How Do I Know I'm Saved | An Everyday Theology Blog
“Won’t you be my neighbor?”
That familiar phrase immediately invokes memories of the late Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers. The soft-spoken host of the beloved TV show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, who was also a Presbyterian minister, was known for his phenomenal kindness and creativity. Yet, what is less familiar about Mr. Rogers was his last words to his wife before becoming comatose.
“Do you think I’m a sheep?”
Rogers was referring to the parable of the sheep and goats found in Matthew 25:31-46. In this parable, sheep represent those who Jesus recognizes as saved, and goats as those who will be condemned to hell. While Rogers is widely regarded as a kind, considerate, and committed follower of Christ, even he wrestled with the question of salvation in his final moments on Earth.
In a recent Everyday Theology episode, Pastor Jacob Ley addressed the question, “How do I know I’m saved?” It’s a question every Christian has grappled with at some point in their spiritual journey, and for some, it’s a question that is of continual concern.
During that episode, Jacob considered the issue of salvation from the perspective of three relevant questions:
1. Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ?
2. Is there evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life?
3. Have I examined myself by the word of God and seen evidence of His saving work in my life? Since this is such an ever-present topic, it’s worth building upon the matters that Jacob addressed in the video.
Reckoning with Our Faith in Christ
Faith can be a confounding word in our contemporary culture. Although in the biblical sense it refers to “trust,” many people assume faith to imply a sort of blind, ungrounded assent. In his book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Tim Keller provides a helpful understanding of faith:
“The faith that changes the life and connects to God is best conveyed by the word “trust.” Imagine you are on a high cliff and you lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you as you fall is a branch sticking out of the very edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and it is more than strong enough to support your weight. How can it save you? If your mind is filled with intellectual certainty that the branch can support you, but you don’t actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If your mind is instead filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved.
It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch.”
In a society that frequently questions the validity and relevance of Christianity, it is important that we’re all aware of the intellectual aspects of the faith that are usually found within the discipline of apologetics. Everyday Theology has addressed many of those subjects in video and written formats. However, knowing does not necessarily entail loving. In other words, our knowledge of Christianity and Christ in particular, does not mean we love Him and have subsequently trusted in Him.
To assess whether we’ve actually placed our faith in Him, as Keller shows, mean really understanding and appreciating the object of our faith—which is Jesus Christ. Do we truly understand the reality and ramifications of sin? Do we understand Jesus’ work on the cross?
Our salvation does not hinge on how strongly we trust in Him, that would put the onus on us. Surely, we have a moral responsibility to, as imperfect as we inherently are, model what it means to be a disciple of Christ [1 Cor. 11:1]. However, Jesus lifted that burden from us on the cross. Trust in Him, intentionally follow His ways, and be assured that His grace and mercy will not fail.
Cultivation of the “Fruits”
As Jacob discussed in the video, the evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is denoted by the “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives. These “fruits,” or behaviors that mark a person changed by the indwelling of the Spirit, are described by Paul in Gal. 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
However, just like real fruit that requires nurturing to grow, the fruits we exhibit through the power of the Holy Spirit likewise require cultivation. Paul makes this point in v. 25: Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. This means intentionally seeking to live lives that reflect those virtues mentioned in vv. 22-23, and spurning those in v. 26, which include being “conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
We live in the misinformation age when deception runs rampant. Because of the easy accessibility of incredible amounts of information, much untested, deception is much more prevalent and much less evident.
Just as we should be cognizant of the validity of information we consume; we should be even more alert to the deceptiveness of the devil. Paul encouraged his Corinthian audience to assess their faith in Christ: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.” (2 Cor. 13:5-6)
We have already discussed faith and some of the parameters of being indwelled by the Holy Spirit, but constant examination itself is paramount. This testing, though, should not only come from ourselves, but from others we love and trust. They may see things in our lives that help us objectively judge our walk with Christ.
It’s a bit striking that Fred Rogers, a beacon of hope and love, would question his salvation in his final moments. However, upon hearing this honest question, perhaps wrapped in some worry, his wife responded:
“Fred, if ever there was sheep, you’re one.”
Mrs. Rogers’ answer wasn’t an effort to merely comfort him, but an authentic appraisal of a life exuding the fruits of the Spirit.
It is okay, even laudable, for us to examine ourselves to ensure we’re staying in step with the Spirit and truly being ambassadors of Christ. But remember, our salvation is not dependent on our efforts, but on His sacrifice. Trusting in Jesus, means trusting in His work on the cross. Be assured, brothers and sisters, that this means that you too are one of His sheep.