How do I know if I am truly converted?
An Essential Question
This is one of the most important questions one could ever ask! This is a question which every Christian needs to spend some time with, as the Apostle Paul commands in Philippians 2:12 “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” The area of being truly converted and having assurance of faith are essentially dealing with the same issue and therefore this article and others often deal with aspects of both of these.
Three Areas Relevant to Assurance
I personally found the Canons of Dort, Head 5, Article 10, very helpful as it lays out three ways by which we can know if we are truly converted. First, by faith in the promises of God as revealed in Scripture. Second, by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Third, by a serious and pure desire to keep a good conscience and to do good works.
The first one, faith in the promises of God (also described as ‘looking to Christ’), has been addressed by several articles already:
How do I have assurance of salvation?, by Mr. Geoff Otten
The third, a serious and pure desire to keep a good conscience and to do good works, is addressed by Rev. Dibbet .
The Testimony of the Holy Spirit
Because two of the areas have already been discussed in other articles, I thought it might be helpful to briefly look at the what “the testimony of the Holy Spirit” means. This can be challenging to evaluate in your own life because it is one of the more subjective signs of conversion. Two key texts describing the Holy Spirit directly speaking to the spirit of a believer are: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” (Romans 8:16) and, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” (Ephesians 1:13)
An example of this inward testimony is when the Holy Spirit powerfully applies a passage of scripture to you, leaving you with no doubt that God is directly speaking to you, especially if the passage is dealing with your relationship and condition before God. You may be reading Ps. 23 and as you read the words “The LORD is my shepherd…” you are really impacted by these word “my shepherd” … not just a shepherd for others but for me personally, etc.
The challenge in coming to assurance through this direct testimony is that not all Christians experience this to the same degree and that there may be longer periods when this is not experienced. Also, as with all experiences, we need to be on guard that these are not false impressions coming from Satan. These experiences need to be evaluated in light of scripture and it can be very helpful to discuss these with other Christians.
Everyone one who professes faith in Christ needs to spend some time evaluating their faith to see if it is real faith or a false type of faith. The primary way to do this is to ask the question “Am I trusting in the promises of the gospel?” or “Am I looking to Christ alone for the forgiveness of my sins?”. The Bible is clear that if your answer to these is yes then you are converted (John 1:12, Acts 10:43, Acts 16:31, Phil. 3:9, etc.). The second area is by looking for the fruits of conversion of your life. Do you see, by God’s grace, a change of desires, a growing love for God, a growing hatred of sin, a desire to live for God’s glory and honor? The third way in which we can be assured that our faith is real is if we have experienced the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit.
If we are honest when we evaluate ourselves, we may see some positive fruits for which we need to praise and thank God but often we will see much negative fruit as well. This ought to bring us back on our knees before God, confessing our remaining sin, our unbelief, and our lack of zeal for him. This ought to drive us back to Christ as the only one who can help us. We need to pray for more of the Holy Spirit’s work to conform us to the image of Christ.
I want to encourage you to speak to your Pastor or an Elder. They would love to sit down with you, to listen to you, and prayerfully guide you as you seek to answer this question for yourself.
Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith by Dr. Joel R. Beeke, (A very helpful book which looks at all three of the above areas and other aspects of assurance).
Heidelberg Catechism, Questions: 1, 79, 89, and 129.
Canon of Dort: Head 1, Article 12; Head 5, Articles 9-13.
Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter 18