I tend to get very confused about how salvation works. I understand that it's not based on works, but at times I'm not so sure that I am saved. I tend to feel like I'm not "good enough" or maybe deep in my heart my faith may not be true. Is there a way of knowing if I am saved or not? Is it normal to feel unsure?
According to Scripture, salvation from the penalty for sin is made possible by our faith in the work of Christ, Who atoned for our sin by His death on the cross in our place. All that God requires as payment for our sin was accomplished by Jesus on the cross.
Therefore, our personal works play no part in our salvation. We can add nothing to the accomplishments of Christ on the cross, and therefore only by faith in His work may we be saved. Our faith is in the sufficiency of Christ's work and the truth of His claims to be the Son of God, and our faith takes the place of relying on our personal works of righteousness. This is the heart of the Gospel.
If you believe that Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God, and that His death and resurrection is proof of His claims, then you are saved. The word of God leaves no doubt or question concerning this outcome. The moment of your faith is the moment of your salvation…by faith you have already been saved! Consider the following statements from Scripture:
Rom. 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
Eph. 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
Eph. 2:5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved),
Eph. 2:6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Eph. 2:7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Eph. 1:13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation — having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,
Eph. 1:14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
The Bible testifies that those who confess faith in Christ receive a downpayment on their eternal inheritance, which is the Holy Spirit taking up residence in our hearts. This downpayment is God's pledge to us that the work He has begun through our faith He promises He will bring to completion in the day of our resurrection, as Paul says:
Phil. 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Am I Saved?
Regarding your concerns of not being saved, rest assured that such doubts and feelings are normal for Christians. The enemy delights to bring doubts to our mind and to cause us to wonder if we are "good enough." The irony is that we aren't good enough to be saved! We never were. We don't merit the salvation we have received, and we can never allow ourselves to think that we "deserved" God's grace. Grace, by definition, is not deserved or earned.
Furthermore, our faith is a gift of God. It did not depend on our own resolve or determination to believe. The Bible says our belief is a gift from God, as Paul explains:
Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
Eph. 2:9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Finally, John wrote to those who have the Spirit and know the truth of the Gospel to address this very doubt of whether we are truly saved. He said:
1John 3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
1John 3:24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
1John 4:4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
1John 4:5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.
1John 4:6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
1John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
1John 4:8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
1John 4:14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
1John 4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
John wrote to assure the church that we can know for certain we are God's children by our post-salvation experiences, especially by our awareness that the Spirit has come to dwell in us through the changes we witness in our life. Among other changes, John mentions that we will enjoy fellowship with other believers, we will feel separated from the world of unbelievers, we will begin to love one another with God's sacrificial love, and we will grow to abide in Christ (i.e., depend on Him and follow Him).
More than all else, John says we have assurance of salvation simply by the certainty of our confession. Whoever confesses (i.e., gives a truthful testimony) that Jesus is the Son of God is saved, John reiterates.
In our experience, only Christians spend time worrying about whether they are truly saved. Unbelievers aren't troubled by thoughts or worries of not having salvation in Christ, because they are unfamiliar with God's grace and therefore they cannot know what they do not have. In a sense, only those who have come to know the grace of God will worry over the prospect of not having it. For many Christians, these concerns simply testify to a relationship with Christ.
The process of maturing in our walk of faith is a process of moving beyond these doubts and questions and taking hold of our salvation and pursuing maturity in our witness and understanding of God. The writer of Hebrews says:
Heb. 6:17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,
Heb. 6:18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.
God has sworn by His own name that His purposes and promises are unchangeable, so that we who have been saved would have confidence to take hold of the hope set before us. Having taken hold of that hope, we will be encouraged to walk in faith not looking back in doubt. This is the upward call of Christ, as Paul calls it:
Phil. 3:12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
Phil. 3:13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
Phil. 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
So based on your confession of faith in your letter to us, we encourage you to take heart that you know the Lord and that your worries are natural and shared by many Christians at various times. Your worries testify to the Spirit working in your heart convicting you of sin and preparing you for a life of holiness in serving the Lord. Move beyond your doubts and begin to ask how you can better serve the Lord Who saved you. Glory be to God!