My Journey from confusion to assurance. Men’s Breakfast,

December 5, 2015
By dreiher2

The first time that I heard Pastor Aaron preach was before he became our Senior Pastor.  I took notes on that message and still carry around those notes in my Bible. Aaron spoke that Sunday about the importance of Assurance of Salvation in the context of “Conquering the Giant of Sharing our Faith.”

I want to start out with a very important fact taught very plainly in Scripture. In the first of four cases in the parable of the soils in Luke 8:12 teaches that Satan is working to take away the seed that is sown in people’s hearts on the wayside “lest they should believe and be saved.” If Satan was not actively doing this, we can only imagine how many people would be saved. 2 Cor 4:3 states, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose mind the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” Satan is working around the clock to do all he can to garble the saving message. If he did not do this, almost everyone would be saved.  Is it surprising that there is so much confusion in the church today about how a person can be saved?  In Galatians 1:6-9 the Apostle Paul speaks of turning away to a different Gospel, which was really partially true and partially false.  (skip?)  *** Perhaps you are familiar with the poll by Barna, who does religious surveys. He polled people who described themselves as born again, defined as making a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, who believe they will go to heaven when they die because they confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. 10% believe they are reincarnated after death, 29% believe it is possible to communicate with the dead, and 50% contend that a person can earn salvation based upon good works. ***  Because Satan is working relentlessly to confuse people, we must work overtime to study the Scriptures and precisely define things like saving faith and how assurance of Salvation is really of the essence of Saving faith. We need to take every opportunity to be a clear as we can be because Satan is doing all he can to confuse the very people we talk to..

There is one thing I love to talk about more than anything else in the world. That is how I came to know for sure, with 100% certainty, that I am going to heaven when I die. In our Post-Modern age, certainty about ANYTHING is considered bad. What is ironic, is that this lack of certainty about Assurance of Salvation, is now pervasive in evangelical, Bible-believing churches.

Right after I was born, I was baptized the Lutheran church in Broomall. Growing up, I can remember going to a Baptist church, a Mennonite church, a Lutheran church, a Presbyterian church and a Church of Christ church. We did not regularly attend all of these. Some we went to for just a short period of time, and some we went to just for their VBS. The important thing is, I don’t remember anyone explaining to me exactly how we could be 100% sure we were going to heaven. Nobody talked about Assurance of Salvation when we die.

When I was 5 or 6, I saw a Billy Graham crusade on TV, and was impressed. That evening, in my bedroom, I told God I was sorry for my sin, and did what I thought Billy Graham was saying. I thought “trusting” in Christ meant to believe in the death of Christ on the cross for my sins, along with committing myself to obey God. I understood it as trusting in Christ alone for the strength to LIVE in obedience to Him, with the final result, that in the end, I would get to heaven. I thought that faith plus obedience was necessary to get to heaven.

Don’t get me wrong. I did not think I was working to get to heaven. But most preachers and teachers which I heard had said, or strongly implied, that you had to do something, rather than just have “head” faith. I thought I had to have “heart” faith. I was pretty confused by hearing differing explanations of how to be “saved.” As you may know the Bible does not talk about head faith versus heart faith.

In junior high school I started regularly attending a ministry called “Youth Ranch,” started by several Florida Bible College graduates in Newtown Square. Later, as a senior in High school, I became involved with some of my friends from school and church who were into the party scene. I became uneasy with my growing lack of assurance about going to heaven when I die. I found that I was NOT able to keep up doing all the good works I was able to do when I was younger. Now, I had been attending and even playing guitar for the West Chester Youth Ranch for about 5 or 6 years. One night I was talking to the leader of the West Chester Youth Ranch and I confessed to him that I did not REALLY have the assurance of salvation that HE had. I wanted to be 100% sure. Bruce was wise enough to see exactly what was going on. He recognized that Satan had been taking way the truth of the saving message that he preached week after week. Bruce told me right then and there to set aside all the things I was doing (both good and bad), and to reach out and trust Jesus alone for salvation, apart from anything else I was doing.

