12 Tests for Knowing I’m Saved

This Sunday I preached Matthew 7:21-23, which is easily one of the most solemn texts in all of Scripture.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of these verses: “These, surely, are in many ways the most solemn and solemnizing words ever uttered in this world, not only by any man, but even by the Son of God Himself. Indeed, were any man to utter such words we should feel compelled not only to criticize but even to condemn him.”

This is because Jesus’ words reveal an unsettling truth: many who profess to know Christ will not enter the kingdom of heaven. They believe they are following the narrow path to life, but they are actually walking down the broad road toward destruction.

This is absolutely terrifying because our eternal destination is at stake.

A chill should run down our spines whenever even imagine hearing Christ’s word: “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

I’ve already written on if we are able to lose our salvation, but the question still remains: how can we know that we are saved?

Paul Washer seeks to answer this question in the third book of his Recovering the Gospel series, Gospel Assurance and Warnings. In the book, Washer looks to John’s first epistle as containing tests for evaluating whether our faith is real or false.

In 1 John 5:13, the apostle states, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” This means that the purpose of 1 John is to help us KNOW that we have eternal life.

Below you will find 12 tests that Washer pulled from 1 John for evaluating our walk with the Lord.

With an open Bible and an honest heart, use God’s Word “to see whether you are in the faith.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Test 1: We know that we are Christian because we walk in the light (1 John 1:4-7). Our style of life is being gradually conformed to what God has revealed to us about His nature and will.

Test 2: We know that we are Christian because our lives are marked by sensitivity to sin, repentance, and confession (1 John 1:8-10).

Test 3: We know that we are Christian because we keep God’s commands (1 John 2:3-4). We desire to know God’s will, strive to obey it, and mourn our disobedience.

Test 4: We know that we are Christian because we walk as Christ walked (1 John 2:5-6). We desire to imitate Christ and grow in conformity to Him.

Test 5: We know that we are Christian because we love other Christians, desire their fellowship, and seek to serve them in deed and truth (1 John 2:7-11).

Test 6: We know that we are Christian because of our increasing disdain for the world and because of our rejection of all that contradicts and opposes God’s nature and will (1 John 2:15-17).

Test 7: We know that we are Christian because we continue in the historic doctrines and practices of the Christian faith and remain within the fellowship of others who do the same (1 John 2:18-19).

Test 8: We know that we are Christian because we profess Christ to be God and hold Him in the highest esteem (1 John 2:22-24; 4:1-3, 13-15).

Test 9: We know that we are Christian because our lives are marked by a longing and practical pursuit of personal holiness (1 John 3:1-3).

Test 10: We know that we are Christian because we are practicing righteousness (1 John 2:28-29; 3:4-10). We are doing those things that conform to God’s righteous standard.

Test 11: We know that we are Christian because we overcome the world (1 John 4:4-6; 5:4-5). Although we are often hard pressed and weary, we press on in faith. We continue following Christ and do not turn back.

Test 12: We know that we are Christian because we believe the things that God has revealed concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. We have eternal life in Him alone (1 John 5:9-12).

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I Never Knew You | Matthew 7:21-23

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom
of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is
in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did
we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your
name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I
declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers
of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

OPENING THOUGHT

Jesus’ most famous teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, was preached
to His disciples for the purpose of informing them how to live as citizens
of the kingdom of heaven. Chapter five began with the Beatitudes,
which are the characteristics for how Christians are to live. He then
proceeded to define His followers purpose and their relation to the
Old Testament commandments, which He demanded must now be
met at the heart-level. In chapter six, Jesus taught how we give to the
poor, pray, and fast in-correctly. He also encouraged us to store our
treasure in heaven, not on earth, and when they are secure with God,
we can truly live without anxiety, knowing that God is in control.

Chapter seven began with a warning against hypocritically judging
others (take the log out of your eye before removing the speck from
your brother’s eye) and continued with the call to love others with God’s
love (treat others as you desire to be treated). Jesus then began to
conclude the sermon with a series of warning. First, He warned us to
enter by the narrow gate which, though difficult, leads to life. Second,
He warned against false teachers, who would infiltrate the church like
wolves in sheep’s clothing.

