By God’s grace, he saved me when I was seven years old. There’s never been a time in my life when I haven’t been actively involved in the local church, yet as I grew older, I battled doubting my salvation. Now, as a youth pastor’s wife, my husband and I encounter many students with this same battle. Since there’s no magic formula or checklist we can take students through, these conversations are tricky ones. However, there are some specific passages of Scripture we can walk our students through that will lead us to ask some pointed questions for those who are unsure if they’ve truly surrendered their life to Christ.
The Mark of a True Believer
The Parable of the Sower is an excellent place to begin this conversation. This parable is in several of the gospels, but in Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable (verses 1-9), and also gives an explanation (verses 18-23). There are four types of seeds Jesus teaches about in this parable. The first seed hears the Word but doesn’t understand it, the second hears the Word and receives it with joy but falls away as soon as trial comes, the third seed hears the Word but is unfruitful due to the cares of this world, and the fourth seed hears the Word, understands it, and bears fruit. It’s very important to understand that only one of these four seeds represents a believer – the fourth seed. What makes this seed different from all the rest is that it understands the Gospel and therefore bears fruit. This leads to a very important point we must share with our students: a true Christian has to bear fruit. Walk through the seeds with your student, and ask her which she thinks she most identifies with. Did she hear the Word with joy, but then fall away as soon as a trial came along? Did she hear the Word but then it was choked up by the desires of this world? The key question we must ask is – are you bearing fruit?
What exactly is the fruit believers must bear?
This should be the natural next question. We clearly aren’t talking about strawberries or grapes, so what does Jesus mean when he says that believers must bear fruit? Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t leave us guessing! There are several places in Scripture that talk about what fruit we as believers should bear.
Galatians 5:16-26 – Here, Paul gives very specific attitudes and actions that mark the life of a lost person and a similar list that mark the life of a believer. Read through these with your student. Ask her if her life is more characterized by the works of the flesh or the fruits of the Spirit. We all know this from experience, but it’s important to share that believers will still have times when they struggle to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit or even struggle with participating in the works of the flesh. The question is, overall, which of these lists best describes her life and attitudes? Can she see a growth in some of these fruits of the Spirit in her life (i.e., she shows more kindness to her siblings, has more peace during tests)?
1 John 4:20-21 – John is very blunt here and says if we don’t love our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we don’t truly love God. Ask your student to think about her thoughts toward others, the way she treats others, her words about others, etc. Overall, does her life reflect that she truly loves her brothers and sisters in Christ?
Hebrews 12:6 – The author of Hebrews tells us the Father only disciplines those he loves. The Lord’s discipline could come about in many different ways. One way he disciplines us is conviction when we sin. Believers will feel convicted when they sin, maybe not right away, but at some point, there should be godly sorrow and desire to repent of sin. Ask your student if she feels conviction when she sins. Though discipline doesn’t feel pleasant in the moment, conviction is an assurance of our salvation, because the Father only disciplines those who are his.
Looking in the Rearview Mirror
While there are many complex and deep aspects to the Gospel, it’s simple as well. Romans 10:9 tells us, “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Personally, this verse has brought me tremendous assurance over the years. Have your student reflect back on her life. Has she confessed with her mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in her heart that God raised him from the dead? Does her life look different, more godly? Does she desire things of Christ more than the things of this world?
There are no specific right answers for us to be able to give a student a firm “yes” or “no”. Truly, the firm “yes” or “no” is between that student and the Holy Spirit. All we can do is speak the truth in love and point our students to Scripture. Prayerfully, as we walk students through the truth of Scripture, their eyes will be opened to their need for Jesus or they’ll have assurance that they’re already in him. Though these conversations can be tricky, we can trust God’s purposes to prevail despite our fumbled words. No matter the outcome of the conversation, we can praise God for an opportunity to speak of him and that he’s working in the life of a student!
Cassie Pattillo is a wife to Jack, and mama to Hunter (4), Isaac (2), and is in the process of adopting from India. Jack is a student pastor, so she loves serving alongside him and investing in teens’ lives. She is passionate about biblical literacy along with writing and teaching about Scripture. She is also a big fan of slow mornings with a cup of coffee, a good book on the beach, and Gamecock football. Connect with Cassie: Blog // Facebook // Instagram