For the first 10 years of my walk with Christ, my #1 biggest fear was that I was not actually saved. I was so scared I would arrive at heaven’s gates only to find I was pre-destined for Hell. That my Father would look at me and say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
I wanted to throw these thoughts to the wind and blindly rest in the assumption that I was saved. I wanted to be confident in my salvation. I wanted to identify as a daughter of the King. I wanted to throw away my doubt and cling to my Savior, but what if I was wrong?
Toward the end of my first year of college, I realized the reason I sought to do good and produce “works of faith” was not because I was reveling in God’s goodness, overcome with gratitude for my salvation, or pouring out the love He has poured into me. I was serving in effort to combat the whispers eating away at my soul.
I knew the quote “fear says ‘what if,’ faith says ‘even if,'” but blindly believing I was saved would not change whether or not I was. The gospels speak of people who live their entire lives thinking they’re saved when really they aren’t. How could I know for sure?
Since then, God has given me many reassurances of my salvation, several of which I develop below. You know you’re saved when…
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31 says. Believe that there is a God who became human, live among us, and sacrificed Himself so we can live in communion with Him. Sounds crazy, right? It is, but consider this:
If you spend your life living for Jesus and Christianity isn’t real, you will lose nothing as Christian morals and values are in-line with the world’s general idea of a good life. However, if you spend your life living for yourself and Christianity is real, your will lose everything as you will not be welcomed into eternal life. On the logical side of wagering, it is better to believe in God.
Still, even for those who wholeheartedly believe, there are times of doubt. I remember once when there was a spiritual battle waging in my mind between what I know to be true and lies Satan was trying to use to tear me apart from the inside out. In torment, I curled up in tears.
“I believe in God the Father,” I told myself. “I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in the Holy Spirit and that He’s given me new life. I believe in the crucifixion. I believe that He conquered death. I believe in the resurrection and that He’s coming back again. I believe. I believe. I believe.” Like a broken record I repeated these truths to myself over and over and over again. “Lord I believe,” I cried. “Help my unbelief!”
You keep His commandments.
If you truly believe in and love God, you will have a natural desire to follow His commandments. You will want to obey Him. Jesus gave His life for you. The least you can do is spend your life living for Him.
“…by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”— 1 John 2:3-6
Since God is righteous, John says, “you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” Works do not produce faith, but real faith does produce works. If your heart has truly been transformed by the gospel, it will become ordinary for you to seek to obey God’s will.
“Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”
— 1 John 3:24
What are His commandments? There are the 10 God gave Moses and, as John says in 3:23, “that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” On a big picture level, however, God’s will for you is that you love Him and love others.
You love others.
“And this commandment we have from him,” John said in 4:21, “whoever loves God must also love his brother.” It is impossible to genuinely love God and simultaneously hate someone. That is not how that works. If you love God, you will love His image-bearers.
The very essence of love is to put another before yourself (John 15:3). Because God loved us this way, we should strive to love others the same. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness,” John wrote. “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.”
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”— 1 John 4:7-8
The Gospel affects how you relate to others.
If you are truly saved, you will understand the gospel, specifically how (1) you do not deserve grace but (2) God in His loving kindness gave it to you anyway. At times, your senses will become overwhelmed at the incompressible reality of God’s love. You will want others to know how they are loved beyond imagination by someone who died to know them, and your heart will break for those who don’t understand.
You will grieve for those who aren’t saved and everyday interactions with non-believers will become precious opportunities to share the good news.
You will produce good works.
While you cannot earn your way to heaven and doing good will not produce faith, genuine faith will produce works. We are to be doers of the Word, not merely just hearers (James 1:22-27). Abraham, for example, believed in God, but his faith wasn’t put on display until he outwardly obeyed God by moving to sacrifice his son (James 2:20-24).
As James said in 2:14-20, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
You wrestle against your flesh.
You are grieved by your sin. You have the desire to do what is right but not the ability to carry it out (Romans 7:15-25). When God has wins your soul, your being will be at war with your sinful nature, and you will become weary because of it. You will become sick and tired of your tendency to wander from your Father and you will run to Him crying out for Him to cleanse your heart, to capture your mind, to make Him your all in all.
One of the confidences I have that I am saved is that my soul is fighting this battle of reveling in awe of God’s glory versus wallowing in the despair of heartbreak. Tim Keller said it himself in one of his podcasts: if you are a child of God, He will not let you go. You will not feel comfortable in your sin or diversion from God. There will be a tugging on your heart, an uneasy feeling in your stomach, a heart ache.
I went through a season where I realized this battle is why I was so tired. I long to be one with God—in character, mindset, and ultimately in heaven—yet Satan takes every opportunity to distract my attention. This is why I was at peace in the quiet of my room but struggled to maintain spirit and sanity in the bustle of life. This is why I was wonderfully overwhelmed by the Spirit during Sunday morning worship but on the verge of heartbroken tears during the week. The constant pull back and forth is exhausting and I was sick of it.
You pray to lose yourself.
You will pray to become an agent of His glory. You will want others to see Him when they look at you. Not your desires. Not your accomplishments. Not your attractive features. God and only God, for His glory.
You will want the summary of my life to be a glorification of Christ. You will want my story to magnify His name. You will want people to be unable to separate my testimony from the grace of God. You will want to change, to make that kind of ending your reality. Therefore, you will seek to change a few things.
You’re not the same you.
For most of my college career, I worked at a smoothie cafe where one regular in-particular was open to discussing his questions about life. He was catholic, gay, a strong believer in astrology, and very confused so he wanted to hear my perspective on questions he was wrestling with.
Going back to my first point, faith is dependent on belief. You have to surrender your senses and believe that what seems impossible by the world’s measures of logic is true. Because he did not believe, he consistently ran into a mental block just short of understanding and we ended up having the same conversation every time he opened the discussion.
As I was making my way out of the fog-thick woods of trial I had been going through, this regular presented his case to me again and I proclaimed God’s truth as I had before, yet this time was different.
It wasn’t a speech that would score well in a class, but I spoke with confidence and did not draw embarrassed blanks at his questions. My knowledge and answers were not different than our exchanges in the past, but I marveled at how confidently I stood for them, like I firmly believed them.
My beliefs had not changed or been added to in the process of recovering from heartbreak, yet it seemed like any doubt or uncertainty in my faith had been removed. I had seen God’s glory from black pits of despair and had been changed by it.