Self Denial is the Result of the Spirit’s Work in Your Life

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23

Jesus calls us to daily deny ourselves to follow Him. You can’t live half in and half out. You must be all in. You must be willing to die to your own self-interest and live life fully for Christ if you are going to be a follower of Jesus.

Thinking about Jesus’ call reveals our need for Him. We can’t live for Jesus in a self-denying way without Him first changing our desires. The change in desire from self to Jesus reveals the work of God in our life and assures us of our salvation.

Do you see self-denial and Christ-centric living in your life? Do you put Jesus before all other things? Are you willing to give up all for Jesus? If so, you can be assured of your salvation. You would and can only do those things because the Spirit is at work in you.

Sunset over lake

How do we know if we have the Spirit?

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul continues to tell the Corinthians why he presses on in gospel ministry despite his groaning because of the sinful world pushing in on him. From a thoroughly gospel-centered perspective, he tells them that he continues on because of the hope that awaits after death. Referring to the body as a tent, he looks to his heavenly home where he expects to receive a building from God, a home free from the burdens and vulnerabilities of this world, a home where mortality is swallowed up by eternal life. His hopeful expectation is one reason he continues to press on.

Same Hope

As Christians, we should have the same hope, and it should cause us to press on in ministry just as it did Paul. But how can we be sure that we have a heavenly home awaiting us? There are several reasons. I’ll offer two and expand on the second more thoroughly.

  • (1) We can be sure we have a heavenly home because the all-sovereign promising keeping God has “prepared us for this very thing” (2 Cor 5:5a). Having prepared us for it, we can be sure God will bring us to our heavenly home. God’s track record is flawless, and His ability to accomplish His purposes is unquestionable.
  • (2) We can also be sure we have a heavenly home awaiting us because God “has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor 5:5b).

The second idea – God has given us the Spirit as a guarantee – raises an interesting and important question, how do we know if we have the Spirit?

How do we know if we have the Spirit?

When you look through Scripture, you find several tests that can be administered to discover if you have the Spirit or not, and, therefore, assurance of eternal life.

(1) Do you believe God is your Father?

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” (Ro 8:15–16)

(2) Do you look forward to your redemption and the return of Christ?

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Ro 8:23)

(3) Do you accept, believe and understand the things of God, which are written in His Word? 

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Co 2:12–14)

(4) Do you confess that Jesus is not only your Savior but also the Lord of your life?

“Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Co 12:3)

(5) Do you seek to live in unity with other Christians? 

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Co 12:13)

(6) Do you fight against what the sinful nature wants?

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Ga 5:16-21; 24)

(7) Are you growing in the fruit of the Spirit?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law… If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Ga 5:22-23; 25)

Your answers to the above questions will reveal whether you have the Spirit or not.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe that you have the Spirit?


The Scriptures regarding the Holy Spirit are informed by leader questions over 2 Corinthians 5 in 2 Corinthians 1-7: True Discipleship by James Hughes

How Can I be Assured of My Salvation?

How can you be assured of your salvation? Should you look to a past event like walking an aisle, saying a prayer, or being baptized? Is it found in a hyper-spiritual activity such as speaking in tongues. How about church membership? Does it seal the deal when it comes to assurance of salvation?

While all the above can hint at one’s salvation, they don’t necessarily mean someone is saved. You can walk an aisle, say a prayer, be baptized, join a church, and even act as if you are speaking in tongues, and not be a Christian. I don’t believe, then, that any of the above provides the assurance many want and desire.

How Can I be Assured of My Salvation?

The Bible, however, doesn’t leave us high and dry when it comes to the question of assurance. While I can’t provide every biblical reference related to assurance in this post, here are a number of them paired with 7 questions to ask yourself. As you work through these questions, notice the continual nature of each question.

1. Do I have a present trust in Christ for salvation?

  • Colossians 1:23 —> Do I continue to trust that Jesus is my Savior who has repaired my relationship with the Father by dying in my place? See also Hebrews 3:14 and John 3:16 where “Believes” is continual, meaning you continue to believe.

