How You Can Be Sure You Are a Christian
Assurance of Salvation is Possible
God's Word, the Holy Spirit and life change all provide confirmation of salvation.
You may say, "I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and died for my sins. Am I not a Christian?" You are not, if you have refused to surrender your will to Him.
Or you may say, "I heard a wonderful sermon, my emotions were stirred and I had a great emotional 'spiritual' experience. I even responded to the invitation to go forward for counsel. Am I not a Christian?" You are not, if you have never relinquished the throne of your life, your will, to Christ.
How, then, can you be sure that you are a Christian? Is there not some kind of confirmation that God gives to those who sincerely receive Christ? I believe there is a threefold confirmation that Jesus Christ is in our lives.
1. External Witness of God's Word
The promise of God's Word, not your feelings, is your authority. His word is totally reliable. As a Christian you are to live by faith in the trustworthiness of God and His holy, inspired Word.
For years Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, had attempted to earn his salvation by his dedication and good works. When he discovered that great biblical truth "The just shall live by faith," his life was dramatically changed, and he no longer labored for the assurance of his destiny in Christ. He believed what God's Word had to say and had assurance of his salvation.
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, was not sure of his salvation as a young man even though he was the son of a minister, the leader of the Holy Club at Oxford and a missionary to the Indians of America. Upon his return to England, he met Jesus Christ at an Aldersgate meeting where he heard the reading of Martin Luther's treatise on faith as a preface to the Book of Romans. Wesley explained what happened in his autobiography. "About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, and Christ alone, for my salvation - and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."
Before the experience at Aldersgate, Wesley had engaged in a frenzied effort to try to earn God's salvation by his good works. There he received the assurance of God's salvation by faith.
1 John 5:11,12 confirm that Christ is in your life if you received Him:
This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
John 1:12,13 echo this promise:
To all who received him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
Experience from a Swiss Doctor and his Wife
A doctor and his wife from Zurich, Switzerland, sent their son to the University of California, Los Angeles, to complete his doctoral studies in meteorology. Their son Hans received Christ at one of our meetings and wrote to his parents about his new-found faith. He mentioned my name as the one who had introduced him to our Lord. They wrote back asking if he would set up an appointment for them to see me so they might also receive Christ. At great expense the father, mother and their daughter flew all the way from Zurich to Los Angeles for the express purpose of becoming Christians.
This was at the beginning of the ministry of Campus Crusade. I never had anyone even walk around the corner to see me, yet these people were coming all the way from Switzerland. It was a dramatic moment for me when this man of great influence and means, with his wife, came into my office near the UCLA campus.
He began our meeting explaining his own spiritual journey. "I was an atheist for years," he said, "but I found no future in atheism. So, I began to study the religions of the Orient. Again, there was no satisfaction. Then, someone told me the New Testament was where I would find my answers. I began to read it and became convinced Jesus was the one I was looking for. Then we received the letter from Hans telling us how you had helped him to become a Christian. We want you to tell us what you told Hans."
Well, you can imagine how I felt. What a privilege it was to talk to this wonderful couple about our Savior, the living Christ.
I explained how they could receive Christ by simply inviting Him into their lives. He interrupted me. "Mr. Bright," he said, "I've already done that. I receive Jesus into my life every day. On some occasions I ask Him in several times a day."
Now I was puzzled. Relatively new in leading people to the Lord in those days, I didn't know what to say. I prayed silently, "God, help me. What do I say now?"
There flashed on the screen in my mind Ephesians 2:8, 9:
It is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.
I explained it is not enough to ask Jesus into your life; you must believe He will come in as He promised. Faith says, "I know, Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Faith says, "I know Jesus died for my sins." Faith says, "I know if I open my heart's door to Him, He will come in." Faith says, "When He comes in, I'll become a child of God." Faith says, "I know that, when I receive Jesus into my life, I will have eternal life."
I told the couple, "God honors faith. He does not honor your invitation to Him to come in. It is your faith in Him and His promise that, if you open the door, He will come in that He honors. You can ask Jesus into your life a thousand times, and He will never come unless you believe, on the basis of His promise, that He will come. You can depend upon Him to keep His promise to come in if you ask Him in as an expression of faith."
I suggested to them that they invite Christ into their lives one more time and that this time they believe His promises that, if they will open the door, He will come in and that "as many as received Him, to them He (God) gave the right to become children of God."
Even before we prayed, the father's face lit up with assurance of his salvation, and he began to laugh. He was filled with wonder, gratitude, relief, praise and thanksgiving. At last he had found the One for whom he had sought for many years.
He turned to his dear wife and spoke to her in German, telling her what I had shared with him. She began to laugh with what I discovered later was a holy laugh, a laugh of assurance. They had been looking for God, and now the light went on, and they were filled with joy.
They met the Savior, and oh, how their lives were changed. Later that night I had the privilege of praying with their daughter, who also received Christ. The entire family - father, mother, brother, sister - was united in Christ. Eventually, I had the opportunity to visit them in Zurich and saw further the miracle of God's grace in their lives.
I was telling that story later to a gathering of people at one of our training conferences. A woman came up to me afterward. She was in her eighties, her hair was snow white and her radiant face was stained with tears.
She said, "I've been a Sunday school teacher for more than forty years. Every day of my life, I have asked Jesus into my life, and I've never been sure He was there. Tonight, by faith, I asked Him in for the last time as you told the story of the man from Switzerland. Now I know He's there because He said He would come in. He promised never to leave me nor forsake me. I'm never going to insult Him by asking Him in again. For the rest of my life, as an expression of faith, I'm going to begin every day thanking Jesus that He is with me as He promised."
2. Internal Witness of the Holy Spirit
The apostle Paul writes, "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." Paul emphasized the validity of this inner source of assurance to the Thessalonian converts:
When we brought you the good news, it was not just meaningless chatter to you; no, you listened with great interest. What we told you produced a powerful effect on you, for the Holy Spirit gave you great and full assurance that what we said was true.
3. Changed Life
Your changed life is a witness to the fact that you are a Christian. Paul records, "When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!" John says, "How can we be sure that we belong to him? By looking within ourselves: are we really trying to do what he wants us to? Someone may say, 'I am a Christian; I am on my way to heaven; I belong to Christ.' But if he doesn't do what Christ tells him to, he is a liar. But those who do what Christ tells them to will learn to love God more and more. This is the way to know whether or not you are a Christian. Anyone who says he is a Christian should live as Christ did."
I remember well the night I prayed, "God, what do You want me to do with my life?" It was a simple, quiet prayer. But I meant what I prayed, and God heard me.
My life began to gradually change as I studied the Scriptures with other believers in the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. With the passing of time, I began to feel the assurance of God's love and forgiveness. My relationship with Him became the most important experience in my life.
If you have never personally received Jesus Christ, or if you have any doubts about your salvation, you can receive Him right now through faith. You can open the door of your life to Christ by expressing your faith to Him in prayer. The following prayer may express your desire:
Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal and abundant life. Take control of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.
You do not become a Christian by simply praying this or any other prayer. You become a Christian by faith and by faith alone. Faith is putting your trust in God and His promises. I encourage you to say this prayer aloud in faith, for it is through prayer - talking to God - that you can express your faith in Christ and the promises of His Word.
Ways to Grow in Your Christian Faith
If you have invited Jesus Christ into your life, you can now have confidence that He is in your life and has given you eternal life as He promised.
Jesus would not deceive you. You can be sure, if you asked Him into your life, He now lives inside you and will give you the abundant, eternal life He promised.
I encourage you, right now, to thank God for His faithfulness to you and for His presence in your life. Do not depend on your feelings. God's Word is your authority. Faith and obedience always results in the awareness of our Lord's presence.
Begin to spend some time each day in Bible study and prayer. It is best to set aside a particular time each day to do this and to make it a habit. This will help you grow and mature in your faith.
Become associated with vital Christians. If you do not belong to a local church, don't wait to be invited. Take the initiative; call the pastor of a nearby church where Christ is honored and God's Word is preached. Make plans to start this week and to attend regularly. If you have not already been baptized, plan to be baptized as an outward expression of your identification with Christ.
Now that you are sure you are a Christian, I encourage you to experience the joy of helping others receive Christ. Share your faith in Christ with your friends and neighbors at every opportunity. The apostle Paul was so excited about Jesus that he exclaimed in Colossians 1:28, "Everywhere we go we talk about Christ to all who will listen." Take the initiative to tell everyone you meet about the person and claims of our Lord Jesus Christ and the revolutionary way He can change their lives - and how they, too, can be sure they are a Christian.
Remember, How You Can Be Sure You Are a Christian is a transferable concept. You can master it by reading it six times; then pass it on to others as our Lord commands us in Matthew 28:20, "Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you." The apostle Paul encouraged us to do the same: "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2).
Adapted from the Transferable Concept: How You Can Be Sure You Are a Christian, by Dr. Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. © Campus Crusade for Christ. All rights reserved.