As you reflect on your hopes and desires for 2022, a great opening question pertains to your relationship to God: "Am I really saved?" Stated another way, “Can I be sure that when I die I will go to heaven?”
New believers as well as folks who have believed in Christ for decades still ask these same questions. In hundreds of encounters with people seeking answers about this issue, I've usually interpreted their request as a plea for help in seeking assurance of their salvation.
Be encouraged. There is good news—you can have firm assurance that you are a true child of God. But before we look at the many assurances that God provides, let’s look at why so many believers struggle with this issue.
The Bible clearly spells out that there is an ongoing spiritual war for human souls. On one side is God. On the other is Satan and his demonic forces. While it may seem as though our battles in this life are with other human beings, the Apostle Paul has set us straight.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).
Satan is a fierce opponent who not only seeks to prevent people from getting saved, but also battles with all his might to shipwreck Christians and cause them to turn from God. He has developed advanced strategies and tactics toward this end. That’s why Scripture contains so many warnings about remaining vigilant.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Let’s examine a few of the powerful proofs that God provides concerning assurance for the believer. They are all backed by Scripture but will not necessarily have the same impact for all followers of Jesus. Some will connect with you more specifically than with others. I’ll only comment on the verses that need further explanation. I recommend that you read the surrounding context for each of these verses as a means of more enhanced understanding.
The Lord desires that you have full assurance of your salvation.
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
Consistent reading and study of the Bible will increase your assurance.
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Over the years, Bible study has been a huge source of assurance concerning my relationship with God. Read it, breathe it, memorize it, and obey it. Seal God’s Word in your mind and heart.
The Bible contains objective evidence for assurance as reported by reliable witnesses.
“After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6).
By far, the Bible has received more scrutiny than any other book in history. Sceptics living during Jesus’ time and up until today have attempted to disprove Jesus’ literal resurrection. They’ve failed miserably. Jesus conquered death, hell, and the grave. Only God could have done that. He raised Jesus from the dead. He will raise you and take you to heaven to be with Him forever (John 14:1-4).
Full assurance of salvation demands self-examination.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
It’s smart to get regular physical check-ups. The same principle applies to our spiritual health. You should be looking for evidence of spiritual growth to ensure that you’re producing good fruit. A couple of great places to start are Galatians 5:22,23 (fruit of the Spirit) and Paul’s description of genuine love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
Assurance of salvation grows with emphasis on the sufficiency of the Cross.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that the efficacy of Christ’s death on the Cross is nullified if Jesus did not rise from the dead. But He did die on the Cross for our sins. He was buried. He was raised from the dead. Therefore, Jesus’ work at the Cross (His death, burial, and resurrection) validates His claim to be God along with His authority to pay the penalty for our sins and restore us back into right relationship with Him. Jesus finished His work for our salvation. We don’t deserve it, and we can’t earn it. His grace is sufficient. All that God requires is that we believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him as the only Door to heaven.
God’s discipline for our sins doesn’t diminish or destroy assurance of salvation.
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11,12).
Let’s face it. None of us likes discipline, but we must admit that good discipline produces good results in every area of life. Some Christians mistakenly believe that the Lord’s discipline means that the assurance of our salvation is in jeopardy. Not so! Our Heavenly Father’s discipline is a powerful indicator that we are His children, and He lovingly uses discipline to shape us into the image of His Son.
When assurance weakens, wait patiently for its return.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:1-3).
As David described his situation in Psalm 40, you will experience hard times which will discourage you and may shake your certainty of salvation. David spoke of a slimy pit. But look what happened. David waited patiently for the Lord. God rewarded David’s trust and patience in Him by not only restoring his assurance but his joy as well. Follow David’s example. Your assurance will return, and so will your joy.
Prayer leads us into seeing and understanding God’s truth about assurance.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18,19a).
Understanding spiritual truths doesn’t happen with mere human intellect. When we pray, the Holy Spirit will give us wisdom, insight, and understanding. This especially applies to assurance. The devil, the world, and even our own flesh want to erode our assurance and convince us that God is a liar or doesn’t exist at all. Prayer is a powerful spiritual weapon. Use it!
Assurance weakens when there is unconfessed sin in your life.
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long…Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:3,5).
Even though God called David “a man after my own heart,” David learned some hard lessons about unconfessed sin. This passage reflects David’s admission that failing to confess sin causes untold pain, suffering, and guilt. Learn from David’s life. Confess your sins to God.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Isolation from others can hinder your assurance of salvation.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Everyone experiences tough times, even to the point of wanting to give up. When this happens, don’t isolate yourself. Being alone makes you an easy target for the devil. Remember, he wants to destroy you. Besides, being alone during a crisis tends to increase the likelihood of feeling like a victim or in some way allowing your own self-talk to lead you into depression and pessimism.
The Scriptures often speak about the benefits of being a part of a local body of believers. A worship community is a great place to share your burdens, sorrows, and your joys. God didn’t create you to live in isolation, but to live in community and serve others.
As you pray and fellowship together, God will boost your sense of assurance.
You must fight for assurance the rest of your life.
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6,7).
Every person on the planet is a participant in an ongoing battle between God and the forces of evil. Our enemy isn’t about to give up trying to kill, maim, and destroy. These verses from 2 Timothy underscore the need to contend for our faith until the day we die. The stronger our faith, the stronger will be our assurance of spending eternity in heaven.
Even the disciples of Jesus struggled for assurance. Jesus knew this and promised that following His death and resurrection, He would return to his Father. He assured them that He would prepare a place for them and at the appointed time would return to take them to be with Him for all of eternity.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:1-4).
Lord, I pray that all readers of this article will draw strength and encouragement regarding the assurance of their salvation. Help them to gain trust in You and in Your Word. May their hearts rest in peace as they place total trust in Your love. May they know with total certainty that one day they will be with You in heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen