Robert Jeffress - How To Know If You're Really Saved?
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. As a Christian, it's not uncommon to go through seasons of doubt: when you privately wonder whether or not you're truly saved. It can happen when our passion for the Bible begins to dwindle. Or when we're embarrassed by sinful patterns we can't seem to break. Well, in his letter to the Romans, Paul described several Marks that clearly indicate whether someone is truly born again or not. And that's the topic we'll explore today in Romans chapter 8, which happens to be my favorite chapter in all of the Bible. Let's turn there together and learn "How to know if you're really saved" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Someone once asked the British writer G.K. Chesterton that if he were on a remote island, and he could only have one book with him, what book would he choose? The interviewer, knowing that Chesterton was a Christian, expected him to say the Bible. Instead, his answer was Thomas' practical guide to shipbuilding. It's a pretty smart answer, isn't it, when you think about it? Well, I want you to imagine for just a moment that you've been sent to a remote island, and you were told you couldn't have a Bible, but you could choose one chapter of the Bible to have with you. What chapter of the Bible would you choose?
Some people would choose Genesis 1 that reminds us of God's creation of everything. Some might choose Psalm 23 that reminds us of God's care for us. Some might choose John chapter 3 that reminds us how we can be born again: but I imagine many of you would choose Romans chapter 8. Romans chapter 8 is a favorite chapter, for many of us, of all the chapters in the Bible. The Swiss commentator Godet said that these 39 verses are unsurpassed in literature. He said because in verse 1 you have the promise of no condemnation: in verse 39 the promise of no separation, there is no better place for a Christian to live than between those two verses. I'll have to admit that Romans chapter 8 is my favorite chapter of the Bible as well. It has very special meaning to me.
I remember when I was a high school senior, getting ready to go to college, Romans 8 was the very first chapter of the Bible I ever memorized. I realized that I was going to be going through some great changes in my life, and I wanted to have God's word in my heart: and I couldn't think of a better chapter to memorize than this one. I still remember dividing the chapter up into fourths: and I remember where I was at each time I memorized a different section of that chapter. And that chapter has been a great comfort to me through the years. And today our study of the book of Romans has landed us in this beloved chapter. But far from just being a piece of brilliant literature, we find some important truths in this chapter, including how to know if you're really saved. And that's the theme of our study this morning.
If you have your Bibles, turn to Romans chapter 8. Now remember, this is the last chapter in a section of Romans - Romans 6, 7, and 8 - that talk about the power of righteousness. What does it mean to be in a right relationship with God, to have his righteousness? The benefits don't accrue to you just after you die - there are benefits to being in a right relationship with God right now. And he talks about that primary benefit: you have been set free from the law of sin and death. Sin has no more power over your life than you choose to allow it to have if you are in a right relationship with God. In chapter 6 he talked about that reality of our freedom from sin, but then in chapter 7 Paul admits that even though we don't have to obey our sin nature, sometimes we do. Sometimes in our struggle with sin, sin gets the best of us, and that's the theme of Romans chapter 7: how to win that battle within.
But here's the question: if I do stumble and fall as a Christian, if I do sin, does that change God's attitude toward me? And that's the great truth we find in Romans chapter 8. The Bible says no matter what we do, we have victory over the penalty of sin. Look at verse 1 of Romans 8, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". If you ever struggle with the issue of losing your salvation, this is a great verse to memorize: there is no condemnation awaiting those who are in Christ Jesus. May I point out to you three significant words in this verse that might help you understand it better? First of all, the word "Condemnation". Condemnation.
Now let's be honest, it's just us chickens here this morning, we can all be honest. There are times we tend to find the Gospel boring. We've heard it over and over again. Jesus came and died on the cross for our sins that we don't have to go: we can go to heaven instead of hell. We've heard that so many times that frankly, it can be trite to us. But the only reason for boredom at this truth is we really don't understand what Christ has done for us. We don't understand our state before Christ died for us, and it's all found in this word "Condemnation". There is therefore now no condemnation.
You see, the Bible tells us in Romans 1 to 3 that when we are born into this world, we are born condemned before God. We are like prisoners on death row. The sentence has already been pronounced: guilty. We are headed to an eternity of separation from God, but because of what Christ Jesus has done, he has delivered us from that condemnation. Look at verse 3. How did he do it? "For what the law could not do", that is, it could not make us righteous, "Weak as it was through the flesh, God did". How did he do it? "By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh". He was our offering. He was our substitution. When he hung on the cross, he suffered the wrath of God for us, and so there is no condemnation.
