How Do You Know…That You Believe?
A reader posed this question to me,
“I know the Gospel and I believe in God. But how do I know that I believe?”
I normally don’t post personal struggles, since they are private and told to me in confidence. However this reader consented to letting me post the question without posting his personal issues or his name. Let me clarify that he is a believer, from what I was able to ascertain from our dialogue. He is the epitome of the smouldering wick (Matthew 12:20), struggling against his sins, and unable to overcome it in his own power. It sounds like me actually. Sounds like almost every believer if we are honest. I digress. It was such a good question that I had to share it. In fact, I even asked myself this question a few years ago. How do you know that you believe? The question is not, “How are you saved?’ Or, “Do you believe?” It is much more profound and aimed at someone who already professes to believe.
How do you know that you believe?
A person is saved through faith alone in the atoning work of Christ alone. This is all from God. Only God saves, from beginning to end. He works faith in your heart, he saves you, he lifts you up and he sanctifies you. This is God’s sovereignty, His election, His choice, His power. Ephesians 2:8-9 says:
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.
The evidence of a person’s walk with Jesus is by repentance. Sadly, a lot of people who profess a belief in Christianity aren’t really saved. (I heard those gasps) Oh they might think they are saved, but a lot of professing Christians sadly do not have a real understanding of the Gospel. More gasps – I heard them. Now, before you lynch me up let me pose the question to you yet again. How do you know that you believe?
What is your answer?
Yes you may be a covenant child – born into Christian family and baptized into the covenant… And God NEVER… let me make this very clear! God never ever, EVER, NEVER! EVER! Forsakes his covenant promises!…EVER! In His promises we can rest assured. BUT Many people often say a person is a believer simply due to his being part of the covenant people, belonging to church, or being baptized, or having professed his faith, – all without looking for evidence of repentance and fruit in a person’s life.
Yes, even in my “Calvinistic” and “reformed” church, where we believe in God’s Sovereignty and promote a profoundly high view of the doctrines of Grace, even here, our confessions and our forms for worship also state that there is a second part to the covenant of grace, that is, even though salvation is a free gift for grace, even though it is God that works faith in your heart, even though it is God who works sanctification in you through the Holy Spirit…there is still an OBLIGATION on our part.
Our form for baptism states:
since every covenant contains two parts, a promise and an obligation, we are, through baptism, called and obliged by the Lord to a new obedience. We are to cleave to this one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to trust Him, and to love Him with our whole heart, soul, and mind, and with all our strength.7 We must not love the world8 but put off our old nature9 and lead a God-fearing life.10 And if we sometimes through weakness fall in to sins, we must not despair of God’s mercy nor continue in sin, for baptism is a seal and trustworthy testimony that we have an eternal covenant with God.
You can’t have the promises of God’s salvation and love, without upholding your end of the bargain. Do you neglect your obligation? Do you really think that you will be saved if you don’t repent and believe? So let me ask one more time. How do you know that you believe?
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Have you repented of your sins? Do you daily repent of your sins? Do grieve over your sin? Do you think of your sin as something that Jesus must bear for us on the cross? Is there fruit of faith in your life? Is there a continued process of sanctification being worked in your life by the Holy Spirit? These are all questions I asked myself a few years ago, too which I had to honestly say that my answer was, sadly…maybe. I laugh at that, because I honestly did not know. So even though I thought I was saved, even though I had been baptized, even though I went to church…even though I professed to believe I had nothing to really back it up. Now I know that I believe. And it is so sweet.
If you claim to be a Christian, then please make your calling and election sure. What is it you believe? You are a not a believer because you were simply born into a Christian family. Are you a Christian? Well if you go to church, and profess a faith in Christ then yes you are a Christian in name. But that does not mean you believe. You are not a believer because at one time you converted to Christianity, repented and believed. You are a believer because you continue to repent and believe today, everyday, and continually! One of the greatest evidences that you truly believe in the atoning work of Christ is that you are aware of your sin, and that you hate your sin, not only that you HATE your sin but that you FIGHT against your sin everyday relying on the power of the blood, death and resurrection of Christ and by the spirit.
A true Christian, a believer, will not be enslaved to the evil, sinful, passions of this world. Yes a believer will have weaknesses, he will struggle, temptations will abound all around him, and he will sometimes fall into sin, we all do. A believer will sin, he may even have horrible addictions, but he will struggle against them and despise them and he will hate the weakness of his own flesh. He will not rest easy in his sin, in his addictions, in his weakness, no rather he will, as the Belgic confession states, flee from sin and pursue righteousness,10 love the true God and his neighbour11 without turning to the right or left, and crucify his flesh and its works.12 Although great weakness remains in him, he will fight against it by the Spirit all the days of his life.13 He appeals constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of Jesus Christ, in whom he have forgiveness of his sins through faith in Him.14
A true Christian is set free in Christ to seek Jesus in His glory and to follow Him alone – and not his fleshly desires.
Ask yourself if you believe the sure promises of God. If you do then check to see if you detest your sins and look for the fruit of faith. If you truly believe then the fruit of repentance and good works will without a doubt flow from you, because God has promised the Holy Spirit to sanctify all who believe. If you are new to the faith, like my friend who posed the question, I have to say that you are not sanctified at your conversion. Rather, you are justified at conversion. To put it simply you are declared “not guilty” at conversion. Sanctification is an ongoing process of being made Holy through your discipleship, by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, which is only completed when the believer is promoted to glory.
So please do not sit there in your comfortable existence thinking that you are saved just because you are baptised, or you go to church on Sunday. Likewise, do not fear for your salvation if you feel that you are not good enough, or strong enough, if you hate how sinful you are, because none of us are good enough, all of us are sinful – only Jesus is good enough and strong enough. If you repent of your sin, believe that you are declared not guilty by Christ, that you hate and struggle against your sin, If you rely solely on the strength of Christ to overcome them – you are a believer.
Make your calling and election sure.
Do you know that you believe?
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This work by Ryan Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.