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What should I do if I'm questioning my salvation?

Having doubts about or questioning one's salvation is a common experience. While Paul charged the Christians in Philippi to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," he finished that sentence saying, "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12–13). The father who brought his afflicted son to Jesus for healing cried, "help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). In figuring out our salvation and exploring these doubts, we should invite God to work in our hearts and to strengthen our faith.

Salvation comes when we have recognized how our own sinful nature leaves us in need of a savior, turn from our sinful ways (>repent) and trust instead in Jesus' righteousness and His work on the cross on our behalf, and that trust becomes devotion to walking with God in every way. Salvation is granted by God's grace and received through faith (Ephesians 2:8–10).

Salvation is not simply giving mental assent to the fact that Jesus is God's Son, died on the cross, and rose again. "Even the demons believe—and shudder!" (James 2:19). Rather, it is life change; we are made new (2 Corinthians 15:17–21). John explained in 1 John 2:5–6, "By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." John expounded, "Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him [God], and he [God] in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us" (1 John 3:24). Salvation occurs when we turn from our sin and trust in Jesus, and as a result walk in step with God's Spirit (Romans 8:4).

A good place to start when questioning salvation is returning to that first step of repentance—simply acknowledging before God our own brokenness and deep need for His saving work. Peter told his audience, "Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19–20).

We also need to recall what the Bible says about the nature of salvation. Paul declared, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). There is no need to wonder if repentance and faith in action are enough to spare us from eternal condemnation. Paul was very clear that there is no condemnation. The Greek word for "no" in this verse literally means "not even one" or "not any at all." Paul encouraged the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 3:4–6, "Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit." Paul had complete confidence that Jesus' sacrifice was sufficient to cover his sins and enable him to live the life of ministry to which God called him.

Similarly, the writer of Hebrews explained to his readers, "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession… Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace" (Hebrews 4:14, 16). This author called his readers to have confidence when approaching God in prayer, but that confidence is not in ourselves, our good works, or even in the strength or sincerity of our faith. This confidence is in Jesus and His saving and intercessory work on our behalf. It is according to God's will that "we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10). Jesus' sacrifice covers our sin and we are to have confidence in the sufficiency of His saving work.

God not only assures us of the sufficiency of Jesus' sacrifice, He "has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee" (2 Corinthians 1:22). The Holy Spirit at work in us is another assurance of our salvation. Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit would teach and remind us (John 14:26), convict our consciences (John 16:8), and guide us in all truth (John 16:13). When we read God's Word and it makes sense to us in new ways, that is the Holy Spirit guiding us in truth. When we recognize areas in our lives that do not align with God's will and feel a desire to ask for His help in modifying those tendencies, that is the Holy Spirit's conviction. When we have an encouraging verse, song, or sermon come to mind in a time of need, that is the Holy Spirit reminding us of Jesus' words.

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me… they will listen to my voice" (John 10:14, 16). Studying Scripture and spending time in prayer will give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to help you know Jesus in this personal and intimate way. If we have learned about Jesus, felt convicted of sin, had our hearts enlightened to God's truth, or are beginning to know Jesus' voice, that is evidence that the Holy Spirit has been at work within us. Furthermore, Paul said the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22–23). If any of these attributes have been increasingly displayed in our lives, it is proof, not of our own ability to obey God's commands or our own will power to become a better person, but rather it is evidence of God's Spirit at work within us. Jesus assured His listeners that the "heavenly Father [will] give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him" (Luke 11:13). Ask the Holy Spirit to work in your heart and He will.

Finally, we can be patient while God is at work within us, realizing that maturing our faith is an ongoing process. The writer of Hebrews said that Jesus is "the founder and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). Our faith is imperfect and incomplete, but God is at work perfecting our faith. It is why the father of the afflicted boy could cry out to Jesus, "I believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). He both had faith and needed his faith to be increased. Paul had such confidence in this work of God that he told the Philippians, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). When we are questioning salvation or struggling with doubts, let us recall the truth of God's Word and have confidence that Jesus' work on the cross is sufficient, that the Holy Spirit is at work within us, and that God will continue to perfect our faith.

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