The second word I want you to notice in this verse is the word "now". There is therefore now no condemnation. That word "now" signifies that something has changed. There has to be a point in time when you receive by faith that gift of forgiveness that Christ offers you. Can you point to such a time in your life? There has to be a time when you are born again. There is therefore now no condemnation.
And the third word I want you to notice is that little word "no". N-O. There is therefore now no condemnation. You know that little word "No" answers a lot of questions. What if I commit this particular sin? No condemnation, the apostle Paul says, for those who are in Christ Jesus. What if begin to doubt my faith? What if I stumble along the way? No condemnation awaiting those who are in Christ Jesus. What about the Great Tribulation? Do I have to fear that 7-year period of time when God pours out his wrath on all mankind? No condemnation awaiting those who are in Christ Jesus. Isn't that a great truth? We never have to fear the wrath of God because of what Christ has done for us. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are what? In Christ Jesus. Now that is the key phrase: in Christ Jesus.
So here is the question: how do you know if you're in Christ Jesus? How do you know if you're safe from the coming condemnation of God? Very simple, Paul says in this passage: those who are truly being saved are becoming more like Christ every day in their life. Those who are in Christ are those who are in the process of becoming like Christ. The eternal security of the believer is a real doctrine, but it only applies to those who are truly believers. How do you know if you are a truly believer? That's what Paul's going to answer beginning here in verse 5. In verses 1 to 4 he's talked about the victory over the penalty of sin. Now he's going to talk about our victory over the power of sin.
Look at verses 9 to 11, "However, you are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his spirit who indwells you". Now that's a complicated passage, so let me summarize it for you in three statements. I want you to write down each of these three statements.
Statement one: those who do not possess the Holy Spirit are not Christians. Does everybody agree with that? Anyone who does not possess the spirit is not a Christian. Look at verse 9, "But if anyone does not have the spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him".
Now if that's true, number two follows as well: those who do possess the Holy Spirit are Christians. Those who possess the Holy Spirit are Christians. The Bible says the gift of the Holy Spirit is not a spiritual upgrade reserved for only a few Christians who want to fly first class, it's part of the basic package. Every Christian, true Christian, has received the Holy Spirit of God, 1 Corinthians 12:13. Those who possess the Holy Spirit are believers.
Number three: those who possess the Holy Spirit will be controlled by the Holy Spirit. If you possess the Holy Spirit, you're going to be controlled, guided, led by the Holy Spirit of God.
Romans 8 verse 10, "And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness". Listen to this. The Holy Spirit doesn't come into your life just to lead you to heaven. The Holy Spirit doesn't convict you of sin: give you the gift of faith just so you can get your get-out-of-hell-free card, ok? The reason the Holy Spirit comes into your life is to change you, to conform you, to make you like Jesus Christ. Don't think you can say: now Holy Spirit, I want you to come into my life so that I can go to heaven when I die, but I don't want you to make any changes. I don't want you to do anything radical in my life. I want to stay just the way I am. Do you think the Holy Spirit of God would say: oh, if that's what you want, I'll just sit here and do nothing? No, if you invite the spirit of Christ into your life, get ready for some changes.
And ladies and gentlemen, if those radical changes are not occurring in your life, it's because the Holy Spirit is not in your life. And if the Holy Spirit is not in your life, guess what? You're not saved. Because what did we say? Those who possess the Holy Spirit are Christians: those who don't possess the Holy Spirit are not Christians. Notice in verse 14 he says, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God". What does he mean "Being led"? He's not talking about personal decision-making: he's not talking about being led to know which car to buy, or which house to purchase, or which job to take. He's not talking about personal decision-making: he's talking about being led down the path of righteousness. Those who are on the road of righteousness, those who are becoming more like Christ every day, these are the ones who are on the road to heaven. They are the true children of God.
The question is: which road are you on? Do you have a good feeling for which road you're on? Well Paul helps you decide by, first of all, beginning in verse 8, describing the road of the unbeliever, the road of the flesh. Look at this description of the flesh, the person who is controlled by the flesh, beginning in verse 5, "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those according to the Spirit, the things of the spirit". The first characteristic of an unbeliever concerns his affections: his heart, his mind are centered on the things of this world. All you think about is this world. Specifically when you get up in the morning your thoughts are: how can I earn more, achieve more, or experience more pleasure. That is your sole focus: self-gratification.
Look at verse 6, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace". Paul says our mindset, whether it is focused on this life or the next life, reveals which road we're on. It's not that thinking about this world alone sends you to hell: no, he's saying thinking about this world alone and yourself alone just simply reveals you're on the road to hell. You're a mind set on the flesh. That's what he's saying here. Look at verse 7, "Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God: for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so".
