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Andy and Melissa Beshore

Saturday, August 02, 2008

How Do I Get Saved? / How Do I Know If I Am Truly Saved?

Are You Sure You Have Heard This Before?

Please lend me your imagination for a moment as I try to use a story to illustrate a point. You are on your way home from work after a long, difficult day. You pull up to your home, park, and proceed toward your front door. As you retrieve your keys, you are surprised to see that your front door is already open. You open the door and are overcome with a foreign mixture of shock and grief. As you look around, you see that your entire house has been ransacked. Personal belongings are damaged beyond recognition and repair. Your entire family is lying on the ground in pools of blood. They are dead or are about to breathe their last.

You hear a noise coming from the back of the house. A masked intruder is attempting to escape out the back of your house undetected. You drop everything you have in your hands, still not fully comprehending the magnitude of what has just transpired, and run. You are not sure from where you obtain the strength to pursue the perpetrator, but you summon the fortitude to defend the honor of your loved ones. You follow him through your back yard and through several adjoining yards, down a few side streets, until you catch up. Thank God for long legs! You corral him much like a rodeo cowboy hogties a steed and subdue him long enough to get him to the police.

In the morning, the police deliver the perpetrator over to the judge. The judge interrogates the man. The man confesses to the crime. The judge says to the criminal, “You know, I am a good man. I feel really forgiving today. I think I will not allow your case to proceed because I am in a forgiving mood.”

