How to Know you are Saved
(adapted from an article titled "Examine yourself" by John MacArthur gty.org. )
Are you a Christian?
In some places in our world a person will be killed for answering this question in the affirmative.
But here in the United States, at least for a while longer- It is still acceptable to say yes to that question without fear.
A recent Gallup pole suggests that 77% of the population of the United States identifies with the Christian Religion.
by Frank Newport
PRINCETON, NJ -- The large majority of Americans -- 77% of the adult population -- identify with a Christian religion, including 52% who are Protestants or some other non-Catholic Christian religion, 23% who are Catholic, and 2% who affiliate with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Another 18% of Americans do not have an explicit religious identity and 5% identify with a non-Christian religion.
However, lest we begin to celebrate prematurely- Let's realize that the large majority of these self proclaimed Christians are not actually Christians at all.
A recent Barna survey states that among American self proclaimed Christians, less than half believe that Jesus was sinless. 66% don't believe in the Holy Spirit, and according to a Pew Forum survey, 57% of evangelical Christians believe that many religions- not just Christianity- can lead to eternal life.
These findings are only a problem if you are concerned about agreeing with the word of God. For most American so called Christians- it isn't a problem because they actually aren't Christians and don't believe that the Bible is God's word.
Well isn't that a little arrogant of you to think that your truth is the only truth?
What a ridiculous thing to say. First off it isn't my truth- All truth IS truth and all truth is God's truth.
Since long before Aristotle, people have realized that all communication would be essentially meaningless without the principal of non contradiction.
A thing cannot both be A and not-A at the same time and in the same sense.
A thing cannot both exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense.
A statement cannot both be true and not true at the same time and in the same sense.
The reality is, most people who say they are Christians are not.
Therefore, there is a common and very strong misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian.
So what does it mean? To be a Christian?
Well first the word itself means "little Christ" and it was given to the followers of Jesus in the town of Antioch as an insult by the non believers.
I can hear them now: "They're bunch of little messiahs running around trying to save everyone."
That is how they described the believers.
Turning the other cheek, the believers gladly accepted the insult as a compliment and continued "running around trying to save everyone."
But what are we trying to communicate when we ask if someone is a Christian in todays world?
Do you believe? Believe what? Believe in Jesus? Jesus who? Jesus Christ. Which version? What color?
Have you accepted Christ? I accept Master Card and Visa, why not Jesus as well?
Do you go to church? Which Church? Have you had your first communion? Your confirmation?
Have you been immersed in water?
It's not an easy question: Are you a Christian?
Maybe a simpler question might be
What makes you a Christian?
Many people who claim to be point to some event in the past to substantiate their claim.
"I walked the aisle to the front and I prayed the sinners prayer, I invited Jesus into my heart"
That may be a good starting point but having invited Jesus into your heart at some time in the past does not assure that you have been saved.
No where in Scripture are we commanded to invite Jesus into our hearts or to pray a certain prayer in order to be saved. Yet many true Christians have done just this!
What makes you a Christian? Is it how you feel in your heart?
Actually No. Feelings may or may not accompany real or counterfeit salvation.
Feelings are not a good gauge as to whether you're a Christian.
Isn't that a question that each person needs to answer within themselves?
No that is wrong- we must not attempt to answer that question- Am I saved- by looking inward. We must answer that question by seeking God's truth from His word.
The Apostle Paul teaches us in 2 Cor 13:5
2 Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)
5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-unless indeed you fail the test?
Why would he tell us to test ourselves unless there is a need?
If we could have been saved by doing something one time in the past, like saying a prayer, or getting baptized or whatever- Why would the Apostle Paul talk about someone failing the test?
Commenting about this verse, John MacArthur states:
"He would not have said that- if some event in the past were obviously the answer. The Bible never verifies anyone's salvation by the past- but by the present. If there is no evidence of salvation in your life now, you need to face the fact that you may not be a Christian. You need to examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith."
You may say " But I believe in God and Jesus- I have faith"
That's a good thing- and certainly necessary however that doesn't mean you are saved.
James 2:19 (NIV)
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.
So How does one test themselves to see if they are in the faith?
Jesus shows us in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5,6 & 7).
If you want to know if you're a Christian, compare your life with the standard Christ presents in the sermon on the mount. Those three chapters set the religious establishment of Israel on their ears. They knew they couldn't do what Jesus was teaching- that would take a miracle! The kind of righteousness Jesus was advocating was beyond what anybody could do- even the ultra religious Pharisees of Jesus day.
