Do You Have Doubts?

Mastering Your Emotions Bible Study

Do You Have Doubts?

November 13, 2020 Save Article

OVERVIEW

This study is for two groups of people: those who are saved, but perhaps have strong, serious doubts, and those who think they’re saved but never have been. Do you know you’re saved? A hundred million years from now, what we’re studying here will still be important. When you complete this study in John’s first letter to the churches, I want you to be able to say, “I know.”

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)

INTRODUCTION

There are people who believe they are Christians and assume they’re going to Heaven when their “faith in Christ" is only a fake exterior they wear around like a mask. It’s just window dressing. One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to get your name on a church roll without you ever being born again.

What we’re talking about is crucial. This study is to help those who are saved but perhaps have had some doubts about their salvation to come to a place where they know they’re saved. On the other hand, I want to end any false assurances people may have who think they’re heaven-bound but have never been saved.

DISCUSSION

This study deals with critical issues, not some small sin or failure. I’m not talking about differences in denominational beliefs. What’s at stake is your eternal life.

John wrote the Gospel of John, the fourth book in the New Testament, to evangelize the lost—to tell the world about Jesus. But he wrote this little epistle of John, almost a postscript, to encourage the saved. It’s his personal letter to the churches to say:

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)

John wants you to have an assurance about your salvation. He wrote the epistle so that you might know.

  1. If John felt the need to write for that reason, what does that tell you?
  2. Have you had doubts about whether or not you are saved?
  3. Have you done anything to address those doubts, so you could “know that you know” you’re saved?
  4. Often doubts about your salvation arise after an unsettling event, and you wonder about where you stand with God. When was the last time you were hit with doubts? What happened to stir up those feelings? How did you handle them?

In times of doubt, know you’re in good company. John’s need to write this letter tells us two things:

  • You can be saved and doubt it.
  • You can be saved and know it. 

“I wrote,” he said, “that you might know.” Think about it: If you couldn’t doubt it, why would John write “that we might know it?”

Doubts aren’t good, but there is a bright side. Doubt is to your spirit what pain is to your body. If you’re feeling pain, does that mean you’re dead? No, it means you’re alive. Pain signals something’s wrong with your body. Doubt signals something’s wrong in your spirit. Neither pain nor doubt is good, but both are good warning signals.

How to Deal with Doubt

Almost all of us, at one time, have had a doubt about salvation. A woman told the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody, “I’ve been saved twenty-five years and never had a single doubt.” He said, “Madam, I doubt you’ve been saved.” That’s like someone saying they’ve been married 50 years and never had an argument. I doubt they’ve been married.

Doubts are a fact of life. They happen. John wanted to clear those doubts up so we can face them and say, “Praise God, I know my sins are forgiven, Christ is in my heart, and Heaven is my home.”

Some people say, “You shouldn’t give people the assurance of their salvation. They’ll become careless, neglectful.” With all due respect, that’s crazy. The assurance of your salvation is the base you work from, the foundation you witness from, and the place you live out your salvation from. When you know your future is secure, you can then focus on the present. Security in your salvation is important in soul-winning.

  1. How well would you be able to witness to others if at the same time you didn’t have assurance of your salvation?
  2. Have doubts like this hampered your witness in the past?

If I said to you, “Come follow me—I don’t know where I’m going,” how would that work? We want to follow people who can say like the Apostle Paul, “I know whom I have believed…” (2 Timothy 1:12). John wants you not to hope, think, wish, or surmise, but to know you have eternal life.

John provides three tests so we can know. Each is a benchmark of salvation.

The Commandment Test

If you say you know Him but don’t keep His commandments, you’re lying, plain and simple.

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His Word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6)

John’s logic here is impeccable. If I am in Christ and Christ is in me, then I’m going to walk as Jesus walks—Jesus keeps God’s commands. The reverse is seen in people who say they’re saved but don’t keep God’s commands. They believe they’re going to Heaven but are not, no matter which church they’re members of, how much theology they have in their heads, or what kind of experience they had at an altar. Some people join churches like they’re joining country clubs—no change of heart or life, living their same ungodly lives. They have no reason whatsoever to think they’re going to Heaven. If your religion hasn’t changed your life, change your religion.

On the other hand, how many Christians, since they’ve been saved, have kept every command of God? Never broken one? The answer is: none of us. Does that mean none of us is saved? After all, John did say that if we know Him, we’re going to keep His commandments. So what does John mean in 1 John 2:3-4? We need to look at this more closely to understand.

