Some time ago, on a flight to Oregon, I sat next to a woman who asked where I was going. “Sisters, Oregon,” I answered. “Do you know where it is?”
Assuring me that she did, the woman asked, “What’s your business there?”
After I said I was writing a book about how we can be sure we are going to heaven, she marveled, “You mean you can know that you are going to heaven?”
Realizing God had opened a door for me to tell her about Christ, I reinforced that we can know for certain our eternal destiny, saying, “We can afford to be wrong about going to Sisters, Oregon, but not about going to heaven.”
How Can We Be Sure? The truth is, we can be sure about where we will spend eternity. We can know with certainty that when we die, we will go to heaven. But how can we be sure? Many people struggle with the certainty of their salvation, especially new believers.
How can we know where we stand with God? The Bible teaches that the assurance of salvation rests securely upon four unshakable pillars:
Pillar #1 God Cannot Lie!
First, assurance is based on the absolute trustworthiness of Scripture. Throughout the New Testament, we read God’s promises to save all who will believe upon His Son. The Bible says, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”(1) This is a promise! All who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ may have the firm confidence of salvation based upon the infallibility of God’s Word.
Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”(2) If you come to Jesus with genuine repentance and faith, He promises that He will save you. We can know Jesus has received us because, quite simply, He said so! When the Bible speaks, God speaks. And what God said, He will surely do. He will save all who call upon Jesus Christ. You have His word on it.
Pillar #2 Jesus Paid It All
Second, assurance rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, He bore our iniquities, enduring God’s wrath, and cried out, “It is finished!”(3) By this, He meant that the full atonement for all our sins-past, present and future-has been made. His work of redemption now completed, our entire sin debt is paid in full.
Just as salvation comes from believing in Christ alone, so does assurance. As we trust in Christ’s perfect sacrifice for our sins, the certainty of eternal life floods our hearts. No matter how great your sin, God’s grace is greater still. The Bible says, “Come now, and let us reason together. … Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.”(4)
Pillar #3 The Great Convincer
Third, assurance comes through the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. A divinely produced gift, assurance is bestowed by God’s Spirit to all true believers. It is the Holy Spirit’s ministry to convince our hearts of our salvation. In actuality, no preacher, evangelist, parent or friend can give us assurance. Neither can we work it up within ourselves. Only the Holy Spirit Himself can give us the absolute certainty of our eternal salvation.
The Bible says, “We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.”(5) … “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”(6) … “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”(7) This means, the Holy Spirit who convicted, called and converted us also convinces us that we belong to Christ. It is the Spirit’s inward witness that persuades us of the genuineness of our salvation.
Pillar #4 New Life in Christ
Fourth, assurance comes through the evidence of a changed life. Ultimately, assurance is confirmed within us as we see God conforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. All who have been born again will see clear evidences of a new life in Christ. While we will never become perfect in this life, we will, nevertheless, experience a changed life. It is this inward transformation that provides strong confirmation of our salvation.
The book of First John details what are the vital signs of our new life in Christ. The Apostle John writes, “We know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”(8) In other words, we may be certain that we know Christ as we see within us a desired and willing obedience to God’s Word. Likewise, John writes, other vital signs will follow: Love for other people,(9) love for God,(10) refusing the world,(11) understanding biblical truth,(12) righteous behavior,(13) opposition from the world(14) and answered prayer.(15) As we see this spiritual fruit produced in our lives, we may be confident that Christ lives within us.
Full Assurance of Salvation Here are the four sturdy pillars on which the assurance of our salvation rests.Giving “full assurance of hope”(16) regarding our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, these pillars provide unshakable confidence of eternal life.
As I told the woman on the plane, we can be wrong about earthly directions but not about our eternal destiny. In our salvation we must be sure. Assurance of salvation is God’s blessed gift for all who believe: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”(17)
Be absolutely sure!
(1) Romans 10:13, NASB. (2) John 6:37, NASB. (3) John 19:30, NASB. (4) Isaiah 1:18, NASB. (5) 1 John 3:24, NASB. (6) 1 John 4:13, NASB. (7) Romans 8:16, NASB. (8) 1 John 2:3, NASB. (9) 1 John 2:9-11. (10) 1 John 2:12-14. (11) 1 John 2:15-17. (12) 1 John 2:20-27. (13) 1 John 3:4-6. (14) 1 John 3:13. (15) 1 John 3:22-24. (16) Hebrews 6:11, NASB. (17) 1 John 5:13, NASB. Bible verses marked NASB are taken by permission from the New American Standard Bible, ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, California
This article was originally published in Decision Magazine, January 2001.