Am I saved? Seven tests to know!

“Am I saved?”

This is one of the most important questions we can ask. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said many people are deceived about the answer:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul commands: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” Here are seven ways to do that, but first, two introductory points:

  1. I taught messages on five of the tests during Sunday School at Woodland Christian Church. The other two tests will be taught in October. I also provided links for the messages below.
  2. First John was written, “that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). As a result, 1 John is referenced more than any other book.

Test 1: Have I experienced godly sorrow that produces repentance?

Here’s the accompanying message.

Repentance is required for salvation, and it comes from godly sorrow over our sin:

2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly sorrow produces death.

Worldly sorrow is the sorrow in:

  • Courtrooms across the country when the verdict is read
  • Children when they find out they’re going to be punished
  • Adults when they find out they’re going to suffer because of something they’ve done

Basically, worldly sorrow is regret or shame, not because of the sin itself, but because of the consequences. It has no redemptive value.

Godly sorrow on the other hand involves sorrow over the sin, because there’s understanding the sin was committed against a holy, loving God. Godly sorrow desires victory over sin, and as a result it produces a change of mind about the sin; a turning from it. Repentance.

“Sorrow” is synonymous with regret, and Paul says godly sorrow won’t later cause regret; it won’t later cause more sorrow. Why? Because it “produces repentance that leads to salvation.”

Test 2: Has my repentance produced fruit?

Here’s the accompanying message.

Ephesians 2:9-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Even though we aren’t saved by works, they  are one of the strongest evidences of being saved. I’m amazed by the number of people confident in salvation that lacks fruit. Could be the salvation of a parent, child, sibling, or even their own. Three times James said, “faith without works is dead” (2:17, 20, 26).

Test 3: Has my faith persevered through trials?

This message had two parts: Part I and Part II.

While none of us enjoy trials (which is why James 1:2 commands us to “count” them as joy versus “feel” joy), one of the blessings from them is the greater confidence they can give us in our salvation:

  • James 1:3 says trials “[test] your faith.” In what sense? To see if it survives trials.
  • 1 Peter 1:7 says trials “prove” or “reveal” the “genuineness of our faith.”

When our faith survives trials we can rejoice regarding our faith being tested and proved.

Conversely, in Matthew 13:21 Jesus said the seed that fell on rocky ground didn’t survive when trials arose. Just as trials reveal the sincerity of faith, they also reveal when faith is insincere.

Test 4: Is my life characterized by obedience?

Here’s the accompanying message.

Just like Christians never reach a place of perfect sinlessness, they also never reach a place of perfect obedience; however, just like believers can avoid lives characterized by sin, they can also have lives characterized by obedience:

  • Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments (1 John 2:3).
  • He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:4).
  • But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked (1 John 2:5-6).
  • Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous (1 John 3:7).

Test 5: Do I practice sinning?

This message had two parts: Part I and Part II.

Scripture does a tremendous job providing balance, and sin in a believer’s life is one of those balanced areas.

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

We never stopping sinning completely and to believe differently is a lie, but at the same time Scripture makes clear that believers can’t have lives characterized by sin.

  • If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6).
  • And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3).
  • Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him (1 John 3:6).
  • He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God (1 John 3:8-9).

John means, “he cannot keep on sinning,” establishing a pattern, or lifestyle of sin. That’s an impossibility for believers.

Paul communicates the same truth. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 he lists a number of sins – lying, idolatry, homosexuality, thieving, drunkenness – that prevent people from inheriting the kingdom of God. Then in verse 10 he says, And such were some of you.” After we become Christians our lives can no longer be characterized by those sins.

Test 6: Do I hunger and thirst spiritually?

This message had two parts: Part I and Part II.

None of us always feel like praying, reading the Bible, going to church, or being in fellowship, but we should have a regular desire for these spiritual activities. Assuming people have put their faith in Christ, they should look forward to worshiping the Lord who saved them. There’s only one group of people who don’t hunger and thirst for truth for these spiritual activities and that’s the unregenerate.

Test 7: Do I understand spiritual truths?

