What an important question this is! It seems that many times we focus so much on the "time and place" as the proof of salvation that we forget about the whole picture. We can know the moment we are saved, however, the bible considers the greatest proof of our salvation to not be this moment itself so much as what comes after it. We are not condemned for examining our salvation. In fact, the apostle Peter tells us to, "Make your calling and election sure" (11 Peter 1:10-11). We are encouraged to test our salvation against the word of God. In fact, a whole book of the bible, I John, was written to address this very subject.
Before delving into this topic, we must first discuss the place of joy and happiness in salvation. So many testimonies that I hear focus on the joy felt at the moment of salvation. I felt no joy at the moment of my salvation. Does this seem like an odd statement? Let me clarify this. The reason I didn't feel immediate joy was because I didn't realize that I had just been saved! I only knew that there was a peace where before there was conviction. I was expecting some form of joy, so I ruled out the possibility that I had just been saved. Some people immediately recognize that they have been saved and consequently feel great joy. This can lead to a belief that the joy itself is proof of their salvation and not the peace that was there first. This misrepresentation has lead to many being confused about their experience with God.
There is a great joy that accompanies salvation; however, that joy comes at the realization that you are saved. The Apostle John said the book of 1 John was written, "that your joy may be full". We must consider this. It is possible not to have full joy and to be saved. We can conclude that the presence of emotional joy or euphoria is not a proof in itself that we are saved. There is something else that bears witness of our relationship to God. When we are confident in our salvation, there is a great joy that follows. Believe me when I tell you that I had great joy when I realized that I was saved!
It is extremely important to understand if you have truly been saved. If you are lost and falsely believe yourself to be saved, you are jeopardizing your eternal future by not seeking the Lord. However, if you are saved and are still doubting your salvation, you are ruining the effectiveness of your Christian life. How can we pray boldly in faith to the Lord if we don't know if we are saved? There were many times I felt defeated as a young Christian because I doubted my salvation. When I prayed, I always preceded my petitions with "If I am saved, you will answer me". Not only did I lack abounding joy, but I also lacked confidence in the Lord. James says that when we ask something of the Lord, we must do it without wavering, or we will not receive what we are asking for (James 1:6-8). I have experienced much more power in my prayer (and have seen tremendous results) now that I have fully come to grips with the reality of my salvation.
The point is that emotions are generally unreliable in helping you determine if you are saved. There are changes that take place that will bear the greatest witness of your salvation. What are these changes? Well, from my studies I have found seven things that will help you discern whether that glorious change has taken place. The beautiful thing about these traits is that they are not dependent upon whether you realize that you are saved. Joy, however, does depend on your realization of salvation. The seven points listed below will definitely be in your heart if you are a child of God. It is important to understand them, as they not only help you discern if you are saved, but they also show you the direction that the Lord has for your life.
1. We do not walk in darkness (1 John 1:6-7)
It would be easy to look at this passage at first glance and assume that this verse implies walking in sin. However, I believe this verse implies not so much a walking in sin, but a walking in confusion. The reference of the lost as being "in darkness" is made repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments. As we look at these verses side by side, we see a pattern begin to emerge. Those who are in darkness: cannot understand the light (John 1:5), walk in a confused path (Psalm 82:5), and are blindly stumbling (Proverbs 4:19). There is not an inherent ability to be able to discern the spirits or to understand the word of God. This may be why we see so much perversion of scripture in the world. Men (or women) who are unsaved cannot know truth unless it has been taught to them. When they cannot grasp the truth, they often twist what they read to suit their own purposes.
This is where one who is saved is different. There has been a passing from darkness to light. After salvation, discernment of spirits is possible through an understanding of God's word. This understanding of God's word is possible through divine intervention of the Holy Spirit, which indwells a believer. Has the Lord revealed any of His word to you? Has he given you insight in situations that could have been there before? This is a mark of a change in you!
2. We know we commit sin (1 John 1:8-10)
This seems like a simple statement, but there really are two levels of "knowing" that should be examined. The first level of understanding is that we must realize we are sinners to even be saved! The bible tells someone who is lost to REPENT. How can one repent if they do not believe they have sinned? Job said, "...if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse". It seems to be abundantly clear that if a person really believes to be free of sin, there cannot have been a conversion.
On a deeper level, the child of God is reproved of sin. At salvation, a person becomes a child of God. The Lord then becomes their Father. A good father reproves his children. The Lord will surely not shirk this duty. We cannot sin without the Lord somehow letting us know it. He says in Revelation 3:19 that, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent". Does the Lord convict you of specific sin? Does it feel wrong to sin? This can be an evidence of an internal change! I am not just speaking of conscience here, but of deep-seated conviction that comes only from God.
3. We do not love the world (1 John 2:15)
Among the changes that occur at the moment of salvation is a change of heart away from the world and towards Christ. It is not possible for the Christian to find true happiness in a world that does not embrace Christ. The sinful things that seemed to be so attractive to us before no longer hold the same power over us. In fact, we do not love them! I do believe that those who are saved can fall back into sin, but it can never truly satisfy them. In fact, they may feel that life is less enjoyable than it was before salvation if they don't follow the Lord.
This is all due to the change that happens in our heart. We are no longer of this world, but are a new creature in Christ Jesus. We are literally strangers here (1Peter 1:1). Perhaps the best time to test this truth is right after salvation. Can you remember that time? Do you recall how you felt in the weeks and months following your conversion? Did you have a different attitude towards sin? Were you able to see things in a newer and better light than ever before? I clearly remember seeing sin at work in the world around me. It pierced my newborn heart! Many times, we grow cold and callused to sin around us, and it becomes hard to discern whether we really are strangers. However, look back to the beginnings and search your heart. Was there a change in your affection toward the world?
