2 Ways to Know You Are Saved

Posted by Pastor J.D. on January 24, 2013
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I get the question from Christians a lot: “How can I know for sure that I’m saved?” So often, in fact, that I wrote a book addressing it: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart (which you can pre-order here). I struggled with the question a lot myself until someone pointed me to passage from 1 John that helped open my eyes. In 1 John 5:13–18, John identifies 2 ways that we can be sure of our salvation.

1. We have placed our hopes for heaven entirely on Jesus. (1 John 5:13)

“I write these things to you,” John says, “who believe in the name of the Son of God.” It’s so simple that we’re liable to miss it, but assurance comes from believing in Jesus. This is the gospel: when we trust in his name, we cease striving to earn heaven by drawing upon our own moral bank account; instead, we withdraw on his righteous account in our place.

The gospel, by its very nature, produces assurance. Because the gospel proclaims “Jesus in my place,” my assurance does not depend on how well or how much I have done. It depends on whether or not I rest in his finished work. So the question is not, “Can I remember praying a prayer?” or “Was my conversion experience really emotional?” The important question is, “Are you currently resting on Jesus as the payment for your sin?”

A lot of Christians get caught up looking for assurance to a prayer they prayed 2 years, 5 years, or 30 years ago. But John does not say, “I write these things to you who prayed the sinner’s prayer.” He writes to those who believe. The point is not the prayer you prayed, but the present posture you are in.

2. You have a new nature. (vv. 16–18)

If you have been born of God you have been given a new nature.  And that comes with new desires. So you do not “keep on sinning,” as John writes, because you have new desires. As an earthy way to think about this, you might imagine some vomit on the ground. None of us would require a list of rules keeping us from eating it. Why? Because we find it disgusting. Now, a dog has a totally different nature, with different desires. A dog would find that vomit as appetizing as we find it disgusting.

This is how God changes us: not by browbeating us with rules, but by giving us a new heart. You no longer love dishonesty and hatefulness and immorality like you used to. You do not avoid them because of threats from God, but because these things start to make you sick.

Of course, this does not mean that you become immediately perfect, or that you no longer struggle with sin. But you stop engaging in sin willfully and defiantly. You cannot love God and love the things that grieve him. You cannot have a mouth that sings praise to Jesus with a life that openly crucifies him. It is not your mouth that best reflects your love for God; it is your life.

And when you do start to go back toward your sin—which we all do!—Jesus protects you and renews you (v. 18). In fact, one of the signs that your salvation is genuine is that even though you fall, you never permanently fall away. God brings you back, again and again. As Proverbs says, “The righteous man falls seven times, and rises again” (Prov 24:16).

Your new nature is not demonstrated by never falling, but by what you do when you fall. Salvation does not means sinless perfection, but it does mean a new direction.

Pastor J.D.

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J.D. Greear is the lead 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

21 responses to 2 Ways to Know You Are Saved

  1. Terrific points, J.D., and quite timely. Just this week I was helping a dad counsel his son who is concerned about a lack of fruit in his life. They ended up having a great discussion about the transforming power of the gospel. I sent them a link to this article as a reinforcing word of encouragement to them.

  2. Hi JD,
    Thank you for writing this post. I have a question regarding your second point (I agree with your first point entirely). Are you suggesting that someone who sins willfully is not a Christian? I am in the process of reading Jerry Bridges excellent “Respectable Sins” and I am reminded that many of us engage, willfully I might add, in sins that are probably seen as no big deal in the world.

    How do you respond to the believer who is struggling with ongoing sin, who wants to mortify that sin, but who continues to do so on a regular basis despite seeing some evidence of growth/progressive sanctification. Is that person left without hope because their sin is willful?

  3. Just began reading the book, been blessed by your ministry, thank you, would be great to jar translated to Spanish.

  4. I was just having this discussion with someone on my own blog the other day. This will be a great article for her to read, so I’m definitely sharing it with her. Can’t wait to read the book.

  5. Mitchell Hammonds January 28, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Eeehh… I’m not sure there is any other way to sin than to do it “willfully.” If you/I didn’t want to do “XYZ sin” then we wouldn’t do it. I would also add that we should be wanting to do more “XYZ righteous acts” as well rather than avoiding a specific willful act. This article does nothing but speak of “degrees of obedience” which is a subjective undertaking at best. No one can really know if this is how we are to tell the saved from the unsaved.