But isn't that the point? No one is righteous- our best attempt at righteousness is nothing better than filthy. We need a new kind of righteousness and a different kind of power if we are going to start meeting the kind of righteousness we see in Matthew 5,6 &7.
Romans 3:21-24 (NIV)
21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
True Righteousness is The Distinguishing Mark of a Christian
Before Jesus was born, the religious leaders of Israel had already decided what it meant to live righteously. They had developed a system which was contrary to Scripture based on self- righteousness generated by doing good works. When Jesus entered the world, He shattered their religious system by upholding the standard revealed in God's Word. He revealed how a citizen of His Kingdom really lives.
If you want to know if you're a Christian, compare your life with the standard Christ presents in the Sermon on the Mount.
One word summarizes His standard: righteousness. Examine the lives of many professing Christians, and you'll find no such righteousness.
Righteousness characterizes true conversion.
Matthew 5:20, the key verse in the Sermon on the Mount, says,
Matthew 5:20 (NIV)
20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The scribes and Pharisees went to the Temple regularly, paid tithes, fasted, and prayed constantly. But Christ wasn't impressed with their religious performance. He said no one would enter His Kingdom whose righteousness didn't exceed theirs. Righteousness--living by God's standards--is what sets a person apart as God's child.
Hebrews 12:14 (NIV)
14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
2 Timothy 2:19 (NIV)
19 Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."
Titus 1:16 (NIV)
16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.
A person's profession of Christ means nothing apart from obedience and holiness. Some people believe you can come to Jesus Christ without a consequent change in life-style. But God expects a transformation.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
1 John 1:9 (NIV)
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Being righteous doesn't mean you never sin; it means you confess your sin to the Lord, repent of it, and despise it.
1 John 2:3-4 (NIV)
3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.
4 The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
John 14:15 (NIV)
15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command.
1 John 2:9 (NIV)
9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.
1 John 3:9 (NIV)
9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
The Bible makes it clear that those who are genuinely saved are righteous and holy. They still sin, but with decreasing frequency.
A true believer hates his sin and repents of it, hungering and thirsting for what is right. He obeys God, loves his brother, and hates the evil world system.
No one can be a Christian and continue living the way he did before he knew Christ.
Making a decision years ago, going to an inquiry room, walking an aisle, or reading a tract on how to accept Christ is not a biblical criterion for salvation--the issue is what your life is like right now.
If sin and unrighteousness characterize your life, there is a possibility you are a disobedient Christian--but there is a greater possibility you are not a Christian at all.
The Proper Entrance into Christ's Kingdom
In Matthew 5:3 Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
The Greek text indicates that the Kingdom belongs only to those who are poor in spirit. Only those who admit their spiritual bankruptcy and sinfulness can enter the Kingdom. Being "poor in spirit" speaks of being poverty stricken in one's spirit.
Verse 4 shows the result of that inner poverty: "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." Only those who are broken and mournful over their sin ever receive salvation.
Meekness, produced by the crushing weight of one's sin, also characterizes a person entering the Kingdom (v. 5).
When a person is poor in spirit, mournful about his sin, and meek, then he will hunger and thirst after righteousness, and he will be filled (v. 6).
If you didn't come to Jesus Christ shattered over your sinfulness, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness, you are not a Christian.
Some people come to Christ as if they are doing Him some great favor. But whoever wants to come to Jesus must come on His terms: mourning over his sin, and desiring righteousness.
When someone comes on those terms, the Lord transforms him from the inside to the outside, making him able to walk in that new kind of righteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 5:13-14 Christ referred to believers as "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world."
A Christian's life- style will be easily distinguishable from the world's. Just as salt preserves decaying meat, Christians are a preservative in the midst of a decaying civilization.
One reason the prophesied Great Tribulation of the end times will be so terrible is the preserving effect of the church will be gone.
Christ compares His disciples to a light set on a hill
and salt that has retained its saltiness.
Is it evident to those around you that your life is different, or do you do the same things they do?
If your life didn't change when you were supposedly saved, then you aren't really a Christian.
A child of God is characterized by obedience.
Matthew 5:17-19 (NIV)
17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Christ's point is this: if you are truly saved, you will be obedient. You will have an overwhelming desire to submit to God's Word.
Matthew 5:21-32 maintains that if you have really been converted, you will think differently.
This new kind of Righteousness was different from what the Pharisees taught.
Matthew 5:21 (NIV)
21 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'
A believer doesn't even desire to hurt anyone--let alone kill--because he has received a different heart! He's no longer a slave to sin!
Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NIV)
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
In Matthew 5:27-28 Christ says that a Christian is not to commit adultery or even entertain adulterous thoughts.
