How do I know that I’m saved?
This was a question that plagued me in my early walk with Christ. As a pastor, it’s also a question that I’m continually trying to help people work through. I think it’d be much easier to have confidence if we never sinned. What brings difficulty to new believers is often that first season in the valley.
After falling into sin we hear words of condemnation. “If I was really a Christian then I wouldn’t do such a thing.” But I’ve argued for a long time that better evidence of our regenerate heart isn’t so much whether or not we do or do not do things of unbelievers, but rather it’s evidenced by doing things which only believers do.
I can illustrate this with a dead fish.
Trout fishing is a big deal down here in Southwest Missouri. This means that many of the streams are clear and you can watch the fish swim up and down the stream. Our family gets special enjoyment out of going to a local fish hatchery and watching the trout swim. Occasionally you’ll see a dead fish, belly up, being carried along by the current of the powerful stream.
But what separates a live fish from a dead fish? It isn’t that on occasion they are being tossed about by the stream or even swimming with the current of the stream. Both living fish and dead fish can go with the current. But there is one thing a dead fish can never do—swim up stream. They cannot go against the current.
The same is true of believers. There are times when we go along with the current of the world. We look just like the dead fish—being carried about by the cultural stream. We look like unbelievers being tossed to and for by every wind and wave. In such a season we’ll likely question our salvation because we aren’t reflecting our new life in Christ, we’re just going downstream like nothing has changed.
But there is one thing you’ll be able to do as a believer that cannot happen as an unbeliever. You can swim up stream. You can change directions and fight the flow of the stream. As those dead in trespasses and sins, an unbeliever cannot and will not change course. It is only those made alive by God’s powerful grace who can spin around and start flowing against the current.
Do you have evidence of this in your life? Do you have a history of repentance? Not simply changing a behavior or a personality because it fits better with the present cultural flow, but a true heart change where you kick against your desires. I appreciate the way Wesley Hill describes this in his battle against same-sex attraction:
The Bible calls the Christian struggle against sin faith. it calls the fight against impure cravings holiness. So I am trying to appropriate these biblical descriptions for myself. I am learning to look at my daily wrestling with disordered desires and call it trust. I am learning to look at my battle to keep from giving in to my temptations and call it sanctification. I am learning to see that my flawed, imperfect, yet never-giving-up faithfulness is precisely the spiritual fruit that God will praise me for on the last day, to the ultimate honor of Jesus Christ. (Hill, 146)
Are you fighting against sin at it’s root? Only believers can do that.