Blessed Assurance - How do You Know You Have Accepted the Salvation Offered through Jesus?

A major sticking point for Christians is doubt.  Many Christians ask themselves "How do I know I have truly accepted the salvation offered through Jesus?" 
Note: Some people even doubt whether the offer of salvation extends to them (it does; through Jesus' sacrifice, God offers salvation freely to everyone, just as they are - a separate post covers that issue). 
This post deals with the self-doubt of whether someone has truly accepted salvation through Jesus.  Usually, this doubt stems from one of two things:
1. An expectation of what their life should be like after having Jesus in their life, which doesn't match up with what they are currently experiencing, and/or
2.  an expectation that they should have a special feeling or experience at the moment that they believed in Jesus.

These expectations are just that - expectations, and you should not doubt whether you have accepted Jesus as your redeemer, just because your life or your feelings are different to what you 'think' they should be.

In the first case (that of expecting one's life to be a certain way after believing in Jesus), people often expect that they will suddenly become 'near-perfect' human beings.  This is not the case.  We are all sinners; believers and unbelievers alike.  So we should not expect to suddenly become saint-like after coming to believe in Jesus.  Trying to be like Jesus and live like Jesus is a natural outpouring of our faith, but we should be careful of the operative word here: trying.  Try as we might, we will not become perfect like Jesus.  I think it is the trying that is the most important and which reflects our faith.  If we really, truly believe, we simply couldn't help trying to be like Jesus - but we shouldn't doubt our faith just because we don't actually attain that perfection.

In the second case, there are many believers who think that something should happen to them at the moment they believe in Jesus (other than the belief itself). Some think they should have a sense of sudden joy, others expect to feel an electric current, yet others think that they should be awestruck.  Can you see the problem here? People are looking back at the moment they believed, and if they don't find these dramatic feelings, they start doubting themselves and their beliefs.  No two people will necessarily feel the same way when they come to believe in Jesus, and that's OK.  There is nothing to say it will even be an especially pleasant feeling! For example, C.S. Lewis describes his experience:
"That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me.  In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."
 - C.S. Lewis (1986, 1984), Surprised by Joy, Chapter 14 "Checkmate"

In other words, at the moment of his belief in God, C.S. Lewis did not find this to be a pleasant experience. However, his feelings do not change the fact that he accepted Jesus' sacrifice on that day and was saved.  Indeed, he then goes on to reflect:
"I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms."
 - C.S. Lewis (1986, 1984), Surprised by Joy, Chapter 14 "Checkmate"

The most practical and helpful analogy for doubters which I have heard to date is one from an older Christian fiction book (whose name I forget.)  Here is how the analogy goes:
If a friend gives you a book as a gift for you to keep, and you take it, how do you believe the book is yours? The answer of course is that you know it's yours; the friend gave it and you accepted it.  The book is now yours.
Remember that someone accepting Jesus' sacrifice on the cross to save them is very much the same thing.  The gift of salvation is freely offered to the person from God (through Jesus).  When the person accepts, they have accepted that gift of salvation, in very much the same way that they would accept a book given to them from another person.

Of course, this analogy is not to make light of the enormous sacrifice Jesus took on, but rather to explain that when you accept something which is given to you, it is yours - regardless of what your feelings were at the time.

If you found this post interesting, you might also like these related posts on this blog:

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