Sermon series: Inner Workings

  1. Developing a Heart for God - 1 Samuel 16

  2. Assuring Your Knowledge of God - Hebrews 6

  3. Living By Faith in God - Hebrews 11

  4. Hungering for the Righteousness of God - Matthew 5

Scriptures: Hebrews 6:9-11


Knowing God in an intimate personal way will change our minds and our lives. But how do we know for certain that we know God. What about those lingering doubts and questions. This sermon lays to bed the uncertainty of one's salvation so they can know for certain of their eternal destiny.

A twenty-seven year old girl came to me and said, "I have been going to church all of my life, but I'm not sure I am a Christian."

A missionary's wife approached the president of a major Christian organization and said, "During the past thirty years, my husband and I have introduced thousands of people to Christ, but I have never been sure of my own salvation. I have never before shared this concern with anyone, but now I am so desperate that I have come to seek your help."

A college student who had prayed to receive Christ stood to his feet with a puzzled look on his face. He said, "I don't feel any different. I guess God didn't hear my prayer. How can I be sure that Christ has come into my life?"

Have you ever felt like one of these people? Do you wonder if you are a Christian? Do you ask, "Am I really saved?" Do you have the certainty that you will go to heaven when you die?

The truth is that we can be 100-percent certain about where we will spend eternity. We can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter what happens to us in the future, we are going to heaven when we die.

Jack Wyrtzen, founder of the Word of Life ministry, used to say, "I'm as sure of heaven as if I'd already been there 10,000 years." Can you say that?

The underlying question is: Can I lose my salvation? In my mind the answer is simple: It depends on who saved you:

If God saved you, you can't lose it because it depends on God.

If you saved yourself, you can lose it because it depends on you.

Your salvation is eternally secure if God did the saving. But if you think that salvation is a cooperative venture between yourself and God - where you do a part and he does a part - then you're in big trouble because anything you start, you could mess up somewhere along the way. But if God started it, he'll also finish it. Anything you can do for yourself, you can lose for yourself. But if God saves you, you are saved forever because it depends on him and not on you. What God does, he does forever.

In Baptist churches we refer to this doctrine as the doctrine of eternal security. People often ask do you believe "once saved, always saved"? I say it depends on where you put the emphasis. Are you putting the emphasis on the word once or on the word saved? The answer is "Yes" if you put the emphasis on the word saved. I believe that if one has truly repented of their sins and by faith entered into a personal relationship with God through his son, Jesus Christ, then they are eternally secure and can never lose your salvation. On the other hand, if someone once merely walked an aisle or said a prayer when there was a tragedy in their life or got a quiver in their liver at camp then my answer is "No." These people, in my opinion, were never saved to begin with.

Let me be forthright, regarding this doctrine, it is not clear cut. Some denominations, such as, Methodists, Wesleyans, Pentecostals, Church of Christ, teach that under some circumstances a Christian may lose their salvation and be denied entrance into heaven. Some biblical passages seem to offer a conflicting view. Jesus said that no one can snatch his followers out of his hand (John 10:28). But, he also warned against people who work miracles in his name yet on the Day of Judgment he will say, "'I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers" (Matt. 7:23). The text we will look at more closely in just a minute in Hebrews 6 talks about "falling away" in verse 5 and a "sure hope" in verse 11. Which is it?

Here's what I believe: If a person truly repents of their sins, trusts in Christ alone for their salvation, and seeks to walk in a life of obedience they are saved. Furthermore, the nature of God is not to bring you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, then to make you wonder for the rest of your life whether or not you have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. God does not say "Trust me," then for the rest of your life make you wonder if you really trusted him. It is his business and his desire for us to have assurance of salvation.

We can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are going to heaven when we die. We can be sure of our salvation. We can know that we know God? Here's how.

I. The four pillars of assurance

The Bible teaches that the assurance of salvation rests securely upon four unshakeable pillars:

A. Assurance is based on the absolute trustworthiness of Scripture

Throughout the New Testament, we read God's promises to save all who will believe upon his Son. The Bible says, "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom. 10:13). This is God's promise to us. If you come to Jesus with genuine repentance of sin and trust in he promises that he will save you. We have the confidence of salvation based on the infallibility of God's Word.

B. Assurance rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ

When Jesus died on the cross, he bore our sin, enduring God's wrath, and cried out, "It is finished" (John 19:30). By this, he meant that the full atonement for all our sins - past, present, and future - has been made. His work of redemption now completed, our entire sin debt is paid in full. Just as salvation comes from believing in Christ alone, so does assurance. As we trust in Christ's perfect sacrifice for our sins, the certainty of eternal life floods our hearts. No matter how great your sin, God's grace is greater still.

C. Assurance is confirmed through the inward witness of the Holy Spirit

It is the Holy Spirit's ministry to convince our hearts of our salvation. In reality, no preacher, evangelist, parent, or friend can give us assurance. Neither can we work it up within ourselves. Only the Holy Spirit himself can give us the absolute certainty of our eternal life. The Bible says, "And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us." (1 John 3:24). The Holy Spirit who convicted, called, and converted us also convinces us that we belong to Christ.

D. Assurance comes through the evidence of a changed life

Ultimately, assurance is confirmed within us as we see God conforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. All who have been born again will see clear evidences of a new life in Christ. While we will never become perfect in this life, we will, nevertheless, experience a changed life. It is this inward transformation that provides strong confirmation of our salvation.

II. The four evidences of assurance

What are the evidences? What are some signs of salvation?

