Assurance of Salvation

by Matthew J. Slick

One of the more annoying problems in Christians' lives is the issue of assurance of salvation. We have all been there. We have all wondered if we are really saved or not. We have looked at our lives, actions, and thoughts and sometimes just said, "How can I be saved if I am like this?" I have counseled many Christians who have doubted their salvation and who have worked themselves into worry and sometimes even depression over the issue. I have always thought that the solution was pretty basic. I ask the person, "Why do you think you might not be saved?" Almost always the reason is, "Because I have a sin in my life. Because I can't beat this one sin. Because of my thoughts. Because I keep failing." "Okay," I say. "So you know you are supposed to be doing better than you are, right?" "Yes," the person says. "I am supposed to be doing better and I am not. This is why I doubt that I am saved." So I give the trouble Christian this illustration.

Let's say that we are on a 20 foot boat out in the ocean. We are sailing along when we notice two men in the water. There is no other boat around, so it is obvious these two men are in trouble. We take a life preserver, tie it to a rope, and throw it to them. It lands just a few feet short. We start yelling and yelling for them to grab the life preserver so we can pull them in. "Come on!" we yell. "Grab it! Grab it!" One of the men, exhausted, reaches out his arm for the life preserver but falls short. "Grab it!" we yell again. He reaches again and his arm plops down in the water from fatigue. The waves slap his face, but he tries again. The other man is simply floating face down in the water. He is not struggling at all. But the first man is trying for that life preserver. He is fighting against the ocean, the wind, and the waves, all which are greater than he is. That is when I ask the person, "Which one of the two men in the water is alive?" Always the response is, "The one reaching for the life preserver." "Right," I say. "He is struggling for life. Dead people do not struggle for life and spiritually dead people do not struggle against their sin. Only those who are dead, who have no life in them, do not struggle. The fact that you are struggling against your sin is one very good sign that you are very much alive in Christ. If you were not struggling at all, then it might be true that you were not saved. But since you war against your sins, then it sure sounds like you are saved to me." Usually the eyes brighten at this point. I then keep going.

"Do you believe there is only one God in all existence, all places, and all times?" "Yes," the person answers. "Do you believe in the Trinity, that God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?" Again, "Yes." I continue. "Do you believe Jesus is God manifested in the flesh?" "Yes." "Do you believe Jesus is the only way to salvation?" Again, "Yes." "Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead three days later?" Another, "Yes." "Good," I say.

1 Corinthians 2:14 says, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." I continue by telling the person that a natural man is someone who is not saved. Now these are absolutely, definitely spiritually discerned truths to which the person answered yes above. They are that there is only one God and that God is a Trinity, that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh, that Jesus is the only way to salvation, and that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead three days later. In other words, the fact that the person confesses these things and believes them is further, very strong, evidence of spiritual life. Usually the person is encouraged even more.

And finally, I tell the person that Jesus gives us eternal life (John 10:27-28), and He does not fake us out when we ask to be forgiven and for Him to be Lord of our lives. He said in Luke 11:10-12, "For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" In other words, you get what you ask for from the Lord (except for sinful and selfish things, of course); He does not bait-and-switch. If you ask for eternal life from Jesus, that is what you get -- no matter how you feel, no matter how your emotions may mislead you. The truth is that God's word tells us that the Father will give the Holy Spirit to us if we ask. The Holy Spirit only indwells believers.

We all have our struggles and we all need to take into account the fact that we are still sinful and are going to struggle with our sin. But if you begin to doubt your salvation because you do not "feel" saved, then stop trusting your feelings and start trusting God at His word. Ask yourself if you are struggling against your sin. If you are not, maybe you are not saved. But if you are, then that is a sign of life. Ask yourself if you believe in the Trinity, that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh, and that He died and rose from the dead. If you do, that is a sign of spiritual renewal. Ask yourself if you believe what Jesus said about Him not faking you out, about Him giving to you the Spirit if you ask. If you do, then that means you are believing Him at His word. Take your eyes off your feelings and failures and put them on Christ, His word, and His sacrifice. Trust in Him and Him alone, not what you feel, not what you fail at. He did not save you because of your works or your "goodness." He did not save you because of what is or is not in you. He saved you because of what is in Him: love and truth.

Taken from the CARM Newsletter, November 7, 2002, Short Bible Lesson -- Assurance of Salvation.
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