Has there ever been a time that you doubted your salvation? Have you ever wondered: “Did I say the right words… Did I pray the right prayer… Was I sincere enough?”
I asked the Lord to come into my heart at the age of 15 in the fall of 1975. My parents and my brother and I had been attending church for about four months, and the Holy Spirit had been convicting me of my sin. During an invitation prayer, I prayed to receive the Lord as my Savior. I was baptized and began growing in my faith. At the age of 16, I read through my Bible for the first time. A year later, an evangelist visiting our church said, “If you don’t know the date of your salvation, you’re probably not saved.” That made me think, “What was the date of my salvation?” I had no clue – I could only remember that it was in the fall.
For the first time, I began to doubt my salvation. I began to think these thoughts:
- Am I really saved?
- Will Jesus say to me, “I never knew you!”?
It really bothered me – deeply. I remember getting on my knees by my bed and praying, “Lord, I love you. I believe Jesus died for me and rose again. If I’m not saved, I trust in you right now. I believe in Jesus Christ. Please give me assurance of my salvation and peace in my heart.” Do you know what? He did. I didn’t write that date down either, but I know that I’m saved.
In 2 Corinthians 13:5 the apostle Paul says, “Examine yourselves,…prove your own selves….” In essence, he was saying to the believers in one of the early churches, “Test yourselves to make sure your faith is real. Make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t just pretend that you are a Christian; make sure you really are on the road to heaven!”
There are only two kinds of people in the world – saved and lost; believers and unbelievers. To paraphrase what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13–14, “Those on the narrow road are headed to heaven; and those on the broad road are headed for hell.” He couldn’t be any clearer! You were not born a Christian, and getting baptized does NOT make you a Christian. You become a Christian by calling on the Lord, making a personal commitment to follow the Lord, and trusting in Him and only Him for forgiveness.
The sad truth is that many churches deny the Bible’s teaching on assurance of salvation. They claim that if you say you are going to heaven with confidence, then you are prideful or presumptuous. Nothing could be further from the truth. God in His Word gives us His promise “…that [you] MAY KNOW that [you] have eternal life…” (1 John 5:13).
What if I doubt my salvation? Does that mean I’m not saved? The answer is NO. Doubt can show up as fear, anxiety, and worry. How many of us have been on a plane and, for whatever reason, worried that the plane was not going to make it safely to its landing. Years ago, two young couples from our church were flying back from vacation and their plane was hit by lightning. That’ll make you think twice about your safety! They did make it back safely, and their worry or fear did not jeopardize the integrity of the plane or the skill of the pilot. All the passengers on the plane were safe, even though the storm and the turbulence made them feel unsafe.
Why do Christians doubt that they are really saved?
They Are NOT Genuinely Saved
If you are not truly born again, that will make you doubt your salvation, because you don’t have it.
False Teaching/Lack of Bible Knowledge
This one hit me. I was given wrong information by the evangelist who said “You have to know the date of your salvation to be saved.” That statement is not true. Some religious teachers believe that you can lose your salvation, but Ephesians 4:30 promises that we “…are sealed unto the day of redemption [the return of Christ].”
A Strained Relationship with One’s Parents
Our first impression of God the Father is from our earthly father. Some of you have great impressions of God the Father from your dads, but some of you project a false view on God that you picked up at home. It’s easy to confuse conditional love from your earthly parents with unconditional love from your heavenly father.
As a Christian, sin breaks my fellowship and sweet communion with God. If I don’t regularly practice 1 John 1:9 and regularly confess my sin to God, then I will feel distant from the Lord and begin to doubt my salvation.
A Faded Memory – “I was so young I can’t remember it.”
Sometimes when a person is a young child at the time he or she accepts the Lord as Savior, later on that person is unsure of the decision and has doubts.
An Overly Sensitive Conscience
An overly sensitive conscience can result from several things: influence of parents, reading the wrong materials, a lack of faith to fully accept and embrace God’s forgiveness. The key to being spiritually healthy and rejoicing in Christ is to know the truth about God and yourself.
