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Assurance of Salvation

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What can give real assurance to a real believer?

Three categories of questions that a person could ask of himself or herself.

1. Do I have a Present Trust in Christ for Salvation? Paul tells the Colossians that they will be saved on the last day, "provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard" (Col. 1:23). In Hebrews it says, "We share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end" (Heb 3:14) and encourages his readers to be imitators of those "who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb 6:12) The most famous verse in the entire Bible uses a present tense verb that may be translated, "whoever continues believing in him" may have eternal life (see John 3:16)

So ask yourself "Today do I have trust in Christ to forgive my sins and take me without blame into heaven forever? Do I have confidence in my heart that he has saved me? If I were to die tonight and stand before God's judgment seat, and if he were to ask me why he should let me into heaven, would I begin to think of my good deeds and depend on them or would I without hesitation say that I am depending on the merits of Christ and I am confident that he is a sufficient Savior?"

This stands in contrast to the practice of some church "testimonies" where people repeatedly recite details of conversion experience that may have happened 20-30 years ago. If a testimony of saving faith is genuine, it should be a testimony of faith that is active to this very day.

2. Is there Evidence of a Regenerating Work of the Holy Spirit in My Heart? The evidence of the work of the Holy spirit in our hearts comes in many different forms.

First there is a subjective testimony of the Holy Spirit within our hearts bearing witness that we are God's children (Rom 8:15-16; 1 John 4:13). This testimony will usually be accompanied by a sense of being led by the Holy Spirit in paths of obedience to God's Will (Rom. 8:14) If the Holy Spirit is genuinely at work in our lives, he will be producing the kind of character traits that Paul calls "the fruit of the Spirit" (Gal 5:22). There is no suggestion in the New Testament that any non-Christian, any unregenerate person, can convincingly fake these character traits, esp. for those who know the person most closely. There are some people who profess to be Christians but whose influence on others is to discourage them, to drag them down, to injure their faith, and to provoke others and to build up the church, but just to tear it down. On the other hand, there are those who seem to edify others in every conversation, every prayer, and every work of ministry they put their hand to. Jesus said, regarding false prophets, "You will know them by their fruits...Every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit...Thus you will know them by their fruits." (Matt. 7:16-20)

Another evidence of the Holy Spirit is continuing to believe and accept the sound teaching of the church. Those who begin to deny major doctrines of the faith give serious negative indications concerning their salvation: "No one who denies the Son has the Father...If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father" (1 John 2:23-24) Whoever knows God will continue to read and to delight in God's Word, and will continue to believe it fully. Those who do not believe and delight in God's Word give evidence that they are not "of God."

Another evidence of genuine salvation is a continuing present relationship with Jesus Christ. "Abide in me, and I in you" and "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:4,7) This abiding in Christ will include not only day-by-day trust in him in various situations, but also certainly regular fellowship with him in prayer and worship.

Finally, a major area of evidence that we are genuine believers is found in a life of obedience to God's commands. John says "He who says 'I know him' but disobeys his commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which we walked" (1 John 2:4-6) In general our lives ought to be ones of imitation of Christ and likeness to him in what we do and say.

3. Do I see a Long-Term Pattern of Growth in my Christian Life? Peter gives one more kind of test that we can use to ask whether we are genuinely believers. He tells us that there are some character traits which, if we keep on increasing them, will guarantee that we will "never fall" (1 Peter 1:10). He tells his readers to add to their faith "virtue...knowledge...self-control...steadfastness...godliness...brotherly affection...love" (2 Peter 1:5-7) The way to confirm our call and election, then, is to continue to grow in "these things." This implies that our assurance of salvation can be something that increases over time in our lives. Every year that we add to these character traits in our lives, we gain greater and greater assurance of our salvation.

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Serving the Lord together since Dec. 2002!!