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There is a short list of New Testament letters that a pastor can immediately turn to when someone asks, how do I know if I am saved? Joel Webbon has pinpointed the favorite “go to” letter for many pastors when they are asked this eternally significant question. While every single word in the Bible matters, First John packs a punch on the topic of true conversion like no other.
Just recently I sat with a man who was wrestling with the genuineness of his conversion. Not wanting to offer him false assurance, I led him to First John and we began to study it together. Over time, it was God’s Word that did the heavy lifting as I began to witness the joy of assurance stream across this man’s face. Word by word and chapter by chapter, conviction burst into his heart and mind like a dam bursting open. The Holy Spirit had done a mighty work in this man’s heart!
It is often tempting for us as believers to give the assurance of salvation to people, even if we do so with the best of intentions. We may see some small progressive steps, such as someone going to church one Sunday or praying to God at the dinner table, and sudden- ly we are calling for the Deacons to fill the baptistry immediately! However, First John teaches us that there is much more to genuine Christianity than putting on your Sunday best and praying once in a while. Of course, we want to encourage any steps that a person may take in the right direction, but we desperately need to submit to the authority of Scripture in every facet of salvation or we will face the painful reality that comes with a church full of false converts.
For decades the church has experienced the self-inflicted pain of rushing people to the altar and into the baptistry while sin runs rampant through the aisles and in the homes of professing “Christians.” Lives have been ruined, the reputation of the church smeared, and worst of all, Christ misrepresented. Some may think it’s unloving, or perhaps even blasphemous, to call into question the genuineness of someone’s faith, but nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, the most loving thing we can do is help people assess something that will determine their eternity. To the church at Corinth, Paul the Apostle wrote, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus
Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Surely, if Paul himself exhorted the early church to examine their faith, we do well to examine our own faith still today.
I cannot overstate the helpful nature in which Webbon has written this short book. Each chapter contains clear explanations of passages that are concise and easy-to-understand. Headers in each section will guide your eyes and keep you on track. Conclusions will wrap up each lesson and offer practical wisdom that you can apply to your life. Lastly, Webbon has offered reflection questions that will energize your devotional life and certainly enable you to navigate the conviction you will experience from meditating on God’s Word.
Whether you are a pastor, small group leader, or someone who is trying to examine a recent profession of faith, this book will be a trusted resource for decades to come. May the Lord use it to sharpen you, enable you, and assure you of his calling upon your life, and his sure grip upon your soul!
– Costi W. Hinn, Author of God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelmed a Life Built on Lies