I am so grateful to Pastor Shawn and the Worship Team for our current sermon series, “Hard Questions.” Today’s blog deals with this week’s topic: “How do I know I’m really saved?”
We’re going to start with an analogy. No analogy is perfect, but I think that this might serve as a useful reference later in the article.
In our cars, there are two very different devices that deal with the speed of the vehicle. One is designed to “drive” or increase the speed, and the other’s purpose is to “confirm” the speed. The accelerator and the speedometer have entirely different purposes. If we want our car to go faster we push on the accelerator, we put weight on it, and the vehicle’s speed increases. Now, of course, when we do that, one of the results is that the speedometer indicates or confirms that we’re indeed speeding up. The speedometer is a sign of speed, not a source of speed. We know that if we want more speed, pushing the needle of the speedometer is not going to get us to go faster. To get speed we have to focus on, and put weight on the source of speed, not the indicator. So what’s the point of having a speedometer? The speedometer shows us if we’re putting weight on the accelerator correctly. If the speedometer is reading at “0,” then we’re most likely not putting any weight on the accelerator at all.
Maybe you can already see how our analogy applies to the question of salvation, more correctly, to our assurance of salvation. I’ve recently read a book by Dr. Greg Gilbert entitled, “Assured.” In it, Gilbert says:
I believe the Bible reveals four main sources of assurance: (1) The Gospel of Jesus Christ [The Gospel assures us because it’s Jesus that saved us not anything we’ve done, so we know it’s been done completely]. (2) The promises of God [God has promised us that those He has saved He will never lose]. (3) The witness of the Holy Spirit [The Holy Spirit is a supernatural source of assurance that gives a deep and profound sense of security in our souls]. And (4) The fruits of obedience [Our evident and unending sanctification process gives assurance; assurance comes from seeing the visible results—the living out, of our growing Spiritual maturation].
Dr. Gilbert then goes on to say that we need to realize that these four sources of assurance don’t all function in the same way, and we’re not meant to treat them in the same way. He explains:
The best way to think of it is that two of these sources of assurance—the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Promises of God—are held out by Scripture as driving sources of assurance…the deeper we press into them with understanding and faith, the greater our sense of assurance will be. As for the witness of the Holy Spirit, and the fruits of obedience (our good works as Christians), they seem to be held out by Scripture not as driving sources, but as confirming sources of assurance.
Now let’s go back to our car analogy. If we desire a stronger assurance of our salvation, we don’t do that by fiddling with the indicator or the confirming mechanism (the speedometer). Doing a few more good deeds or a few less bad ones so that we can feel more worthy of going to heaven is like pushing the speedometer arrow in order to increase our speed. The appearance of fruits is not a driver; it’s a confirmer. But sadly, many Christians think that the way to feel more sure about their salvation is to focus on their good works, or their sinful behavior—which is, of course, putting the assurance of their salvation and the security of their salvation on themselves and not on God’s grace alone. The real way to respond to a lack of assurance is to focus on, and put weight on, the true driving sources of assurance—which we pointed out earlier are the promises of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we do that we’ll develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with our Lord, and the resulting confirmation from the Holy Spirit.
Dr. Gilbert used a different analogy to explain the point.
The fruit on a tree can be an indicator of the tree’s health, but to achieve a healthier tree, the solution isn’t to make the fruit look better. Rather, it’s to tend to the root which drives and creates the tree’s health. In the same way, the fruit of our lives can be an important indicator of our spiritual health, but we won’t be able to increase our sense of assurance and confidence in our salvation simply by trying to make the fruit look better. Duck-taping apples to a sick tree, or painting rotten apples red, doesn't make the tree healthier. No, we have to tend to the root, and then the fruit—the indicator of health—will improve.
Our Savior has promised us that our salvation is sure. Romans 8:29-30 provides the Golden Chain of Assurance: “ For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined, He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” Our God’s promises are Absolute.
Joyful assurance is God’s loving gift to all of his children.
Written by Jim De Horn