The Holy Spirit knew my desire to know the truth of what the true saving object of faith was, and finally pierced through the Satanic veil that was confusing me.  At that point, I let go of my understanding of “trusting and obeying” and simply believed the promise of everlasting life that Jesus offers. I had the distinct sense of a tremendous burden being lifted off of my shoulders. I remember that night as if it was yesterday. From then on, I had 100% assurance of my Salvation because of what Jesus did. I now understood that MY combination of trust and good works had NOTHING to do with getting to heaven, or assurance of going there.  I went home that night with an assurance which I never had before.

John 6:47 says just what John 3:16 says, but more simply.  In John 6:47 we read that whoever BELIEVES in Jesus has everlasting life. It does not say, “whoever Jesus pays the penalty for their sin, as they believe and OBEY him throughout their lives, has everlasting life.” Revelation 21 – also written by John – says that people who are bound for the lake of fire are not going there because their sin was not paid for. NOR are they going there because they did not live out an “active trust” in Jesus (as I USED TO understand the word “trust” to mean). At the Great White Throne judgment, people are sent to the lake of fire because they do not have life — God’s kind of life: everlasting life. Thus, their names will not be in the BOOK of life, because they did not BELIEVE in Jesus for everlasting life while they were alive, as described in John’s earlier book, the Gospel of John. It finally made sense to me. The Bible passages talking about whether a person has everlasting life or not deal with whether a person believes in Jesus for that kind of life, and not whether they have works. Everlasting life is gained by faith alone in Christ alone. The reason we get everlasting life by simple childlike faith — being intellectually persuaded that Jesus’ promise in John 6:47 is true of us BECAUSE the sin problem was dealt with. Jesus paid the penalty. We will never pay the penalty for our sin. We simply receive everlasting life as a free gift at the moment we believe in Him for it. We then have everlasting life, which we can never lose by bad behavior. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, used to say that, because of the payment Jesus made on the Cross, we no longer have a SIN problem — we have a SON problem. Are we believing in the Son, and are we believing his promise of everlasting life, simply by believing He is able to fulfill that promise? The crucial issue is not whether or not sin keeps us from heaven. The sin of mankind has been paid for, which we know from passages such as John 1:29 and 1 John 2:2. The one thing that the Bible teaches is the reason people are cast into the lake of fire is because their names are not written in the book of Life.

For YEARS I had been confused by the messages presented by well-intentioned evangelists, tract-writers, preachers and teachers. Without exception they took verses out of context. They took verses dealing with Obedience, Discipleship and Rewards as some sort of test to see if our faith was genuine. We must never confuse all the requirements for Discipleship and Rewards, with the single requirement needed to be born again, a single moment of belief. I am so glad that I finally came to understand that my behavior has nothing to do with getting to heaven, OR with proving that I am going to heaven. I cringe when I think of people going to church their whole lives believing what I used to believe. “Active trust” and obedience is NOT how anyone gets to heaven. Simply stated, I know I have everlasting life because I believed in Jesus for it at one point in time. When, and ONLY when, a person believes in Jesus alone as the only one who can guarantee an everlasting life that can never be lost, from that moment on, they will never thirst, and never hunger as promised in John 6:35-40.



I have a burden for unbelievers and people who are confused about everlasting life — and I hope you have a burden for them, too.  Now, you may be saying to yourself, “I don’t have the gift of evangelism.”  But Paul commanded young Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5 to “do the work of an evangelist.” I hope and pray that using a simple tool like the Living Water booklet will encourage you to share the saving message with others. I believe that we do not have to be creative, or use our imagination, or use 20 verses from all over the Bible. The Gospel of John was written to convince people to believe in Jesus for everlasting life. In other words, we want people to see who Jesus is, and to believe in Him for everlasting life. In other words it is Christ as the object of a person’s faith that saves, not faith or some special kind of faith that saves. Also, we need to simply believe in Jesus FOR everlasting life.

