There are a lot of people in the world who do not know if they are a Christian or not. I have been asked, "How do I know my sins have been pardoned?" and "How do I know I am child of God?" These are very serious questions. They have great implications on a person's life. Jesus himself said one soul is worth more than the whole world in the above scripture. The Bible says a soul winner is wise. Pr 11:30 That makes this subject of pardon a very serious one! We should not underestimate the question, "What must I do to be saved?" A wise person will not risk a false answer to this question.
The New Testament leaves a reader assured of their sins being pardoned. We read things like "we know we have passed from life to death" 1Jn 3:14, "now we are children of God" 1Jn 3:2, "you have been freed from sin Rom 6:18, & "I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him" 2Ti 1:12. There is no doubt a person can be and should be assured that they have had their sins pardoned. This assurance is not based on the acceptance of doctrine but that the doctrine has become incorporated into the life of a Christian. There is a difference in professing and practicing.
Unfortunately many Christians do not show that type of confidence today as the scriptures we mentioned above. Often times there is a hesitance or vagueness when you ask a person, "Are you a Christian?" I have gotten the reply, "I hope so. I'm trying to be..." I like to ask "Are you married?" (This only woks if the person is married!) They don't say, "I hope so. I'm trying to be..." They know they are married because they went through and completed certain requirements to be married. Well, the same concept applies to us being married to Christ. A Christian can know they are a Christian because they have met the "requirements" or complied to the conditions that says we are Christians. For that reason, A Christian should be able to boldly say, "Yes, I am a Christian!" We should know beyond a doubt that we have been pardoned of our sin.
A few problems exist that doesn't allow a person to have the adequate evidence of pardon. One is many people think they have or need to have a special communication from God. They want to hear from a special voice that says "your sins are forgiven" like the paralytic man that was lowered from the roof. Mt 9:2 Many people trust in lights, visions, and voices to assure them they are saved or pardoned. I once heard a person say they knew their relative was saved because before she passed away she poke of visions of angels in her hospital room. They felt since these visions were present there was no need to share the Gospel with her. They said "She wouldn't have listened anyway." That woman died and that family believed that was God's assurance of her being pardoned.
Consider what Peter said in 2Pe 1:3. He uses the word "granted" which is past tense. Jesus, through his word, has given us all we need to know about forgiveness and being pardoned.
Another problem is in the special feeling thought process. Many people rely on a special feeling to assure them that have been pardoned. We can not trust our emotions or feelings because they are deceitful and will lead us astray. Consider a couple that has been trying to have a child. The woman takes a pregnancy test and it says she is pregnant. The couple is ecstatic. They are filled with extreme joy only to find out the test was wrong. The emotions they felt were based on a false truth, but their feelings were real. Another couple down the road takes the same test and it is negative. They are so relieved because the last they need is another mouth to feed. They too come to realize the test was wrong and their emotions or feelings were just as real as the first couple. Jacob let his emotions say, "Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son." Gen 37:35 We all know his emotions were strong and real. They were also false as his son was alive, a truth he would realize later in his life. Feelings or emotions feel the same whether they are based on truth or lies. Therefore, they should not be trusted or used as an assurance of pardon.
I am in no way trying to downgrade the feelings a person has at the moment they are converted. The eunuch, after his baptism, went on his way rejoicing. Acts 8:36-39. Ps 51:12 mentions the joy of salvation. I am just saying we should not allow our emotions or feelings ALONE to dictate our knowledge of us being pardoned.
A third area that can be problematic in us knowing we are pardoned is sincerity and a clear conscience. Again, sincerity is must in Christianity but it is not the ONLY must in Christianity. If you talked to a person who worshiped a god of a volcano and you witnessed them throwing a child in a volcano as a sacrifice and asked them, "How does your conscience allow you to do that?" They would most likely reply, "I did this because my god required it. I am a sincere follower of my god. My conscience is clear." Saul was sincere when he persecuted the Church. I'm sure you can recall instances in your life where you were sincerely wrong about something. Sincerity ALONE is not proof of a person being pardoned. Our conscience is only reliable when we are taught true facts.
Forgiveness takes place in the mind of God! Pardon is not done in us, but it is something that is done for us. God alone has the power and authority to set the terms of our pardon as He is the one we have sinned against. Our task is to find these terms of pardon and see that they are completed. We find these terms of pardon in the God's Word. God's Word teaches that obedience is imperative to being pardoned. Rom 6:17,18 Profession without practice leaves a person lost. Mt 7:21 We know we are pardoned because we have the terms of pardon written and delivered to us, (the Word of God) from the proper person of authority (God), and all we must do is obey those terms.
Consider this story. A man gets out of jail after receiving a letter saying he is pardoned from the Governor. This letter states he is a free man as long as he doesn't disobey the laws anymore, visits his parole officer weekly, and holds down a job. This man is walking home filled with the joy of being pardoned. The Sheriff, who is unaware of him being pardoned, stops and says, "I'm going to have to arrest you." To which the free man replies, "Sorry sir, but I have been pardoned." The Sheriff says, "Boy, you better prove to me you have been pardoned." The free man says, "Well Sheriff, last night I had a dream and in that dream I heard a voice that told me I was pardoned. That is a unique experience, Sheriff." The Sheriff said, "Indeed it is, but that is not proof of being pardoned! That will not stand court, son." The man replied, "But Sheriff, when I got up this morning I was filled with a great feeling inside me and I just knew I was pardoned." The Sheriff growled, "These voices and feelings are not going to cut it son. You better have some real evidence that you are pardoned or I'm taking you back to jail." The free man said, "Sheriff, I am sincerely telling you that I have been pardoned." Almost losing his temper the Sheriff replied, "I tired of hearing of these unique communications, special feelings, and how sincere you are. I want hard evidence you are pardoned right now!" The free man says, "I have this letter from the Governor that says if I obey his commands I am a free man and I am pardoned, Sheriff." The Sheriff reads the letter and says, "Why didn't you yell me this in the first place?" The free man said, "I thought those experiences would be enough to prove I was pardoned, Sheriff." The Sheriff said, "You aren't pardoned until the proper authorities say you are pardoned son. Go on, obey those commands, and live a life of freedom."
We are not pardoned until God says we are pardoned. We have the terms we must obey to be pardoned, from the proper authority, and we too can live a life of spiritual freedom through Jesus Christ who died for you and me. Today, will you share the terms of pardon with others?
WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
We must hear the Word of God: Rom 10:17; Acts 4:4
We must believe or have faith: Heb 11:6; Acts 16:31
We must repent of our sins: Lk 13:3; Acts 17:30
We must confess Christ before others: Mt 10:32; Acts 8:37
We must be immersed into Christ (baptized) Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38
We must be faithful: Rev 2:10; Acts 14:22