The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 11 – The Assured Heart

by Mike Ratliff

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)

When I was a teenager in the Youth Group at the Baptist church our family attended in Oklahoma, I remember hearing several of the leaders say things like, “You can know for certain you’re saved if you know that you that you know” I guess they went on to infinity with it. I never really grasped what they were saying at that time. However after I was saved, I had a sense of assurance that I have never doubted. Until recently, I did not understand where that was residing or how it worked. Let’s take a close look at our common salvation and on what we are basing our assurance.

Before we begin, take a personal inventory of your faith in Jesus Christ. Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as the substitute for your sins? Do you trust in him as your personal Savior? We must acknowledge we are sinners and submit to Him as our Lord and Savior.

On the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey, he and Silas were falsely imprisoned in Philippi. They were beaten then cast into prison with their feet in stocks. That night while they were singing hymns to the Lord a very strong earthquake brought much fear into their jailer.

When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:27-34)

This jailer and his family believed in the Lord Jesus Christ after Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to them. We must determine if we have believed as well. When they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus” they were not saying he must simply believe that Jesus existed as a person. The Greek preposition translated “in” in this phrase is better rendered as “on.” This implies more than a simple temporal belief in Jesus. Paul was telling the jailer and us we must believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior as an act of faith.

We must examine ourselves and determine if we have done this. If so then let us go deeper. If not then is the Lord convicting you of your sin and lost condition? If so, seek the Lord right now and ask Him to save you from your sins then believe Jesus died to take away your sins then surrender to Him as Lord and Savior.

If we pass this first test then we have something from which we can draw assurance. In the first chapter in the Gospel of John, we see this nugget of assurance.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12)

Those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ have “believed in his name.” If we have done this then the Word of God says we have the right to become children of God. In fact, if we are in Christ we are children of God.

We must not rely on feelings for our assurance. Instead, we must rely on the unchangeable Word of God. That means we must read it and take to heart what it says about our salvation. Look at the two scripture passages I placed at the beginning of this chapter. Both declarations tell us, from sacred scripture, God’s very Word, we have eternal life if we have believed.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)

These verses tell us that our salvation was an act of obedience. To obey we must have a command to obey. The command is our calling or drawing by God to believe. If we obey it then God will, by His grace, give us the faith to believe and obey. As a result, we are saved. We should rejoice greatly when the assurance of this sinks home. God’s grace through faith saves us. We did nothing to earn or deserve this.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

These verses are declarations and promises. We must accept them by faith. Look closely at Ephesians 2:8-9. What part of the grace and faith was our part? According to this passage neither grace nor faith are our own doing. Both are a gift of God. What is our part? We must believe as an act of obedience. By believing God, just as Abraham did, the Lord declares us righteous.

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. (Romans 4:2-3)

The Faith to believe is a gift of God by His grace. The Bible tells us we can know we have eternal life in our Lord Jesus Christ.

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:11-13)

We have looked at the sources of assurance from the Word of God. There is also assurance that we should observe in ourselves. The things we are going to look at are not what gives us salvation, but will be the evidences of a regenerated heart only the saved have.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

This verse tells us we become a new creation at our new birth. We are changed at salvation. This is the sanctification process of heart regeneration. It is the sole work of the Holy Spirit at the instant of salvation. After that, He will be constantly making changes in our character so we should eventually become Christ-like. This will also change us so we will want to bring others to Jesus for salvation.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

The regenerative processes going on in our hearts will create within us an intense longing for personal holiness and the ability to live godly lives.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:11-12)

Assurance of salvation acquired by depending on God’s promises will be strong. Our faith is made stronger the more we believe and obey our Lord. Why? Our conscience becomes clear and undefiled. God’s values, from the Word of God, are resident there. The Holy Spirit will then “bear witness” with our own Spirit and this will enhance our assurance and thereby build up our faith.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16)

Assurance of salvation is part of the whole armor of God. Here is that passage which gives us this analogy. Which of the pieces of armor is our assurance?

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:10-19 Emphasis Mine)

The helmet is our assurance of salvation. When we have an Assured heart, we will not fall for the lies of the devil about the veracity of our salvation. Instead, we will believe what God says about us. This makes us able to stand and not fall. When we are Spirit-led, we are fully armored as we walk in the Spirit. When we walk this way will not carry out the desires of the flesh.

