My An Arkie's Faith column from the November 29, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.
Most people don't like to take tests. It makes them nervous. Some occupations such as nursing, law, civil service jobs, and many others, require passing a test before you can be licensed to work. Tests can create a lot of anxiety in people. Waiting to find out if you passed is very stressful.
Recently, a friend was stressed out while waiting for the day she would take the test required to be certified. Without the certification, she could not work in the field she had studied. Even though the worry about taking the test almost made her ill, when the day came, she passed it.
I remember taking my driving test. I was driving a 1962 Chrysler. For the turn signals to work, you had to hold the turn signal lever in position because it wouldn’t stay if you didn’t. When I had to turn corners during the test, I held the turn signal lever in position with one hand while I steered with the other. When the test was over, the driving examiner took off points because I didn’t keep both hands on the wheel when I turned a corner. He didn’t notice that I was holding the turn signal lever in position with the other hand. I was afraid I wouldn't pass the exam, but after a lecture on the importance of keeping both hands on the wheel, he gave me a passing grade.
When I was in high school, I had a teacher who told us that if we had an A in the class, we wouldn’t have to take the final exam. I wouldn’t say I liked taking finals, so I worked hard to get an A. On the Monday of finals week, the teacher posted the grades. I looked at the bulletin board and saw that I had an A-. I was relieved. I wouldn’t have to take the final exam. Then the teacher told me I would have to take the final exam because only those with an A were exempt and I had an A-. I argued that an A- was still an A but it didn’t do me any good. I still had to take the final exam. I was not happy.
Many Christians go through life like they are in school. They are always worried about their grades. They are concerned about making a passing grade. They spend their lives in anxiety about the outcome. They believe they cannot know if they are saved or lost! Many don't have that assurance of salvation.
The Bible has a lot to say on this topic. You can have the assurance of salvation. Jesus Himself gives assurance to those who believe in Him. In John 10:27,28 (NRSV) Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
While speaking to a group of people on the topic of assurance, I asked, “How many here are married? If you are, raise your hand.” Most of the hands in the audience went up. Then I asked a follow-up question, “How many of you don't know if you're married?” Not a single hand went up. Then I asked, “How do you know you are married?”
Just about everyone knows if they are married or not. A rare issue in the legal system might make someone unsure of their marital status, but most people know whether they are married.
We can be sure of our marital status, but can we know if we are saved? Indeed, we can know. In Philippians 4:7 (VOICE) Paul tells us that we can “know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus.” If we wonder every moment of every day what our score is on our final exam, we do not have peace. But God has promised his children peace. When Jesus was about to leave this earth, he told His disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)
We can be sure of our marital status, but can we be sure what our marital status will be ten years from now? Now that’s a different question. In 2 Peter 1:10 (NLT), the Apostle Peter wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.”
We can know that we are saved today, but only God knows the future. Only He knows whether we will fall away. But we can know in our heart whether we are in a saved condition right now. We need to know that.
Works-oriented Christians know that they don’t measure up. They know that Romans 6:23 (NKJV) tells us, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” They have a hard time believing that eternal life is a gift of God. They feel that they must score high on the final exam to achieve eternal life.
If we think perfect obedience is the test, we feel that God can’t save us every time we make a mistake. That doubt is intensified by the accusations made by Satan against us. Satan delights in making us doubt our salvation. On the other hand, we can delude ourselves by looking at our works with an overblown view of our own goodness, seeing righteousness in ourselves when there is none.
Gentle Reader, Jesus wants you to be saved. 2 Peter 3:9 (NCV) says, “God is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to be lost, but he wants all people to change their hearts and lives.” When you believe in Him and change your heart and life, Jesus wants you to know you are saved. In John 6:47 (NKJV), Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.”