This is adapted from the notes I wrote for a sermon I preached in Trinidad on 6 Tests or evidences of authentic salvation… hope it blesses you.
“…preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!”
(1 Corinthians 9:16)
“But if I say I’ll never mention the Lord or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!” (Jeremiah 20:9)
The more and more I dig into His word, the more heavily it weighs to compel me… once you get a glimpse of the weight of glory – nothing presses more heavily than the Gospel and issues of salvation. It puts a demand on us if we truly believed it – because this is not mere theology and philosophical speculations we are playing around with – but the eternal destiny of real people’s souls – whether if it be in heaven in endless delight, or in hell in unceasing torment and agony… think about that. It should bother you… unless we are really that cold and uncaring. That thought should mess you up. It should rightfully be a divine obsession… something this weighty should make a huge impact on how we view everything in life.
But why talk about authentic salvation and assurance? Isn’t it enough if I just believe? Doesn’t the bible say believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved? Isn’t salvation as simple as belief? Isn’t salvation after all – God’s no-strings attached, get-out-of-hell free gift?
A lot of times when I speak on this topic – people are quick to call it legalistic to put any criteria on salvation other than belief… it’s all of grace right? I mean – doesn’t God just accept us how we are? Well – yes… but I think we’ve taken what was meant as something far more profound and butchered it over the years into something like the 4 spiritual laws and a magic prayer instead of being the deep life changing power of the Gospel. And though salvation is offered freely to us, it came at a great cost to God.
I am convinced there is nothing natural about salvation. If we look at Ephesians 2 – it is the supernatural work of God to bring a person who is deaf to truth, blind to light and dead in their trespasses to life in Christ. There is nothing normal about that… deaf, blind and dead people don’t do a whole lot for themselves if you haven’t noticed. To buy into cheap grace is to sell yourself way short, and if we are really dealing with eternal destinies, I’d much rather be “over-saved” – if you will – than think you’re ok, die and then be very unpleasantly surprised!!
“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“How do I know that I’m truly saved?” is both one of the most common questions I’ve been asked by believers, and also the most important. So I’d like to talk about some of the biblical evidences of true salvation – for our assurance of authentic profession of faith. This will not be exhaustive, but rather focus on some of the major ones which stand out to me and I’d encourage any serious believer to examine for themselves what scripture says about true conversion and faith…
6 EVIDENCES OF SALVATION:
I will just focus on 6 of the evidences I see in scripture for a test of true faith and authentic salvation.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor 13:5)
Understand that my purpose is not to cause some of you to doubt your salvation, but actually make – as 2 Peter 1:10 phrases it – “your calling and election sure”. Look at how Paul tells us how to know if we are in the faith – he asks – do you not realize that Jesus is in you? So therefore, all these tests come back to one main thing – are our lives lining up with that of Christ’s? Is there a clear progression towards Christ-likeness in your life? The early believers were called Christians because they looked so much like Jesus, the term actually means “little Christs”. When last has someone told you – you really remind me of Jesus? Or I can really see Jesus in you?
1. Fatherly Discipline
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
(Hebrews 12:5-8 ESV)
The Christian is not one who is without sin. However, does the Lord discipline you when you fall? Because according to Hebrews, God disciplines those He loves because He is treating us as sons. One mark of the true convert is the inability to go on sinning without repercussions. I’m sure some of you have had the experience, where before you were saved – you could do whatever and get away with it – but then after your conversion, all of a sudden everything catches up with you! You can’t lie without being found out, those “little sins” keep eating at your conscience. This is good, because it is God’s spirit that will not allow you to rest in sin.
However, there is an important distinction between the conviction of sin for a non-believer through his conscience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. For the non-believer, they can continue sinning – though they intellectually may know it is wrong, they may even feel bad or guilty because of their conscience… but they have no power to come out from the power of their sin unless the Holy Spirit starts to act on that person to bring them beyond mere guilt to repentance. They’re still slaves to sin (Romans 6:20). Jesus said it is one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs to convict the world of sin and righteousness. For the believer though, when he sins, he cannot stay in sin – he cannot make a practice or lifestyle of sin because of the work of the Holy Spirit in their life. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).