Oh, man, whose family has just been lost, whose murderer has just received a full pardon for no apparent reason, how would you feel? Would you let it slide off your back? What would you think of the judge? I hope in reading this that you would be outraged! You should be incensed! You should want the judge removed from the bench for being so unjust! You just lost your entire family and the murderer did not receive the justice he deserved.
If you are a sensible person, you are outraged by the story because you want to see justice done. That judge did not do his job. It is a judge’s job to punish the guilty criminals and the one in this fictitious account failed in performing that vital duty. Isn’t it reasonable that a just judge should appropriately punish all who do evil in the world? Of course it is! The God of the Bible is no different. The Bible says God is just and it is because of His justice he sends punishment on those who are not His children and discipline on those who are His children (Isaiah 45:19; Zephaniah 3:5; Hebrews 10:30; 2 Peter 2:6; Ezekiel 16:48-50; 1 Corinthians 11:31; Romans 1:18-32;), which means that He will see too it that He punishes all the evil in the world. The problem for you and I is that we are the evil in the world that are deserving of His wrath and punishment.
God’s creation in the Genesis account was perfect (Genesis 1:31). There was no disease or death because there was no sin initially. Then one day the serpent (Satan) intervened and tempted Eve. Adam and Eve ate the fruit (Genesis 3). Sin had entered the world. Now, there was disease and death. From that point forward, each human born on this planet was conceived in sin. That means you and I are both conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5). Reformers call this “Total Depravity.” Every human being is born, in effect, with Adam’s first sin already credited on their account. This means that we do not have the ability to know good or do good or to recognize God’s influence, because we are dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1, 5). If I were going to the cemetery to sell products to the dead, when I left, would you expect me to sell anything? Absolutely not! The dead cannot respond to my offer. Likewise, since Adam’s first sin was credited to us (Psalm 51:5), our natures became corrupt (Genesis 6:5, Genesis 8:21, Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 12:34, Ephesians 2:1, 5). This has affected our thoughts and our deeds. In this state, we do not possess the ability to respond to or to please God. The previous depravity verses substantiate this point. All we know how to do is sin against God. How do I know this? Here are a few short questions to see it this is true about you. Have you ever lied? Stolen? Lusted? Hated? Had sex out of marriage? Dishonored your parents? Not always been content with what you already have? Have you always put God first? Or have you made a God in your mind you feel comfortable with? If you have said yes to these, then in order you have broken the Ninth, Eighth, Seventh, Sixth, Seventh, Fifth, Tenth, First, and Second Commandments. The Bible warns that all who break these Commandments will end up in hell for eternity (Revelation 21:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Romans 1:18-32; Matthew 5:20-32; Matthew 15:19). The depraved soul does these things repeatedly without much thought.
If we are all born this way, how can anyone get saved? Well, a common theme in Scripture is election. This doctrine teaches that before the foundation of the world, God has set aside a people to save for His own glory (Matthew 20:16; Matthew 22:14; Matthew 24:22, 24, 31; Mark 13:20, 27; Luke 18:7; John 15:16; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:33, 11:17; Ephesians 1:4-5, 11; Colossians 3:12; 1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 2;10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:2, 5:13; 2 John 1:1; 2 John 1:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; John 10:26. These people are God’s elect. It is not that God knew who would respond to Him and who would not and therefore those are the ones He chose to elect. He has mercy on whom He has mercy and hardens whom He hardens (Romans 9:15-16). It is totally up to God’s good pleasure and it has absolutely nothing to do with any goodness He saw in us, because none are good (Romans 3:10-23). We do not make the decision to respond to God. Remember, we are DEAD (not sick) in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1, 5). Our carnal minds are at enmity with God (Romans 8:7). Rather, God decides for us and causes us to respond to Him. He quickens us, in the process that is known as being “born again.” Remember, if you are dead, how can you respond? You need life! When God makes a sinner born again, He infuses the sinner with the life that was lacking. This life enables the sinner to experience sensitivity to divine stimuli that he could not feel before being born again. Once born again, the sinner is confronted with their sin, experiences Godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10), and responds in God-driven repentance. The whole work is entirely wrought by God. God even supplies believers with the faith required to believe the Gospel. Since we were dead before we were born again, we need the life to exercise the response (repentance and faith). The faith entails the ability to believe God’s promises. Without the faith that God supplies, we would not believe the Bible. Only God can supply this faith. Not sure if you are one of God’s elect? Do like Peter says and make your call and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).
If you understand election, the doctrine of limited atonement should make sense. Since not all people are God’s elect, that means that Christ’s death on the cross only forgave the sins of the elect. Christ’s atonement, in other words, is efficacious only for the elect. Only the elect will benefit from Christ’s death.
In case you are wondering, I am taking you through the Calvinistic “TULIP.” I have already addressed the “T” (Total Depravity), the “U” (Unconditional Election), and the “L” (Limited Atonement). Next is the “I” (Irresistible Grace). Simply put, when God calls one of His elect by lavishing them with His grace, convicting them of their sin, and working repentance in them, there is no stopping God’s perfect work. When He begins the process of conviction and salvation, since it is entirely His work, there is no stopping the process. If there was, God would not be God. God’s grace, which allows the elect to be saved, is irresistible to the elect, because the elect will respond to it, otherwise they would not be elect. They cannot resist it if God makes them respond to it. Hence, you have “irresistible grace.”
The last part of the “TULIP” is the “P,” which stands for “Perseverance of the Saints.” When God takes the initiative to start the salvation process in one of His elect, he sees it through to completion, or death and glorification. He Who began a good work in you will finish it (Philippians 1:6). Nothing can separate the Christian from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39). Since His Spirit lives in believers and guides them (Romans 8:14), they will persevere. Yes they will still sin frequently due to the sinful flesh (Romans 7:13-25), but all their sins past, present, and future are forgiven, so nothing can separate them from the love of God in eternity. In other words, once truly saved, always saved. If people claim to know Christ, but live in blatant disregard for His commands and statutes, you can make the case that they were never truly saved (1 John 1:6).
What did God do so that men might be saved? God, Who is like no other (Deut. 6:4), took on human flesh (John 1:14) and lived a human life. Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man (John 14:7, 9, Colossians 1:15-20). He was totally perfect (2 Corinthians 5:21). Where you and I in our sinful states could only store up wrath for ourselves even in our good deeds (Isaiah 64:6), Jesus could do no wrong. He was fully obedient to every aspect of God the Father’s will (2 Corinthians 5:21). You and I could never claim that. This perfect Man gave His perfect life as a perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world. All the wrath that you and I deserve, God inflicted upon His only begotten Son. He was bruised for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5, 10, 11, Luke 22:63, Mark 15:15, Matthew 26:67, Matthew 27:29-30, John 19:1). “God commends His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). We deserve God’s wrath, judgment, and punishment. Jesus took our punishment upon Himself (Isaiah 53) and paid our fine in His sinless life and brutal murder on the cross (Matthew 27:35-50, Mark 15:24-37, Luke 23:26-46, John 19:1-30).
Three days later He rose from the dead, defeating death (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20)! What now? God will convict His elect of their sin, making it “exceedingly sinful” (Romans 7:13). He will draw sinners unto Christ (Matthew 11:27, John 6:37, 44), producing sorrow over sin (Ezekiel 36:31; 2 Corinthians 7:10). This broken sorrow over sin will lead the sinner in God-led repentance (Matthew 4:17, Luke 13:3, Acts 17:30, 31), a humbling of themselves, confessing and forsaking of their sins, and placing God-given faith in Christ alone to save them. God, according to Ezekiel 36, will metaphorically separate us from the sinful world (36:24), cleanse us from all our sins past, present, and future (36:25) put a new heart and spirit in the person (36:26) causing them to walk in God’s statutes and to keep his judgments and do them (36:27).
After this important step, it is important to observe the person over time to see if some evidences of true salvation have occurred. As salt contains certain properties that make it salt, the Christian should have some characteristics that blatantly identify them as Christian. You cannot call salt “salt” even if it looks like salt unless it has the imperative compound in it that makes it salt. You cannot call yourself a Christian just because you go to church or Bible study, or read your Bible, or pray, or look religious, or moral. There has to be Biblical evidence that true conversion on the inside of the person has actually occurred, producing the outward fruit (Matthew 7:16-20). Jesus said that many would claim to be his disciples, but were actually false converts masquerading as Christians (See Matthew 7:21-23). It is not important that you have a relationship with Jesus. Rather, it is important that Jesus has a relationship with you. You might think you know Him, but you need to find out if He knows you. That is all that will matter on Judgment Day. There are plenty who go to church, read their Bibles, pray and do other religious things, but the proof of their Christianity will be the inward reality and the transformed nature. They will love the things of God, which they formerly hated and hate the things of the world, which they formerly loved (1 John 2:15-17).
The New Testament is rich in evidences of salvation, but 1 John in particular was written to show believers what these evidences should look like. The other epistles are all rich in evidences of things that accompany true conversion. The Beatitudes, Matthew 5-7, also known as the Sermon on the Mount contain some characteristics that should be evident over the course of the Christian’s life. The Bible should come alive. Things that used to not make sense should now make sense. They should be able to see sin revealed in the Scriptures and repent of it. The Christian should be sensitive to sin in their lives. They should feel the Holy Spirit convict them and live in a continuous state of repentance (1 John 1:9). Repentance is not a one-time thing. The Christian continues to repent all throughout their life. The Christian should separate themselves from the things that the world follows (1 John 2:15-17). They should not dress like the rest of the world. They should not talk like the rest of the world (Ephesians 4:31, 32). They should not watch or listen to or do the things that the world loves to do (Philippians 4:8). The Christian should love to hang out with fellow Christians talking about Christian things and doing Christian things (1 John 2:9, 4:7, 4:11, 4:12). The Christian should see hypocrisy and be upset as Jesus modeled in Matthew 21:12-13. The true disciple will experience persecution in some form. Read the book of Acts. Many of the Pauline epistles were written by Paul from jail. Your transformed nature will make you open your mouth and say things that will make the world scoff at you. See the fates of the apostles. See Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Research the fates of the apostles. You will find that most of them were either imprisoned or martyred. Did they have the cushy life that the modern Gospel promises? Undoubtedly, there are other references that cite evidences of true conversion in other New Testament books.
Hopefully this has been a help to you. I would love to hear your feedback. If you read this and feel secure in your salvation, praise God! If, however, you read this and feel insecure in your salvation, I ask you to do what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourself to see that you are in the faith.” Use Scripture and not yourself or other fallible people as your gauge. Thank you for reading this. May God save you and keep you!

