you've said, "Lord, I'm a sinner, I know you're the Savior. I believe you're the Son of God, and I want you to be my Savior. Please come and forgive me of my sin". You've made a confession of faith. The book of Romans says if we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart, then we will be saved. So the first thing you should ask yourself if you claim to be a Christian, when did you become a Christian? When did you confess your faith in Jesus Christ? Somebody said to me, "Well, I'm not sure I'm saved because I know I made a confession, but I don't remember the date". You don't need to have the date. You just need to know there was a date, right? You may say, "Well, I didn't write it down". Well, that's all right, God did. He wrote it down, he keeps records pretty good up there. But you need to know there was a time.
The reason I say that is you don't just float into Christianity. Christianity is a decision that you make. It's a confession that you say with your mouth. You say, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he is the Savior of the world, and I ask him to be my Savior". That's what Christianity is all about, "That God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life". 1 John 4:1-3 says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God".
John said when he wrote his epistle, "Look out because people are going to come, and they're going to say, 'You don't have to believe in Jesus. You don't have to believe that Jesus is from God. Just believe, just have faith.'" And some people take Jesus Christ, and they put him in a pantheon of other gods, as if he is one of many. No, if you're going to be a Christian, you have to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he's the way, the truth, and the life, and that no man comes to the Father except through him. John 3:36 says it this way, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God is upon him".
So if you believe in the Son, if you've accepted Christ, if there's been a confession of faith in your life, then the Bible says you've passed the first test, you've got the birthmark of confession. And I think most of us are okay with that one. We've come to the place where we remember that there was a time when we accepted the Lord. If someone asked you how you know you're a Christian, you got two options. You can say, "Because I," or you can say, "Because he". If you say, "Because I," you'll probably follow it up with all the things you think you've done to make you a Christian. That won't work. If you're a Christian, it's not because I, it's because he. He's the one who did it, because he died, because he paid the penalty, because he's your Savior.
So, the first birthmark is this, the birthmark of confession. The second one is what we might call the birthmark of change. 1 John 2:29 says it this way, "If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of him". There's that expression again, "born of him". The Bible says that when you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, and receive him into your life, something happens to you, and you change. You can't be the same. If you can accept Jesus Christ and be the same as you were before him, what do you need him for? No, when he comes to live within you, stuff starts to change. I mean, some people, you know, you've heard stories about, "Oh, I became a Christian and I threw all my alcohol away, threw all my cigarettes away, got all my girlie magazines and burned them up, and I did it that day, and I've never"...
That doesn't happen for most people. That's really unusual. Most people get saved, and what happens when you get saved? The Holy Spirit sets up shop in your heart, and he starts working on you little by little. He cleans this up over here, and he changes this over here, he gets this attitude right, makes that relationship better. And little by little, you notice things are happening in your life, you're being changed. You're being transformed. You're not being reformed. If you were being reformed, that would be something from the outside in. No, transformation is from the inside out. And it's an inside-out job because Jesus Christ now lives within you. When he comes to live within you, he makes you into a different person. You see, the way you understand that is when you give your life to Christ, he sends the Holy Spirit to live within your heart. And how many of you know that his first name is Holy? He's the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes to live within you, he goes on a mission to make you holy, and to change the way you live.
So, if that happens in your life, if you can look at that and there's anything like that in your life, that's a really good sign you got the real deal. Because when the Holy Spirit comes to live within you, he makes a change in your life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says it this way, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are becoming new". That's what it means to be a Christian, the birthmark of change. The third one is what we might call the birthmark of compassion. Here's another "born of God" verse, 1 John 4:7. "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God". If you know that you are Christian by what you believe, you know that you're a Christian also by how you live, and now the Bible says you'll know you're a Christian by who you love.
This is a little more subjective than the first two, but it's just as important. This passage says that when you become a Christian, you start to love other Christians. When you become a Christian, you get God's DNA, and then you look around and you find that there are other people who are in this family. And you start wanting to hang out with them, you start wanting to be with them because you love them. You get in a small group with them, or you get in a Sunday school class with them, or you find a way to be with other Christians. Wherever we go across the country, we don't know anybody, and yet, within 5 minutes, it feels like you just know everybody. You're part of the family. There's something special about being a Christian that makes it possible for you to instantly bond with other Christians wherever you find them, it's the most amazing thing.
So, if you want to know are you a Christian for sure, the birthmark of confession tells you what you have believed. The birthmark of change says there's been something changing in your life. Here's the birthmark of compassion: who do you love? And then fourth is what we might call the birthmark of conflict. 1 John 5:4 says, "Whoever is born of God," there it is again, "whoever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith". Now, this is an interesting thought. John says if you are born again, you are in a conflict with the world. You could add the flesh and the devil to that list too. When you become a Christian, you take on some foes you didn't have before. You've crossed the line, you've joined the other team. And the people that were on the team where you were before aren't going to take that sitting down. They're going to harass you and give you grief, "What's the matter with you? You used to do this, and you don't do it. You're just a goody two-shoes. What's happened to you? Oh, you got religion".