“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:4-10 ESV)
So ask yourself – what happens when I do sin? Does God discipline me? Either through His word, or another brother or sister? Are you able to stay in a pattern of sinful behaviour – addicted to your hidden and secret sins without any desire to leave them behind, without seeking to do anything and everything to get them out of your life – like Jesus said – to cut off your hand if it offends you (Matthew 5:30)? He was not talking about becoming amputees… Rather, what are the lengths that you are willing to go to kill your sin? If that laptop is a stumbling block, do you put it in a public place, or even throw it away? You know certain places cause you to fall, do you avoid them? Do you bring things out into the light to expose them and create true transparency for accountability to not allow a foothold for the Devil? Do you actively seek to live a transparent life and have people in your life who can call you out on your sin? Or are you just playing Christian and happy to keep those pet sins?
Matt Chandler gives the example of a girl who had a pet boa constrictor snake… every night the snake would come up next to her on her bed and stretch itself out alongside her for a few minutes then move along. At first she thought this was cute, but it kept on happening for a while night after night. So she decided to ask one of her friends who worked at a pet store about it. After hearing about the strange behaviour he said to her, “Throw that snake out!”
To which she was appalled, “No I can’t! Not my Fluffy!” (or whatever you call a pet snake)
He then proceeded to explain, “That snake isn’t cuddling up to you, he’s sizing you up to see when he is big enough to swallow you whole!”
That is how secret sin is… it keeps growing and festering, until it over takes our life. But it was for freedom that Christ set us free – so let us not submit ourselves over and over to the yoke of slavery to sin and its lusts. Get it out in the light, cut it off, kill the snake.
2. Fruit Production
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20 ESV)
I don’t know about you – but the tree that is cut down and thrown into the fire doesn’t sound like salvation to me! James says that “faith without works is dead” because if our faith does not produce some sort of practical change in our lives – then what good is such faith? And how can that kind of faith save? We claim if we’re saved – that the same power which raised Christ from the grave now lives in us (Romans 8:11, Ephesians 1:19-20) – and you mean to tell me that has no effect on you? Is God’s power then ineffective? If you were to come up to me and tell me a semi-truck ran you over, but you looked perfectly fine, there’s no way I’d believe you… so how is it that we can claim to have encountered the God who created the billions of stars and galaxies in the universe and yet be unchanged? It is all over the New Testament, that what we do & how we live – our fruit – is not how we earn salvation, but proof that our salvation and conversion is true. The fruit-less Christian does not exist! Time to dispel the myth of the carnal and lukewarm Christian.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)
In the end, when people are standing before the judgment seat of Christ, to the ones who are not saved… he doesn’t say – oh you didn’t believe enough, or you didn’t do enough, you didn’t work hard enough to earn your salvation… no – he says, “depart from me… I NEVER KNEW YOU.” This passage is honestly scary because of this word “many”… because Jesus is talking to those who think they’re good… He’s talking to the church… he’s saying you can do all these things, even perform miracles, cast out demons, and mighty works in His name and still not get in because you never really knew Him, He didn’t really know you. What’s even scarier, is that we have so many “Christians” who aren’t even doing these things and think they are good… There are some you even sitting here who might be part of this “many”… because there are two types in the flock; the sheep and the goats – and on the Last Day they will be separated. That word “many” haunts me…
Understand the balance Matthew’s gospel shows us here – it is not our works that save, but a transformed heart must produce a transformed life – or do we cheapen the power of God? The carnal Christian does not exist… and the reason we have so many “Christians” in churches who are caught up lifestyles of sin; sleeping around, unbridled tongues, quick to anger and irritable, lustful eyes and dirty minds is because they have never truly been converted! One of the biggest mission fields these days in the modern west is the pews of the sleeping evangelical church.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 ESV)
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34)… and you can pretty easily tell what is the abundance in someone’s heart by just talking to them for a bit. This is why James talks about the tongue being the hardest thing to tame (James 3:1-12). We talk about what we love… so what is on your lips? What do you talk about most? Has God’s word sunk so deep in your heart, has His love so completely transformed your heart that it has changed the way you talk? I can’t shut up about it…like Jeremiah – it’s like a fire shut up in my bones that I can’t contain. Or are you always talking like the world? About worldly things? About the latest fashion, TV show, gossip, talking about that girl’s body? When you’re out with your non-Christian friends, is your conversation noticeably different? Or are you making the same dirty jokes? These things naturally will come out of our mouths and reveal what’s really in our hearts and is what we will be judged on according to Jesus.
