Take a look at this moving email I just received:
I have believed I was saved for a long time. But it was not until last year that I finally heard a proper presentation of the gospel of free grace.
The evangelical world is crazy mixed up out there. I was brought to a Reformed Church where I thought I was “saved.”
God graciously delivered me by bumping me into the real gospel last year. Dr. Andy Woods has a salvation lesson uploaded on the doctrine of soteriology and he explained, according to the Bible, what saving faith is.
I ran into some of your videos recently.
Is it okay to state your faith in Christ, as written in the gospel record, aloud and have that not be a work as long as you make it clear that you understand that it is faith that saves and not the statement or short prayer?
I am still confused on how to get saving faith activated and the verses in Matthew 7:21-23 scare me to death. I do not want to have anything but Christ’s substitution on the cross to pay my sin debt, His resurrection, and that He is the Son of God sent as a free gift by God be in the way. Help me out please! Jesus is coming soon and I really need a direct answer about how to have faith without inadvertently adding works. I want to know I have been justified and sealed with the Holy Spirit.
It sounds like you have some confusion due to the conflicting teaching you have received over the years. Those conflicting thoughts have thus far robbed you of certainty of your salvation.
First, the Bible not only does not forbid telling others that we believe in Jesus, it commands that we do so. Baptism is a public acknowledgment of our faith in Christ. The act of coming together with other believers in church is a public testimony to our faith in Christ. Evangelism is telling others the good news of Jesus Christ.
Second, baptism, church attendance, and evangelism are all works. But works are a good thing. The problem in Matt 7:21-23 is not that the people in question did works. The problem is that they believe their works qualify them to spend eternity with the Lord. They do not say, “Lord, did we not believe in You and You alone for the free gift of everlasting life?” No. They do not even mention believing in Him. They mention working for Him. That is the wrong basis of assurance. See my recent blog on Matt 7:21-23 for more details.
Third, you say, “I am still confused on how to get saving faith activated.” I don’t know what you mean. We cannot activate saving faith. Saving faith is already active. All faith is active. The question in saving faith is the object, not the faith.
Let’s say you believe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, that He walked on water, that He healed the sick, and that He raised the dead. You do not need to do anything to activate those beliefs.
Whatever you believe, you believe. Once you believe something, your faith is active. I’m sorry someone led you to believe you must activate saving faith in some way.
Fourth, the object of saving faith is the Lord Jesus and His promise of everlasting life to the believer (John 3:16-18; 5:24; 6:35, 47; 11:25-27; Acts 16:31; Eph 2:8-9; Rev 22:17). The way to be sure of your eternal destiny is quite simple: take the Lord Jesus Christ at His word. The question in regeneration is not whether we are faithful; the question is whether He is faithful. Did He do the works necessary for us to be saved by His sinless life and His substitutionary death on the cross? If so, is He faithful to the promise He makes that “he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47)?
It bothers me that so many pastors and theologians have turned faith in Christ from simply believing in Him for everlasting life into turning from sins, commitment, surrender, a heartfelt personal response, and so forth. They confuse people.
I suggest you read one chapter of John’s Gospel every day. Prayerfully. Start your reading each day asking the Lord to show you how to be sure of your salvation.
You can read John’s Gospel in three weeks at just one chapter a day.
If you still aren’t sure, read the book a second time. Read it as many times as it takes.
When you read John’s Gospel, look for these words: eternal life, everlasting life, life, and believe. Notice that the Lord repeatedly speaks of everlasting life as the present possession of the believer, not as something he will get when he dies. Everlasting life and believing in Jesus are linked again and again in the Fourth Gospel.
Here is a 1997 article on assurance by Zane Hodges that you might find helpful.
The key is taking Jesus at His word. No more. No activation required.
Please let me know when you gain certainty that you have everlasting life.