We now come to Jesus’ third warning. If last week Christ warned against
deception from false teachers, He now warns against self-deception.
Jesus tells us that many who call Jesus Lord and do good works in His
name will not enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, Jesus will declare
that He never knew them at all! These are some of the most solemn
and sobering words in all the Scriptures, calling us to consider any false
hopes that we hold to and whether we truly know the Lord at all.

Read verses 21-23 and discuss the following.

1. Jesus begins by saying that not everyone who calls Him Lord
will enter the kingdom of heaven, but it is also important to
remember that no one will enter who does not call Jesus Lord.
Why is the Lordship of Christ so significant?
2. These verses reveal that many who have hope of entering the
kingdom of heaven will one day learn that their hope was false.
What are some of these false hopes?
3. The severity of this text might cause us to question the reality of
our salvation. How can we know that we are saved?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

• Obey. The only hope we have of entering the kingdom of heaven
is by following the difficult path and entering by the narrow gate,
which is marked by the death of self and faith in God’s grace.
Reflect upon whether you trust fully in the gospel or upon your
own efforts.
• Pray. This week pray for friends or family you know that are
currently being deceived by false teaching.

 

a thought on repentance, obedience, & the Law

I’ve wrestled with this question a lot.

Though I was saved at an early age, I didn’t fully understand the gospel (especially the eternal security of believers) until I was in college.

As a kid, I truly wanted to live a Christ-like life, I knew I was a sinner, and I believed that Christ died for my sin. I struggled, though, with the notion of what Jesus’ forgiveness looked like.

It seemed both logical and desirable to repent regularly, both of known and unknown sins. Yet for several years, the need to ask for forgiveness consumed me.

Each night I would fall asleep praying for forgiveness over and over again. I was terrified that if I died in my sleep, God would send me to hell because my last thought might be a sinful one.

My young mind essentially created its own penitential system for dealing with sin. Instead of trusting God to forgive all of my sins by grace through faith, I established a means of working off my sins through the constant and repetitive asking of forgiveness. I was heaping up empty phrases, hoping to be heard for my many words (Matt. 6:7). It was an attempt to barter for grace instead of receiving grace through faith.

Once For All

A trip to New Mexico one summer changed everything.

I don’t remember who preached or what text they preached, but after worship service, I sat on a pew and understood (for the first time) the significance of Christ dying once. As common sense as it might seem, I never truly considered that Christ’s death paid for ALL of my sins– past, present, and future.

And it was the future sins that really got me.

On that cross, all of my sins were future sins, but He died for them. This meant that He knew them, even the ones that will come decades from now. None of my sins came as a surprise to Him, and because of that once-for-all sacrifice, I could be truly certain of my forgiveness and salvation.

But that isn’t to say that we should stop repenting of sin.

In many ways, repentance is the great mark of a true Christian.

We are called to repent of sin continually, not just initially (Matt. 3:8).

However, laying my cards on the table, the question “Must I repent after each sin?” is a loaded one. The word must implies an obligation, a requirement, or even a coercion to do something, but as followers of Christ, we get to repent of our sins, knowing that God is faithful and just to forgive us. It is a joy to ask our Father for forgiveness and strength to turn from sin because we already know what His answer will be.

Outward Obedience

While studying to preach on Christ’s relationship to the Old Testament Law, I finally came to understand why Paul calls us captives under the Law before Christ came (Gal. 3:23).¹

Laws are necessary, but by nature, they merely rein in our sin. A law’s power is equal to the consequence for breaking it, and those punishments leverage our sinful nature for the benefit of society. For instance, if the consequence is severe enough, most people will not risk stealing. Or we could ask, how many killings are prevented simply because the fear of punishment hinders an act of blind rage?

Laws confine sinful behavior by establishing a punishment as a reason to refrain from sin.

Because of this, obeying a law does not make me a inwardly moral person; it only means that I am outwardly behaving according to the law.

Outward obedience does not necessarily correlate with an internal godly morality.