Maybe you have seen these “Living Water” booklets that are being passed out right now.  They contain a fresh translation of the Gospel of John, based upon the Greek Majority Text.  At the bottom of some of the pages are helpful annotations – or notes – by the folks who did the translation. My wife and I highlight the important places, in case someone does not want to read the whole book when they first start out reading it. I would like to share a good way of using this resource to explain to other people how they can be sure that they have everlasting life.

This is a word for some of you young people here this morning. I have handed out some children’s tracts, but be aware that John 3:16 has been used for decades to lead people of all ages to salvation.  Make sure the person you are talking to first knows that they are sinners and that Jesus died on the cross to pay for their sins. Most people know that, but you have to make sure they know that. You may want to tell them that in order to go to heaven when they die, they need God’s kind of life, everlasting life. Then turn to John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son.”  This means that Jesus died on the cross to pay the death penalty for the sins of every person for all time. Jesus paid it all. There is nothing for us to pay. “That whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” The single requirement to get God’s kind of life, everlasting life is to believe in Him for it. In other words, a person needs to believe in Jesus “for not perishing,” and “everlasting life.”  This is important. We need to believe in Jesus FOR what He promises.  He does not promise money or success. He promises “not perishing” and “everlasting life” and that is what we need to believe Him for.

Now I’d like to tell you how I use the Living Water booklet. I usually talk one-on-one with people. I start out by asking a person if they are a BELIEVER in Jesus Christ. Most of the people I talk to know that Jesus died on the Cross and they answer “YES.” That is a good starting point if they say YES.  Another method to get a conversation going is to point to the back cover and read the question, “Can you know you have eternal life.”  Whatever question I use, I then begin to share with them the truth found in John 20:30 & 31 – on page 66 of the Living Water booklet.  I ask them, “Did you know that the Gospel of John is the only book in the entire Bible which has as its purpose to present the signs that Jesus did, in order that people may become believers, and that, as part of that belief, people can KNOW, with absolute certainty, that they have everlasting life?”  I have found that people in most Churches do not know or believe this fact about the Gospel of John.

At this point, my goal is to withhold judgment about the person as to whether or not they are saved. If I suspect the person is a believer, or that they think they are, I just say, “Did you know that the Gospel of John was written so that we can explain to OTHER people how they can know they have eternal life?” This way, I can probe whether or not they believe the saving message in a non-confrontational way. Obviously some people think they are saved when they really are not.  Remember that if the only thing that person meant was that they believe Jesus existed, you have a starting point. A person who has never believed the saving message as presented in the John is not saved, whether they think they are or not. You can talk directly to them about what they are believing in for everlasting life, if the conversation goes in that direction. As we’re talking, though, they may realize that they were trusting in faith PLUS something else to get them to heaven. However, my point is to clearly present a clear saving message in the Gospel of John, and to see what their reaction is to the Gospel of John.

Sometimes if you are talking to someone that you suspect knows little about the Bible or Jesus, you can start with John 3:16. Chapters 19 and 20 of the Gospel of John teach about the death and resurrection of Christ — which you may have to go over if they have no idea about who Jesus was. I have not met many people who did not know that Jesus died on the cross to pay for their sins. Depending upon how much time you have, you can spend a few minutes working your way through some of the highlighted verses in the “Living Water” that state that all a person needs to do is believe. On the blue bookmark in your “Living Water, I have listed the verses I use: John 3:16-17; John 5:24; John 6:47; John 11:25-27; and John 20:30,31.  You can fold down the corner of these pages as you read the annotations at the bottom of the pages.  These notes explain that all a person needs to do is believe in Jesus to obtain everlasting life; later, the person you talked to can easily find the verses again in the Living Water if the corners of the pages are turned down.

A good way to close the conversation is to turn back to John 6:47 (page 24) and have them read that verse. “Amen, Amen, I tell you, whoever believes in Me has eternal life.” Then ask them, “Based upon this promise made by Jesus, do you have everlasting life?” Their answer is usually a good indicator of whether or not they understand and believe the saving message.