4. We confess Christ (1 John 4:15)
This essential truth must be emphasized and explained. There is no salvation without Christ. He said, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved .... "(John 10:9). On a base level, we must realize that the "believe" portion of the command for the lost to "repent and believe" is toward Christ. If someone does not believe that Jesus was God and that he came and died for our sins, salvation is impossible.
However, to gain a true understanding of this point, we must look at the word, "confess". Only a true witness can confess something in a courtroom. The only credible witness is one who has actually met Christ. In 1 John 1:1, we see the Apostle John assert his credibility to talk about Christ. He said, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life...". His is credible because he has HEARD, SEEN, LOOKED AT, and TOUCHED Jesus the Christ! We can have an equally realistic experience with him through repentance and faith. I know in whom I have believed! I have felt his peace and his presence in my heart. Are you a witness? Have you felt him in your heart? The only way you truly can experience him is through salvation!
Confessing Christ is not just saying his name in public. It is telling about your experience with him, how you KNOW that He is real. This is not just an act of the tongue, but an act of the heart expressing what it knows to be true. Do you KNOW Christ? Do you have an experience with him that you can recount (confess) to glorify his name?
5. We love the brethren (1 John 2:9-10)
This is one of the most visible ways to express the truth of salvation. Do you love your brother? What is a brother or a sister for that matter? This term expresses a relationship that exists between you and all other children of God that begins at your spiritual birth (salvation). You belong to the family of God and therefore have an internal desire to love your new brothers and sisters. There is something you share with him or her that no one else can comprehend.
In fact, Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). The distinguishing characteristic that exists among God's people is love for the brethren. How do you know if you love them? Well, look at what love is. It is a sacrificing of yourself for another without requiring recompense. Do you have a desire for the welfare of your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you willing to give to them sacrificially if it would help or encourage them?
What about those people outside of God's family? Do you desire to see them saved? This is an extension of this point, beyond our Christian family, to the world. We also read in I John that we know we are saved if we keep God's commandments. Jesus summed up these commandments by telling us to love others as he has loved us. He loved us so much that he lived a perfect life, devoting himself to teaching his people and eventually gave up his life so that we could be saved. We can love others as he loved us by striving to be a shining example of Jesus Christ in front of them and taking spirit-led opportunities to share his word with them. Is this your heart's desire? Do you love your brother? Do you want to share Jesus with the world?
6. The Spirit bears witness and leads us (Romans 8:16, Galatians 5:18)
The spirit of God is a paramount witness in our lives to our salvation. In fact, it is through the spirit that God communicates with us. A key to using this verse as a determinate in evaluating your salvation is by understanding how the spirit leads us.
Leadership of the spirit is much more than an emotion. It is a discernable voice in our heart that provides direction, magnifies Christ (John 16:13-14), and will always fall in line with the Bible (1 John 4:1). Many times people claim to feel the leadership of the spirit in an emotional service and then say and do things that don't align with the bible. Don't get this confused with true spiritual leadership.
The Spirit of God has fruits that allow us to be able to discern him. They are: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). If you are truly saved, the spirit is working to lead you. This leadership will evoke actions from you that exhibit the fruits mentioned above. Have you experienced the spirit's leadership?
7. We have peace with God (Romans 5:1)
This is one of the most beautiful truths of our salvation. Perhaps a passage that most graphically describes this is King David's account of his salvation. He said, "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow" (Psalm 116:3). Did you experience this trouble and sorrow before you were saved? This is called conviction of the spirit, and it is God's way of letting you know where you stand before Him. You are evil and wretched, and he cannot bear to look upon you because of your sin.
However, at salvation you are reconciled to God. This means that you are covered by Christ's righteousness and God is again able to look upon you and embrace you. You have PEACE with him! At that moment, this trouble and sorrow disappear. King David later said, "Return unto thy rest, Oh my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee" (Psalm 116:7). He had peace. Do you have this same peace?
It can be confusing sometimes for people who expect a flood of emotion at the moment of salvation. When they fail to get that, they are often left doubting. There is only one "feeling" that we are promised at the point of salvation, and that is peace. The feeling of joy comes after peace when you realize that you have been saved. Realistically, the feeling of joy and peace could happen almost simultaneously if you immediately recognize that you have been saved. This would explain those that we have seen rejoicing immediately after they are saved. I must again emphasize that joy is not a proof of our salvation, but a fruit of our salvation. Do you have peace with God?
In summary, when we honestly consider our own salvation and examine it against God's word, we can obtain a tremendous blessing. It can be a relief and encouragement to see what is in our heart being spelled out in the very word of God. Our joy can reach new heights, and we can move past the doubting to live a victorious and spirit-filled life.
We must recognize the reality that there are some people in the Lord's churches that call themselves Christians and are not. Even during the days that Christ led the church, there were some that falsely professed salvation (i.e. Judas Iscariot). Don't let yourself be one of these who will stand before the Lord someday and say, "Lord, Lord, haven't we prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?" He will say, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity".
In contrast, don't be left doubting your salvation just because your "experience" doesn't match someone else's. Examine your heart against the truth. If it matches, leave the doubting behind and go on to serve the Lord in boldness, doing greater things for him than you have ever imagined.
The above article was written by a young minister named James Keen
Back to Pastors View