Genuine Faith: How Do I Know For Sure?

There are two kinds of people in the world. I know we hear that kind of stuff all the time, but really... there are two kinds of people in the world (if you categorize them the way I’m about to).  If you believe in a literal heaven and a literal hell (which is what the Bible teaches), then when all is said and done there are people who will end up in heaven and people who will end up in hell.  Christians have labeled these two categories of people-- saved and not saved. Although there are two kinds of people in the world, there are four kinds of people reading this blog.  There are those who are going to heaven and know it.  There are those who are going to hell (as of right now) and they know it. That seems straightforward enough.  There are those that know exactly where they’ll end up.

However,  there’s a third type of person, which in my opinion is one of the most heartbreaking.  There are those who are going to hell, but they don’t know it There are people who think they are saved and safe, but they’re not.  Look at one of the most terrifying passages in the Scripture, Matthew 7:21-24:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ "

There are a group of people who will live their lives thinking they are okay with God (many people) only to get to the end and find out they’re not.

Lastly, there are those who are genuinely saved, but think they aren’t.  They wrestle with sin and struggle with unbelief and doubt; and unfortunately, doubt often wins out in their day-to-day experience.  If we could put everyone reading this blog into these four categories, I would guess that there are more of us that fall into the last two categories than the first two categories.  While I don’t have hard data to base this claim on, what I do have is experience living in the Bible Belt my whole life and being consumed in conversations about faith for the past 15 years.  I went to college at the largest Baptist university in the world, and I’ve found no better way to describe the spiritual climate there (like many other places in the Bible Belt) with the phrase "everyone’s a 'Christian,' but no one’s a Christian."

When I think back to my time in college, I realize that my burden for ministry and teaching the Bible didn’t come primarily from interactions with people who were on their way to hell and knew it (quite frankly, a lot of those people didn’t want to go to Christian college).  What kept me awake at night and motivated me to really study the Bible was seeing people on their way to hell, but convinced they were okay because they got baptized as a kid, or said a prayer one summer at a youth camp.  What kept me up at night were the people who showed genuine signs of a changed life, but because of bad teaching lived a life of perpetual fear and doubt—tormenting themselves about their eternal destiny.

Fast forward a few years, and now I’m pastoring a church, in the heart of the Bible Belt, in a building where less than 90 days ago there was another church meeting in the very building we’re in, with another pastor in the very pulpit living a life of open sin, teaching a church that it was okay to live like him.  People who were in danger were being told “not to worry” and that “everything would be okay.”   These are people who will one day stand before God and have to give an account for their lives.  How miserable would it be to head into a very real judgment, thinking that you were okay, only to be surprised by the verdict?

If you’re anything like me, you crave certainty.  You want to know for sure.  Fact of the matter is, if you’re anything like me, when you read about the four categories of people at the beginning of this article, you tried to place yourself in one of the categories.  You probably scrolled through a list of “good things” that you’ve done, prayers that you’ve prayed, maybe a list of “bad things” that you stopped doing.  The question is, is that enough?  Is that what God is really looking for?  Can I know for certain where I’ll end up?  How do I know for certain where I’ll end up?

If you’ve asked any of those questions (or know any one who’s asked those questions) then the book of 1 John is for you, and our Genuine Faith series would be a good for you to tune into over the course of the next two months.  The apostle John writes this book to those who believe in the Son of God  so that they “may know that they have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).  If you’re craving certainty (or are curious about what makes Christians so certain), then we’d love for you to follow along.

A great way to take advantage of this series would be to spend the week reading and praying through the passage that’s going to be preached on Sunday.  For your convenience we’ve included the list below.  We look forward to having you join us on this journey.  We pray that God would use this book in the life of Blueprint to remind us of the simplicity of the Christian faith.

February 3rd – Genuine Faith: Proclaims (1 John 1:1-4)

February 9th – Genuine Faith: Repents (1 John 1:5-2:2)

February 16th – Genuine Faith: Loves (1 John 2:3-14)

February 23rd – Genuine Faith: Doesn’t Love the World (1 John 2:15-27)

March 2nd – Genuine Faith: Abides (1 John 2:28-3:10)

March 9th – Genuine Faith: Shows (1 John 3:11-24)

March 16th – Genuine Faith: Scrutinizes (1 John 4:1-6)

March 23rd – Genuine Faith: Commits (1 John 4:7-21)

March 30th – Genuine Faith: Overcomes (1 John 5:1-12)

April 6th – Genuine Faith: Rests (1 John 5:13-21)