Thank you for reading this and I would love your comments.



A Gracious Home said...

I have enjoyed reading your blog. I don't really agree with what you said about salvation but I'm glad you are a Christian. I believe spiritual death is separation from God and not dead like a dead man. Not unable to respond. May God bless you and your family. Doylene

Our family said...

Hi, Doylene, thank you so much for your comment. Unfortunately, I think there was some miscommunication possibly with what was written, either on our part or your part.

We do not believe death, as in when we die, is like a dead man. We believe when someone isn't saved/regenerate that they are separated from God, totally depraved, and unable to choose any good, including God. Only through God causing someone to be born again and bringing them to repentance, can anyone be saved.

We believe in the traditional Calvinistic view of Salvation, not hyper-Calvinism (which is what most people think of when they think of Calvinism) and not the Arminian view either which believes that we are the deciding factor and we choose God and that we're in a sick, rather then spiritually dead state. That is possibly your view, but it's hard to tell for sure with the comment, so forgive us if we misunderstood.

The Bible says that we are dead in our trespasses and sins, hence the dead part. I hope this clears up any confusion atleast to what we believe.

We could've misinterpreted your comment as well. Sometimes it's hard to understand someone fully through writing instead of through two-way conversations. Thank you for reading our gospel presentation. God bless!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for providing a correct explanation of what the Gospel is. We are in full agreement, as God's Word is not to be edited for our own purposes. We believe it is our duty to come to His Word with humble reverence, with a genuine desire to discover what He has revealed to us, rather than determine what we think He meant to say.

Might we recommend an excellent book for your consideration? It is written by a Puritan preacher from the 17th century by the name of Matthew Mead. The book is entitled, "The Almost Christian Discovered". We also highly recommend John Bunyan's wonderful work entitled, "The Fear of God".

In our ever-decaying post-modern world of ecumencial unity and peace at any cost "church" communities, we are encouraged to have discovered your blog.

God's peace,
The Wilderbuer Family