Note: No high pressure tactics are needed when using the Gospel of John. You are not “closing the deal” like salespeople do. You are simply presenting to them the truth of the saving message as clearly as possible, so they can be persuaded of it. If the Holy Spirit is working, you will not need to do anything (other than say a quick silent prayer for them). Oftentimes when you ask the question, “Do you have everlasting life?” people answer “I hope so.”  If they do, read John 6:47 back to them and substitute their answer.  “Whoever believes in me can HOPE they have everlasting life.”  Ask them to re-read John 6:47. Then repeat the question, “”Based upon this promise made by Jesus, do you have everlasting life?”  Again, you don’t need to pressure people to do anything at this point. You just need to get them to the point of UNDERSTANDING that all a person needs to do is believe in Jesus’ promise of everlasting life to everyone who believes in Him for that life, and they actually believe it themselves. By using the Gospel of John you could spend hours doing that!

At the moment a person believes, in other words, they are intellectually persuaded or convinced that Jesus’ promise is true of them, that person is born again. According to these crystal-clear passages in John – addressed directly to UNbelievers – NOTHING ELSE IS NECESSARY. No prayers. No repentance. No promises to change their lives. No Baptism. No Church Attendance.

We are talking about letting God use His Word to work in people’s hearts rather than a collection of verses taken from hither and yon in the Bible.  This frees you up to simply present the truth in the Gospel of John.  You can then GIVE them a copy to take home,  and let God use His Word.  Answer their questions as best you can. But it is not up to your cleverness or persuasive manner.

Often a person will say to you, “You mean that I can believe in Jesus for everlasting life, and then live however I please?”  This is actually an indication that they UNDERSTAND the promise that Jesus is making; however, it means they do not believe it yet. When people ask, “You mean that I can believe in Jesus for everlasting life, and then live however I please?” you have to answer – without ANY reservations – “Yes, you can.” Otherwise you are confusing the saving message, just like people did with me. If a person indicates that they do, in fact, believe in Jesus for their everlasting life, that can never be lost, or that they believed at some time in the past, then they HAVE everlasting life. The next step for new believers – or sometimes for older believers who are not growing spiritually – is following them up in Discipleship to help them to grow spiritually. However, if anyone thinks that ongoing obedience is required to be sure of their everlasting life, then they do not yet understand the saving message.

I want to conclude with several key points.

  1. I am not saying that the Gospel of John is the only place a clear saving message is given. For example, in Acts 16:31 we see the title of the sermon that Paul and Silas gave to the Philippian Jailor and his family in their home. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” As in many of Paul’s writings, he was assuming you knew the content of that faith. I like to go to 1 Tim 1:15,16. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I AM (not was) chief. 16: However for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those are are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” This is referring to Paul on the Damascus road, when Paul believed on Jesus for everlasting life. Jesus himself lead Paul to believe in Him as the Christ, which is the same thing as believing in Him for everlasting life.
  2. You can use different methods, but the message should be the same as Jesus, as recorded by the Apostle John, and the same as Paul in 1 Tim 1:15,16.  If your style of presenting the saving message varies greatly from Jesus, John and Paul, REVISE your Style!
  3. I am not saying that a person has to have a perfect presentation of the saving message to be used by God. Otherwise nobody would get saved! My point is this: be as clear as possible, and the Gospel of John is a good tool to use.

The VERY THING that gives a person ASSURANCE is the thing they are trusting in to get them to heaven.  If a person thinks they have to believe in Jesus PLUS have works of obedience to be sure they are going to heaven, then they are confused and most likely are not saved. Of course, a person who believed the saving message at one point in the past can get off track, and can lose assurance of salvation. However they are never lost. At that ONE moment a person believes in Jesus for everlasting life, they must have 100% assurance, or else they have NOT really believed in Jesus’ promise.

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