How do you know you’re saved? Some evangelists are looking for one particular answer to this question, and any other answer will lead them to question your salvation. What they want you to say is something like “I know I’m saved because Jesus died for my sins and I trust in him.” Yes, that is the ultimate reason why anyone will be saved, but how do you know that Jesus died for you? How do you know that you truly trust in him?
This kind of evangelist might quote 1 John 5:13 to prove that you can know that you’re saved:
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
What these evangelists will not do is walk you through “these things” that John wrote to believers. As stated in this verse, one of the purposes of 1 John is to describe the evidence of true faith, so believers can come to full assurance that they know God. Read 1 John with this in mind, and you will see that this is one of the constant themes through the whole letter.
So how can you know that you have eternal life? John lists several signs throughout his letter, which can be summarized in the image of walking in the light. First, the light represents God’s holiness. God’s children imitate their Father by obeying Jesus’ righteous commandments, loving their brother, and living like Jesus. But far from indicating sinlessness, walking in the light means willingly confessing sins instead of hiding them in the darkness. Finally, the light represents the truth of the gospel. Those who have truly come to know God will not be led away from the church by heresies, but will remain in the true teaching of the apostles.
We know we have eternal life because we have been changed at the deepest level. Our ultimate allegiance has shifted to Jesus, and we love our brothers. We look forward to Jesus’ coming, and we seek to do his will in this world. A struggle against sin can lead people to doubt their salvation, but the fact that we are fighting sin often shows that we have switched sides in the battle. Before, we served our lusts and pride; now we hate them and confess their wickedness.
When someone asks you how you know you’re going to Heaven, the right answer is because you walk in the light. If he scolds you for this, just keep reading passages from 1 John until he collapses into a puddle of self-reflection. You know, because you love your brother and want to bring him further into the light.