Let's turn to the book of Hebrews. It was written to discouraged Christians who were in spiritual danger. They were being persecuted by Nero for their religious beliefs; they had many questions about their new found faith that the Old Testament did not answer; they were in danger of reverting back to Judaism. For many, believing in Christ was a life or death proposition. Now, they were second-guessing their conversion to Christ and their very salvation.

In chapter 6, the unknown author discusses "things connected with salvation" (Heb. 6:9). These things, as he calls them are evidences of salvation or the fruit in the Christian life. That's a good analogy. How do you know an apple tree from an orange tree or pear tree? Well, the easiest way is to look at their fruit. How do you know a Christian from a non Christian? By their fruit. Jesus said, "You'll recognize them by their fruit" (Matt. 7:16). It is that same fruit of Christian behavior and action that assures one of salvation. So, if you are looking for assurance, check out:

A. Your labor for the Savior

"For God is not unjust; He will not forget your work" (Heb. 6:10a). In other words, God is fair; he is watching. Your good works is evidence of your salvation. Our works do not save us; but they do give witness to our salvation.

The priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan had religious training, but neither of them paused to assist the dying man at the side of the road (Luke 10:25-37). While each would defend his faith, neither demonstrated that faith in loving works. Their example indicates that some religious people are not believers.

James, the brother of Jesus, deals with this issue forcefully. "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can his faith [a] save him?" (James 2:14). What such faith is he referring to? The kind of faith that is never seen in practical works. Can such a faith save him? The answer is no. Any declaration of faith that does not result in a changed life and good works is a false declaration. That kind of faith is dead faith. "In the same way faith, if it doesn't have works, is dead by itself" (James 2:17). The great theologian, John Calvin, wrote, "It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone." True saving faith is a faith that works.

If you are laboring for the Lord, that is a good indication of your salvation.

B. Your love for the saints

"God . . . will not forget . . . your work and the love you showed for His name when you served the saints - and you continue to serve them" (Heb. 6:10b). The writer of Hebrews is not talking about a tingle up your spine or a wonderful love song. He is talking about love in action, the kind of love you show to the saints, for his sake. The kind of love that springs from true faith in Christ.

We used to sing a folk song with the lyrics, "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they will know we are Christians by our love." That is not only a song, but a Scriptural truth. Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35). Jesus is giving the right to the world to judge whether you and I are Christians on the basis of our observable love toward fellow Christians.

If you are expressing love toward your brothers and sisters in Christ, you are demonstrating one of the most distinguishing marks of salvation.

C. Your level of service

"God will not forget . . . when you served the saints - and you continue to serve them" (Heb. 6:10c). When you and I became Christians, we gave up every right. We became servants. And servanthood is one of the greatest indications of being a follower of Christ. While it is still unpopular and unrecognized, it, nevertheless, is one of the most distinguishing marks of a Christian.

Do you remember the story of when James and John came to Jesus wanting to sit in a place of authority beside him? Do you remember what happened? The other ten disciples became angry because they to wanted those places. Then Jesus said, "‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life - a ransom for many'" (Matt. 20:25-28).

God did not save you to be a sensation he saved you to be servant. If you doubt your salvation, check out your service to others. One of the great misfortunes in American churches today is the emphasis on getting, but when a person comes to Christ that emphasis changes from getting to giving. Just as Christ gave himself for us, the true Christian desires to give themselves to others.

A willingness to serve is an evidence of salvation.

D. Your lingering thoughts of salvation

If you are struggling with assurance of salvation, then the very fact that you thought about it is a good sign that you belong to him. When people asked Charles Spurgeon, the great British pastor, how they could know if they were of the elect, he would answer, "If you are worried about it, then you are." In other words, if you are concerned about your relationship with Christ, that is an indication that you are saved.

Here are four pillars and four evidences of the assurance of salvation. Upon this foundation our salvation rests. The writer of Hebrews said, "Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope" (Heb. 6:11). These facts give "full assurance of hope" (NASB) regarding our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, these pillars provide unshakable confidence of eternal life.

In our eternal destination we must be sure. Assurance of salvation is God's blessed gift for all who believe. The apostle John said, "I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13).

In 1994 Northwest Airlines offered some unusual round-trip passages aboard one of their planes. Fifty-nine dollars bought a "Mystery Fare" ticket that provided a one-day trip to an unknown American city. Buyers didn't find out where they were heading until they arrived at the airport the day of the flight. Still, the airline had plenty of takers. In Indianapolis fifteen hundred people crowded the airline counter to buy the Mystery Fare tickets that were sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

Mystery Fare tickets may be a fun surprise for a weekend vacation, but normally the last thing you want is a ticket to a mystery destination. And one time you never want a Mystery ticket is on the day of your death. You don't want to face eternity uncertain about whether you will go to heaven or hell.

Somebody once said it this way. There will be three surprises when we get to heaven. Number one, we're going to be surprised that some people are there that we didn't expect to see there. Number two, we're going to be surprised that some people aren't there that we were sure were going to be there. Number three, the greatest surprise of all will be that we ourselves are there.

That leads me to this question. Are you going to be there? If you died tonight, would you go to heaven? Are you sure? Perhaps you've been running from God and now at last he has found you. If you are not sure about your salvation, and if you would like to be sure, make sure today. I want you to be sure that if you die today or tomorrow or in 50 years, you're going to go to heaven.

Rick Ezell is the pastor of First Baptist Greer, South Carolina. Rick has earned a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology in preaching from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rick is a consultant, conference leader, communicator, and coach.