Believers have received the Divine Teacher:

  • John 14:26 The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
  • 1 John 2:27 The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

Saved individuals will have at least some grasp of spiritual truths. We’re not talking about every believer being a tremendous theologian, but we are talking about a spiritual illumination of basic truths. As much as spiritual blindness is an evidence of being unsaved, spiritual sight is evidence of being saved.

Conclusion

I’m thankful for the tests God provides in His Word. They should give some greater confidence in their salvation, while making others question whether they’re truly saved. My prayer is this post helps both groups!

Discussion Questions

If you have any questions or thoughts please be sure to leave them in the comments below!

  • Can you think of any other tests?
  • When you administer these tests to yourself, what comes to mind?
  • Think of some individuals in Scripture we’d consider to be saved:
    • Which tests did they pass?
    • Are there tests they seemed to have failed?

Responding in Anger

Responding in Anger After King Jeroboam set up his golden calves and introduced the nation into idolatry (1 Kin 12:25-33), a prophet was sent to rebuke him and give him a sign that the altar he’d recently built would split apart (1 Kin 13:3). At that point Jeroboam faced the same two choices we face when we’re confronted:

  1. Be humble and repent.
  2. Get angry at the person confronting us.

You can probably guess his choice…

1 Kings 13:4 When King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God [he said], “Arrest him!” Then his hand, which he stretched out toward him, withered, so that he could not pull it back to himself.

Proverbs 9:8 says, “Do not correct a scoffer or he will hate you” and that’s exactly what happened with Jeroboam.

When we’re confronted we might all feel like pointing at the person and saying, “Arrest him!” but the verse shows how God felt about Jeroboam responding the way he did, and I believe it’s instructive regarding how God feels when we respond angrily when we’re confronted.

1 Kings 13:5 The altar also was split apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.

Jeroboam’s anger didn’t change anything: the prophecy still came true. And the same is true for us: getting angry doesn’t change anything. Usually it just makes things worse. This is exactly what happened with Jeroboam:

  • He continued with his wickedness: 1 Kings 13:33 After this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way.
  • His lack of repentance led to his death and the death of his descendants: 1 Kings 13:34 [Jeroboam’s sin] led to the destruction of his house from the face of the earth.
  • Jeroboam’s son Nadab became king, he was murdered by Baasha who took the throne in his place, and that was the end of Jeroboam’s dynasty (1 Kin 15:25-33).

If Jeroboam had repented instead of getting angry, he and his descendants could’ve been spared judgment, but he’s an example of what Proverbs clearly shows: responding poorly to correction always leads to terrible consequences…

  • Proverbs 13:18a Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction.
  • Proverbs 15:10b He who hates correction will die.
  • Proverbs 15:32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul. Why does it say this? Because the consequences of getting angry when corrected are so severe it’s almost like punishing yourself.
  • Proverbs 29:1 He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

The next time you feel yourself getting angry, remember your anger won’t improve anything. It will probably just make things worse: James 1:20 the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

The situation with Jeroboam can serve as an example…

When we’re confronted and we feel ourselves getting angry – we want to point at our husband or wife or children or parents or friends or coworkers – picture Jeroboam pointing at the man of God and having his hand wither as a result.

  • Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger…be put away from you.
  • Colossians 3:8 Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice…9 since you have put off the old man…10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.

When we respond in anger we’re forgetting who we are in Christ and we’re living as the old man instead of the new one.

Fasting in Response to Sin?

Fasting in response to sin

Yesterday’s sermon briefly discussed restitution and whether it’s an appropriate response to sin. This got me thinking about other responses to sin (besides the most obvious: repentance), and in particular, fasting. If you’d like a more detailed discussion of fasting please listen to these two sermons I preached:

  1. 3/30/14 “When you fast…”
  2. 4/6/14 Fasting and Food

For now I just want to discuss the two instances in Scripture of people fasting following sin…

The first situation involves – believe it or not – King Ahab, one of the wickedest men in the Old Testament. He learned he was going to be judged by God and “He tore his clothes…and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning. [God said], ‘Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days.’” (1 Kin 21:27-29).

The second situation involves one of the wickedest groups of people in the Old Testament: the Ninevites. When they learned they were going to be judged it says, “[They] believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jon 3:5, 10).

