Almost everyone who believes in the existence of heaven also believes he will be there. I cannot count the number of times I have heard the statistic that fully 99% of Americans believe they will be in heaven some day. However, the Bible certainly gives no reason to believe that 99% of people will be welcomed into heaven. Thus many people, and perhaps even the majority of people, live with false assurance of their eternal destination. How Can I Be Sure I’m A Christian by Don Whitney, is a book concerned with helping Christians understand how they be assured of their salvation and how to discern true from false assurance.
In the foreward, John MacArthur notes that assurance of salvation is the birthright and privilege of every true believer in Christ. Despite this, almost every believer wrestles with this at one time or another. “Knowing how to handle such doubts, understanding the self-examination that is required (2 Corinthians 13:5), discerning the evidences of Christ in us, and above all focusing our faith on the promises of Scripture and the character of God – those are the keys to maintaining true assurance.” (page 8) These are the topics the author examines in this book.
The book begins with an examination of whether assurance of salvation is possible. Though many Christians have been taught that it is not possible and may even be dangerous, the Bible presents assurance as something that is not only available, but is a crucial aspect of our Christian walk. In fact, an entire book of the Bible was written to address this very topic. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…” (1 John 5:13) After assuring the reader that assurance is possible and that doubts about our salvation are normal (and perhaps even healthy), Whitney examines the basis of our assurance. Far too many believers base their assurance on statements beginning with “because I…” but if our assurance is founded upon anything we have done, we have taken false assurance. Our assurance needs to be in the promises and character of God, not in decisions, baptisms, family or good deeds. The book then turns to a discussion of the confirmations and evidences of conversion. These include the Spirit’s inner confirmations as well as external evidences such as conscious obedience to God’s Word and a hatred of the ways of the world. There are several chapters dedicated to things that erode our confidence as well as false assurances of salvation. The book closes with a chapter on what to do if you are still not sure.
As with all of Whitney’s books, he quotes Scripture liberally and draws heavily upon the wisdom of Christians of days gone by, and especially the Puritans. He builds a convincing case that assurance is possible and provides many helpful pointers as to how we can have that assurance of salvation. This book is guaranteed to challenge any believer, both in his lifestyle and in his assumptions concerning assurance.
In conclusion, I will quote the glowing endorsement of James Boice, who writes “If you have questions about your assurance or even somebody else’s, you should read this book. Dr. Whitney’s illustrations are superb, and his borrowings from the great theologians of the past are wise, stimulating, and well-chosen. I commend his work highly.” To echo Boice, I unreservedly recommend this book.