Now, here's what John is saying. When you become a Christian, and you really, truly have been saved, you will find that you're in conflict. And little by little, you will begin to see that God is helping you win some of those battles. You will become an overcomer. You will no longer be victimized by all of these things, you'll become a victor in these things. It doesn't mean you win them all, nobody does. You lose some here and there. But it seems like the longer you walk with the Lord, if you stay in fellowship and stay in faith with him, you start winning more than you lose. And little by little, you gain the sense that the Spirit of God who lives within you is greater than the spirit that is in the world. And because of that, you can have victory in your life. If you lose all the battles, if you never win any, if you always are victimized, that's not a good sign. And then the final one, and I tried to save as much time as I can for this because this is the one that really some people really struggle with, it seems like it disqualifies everybody.
Listen to this, the birthmark of conduct. 1 John 3:9, "Whoever is born of God does not sin, for his seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God". 1 John 5:18, "We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him". Now, if you read these verses straight out of context, what it would seem to say is that if you ever sin, you can't be a Christian. Every single one of us in this room is disqualified, especially me, all of us. What John is saying is this. If you can live your life in willful rebellion against God and his Word, and believe that you are Christian, you are deceiving yourself.
The message of 1 John 3:9 is very clear. The word for sin in the passage is in the present active tense, and what it means is it describes a continuous action. If you say that you are a child of God and you continually sin in rebellion against God, you're deceiving yourself. Whoever keeps on rebelliously violating God's law, whoever thinks that because he claims to be a Christian he can live any way he wants, whoever does that, he is not born again. I hear people sometimes say, "Well, I prayed the prayer, and I went forward, and I've been baptized. And I live in the age of grace, and I can just do whatever I want". No, you can't. You can't. If you've been born again, the Bible says God's seed has come to live within you. His nature is in you. And that nature, that seed will not allow you to do that. And if you do that, what you're doing is demonstrating that you don't have that seed within you.
I don't know if the rest of you know this, but if you're a Christian, God gives you a special kind of sensitivity to stuff that's wrong in your life. Isn't that true? Whoever is born of God does not keep on sinning, does not keep on doing the same thing over and over again that he knows is a violation of the law of God. He doesn't do it. John tells us that when we're born of God, we have God's seed in us. Let's face it, we're never going to keep all of his commandments. We're never going to lose all the things that we do that are wrong. We're never going to love all the people that we should love. We're never going to do all the right things. But let me tell you, the fact that these experiences have come into our lives and are a part of who we are, that we even think about them and talk about them, and they were absent before we became Christians, that gives us assurance that we have something new going on.
And one of the great joys of being a pastor of this church is to watch that happen in so many lives. People come, and they give their heart to Christ. And a year later, I check on them, and it's like they're not even the same person. They've just been totally changed, and they're different. That's what the business of salvation is. It's to change us, amen, and make us God's people. One of the reasons a lot of people don't have assurance of salvation is because since they became Christians, they've done something, and they don't think God can forgive them. You know, all of us in our families, in our lives, we have some things that we're not proud of. And they happen. Life is like that.
So many people who are Christians don't understand that the same God who forgave them is willing to forgive them even when they fail after they've been saved. The book of 1 John also says, "If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin," now watch this, "and cleanse us from all unrighteousness". And that was written to Christians, not to unsaved people. Max Lucado tells a story about getting a letter from his insurance company telling him that he was going to be dropped from coverage because he had too many speeding tickets and one fender bender. And I thought I had a lot more respect for Max to put that in a book. I'd never tell anybody that if that were true of me. I'd confess my sin to the Lord, but I'm not telling you all that.
So one day, he said, he received this letter in the mail. And it was informing him to seek coverage elsewhere. As he reflected on it, he realized he wasn't good enough for this insurance company anymore. And he said the spiritual tie-in was just too obvious. Many people fear receiving such a letter from God. And so, Lucado imagined correspondence from heaven to someone in the situation now described, straight from the underwriting division of the pearly gates. Here's the letter. "Dear Mrs. Smith, I am writing in response to this morning's request for forgiveness. I am sorry to inform you that you have reached your quota of sins. Our records show that since employing our services, you have erred seven times in the area of greed, and your prayer life is substandard when compared to others of like age and circumstance. Further review reveals that your understanding of doctrine is in the lower 20 percentile, and you have excessive tendencies to gossip. Because of your sins, you are a high-risk candidate for heaven. You understand that grace has its limits. Jesus sends his regrets and kindest regards, and hopes you will find some other form of coverage".
Now, we laugh at that. Why do we laugh at that? It's ridiculous, isn't it? You don't need any other form of coverage. You've got the best form of coverage there ever was produced, and that's the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. And it doesn't stop working once you become a Christian, amen? When you become a Christian, you will not get from the moment of your conversion to the pearly gates without messing up. Everybody's going to mess up somewhere. The moment you accept Jesus Christ, eternal life begins, and eternal life cannot be interrupted no matter what you do.
In my Bible, there's a little thing that I've put in there that goes like this. "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it". God said it, I believe it, and that settles it. I know I'm a Christian. I know I'm going to go to heaven. I know I have been forgiven. And I know that my salvation is sure. And none of it has anything to do with me. It has everything to do with him.