Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. - Jesus (John 6:47, NKJV)
Recent conversations with a Muslim have reminded me that many in the world do not have a firm knowledge that they will go to heaven when they die. Some have a vague trust in their idea of a God who may honor their faith and may not. Some have only the hope that, when God judges the world, He will find their good works outweigh their bad. Some have not yet reached the point in their thinking that they can acknowledge a God who judges or a heaven (A future post will lay out some of the reasons for believing in both.).
We can know that we are on the way to heaven if we have faith in Christ. This faith is a confident assurance that what Jesus says about how to live life is true. This assurance brings us to a knowledge that we have not, even for one moment, lived free from sin; that is, we have done things that Christ tells us not to do or failed to do things that Christ tells us to do. This knowledge of the right path leads to repentance, turning from our sins to God and His way of living.
This faith is also an assurance that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Not just for sins in general, but for our sins in particular.
Christ is God who became a man. He laid aside His rights and abilities and came to earth. He lived a perfect life. This life is an example to us, but it also gives Him credit for a life lived in perfect obedience to God’s law. He then died on the cross for us. In some way know only to the God of all, Christ took the credit for our sins and suffered God’s infinite, terrible wrath for those sins. He became sin for us that we might become righteous. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:21-31)
Faith is the way we take credit for what Christ did for us. The credit for our sins is taken away from us, and we are given credit for Christ’s perfect life. The work is outside of us (“extra nos” in Latin). It’s not about what we do; it’s about what is done for us by Christ. When we have faith, the perfect God loves us perfectly because we are credited with perfection. When God looks at us, we are perfect because of what Christ did.
But how can we personally tell if we really believe? How can we look at our hearts and lives and tell if our own faith is genuine? The most useful verse to me personally is Galatians 5: 6. It says that what counts is “faith working through love.” I do love Christ. Not perfectly. Sometimes not even well. But we do love Christ. R. C. Sproul puts it this way, “I am not asking whether we love this Christ perfectly; I am asking whether we love this God and this Christ at all” (Chosen by God, Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1986, p. 166).
We sin, sometimes often. We even sin the same sin over and over. This sin clouds our thinking and convinces us we do not have real faith. But God does not desert us. He always comes to our aid. As one scholar puts it:
…a regenerate soul will certainly persevere through the trials of life and continue to believe and repent. He will slip and fall, develop bad habits, wrestle with doubts, but through it all he will keep on going even as he began … all believers slip and fall into sin. But the truth of the matter is that no believer stays down. Just as God gave him faith and repentance unto initial conversion, so He supplies him with faith and repentance all along the way to heaven. (Dr. Curt Daniel, as quoted in “Safe and Secure” by Curtis C. Thomas, “Tabletalk Magazine,” Ligonier Ministries, Inc. December 2004, p. 8-11)
The God who saves us preserves our faith. He works in us to will and to do His will. He does not leave us in life’s battles without a champion. Maybe an old Baptist theologian can help:
The believer in Jesus, who has been regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit, will never utterly fall away from Christ and be lost. He is not free from temptation; he may, through neglect and failure to employ the means of grace, grieve the Holy Spirit and bring reproach on the himself and the people of
God. He will, however, turn away from his sins and return to his Christian duty; he will not be content in the wayward life. It is the mark of the child of God that he cannot be happy in a life of sin. (E. Y. Mullins, Baptist Beliefs, Chicago: The Judson Press, 1912, p. 53)
I pray you will turn from sin to Christ in faith today. Know that eternal life, unending life with God in heaven, is yours. Be perfect when God looks at you. Experience the perfect love of a perfect God. I pray you will know that God loves you in your imperfection because of Christ.