Having an Assured heart is vital to our growing in grace. God knows this. Never forget God’s grace makes this walk possible. Our part is to hear God, believe God, and then obey God. His grace makes it all possible. When we walk with an Assured heart, we are much more ready to hear Him. When we walk in discouragement and doubt, we have much clutter in our hearts. However, God will use these down periods in our lives to humble us. This makes us more dependent upon Him.

Assurance of salvation is part of our faith and is a gracious gift from God. Thank God we do not have to have blind faith. He gives us all of the evidences we need to stand and not fall.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 11 – The Assured Heart

  1. Great article. I’ve often been asked how can a person know they are saved. First they must know what it is to be saved. Second they must believe it with all their heart. And lastly they must be following that truth which is actually following Jesus. A Christian can be backslidden, but he will have no assurance. An unbeliever can have false assurance which comes from comparison to others, misguided Christians, church membership, baptism, and a host of other issues that can be used of the devil to give “assurance” to an unbeliever. One issue, Mike, that is not dealt with in most churches is a periodic exhortation for all of us to “examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith”. PTL-Rick

  2. Amen! Yes, we do a disservice to the sheep by not continually preaching the gospel and reexamining ourseleves. The Holy Spirit works through that for our best. Great comment Henry.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. Mike states, “We must not rely on feelings for our assurance. Instead, we must rely on the unchangeable Word of God.”

    I doubted. I struggled every day wondering if I had been sincere in my heart when I asked God to save me. I would in fear say it all again…”Lord, If I was not sincere, and I am not saved…please save me now. I lived a life of uncertainty for years. Today I believe that my heart was sincere all those years…but I honestly do not believe that I saw my sin as God did. I thought I was pretty good…after all I was not doing what most youth did. I was talking about moral issues…and saying things to my friends to try and convince them that they too needed to be moral. I probably even used truth in doing so…to a point. You see I struggled everyday with fear that I could have possibly not done something correct…there could have been impure motives in my heart. Why did I struggle? Because I thought my salvation depended on something I had to do. I had to make sure my heart was sincere. I had to say the right words…sincerely…and this was MY part. And I think this is why many struggle with assurance. The truth is this….We will NEVER be completely sincere. Our hearts are deceptive and wicked if it is based on us making our selves sincere, then we have no Hope!

    It was not until I heard and grasped the doctrine of election that I felt a heavy burden physically leave my shoulders. I can still remember the feeling. I do not think it was then that I was saved. No, I believe that God in His sovereignty had been calling me and drawing for years before that. I believe that God had me in a “circle of grace.” By this I mean that my salvation was certain years before God revealed my sin (This is the effectual call.)….He had secured me long before I said to Him “I want to be yours”…because my salvation is and was based on a work that was completed 2000+ years ago. I believe that God quickened my heart at the age of 21. It was not until I was 23 that he removed the burden, of uncertainty, that I was carrying. I had an understanding of the doctrines of grace…but it was not until His planned time that He allowed me to see that I am to REST in the work of Christ. I do not fret and have not fretted since then about whether or not I am His. I know that I am …because it is not based on me and my actions at all!!! It is His based on the work of Christ…and the Spirit’s work in my heart. It is all of God.

    I think that when we are struggling in our assurance it is because we believe that there is something we must do in order to make it happen. This is a works gospel. God will have no part of a works gospel. I know….I know….you are thinking…well there must be evidence in your life. Well, there will ALWAYS be evidence of the Sprit changing a heart. You see…even this is of God. I cannot work up something to prove I am His. The very act of seeking to do this should make someone question whether they are saved. The work in a heart and salvation are unexplainable. And I firmly believe this, if I set out today to go my own way, (which we do every time we walk in fear or unbelief), because I am God’s child, God takes responsibility to complete the work He started in me. Because NONE of it is based on my actions, there is absolutely NOTHING I can do to lose it. I am His of His choosing. And based on the Word of God, Christ will not lose any that have been given to Him by the Father.

    Correct doctrine is necessary for one to have assurance. With that said it is terribly disurbing that we have left teaching theology and doctrine to our churches. We are now about “an experience.” This is akin to “gnostism.” When we base our assurance on “an experience” then we will never be assured of our salvation. (Wll this is my humble opinion anyway. :-) )

  4. Well said bruisedreed. You nailed it. This is such a difficult subject to write about or discuss because of the clutter of humanism that has messed up how we perceive the Gospel and it’s real purpose.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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