A person who's of the flesh is hostile toward God. Now that doesn't mean when he gets up every morning he says: I hate God. I hate God. I hate God. No, person of the flesh may have fooled himself into thinking he actually loves God. But here's the real test - second part of that verse: he cannot subject himself to the law of God. He cannot give up his life to please God. He's intent on controlling every part of his life: he can't surrender this particular sin: he can't let God take control of his finances: he can't have as his one desire in life to please God instead of pleasing others. He's on the road that leads to hell. He is thinking about this world and this world alone.
But notice the characteristics of the believer beginning in verses 8 and 9, "And those who are of the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh, you are in the spirit, indeed if the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness". You know what the greatest evidence of whether you're on the road to heaven is? It's how spiritually alive you are.
Now listen to this, somebody who is spiritually dead - he is dead, he is unresponsive to the things of God. But this verse says that a person who is spiritually minded, verse 10, he is alive to the things of God. He responds to the things of God. Specifically, number one, he's alive to God himself. God is not just a set of ideas to him, God is a person with whom he has fellowship. Secondly, he's alive to the Bible. You know, for an unbeliever, reading the Bible is about as exciting as reading the yellow pages. But when a Christian, a true Christian, hears and reads God's word, there's something that reaches down into his innermost being that convicts him, or that causes him to say: yes, Lord, that's what I need to change in my life. He's alive to the scriptures.
Thirdly, he's alive to other Christians. If you're spiritually alive, you're drawn like a magnet to other believers. Somebody has said that people who are truly spiritually alive, they love being around Christians, and they barely tolerate being around non-christians. But if you're spiritually dead, you know what? You're drawn to non-christians. They're the ones you want to be with and you can barely tolerate other Christians. That's how to know, by the way, if you're spiritually dead or alive. Who do you like to hang around? Christians or non-christians?
So what's the application of this passage? Look at verses 12 through 14, "So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh - for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die: but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God". This is a passage about becoming like Christ. The puritans had a word for that, what we call the doctrine of sanctification, they called it holiness. Holiness.
James Boice has three insights about this subject of holiness I want you to jot down very quickly. Number one, holiness, that is becoming like Christ, is the goal of every true Christian. John Stott wrote, "God condemned sin through Christ so that holiness might appear in us". If you don't hear anything else I say today, teenagers, hear this: God didn't send Christ to die for you just to take you to heaven one day. He sent Christ to die for you so that you can become more and more like Jesus Christ in your life. That's what holiness is about. It's the goal of every true Christian.
Secondly, holiness is the result of obedience to God's laws. It's the result of obedience to God's laws. Look at verse 4. He describes those who don't walk according to the flesh, but they walk according to the Spirit. Life is like a walk. It is like a path. You are either on a path that has hell as its destination, or you are on a path that has heaven as its destination.
Now listen to this: if you are truly on the path to heaven, Jesus Christ is the ultimate destination: becoming like him. But if you're on the path - any path also has boundaries on either side of the path. It's true - along the path we stumble and fall, don't we, occasionally? But there's a difference between stumbling and still being on the path, and crossing the boundary, and no longer being on the path. The Bible says holiness is the result of obedience to God's laws. As long as we're obedient, we are becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.
Number three, and this is so key, holiness is a cooperative effort between God's Spirit and us. It's a cooperative effort between God's Spirit and us. Now listen to me, if you're not a Christian this morning understand there is no amount of effort that you can exert to ever be saved. Salvation is a gift from God alone. It's all his work. For by grace you have been saved through faith: that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God, not of works: lest any man should boast. Salvation is God's work alone, but sanctification, holiness, is a cooperative effort between God and us.
Look at verse 13. Notice he says here, "But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live". Who is supposed to put to death sin in our body? Is it God? Is it by the spirit? No, it's you empowered by the Spirit. If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body becoming like Christ is a cooperative effort between God and us. You probably heard before of paternity tests. Know what a paternity test is? It's a test to determine if a man is really the father of a particular child. Did you know the Bible says there are some spiritual paternity tests to discover who your real father is? To discover if God in heaven is truly your father? That's what Romans 8 is about.
Here are some tests to determine whether God is truly your father, and you're truly his child. Do you really love God with all of your heart? Not just the idea of God - do you really love God? Number two, are you drawn to the things of God? Are you drawn to the scriptures, to want to read them and apply them? Are you drawn to God's people? Are you drawn to things of God? Number three, are you in the process of becoming more like Christ? Which road are you really on right now? Are you on the road that is making you more like the Savior or are you on the road that is making you less like the Savior? For all who are led by the Spirit, these are the sons, the children of God.