I don’t always feel saved—how may I be sure that I am not deceiving myself?
Of all forms of deception, self–deception, (and especially religious self–deception), is perhaps the most to be feared. The issues at stake are eternal, and it is therefore vital to address them in all seriousness. Ponder our Lord’s own words in Matt. 7: 21–23: “Not every one who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but he that does the will of my Father who is in the heavens. Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied through thy name, and through thy name cast out demons, and through thy name done many works of power? and then will I avow unto them, I never knew you. Depart from me, workers of lawlessness”. Awful and sobering statement!
Now one thing is certain, namely, that you can only be deceived by a person or thing that you trust. Ananias and Sapphira sought to deceive the apostles, but Peter was not deceived, for he did not believe them, (Acts 5: 1–10). The Serpent whispered a lie to Eve, and believing it she was “deceived”, (Gen. 3: 13). Peter was not deceived, for he did not trust; Eve was deceived because she did trust. Now to escape the terrible consequences of self–deception, beware of the too–common snare of self–occupation. Self cannot deceive you if it is not trusted—so beware of it. What the heart of man is naturally, has been declared by Him who alone knows it, to be “deceitful above all things”, (Jer. 17: 9). Well did Solomon say, therefore, “He that confideth in his own heart is a fool”, (Prov. 28: 26).
It is not enough to feel saved. The Pharisee of Luke 18 no doubt felt right with God, but he trusted in himself, (see v9). He was deluded. Feelings, whether happy or otherwise, are no sure guide of salvation. I may feel safe and yet be lost. Conversely, I may feel lost and yet be safe after all. The disciples felt doomed when the storm arose, (Mark 4: 35–41), yet they were, in fact, quite safe, for Christ was with them in the boat.
A station–master was once asked why the station clock was obscured by a piece of paper. It hasn’t been keeping the time lately, he said, and being anxious that no one should be deceived by it, I placed that cover upon its face. He had learned by experience that the clock was not to be trusted, and treated it accordingly. Oh, that many a self–occupied soul would learn a lesson from this railway official, and write across the feelings and emotions of their own hearts, NOT TO BE TRUSTED! It is not that our feelings are always wrong—indeed we know they are not. Even a clock that never makes a tick is sure to be right twice in twenty–four hours! Nor would I say a word against happy feelings. Indeed there is something wrong in the believer’s walk or ways if he does not feel happy. All I would say is that if you do not want to be self–deceived, do not trust self in any way.
Where then can I find reliability and certainty? Where indeed is truth? Let Scripture answer: “thy word is truth”, (John 17: 17), “the sum of thy word is truth”, (Ps. 119: 160). It is the Word of God that brings assurance of salvation. How can you make sure against steering your vessel by a false light, and making an eternal ship–wreck? Not by following feelings but by following God’s Word: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”, (Ps. 119: 105). God does not say, These happy feelings have I given to you that ye may know that ye have eternal life who believe on the name of the Son of God. No, what He says is These things have I written to you that ye may know that ye have eternal life who believe on the name of the Son of God, (See 1 John 5: 13 ). Feelings may go up and down like a seesaw, but the Word of God remains stable and firm. How for instance did the first–born sons of Israel know for certain that they were safe the night of the Passover? It was not the blood as such that made them certain, but what God had said concerning it. Their confidence rested upon the fact that God had said “when I see the blood, I will pass over you”, (Ex. 12: 13). The sprinkled blood made them safe, but it was the spoken word that made them sure.
I know that I am saved because God’s Word assures me that it is so. The unreliable feelings of my heart may tell me all sorts of things, but the infallible Word of God assures me that “He that believes [on me] has life eternal”, (John 6: 47). What doubt can there be? I believe it, not because I feel it, but because God says it. It is in what He says that I find peace and assurance.