Evidence of Salvation
BY TOM HOLT
The following is a condensed version of a message your editor recently delivered in a Chinese church in Connecticut.
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Have you ever gotten hopelessly lost because you have been given the wrong directions? If you were on your way to an important meeting or a very special date, it was a terrible disappointment, wasn't it?
But no disappointment can compare with the one you'd receive if you have counted on going to heaven but end up in hell because you have been given the wrong directions. The information may have come from a well-meaning friend or even a well-known preacher, but if it's wrong, it's wrong. That's why we all need to find out for ourselves: Have I truly become saved?
It's a fact that most people who call themselves Christians are still under the wrath of God. Jesus Himself says so: "Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matt. 7:13,14, italics added).
You wonder why so many people are walking on this broad but wrong road. The answer, of course, is that they have been given the wrong directions by the wrong people.
In all fairness, most of the people who have witnessed to the misguided probably meant well. But they themselves are misinformed. Anxious to see others join their faith, they use Bible verses out of context to effect easy conversion. They modify the gospel to make it sound as though becoming a child of God is just like joining a club.
We read in Romans 10:9, for instance, "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." So, they tell people that to become saved, all you have to do is to say that Jesus is Lord and to believe that He was resurrected after He had been crucified.
At first glance, what they say seems correct. And God has no doubt used that simple statement to save many of His lost sheep. But the fact is, most of the people responding to that kind of invitation remain unsaved, even though they think that they are saved.
In Matthew 7:21, Jesus says: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Notice that they all called Jesus "Lord, Lord." They have surely said with their mouths, "Jesus is Lord." And they know all about Jesus' death and resurrection. Look at verse 22, "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'" They actually have evangelized in the name of Christ.
But Jesus told them in verse 23, "I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Jesus literally told them to go to hell!
No contradiction. Does this mean that the Bible contradicts itself? Of course not. Rather, to understand the word of God, we must take into consideration what the whole Bible teaches. And when we share our faith, we must give the whole counsel of God.
Let's look at Romans 10:9 carefully. First of all, to confess Jesus is Lord with your mouth means more than just saying those words with your mouth. It means that you are now fully in agreement with God that Jesus is the Lord of your life. He is your master, and you are His slave. A slave, of course, must follow every command of His master.
Similarly, to believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead means, among other things, that you know why Christ died on the cross to begin with. You know that He died there bearing your personal sins.
The fact that the Father raised Him from the dead, therefore, proves that Christ had paid in full all the penalty that was due you. If that is what you believe deep in your heart, then you cannot help but be eternally grateful to your Savior, so much so that you want everything you do in your life to please and glorify Him.
Can you see how much narrower this Romans 10:9 road is, compared with the one that is commonly presented? That's why Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Only those who do the will of God are saved.
1. ObedienceThe most important evidence of salvation, therefore, is obedience.
Let me hasten to emphasize at this point that the guidelines I'm showing you in this message are not meant to be absolute. God knows that we are not perfect; He realizes that we cannot obey Him perfectly. But He looks at our heart. So, what's important is a sincere desire deep in our heart to be obedient.
Also, there must be growth. As a believer matures, he becomes more and more obedient. He finds more and more joy in giving up his old behavior, and doing things God's way. Conversely, he really feels bad inside whenever he finds that he has disobeyed God.
Remember King David sinned in the Old Testament? He committed adultery with Bathsheba and later had her husband killed. But as soon as the prophet Nathan called it to his attention, he felt terrible. He said in Psalm 51 that he had lost his joy and gladness. He felt as though his bones had been crushed. He felt ashamed. Only after he had confessed and repented did peace and joy return to him.
Yes, every true child of God has an increasing desire to obey God. But he cannot really obey unless he knows what to obey.
We tend to think that if we don't steal or murder, if we don't swear or commit adultery, if we are cordial to others, we are a good Christian. But to be obedient means much more than that. Jesus says, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me" (John 14:21). We have to obey all of His commands.
Until we have a good idea of what the Bible teaches, therefore, we are inevitably sinning against God without knowing it. Do you realize, for example, that if we fail to discipline our children, we are being disobedient? And when we are upset with our unfair bosses, we are behaving in a way that is displeasing to God?
Every true child of God has an increasing desire to obey God. But he cannot really obey unless he
So, if you truly are a child of God, you naturally have a growing desire to learn and obey the word of God. In your quiet time, read Psalm 119 and you'll know what I mean.