The keyword in what John says is the word “keep,” a mariner’s term describing the sailor out on the high seas who knows how to set his course by focusing on the stars. He steers by the stars. This doesn’t mean he is never blown off course, distracted, or failing to keep a perfect chart. John isn’t talking about sinless perfection here. But the sailor’s goal, his aim, the controlling factor in his life, is his ability to navigate by the stars as he keeps his eye on them. John borrows the same word to describe the believer’s “keeping” God’s commandments. Those commandments are the standard by which I chart my course. I order my life by the commandments of God.

The Bible doesn’t teach sinless perfection, but it does teach that we have no right to call ourselves children of God if we don’t care for God’s commandments or order our lives by them.

  1. Turn to 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” When you came to Christ, when you were first saved, what things in your life “became new”?
  2. How has “a new creation” become evident in your life? In what ways have you changed since you came to know Christ?

The aim of your life, if you are truly born again, will be to live according to the commandments in the Word of God and chart your course by them.

Is There a Contradiction in First John?

John’s teaching in chapter 2 sets up a seeming contradiction. It’s important to clear this up.

See 1 John 1:8. The apostle says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Notice John included himself in that. He didn’t say “you,” but “we.”

But then John says, “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him” (1 John 3:6). The seeming contradiction gets worse when two verses later John continues: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). Then he caps it off with verse 9:

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9)

You say, “Wait a minute. That sounds a lot like sinless perfection to me.” How can we solve this? On the surface, that’s a contradiction. In one place he says it’s impossible for a Christian to sin. In the other he says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” We almost feel like saying, “John, make up your mind.”

Is John contradicting himself? We can solve the seeming contradiction by reading 1 John 3:6-10 in an Amplified Version, where it all becomes clear. Confusion melts away:

No one who abides in Him [who remains united in fellowship with Him—deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin. No one who habitually sins has seen Him or known Him. Little children (believers, dear ones), do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who practices righteousness [the one who strives to live a consistently honorable life—in private as well as in public—and to conform to God’s precepts] is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who practices sin [separating himself from God, and offending Him by acts of disobedience, indifference, or rebellion] is of the devil [and takes his inner character and moral values from him, not God]; for the devil has sinned and violated God’s law from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, because God’s seed [His principle of life, the essence of His righteous character] remains [permanently] in him [who is born again—who is reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose]; and he [who is born again] cannot habitually [live a life characterized by] sin, because he is born of God and longs to please Him. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are clearly identified: anyone who does not practice righteousness [who does not seek God’s will in thought, action, and purpose] is not of God, nor is the one who does not [unselfishly] love his [believing] brother.

The answer to our question is: a person born of God cannot habitually practice sin. He or she cannot make sin a lifestyle. John isn’t talking about sinless perfection. But he isn’t talking about the life of a libertine either, or a church member who’s had no change of lifestyle. John is saying:

If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, if you’ve been born of God, you cannot habitually practice sin, because that germ of life from God remains in you. You are a partaker of the divine nature, and the divine nature is holiness. God is holy. If you can willfully, knowingly, deliberately, habitually sin without sorrow or remorse, then you have no reason to believe you are saved. None whatsoever. You need to get saved. We’re not saved because we keep His commandments. We keep His commandments because we are saved. Salvation is by grace, not by keeping commandments.

  1. Have there been habits or old ways of life that fell by the way when you were saved?
  2. Other habits and ways may have been less easy to give up. How did the Holy Spirit help you in this?
  3. Others in your family or among your friends may have experienced such change when they got saved that you said, “I know what happened to them was real!” How did coming to Christ change the life of someone you know?
The Companion Test

The next benchmark for the child of God is our love for brothers and sisters in the faith. 1 John 3:14-15 says,

We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Believers love their brothers and sisters in Christ.

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21)

If I’m saved, I want to be right with my fellow believers and I want to be with them. Have you heard someone say, “Hey, you don’t have to go to church to worship God”? That’s true. But if you hear someone say you can worship God just as well without being among the Body of Christ, that’s false. We pray for those who are ill and can’t attend, but for the rest of us, the Word of God says,

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another… (Hebrews 10:25)

Watching on television, listening by radio, or following a service online are no substitute for being with the saints. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

Our Lord is present in a special way when saints join in worship together. In fact, I recently learned the word “saint” is never used in the singular in the New Testament! It’s always “the saints.” When Jesus taught us to pray, He said, “Our Father,” not “My father…” (Matthew 6:9).

