This post remains one of our most popular ever, and for good reason. The question of assurance is a troubling one for many people in the church. I myself struggled for years to feel completely sure that I was saved. There’s much more to say about the issue than this, but for those wondering, “Am I really saved?” this is a helpful start.
I get the question from Christians a lot: “How can I know for sure that I’m saved?” So often, in fact, that I wrote a book addressing it: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. I struggled with the question a lot myself until someone pointed me to passage from 1 John that helped open my eyes. In 1 John 5:13-18, John identifies two ways that we can be sure of our salvation.
1. We have placed our hopes for heaven entirely on Jesus. (1 John 5:13)
“I write these things to you,” John says, “who believe in the name of the Son of God.” It’s so simple that we’re liable to miss it, but assurance comes from believing in Jesus. This is the gospel: When we trust in his name, we cease striving to earn heaven by drawing upon our own moral bank account; instead, we withdraw on his righteous account in our place.
The gospel, by its very nature, produces assurance. Because the gospel proclaims “Jesus in my place,” my assurance does not depend on how well or how much I have done. It depends on whether or not I rest in his finished work. So the question is not, “Can I remember praying a prayer?” or “Was my conversion experience really emotional?” The important question is, “Are you currently resting on Jesus as the payment for your sin?”
A lot of Christians get caught up looking for assurance to a prayer they prayed two years, five years or 30 years ago. But John does not say, “I write these things to you who prayed the sinner’s prayer.” He writes to those who believe. The point is not the prayer you prayed, but the present posture you are in.
2. You have a new nature. (vv. 16–18)
If you have been born of God you have been given a new nature. And that comes with new desires. So you do not “keep on sinning,” as John writes, because you have new desires. As an earthy way to think about this, you might imagine some vomit on the ground. None of us would require a list of rules keeping us from eating it. Why? Because we find it disgusting. Now, a dog has a totally different nature, with different desires. A dog would find that vomit as appetizing as we find it disgusting.