2. ForgivingnessAnother important evidence of salvation is the ability to forgive.
It's a sad fact that often a member of a church holds a continuing grudge against another. Because of something that happened in the past, this member would not even talk to the other. Well, when you see such a person in the congregation, pray for him. Pray for his salvation because he is still unsaved.
I'm sure all of you are familiar with the parable of the unmerciful servant that Jesus gave in Matthew 18. Now, notice what Jesus said at the end of that parable, "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart" (v. 35). That is a very clear warning, isn't it? No unforgiving person is a child of God. Such a person will be condemned to eternal punishment.
That a believer must be forgiving is reiterated in the Bible many times. God says in I John 2, "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness" (v. 9,10).
Later in that epistle, He warns, "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the chil
dren of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother" (3:10).
The unsaved of the world, you see, are not capable to forgive. They are too full of pride and self-centeredness. The best they can do is to say, "I forgive but I can't forget." That, of course, really means that I can't forgive him from my heart.
But the true believer can and must. He appreciates the fact that God has forgiven his sins; he realizes that no one can hurt him nearly as much as his sins had hurt Jesus. It is his sins that caused the Lord to endure unimaginable suffering on the cross.
Are you a true child of God? Do you have a forgiving heart?
3. Fruit of the SpiritAnother important evidence of salvation is a changed life that reflects the fruit of the Spirit. Every true child of God must bear fruit. The Father cuts off every branch in Him that bears no fruit, Jesus warns. To emphasize this truth, He even cursed a fig tree that bore no fruit, and that tree died afterwards.
Such virtues as love, joy, peace and so on are called the fruit of the Spirit because it is the Holy Spirit that produces these qualities in a believer.
Remember the Parable of the Sower? The seed that was sown on good soil, Jesus says, yielded fruit 100, 60 or 30 times. By those different numbers, the Lord indicates that the rate of "output" varies from one believer to another.
That's comforting to us, because often we don't seem to be as Christ-like as some other children of God.
Nevertheless, all true Christians do experience a changed life; they all become conformed more and more to the image of Christ. Why? Because they have the indwelling Holy Spirit working in them. So, if we have truly become saved, we should be able to see persistent progress in this area.
4. Bold TestimonyStill another feature that is common to all true believers is that they all have a bold witness.
A lot of churchgoers behave like believers only when they are among Christians. In their workaday life, even their closest associates do not know that they are supposed to be Christians. I'm sure you know many people like that.
Notice what our Lord Jesus says: "If anyone is ashamed of me...the Son of Man will be ashamed of him..." (Mark 8:38); and "Whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven" (Matt. 10:33).
The Lord is telling us unequivocally that if we are afraid to let people know that we are Christians, then we really are not a child of His. It is our duty to be the light of the world. It is our duty to show peoplecorrectlyhow they can be saved.
Once we let people know that we are Christians, of course, we will be on public display. The true be
liever doesn't mind that; he welcomes the opportunity to shine for Christ.
Letting people know that we are Christians could subject us to persecution. We may be discriminated against at work, for instance. But again, a true child of God is not bothered by that. He is more concerned with pleasing God than with his own career, knowing that God will take care of him.
Yes, the true believer is proud to let the world know that he is a son of the King. This is the only kind of pride that is pleasing to God.
SummaryWell, I have given you four characteristics of a true believer: a growing desire to learn and obey the word of God, an increasing willingness to forgive others, a life showing more and more of the fruit of the Spirit, and an increasing boldness in witnessing for Christ.
Some of you may be saying to yourself, "Tom is much too strict. He expects too much from us." No, my friends, I do not expect anything from you. You don't have to report to me. But you do have to answer to God. The four points that I have cited, as you have seen, are all spelled out clearly in the Bible; they were all spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself.
That's why Jesus warns that small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life. The Christian walk is not easy. If you have been walking on the easy and broad road, if you have called yourself a Christian but have not seen those characteristics in your life, repent now and submit yourself to Christ. Beseech the Lord to have mercy on you and save you.
The thing is, once you have entered the small gate and walked on the narrow road, you'll begin to enjoy the great blessings of being a true child of God. And believe me, the joy of obedience is far greater than anything this world can offer. May the Lord enable you to discover it. o
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