Have you ever asked someone who identifies themselves as a Christian if they know they’ll go to heaven? If I had a nickel for every time I got an answer like “I hope so” or “I think so because I’m a good person”, my piggy bank would be full.
It seems that most Christians are unsure of their salvation at one time or another. But here’s the good news; you really can have the assurance that your salvation is real. Here’s the advice the apostle Paul gave to the Corinthian church:
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.A modern-day celebrity put it another way when he said, “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself”.
Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves,
that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV)
All kidding aside, because this is a serious subject. Just how can you examine your spiritual status to see if you’re truly in the faith? Since we know that we receive the Holy Spirit when we’re saved, here are some ways you can be assured that the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you.
You’ve been transformedWhen you accept Jesus in your heart as your Lord and Savior, your life changes. You don’t remain the same (see Romans 10:9). The key phrase here are the words “in your heart”. Many people who identify as Christians believe that Jesus is Lord and rose from the dead. But they don’t believe it in their heart. If they did, then they would have received the Holy Spirit and became a new creation.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.You see, we can’t remain the same if we’ve been transformed into something new. If you didn’t change when you believed then you haven’t become a new creation. When the Holy Spirit transforms us, our thoughts and desires change. Over time, if we’re willing, we will become more like Jesus. Let’s look now at some of the attributes of a person who has gained their salvation.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Conviction of SinGod doesn’t remove our sinful nature after we’re saved. That’s why we continue to struggle with sin. But the difference is that the Holy Spirit who is now living inside of you convicts you when you sin. If you think you’re sinless, be warned.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.We become even more aware of our sins as the Holy Spirit works in us to convict us of our sin. Some people become so hyper-aware of their sin after they're saved that they feel inadequate to be called a Christian. This feeling is actually a good thing because if you don’t feel convicted by the Holy Spirit or feel guilty when you sin, then that should be a red flag for you. Anyone who denies the reality of sin in their life or doesn't feel convicted by the Holy Spirit when they sin demonstrates that they lack genuine salvation.
1 John 1:8
Obedience to God’s wordObedience to the word of God is visible proof of salvation. How can we claim to believe if we’re not willing to do what we believe? If we obey the Holy Spirit’s voice, we’ll sin far less. In fact, our goal should be to live a life free from sin. This is an impossible goal due to our sinful nature which isn't removed when we're saved, but it's a goal we should strive for. How better to be a living testimony for Jesus than to obey His commandments.
If you’re willfully living as a carnal Christian because you’ve been told that you’re covered by God’s grace, you should think long and hard about whether you’ve really accepted Jesus in your heart because a heartfelt belief is a kind that always changes the way we live. Before we were saved, we habitually sinned. But after we're saved, we should practice habitual obedience. For scripture says “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister (1 John 3:10).
Here are four reasons why Christians can’t habitually practice sin:
- Habitual sinners can’t be disciples of Jesus (see John 8:31 and 1 John 3:6).
- You can’t abide with Christ forever if you’re a slave to sin (see John 8:34-36).
- Being dead to sin is to be alive to God in Jesus Christ (see Romans 6:11).
- Those who don’t obey the teaching of Jesus don’t have God (See 2 John 9).
Of course, I struggle with sin, just like every Christian does. So, you might imagine that as I began studying the scriptures on this subject, it was a real wake up call for me. The good news is that learning the word of God motivates me to stay on the path of righteousness and it can do the same for you.
Lover not a HaterJesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
The Apostle John said “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9-11).
True believers love others, especially other Christians. Because God’s light is the light of love, we are to walk in the light. You see, not only did Jesus command us to love one another, but John made it clear that we aren’t saved if we habitually hate people. If we’re walking in darkness, then the Holy Spirit is not in us because God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all.
And John also wrote “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:2-3).
Doer of good worksA true Christian demonstrates their faith through good works. Sacrificially meeting the needs of each other is an expression of genuine Christian love. Particularly when we help others who can never repay our kindness. It’s important to understand that helping other people while expecting something in return doesn't please God.
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.Just claiming to love others is not enough. God expects us to demonstrate our love by doing good deeds. When we do this out of love (and not out of wrong motives) we can have the assurance that our salvation is real.
Indwelt with God’s lie detectorBorn again believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who guides them into knowing all things (see John 14:26). This is like having a built-in lie detector that protects us from the apostasy and heresies that are so prevalent in these last days. So, those who remain in heresy and apostasy are not genuinely born again.
By the way, the primary way that the Holy Spirit guides us is by illuminating the scriptures to us. This is why it’s so important to read your bible every day. Otherwise, how can the Holy Spirit help you understand God’s word if you’re not immersing yourself in His book?
Hunger for the word of GodA positive sign that someone has truly believed in their heart is that they have a hunger to learn the word of God. They understand they can’t become disciples of Jesus and learn to become more like Him if they don’t know His word.
Hungry Christians accept the authenticity of scripture as it's been handed down by the prophets and the apostles because to believe any other doctrine other than what’s in your bible is tantamount to calling God a liar. They reject any and all teachings that don’t align with the word of God.
The Apostle Paul warned,
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.Now that's a strong warning, isn't it? Anytime you see something repeated in the Bible it's telling you to pay attention, this is important!
Your mind is on the things aboveBorn again Christians are led by the Spirit and not by the desires of this world.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.We are to set our heart and minds on the things above in the heavenly realm. Not on our own fleshly desires, such as the riches this world offers (see Colossians 3:1-2).
You are fruitfulTrue believers do good works, or as the bible calls it "bear good fruit". It’s impossible for them to do otherwise. In fact, Jesus said you will know them by their fruit (see Matthew 7:16). Here are some examples of spiritual fruit:
Galatians 5:22-23 says “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law”.
Of course, spiritual fruit can be evidenced by an act of Godly love, such as helping someone who can never repay you. Consider the story of the good Samaritan, for example. All true Christians bear fruit. Some bear less and some bear more, but there will always be fruit.
Faithful to the endScripture teaches that you can’t lose your salvation, but there are some who depart from the faith because they were never really saved in the first place. In other words, they believed superficially but not in their heart.
The Apostle John wrote,
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.These false converts are not only on a path to eternal separation from God but they often lead others astray as well. Only if we persevere in our faith to the end of our lives and acknowledge Jesus as Lord (even to the point of death), can we expect to be rewarded with eternal life. This is why Jesus said “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
1 John 2:19
Final thoughtsThis is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it gives you some things to think about. If you’ve examined yourself and found that you’ve passed the test, I hope this helps you feel more secure in your salvation. But never give up pressing forward to becoming more like Christ (See Philippians 2:12).
If you’ve found that you’ve failed all of these tests, you need to put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior today. Believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins and rose again on the third day. Call on the name of the Lord and be saved.
... if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.If you failed some of these tests, I hope that you’ll wake up from your spiritual slumber and get right with the Lord today. (see Romans 13:11-14).