In this episode of TGC Q&A, Dave Harvey and Michael Lawrence answer the question, “How do I know if I’m saved?”
- Where to begin (:00)
- How you don’t know you’re saved (1:49)
- Observing your own life (2:46)
- The Spirit’s testimony (4:27)
- Objective and subjective evidence (5:31)
- Internal and external evidence (7:07)
- Challenging a profession of faith when there is no fruit (9:36)
Explore more from TGC on the topic of salvation.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Dave Harvey: So Michael, we’ve been given another question-
Michael Lawrence: Yeah, we have. It’s a real easy way.
Dave Harvey: Yes, it is an easy one. It’s a frightening one and an important one though. Let’s say your child is sitting across from you and they’re asking you the question, “How do I know if I’m a Christian?” How do you respond? Where do you start with them?
Michael Lawrence: Oh, that is such a good question. And of course, I guess where where I would probably actually start if I’ve got a child asking me that I’m probably going to ask them, “Well, what do you think a Christian is??” just so I can gauge where they are. They might be asking the question, “How can I know that I’m a Christian?” But actually have a misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian.
Michael Lawrence: So I always like to hear from them what they’re thinking, but let’s assume that the answer they give is a good and appropriate one. I think I’m going to tell them a couple of things. I’m going to tell them how you don’t know and I’m going to try to talk about how you do know and-
Dave Harvey: How would you say that they don’t know?
Michael Lawrence: Yeah. I think don’t know you’re saved because of something you did. You don’t know that you’re saved because you prayed a prayer. You don’t know that you’re saved because you were baptized. You don’t know that you’re saved because you made a decision at youth camp last summer. All of those things are really good things, but I don’t think any of those things are sufficient to really give the assurance that you need. So then I am probably going to take them to … Well, I might take them, but what comes to mind is 2 Corinthians 13:5 where Paul says, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?”
Michael Lawrence: So I think what I’m going to want to talk to him about is, “Well, what are you observing in your life?” Jesus says that we are born again when we put our faith in Him, we become new creatures. So one of the ways that you’re saved is you see evidence of that new life working itself out in you. I suppose it would vary based on the age of the child like what kind of evidence would you be looking for?
Dave Harvey: Yeah, it is different for an eight-year-old than it would be for an 18-year-old.
Michael Lawrence: Yeah, exactly or a 35-year-old for that matter. But in one way or another, I’m going to want to encourage them to look at their life and try to answer the question do I see an ongoing life of repentance and faith? When I’m confronted with sin in my life, what’s my response? Is it consistently to deny to minimize to just say, “Oh, this doesn’t really matter?” Or is there godly grief and sorrow over that sin and-
Dave Harvey: Which goes to the evidence of the Spirit-
Michael Lawrence: Which goes the evidence of the Spirit’s activity, that’s right. Not a worldly sorrow, but a godly sorrow. And then positively do I see the positive fruits of the Spirit in some measure? You know what I mean? I think sometimes some people will tend to be way too hard on themselves and almost expect a kind of perfect display of the fruit of the Spirit. No, no, no, no. We’re not looking for perfection, but we are looking for genuine evidence of the Spirit’s work in us.
Dave Harvey: Yeah. I was thinking while you were talking of Romans eight and the passage that says that, “the Spirit himself testifies to us.” And that there is a sense where as believers we should in general live with a sense of assurance regarding our salvation. And that even with a child that might not be formed and defined, they might not be able to articulate it, but there should be as you were pointing out the evidence of the activity of the Spirit.
Dave Harvey: But I say that to say that I think that I would also want to just draw them out and ask them questions about what who they’re understanding God to be, how they’re understanding God’s activity in their life. Has there been any repentance? Things that would help us to hold up the mirror for them and say, “Well, do you see that the Spirit is at work in you?”
Michael Lawrence: Precisely. So it’s almost like there are some objective things that we’re looking for like evidence that the eyes can say that the Spirit’s at work. There’s also Romans eight, this subject of experience. The Spirit assuring us that we belong to the Father. What I find really fascinating about Romans 8:16, which is the verse you were referring to is that the end of the which often doesn’t get quoted is that Paul says, “If you share in his sufferings” so that internal assurance of the Spirit, speaking to us, to our spirits, that we belong to the Father comes in the context of that sort of external objective evidence of persevering with the Father, despite the sufferings that come, despite the trials that come. Which says to me that we shouldn’t expect the Spirit to be assuring anyone that they’re saved internally if they are not saying no to their own flesh, if they are in sort of active rebellion, unrepentant sin.
Michael Lawrence: I’m not saying they’re not a Christian. I wouldn’t expect them to experience the Spirit’s internal assurance, because it seems like Paul puts that internal assurance together with the pressure that comes from the outside that would cause you to maybe want to turn away, but you don’t whether that’s temptation or suffering or trial, they seem to go together.
Dave Harvey: Yeah. You categorize it as objective and subjective. And I was thinking about it in the direction you were going in of internal and external in that there is a sense where Edwards’ conversion creates affections. That there’s activity of the Spirit it’s going to manifest out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speak that our talk, our life, there’s going to be something bubbling forth there and we can get them looking at that. That’s the internal, but there’s also an external component of fruit. Is there fruit being born that testifies to the reality of the Spirit’s activity in the life of the child or I should say and. Would the principal people in their life be able to acknowledge that fruit?
Michael Lawrence: Right. Can others see it?
Dave Harvey: Can others see it, yeah. Can family see it? Can friends see it? Or is this something where they’re kind of professing something that shows no evidence whatsoever, which is the way I think it can oftentimes happen for kids that are raised in Christian homes. There’s a burden parents feel to kind of move them along from grade to grade in [crosstalk]
Michael Lawrence: And there’s nothing you want more for your kid that they would know Jesus. And yet that can sometimes push us to put our hope in the wrong thing, to put all of our hopes and assurance in this one thing that happened a few years ago. And okay, “All the evidence seems to be to the contrary, but I’m just going to keep hoping in that one thing, that youth camp experience or that vacation Bible school experience, I’m just going to keep hoping in that, because surely that did it.” And what we’re saying is certainly people are saved at one point in time, but people who are saved at one point in time, it begins to show itself over time. And it’s seeing that that then gives today that gives assurance that indeed we are in Christ.
Dave Harvey: So let me ask you a question. Do you think a parent should challenge the profession of a child if the parent is not seeing fruit over a period of time?
Michael Lawrence: That’s a great question. It’s probably a good place for us to end. I think what we want to do is when a child professes faith, we want to celebrate that. But then we don’t want to say, “You’re going to heaven and you should never doubt it.” We want to celebrate that profession of faith and then we will say, “This is what a Christian is. A Christian is someone who keeps walking with Jesus-”
Dave Harvey: Work out your salvation.
Michael Lawrence: Yeah. And certainly I’ve had occasion to say to one of my kids who professes to be a believer and I trust is, but gently saying, “What you’re doing right now doesn’t seem consistent with what you say God has done in your life. Have you thought about that?” I don’t want to condemn them. I want them to be examining their own lives. So challenge, confront. I mean that can be tricky, but I do think we want to continue to call our kids to trust not in something that’s historical that happened way back when, but to be following Jesus today.
Dave Harvey: But you’re working within the category of their profession and calling them to what they profess.
Michael Lawrence: Yes. If they have professed.
Dave Harvey: Which I think is an excellent point.