Am I Saved?
For an embarrassingly long time, I felt that the mere fact that I sinned meant that I wasn’t saved. I had this idea in my head that the saved don’t sin, and that’s just not true (1 John 1:8). I lacked the Biblical knowledge to understand the relationship between Christ and the redeemed.
I’d encourage any to read John MacArthur’s Saved Without a Doubt. That book is a much deeper analysis for people who ask themselves this question. For the purpose of this work, I’m going to focus on issues I faced and realizations I’ve had.
I’ve been formally baptized at least three times. The first was because everyone I knew was baptized. It was the thing people did at church. The second time was (if I remember correctly) because I went to a different church. The third was when I finally understood what baptism represents.
Baptism is not the means by which one is saved. Here’s what should be the sad part. In my trials of faith and sanctification, I’ve had some sins that took a long time to turn from. If you can believe it, several, several, times I’ve gone into my own bathroom and baptized myself.
On one hand, I could say that this was extremely charming but completely unnecessary. You see, I mourned my sin. I hated it and the hold it had on me. I mistakenly thought each time, “This time will be the last.”
On the other hand, I was just being silly. Nothing about what I did was Biblically sound. My heart may have been in a good place, but no amount of bathing was going to keep me from sinning.
It could have been the last time I committed whatever sin it was. Each time I faced temptation, I clearly remember ways the Lord provided me an escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). I imagined myself the rope in a tug of war between Christ and sin.
I think that idea is what gave sin power over me it never should have had. We are not ropes in a tug of war. If we have faith in Christ Jesus, if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9-10).
When we accept Christ as our savior, sin loses its hold on us. We become dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:11).
But over and over again I tried to free myself with my own power. I was under this impression that I had to help Christ somehow. The brain-twister is the fact that that just isn’t how it works. Christ has overcome sin (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Each time I thought I’d do something, each time I tried to stand on my own, I fell, and I fell hard. But when I turned to Christ, when I gave myself to him, sin lost its hold on me. Not all sin, but one of the larger sins in my life that I felt particularly convicted of. For some, it might be lying. For others, it might be addiction. The sin is less important than the breaker of sin’s chains.
So, the circular reasoning then says, “But that means I shouldn’t ever sin again.”
Well, we shouldn’t, and we don’t have to. Sin has no dominion over us (Romans 6:14).
However, we’re still living in the flesh. Have you ever felt that all you tend to do is what you hate about yourself? Have you ever felt that all the good things you want to do, you never seem to do? This is the war that wages in your own mind (Romans 7:16-24).
This sort of turmoil can lead one to believe they are wretched and cast out, forsaken because you persist in the sin you mourn (Romans 7:24).
This is the salvation that Christ gives! His grace covers our sin and frees us from our iniquity. He gives us comfort when we mourn our sin (Matthew 5:4).
The trick is how sin is overcome because those who believe and long to follow his law and seek his righteousness will have it (Matthew 5:6). It is Christ who overcomes (1 John 5:4).
What I think happens is we forget this. We turn from Christ seeking to defeat temptation ourselves. We can’t. We were born in sin (Psalm 51:5).
All of these thoughts led me to a statement I still sometimes think to myself: “I wish the decision to do the right thing removed the temptation to do the wrong thing.”
For those of us who live in the flesh (which is everyone), temptation isn’t removed. In the resurrection, we’ll have perfect, sinless bodies, but only after that resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35-38).
In the meantime, stand strong, and we stand strong not by our own power, but in the power of Christ and the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20). Another book by MacArthur, Standing Strong, goes over this in great detail. I’m going to focus on the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
If I had only known about that one tool, if I had only sought to study that weapon, the only weapon we use against temptation, my struggle would have been much easier. You see, we don’t deny temptation by our power or our will. We’ll lose every time. And that’s the mistake I kept making. I made promises to myself (promises I never really intended to keep because they were only deals with myself).
Our Savior taught us how to use it, but I didn’t read the Bible until just a few years ago, so I was hopeless.
Just after He was baptized, the Spirit led Christ into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights to be tempted by Satan himself. (Documented in Matthew 4.)
And so Satan attacked. Christ didn’t simply cast Satan out. Christ didn’t speak some new command or special phrase. He didn’t resist by simple refusal. What he did, was speak the Word. This is how one uses the Sword of the Spirit.
When Satan dared Christ, who hadn’t eaten in 40 days and nights, to turn rock into bread, Christ quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 (Matthew 4:4), using the Word of God the way an expert swordsman uses his sharpened blade.
One would think that’s all there is to it. But just as someone can misinterpret the Bible, Satan can flat out manipulate it. Just look at what Satan does next:
He took Christ up to the top of the temple and quoted Psalm 91:11-12. If we don’t study, we can actually be more dangerous with the Word than if we didn’t read it, just as an untrained swordsman is especially dangerous to himself.
Christ, however, an expert in the Word because He is the Word (John 1:14), knew how to counter that false use of the Bible. He countered that promise of Psalm 91 with a more important, and relevant verse, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16).”
A third time he was tested, and again Christ went to the scripture, quoting Deuteronomy 6:13-14.
This, my friends, is how we defend ourselves against temptation. We turn to the Word of God. My friends, if you believe and proclaim Christ, you are saved. If you mourn sin and yearn for righteousness, you will be comforted and satisfied. These things are guaranteed. If you stumble, you will be protected because once you belong to God, nothing, nothing, can take you from him (Romans 8:38-39).
Your salvation is assured in Christ, so this means your question is how to withstand temptation. My question was how to resist. The answer is simple: Study the word. Read it. Read it the way you’d eat healthy to grow strong. Read it the way you’d exercise to be fit.
Then, when temptation comes, seek the word. This isn’t a thing I can do as readily as Christ. Sometimes I know a verse right away. Sometimes, I have to look up parts of the Bible until I find one that helps my heart, and even the process of searching the Word for help is help in itself, and the verse you find then becomes another pass of the whetstone to sharpen your sword.
Doing so will also give you assurance in your salvation. As you read and study, you’ll learn more about Christ, and what He does for you.
For our panel: What verses can we study to learn more about salvation? What are some great, basic verses someone very young in the faith can memorize to start with? What are some verses we can turn to if we stumble? Would any of you care to speak more in-depth about the other components of the Armor of God?