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Ro. 8:35, 37-39; 1Jn. 5:11-13
Duration:22 mins 25 secs

 

In a world of uncertainty, confusion, and subjectivity that says, "There are no absolutes," people can become hungry to know some things for sure--facts in which they can have confidence; truths about which they are secure.  Advertisers know this. Consequently they sell their products with slogans like:

  • You can be sure if it's Westinghouse!
  • When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight!  (FedEx)
  • Because so much is riding on your tires.  (Michelin)
  • Get a piece of the rock! (Prudential)
  • Raise your hand if you're sure! (Sure deodorant)

Such slogans try to convince & reassure us that a particular product can always be counted on to work properly and to our satisfaction.

Security in our relationships is even more important to us.  We want to know we can count on our parents, our spouse, our children, our friends, ...and God! There is no more important knowledge than the confidence that our eternal well-being is settled.

Unfortunately for many--even many Christians--it is anything but certain.  There is a common misconception that one cannot know whether or not he is saved until life is over and it's too late to do anything about it.  That is, they mistakenly understand salvation to be a day-to-day (or even moment-to-moment) provision thinking a Christian can pop in and out of salvation like a double-jointed finger.  People who believe that live in the fear of dying on a "bad day" before they've asked forgiveness for their latest sin.

Or as Max Lucado describes it; "Many Christians live with a deep-seated anxiety about eternity.  They think they are saved, hope they are saved, but still doubt, wondering, Am I really saved?

"Our behavior gives us reason to wonder.  We are strong one day, weak the next. Devoted one hour, flagging the next.  Believing, then unbelieving."

Many years ago in my first summer youth ministry, I realized this flawed concept of salvation is what kept a group of teens with whom I worked from effectively sharing their faith with others.  Although they knew what Christ had done to purchase our salvation, and had taken the necessary steps to appropriate it for themselves, they were uncertain whether they would go to heaven should they die that day.  No wonder their witness to others was unconvincing and ineffective! Why should an unbeliever trust Christ for salvation when those who claimed to have done what He asked did not exhibit confidence about their own eternity?

Can a person ever really know in this life whether or not he/she is saved eternally?  YES!!

 

I.

It is possible to know you are saved!

Over and over the Bible presents salvation not just as a possibility, but as a certainty for those who accept it on God's terms of faith and obedience.

  • "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (Jn. 3:16).  Does that leave room for any uncertainty?
  • Mark 16:16 records Jesus' own words; "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved..."  In Jn. 5:24 He said, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."  He made similar statements in Jn. 3:36; 4:14; 6:40,47.
  • In the passage from 1 Jn. 5 that was read as part of our Scripture text for today John says the very reason he wrote his letter was so that Christians could know they were saved.  "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 Jn. 5:13).
  • John wrote something very similar toward the end of the gospel that bears his name; "30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." (Jn. 20:30-31).

We could go on and on about the promises God makes regarding eternal rewards for the righteous.  In the description of the sheep & goat judgment, Jesus said the wicked "will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Mt. 25:25:46).  My friends, God does not lie about anything!  Heb. 6:18 tells us it is "impossible" for God to lie.!

God does not want you to be uncertain about your eternal destiny.  That's one reason so much is said about heaven (and hell) in the Bible.  In Jn. 14:2-3 Jesus said, "2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And 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."

Consider Paul's comments to  Timothy at a time most all scholars believe was shortly before Paul's death.  "...I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day." (2 Tim. 1:12).  Or again, "7I have fought the good right, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:7-8).  Do those sound like the words of someone who was unsure about his salvation?

As Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was being stoned to death, the Bible says he "55...looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'" (Ac. 7:55-56).

Many of the hymns we sing express a similar confidence;

  • "When we all get to heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be."  (Not "If we all get to heaven...")
  • "In the sweet by & by we shall meet on that beautiful shore."  (Not "Maybe we'll meet...")
  • "Now I belong to Jesus. Jesus belongs to me..." (Not "I think I belong to Jesus...")
  • "We shall behold him." (Not "We might behold him.")

Some of you are probably thinking, "Yes Rodney, but I'm not a Stephen or an apostle Paul or even like those hymn writers.  They are far more righteous than I."  No they're not!  Like you and I, they are all sinners.  The same grace that saved them has saved you too (if you've claimed it in faith and obedience).  If you've been washed in the blood of Jesus at baptism through faith, you cannot be any more righteous than you already are, for you have already appropriated the righteousness of Christ!

Paul told the Philippian Christians he wanted to be found in Christ not having a righteousness of his own "but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." (Phil. 3:9).  And he prayed that they would be "filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:11).

In Romans 3, he wrote; "There is no one righteous, not even one;... [and a few verses later] But now a righteousness from God apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." (Ro. 3:10, 21-22).

Many mistakenly think that while they are initially saved by grace, they subsequently continue to be justified only by means of their own effort, good deeds, and sinlessness.  WRONG!! It's grace from start to finish, folks. There's no other way! "All our righteous acts are like filthy rags." (Isa. 64:6; Ro. ).  They may be our grateful response to God's grace, and an indication of our saving faith, but as a basis for entrance into heaven they won't cut it.  At the end of the day, like those in Jesus' parable of Lk. 17, "So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" (Lk. 17:10).

But we don't have to be ashamed because we have traded our "filthy rags" for Christ's righteousness.  Gal. 3:27 says "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."  Hot dog!  When God looks at me, He only sees Jesus because I have been "clothed with Christ!"

