There is no prescription for how you’re supposed to feel when you decide to put your trust in Christ. When I was about nine years old I presented myself to my church for baptism. A well-meaning person in the congregation asked me later, “Well, how did it feel?” I didn’t know what to say because I hadn’t felt much of anything.
Some folks struggle with that. Sometimes we play upon psychological insecurities, when the truth is, there is no psychological profile that has to match up before you’re converted. God promises to save you if you trust him and believe the gospel. It’s a matter of taking him at his word.
Have you ever been in church when someone asks, “Do you know you’re saved?” That’s a fair question, but sometimes we take it too far. Our salvation does not depend upon a sense of psychological certainty.
A Christian believes the Gospel.
The New Testament describes several characteristics of the Christian. One of these marks is the gospel. A Christian believes that Jesus is the long awaited Jewish messiah, the everlasting son of God who came from heaven’s throne, took to himself our humanity, offered himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and was supernaturally raised him from the dead by God the Father. He is the Lord of heaven and earth, and he summons us to be his followers.
I’ve heard it said, “If you don’t know the day or the hour that you were saved, then you may not be.” That worries people. Let me tell you something: I don’t know the day or the hour that I was saved. I just know that I am. I trust in the God who has promised to save me through Jesus Christ. There’s not a quotient of tears, or an emotional standard that has to be met. Instead, there is the gospel’s standard:
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
A Christian bears the fruit of the Spirit.
There are other signs as well. The fruit of the Spirit, for example, is another mark of the Christian. Rather than look for these fruits, however, we tend to emphasize our own feelings when we talk about what it means to be born again.
A Christian trusts God in tribulation.
Romans 5 describes another mark of the Christian:
We exult in hope of the glory of God And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope… (Romans 5:2b-4)
The word knowing is key here. This passage describes a cycle that doesn’t apply to the unbeliever. When trouble comes, the unbeliever may curse God and walk away. But for the believer, tribulation and suffering bring perseverance—endurance. Perseverance, in turn, produces a tested character. And this tested character issues forth in the growth and increase of hope.
Think about that for a moment. The cycle begins as we rejoice in our troubles. We don’t rejoice because we enjoy suffering, but because we know God’s at work in our pain. We trust him. We have a knowledge that the unbeliever doesn’t have.
Have you experienced deeply troubling times? Perhaps you’ve lost your parents, or a husband or wife. Maybe you’ve suffered a great injustice, a blow that was hard to endure. It wasn’t fair, and it felt like the bad guys won. If you’ve experienced these sorts of things, can you still come together with the people of God, and say, “Jesus Christ is Lord”?
If so, you’re persevering. This is an indication that you are growing as a Christian. If you trust in Jesus despite doubts, hardship, and pain, and if you still come together with the people of God and say “Lord Jesus Christ, I love you. I trust you,” then rejoice and be glad. That’s the mark of the Christian. Serve and obey the Lord Jesus Christ with confidence that he has and will save you from your sins.
The previous was adapted from a sermon Dr. Sloan delivered at Kingsland Baptist Church on January 13, 2013.