In both situations the people’s actions clearly pleased God, but it’s important to know it wasn’t their fasting that moved God:

  • In Ahab’s case it was his grieving and humility that delayed judgment.
  • With the Ninevites it was their mourning and repentance that brought God’s forgiveness.

The real question is whether fasting is an appropriate response to sin for us, Church Age Believers? The answer is…maybe. While it seemed to be pleasing to God in the Old Testament, we don’t see it commanded, encouraged, or even modeled in the New Testament as an appropriate response to sin. The closest verse would be Jesus’ words about fasting when mourning: “The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days” (Luke 5:35). If mourning is an appropriate time to fast, and you happen to be mourning over your sin, then it could be appropriate to fast too. For many people if they’re really upset about what they did, they probably don’t feel like eating anyway.

Finally, I think it’s very important to point out this isn’t penance. You don’t fast to be forgiven. Forgiveness only comes from what Jesus has done, and not from anything we could do.

Jesus was a physician, not a close friend

Jesus was not a close friend, but a physician to sinners.
Jesus was not a close friend, but a physician to sinners.

Was Jesus close friends with sinners and tax collectors? We know He associated with them, but a closer inspection reveals He wanted to be their Physician.

After Jesus called Levi (Matthew) to follow Him, Luke 5:29-32 records…

Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Jesus knew people were desperately sick and in need healing, and He is a Physician for sinners.

  • Other physicians heal physical sickness, but Jesus heals spiritual sickness.
  • Other physicians work on the body, but Jesus works on the soul.

Before Jesus physically healed the paralytic, He first healed him spiritually: “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:17-26). Despite how terrible the man looked physically, He looked even worse spiritually. Jesus dealt with the man’s greatest need.

A physician desires to see healing take place.

Thinking about the relationship between physicians and patients reveals why Jesus’ analogy is perfect. A physician doesn’t walk in to a patient’s room, give the patient a hug, or chitchat for a few hours. Instead:

  • A physician investigates. He comes in with a clipboard. He asks questions. He takes notes. He finds out what’s wrong. He diagnoses the problem.
  • A physician will get close to his patients, but he makes every effort to ensure he isn’t infected by them. He puts on gloves and possibly a mask.
  • A physician has a very specific purpose and desire: to help. He wants to see healing take place.

Likewise, patients don’t say, “I’m going to call my physician and see if he wants to catch a football game.” Instead, the sick say, “I need to see a physician. I want him to tell me what’s wrong and provide me with a prescription.”

What is the prescription for sinners? Jesus mentioned that in His response to the religious leaders: “I have come to call sinners to repentance.”

Repentance is becoming an ugly word in the church today, but in Scripture it’s the cure for sinners.

A Physician who seeks the sick

1 Timothy 1:15 Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

This was Jesus’ purpose. The religious leaders criticized Him for being with tax collectors and sinners, but considering who He was and what He wanted to do, any other behavior wouldn’t have made sense:

  • Pediatricians help children.
  • Veterinarians help animals.
  • Physicians help sick people.

If Jesus would’ve stayed away from sinners like the religious leaders wanted, He would’ve looked like a pediatrician staying away from children or a veterinarian staying away from animals.

The religious leaders couldn’t be more different than Jesus. They tried to stay as far away from sinners as possible. The sad irony is if they were as righteous – or spiritually healthy – as they thought they were, they should’ve been the most concerned with the sick. They’re the ones who should’ve been with sinners and tax collectors, trying to help them. Imagine doctors that avoid sick people because they think they’re too healthy for them.

One reason Jesus might have chosen Matthew (Levi) is he was a tax collector. This made Jesus look sensitive to sinners. When people saw Jesus with him, they knew He wouldn’t turn them away.

Jesus was going to die for sinners, and He manifested His love for them by seeking them out. But He sought them out not to be close friends with them. Instead, He desired to be their Physician and see them spiritually healed.

Do you see other examples of this behavior from Jesus or the disciples? What application does this have for us? Share any thoughts below!

You can listen to the sermon this is drawn from here.

