Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Basics: How Do I Know If I'm Saved?

by Les Lanphere

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3

The Biblical prescription for salvation is: Repent, believe, and be baptized. Looking around the American Church landscape, you’ll quickly notice that there are an awful lot of people who say they’ve done those things, yet haven’t changed at all. So is that all there is to it, just do a couple rituals, change into some dry clothes and get on with your normal life? Does being a Christian actually change anything? Is it up to me to pick myself up by my bootstraps and start changing? How do I know if I’m doing it right?

Jesus says we must take up our crosses, and follow Him. The Bible says we must die to ourselves. What does it mean to take up a cross, or die to self? Are these extra things we have to do to get to Heaven?

You Must be Born Again

The problem with mankind is that we don’t desire God. He made us and we quickly walked away. Ever since Adam’s sin we have been prone to sin, and incapable of good.

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” -Genesis 6:5

Scripture tells us that the good news of Christ’s death for our sins is impossible for this natural, evil man to believe. We can’t do anything good, and believing in Jesus would be the greatest thing anyone could do… so we’re stuck. We are in our sins, we don’t want God, God has a plan of salvation, and we all refuse to believe it.

Our sinful natures must be altered in order for us to actually exercise faith. Thankfully this is all part of the plan. Six hundred years before Christ came, God told us how he would deal with this part of the problem.

“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” -Ezekiel 11:19

As far as our ability to respond to God goes, we are dead. The part of us that is sensitive to God, that can believe the gospel, died in the garden, and so the Bible tells us we are “dead in sins and trespasses”. We have cold, dead hearts of stone. So when the gospel finally makes sense to us, it’s because God has changed our hearts. It is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. He takes out or sin-loving, God-hating heart of stone, and replaces it with a God-loving, sin-hating heart of flesh. We are then free, for the first time, to believe the gospel.

In the Bible, this work of God to change a man is called being “born again” it’s also referred to in scripture and especially by theologians as “regeneration”. Just like being born naturally, we have no control over how or when this happens to us. God changes a man at His own will, whenever He wants. We do know, however, that it most often happens when the gospel is being preached to a person, or when someone is thinking about the gospel.

We Can’t Just Go On Sinning

Looking at the gospel without this key of regeneration leads to an interesting, and dangerous problem. Jesus died to forgive our sins, His perfect life covers over our sinful life, all our sins, past, present, and future are already taken care of the moment we believe. If salvation is just a sort of an easy one-time inoculation, then the obvious question is: “so I can just sin all I want, and not worry about the consequences anymore?”. Actually, that’s exactly what a clear understanding of the gospel should lead us to ask. But that can’t be right, can it?

God isn’t stupid. He didn’t miss this detail. As discussed earlier, natural man can not believe, so the work of Christ can not be applied through faith to just any ol’ sinner. The same work God does to make a man able to believe, also changes his nature so drastically that it reverses his relationship to sin. The person’s desires are completely changed. He no longer loves to sin, and he starts to fight against it. He now desires to seek God’s will and do God’s work. He has a love for God’s word (the Bible) and God’s people (the Church).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” -2 Corinthians 5:17

What Does it Look Like to be a Christian?

For more information on what being a Christian really looks like, scripture is clear. The book of First John lays out the changes we should be looking for. Read through it, if you aren’t seeing your life moving constantly (though sometimes very slowly) in those directions, you have valid reason to be concerned about your salvation. A Christian can’t lose their salvation, but people can be fooled into thinking they were saved, when they were never truly born again.

What If I’m Not Saved?

If all this quesitoning and introspection leads you to think you might not be in Christ, you need to go back to the beginning. Make sure you understand the gospel. Ask a Christian friend or pastor to clarify any questions you might have, and compare their answers to scripture. If you think you clearly understand what Christ did, but still see no change in your life, cry out to God. The fact that you desire to be holy is proof that God is working in you, get on your face and ask Him to save you and change you… He’s always faithful.

“For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”" -Romans 10:13


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