How tragic it would be if we went through life thinking we were saved and then woke up on Judgment Day to find out we were mistaken! But the Bible teaches that this will be the case with many people. Christ said, "Many will say unto Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:22-23).
However, we do not have to go through life without the assurance of salvation. In 1 John 5:13 the apostle says, "These things have I written unto you...that ye may know that ye have eternal life." How then can we have this assurance? This is the most important question we will ever face in life because our eternal destiny is at stake! The Bible teaches that those who remain unsaved will spend eternity in a place of perpetual torment (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 14:9-11). The reason for this is because their sin has not been paid for, and God's perfect justice requires that payment be made for sin ("the wages of sin is death" Rom. 6:23). Therefore, it is vital that we know the answer to this question. This is why the Apostle Peter wrote, "Give diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10).
It is true that we must believe in Christ in order to become saved (Acts 16:31), but how can we be sure we have savingly believed in Him? Certainly we cannot rely upon our feelings since feelings can be misleading. Some might suggest we can be sure by acknowledging the facts of the gospel or saying "the sinner's prayer." However, the Bible teaches that it is not possible to be saved without being regenerated. Christ said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Therefore, we cannot know we have savingly believed in Christ until we know we are born again.
But what does it mean to be born again? Is this some kind of emotional experience? No, the Bible teaches that being born again means our life is changed. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." The Bible also tells us what changes will take place in our life when we are born again.
First, we will not habitually commit sin.
"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin."—1 John 3:9
"How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?"—Romans 6:2
Though we will continue to sin because of indwelling corruption, we will no longer practice it for its dominion has been broken in our life, and God has instilled in our heart a hatred for it.
Second, we will seek to live a holy life by obeying God's Word.
"Everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him."—1 John 2:29
"And hereby do we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments."—1 John 2:3
We will not obey God's Word perfectly as long as we still have a sinful nature. But we will obey it purposefully because of an ongoing, earnest desire to do God's will.
Third, we will love others, regardless of who they are or what they have done.
"Everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."—1 John 4:7-8
"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."—1 John 3:14
Since God is love He has given us a desire to love others, especially believers. We may not always feel love towards them, yet we will show love by seeking to do them good when we have the opportunity.
Fourth, our affections will not be set upon the things of the world.
"If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."—1 John 2:15
"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit...But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."—Romans. 8:5, 9
Though we can and should enjoy the things of the world God has given us, our heart will not be set upon them because Christ is our all in all.
These changes are not the cause of our salvation for we are saved by Christ (as our propitiation and as the giver of the gift of perfect righteousness) through faith—even that is not of ourselves but is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9). Rather, these changes are the evidence that we truly have been born again. If they are not evident in our life, it is likely we have not savingly believed in Christ. And therefore, it is vital that we diligently read the Bible until we are assured of having saving faith in Him. The Bible says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). A good place to start is 1 John and James for they deal extensively with the changes that result from being born again.
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