Josh from Duluth writes in to ask a very common question that we get almost every day through email: “Pastor John, how do I know if I'm saved?”
Josh, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life,” John 3:16. Romans 3:28: “We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” The whole book of John, according to John 20:31 is written “so that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God and believing have life in his name.” So the unmistakable message all through the New Testa-ment is: We are saved by believing on Jesus. So rivet your attention on Christ in the gospels, John, Mat-thew, Mark, Luke—the whole Bible. Rivet your attention on Christ and say what you use. “We confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord.” And say what you feel about this. “I receive him. I love him. He is my God. He is my Lord. He is my treasure.” Confess that. Let yourself hear yourself saying that. Say that to others. Say it to your wife. Say it to your kids. Say it to your friend. “Jesus is my Lord.”
The Bible says no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that amazing? Nobody can say “Jesus is Lord.” So if you say it and mean it, God is at work in your life. You have the Holy Spirit.
So what is faith, this believing? John 1:12: “He came to his own, his own did not receive him, but to as many as received him who believed on his name.” So receiving and believing are mutually interpreting and receiving means when he offers himself to you as a Savior, as a Lord, as a treasure, as a counselor, you receive him, you don’t reject him. You receive all that God is for you in Christ. And so receiving is a welcoming and embracing. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger. Whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” So believing is a coming to him to have your thirst satisfied. Or it is a receiving of the waterfall of grace pouring out of the crevice of the cross and receiving it as the sole hunger satisfier.
The God of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. So what we see when he opens our eyes is Christ is glorious. Christ is the image of God. Christ is the greatest person that ever was, the great Savior, the greatest Lord, the greatest teacher, the greatest counselor, the greatest friend. That is what faith receives from Christ in believing.
Now maybe the person who asked this question was thinking about all the passages that talk about the tests of faith in our lives. And we can talk about that, maybe, in more detail another time, but I would just say 1 John is written to give lots of those tests, but they all come down to this: Is your life reflecting the preciousness of Christ that you have received as your Savior? It is not the fruit that justifies you. The tree of faith is the good tree. The fruit is the evidence that the tree is good. And when we are talking about good here, we don’t mean perfection. I think a lot of people probably struggle with am I saved, because they have unrealistic understandings of Christian growth and how sin works. So let me end there, maybe, by saying in 1 John 1:7 it goes like this: “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” So walking in the light is essential. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, if we walk in the light. Well, does that mean that walking in the light is perfection? Well, it can’t, because there wouldn’t be any sins to cleanse. So walking in the light must be something else.
So we keep reading. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” In other words, we are not walk-ing in the light. In the light you don’t get deceived. In the light you see. What do you see? You see the sin you just committed. And what do you do with it? Verse nine. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
So walking in the light might sound to people like, oh, shoot, I can’t walk in the light. I can’t keep from sinning. No, that is not what walking in the light means. Walking in the light means that the gospel is so plain to you, the holiness of God is so plain to you, the terribleness of sin is so plain to you, that when you stumble into sin your reaction is: “I hate this. I am sorry, Father. Please forgive me.” You confess it. You receive forgiveness and you press on with the Lord whose treasure is bigger because of the grace that he has offered to you.
So I would just say, Josh, in the end, the assurance of salvation is a gift from the Holy Spirit, Romans 8:15: “You have received the Spirit of adoption by whom you cry Abba, Father. The Spirit himself bear-ing witness with your spirit that you are a child of God.” When you cry out “Abba, Father, Jesus, Lord,” that is the Holy Spirit testifying with your Spirit that you are the child of God. So ask him for that gift. Ask him for the gift of his own personal testimony that you are his.
Thank you Pastor John. And thank you for listening to this podcast. Please email your questions to us at askpastorjohn AT desiringgod DOT org. At desiringgod DOT org you will find thousands of free books, articles, sermons, and other resources from John Piper. … I’m your host, Tony Reinke. Thanks for listening.