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7 ESV)
The Bible says you’re a liar if you claim to be a Christian and yet walk in darkness. Walking in the light has to do with living your life in such a way that you don’t need to hide anything from anyone. You go to church on Sunday, but where are you Friday night? Would you gladly tell everyone about it, or would you have to hide it? Could you tell a pastor about the kinds of movies you watch or games you play? You can’t be a true Christian and yet walk in darkness. Repent of your sins so that you will have nothing to hide, and you’ll be walking in the light.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” ( Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
Notice Paul says to “work out your salvation” – not to work FOR your salvation… for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. There is that pairing of our works confirming our salvation – and that it is because God is working in us… whenever we see passages on our free will choice to obey God, choose Him, etc – it’s often we see that it is paired up with a passage on God’s election and predestination of us – the two don’t contradict – but work together. Paul is saying, “ok you’re saved, then work it out… live out your salvation practically, knowing that if you truly have the Spirit of God in you, it is God working in and through you – both to give you the desire and the capacity to accomplish His will!”
When we’re truly saved, and we understand how great our salvation is – that God has brought us out of death into life, that the God of all the Universe came and died for us just so we could have relationship with Him – that should inspire us to work hard for him, not to earn the salvation that he already freely offers, but as thanks to His grace over us. It is all of Grace – but without a life change, how is it “Amazing Grace”? Grace is not devoid of effort, it is devoid of earning.
So what is the fruit of your life?
3. Progressive Holiness
As we have seen already, a believer’s life should be one of transformed pattern of sinfulness to one of a progressive struggle towards holiness otherwise known as sanctification. To be transformed from one degree to another into the image of Jesus.
“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” (1 John 2:28-29 ESV)
The Bible declares that whoever claims to be saved and yet does not keep His commandments is a liar, and that those who practice sin are children of the devil. Those who claim to be Christians must walk in the same manner as Jesus walked. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. The law by itself could not save us, but only condemned us as we looked into it and saw just how guilty we were. It is our schoolmaster bringing us to Christ by showing us our need. However, the law is still good, and what the law could not do – Christ did and brought us justification through His imputed righteousness to us. It is the beautiful exchange – He took our sin and shame that we earned in our life on the Cross, and we got His righteousness He earned through a perfectly lived life.
So though our justification is already complete – our sanctification is on going. So what is the ongoing pattern of your life? Are you struggling towards a pattern of holy living, forsaking the sins you once delighted in? Because according to 1 John, this progressive walk of holiness, to practice righteousness is part of our confidence so that we will not shrink back from Him.
4. Change of Affections and Joyful Obedience
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:3-6 ESV)
One of the greatest assurances that someone is a child of God is that they joyfully obey Him from the heart. His commandments are not burdensome for the true Christian (1 John 5:3). God is not after your begrudging servitude. The gospel we preach is not one of behaviour modification, but heart transformation. God takes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26). The only way to a true change of heart is not by a list of laws but by relationship. If you had a partner who gave you a list of do’s and don’ts, it might change your behaviour for a bit, but it wouldn’t really change your heart. However, if you had an actual loving relationship with that person, then all of a sudden the changes come naturally – because now your heart has been changed. If you don’t joyfully obey His will now, God isn’t going to force you to do so for all eternity. Don’t think that hell is full of people who just didn’t have the right knowledge or doctrine… it is for those who do not delight in bending their knees to Him in this life. There must be an aspect of delighting – simple humdrum, gritting of the teeth and brute force good-behaviour will just not do. All our good works before Him are filthy rags anyways – this Kingdom is not a merit-ocracy… but of joy and life more abundantly!
