It has well been said: One of the biggest struggles for Christians is lack of assurance…AND…one of the biggest struggles for nominal Christians is false assurance.
Too many in Christianity are affirmed in their false assurance of salvation by well-meaning ministers who do not understand the gospel's nature and power. Too many sit at ease in churches with a false assurance of their salvation. They are not actively believing in or looking to Christ, but are trusting in a past decision which they made years before—a decision that has had little or no discernible impact upon their lives.
“They dress the wound of God's people as though it were not serious, saying ‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).
This is why Pastor John Starke said, “A nominal Christian finds Christ useful. A true Christian finds Christ beautiful.”
So, what is a real, true Christian to do? How does a Christian know for sure that they are in Christ?
Certainly, there are many passages to go to that teach on this topic. However, few show forth what true assurance looks like, perhaps, then Romans 8:14-16, which reads:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
In Romans 8:14-16, we see three truths about the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of true Christians
1. The Holy Spirit Leads in the Life of a True Christian (8:14).
The focus here is not us leading the Spirit. Rather, the Spirit leading us! To do what? What v. 13 says: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Again, it is the God the Holy Spirit doing the leading every moment of every day.
1. ALL believers, not just some, are led by the Holy Spirit.
2. You are either in the family of God or you are not. You are either his child or you are not.
3. The same Spirit who saved you and brought you into his family is the one that is leading you.
4. All of us are born into Satan’s family – that is, not God’s family. Only through Christ can we truly be saved.
5. If we sense the Spirit of God leading us to greater conformity to his will and holiness – this ought to be a great sign we are his!
In other words, the Spirit will lead you in at least seven ways (certainly, not an exhaustive list):
1. Personally: He indwells us personally and will lead us the same.
2. Internally: He leads us from the inside out to make us more like Christ and assure us we are his.
3. Biblically: The Spirit of God is the One who authored, inspired, and carried out the Word of God in written form (2 Pet. 1:20-21, etc.). So, when we are truly his, we will desire to be more like Christ by being in n the Scriptures.
4. Blamelessly: He will never lead us into sin - but always to greater holiness (Heb. 12).
5. Convincingly: When we sin, it will be like an open wound and will arrest our attention. We will want to repent before him and others for what we have done.
6. Perfectly: Similar to number 4 above. However, he always takes us on the path of righteousness for his name sake.
7. Permanently: We will never reach a point where we level out in knowing him. We will continue to grow and grow. Like the shepherd of Psalm 23, he leads us to know him.
Bottom line: If you are in Christ, do you have a sense of the Spirit leading your life? Or, do you just consider him to be your co-pilot?
2. The Holy Spirit Liberates in the Life of a True Christian (8:15).
Paul says we did not receive “the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.” This refers to our old life before Christ. We were mastered by sin and self-focus. We wanted nothing to do with God – only our sin and selves! Everything about us – our will, our volition, our emotions, our decision, etc. – was contrary to what God said in His Word.
But Paul says we did receive “Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”
This is the time we truly came to know Christ. We came into the family of God as babes in Christ. We were born again. We will never stop growing and maturing in Christ until he returns or calls us home.
But we also came to Christ through adoption. Paul uses this word at least 5 times in his 13 letters. However, what it means here is this: We come into the family with all the rights and privileges of a full-grown heir. Part of our inheritance now is the down payment of the Holy Spirit. But, when we are fully with Christ after this life, the final part of our inheritance – not the least is God himself – will be beyond anything we can ask, think, or imagine.
This relationship now, should we be in Christ, always us to intimately and personally say, “Abba! Father!” We cry out with our hearts and voices (Heb. 4:14-16). Being energized in our prayers by the Holy Spirit, we can seek, by the Spirit’s power, the things and presence of God. Because fo this inheritance we have received, we can go to the Father at anytime.
We are now children of God. Our assurance in Christ is affirmed by how he allows us to know him in prayer.
3.The Holy Spirit Locks the Life of a True Christian (8:16)
Notice here it is the “Spirit himself” who bears witness to us that we are truly in him. It isn’t a pastor, priest, shaman, church, etc. It is God himself!
And this is in the present tense—meaning, he is always leading us, always guiding us, and always affirming to us that we are his. What a God!
And our assurance is evidenced in two ways:
1. On the outside, externally, we can see God working on us to make us more like Christ. Our actions and attitudes. Everything we are on the outside, though flawed by sin at times, showing a growing in holiness before Christ.
2. On the inside, there is an overwhelming sense of God’s presence in our lives. The Holy Spirit brings a deep conviction that we are in an intimate relationship with the Father and that he accepts us by way of his Son. We feel though true sense that we are the Lord’s.
Remember Philippians 1:6
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Assurance of salvation comes from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God will finish the work he began and bring it to finality. He guarantees our eternal security all the way to heaven (John 10:27-30). Until we reach glory with him forever, he will continue to give us the assurance that we belong to him.
Some final thoughts:
1. John warns that we should not trust our heart in matters regarding assurance of salvation because it might wrongly approve or condemn us (1 John 3:19-20). Paul writes that it is unwise to measure ourselves by our own standard or compare ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12). Bottom-line: Do you see evidence of the Spirit’s work in your life—or do you not?
2. Although all Christians are subject to many failings & are able to fall before the smallest trial and temptation, their desire and determination to continue in the faith and their gradual and progressive grow in Christ are great evidence of salvation and provide a solid ground for assurance.
Very simply: People ask, "Pastor, how can I know I am saved?" Too often we give non-biblical assurance.
Here are 3 biblical evidences that you are saved:
1. Your life has been transformed. (2 Cor 5:17)
2. You have love for the believers. (John 13:35)
3. You persevere in the faith. (Matt 24:13)
If we are truly Christian, it will not take us long to come to a profound realization that our security and assurance of salvation rest upon two great columns: God’s covenant faithfulness (Malachi 3:6) and His perfect work of redemption on our behalf (John 19:30).