  1. If you’re listening or watching a church service on TV or online, what do you lose that cannot be experienced except by being there?
  2. What ministries to your fellow saints are lost when you’re not at church with other believers?

Watching a service from home is like watching a football or basketball game on TV, as opposed to being in the arena. You cannot catch the excitement, the spirit of the event, or the shared experience with the crowd like you would by being there. Nothing compares to it. The same is true of worshiping together as the Body of Christ, experiencing in person the Holy Spirit’s anointing.

If you love Jesus, you’re going to love the Church, because the nature of the Christian is the nature of God. John tells us:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

Again, see how logical this is.

  • God is love.
  • We are born of God.
  • We have His nature.
  • If God is love and we have His nature, then we're going to love others.
  • If we don’t have love, we don’t have the nature of God.
  • If we don’t have the nature of God, we haven’t been born of God.

There are two other reasons a person who is saved will love the Church:

The Church is the Body of Christ.

Jesus is the head of the Church. We are members of that mystical body. The Church and Jesus are inseparable. If you remove a head from its body, what do you have? Death. It’s ridiculous to say, “I love Jesus Christ but I don’t love His body, the Church.” If you love Christ, you’re going to love what Christ loves, and Christ loves His Church.

The Church is the Bride of Christ.

What man doesn’t love his bride? The Church is His bride, purchased with His blood. When Saul was on the road to Damascus, planning to wreak havoc on the church there, Jesus stopped him and said, “Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” When you persecute the Church, you persecute Jesus, because we’re members of His Body. When you love and honor the Church, you love and honor Jesus. When you neglect the Church, you neglect Jesus.

I know not all our brothers and sisters are lovely people. Do you ever get vexed with some of the members of your own family? So do I. They may upset me, but I still love them because the nature of God is in us and His nature is love. That’s one of the benchmarks of being a true believer.

The Commitment Test

He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe, God has made him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:10-13)

John says this in the present tense: “These things have I written to you who believe,” not “believed,” past tense. Are you believing in Jesus Christ right now? The Bible word “believe” here means commitment. It’s more than “I acknowledge.” It’s trusting Him, committing to Him, for your salvation. The key is, are you right now (present tense) believing in Jesus Christ?

Nowhere does the Bible tell us to look back on some experience for our assurance. The Bible doesn’t deal with what happened in the past for your assurance. For example, sometimes you’ll meet a person who hasn’t darkened the door of a church for 40 years and is living an unChristlike lifestyle. You try to lead that person to Christ and, “Oh, he or she says wait—I was saved back yonder in so-and-so church when I was nine.” Let me tell you, nowhere in the Bible will you ever find that as proof of salvation. The question isn’t what you did as a nine-year-old. I want to know if you’re right now believing in Jesus Christ where you sit at this moment, not what you did in the past.

If you did believe, you will still be believing. If you are believing, you did believe. The proof is in the present tense.

The same is true about commandment-keeping. He didn’t say “kept” but “keeps” God’s commandments. Not “loved” but “loves” the brethren. The proof is right now. Do you have faith, trust, and commitment to Jesus Christ today? “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself” (1 John 5:10). 

Have you heard people say if you can’t name the day, place, and hour you were saved, you’re not saved? You’ve never read that in the Bible, and neither have I. If you have a day, place, and hour, that’s wonderful. But the evidence it happened is sitting within you. Are you committed to the commandments of Jesus Christ? Does your heart overflow with love for Christ and His Church? Do you now, today, have confidence, faith, and commitment to Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Then you can say, “I know I’m saved.”

Thank God for the past. Thank God for those who can name the day, the place, the hour, the dirty spot on the rug, where they got saved. But friend, John says the question is in the present tense: “He who now believes in the Son of God.” He’s the one who has the right to say he has eternal life.

Loving the brethren and keeping God’s commandments are not things you do in order to get saved. They’re things you do because you are saved. If you have strong reason to doubt your salvation, or if you don’t have strong reason to know you’re saved, get it settled today. Pray, “Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I commit my life to You by faith and trust You once and for all, now and forever, as my Lord and Savior. I invite You into my heart and into my life.” If you just prayed that prayer, let us know by clicking this link! We want to join you on your salvation journey! 

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This Bible Study was taken from the message, "Dealing With Doubt" (#1148).

Learn more about how to study the Bible with the LWF Bible Study Guide.

Learn more about this subject by reading  Mastering Your Emotions by Adrian Rogers.

This message is a part of this audio series.