This is why Jesus’ teachings so angered the Pharisees. They nearly perfected outward obedience, but Jesus called their bluff. He knew their hearts didn’t line up with their actions, so He called them what they were: hypocrites (Matt. 23:25).

Inward Obedience

Fortunately, Jesus had a better answer to the problem of sin than the Law could provide.

Jeremiah describes Jesus’ followers as having the law written on their hearts (Jer. 31:33). This means that they would no longer be compelled to obey God’s law out of fear of punishment; instead, they would actually want to obey.

Our captivity to the law is broken on two fronts.

First, Jesus’ death decisively eliminates the eternal punishment of sin, allowing us to live in the joy of knowing that we will never suffer the wrath of God, only His loving discipline.

Second, we have a joy from obeying the law because Christ has now written it within our hearts. We, therefore, no longer feel obligated to obey God; instead, we joyfully obey Him with thanksgiving!

Jesus has erased the must, the obligation, from obedience and from repentance.

Conclusion

So, in answer to the original question, if a Christian dies immediately after sinning, they are still in Christ because God already justified them once for all. The lack of time to repent of a particular sin will NOT override God’s grace.

But of course, given time, Christians will naturally desire to repent.

Repentance is what we do.

And that desire will come from gratitude to God, not requirement or mere necessity.

My younger self’s brokenness over sin and desire for obedience was certainly a good sign of truly following Christ, but I’m immeasurably thankful for the grace of knowing the gospel’s truth and assurance more fully.

Does repenting of sin ever become a requirement in your heart instead of being a desire, delight, and grace?


 

1) Charles Leiter’s The Law of Christ has helped me tremendously to understand our New Covenant relationship to the Old Testament laws. Hopefully, the brief discussion of the topics in this post will encourage you to study them more deeply in Leiter’s book.

More Than Conquerors | Romans 8:31-39

More Than Conquerors Study Guide

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who diedmore than that, who was raisedwho is at the right hand of God. (Romans 8:34)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

OPENING THOUGHT

Paul’s letter to the Romans is a tremendous work of theology, and it centers entirely around the gospel of Jesus Christ. The first three chapters of Romans present the bad news that sin has utterly invaded humanity, meaning that there is not even one righteous person and that everyone is deserving of God’s wrath. Fortunately, chapters four through seven reveal the good news that Jesus lived a sinless life and died and undeserved death in our place.

Romans 8 then explains the significance of believing the gospel. In verse one, Paul claims that because we have been justified before God in Christ, we no longer have any condemnation for our sin. Yet we are not only without condemnation, but the Holy Spirit now dwells within each follower of Christ, enabling us to cry out to God as our Father. Then because of the Spirit, we also have hope that we will one day be glorified in Christ, forever living with Him and without sin.

In many ways, the final verses of Romans 8 serve as an epilogue to the first eight chapters, but for us, they also form a beneficial closing to the Seven Letters. In light of the gospel, Paul asks a series of questions that culminate is whether anything can separate us from the love of Christ. His answer is nothing at all. With each of the seven letters ending with a promise “to the one who conquers”, Romans 8 is a fitting reminder that in Christ we are more than conquerors.

Read verses 31-34 and discuss the following.

  1. In verse 32, Paul claims that because God did not spare His own Son, He will also give us all things. What does Paul mean to be given all things?
  2. Verse 34 displays that we are able to be without condemnation because Jesus died, rose back to life, and is now interceding for us. What does it mean for Jesus to intercede on our behalf?

Read verses 35-37 and discuss the following.

  1. Paul provides a list of things that cause severe suffering while asking whether or not they are able to separate us from the love of Christ. His answer is that even in those things we are more than conquerors. How are we able to conquerors in the midst of hardship and suffering?

Read verses 38-39 and discuss the following.

  1. The apostle’s aim with these final verses is to provide a wide, sweeping claim that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. In what ways does this verse speak to the security of salvation for a follower of Christ?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Consider statements of verses 33-34. Have you been justified by God with Christ interceding for you? If not, repent of sin to Jesus and begin following Him. If so, take time to thank God again for the good news.
  • Pray for the grace to know that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and the longing to live accordingly.