Salvation has never been about a ticket out of hell or a ticket into heaven. Salvation has always been relational. It is all about being reconciled to God for fellowship.
Therefore, it must require “free-will,” or choice, to be a relationship. And relationship implies trust and intimacy. We were created from the beginning with the ability to fellowship with God freely in the Garden of Eden. We had the choice to freely love God, or to freely reject Him. Because love is not only relational, but also free. And from the beginning of time salvation has always been about a relationship between humanity and their Creator.
Take the covenant of marriage for instance. It requires both parties to participate fully in the relationship, on agreed terms of commitment for it to work. It is a binding agreement/covenant till death. In fact, in Ephesians chapter five Paul explains this covenant of marriage is in truth a picture of Christ (being the Groom) and His Church (being His Bride). So, if we were to view “The Great Commission” as inviting individuals into a covenant relationship with Jesus instead of inviting them to “ask Jesus into their heart.” Or instead of inviting them to walk down front and say a certain prayer to be forgiven for their sins and enter heaven. Would they view salvation differently? Maybe it would help weed out those who were just looking for a way to have their conscience cleared, and their guilt removed. Maybe it would not be so attractive to those who just want a “ticket” out of hell.
God always sees the heart. And salvation is all about the heart. As the Seed (the gospel) which is planted in good soil (the heart) produces fruit. In the same way, the dead tree produces nothing. One example of the kind of heart pleasing to the Lord is below:
“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). And David was known as a “man after God’s own heart”. For God says, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22). Notice for a moment that the heart which is pleasing to the LORD seeks to obey all His will.
I see two things in the Word of God which cannot “walk together.” These two things are pride and faith. For the heart that is humble will walk by faith. But the heart that is proud will walk by sight. For the one who walks by sight does not trust the God which is seen and known only by faith. And pride was the devil’s sin in the Garden of Eden. And the root of all rebellion against God is always pride. Pride seeks its own way and its own glory. Pride will not submit to God. Faith on the other hand “walks as Enoch did, and Noah, and Moses, and David, and the Prophets, and Jesus” and as all who seek to please the Lord. Notice this verse below and study it for a moment. For it is the foundation block of many of Paul’s letters regarding our salvation by faith alone.
Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith”Habakkuk 2:4
Did you pay close attention? First it notes the one who is “puffed up” with pride. And this individual cannot at the same time have faith. Because “faith and righteousness” are connected. They simply belong together. I especially desire for us to focus on this one statement, “shall live by his faith.” For “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6) and the one who lives by his faith pleases God, and God rewards him (Heb. 11:6).
So, salvation by the blood of Jesus Christ, being God’s gift of grace, and which is received by our faith, which we live by, is completely relational. To “live by” something implies a continuation. In other words, the one who lives by faith endures to the end. But what if we stop “walking by faith” and begin to “walk by sight” out of fear, or from listening to “man’s” wisdom instead of the Holy Spirit, or by yoking ourselves with the world making ever increasing compromises, or from continuous unrepentant sin, or from hardness of heart, and things like these which “deaden” our conscience to the Holy Spirit? Would that be considered “spiritual adultery”? Since one cannot love God and love the world; nor can one walk by faith and by sight at the same time. And one cannot be “married” to Jesus Christ and be “married” to Satan, the World, or sin, at the same time. Because that is spiritual adultery.
The Christian (mini-Christ, or follower of Christ) is born of another world. Just as Christ was born of God, so are we. The Christian is a “child of God” before any other identity marker. The child of God loves God by nature. The Christian is compelled by the Holy Spirit in them to love God. We may struggle, and stumble. But deep down we desire nothing more than to walk with our Lord and Father.
So, going back to the point of the post, how does an individual know they are saved? They live according to their identity. Meaning, because they are “born of God” having received the Spirit from heaven by grace, through the choice to believe (faith) since salvation is based on a relationship of love, covenant, commitment… for eternity, and having died with Christ and raised to new life, being a “New Creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), they cannot help but love God. I did not say they do not ever sin, or fall on their face, or struggle. But they are advancing and increasing in holiness and godliness because that is what the Holy Spirit naturally does in a believer through the process of “sanctification.” So, this is how someone knows they are saved. And due to the present hour, where “the love of many (Christians, according to the context of scripture) is growing cold,” and where “some (Christians) are walking away from their faith,” and where “sin and lawlessness is abounding,” and as the apostle Paul put it, “perilous times” are here now, being the last of the last days. Therefore, the only safe, secure place to be is in “walking daily with God,” living by your faith, according to your salvation, which is the basis of your “identity.”