Greg discusses how we can be sure of our salvation.
There is hardly a Christian alive, I imagine, who has not wondered if they were really a Christian or not. “Maybe I'm not a believer? I think I am, but maybe I'm not.” I have had that thought myself, so don't think you’re odd if that thought has crossed your mind. This raises the question, “How would I know if I really was a Christian or not?” I have a couple things that I want to offer. These are the things that I go through in my own mind because of what Scripture says.
One thing that I don't put a lot of stock in is the sinner's prayer. I think it's possible to pray the sinner's prayer and never become a Christian and regenerated. I think there are a lot of people who prayed the prayer and were like Jesus’ seed that went into the soil and sprung up quickly and then had no root, or sprung up in the thorns and never bore fruit. I think a lot of people are like that. I don’t think praying the prayer is a sign one way or another. Even if you do pray the prayer, it doesn't mean you're Christian. If you don't pray the prayer, it doesn't mean you're not. What matters is something else: Whether you put your trust in Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, to rescue you. With that in mind, there are three indicators that the Scripture offers.
One of them is simply the promise of God. Believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Simply put by Paul to the jailer in Acts 16, but stated in many other ways, “and those who have received him to them he gave the right to become children of God even to those who believe on his name.” This is the gospel of John 1. “And if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, believe in your heart God raised from the dead, you will be saved.” This is Romans 10. These are all different ways of characterizing the same thing: If the act of personal trust you put into God –you're awareness, or state, or confidence – is that Jesus rescues you, then you are rescued.
There’s a second thing. Paul talks in Romans 8 about those who are on the trajectory of the Spirit as opposed to the trajectory of the flesh. Those who are after the flesh cannot please God. It’s impossible. If you are living just like everybody else, then you're probably in trouble. You're probably going where everybody else is going. But those who are in the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh in us, our spirit cries out, “Abba Father.” So, there is a testimony in our heart that we belong to God. There's a sense that we are His.
This is subjective, I understand that, and it could be counterfeited. Some people believe Jesus is close to them, and they don't put their faith in him. That's the first requirement, the promise. They don't put their faith in him in a biblical way. Sometimes we are emotionally wounded, and sometimes we don't feel close to God. This is kind of a come-and-go kind of thing, but it's a factor.
The third thing, one that I’ve already referred to, is that trajectory James says in James 2. There are some people that say they have faith, but they have no evidence in their life. Can faith with no work save him? His answer is “no.” The demons believe, and they tremble. Just because you say certain things, if your life is not evidencing in some sense that you're on this different trajectory than the picture we see in Romans 8, then you can't claim the confidence that you are His.
If you are living consistently in a way that's in rebellion to God, for example, living in sexual rebellion to God. Calling themselves Christians, they show up at the church all the time when 1 Corinthians 6 says, “fornicators and homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom.” That's God's Word. You can make what you want of it, but notice that there is another indicator. One indicator is the straight-ahead promise of God, and God's good to that promise.
Now, if we have entered into that promise, there are going to be other things that happen. One is we are usually going to have a sense that we belong him - Abba Father, Daddy. We also are going to have some tangible evidence that our lives are on a different trajectory. If our lives are not on a different trajectory, and we are living just like everybody else, and the world's values inform our behavior, not Christ, and we are living to please the world and not Him, we can make no solace in any prayer that we might have prayed years ago or having walked forward at some altar call like that's going to settle things for eternity.
If you are not a follower of Jesus, you are not going to end up where Jesus ended up. You’re not going to end up with him. If you're following the rest of the world, you are probably going to end up where they end up. Strong words, but there's a lot at stake here, so you decide.