    How about one knows their saved if they simply….. “Believe.” Believe in the One who was lifted up. Believe in the One who was sent by the Father. For by this no one shall perish. Oh and by the way… the belief was a gift too! You and I had absolutely no part in it. Now that’s great news!

  6. JD,

    Thanks for sharing this. As a believer who has struggled with assurance from time to time these are great, Biblical reminders. I ordered your new book and can’t wait to read it!

    Austin

  7. Looking forward to checking out your book. I do think it might be more helpful (dare I say more accurate?) to admit that we find the vomit to be BOTH disgusting and enticing at the same time because of our new nature AND the reality of indwelling sin. As someone already pointed out, Jerry Bridges’ “Respectable Sins” is very helpful with this ongoing dilemma in the life of believers.

  8. A feeling that committing a sin would hurt Our Heavenly Father and wanting to avoid that may also be a good indicator that one is a child of God.

  9. Thanks for this article. As a 15 year old believer I struggle with assurrence. But I know that the devil tries to make us doubt God. The devil puts questions to us like: ‘how do you know for sure.’ Or,’but you’re such a wicked sinner Jesus could never forgive you, you aren’t worth it.’
    It is hard sometimes to have faith in the power of Jesus’s blood.
    Any encouraging thoughts?

  10. I have a question, I struggle with not having a time, date, prayer, place or experience for my assurance of salvation. I have prayed so many sinners prayers until I can’t go back to any certain time in my life and say this is when I was saved. Is it possible to get an email from J D Greear on how to settle this?

  11. Chris Pappalardo January 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Sharon,

    I attempted to send you an email with this, but it came back as “undeliverable.” I hope this comment gets to you.

    I hope, since you’ve stumbled across the blog, that you’ve noticed the other posts relating to assurance of salvation. Here are a few, in addition to the one you commented on:
    http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2013/02/how-can-i-know-i-am-really-saved.html
    http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2013/02/dont-feel-your-way-into-your-belief-believe-your-way-into-your-feelings.html
    http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2013/02/belief-why-present-posture-matters-more-than-past-memory.html

    And, as mentioned in the posts, most of this is coming from J.D.’s recently released book, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. If you haven’t already, you might benefit by spending some time with that book. It has been an eye-opener for a lot of people.

    If you’ve already plowed through all of this and are still feeling confused, here’s my abbreviated counsel:

    As J.D. mentions throughout Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, the important thing is not identifying a time, day, and place when you first trusted in Christ. A lot of people have that, and it can be a blessing to be able to recall that. I am often encouraged when others tell me about a very moving moment when they first placed their trust in Christ. But I also know a lot of people who grew up so saturated in the gospel that they can’t quite remember a time when they didn’t believe it. There must have been a moment, of course, but it’s hazy in their memories.

    And here’s the thing: both of those are okay. A present posture of repentance and faith is 1,000 times better than a memory of a moving religious experience. So if you believe in Christ today, then the question of when and where you were saved is pretty much moot. You can say—as many of my friends do—that you think God saved you around such-and-such a time, giving a range—around age 8, or 9, or 10, or whatever. But more important than identifying a time in the past is walking with Christ in the present. Don’t let the fuzziness of your memory and the uncertainty of 100 sinner’s prayers stop you from believing in Christ and following him boldly today.

  12. Jasper Grady Bates January 13, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Thanks for your post. I have spent much time in God’s Word the last few years. More than I have ever spent in my life. I have even covered this topic extensively. But no matter how much you think you know. Or desire to know with all your heart. There is something that drives us to search for answers. For whatever reason. It is wonderful to have God’s Word available to us. but I think it is in our nature to hear that assurance coming from someone else. I know God’s Word is all that matters and is all that should matter to any Christian. But having other Christian’s to point us in the right direction in the Word of God is a blessing all the same. So with great sincerity, thank you so much.

    Sincerely, Jasper G. Bates

  13. more simple than that,
    1Jo 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

    IF YOU HATE YOUR NEIGHBOUR THEN NOT SAVED,

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