1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
2 Corinthians 13:5) Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
We are answering the question: “Can a Christian know for sure they have genuine saving faith?”
The answer is YES! The same way we can prove other things: tests & evidence. Of course, we can only prove this to OURSELVES with an open and honest heart. I cannot prove it for you, and you cannot prove it for me. God does not leaving us hanging with a blind hope that we might be saved. He gives us plenty of objective measurements to evaluate this in our own heart.
Today, we are going to look at things that WILL BE TRUE for the genuine Christian, but are NOT proof of genuine saving faith because they can be true for the unsaved as well.
Isn’t that a waste of time though? Not at all. All the things we will look at today SHOULD be part of your life if you are genuinely saved. But by these standards alone, you cannot have assurance of genuine faith. If you are MISSING these things, you need not go further because tomorrow’s list can NOT be true for you if today’s list is not. You’ll see what I mean as we go along.
Things That Will Be True About a Genuine Christian But Don’t PROVE You Are a Christian:
A person can be part of and engage in all manners of apparent good works and still not be saved. We can easily see examples of all sorts of people, religious or not, that spend their life engaged in good works.
In the end, God will test each man’s work with “fire” and only those works done for and by the righteousness of God that is given to the genuinely saved will survive. The rest will be burned up, shown to be worthless and dead. Just as a straw house may provide some temporary benefit, if it is put to the test, it is easily destroyed.
1 Co 3:12-13: Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. (NKJV)
Good works done by the unsaved are like that straw house. There is some temporary benefit and result, but in the end it is prove to be worthless eternally.
However, good works are absolutely part of the genuine Christian life. Some argue that emphasizing good works appeal to man’s pride, or is an effort to earn salvation. That can be true of course, but for the genuine Believer, good works are the outward manifestation of a changed heart. Good works are the manifestation of appreciation for our salvation and showing of God’s love to a hurting world. Oh yeah… we are commanded to do good works too, so that should end that arguement (read the book of James too):
1 Ti 6:18: Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, (NKJV)
A Point of Deicsion
Often we point to some act, decision or moment that appears to prove our genuine faith. I said the sinners prayer; I was baptized; I went forward at a revival to receive Jesus in to my heart.
Of course some point of decision WILL be true for all the genuinely saved but a point of decision is not proof of salvation by stretch as evidenced by the multitudes of “decisions” that are never accompanied by any long term transformation of their life. Decisions can be made from emotion, intellect, coercion or impulsiveness with no accompanying spiritual motivation.
Religious interest or ministry involvement
Being interested in God or active in Christian ministry will be true of genuine Christians, but is not PROOF of genuine salvation. I don’t have to explain the common experience of knowing folks who are routinely engaged in ministry or religious activity who are OBVIOUSLY not true Believers, or over the long haul prove they were not as their real life and real motivations come to light.
The Bible even tells us about wolves in sheeps clothing, tares among the wheat and false teachers who will all appear to be engaged in the business of the Kingdom. In Matt 25:1-10, the parable of the virgins, they were all participating in the wedding party, but in the end, the bridegroom did not recognize them as being included. In Matt 13:38-43, the tares are sown amongst the wheat, and look like wheat but in the end will be separated and burned away.
The Bible makes is abundantly clear, and indeed warns us, that there will always be “fake Christians” who give appearance of genuine faith, and most probably even believe they realy are saved (as opposed to malicious pretending).
Morality or Goodness
Morality and goodness are certainly true of genuine Christians, but the unsaved are capable of understanding right and wrong, and engaging in civil good. People who seem to lead hedonistic or even evil lives can at times show an understanding and response to what is “good”. Even death row murderers abhor pedophiles and rapists. Just about every person is capable to some degree of being “good” and grasping morality.
Let rich young ruler was a shining example of goodness. A stalward citizen, a religious man, good in every way… but still lost:
Mt 19:16-26: Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (NKJV)
I would guess this unsaved man was actually “gooder” than most of us. But he was unsaved because his heart was not transformed and he valued something more highly than God.
If we have genuine saving faith, then goodness and high morals WILL be true of us but they are not PROOF of genuine saving faith.
Knowledge of the Facts
Having a working knowledge of Christian facts, the Gospel message or Biblical education is true for the genuinely saved, but can be true of the unsaved too. Religious organizations, colleges and churches can be filled with people who KNOW the right things but have not been transformed by them. The Bible tells us clearly of multitudes of people who should and do know about God intellectually and still reject Him:
Ro 1:20-21: For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (NKJV)
We all know people who “know” about Jesus, who “know” the Gospel, who “know” the Truth but still reject or ignore it. You must have the right knowledge to have genuine saving faith, but that knowledge alone is no proof of genuine saving faith.
Contrition or Conviction About Sin
A person can be sorry about their sin, recognize it, and even try to do something about it without being genuinely saved. It is a fleshly act done in human power and will ultimately fail (just as all our decisions, convictions and efforts done separate from God’s power ultimately fail).
Often we see people aware of their sin who try some human act of restitution, sacrifice or penance in an attempt to satisfy their genuine guilt and shame. While it seem selfless on the surface, it is in reality totally self-centered because it is an attempt to merit grace by our own acts/choices of contrition. It is ultimately prideful because it declares “I can pay for sin my own way, not God’s.”
Paul spoke the truth to Felix and he obviously was convicted about it but told Paul to get lost:
Ac 24:25: Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” (NKJV)
Personal Feeling of Assurance
A genuine Christian can experience true assurance of salvation (that’s what this lesson is about) but even the unsaved can wrongly be “sure” they are saved because they are basing it on the wrong test, the wrong evidence or on the wrong reasons.
In Matt 23, the religious leaders were SURE of their standing with God for all the wrong reasons: self righteousness, birth, knowledge, privilege, etc. We can be SURE of our salvation based on many erroneous “proofs”:
- I prayed a prayer
- I was baptized
- I’m part of the right group, church or organization
- Because of my family background
- I’ve always been told I was saved
- I really sincerely FEEL I am saved
- Someone else says I am saved
- Anecdotal evidence (my life is going well, so God must be pleased)
All the things we’ve looked at today are things that WILL be true of genuine saving faith, but are not PROOF of genuine saving faith. The unsaved can exhibit this things as well. Tomorrow we will look at the evidence of genuine saving faith.
Lord God, help us to examine are lives to make sure we have these evidences of saving faith but help us NOT to lean on them as false proof. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?