A popular evangelism method likes to ask people two questions to get a “snapshot” of their salvation. The two questions are:
(1) Are you in the place in your spiritual life where you know that if you die, you are certain you’d go to heaven?
(2) Suppose you did die today and you stood before God, and He asked you, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” What would your answer be?
The first question doesn’t show whether people are saved–it rather shows whether they think they are. The second question is open-ended, and is good for finding out what they are depending on to save them.
A self-centered answer is often an indicator that they may be depending on self.
“Well, I never killed anyone.”
“I was baptized.”
“I said a sinner’s prayer.”
“I gave my life to Christ.”
“I rededicated my life.”
The common element to the above is “I.”
A more certain answer that someone is saved would be more God-centered:
“Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins and rose again from the dead.”
Eternal security is only for those who were truly saved in the first place. They trusted in Jesus Christ and what He did, not in themselves and what they did.
So, salvation is best determined by finding out what people are depending upon to get into heaven, not how they are living. Remember, there is a difference between how you get saved, and how you are to live once you are saved. The former determines heaven or hell; the latter, rewards in heaven.
Nevertheless, I agree that we can’t see inside the heart—only God can do that. Still, on the point of what people are depending upon versus sins in their life, contrast the Galatians and the Corinthians. The Corinthians were (as a Bible study teacher liked to say) “grossing it out” in all sorts of sins, yet the apostle Paul never doubts their salvation.
On the other hand, the Galatians were “goody two-shoes,” yet Paul wonders if they are saved. What was the difference? The Corinthians had faith in Christ. The Galatians were trusting in their works.
There are thousands of prayers evangelists use to help people pray to God (perhaps for the first time in their life) to ask for the gift of salvation. While aiming to bring people into saving faith, too many prayers focus on an idea of what a person does. Such prayers use ideas like, “Give your heart to Jesus.”
This is lose thinking, and people can quite easily think that they “gave their heart” and that action is what saves them. No, what saves us is the blood Jesus shed for us at Calvary when He died for our sins on the cross in our place. Our only part is to trust that the sacrificial action of Jesus at the cross won our forgiveness and saves us.
Another idea is commonly called “an altar call.” People think that because they went forward to the front of the church, that now they are saved. No, it doesn’t. Placing our faith in Christ’s atoning death on the cross and resurrection from the dead saves us.
Now, don’t get me wrong. God cuts through all the clutter of thoughts, ideas and actions, and sees a person’s heart. He will not despise a contrite and broken heart that looks to Jesus for forgiveness, even if the way of expressing that is somewhat less than technically accurate.
Indeed, God often saves people in spite of us and our fumbling methods. Still, I believe that as vessels prepared for our Master’s use, we ought to do our best in making the gospel really clear so confusion cannot enter in later. Focus on what Jesus did so that a person understands that it’s not about us, but that it’s all about Jesus.
We are helpless beggars holding out our hands to receive a gift more precious than we ever could hope God could give. When we receive that gift of eternal life, God turns us from enemies into friends, and beyond that adopts us as children into His own family. Focus on faith in Jesus!