Virgil Warren writes, "The assurance of salvation lies more in God than in ourselves.  This fact is the case because he has more to do with our salvation than we do, and because what he does is more important, more ultimate, and more decisive.  He is pre-eminent before salvation and in its continuation." (Warren, What the Bible Says About Salvation, p. 410)

Now, before we get too euphoric celebrating God's grace that saves, a word of caution is in order.  "Although our assurance rests more in God than in ourselves, it does rest [somewhat] in ourselves." (Warren, Ibid., p. 415).

 

II.

It is possible to forfeit salvation!

Christians are repeatedly warned in the New Testament to beware of false teachers and their doctrines.  Why do you suppose that is? It is because we can fall prey to those false teachings to the point that we lose our salvation!

 

    • In 1 Cor. 10:12  Paul warns, "...if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!"  "Fall from what?" we might ask.  Fall from grace--the only provision for salvation!  
    • In Gal.5:4, Paul uses that very expression.  He writes; "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ: you have fallen away from grace."
    • He told Timothy to hold on to faith and a good conscience for some had failed to do so and had "shipwrecked their faith."  He then named two examples: Hymenaeus and Alexander. (1 Tim.1:18-20).  There can be no doubt these two had at one time been "saved" individuals because you can't "wreck" a faith you never had to start with.  The only question is whether by shipwrecking their faith Paul means they were then in an unsaved state. I believe that is exactly what Paul means for he says he had "handed them over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme."  
    • Paul seems to have had those same two in mind (or others like them) later in his letter when said, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." (1 Tim. 4:1).  Or again when he wrote, "Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan." (1 Tim. 5:15).  Turned away from what/whom?  Turned away from Christ, from grace, and from salvation!
    • He brought Hymenaeus up again along with another fellow named Philetus in his second letter to Timothy, saying they had "wandered away from the truth." (2 Tim. 2:16-18).
    • Paul evidently didn't even consider himself to be beyond the possibility of apostasy.  He told the Corinthians, "I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (1 Cor. 9:27).

 

  • Heb. 6:4-6 warns, "4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance..."  And Heb. 10:38-39 contrasts God's righteous one who lives by faith, but then "shrinks back" and is "destroyed" with "those who believe and are saved."  
  • Peter also cautioned those who "20...have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome ... are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them." (2 Pe. 2:20-21).

 

There are many other indications it is possible to lose or forfeit one's salvation.  

  • Salt can lose its saltiness and no longer be good for anything except to be thrown out. (Mt. 5:13).  

 

  • Seed that is sown on the rocky or thorny ground can wither and die under persecution, or be choked to death by wealth & worries. (Mt. 13:1-23).  
  • A servant, forgiven by his master, can himself become unforgiving with his fellow servants so as to have his pardon rescinded and be cast into prison. (Mt. 18:21-35).

 

So, beware!  It is possible to lose one's salvation!

Now if it's possible to know you are saved, but also possible to forfeit salvation, what is the determining factor of whether one is saved or not?  Answer: You are!

 

III.

It is impossible to lose salvation without a deliberate abandonment of one's faith in Jesus.

Jesus said, "27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." (Jn. 10:27-28).  As long as you hold fast to Jesus Satan cannot tear you out of God's hand, and God will not drop you.  Paul said, "35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  ... 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ro. 8:35, 37-39).  It just can't be done by outside influences.

1 Jn. 5:18 confirms; "...We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God [i.e. Jesus] keeps him safe, and the evil one [i.e. Satan] cannot harm him."

The only way to be lost after having been saved is by a deliberate decision on our part to reject God's way in favor of some other way.  As the old adage puts it, "No one can snatch us out of the Lord's hand, but we can certainly jump out ourselves!"  If you "fall from grace" I believe you will know it, because you will have chosen it!  So if you wonder whether you're part of God's flock, just ask yourself if you're still listening to the Shepherd's voice.  Are you following Him?

Throughout the first epistle of John we're given several additional criteria for determining our relationship to God and our faithfulness to Christ:

  • 1 Jn. 1:7 = "...if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."  Are you "walking in the light?"  Do you have fellowship with God's people?
  • 1 Jn. 1:9 = "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  Are you confessing your sins to God?
  • 1 Jn. 2:5-6 = "5...if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him.  This is how we know we are in him: 6Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."  Are you obeying God's word?  Are you walking as Jesus did?
  • 1 Jn. 2:9-10 = "9Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble."  Do you love your Christian brothers & sisters, or is there someone you hate?
  • 1 Jn. 4:13 = "We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit."  Have you done what is necessary to receive God's Holy Spirit?
  • 1 Jn. 4:15 = "If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God."  Are you acknowledging Jesus daily ...where you work? ...where you shop?  ...where you live?
  • 2 Tim. 2:19 summarizes the many of these salvation indicators this way: "...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.'"  Do you strive always to turn away from wickedness?

 

Conclusion:

Oh Christian, you don't have to go to bed at night wondering "Am I saved?  Do I have eternal life?  Am I going to heaven when I die?"  If you love Jesus, ...if you have obeyed his terms of salvation for coming into the fold of the saved, and if you have committed yourself to His Lordship over your life, you can say, "I know I'm going to heaven!  I know I have eternal life!  I am confident that the second I leave this world behind, I am going to be in the presence of the Lord.  I am secure in the hands of God!  I know I'm saved!"

Allow me to close with this last quote from Max Lucado: "...Conventional wisdom draws a line through the middle of [our spiritual] fluctuations.  Perform above this line, and enjoy God's acceptance.  But dip below it, and expect a pink slip from heaven. In this paradigm a person is lost and saved multiple times a day.  Salvation becomes a matter of timing. You just hope you die on an upswing. No security, stability, or confidence.

"This is not God's plan.  He draws the line, for sure.  But He draws it beneath our ups and downs.  Jesus' language couldn't be stronger; 'I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one is able to snatch them out of My hand.'

"God doesn't let go."

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