Truth – God loves you and Christ died for you.
Truth – God will save you when you trust Christ alone.
Truth – You cannot lose your salvation.
Truth – You don’t deserve to be saved, but you can live with peace, confidence, assurance, and joy every day of your life as a Christian.
God wants us to live with peace and assurance, yet we live in a world that has so many voices that tell us to doubt and deny Christ.
What’s the Truth about Doubt?
For some Christians, having doubts creates a crisis for them. They begin to wonder if they can truly be Christians with the doubts they are feeling. Do these doubts mean they are not Christians? This question makes some Christians afraid to express their doubts.
Don’t confuse faith with feelings.
Some people mistakenly think that faith brings with it a continuous religious high. When that religious high or feeling wears off, and it will, these people begin to doubt whether their faith is real. They begin to think, “Maybe I don’t have faith, because my feeling of euphoria is gone.” When dealing with doubts, don’t confuse faith with feelings.
It’s OK to ask honest questions.
Some people think they should never ask questions about their faith, but that is wrong. Jesus did not rebuke John the Baptist for expressing his doubts and questions as described in Matthew 11:2–11. John had sincere questions, and Jesus answered them by telling John’s disciples to return to John and tell him about all the miracles they had seen, which verified that Jesus was the Messiah.
Sometimes doubt is intellectual.
John the Baptist may have needed simple reassurance about the puzzling questions he had, such as: “Why isn’t Jesus overthrowing the Roman government?”
Sometimes doubt is emotional.
Perhaps John wanted to know the answer to a few “why” questions. John may have been thinking, “I was the forerunner, and yet why have I been arrested for my faith?” If you’ve had plaguing doubts, I recommend to you two books by Lee Strobel: The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith.
Doubt is not the problem, but unbelief.
There is a difference between doubt and unbelief. “Doubt is can’t believe; unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness.”
Some people have legitimate doubts, but others hide behind their doubts as they’re trying to poke holes in Christianity, because they don’t want it to be true. Their “doubts” are not honest. The reason that they doubt is that IF they discover that Christianity is true, their immoral and selfish lifestyles would have to change.
Jesus is not the least bit afraid of honest doubters. In the Scriptures we see Jesus coming to honest doubters such as Thomas and John the Baptist and answering their questions. Christianity is not so fragile that it can’t stand up to a few questions. Questions CANNOT poke real holes in something that is true.
The apostle Paul challenges Christians to “prove ourselves.” What’s the proof? Let me share four evidences that are in the life of a genuine Christian:
Do I Have a Desire…
To Confess My Sin?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:3. People in the kingdom of heaven are poor in spirit. That means they have a sense of their own spiritual bankruptcy and spiritual poverty.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” Matthew 5:6. Genuine Christians desire to be like their Lord and Master, who is holy.
To Obey God?
“If ye love me, keep my commandments” John 14:15. Is there a compelling desire in your heart to submit to divine authority?
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” John 13:35.
God Wants You To Live with Assurance of Heaven
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” 1 John 5:13.
What is the next step? Share your good news. If God gave you assurance of salvation, share it. If God saved you, then get baptized in a Bible-believing church, as described in Acts 2:41. Don’t drift along spiritually taking everything for granted. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.
To watch the entire message “Is Your Faith Real?” which includes 10 tests of salvation from the book of 1 John, go to www.thecaringchurch.com/media/services/sunday-morning/ and select January 24, 2016.
Author: Scott Wendal
Scott Wendal is the founding and lead Pastor of Valley Forge Baptist in Collegeville, PA. He attained his Bachelor of Arts degree at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, in 1981. After completing a three-year internship in Fairfax, Virginia, Pastor Wendal came to the Valley Forge area in July 1984 to begin Valley Forge Baptist. Pastor Wendal and his wife, Jodie, have five children.