This may help put this in perspective… Think about how it would be if a husband were to come home to his wife and give her flowers in 2 different scenarios: First one, he says – wife, I know I am your husband, therefore it is my job to periodically present you flowers. It’s my duty. Second one, he says – my darling, I adore you so much, you mean the world to me, and these flowers are but a shadow of the immense delight I feel in my heart to have you as my wife! Which one of those sounds like a relationship? For worship to be worth anything to recipient – there must be an aspect of delight by the giver. The delight of the giver adds to the value of the gift – this is what God is after… also – God is not a rapist – if you do not delight in Him now, He’s not going to force Himself on you for eternity. To say that because God is love, it means automatic Heaven for everyone is to believe a lie. For love to be true – it must be reciprocal. To force one’s affections on an unwilling party is to molest them… Love freely given must also be freely accepted.
These things do not come natural to the carnal man. This is why the Bible talks about spiritual re-birth. Being born again is the conception of new nature in us. We still have the old sinful nature and will stumble, but there is also a new nature which is what allows us the ability to overcome the old nature by feeding it. This is precisely what Paul is talking about in Romans…
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (Romans 7:15-23 ESV)
There is going to be this conscious warring between our old and new natures, but Paul gives us to the secret of victory in this battle of the mind.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5 ESV)
It is to set our minds on the things of the Spirit, to feed the new nature and starve the old nature until it overpowers it. Don’t ever tell me that victory in sin doesn’t take discipline! We must consciously starve the behaviours and mindset of the old nature by not going back to those things, not dwelling on them. To stay away from them, but also to replace them with things that feed the new nature. We are inevitably going to be feeding one or the other – the question is which? You know you struggle in an area of secret sin, expose it, get accountability, then do everything to starve it – replacing it with things that feed your spirit. So there is a balance here of delight and discipline.
Does it bring you joy to obey His law because it is no longer a burden of self-justification by your works but rather thankfulness for His completed work? Or do you not care? Are you still in the same rut you were a year ago? Do you – as the Psalmist – delight in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2, 119:97)? Does your obedience come naturally out of love or legalism? Has your joyful reception of His offer of love extended on the Cross produced in you a reciprocal response of thankful & delightful obedience? And do you practice discipline in retraining your old affections?
5. Love for Believers
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him…” (1 John 3:14-19 ESV)
There is an intrinsic unity to true believers as we are brought together under one Lord, bought by one blood into the adoption of one family. As such, there should be an associated affection for others within our family of faith. This is not to say that siblings won’t have their squabbles, but there should be an underlying love for each other that goes beyond surface divisions to the deeper level of unity in Christ. I just got a taste of this in Cuba – though we were separated by oceans, cultures, and languages – there was a natural unity. Jesus himself said that this was how the world would distinguish us, by our love for each other (John 13:35). He prayed also for our unity, that they be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:22). What an amazing thought!
But let’s not trivialize this – John is very practical in how this love is played out. Our example is Christ’s sacrificial love for the church – laying down His life. We are to lay down our lives for our brothers. To lay down our pride, our time, our resources. So high is the challenge that he asks the question – if we see a brother that is in need, and we have but we don’t give to help that brother – how can God’s love be in him? How do you sacrificially love other believers? This is precisely what we saw in the Acts church – the believers sold all their possessions and shared it among themselves so that none were in lack (Acts 2:45, 4:32)! When I compare our modern expression of church for the most part, it falls very far short of this… when last have you heard of something like this? What if the church was to really live biblically in this way? Do you not think it would get the attention of the world as our Lord said?? How I long to see the Acts church again in our day!
