Question from a Site Viewer
I don’t know if I’m really saved!
I’m a Baptist minister’s son. I grew up in church until I was 18. I prayed the sinner’s prayer and made a profession of faith at age 10. However, at age 17 I started living for myself and pleasure and did so until two years ago at age 52. I made a few attempts to change my life and return to church, but it didn’t last. Two years ago seeing the state of the world and still believing the Bible to be completely true, I did return to church, start praying and reading the Bible and other Christian writings. After much reading, I cannot believe my profession was real at age 10 because of the way I lived after. Now I’m in doubt about my salvation and can’t seem to get assurance. I’ve prayed and tried to repent over the past two years. I’m somewhat improved, but I can’t point to a time I was regenerated, born again or saved. I want to be more Christ-like but I just don’t seem to have the will or strength to do it, and I don’t seem to be able to get strength from God either. For instance, I know I should fellowship with believers but I don’t. The same with witnessing and serving–the desire is there but not the energy. When I test myself against 1 John for assurance, it is not conclusive. When I discuss it with others (counselor, minister) they say it’s what I believe now. Is it possible because of my past I can no longer be brought to repentance (Hebrews 6)? I just don’t understand. Am I really saved? Can you give some thoughts on how to make sure of relationship with Christ?
First, welcome back. While I am sad that you spent so many years away from Him, I am happy to learn of your new interest in a relationship with the greatest person in all the universe. You will not regret your decision to return to the Shepherd and Bishop of your soul.
I know it may come as a shock to some, but we place far more significance on a point and time of conversion than Scripture does. The point of Scripture is not whether we have believed in the past, but whether we believe now. Faith in God is a present idea. I cannot give you a day or time when I turned to God. That used to bother me because I did not know how I could convince those who did not know me that I had become a follower of Christ. But when I read Scripture, I was less bothered. If I follow Christ and seek to do His will, my life will demonstrate a belief in Him. What I tell people now is that they should turn to God early and often. Keep on coming. Draw near to Him. When we come to Him, He will not cast us out (John 6:37).
You ask for some thoughts on strengthening your assurance of salvation. You want to know if you’re really saved. First, we must trust Christ. If Christ says that He will not cast us out if we come, then we must trust Him. If Christ says that if we believe on in Him we will be saved, then we must trust Him. Faith is believing God is true to His word and taking refuge in Him.
Second, we must walk with the Spirit. No Christian life can be sustained without a dependency on the Spirit of God. He is the One who gives us power and strength. Apart from him, we will always be living in the defeat of Romans 7:14-24. With Him we will be living in the victory of Romans 8. If we are in Christ, we have the Spirit, but we still need to learn to walk with Him. Walking with Him is the idea of being in constant communication with God, about everything. Just as when we go for a walk with a person, we talk to that person, so when we walk with God, we need to talk with Him. If you do not think you have strength for fellowship, talk to God about it and ask for His help. Then read His word and understand that fellowship is not just about you, but is about giving you an opportunity to obey the “one another” commands in Scripture. How can we love one another, encourage one another, build up one another, serve one another, or do any of these commands if we are not with one another? This is a matter of basic love. The world will know we are His disciples when we love one another, Jesus tells us. So pray for love and then serve in love. True confidence in our salvation comes only as we love one another (1 John 3:18-22). And love is a command for us to do. I suspect part of the reason you do not have assurance is because you are not obeying the Lord with this most basic command.
I encourage you to make fellowship with other believers a priority, not out of duty, but as an opportunity to show love to them, through kind words and kind deeds. Thank God for the privilege he gives you to engage others with His kindness. If you do this one thing, and do not forsake meditating on the Word, prayer, worship, and praise, I suspect your questions about your own salvation will go away.
You ask about Hebrews 6 and its possible application to you. If, like the prodigal son, you have returned to God, then you have already repented. Repentance is simply changing one’s mind or purpose. It is turning from one life to another. If you have turned to God from your former life, then you have repented. We often think of repentance as a mourning over sin. But this is not what the word means. It is simply changing one’s mind. So the fact that you are now actively seeking to follow Christ shows me that you have repented already. Accordingly, the Hebrews 6:4-6 passage cannot be about you, because you have repented and there the passage says that the person in view cannot be brought back again to the place of repentance. We have elsewhere explained our understanding of Hebrews 6. No matter how one interprets Hebrews 6, one may not interpret it to mean that sons cannot return to the Father, as such an interpretation would run counter to the whole point of Christ’s teaching in Luke 15. Having come back to Christ, now you simply need to learn how to walk with Him. The only way to move out of a Romans 7 walk into a Romans 8 walk is to learn to abide in Christ, relying on Him for strength, and walking daily with the Spirit, being attentive to what He may be leading you to do. If you do this, you will find peace.
One who also has been forgiven,