The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). In other words, there is no good work we do in order to be saved. Eternal life and peace with God are free gifts. All that is required to accept them is repenting of our sins and trusting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Once we do that, God accepts us eternally as His children and nothing can separate us from the saving love of God (Romans 8:31-39). This gracious offer makes believers rejoice. But at times it can also leave us confused. If there are no good works to check off a list, how do we know that we’re really saved? How can we be sure that we’re really trusting Jesus as Lord?
Fortunately, the Bible answers these questions. The book of James says that faith evidences itself in good works (James 2:18). The works we do don’t save us, but everyone who has saving faith will necessarily do certain works. To help determine whether God has done the work of salvation in you, see if your faith works itself out in the following ways:
1. Do you view Jesus as a personal friend? Jesus said His followers “abide” or “remain” in Him (John 15:1-6). If Jesus seems like a distant figure with whom you’ve never had personal interaction through prayer, guidance, and conviction, you may not be His follower.
2. Do you find yourself instinctively turning to God for help (Galatians 4:6)? In times of trial, is your natural reaction to address God as your loving heavenly parent like a child cries for daddy when he is scared or hurt? The Bible says that’s a sign that you’re God’s son or daughter and He’s put His Holy Spirit within you.
3. Do you believe the Bible and hunger to know it more (1 John 4:6)? Jesus said His sheep recognize His voice (John 10:3). He also told us the Bible is His Word, breathed out by His Holy Spirit through the prophets and apostles (2 Timothy 3:16). Does the Bible resonate as true in your heart? When you read it, does your spirit affirm that it is giving accurate guidance and want more? That’s evidence of saving faith.
4. Do you bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit? Galatians 5:22-23 has a list of “fruit” that inevitably works itself out in a saved person’s life—even though we can have seasons of more and less fruitfulness.
5. Do you experience God’s discipline (Hebrews 12:5-11)? Like loving earthly fathers, God disciplines His children when they go astray. When you sin, do you sense the heaviness of God’s correcting hand? It’s a way of knowing you’re His son or daughter.
6. Do you obey God (1 John 2:3)? Christians will never be sinless until they reach heaven. Still, Scripture is clear that obedience is the norm in a believer’s life. Are there areas of life where you know what God commands yet blatantly and persistently refuse to do it? That might be evidence of unbelief.
7. Do you love other Christians (1 John 2:9-10)? One sign that you’re in God’s family is love for brothers and sisters in Christ. Do you feel a special connection with fellow believers—even those you’ve just met and those with whom you have little in common except love for Jesus?
8. Do you help the weak and vulnerable (James 1:27)? This isn’t to say you’re not a true Christian unless you’ve built an orphanage or travelled to a distant land bringing food to the impoverished. Christian charity manifests itself in smaller, everyday acts of mercy too. But an utter lack of drive to help the needy can indicate an unbelieving heart.
Of course, there are times when true believers stray. These tests are meant to identify overarching patterns in the lives of saved men and women. If you’ve passed all of them but still feel concerned about your salvation, relax. Your concern itself is an indication that God has done a saving work in your heart. The Bible says that lost people aren’t worried about spiritual matters (1 Corinthians 2:14).