How To Know If You Are A Real Christian
by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Demons Have a Knowledge of God.
Knowledge of God alone is no proof of salvation.
Religious experiences are no proof of salvation.
Objection #1- People are different from demons.
Objection #2- People can have religious feelings that demons cannot.
True Spiritual experiences have a different source.
A true spiritual experience transforms the heart.
Genuine spiritual experiences have different results.
The sight of Christ's beauty- God's greatest gift!
"You believe that there is one God. Good!
Even the demons believe that-and shudder."
How do you know if you belong to God? We see in these words what some
people depend on as an evidence of their acceptance with God. Some
people think that they are all right before God if they are not as bad as
some evil person. Other people point to their family history or church
membership to show that God approves of them. There is an evangelism
programme in common use that asks people certain questions. One of the
questions is, "Suppose you were to die today. Why should God let you into
his heaven?" A very common response is, "I believe in God." Apparently
the apostle James knew people who said the same thing: I know I am in
God's favor, because I know these religious doctrines.
Of course James admits that this knowledge is good. Not only is it good,
but it is also necessary. Nobody can be a Christian who doesn't believe in
God; and more than that, the One True God. This is particularly true for
those who had the great advantage of actually knowing the apostle,
someone who could tell them of his first-hand experience with Jesus, the
Son of God. Imagine the great sin of a person, who knew James, and then
refused to believe in God! Certainly this would make their damnation
greater. Of course, all Christians know that this belief in the One God is
only the start of good things because "anyone who comes to him must
believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
However, James is clear that although this belief a good thing, it is
definitely not proof that a person is saved. What he means is this: "You
say you are a Christian and you are in God's favor. You think God will let
you into heaven, and the proof of it is, you believe in God. But that is no
evidence at all, because the demons also believe, and they are sure to be
punished in hell." The demons believe in God, you can be sure of that!
They not only believe that He exists, but they believe that God is a holy
God, a sin-hating God, a God of truth, who has promised judgments, and
who will carry out his vengeance upon them. This is the reason the
demons "shudder" or tremble- they know God more clearly than most
human beings do, and they are afraid. Nevertheless, nothing in the mind
of man, that devils may experience as well, is any sure sign of God's grace
in our hearts.
This reasoning may be easily turned around. Suppose demons could have,
or find within themselves, something of God's saving grace-proof they
would go to heaven. This would prove James wrong. But how absurd! The
Bible makes it clear that demons have no hope of salvation, and their
believing in God does not take away their future punishment. Therefore
believing in God is not proof of salvation for demons, and it is safe to say,
not for people, either.
Demons Have a Knowledge of God
This is seen even more clearly when we think about what demons are like. They
are unholy: anything that they experience, cannot be a holy experience. The devil is
perfectly wicked. "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out
your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the
truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for
he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) "He who does what is sinful is of the
devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning." (1 John 3:8 )
Therefore the demons are called evil spirits, unclean spirits, powers of darkness,
and so on. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the
spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12)
So it is plain that anything in the minds of demons cannot be holy, or lead to true
holiness by itself. The demons clearly know many things about God and religion,
but they do not have a holy knowledge. The things they know in their minds may
make impressions in their hearts- indeed we do see that the demons have very
strong feelings about God; so strong, in fact, that they "shudder." But they are not
holy feelings because they have nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. If
this is true of the experience of demons, it is also true of the experience of men.
Notice this, that it does not matter how genuine, sincere, and powerful these
thoughts and feelings are. Demons, being spiritual creatures, know God in a way
that men on earth cannot. Their knowledge of God's existence is more concrete
than any man's knowledge could be. Because they are locked in battle with the
forces of good, they have a sincerity of knowledge as well. On one occasion Jesus
cast out some demons. "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted.
"Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" (Mat 8:29) What
could possibly be a more clear-cut experience than this? However, while their
thoughts and feelings are genuine and powerful, they are not holy.