[Editor’s note: Please remember that inclusion of material on this site does not necessarily imply SEA’s agreement. We include Arminian material from a variety of sources. For example, this article make negative assessments of the emergent church movement and the seeker church movement. SEA does not take an official position on those movements. Members are free to hold differing opinions on them.]
While we often are quick to stress the Reformation emphasis that salvation is by grace through faith apart from works of righteousness (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7), we also must equally emphasize that there are signs that will come forth that reveal a genuine salvation. Too often we evangelicals (and especially us Arminians) are too quick to declare that someone is saved simply because they said a prayer, raised a hand, or came down front and knelt at the altar. We must be careful to preach the true gospel of repentance unto salvation and not just an emotional experience. If we equate salvation with mere emotionalism then we will quickly see the Church become a dying force. We must base salvation not just on emotions (although they may be legitimate) but we must base true salvation upon the inerrant Word of God.
I can well remember my years in youth ministry where I saw many teenagers “come to Christ” but hardly any remain Christians today. Call them false converts or simply that they lost their salvation but one way or another they are not walking with Jesus today and in fact some of them are anti-Christian. Why? Was it my fault? I believe that with all the good that comes out of youth ministry, too often some youth events were so emotionally driven that the teenagers would have joined Amway if given the chance at that point. With kicking music and lights and the room full of their peers, those teenagers were not falling under the conviction of the Spirit but the positive peer pressure of “getting high on the Most High.” The youth evangelist could have song “The B-I-B-L-E” and the teens would have ran down front ready to go to China for Jesus.
But where was true repentance? Where was the emphasis on the cross? Where was the emphasis on our sins and our need for the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse us? Where was the gospel of death to self?
This is what bothers me most about the current emergent church movement and the seeker movement as well in that the emphasis is not on true repentance or brokenness over our sins. The emphasis is not on the holiness of God or His justice in His retribution against our sinfulness. Rarely will you even hear references to sin or to the propitiation of Christ. Rarely will you find blogs from emergent churches that speak of God’s absolute holiness versus our total depravity. The popular books from the Christian world today are selling even in the secular world simply because they lack the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17; 2 Timothy 3:5).
What Are Genuine Signs of Salvation?
So biblically speaking what are genuine signs that bespeak of our salvation in Christ? How can we know that our salvation is genuine and not merely an emotional encounter with the gospel? I believe that what I am about to share should fill our minds everyday. We need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. The gospel is our hope in this world (Romans 5:5).
1. Do I Hate My Sins? – David speaks of his sins in Psalm 51:1-4 and in this section he uses several different words for his sins. He uses “transgressions” (v.1), “iniquity” and “sin” (v.2), “transgressions” and “sin” again (v.3), “sinned” and “evil” (v.4). Those are very unpopular words. But we must learn to hate our sins. We must learn to see that it was our sins that put Jesus on the cross (Isaiah 53:4-6; 1 Peter 2:21-25). A biblical view of ourselves is that we are not worthy to be in the presence of God apart from His grace (Ephesians 2:1-6). Our sins was the reason for Jesus coming to earth and becoming our substitute for our eternal salvation (Matthew 1:21; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Paul referred to himself as a “wretched man” (Romans 7:24) and the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Face it, we are nothing without Jesus (John 15:5).
2. Have I Had A Cosmic Change of Mind and Heart About My Sins? – That is by far the best definition I have read on repentance. I borrowed that from a book written by Edward Anton entitled, Repentance: A Cosmic Change of Mind and Heart. Repentance is one of the most misunderstood words in the English language. The Greek word metanoia means “a transformation,” from which we get the word Metamorphosis. Bible translations have mistranslated the word metanoia for centuries. Anton covers this in his book, but suffice to say the word repentance comes from the Catholic usage of penitence (taken from the Latin Vulgate of Jerome). In the Catholic mind, penitence means “acts of righteousness.” Every English Bible starting with Wycliffe on down to the English Standard Version, the NIV, and the New American Standard have translated metanoia as repentance from the Latin and not the Greek.
Repentance (or Metanoia) is more than mere contrition. You can be broken over your sins because you got caught (case in point with many Hollywood and political leaders who find Jesus because of their sins; see Michael Vick or Bill Clinton). True metanoia means that I am completely transformed. My entire way of thinking about life, about my values, about my culture, everything changes! When Jesus fills my life, He transforms me not just from being dead in sin to being born again of the Spirit (John 3:3-7), but He makes me into a completely new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The dead man is gone (Romans 7:24-25) and a complete change (metamorphosis) takes place of the cosmic level. Metanoia, to be sure, is not a work of man, but true metanoia is a work of a holy God (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25). We are called to metanoia (Matthew 3:8; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 17:30), but this cosmic change can truly take place only when the Spirit of God is involved (John 16:8-11).
3. Am I Clinging To Jesus Alone For Salvation? – I have a high view of salvation and believe that baptism should be substituted for the sinner’s prayer, but by no means do I believe that either the sinner’s prayer or being baptized brings salvation, for salvation is found only in Jesus (Acts 4:12). Granted, baptism is commanded by Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16) and was obeyed by the Apostles (Acts 2:38), but the act of baptism is meaningless apart from Jesus Christ. Jesus alone is our salvation (Romans 10:4). I am not the righteousness of God because of where I go to church, whether I read my Bible everyday, or if I have been baptized. I am saved because of Jesus and Jesus alone (Galatians 5:1-4).
We must preach this truth that salvation is found only in Jesus (John 14:6). We must declare that we don’t begin the Christian life by having faith in Jesus and then keep ourselves saved by our works. No, salvation is found only in Jesus and Jesus alone (Philippians 3:8-11). Another gospel would be one that seeks to take the glory off of Christ and places it on man (Galatians 1:6-10; 3:1-5). We are saved by Jesus alone (Acts 15:11). The Law helps me see my sins (Romans 7:14), but once I see that I can’t save myself through rituals, rules, or reformation then I must see that salvation comes only in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:24). As the old poems say, “Nothing in my hands I bring, but simply to Thy cross I cling.” “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” And how precious is that blood (Hebrews 9:22).
Conclusion – Emotions are fine but emotionalism has driven many away from Christ. People come to Christ for selfish reasons and quickly learn that they are not getting what they were promised. I have heard evangelists pleading with people to get saved by saying things such as, “You want peace? You want joy? You want prosperity? Then come to Jesus.” But is that what they get when they come to Jesus? Pretty soon nothing is going right as Satan lets loose his arsenal and the “believer” turns away (Matthew 13:21).
Friend, we need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily to keep us realizing that our salvation is completely dependent on Jesus alone (John 1:12). We are not saved by our own good works or some righteous act we do, but we are saved only by being washed in the blood of the Lamb (John 1:29). What is the work that God requires for our salvation? John 6:29 tells us, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (NKJV) and that is what we must do daily. We must keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).