Last week I was forced to go digging through our outdoor garbage can for an important trinket that my daughter thought had been accidentally thrown away. Because I love her, I pilfered through dirty diapers, rotten banana peels, moldy cardboard juice containers and assorted slimy dinner scraps. I about gagged. When I walked back into the house, annoyed and unammused, Selah was singing “Climb, climb up sunshine mountain.” I looked at her and it took about two seconds before I errupted in laughter! A wide-eyed Selah paused, then giggled with her whole heart. Then my little girl gave me a hug and said, “You’ll find it somewhere, Mommy.” She has confidence in me! Besides being full of joy, she is very much assured that I will always be around to find her lost things and take care of her. Adults can learn a lot from children.
Adults have this idea embedded in our brains – probably through our grown up responsibilities and independence - that we cannot be sure of anything. Not just assurance that someone will find our misplaced treasures, but assurance concerning significant life matters like our salvation in Christ. One of the most uncomfortable questions posed to the average adult churchgoer is this: “Are you born again?” I remember being asked during a graduate school interview, and although I knew exactly how to answer it (I’d rehearsed), the words still struck fear into my heart. It’s a pretty important question. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) But how can you know you’re saved for sure? Because you’ve had an emotional or spiritual experience perhaps? Because you said a prayer once? Maybe you felt God’s presence during a very moving piece of music or a touching prayer service? No! These things are unreliable. Assurrance of salvation has little to do with feelings and salvation has nothing to do with feelings. Salvation comes through faith and the idea behind faith is that we embrace something outside of ourselves. Never by looking introspectively. Feelings are a human concept and they’re unreliable. So how do we know for sure?
The Book of First John is often called The Epistle of Assurance. The phrase “we know” occurs thirteen times. The entire book was written as a "test" for determining the reality of salvation. If that “… born again?” question sends panic into your spirit and you ponder if you’re really saved, get out your Bible and read First John. One or two or more of these “criteria” will probably be impressed upon your heart. (The following three “tests” are part of my own personal testimony.)
Do you love other Christians? “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death” (I John 3:14) A born again Christian loves people, but she has a special kind of love for those who are one in Christ with her. Look around any church and you’ll find many (many!) very real differences and disparities and conflicting opinions between Christians. But if we are true born again believers, there is a oneness that nothing can destroy. Do you really love other Christians?
Are you an overcomer? “…for everyone born of God overcomes the world...” (I John 5:4). Are you in love with the world and its trappings? Or has the world lost its charm for you? This is an important one to face head-on. Our society is definitely alluring, but this passage tells us that born again Christians are no longer enslaved by the world and its worldly things; and we do not use the worlds’ opinions as our standard of right and wrong.
Are you an habitual sinner? “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the eveil one cannont harm him.” (I John 5:18) This is a difficult one because we all have our own defintion of “sin,” and it’s our human nature to regard ourselves as exempt from sin. I John 3:9 says: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin…” Here’s what that verse means: No one who is born of God practices sin. A real Christian cannot always prevent evil thoughts from entering her mind, but she refuse to entertain them. She will from time to time be guilty of shortcomings, defects, and omissions in both her words and actions, but these things will cause her grief and regret and a real desire it to rise above them.
Carefully read First John for yourself now and assess your own salvation. Ask these questions:
1. Have I experienced spiritual fellowship with God and others? (1:3-4)
2. Am I sensitive to sin? (1:5-8)
3. Have I experienced forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration after confession? (1:9)
4. Am I keeping His commandments? (2:3,5)
5. Am I doing the will of God? (2:17)
6. Am I practicing righteousness? (2:29)
7. Am I looking forward to Christ’s second coming? (3:1-3)
8. Am I free from habitual sin? (3:9)
9. Do I love other Christians? (3:14)
10. Am I free from moral guilt? (3:21)
11. Have I experienced answered prayer? (3:22)
12. Does the Holy Spirit dwell in me? (3:24)
13. Have I heard the Word of God in the messages of others? (4:5-6)
14. Do I love God? (4:19)
15. Do I believe that Jesus is God’s Son? (5:1)
16. Have I overcome the world? (5:4)
17. Do I believe God’s record? (5:10-11)
Adults really can learn a lot from children. Their faith is contagious! No wonder Jesus said to have faith like a little child. We each need to be as confident in our Heavenly Father and our salvation as Selah is that I’m going to find that “Hello Kitty” necklace!
(This article originally appeard in Windows - The monthy church-news and ministry newsletter of Crane Community Chapel.)