(Facebook Note - July 20, 2009 I must note that there are many men much more worthy than myself who have undertaken the task of writing or speaking explanations on this topic)
I had a friend ask me, "How can we know we are saved?" So I decided to write out how I believe that we can know. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on what I have written and whether there is anything that I left out.
2 Corinthians 13:5-10
2 Peter 1:10-12
1 John 1:5-10
Romans 7:4-8:17 (specifically 8:16)
1 Peter 1:13-23
So, after considering all of these passages about our salvation, there is one word that comes to mind, and that word is "Change". James 4 says that if we are friends of the world (things of this world are more important than God) then we are not of God. He seems to say that we are born of God if we are humbled or broken. Or WHEN we are humbled and broken. Indeed, Psalm 51:17 says that the sacrifice of God is a broken and contrite spirit. So when our hearts are broken is when God lifts us up in Christ. And 2 Cor 13 seems to take this a step further when he says that they are to test themselves to see that they are in the faith. Then he says that the Corinthians will find that Paul is in the faith and that he is glad when he is weak. This weakness seems, in some way, to point to him being in the faith.
There is another side to this all, however, because Eph 2 says that we have been saved by grace, through faith, and this not of ourselves (pointing once again to the fact that faith only comes from God and we therefore can't choose to be saved. Eph 2:10, however, points to the fact that we must choose to live for the good works we were created for. Although its not necessarily us choosing, but rather us naturally living in the faith that God provides (James 2) or living by the Spirit (Rom 8) which would seem to say that even living for God is not a choice, but the effect of the faith he has put in our hearts. The choice is only what we see. That was a long bunny trail...) So we are saved by faith, so if we are saved we have faith. So what is faith? Hebrews 11:6 says that faith causes us to believe that God is and that he is the rewarder of those that seek him. So, do you seek God? If you believe that he is the rewarder of those that seek him, then you will seek him, which means that you have faith, which means that you're saved. This along with other things, because we must seek through Christ, as he is the way, the truth, and the life. So what we see is that our seeking of God is proof of our salvation, which leads us to the next thing.
If we are saved we will live for God. (1 Peter 1:13-23, 1 John 1:5-10, James 2, 1 Peter 2:24) So are you living for God? I'm not. So am I saved? This leads us to Romans 7 and 8, which is where the final answer is spoken. Do you desire, deep down in your heart, to live for God? Do you struggle with where you're at and do you have a desire to move closer to God? Do you....want God? More than anything else do you deep down inside, after you've set everything else that piles up aside, do you desire to live for and love God? According to Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is decietful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Is a heart that is yearning for God deceitful? Is a heart that desires to live for God beyond cure? No, this is a heart changed by the Holy Spirit, which is our deposit for the day of redemption. Which leads us to Romans 8:16 "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children". If you have the Spirit in your heart you will know it. There will be change. You will be seeking God. Not perfectly (Romans 7, 1 John 1) but you will be seeking God and trying to live for Him. There will be a progression forwards. And when you start to slide backwards the Holy Spirit will remind you that you are not your own, that you were bought with a price, and that you MUST live for him (1 Peter 1:13-23, 1 Peter 2:24).
So in the end, how do you know you're saved. You know it. Deep down inside God is your desire. You are living, not according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8). And the Spirit is testifing with you.