By Rev. Mark Kelderman & Rev. Maarten Kuivenhoven
The question that plagues many who are seeking salvation is, how do I know I am saved? How do I know that the Spirit has made me alive? A pregnant mother will know that her baby is well when she feels kicking and movement. If there are a few days without movement, alarm and worry sets in. Something similar takes place in the life of a sinner who has been powerfully brought from death to life by the Spirit of God. There is life. There is movement. There might be times where it seems there is little life, but those who have been regenerated will have life and will show the fruits of repentance and faith.
Some of you might be into restoring old cars. You pick up old cars that are rusting and no longer working, and you begin to work. The engine gets new parts, crumbling tires are replaced, the body is patched, the car is repainted, and you see the effects of what you have done. The car is converted from a useless piece of metal into a road-worthy machine. We can use that illustration to begin understanding how God works in conversion. He takes useless, unworthy sinners and He breathes into them the Spirit of life. He begins to change them through conversion. He grants the gifts of repentance and faith. The car illustration breaks down because you do all the work on the car, but in conversion God works and He gives us the grace to repent and believe. In conversion, we become active by repenting of sin and believing in Christ. Both are works of God in us, and yet He enables us to repent and believe.
Let’s begin with repentance and see what it means and what it ought to look like in our lives. Repentance in the Old Testament is often referred to as turning—turning from sin to God. In the New Testament, it has a similar meaning and focuses on the inner behavior of the mind and heart. When we hear the call to repent, it means that we are called to turn from sin to follow God and pursue a life of holiness. By ourselves, we are unable to, but when the Spirit regenerates, God turns sinners. He gives a new understanding so that sinners can grasp the truths they hear and read about in Scripture. He gives new emotions so that our love for sin is destroyed and a new affection is given for God and his people. He gives a new mind so that sinful thoughts are changed to God-honoring thoughts. He gives a new will so that old sins and habits are no longer desired and done, but God-honoring deeds are desired. In short, when a sinner repents, his entire inner being is changed and he is given power to turn from sin.
Zacchaeus is a good example of this in Scripture (Luke 19:1–10). We do not know at what point he was regenerated, but we do know that he began to show the fruits of regeneration by repenting of his sins. Jesus called out to him as he sat in the sycamore tree. he came down and Jesus spent time at Zacchaeus’s home. After that, Zacchaeus went out and demonstrated repentance. “And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”
How do we know this was a change of heart? Tax collectors had a poor reputation. They made money hand over fist at the expense of the taxpayers. They required much more than what the taxpayers actually owed. That is why Zacchaeus was rich; he was rich through dishonest gain. When he came face to face with Jesus, he was brought to see his sin. he was led to repentance by demonstrating a change of heart and restoring what he had wrongfully taken. He did so at his own expense and most likely even to his own disadvantage. God led him to repentance and worked in him the desire to make things right with God and with his fellow man. Are these fruits of repentance visible in your life? This is one way to know that you are spiritually alive.
This article originally appeared in the Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, January 2011, under the title, “How Do I Know I’m Saved?” Posted here with permission.