Someone who claims to be a Christian and continues to be immoral will never inherit the Kingdom of God
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders
10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Until you are broken over your sinfulness and crawl into Christ's Kingdom hungering for righteousness, you will never know what true redemption is.
In Matthew 5:33-37 Christ discusses perjury and keeping one's oaths. He emphasized that true conversion produces pure and truthful speech,
In Matthew 5:38-47 He adds that a citizen of His Kingdom doesn't retaliate but is kind. He loves his neighbor (v. 43), and even his enemies (v. 44). The goal is for believers to be like God (v. 48).
No one is a Christian because he went forward at a meeting and signed a card, or because a counselor said he was. In fact, a counselor should never assure someone he is saved after that person verbally commits his life to Christ. No counselor can be sure of that. It is the Holy Spirit's job to grant assurance to a believer. He grants it by an inward testimony
Romans 8:16 (NIV)
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
And the reality of that inward transformation is accompanied by an outward demonstration of righteousness impossible for one who is still dead in their sins.
James 2:17 says that "faith, if it hath not works, is dead."
Evidence of salvation is always present in a true believer.
Sincere Worship (Matt. 6:1- 18)
A believer demonstrates the right kind of worship . His worship of God is genuine, in contrast to that of the Pharisees, whose only concern was attracting attention to their spirituality.
A Christian gives of his resources because He loves God, not because he craves public recognition (6:1-4).
His prayers aren't hypocritical but a sincere expression of his heart (6:5-15). Also he doesn't need for others to know that he's fasting (6:16-18).
A Biblical Perspective of Money and Materialism
According to Matthew 6:19-24 the citizens of Christ's Kingdom don't love money: they do not lay up for themselves "treasures upon earth" (v. 19). They refuse to serve money because they know it's impossible to serve both it and God (v. 24).
If you have committed your life to acquiring wealth, you are not a servant of God.
If you are a friend of the world, you are an enemy of God (James 4:4).
If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you (1 John 2:15 ).
Matthew 6:25-34 adds that Christians are not to be preoccupied with the necessities of life. They know God takes care of those things vv. 31-32).
An Uncritical Love of Others
Matthew 7:1-12 emphasizes that genuine believers have good relationships. They don't constantly misjudge other people and act pious toward them while ignoring their own problems.
Christians are known for loving others
Perhaps after this survey of what Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount, you are wondering how anyone could ever live like that.
If you're thinking it's impossible to do all those things, that's the very response the Lord wants.
After confronting a rich young ruler with his materialism, Jesus said this:
Matthew 19:23-26 (NIV)
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
24 Again I tell 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."
It's impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle! That's exactly what the Lord wanted people to conclude.
Verses 25-26 say, 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
26 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
No man has the resources within himself to live up to God's standards. That's why we have to cast ourselves on the mercy of God. The rich young ruler in Matthew 19 wasn't willing to do that. He wanted to enter the Kingdom but on his terms. However, that's like trying to put a camel through the eye of a needle.
The only way into the Kingdom is by becoming broken in spirit, mournful, and eager for a righteousness that you can't attain and don't deserve.
Most people don't want to meet those conditions. They want to do things their way.
That's like a man trying to get through the turnstile into the Kingdom of Heaven while holding tightly to 4 huge pieces of luggage-marked Worldliness, Sin, Satan, and Self
They want in so they can have happiness and stay out of hell,
but they want in on their terms.
However, the Lord said,
Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
13 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
Many people enter through the wide gate because they can take their baggage of good works and self-righteousness with them.
Verse 14 continues, 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. The Greek word translated "narrow" literally means "compressed." You have to strip yourself of everything to go through the narrow gate.
Some people are suffering from A Deceptive Illusion of Eternal Life
Notice that the broad way leading to destruction is not marked as the way to hell-People think it's the way to heaven!
People get on the broad road because it doesn't require a change of life-style.
You simply have to say you made a decision, said a prayer, were baptized, went forward at a meeting, or signed a card.
The sad thing is that many people are on that road.
But the way that leads to life is restrictive, and very few find it.
If you still cling to your worldliness and self-righteousness, you're on the wrong road.
You may think you're headed to heaven and that your good works will get you in.
Jesus says, Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)
21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Many people won't discover until it's too late that they were on the wrong road.
If you think you're saved, but your life isn't headed in that direction-
If your life is not characterized by an increase in Righteousness and a hatred for sin-
It may be time right now to start at the beginning-
Acts 2:37-38 (NIV)
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
As Peter said, "Be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you" (2 Peter 1:10 ; New American Standard Bible ).