Am I Really Saved?

Posted by Pastor J.D. on April 20, 2012
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The following is an excerpt from an upcoming book I’ll be releasing with B&H Publishing on February 1, 2013 called Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You are Saved.

My first year of college was the worst year of my life, despite the fact that I had lots of friends, was in a good school, enjoying good grades and a reasonably bright future. The question of whether or not I was saved was driving me to despair.

I spent many a Friday night chained to my desk, poring over the Scriptures and scouring obscure commentaries to figure out what various verses about repentance and faith really meant. I memorized large sections of the Bible. I did Greek word studies. I prayed and fasted. I talked with pastors, professors, and friends. I interviewed Charles Ryrie. I went out in the woods and yelled at God. But no matter what I did, I lived with the constant fear of dying and going to hell.

That might seem strange, almost delusional, to some people. But when you really believe in heaven and hell, and you give eternity even half of a thought, desperation can be the result. I began to conclude I could never really know.

Late in that year, I met with the director of a large Christian camp ministry and poured out my struggle to him. He listened patiently, then opened his Bible to John 3:36:

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (NKJV)

He said, “How many categories of people do you see in that verse?”

“Two,” I answered.

“What are they?”

“Those who believe, and those who don’t.”

“Which are you, J.D.?”

He was right. There are the only two categories, and you must either be in one or the other. Jesus left us no third option. Those who “believe,” John says, have eternal life.

John restates that same truth at the end of his first epistle:

“Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son (1 John 5:10).

God has given us a testimony about Christ—the testimony that eternal life is a gift God gave us in Jesus (1 John 5:11). If we believe in this testimony, we are saved. If we don’t, we stand in blasphemous rebellion against Him and are damned.

Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves, by living the life we really should have lived and then dying the death we were condemned to die. Salvation is given as a gift, earned entirely by Christ. He is the Savior of otherwise hopeless sinners.

Pastor J.D.

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J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). More

13 responses to Am I Really Saved?

  1. This still leaves open the question of whether I believe. Some days I do, many days I don’t. I want to believe but I can’t will myself into belief. The question remains open to me not knowing into which category I fall.

  2. This is good and timely. Praise God for His gift. Thanks so much for sharing. Looking forward to the book!

  3. Thanks so much for this upcoming book. Oddly enough one of the things emphasized to me as grew up in a country baptist church was that many were deceived about salvation by “asking Jesus into their hearts.” I have never practiced it in almost forty years of preaching. I will read and distribute this book when it is released.

  4. Thank you for this. Recently I have struggled with this bc of losing so many loved ones and not knowing if they were “saved”. This made me question where I stood on my beliefs bc my own rearing was so condemning it left little room for other beliefs. This has reassured me as I know my lost loved ones believed and that’s all that matters. Maybe I can breath again…

  5. At different times, mostly after a particularly fiery sermon on Hell, I’ve questioned myself, “Am I REALLY saved?”. But most of my angst has been about staying “right with God”. Kind of like, “Sure, you’re going to Heaven because you trusted Christ, but if you don’t _________, then you’re “not right with God” and God will punish you!” It’s taken some time to finally realize that Jesus gave Himself so that I can be “right with God” and there are no spiritual hoops I have to jump through for His blessings. I’m living them! ~Serene

  6. Connie ODonnell April 20, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Very true. He earned it for us. Really is a basic dichotomy: either you believe, or you don’t. Belief is connected to faith, i.e., what we can not see here on earth. But it holds fast, we are the believers, saved by God. We will live our earthly lives, as best as possible with our eyes pointed on the eternal horizon. I think once we turn our lives to this ‘eternal life as a gift’, the choice is simple, and the ensuing feeling: calm.

    Luckily, you reached it at a much younger age than I!

  7. J.D.

    Your friend had a lot of wisdom and what he shared with you that day in college was a great and particular word tailored for your need and appropriately applied to and by you. At the same time, John’s epistle is specifically written to address the issue of those who say they believe but really haven’t. In other words, 1 John 5:10-11 have the larger context of the first four chapters as an informing backdrop. To not allow those chapters and their very challenging content to not inform what it means to believe runs the risk of being dangerously reductionistic when applied to all situations.

    “Salvation is given as a gift and it is earned entirely by Christ.” Amen. Believe and be saved. Amen. But believing is evidenced by a life, however imperfectly, of behavior and affections changed by that belief.

  8. Thanks for sharing this simple principle that we like to make so complex.

    To believe you must first know He exists. If He exists, you can know Him or not.

    I could read every blog post you write, listen to every sermon you give, and know a lot about you, but until I meet you, talk with you, and form a relationship with you, I will never be invited into your house as close family would.

  9. Thank you, J.D. for sharing. I can’t help but weep for the many converted souls that have suffered a period of doubt due to Reformed/Calvinist theology. Thankfully, God made it clear to you, J.D.

    With all due respect, I humbly submit that 1 Jn 1:3 gives readers the purpose of the book: for believers to know whether they have fellowship with God, not tests for whether or not they are truly saved. The immediate context of 1 Jn 5:10-11 is apparent that John is speaking of receiving God’s testimony of his Son, Jesus, and not of works that give us fellowship with God.

    God bless!

  10. What about Matthew 25:31-46? This passage lays out two very different categories than John 3:36 regarding assurance of salvation. Matthew says that you are saved if you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit prisoners. A much taller order than mere belief, isn’t it? Those who don’t meet these criteria are the “goats” who will “go away into eternal punishment.” Those who do are God’s righteous sheep, who will inherit eternal life.

  11. Salvation is broken down into two parts. The first is belief, and the second is obedience. Remember, even the demons believe. But Jesus is looking for followers. True believe is an action not a feeling. Feelings come and go which is why so many people ride the roller coaster of doubt. Following is always going forward, doing the things Jesus commands you to do. The fruits of being truly saved is obedience. James is clear on this issue when he says faith without action is dead. It would be like a person saying they were a Policeman but never arresting anyone. Or someone saying they are a surgeon and never performing a surgery. Actions always follow true belief. When it comes to the bible the only scriptures you truly believe in are the ones you obey. If you don’t obey them you really dont believe in them. he same goes with Jesus, If you don’t obey Him then you really dont believe in him. Jesus says, why do you say you love me then do not do what I say? I encourage you to test the bible. Do not take someone elses word on whether Jesus is really God or not. Find out for yourself. Look at history, archeology and see if what Jesus says is really true. Look at the testimonies from his followers and ask yourself this question. Would you lay down your life for something you knew was a bold face lie? All the disciples accept John willingly laid down there lives for Jesus. I pray this helps a little.

  12. I’d recommend Joseph Dillow’s “The Reign of the Servant Kings” as it gives thorough treatment of Mt 25:31-46. I cannot give a fully adequate response in such a short space. But briefly speaking, this passage has inheriting eternal life (blessedness in the Millennial Kingdom) in view rather than entering eternal life. Thus, rewards for faithfulness are in view and only sheep and goats are mentioned. The distinction between faithful and unfaithful sheep is clearly mentioned in 24:48, 25:2, and 25:26, so they do exist. They enter, but do not inherit eternal life.
    As a follow-up question, how does someone of this persuasion respond to passages like Jn 6:47 where eternal life is spoken of in present tense, not future tense that is dependent upon faithfulness? Hear my heart: You can know that you have eternal life. Now. Indeed this security is a key truth in living how Jesus would have us live (Romans, Ephesians).
    God bless!

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