How can you be absolutely certain that you’ve been born again? Today’s question is one that we often hear that expresses some degree of concern over the authenticity of one’s salvation.
We know that salvation is not something that you gradually earn by building up merit over years of doing good things and obeying the commandments of God, but rather, salvation happens because of God’s grace and his mercy, and so therefore, it’s an instantaneous, one-moment event where you cry out to God for forgiveness of sins, and you turn to Him in faith and repentance, and Je forgives you. Scripture teaches that He sends His Holy Spirit, and places His Holy Spirit in you, and you’re born again. You’re changed. You’re a new creation in Christ.
How can you tell if that’s really happened to you? Because we know that scripture also warns that it’s possible to deceive ourselves in this manner, and that there are people who profess to know God, but yet they deny Him by their deeds. That was a warning straight from the New Testament, and there are many warnings in the New Testament along these lines of being self-deceived about your status with God. Well, fortunately and blessedly, there’s a book in the New Testament that’s written primarily to answer this very question, because it’s one that Christians have always had. What could be more important than salvation, and then, therefore, what could be more important than being certain that you actually are one of the children of God, that you have been saved, that He has forgiven you of your sins, that you are born again?
That book which I’m referring to, of course, is the New Testament Epistle of 1 John where John repeatedly makes a reference to three tests whereby we can ascertain if we are true believers or just fooling ourselves, if we truly been born again or we’re just mixed up on this matter and have a real misunderstanding of our actual spiritual status. Those tests, there are actually three of them that John lists. There’s a theological one, there’s a social one, and there’s a moral one. The theological one is I guess the easiest one to take a look at.
Let me read to you from very close to the end of John’s First Epistle, 1 John, chapter five and verse number 13. John said, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Actually that’s really a summarizing statement of the entire epistle that John wrote. These things, I wrote this epistle so that you who believe in the name of the son of God know that you have eternal life and obviously included in that one sentence is one of the tests, you have to believe in the name of the son of God, which happens to be Jesus, at least that’s the English translation of his name. Many other languages, many other translations.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference but the point is that there has to be a belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, not just believing a theological fact about Him, but believing in his name that He is in fact the one who saves, that He is in fact the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Obviously, if you believe that, it’s going to make a difference in how you live your life. That’s the first test. Only the people who profess to believe in Jesus have any hope of being assured of salvation because that’s the requirement. God so love the world He gave his only begotten son. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.
Well, then there are two other tests: the moral test and then the social test. The moral test first. When you believe in Jesus and the Holy Spirit comes to live on the inside of you, there’s a change and it’s a moral change because God is a moral God. He’s a righteous God and so He imputes that righteousness to us through his Holy Spirit, not making us obedient, holy robots, but certainly changing our basic nature, that we want to please Him, that we’re empowered to please Him.
Let me read to you from 1 John, earlier in 1 John chapter two and verse number three. By this we know we have come to know him if we keep his commandments. There is the moral test. The one who says “I’ve come to know Him” and does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him. But whoever keeps his word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him, the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk or to live his life in the same manner as He walked, that is Jesus, as Jesus lived his life. Well, Jesus, of course did not sin and those who believe in Jesus have a degree of that in their lives as well.
Now, does that mean that we never sin, that we never stumble? No, because other scriptures that make it plain that we are susceptible to failings. But there’s a difference between failing as a Christian and sinning as a Christian and sinning as an unbeliever. Sinning as a Christian, it brings this huge degree of regret and sorrow and it elicits a confession onto the Lord and asking for his forgiveness and of course then the Lord is merciful and gracious and He offers it and you pick yourself up and get back in the race. The nonbeliever sins and he might feel a tinge of guilt or something but he just keeps right on, continuing in that same pathway.
John says this again. It’s repeated throughout his epistle. 1 John 2:29, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteous is born of him.” That’s an important delineation there, the practicing of righteousness. It’s your manner of life, that generally speaking you’re on the path of righteousness but does not imply that you never fall off that path every so often. Again, we’re all striving to do our best because we believe in Jesus Christ.
1 John chapter three, verse number four, “Everyone who practices sin,” notice the word again there, practices, this is your lifestyle, “also practices lawlessness and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins and Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins. No one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.” Well, again, some people take that one verse out of its context and try to say, “Well, anytime if you ever sin, that shows that you’re not born again or if you do sin, you’ll lose your salvation right then and there.” No. No. In the Greek, the verbs are in the perfect tense which implies an ongoing, once again a practice.
“Little children,” now I’m reading from verse number seven, “make sure no one deceives you. The one who practices,” there’s the word again, “righteousness is righteous just as He is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil for the devil has sin from the beginning.” Well, we didn’t get to the social test, the third test so that will be something we can discuss on our next Little Lesson. Thanks for joining me. God bless you.