2 Examples of Receiving Correction Well

The bible has a lot to say about the importance of receiving correction well. Consider the following verses just from the Book of Proverbs:

  • Rebuke a mocker and he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you—Proverbs 9:8-9
  • Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid—Proverbs 12:1
  • He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored—Proverbs 13:18
  • A fool spurns discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence—Proverbs 15:5
  • He who hates correction will die—Proverbs 15:10b
  • He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise—Proverbs 15:31-32
  • A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool—Proverbs 17:10
  • Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise—Proverbs 19:20
  • Rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge—Proverbs 19:25b
  • When a wise man is instructed, he gets knowledge—Proverbs 21:11b
  • Like a an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear—Proverbs 25:12
  • A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed – without remedy—Proverbs 29:1

Two recent examples of people receiving correction well…

A young man asked me to listen to a message he preached. I was a little hesitant to do so for two reasons: Continue reading “2 Examples of Receiving Correction Well”

3 reasons conversion doesn’t involve restitution

One of the more common questions I receive as a pastor sounds like this: “What sort of restitution do I need to make for my sins after conversion? I committed all these sins before becoming a Christian, so what should I do about them now?” Here’s the most recent question I received on this subject:

Scott,

As I reflect on my past and my many sins I am more aware of how wretched and worthless I am. I am also convicted of sins I wonder If I need to undo.

For example, when I was 16 and I worked at Ross I stole clothes. I am pretty sure I don’t own any of those clothes now, nor do I know the amount or worth of what I took. However, will I go to hell if I don’t find a way to pay them back? There are so many other things I could list.

I feel like my past is like Humpty dumpty, and I can’t fix it.

Here’s my response…

I’ve never thought much about going back and making right all – or even some – of the sins I committed before my conversion. The closest I can think of relates to a girl (and her family) I hurt badly about fifteen years ago. Two years ago, I decided to message the mother on Facebook and ask her to forgive me. I would’ve messaged the girl too, but I thought hearing from me would probably cause more pain than comfort. I did invite the mother to share with her daughter how sorry I was if she thought that best.

Here are the three reasons restitution doesn’t need to follow conversion…

First, restitution doesn’t need to follow conversion because there are too many sins to count.

Nobody can remember all the sins they’ve committed. Even if they could – like the previously mentioned theft from Ross – we wouldn’t have the means to make them right. When I was saved I knew the importance of living for Christ and dealing with the sin currently in my life, but past sins are in the past. They’re paid for by Christ.

For most of us it would take the rest of our lives trying to “fix” our previous sins. My heart would really have to break for any deathbed conversions: “I want to be saved, but I don’t have the time to…”

Second, restitution doesn’t need to follow conversion because Zacchaeus is descriptive, not prescriptive.

We can experience many problems in the Christian life when we look at accounts in Scripture and we’re commanded to do the same. For example, the early church shared all their possessions and lived very communally (Acts 4:32). This is descriptive, but not prescriptive (commanded). Zacchaeus is another example. He chose to repay the people he ripped off. Luke 19:8 says:

Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

We’re not commanded to be like Zacchaeus though. He did this on his own and not even at Jesus’ encouragement.

Third, restitution doesn’t need to follow conversion because salvation involves repentance, not restitution.

Salvation must involve repentance, which means turning from our sins. As a result, when we’re saved we should make a great effort to ensure patterns of sin in our lives are broken. But nothing in Scripture says repentance also means going back and fixing the mistakes we’ve made.

If restitution was required for salvation not only could nobody be saved, salvation wouldn’t be by grace through faith. The point of the famous hymn, “Just As I Am” is God wants us as we are, not as we would be after we make some number of things right. We don’t have to do anything to be accepted by God, except repent and turn to Christ in faith.

With that said, restitution could need to follow conversion if…

The Holy Spirit could burden you to make some form of restitution for past sins:

  • Ask for forgiveness from someone you’ve hurt
  • Repay someone for something you’ve stolen
  • Tell someone the truth after a lie you’ve told
  • Try to fix the reputation of someone you’ve slandered

If God convicts you to perform some form of restitution, by all means obey the Lord.

Discuss:

  • Has the Lord ever burdened you to make some form of restitution? Can you share the details?
  • Can you think of some other ways God might convict people to make restitution?