Notes on “The Big Issue” 22 March 2011
“How Do I Know I’m going to Heaven?”
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This is a huge issue for many Christians, who spend their lives in a fog of uncertainty, simply because they have never been taught what God has to say on the subject. There is a clear doctrine of assurance in the scriptures – that is, God intends that we should be utterly clear that we are going to heaven. So tonight’s subject is: how can I be sure?
We have five assertions:
¢ Christians need Security
Just like every child will develop best if they are secure in their parents love and care for them, so we can only function as believers if we are sure of our Fathers’ care for us, and sure that we belong to Him.
I John 5 gives us the following:
“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
What an assurance: God intends us to be completely confident that we will be with Him, that we have eternal life as our present and future possession and that this will not change.
¢ Christians need to understand God’s faithfulness
Ultimately the issue that is at stake when we consider the matter of our eternal security is the faithfulness of God. God shows himself to be faithful when everyone else is unreliable.
Romans 8 reads:
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
… 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Here God is saying that the process of salvation, which God started when he chose us in eternity in the past, cannot be undone. He tells us that the future glorification of believers is as certain as the past justification. The work of God cannot be altered or undone. All the elect will be with God in glory – not one will be missing.
But someone may say: “I understand that all those who belong to God will be with Him in glory – but how do I know that I am one of them?” It is great to know that you are saved if you are one of the people of God – but what if you are not sure whether or not you are?
It is to this that we now turn.
¢ Christians need to understand the evidence
What are the evidences that we belong to God? How can I be sure that I am one of his?
The book of 1 John, the Apostle John’s first letter to the churches, was written to deal with that very question. As we saw earlier, 1 John 5 v13 says “so that you may Know…” So what evidence does john say that we should look for?
¢ An Awareness of Sin (1 John 1 v. 5-10)
¢ When the Holy Spirit is in our lives, we have within us the Spirit of the God who is totally holy and without blemish. It is impossible for this situation to exist without the Holy Spirit making us aware of sin. Are you aware of your own unworthiness and sinfulness in the presence of a Holy God? Good – that is an evidence of the life of Christ in you.
¢ A Desire to Obey God (1 John 2 v. 3-6)
¢ The same Holy Spirit produces in us a desire to please God. This does not mean that we will always please him in every situation. What it means is that there is a growing desire for and experience of obedience to Him.
¢ A Love for God’s people (1 John 3 v.11-14)
¢ When we become Christians, we have a whole new family, who have the same Holy Spirit that we have. That Spirit will produce within us a love for God’s people. Not all the time and with all people – but all who are believers will have some experience of this.
¢ A Presence of the Holy Spirit (1 John 4 v.13)
¢ Implicit in everything up to now has been that we have the Holy Spirit. That Spirit testifies that we belong to God.
¢ A Love for God (1 John 5 v.1-4)
¢ Closely allied to the above is a love for God
There are more, but these are the ones that John brings out. If the Spirit of God is within someone, that same Spirit will produce in God’s child these evidences. If they are there, then you can be sure that you belong to God, with all the security that brings
NB If the evidences are not there, it is because you do not yet belong to God. You then fall into the same category as those who heard Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost.
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The opportunity exists for all who wish to follow God to take hold of Him now, and to receive all the assurance that is there for God’s children.
¢ Christians need to persevere
Along with the doctrine of assurance, there is a strong doctrine of perseverance in the scriptures. This means that one of the evidences of belonging to Jesus is that we continue in the faith and go on believing. The doctrine of assurance is nowhere given to those who have once believed – it is for those who have a present and continuing faith and trust in the Lord Jesus. This means that where there is no evidence at all of belonging to Jesus in someone’s life now, it is wise to assume that we are dealing with someone who still needs to come into their salvation.
¢ Colossians 1:23
if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
¢ 1 Timothy 4:16
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
In both of the above extracts, Paul is assuming that salvation will be accompanied by perseverance. Again, we have to say that if it is not, there remains a question mark over someone’s salvation.
¢ Christians need to be confident
Finally, this assurance gives us a salvation that enables us to be totally confident in God. Why are we confident? Surely it is that he has taken on His shoulders responsibility to get us to heaven. I may be lacking in confidence in myself, but in God there is every reason to have full confidence.
¢ As Paul writes to the Philippians: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
The same God who promises to bring His work to completion will also see to it that no one snatches us away. As Jesus says:
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
“Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine!