God’s desire is that His children live in the victory He provides through the indwelling Spirit, but if a focus on right living (performance) is adopted for assurance of salvation, believers can easily doubt their salvation leading many to get “saved again.” This, of course, is an impossibility. When you have eternal life, it is eternal, and you cannot have it for only a little while. Jesus is that eternal life (1 John 1:2), and he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). You are fused to Jesus!
Going through the motions of getting saved when you already have been saved is taking a backward step into doubt. Instead of being helped, you are hurt, and those who do this repeatedly sink in a quicksand of even deeper doubt.
I once preached on being born again for a Sunday morning gospel service. Many unsaved visitors were in attendance. God answered the prayers of that church and a number responded to the invitation to trust in Christ. The assistant pastor’s wife also responded. Before the service concluded, she returned to the auditorium, and a card was handed to the pastor. He announced that she was not sure she was saved and so had gotten saved. Everyone said “Amen!” I knew, however, she was from a background where good men who meant well preached in a way that focused on one’s performance as evidence of salvation. Because of this, it seemed likely she had sought to be “saved again” on multiple occasions, and that morning’s focus on salvation and Jesus was enough to trigger her habit of getting saved again in response to creeping doubts.
Later, I spoke with her mentioning that I understood she had made a decision. She smiled and said, “Oh yes, I got saved!” I asked whether this was the first time she had done such. Her smile vanished and she hung her head before continuing, “No, I’ve done it many times.” That’s what I had feared. As we began to explore the matter, she indicated that she had first asked the Lord to save her as a child.
Opening my Bible to John 6:47, we looked at the simplicity of the words of Jesus; when you believe on Him, you receive eternal life. Then, in turn, I asked a series of questions:
As a child, did you understand sin was the problem? Did you understand hell was the judgment? Did you understand Jesus is the answer because He died and rose again?
She considered each and answered with an emphatic “yes” to all three.
I continued the inquiry asking, “Did you agree that you were a sinner, that you deserved judgment, and that Jesus died for you?” Again, she offered an unequivocal “yes.”
“As a child did you, the best you knew how, depend on Jesus to save you?”
I looked at her inquisitively, implying, Well, what’s the issue?
She added, “But I’m not sure I really meant it,” revealing a focus on her prayer. “And I have some unsaved relatives I have witnessed to who haven’t gotten saved. Maybe the reason I’m ineffective is because I’m not saved . . . and if I could just get saved, maybe they would too.” All this revealed her focus on performance.
Her reasons for doubting her salvation was a focus on herself, the subject of faith instead of the object. I queried, “Where did you get these ideas? From preaching you’ve heard?” Her eyes acknowledged such was in fact the case. She added, “Yes.”
At this point I said, “Suppose you were about to drown and as you struggle up for what you think is going to be your last breath, you see a rescue boat and cry out, ‘Help!’ What have you done? You transferred your dependence from your own self-struggle to someone able to help you. You don’t have to ask, ‘Did I say ‘help’ right?’” She began to laugh. “You don’t have to ask, ‘I wonder if I really meant it?’”—her words. She then began to cry. “You don’t have to ask, ‘I wonder if there was enough sorrow in my voice?’” At this point she was both laughing and crying. Laughing because she saw the foolishness of what she had fallen into; crying because salvation is a big deal.
I reemphasized the importance of focusing on the sure words of God. When you believe in Jesus you have eternal life—because the Bible says so! Light shined in her heart. Now rejoicing in knowing what she already had, she went forward on the position of faith and imbibed the truth preached over the next few nights. In fact, she reveled in learning the life of faith. No doubt, she would have missed this blessing if she had continued in doubt.
John Van Gelderen