Years ago, now, ministering at a nursing home, there was a dear couple, long-time ministers. Whenever we gave the congregation an opportunity to testify, the husband would stand, straighten up his arthritic body, and declare clearly and openly, “I want you to know that I have a ‘know-so’ salvation. I am saved, and I know so!” Such wonderful assurance of faith.
Like my elderly friend, now long in heaven’s arms, I have a know-so salvation. Some have asked me how I can be so assured. How can you know, for sure, that you are accepted by God?
Why do we doubt God’s love for us? What causes us to lose confidence in God’s care? I believe the first and foremost reason is that we, as individuals, believe that we are unlovable and unwanted. Why would someone want to be my friend? What is good about me that anyone would care for me?
As children we look to our families and friends for assurances about ourselves. Oftentimes, however, our parents and friends make mistakes (or, in some cases, intentional comments), and their words and actions skillfully damage the part of our hearts that hold this type of confidence.
A child or adult with low self-esteem will often have a very hard time believing in God’s persistent love and forgiveness because he considers himself unlovable. She wants desperately to believe, but having been told and/or shown by another’s actions that she is not acceptable, that she will never amount to anything, she continually struggles to believe that she is accepted by God.
One of the saddest moments of my ministry was spending the last months with a man who could not let go of the shame and guilt of his younger life. He confessed with his mouth Jesus as Lord, and believed it, too. But when it came to leaving the pain behind, he couldn’t believe that anyone could love him that much or that completely. Thank God for grace and the Holy Spirit when in his very last days, this man was able to release the past and embrace the truth of God’s love.
When my belief in God’s love is thwarted by my owned learned and experienced trauma, I doubt that God would even want me, and even if God did want me, he would not be able to use me because I am just so broken. No broken bone hurts as deeply as the brokenness of spirit experienced by such a person. And so, the unhealed pain in her soul brings her back, time and again, to the place of asking for something she has already received, of longing for a love that already is hers. If you have a friend in this situation, pray for deliverance and understanding. Help her understand that God’s love does not rely on our ability to be lovable, but “it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
The apostle Paul testified, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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” (Romans 8:38)
A lack of understanding of forgiveness and its persistence can cause an individual to not only doubt God’s love, but to even doubt his or her ability to be accepted by God. Time and again I talk to people who are confused about salvation. Because they misunderstand what the Bible teaches, they are constantly “getting saved,” over and over again, trying to find some assurance that they are truly accepted by Christ. Instead of visiting the altar to seek God for a deeper relationship, they find themselves at the altar begging for something God has given already, acceptance and forgiveness because of Christ.
How can I be so assured of my salvation? How can I know, beyond a doubt, that I am a part of God’s kingdom?
Know what the Bible says.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16,17)
Jesus’ entry to this world was not a random act, but rather part of the plan of God to restore fellowship with God’s fallen creation. Note that John does not say that everyone who goes to a certain church will be saved, or that everyone who is upper class will be saved. The gospel, or good news, is that salvation is offered to whoever believes, no matter how damaged or well. Jesus said if we have the faith of a mustard seed we can move a mountain. That is all we need, just a tiny bit of faith, to believe in God. Growth in faith comes later.
Have faith in Jesus’ ability to save.
Salvation isn’t determined by the ability to change myself or my life, but rather by God’s ability to save me. Even the faith to believe comes from God, because Jesus is the “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). God gives us the gift of faith to believe, and we are saved.
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ ”
Understand the difference between salvation and discipleship.
We cite our mistakes and failures as proof that we do not belong to God and then, once again, beg God to accept us. This is a major misunderstanding of God’s Word. Even the apostle Paul, a man of tremendous faith, witnessed that he fell short of God’s will. Our earthly behaviors and mindsets fail us regularly because we are still in the process of being transformed. To quote a song I heard recently, “We fall down, we get up again.”
The Christian life is one of transformation and growth, which comes through our struggles and failures. We are not rejected when we fall short, just as most of us would not reject our own child who makes a mistake. God’s love is persistent and is not withdrawn because we are not perfect. Jesus said that only God is perfect.
There is so much more that can be said, but this is the crux of the discussion: If you have never asked God to forgive your sins and to receive you, do it today. You may not have a life-changing experience or a moment of extreme joy, but in truth, God will answer your prayer, as you begin a lifelong journey to heaven.
However, if you have asked Christ to be your Savior and still don’t “feel saved,” start changing your mindset today. Remind yourself, even when you cannot “feel” it, that you are accepted and loved by God, not because of how good you are, but because of how good Jesus Christ is. Step by step, thought by thought, remind yourself that you are God’s child, and nothing can take you out of His hand.
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor