Assurance of Heaven
D o you lack assurance of salvation? Are you one hundred percent sure you will go to heaven? Many believers do not have this assurance for a number of reasons. Some begin to doubt God’s word after they are saved. Others may be ignorant of their position as a child of God, due to a lack of personal study. Many begin to question their salvation because they are subtly taught to look at their performance. Often teachers confuse passages that speak to Christian living (walking by faith) with those that address deliverance from sin’s penalty (hell).
Today you can listen to a variety of teachers on radio and television. Some stations broadcast Christian teaching around the clock. The internet adds to this dimension of Christian broadcasting, also. But because a person is popular doesn’t mean that all of their teachings are correct. Most of those who preach via modern day media do so because they are financed by people who agree with their doctrine. Study Bibles and commentaries add to the confusion as well. These things deceived me for a time along the way.
If you are not grounded in the gospel, you may be misled. Wrong teaching concerning the gospel will cause you to lack assurance of heaven; something that God wants you to have. There are those who teach you can lose your salvation. Others believe baptism is necessary. Still, others think religious sacraments are needed to get to heaven. Confusion about salvation abounds in the church, and it usually affects most everyone at some point. Many teach that you won’t go to heaven if you don’t persevere. I bought into that without even realizing what it meant. In addition, you may be told that a “true” believer will produce good works and be committed to serving the Lord. All this stuff made me doubt. Had I done enough? Was I good enough? Eventually, I realized there was something askew.
That something askew would take a couple of years to untangle. Like a jumbled bunch of fishing line, it takes time to unravel incorrect spiritual beliefs—things like predestination, carnality, fellowship with God, good works, and repentance. In the process, I would learn about the three tenses of salvation, the power and deception of the sin nature remaining in the child of God, and how many spiritual leaders blend sanctification and justification truths. It’s disheartening to me now to hear how many people create spiritual fogginess about salvation by adding requirements to it.
This book comes from my own personal spiritual misunderstandings, pitfalls, and experiences. Some of it came from my own doings, and some from listening to the wrong people. The Bible says you can know you have everlasting life (1 John 5:13). Believing the right gospel should give you assurance. But many who profess to know Jesus do not know for sure. Often they do not have assurance, because they are subtly taught a performance-based salvation. If you judge your salvation upon your personal goodness and what you do, you will never know for certain that you will go to heaven.
This book will help you look at what you believe concerning assurance and evaluate it by Scripture, so that you can begin to live an abundant life, knowing that as a child of God, you are completely forgiven and restored. Heaven is sure for anyone in Christ. God’s not going to zap you when you do something wrong. That’s the way I used to think. That’s why understanding the gospel correctly is absolutely necessary for eternal life, living a life pleasing to God, and that is good for you. I hope this book will answer some questions about Christian teaching today and why it often adds more uncertainty to salvation than helping. From my perspective and experience in church leadership, I have found that many believers do not understand their position in Christ. They look at themselves for assurance, rather than looking to Him. If you struggle with assurance, it may well be due to your misunderstanding of the character of God and your position as one of His children. You subtly may have been taught a performance-driven gospel.
For me, clarity began slowly when I started to read and study the Bible. And more clarity came by understanding from the Bible that the gospel is absolutely free to anyone. Faith in Jesus plus nothing equals everything. Right before Jesus died, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:29). I learned to trust what God said. I quit listening to those who confused the good news. My assurance came when I stopped looking at myself, and in faith looked to Jesus and His promises. Trusting His promise of everlasting life, by faith alone in Christ alone, is the only solution to erasing doubts. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). It really is that simple.
Chapter 3 The Gospel: What is it? (Excerpt)
I have been in church leadership serving as a deacon and elder for over three decades. The church that I serve in now has been making diligent attempts to reach people with the gospel in our community and to make disciples, the very things that Jesus instructed His disciples to do (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15). His disciples were to teach others to “observe all the things” that Jesus commanded them (Matt. 28:20). Obviously, two of those things the disciples would have taught others would be to preach the gospel and make disciples. Every succeeding generation would be commanded to do the same. That’s the method God has designed to reach people.
In our outreach attempts, we try to build relationships with people at festivals, fairs, parades, martial art ministries, dance ministries, and a variety of other things from time to time. What I found out early on participating in some of these events and talking to hundreds of people is that most have no clue how to begin a relationship with God. Even many Christians lack assurance of their eternal destination. Why? In almost every case the person is hoping in their own personal goodness to get them there. In other words, they are hoping that the good things they do will outweigh the bad things.
All unbelievers get saved by believing in Christ alone for salvation. Then as they begin their walk, sometimes a misunderstanding of the gospel begins to influence them. They think that they have to be good, at least outwardly, to maintain it or to keep it. Their thinking is often reinforced through pastors and teachers who also do not understand grace and fail to rightly divide the word. I’m not saying we should abuse the grace of God. What I am saying is that the more one understands His grace, the more likely that person will want to grow spiritually for the proper reason.
Understanding grace promotes godliness, not legalism. To me, legalism is a desire to please God or gain His favor by performance rather than by faith. Because of sin, we are all wired to think this way. But only by faith can you please God (Heb. 11:6). Faith is positively responding to God’s word. His love compels us that we should live for Him because He died for us (2 Cor. 5:14-15). That is the primary motivation for the Christian life.
Furthermore, most of us are taught from the time we are a toddler, if you are good, you will be praised. If you do well in school, you may be rewarded with a scholarship. If you work hard in your career, you will get a raise and may be promoted. Everything we know is based upon our performing, our doing the right things to receive the reward. We carry the same thinking over into our concept of God. We have devised our own God if we think we can be restored to a relationship with Him by trying to be good enough. No one deserves to go to heaven, and no one can be good enough to get there. Many add to this confusion by frontloading or backloading the gospel. For now, let’s make sure we understand the gospel. What is it? The Bible defines it in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Moreover brethren I delivered to you the gospel… For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
The apostle Paul reminded the church at Corinth that the first thing he shared with them was the gospel. He writes this to them because of the influence of some who were saying there is no resurrection of the dead. His point was that if there is no resurrection for believers, then Christ is not risen and their (our) faith is futile (1 Cor. 15:12-13).
“But Christ is risen from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:20).