“But am I really saved?”
I’ve mentioned before that I really struggled with this question when I was a child.
And to be honest, it’s a hard question to answer. It’s hard because only God truly knows the human heart. And it’s hard because though we’ve looked at all the marks of a Christian in the past three blogs, we can all see our failures. Our failures in righteousness. Our failures in love.
About the only thing we can say with any conviction (I would hope), is “Yes, I truly do believe in Jesus. I have trusted in him for my salvation.”
One word of comfort I can give to you is this: the fact that you can see your faults and are concerned about them makes me think that you are probably saved. It is the people who don’t care and yet claim to be Christians that worry me.
As I’ve mentioned before, true Christians long to be like their Lord. They long to be like him because they love him so much. And so when they fall short, it bothers them.
False Christians have no such desires to be like Jesus, so when they fall short, it doesn’t bother them at all.
It is the false Christians that repeatedly make excuses for their sin and lack of love. It is the true Christians that mourn over these things and repent.
That said, as you look over your time as a Christian, you should be able to see some change. You should see some change in your attitudes toward those around you, namely an increased compassion and love for them. And you should start seeing a sheer discomfort with sin that you never had before. Sin that never bothered you before, should start bothering you now.
It’s striking to me that John does not even entertain the thought that a Christian would not see these changes.
But there’s one more thing, and it is reflected in some of the newer translations, particularly the new NIV. It translates verses 19-20 this way:
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
In other words, if you are really feeling under a load of guilt because you feel you haven’t changed enough, or you constantly feel guilty despite seeing the changes in your life, understand that your feelings aren’t the final judge of whether you’re saved or not. God is. And he knows everything. He knows if you truly love him or not. He sees the changes he has worked in you. And that’s all that counts.
The encouragement I would give to you if you are laboring under guilt is to simply keep pursuing him. Seek to become more like him each day. Share the love he’s given you with those around you. If you fall, confess and repent. Then get up, and keep on going. Know that he is on your side. He’s not constantly condemning you. If you truly love him, he sees that, and will never give up on you.
And as you come to understand his grace more deeply in your life, that feeling condemnation will fade. And at that point, John says,
Dear friends, if your hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. (21-22)
In other words, your fears will fade, your confidence in his love for you will increase, and you will see change in your life, leading to an even deeper relationship with God. Why? Because your thoughts will start aligning with the Father’s to the point that you start praying things according to his will. And as you do, he will answer, bringing you joy and even more confidence that you are truly his.
But until that day, pursue him, remembering the words of James.
Come near to God, and he will come near to you. (James 4:8)