There were some studies done that calculated – that just the North American church – if all those who professed to be Christians gave 10% and adopted a child, the church could end world hunger, poverty and give every orphan a home many times over!!! The church is a sleeping giant for real change in the world- but we are too consumed with our best life now, that we are forsaking the best life to come! Too stuck on materialism that we forsake true eternal riches… we’re far too easily satisfied.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…
…So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:10-11, 16-20 ESV)
How our love reflects that of Christ’s is the measure which we compare ourselves. Is our love more than just words? Is it tangible and made manifest through our deeds? Is it sacrificial and selfless? Is it unconditional?
6. Perseverance of the Saints
The doctrine of election is essential to an understanding of salvation (though I don’t have time to go through that here – I have in other notes touched on it). Because it is God who elects and chooses, and He never changes – then therefore our salvation is secure – because He will never go back on His choice to save you!
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29)
If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:13)
And also that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39) The Cross shows us the extent to which God is willing to go to save us… if He gave up His Son for us, then how much more would He not give us all other things we need? If he sacrificed himself to save us, will he not then keep that which he paid such a high price for?? Your salvation is NOT dependant on your faithfulness – but on GOD’s faithfulness. He is faithful to finish the good work He started in you.
“…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)
“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:10-11).
Notice the purpose to which God predestines us, saves us, and refines us… it’s for the sake of His Name!!! God is most passionate about His own glory – and He is glorified in us, in saving us… therefore He will keep us.
“The evidence of a genuine saving work of God in the past is the continuation of that work into the present and until that final day. We are saved if we hold fast to the word that was preached to us. We can have little or no assurance of salvation if such is not the case.” – Paul Washer
“By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:2 NIV)
The evidence of true repentance is not just that we repent once and move on, but that we continually keep repenting and living a lifestyle of repentance. God doesn’t just save us in one moment, but continually keeps saving us in every moment by moment.
Notice that most of these evidences of authentic salvation take time to show. I think sometimes we’re way too quick to pronounce someone “saved”. Not that God can’t save someone in an instant, yes of course! But, the evidence of true conversion often takes some time to really show.
“One of the legacies that we’ve had from the kind of evangelism that’s gone on in our country is that we believe salvation is attached to a decision, but the assurance of salvation has nothing to do with a decision in the past; it has to do with what’s going on in the present. Jesus put it this way in John 8: ‘If you continue in My word, then you are My real disciple.’ It’s always continuous; it’s always present tense.”
– John MacArthur
This brings up a good point on “eleventh hour” conversions. The Bible has only one example of a last minute salvation – the thief on the cross. However, we should not take this as normative nor prescriptive… for it might be that a person holding off to be an “eleventh hour convert” will die at 10:30… Now is the time of salvation! The Bible gives us one example alone of someone being saved at the brink of death to show us that it is never too late, but only one example so that we wouldn’t think that this is what we should count on.
For people who tell me they are going to wait til later or wait until their death beds to call out to God, I always bring them face to face with this… that they have actually divulged their heart’s true state. They don’t really want God, or to delight in Him. They don’t want to turn from their sins, they still love them and want to hold on to it. They don’t really have a heart of repentance. So how then can they be sure that when they do call on the Lord, that it will be genuine???
So what then shall we say to all these things? I’ll leave you with what the author of Hebrews said…
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
So are you of those who shrink back or preserve their souls? In no way am I preaching a works based salvation – but the works are the evidence of a true conversion. We are motivated not out of legalism and following the letter of the law, but out of a response of love for the great redemption lavished upon us. There must be an appropriate understanding of the fear of the Lord to truly appreciate the grace shown toward us.
This changes a lot of how we approach our own salvation and evangelizing to others…
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.” 2 Corinthians 5:11 ESV
When the word of God has been preached, there must be a response – otherwise we deceive ourselves (James 1:22). What will be your response to these things?