Salvation is the act of choosing to believe and repent. Maybe you were saved when you were 5 years old or perhaps you came to know Jesus through a college friend. Whatever your story is, as a believer you have declared that God is the Lord of your life and you have been adopted by the King of Kings!!!!
However, after your initial decision to follow Jesus, you were probably surprised to discover that much of your life seems the same. That depression doesn’t instantly go away, that struggle with a particular sin doesn’t immediately vanish, and you still live in a broken world full of broken people, finding yourself still experiencing hurts and trials. Suddenly you begin to ask yourself…“am I even saved, and if so, how do I know that I am?”
When you choose to believe in God but then struggle to see His presence in your life, it can create a lot of doubt in your heart.
I've been there.
You may even begin to believe that you need to be saved again, assuming the first time must not have taken. You begin to wonder if perhaps you didn’t believe hard enough or maybe you have messed up so much that your first act of salvation has been annulled and you need to redo it.
I remember when I first got saved and a few months later, I was going to be baptized. I remember taking four showers before going to church that night for my baptism because I felt so unworthy and still filled with such guilt and shame. So, I understand why you would experience this internal turmoil. However, I am going to share with you some of the common reasons why you doubt and the best ways you can overcome it.
When You Don't Feel Saved
It can be easy to live by our feelings and assume that we have to “feel” a certain way after being saved. However, I want you to know that a lack of feelings does not equal a lack of salvation.
God says that it is by faith alone that we are saved. Yet, it is only in an intimate relationship with Him that we begin to experience the fruits of our faith. You can be saved without ever living in the abundance of life that Jesus promises in John 10:10.
Just like any relationship, in order to experience intimacy and connection with the other person, you need to spend intentional time with them. This is the same for our relationship with God, in order to feel his love we need to be close enough to hear his voice. Not always in an audible whisper but faithfully through the presence of the Holy Spirit and the truth of Scripture.
If you have been saved and you still find yourself frustrated with not sensing God, you need to take action steps in faith and allow your feelings to follow. Instead of waiting for your feelings of faith to come, you should start with the truth you know and the faith you have and allow your feelings to develop as time goes on.
Trust me... the more you engage in your relationship with God, the more your feeling of connectedness will grow. Feelings are not an indicator of your salvation, you can be saved and yet feel very little. Emotion and fruit will come the more you take the time to know God and build a relationship with him.
If you are doubting your salvation because you still feel distant from God, know that your feeling of connection with Him has nothing to do with your salvation. Salvation is a wonderful gift that we have that allows us to intimately know the father. If you want to be more deeply connected to Him, then read His word, pray, and ask the Holy Spirit to be present in your life. He is faithful and will draw near to you!
Do You Feel The Need To Earn Your Salvation?
Another reason you may be feeling unsure of your salvation is that you believe that you need to somehow earn your salvation. You probably know that scripture says salvation is through faith alone, but you most likely sometimes struggle with still wanting to be a good person and do good things to feel like you have right standing with God too...
Your salvation has nothing to do with how good you are. In fact, your salvation has everything to do with how sinful you are. You, on your own, can do nothing to make up for the sinfulness of your spirit. So, if salvation was dependent on your ability to be good enough, well then we would all get Fs and end up flunking out of our test that gets us into eternity.
The good news is that it is in the very admittance of your weakness that salvation is given. In order to be saved you had to admit you were a sinner in need of it. So if that is how your salvation began, why would you have to do good works to keep it?
In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul says
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.”
Paul was planting churches and spreading the gospel, yet he was not afraid to admit that he was a wretched sinner. He knew that his salvation did not come from his good acts of planting churches and preaching to the Gentiles, it came from the sheer grace of God upon his soul.
Even if you were to do everything right and become a modern day Mother Teresa, your salvation would still come from God’s grace to save sinners, not your good works. You need to learn how to swim in grace and keep growing.
Now it is important to note that being saved is not an excuse to sin.
The Bible clearly says:
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2)
When we receive salvation, God’s Spirit comes into our lives and rescues us from the life of sin we were trapped in. By definition, salvation is an awakening to the sin which we live in and a saving grace which removes us from it. When we receive salvation, we should feel sick over our sin, and should be repulsed by the thought of it. Just because we are saved does not give us an excuse to sin.
In the same way, as we experience the love of God, that love should be poured out to others. Our lives should serve as an example of the love that God has given to us. James 2 talks about the importance of deeds with regard to the faith that we have. Good deeds and loving actions should outflow from us as a result of the salvation that we have received and the faith that we have. The important distinction here is that good deeds result from our salvation, they do not earn our salvation or cause our salvation.
Don't Dwell On Your Past
If you resonate with experiencing the need to be “resaved” because you think you must have sinned too much, then I want to remind you of this key principle; Your past has no say in your salvation. Who you were before you were saved is irrelevant. When you ask Jesus into your heart and proclaim God as the Lord of your life, your past is swept away.
If you don’t believe me just read 2 Corinthians 5:17 that states
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
You are a new person; your past sins are not held against you.
In Isaiah 1:18 God declares that you have been washed clean...
"Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."
If God does not hold your past against you, then neither should you.
On the other hand, maybe your struggle isn’t that you hold your past sins against yourself, but that you condemn yourself for the mistakes you are currently making. Maybe you have found yourself going back to the same sins and the same bad situations that you did before. You may be feeling like you have just voided your check to eternity by messing up again. But here is the thing... Jesus did not save you because he thought you would not mess up anymore, he saved you so that your mess ups would not separate you from Him.
Yes, as Christians, we are to pursue a life of holiness and our desire should be to look like Jesus. However, our journey of growth in our faith takes time and we will often still fall short. It isn’t about the messing up but the getting back up. It isn’t about being resaved but rather repenting of your sin.
I want to remind you of King David, a man after God’s own heart, who wrote almost all of the Psalms. He knew God and he loved God yet he was human and did some pretty crazy things... Like that time he committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed Uriah her husband.
Not his finest hour...
What David did was so sinful in the eyes of God! It took the convicting words of the prophet Nathan to wake him to the reality of what he had done. When he realized his sin, he fell on his knees and repented before God. We see his repentance in Psalm 51 as he laments over his sin and pleads with God for forgiveness.
Yes, he sinned and yes, he felt the weight of his guilt, but he didn’t beg for his salvation. He does not doubt that he is still saved, instead he is recognizing the evil of what he has done and feels remorse for it. God did not take away David’s salvation when he sinned rather in His goodness God showed David the error of his ways so that he would not live in sin anymore.
Your guilt is not meant to make you doubt whether you are saved, instead it is there to draw you to repentance and gratitude for the grace that God gives to you every day.
So What Now?
You may be thinking, that is all well and good, but what are some practical steps I can take to help me believe it!!??
The very first thing that I would encourage you to do is find a community of other believers that you can talk to about your struggles. People who can help encourage you and speak truth into your fears and doubts. We were created to live in community with one another, our life of faith was never meant to be walked alone.
If you don’t know how to find a group, go onto the website of one of your local churches and search for small groups. Larger churches usually have multiple different options and age groups you can pick from. You may have to visit a few before you find your people, but don't give up. It's so worth it.
The second thing you can do is find podcasts or sermons that speak on this issue. Rather than just living in your doubts and fears it is important to discover what the Bible says about the issue. I personally find this very helpful.
The third tip that I would give to you is that you should find one mentor that can pray over you and walk with you on this journey. They usually have so much wisdom and can provide so much insight for you.
I hope that you can walk with confidence knowing that you have been saved by the blood of Christ. When you are tempted to doubt, just remember that salvation doesn’t come through feelings, it doesn’t come through good works, and it isn’t dependent upon your past...it is a gift of grace. So accept it with gratitude and carry it out with boldness.