“if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Col 1:23)

2. Is their evidence the Holy Spirit is at work in my life?

  • Galatians 5:22-23 —> Fruit of the Spirit. Do I sense these in myself? Can others see them?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Ga 5:22–23)

3. Do I continue to believe and accept sound doctrine?

  • 1 John 2:23-24 —> What you heard from the beginning is the teachings about Jesus, God, Sin, Man, and Salvation found in God’s Word.

“No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.” (1 Jn 2:23–24)

4. Do I continue to read and delight in God’s Word?

  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 —> Does knowing that God’s Word provides everything you need for life and godliness regularly drive you to Scripture?

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Ti 3:16–17)

5. Do I continue to abide in Jesus?

  • John 15:4, 7 —> Abiding not only means that you continue to trust Jesus, but you fellowship with him regularly in prayer, worship, and Bible study.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me….If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (Jn 15:4,7)

6. Do I continually live in obedience to God’s Word?

  • 1 John 2:4-6; 3:9-10, 24; 5:18 —> You will never be perfect in this life, but do you strive to live for and like Christ?

“Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 Jn 2:4–6)

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn 3:9–10)

“Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” (1 Jn 3:24)

“We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” (1 Jn 5:18)

7. Do I continually love my neighbor?

  • 1 John 4:7-8 —> If you don’t love your neighbor, then you haven’t experienced God’s love.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 Jn 4:7–8)

Question for Reflection

  1. After working through these texts, do you have a greater sense of assurance?



Prayer: Assurance, Questions, and a Right Perspective

In 1 John 3:21-22, John tells us that those who are confident before God have their prayers answered. Confidence comes to those who have examined themselves with the test of love John provides in 1 Jn 3:16-19. After examining themselves they have found that they are able to persuade their hearts that they are God’s children because they see evidences of biblical love present in their lives. As a result, they can and should go boldly before God in prayer, knowing they will receive what they ask of God because they keep His commandments and do what is pleasing before Him. John writes,

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
(1 John 3:21-22 ESV)

God is Not Our Cosmic Genie in the Sky

With these verses, John is not turning God into a Cosmic Genie and supporting a Health Wealth Gospel, which is evident because after telling us God answers our prayers, he provides the reason our prayers are answered at the end of verse 22.

What is the Basis for Answered Prayer?

The basis for answered prayer is two-fold and requires we:

(1) Keep God’s commandments

(2) Do what is pleasing to Him

When a person keeps God’s commandments and does what is pleasing to Him, they show they are a true believer. True believers will pray according to God’s will because His will has become their will.

In addition to seeking God’s will, when John tells us that answered prayer comes to those who do things that are pleasing to God, it includes things we ask for in our prayers. This means believers would not ask God to make them into a millionaire, give them a new car because it makes them look cool, or ask God to cause a jury to acquit them, when they are guilty of their crime. These things are not done in obedience to God’s commandments, nor are they done to please God; rather, they are done to please oneself.

So, those who desire to obey God’s commandments and do those things which please Him, will have their prayers answered because their prayers will be inline with God’s commandments and with what pleases Him.

When God Does Not Answer Prayer

In talking about answered prayer, the question usually arises: What about those times when we are confident before God, coming boldly to the throne room of prayer, obeying His commandments and seeking to do those things that please Him, as well as we are praying according to God’s will, but our prayer is seemingly not answered right away, why does this occur?

In other words, what are we to think when God does not seemingly answer our prayers?

Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers of all time, when faced with this question gives this counsel:

If you have been knocking at the gate of mercy and have received no answer, shall I tell you why the mighty Maker has not opened the door and let you in? Our Father has reasons peculiar to himself for keeping us waiting. Sometimes it is to show His power and His sovereignty, that men may know that Jehovah has a right to give or to withhold. More frequently the delay is for our profit.

You are perhaps kept waiting in order that your desires may be more fervent. God knows that delay will quicken and increase desire, and that if He keeps you waiting, you will see your necessity more clearly, and will seek more earnestly; and that you will prize the mercy all the more for its long tarrying. There may also be something wrong in you that has need to be removed, before the joy of the Lord is given. Perhaps your views of the gospel plan are confused, or you may be placing some little reliance on yourself, instead of trusting simply and entirely in the Lord Jesus. Or, God makes you tarry awhile that He may the more fully display the riches of His grace to you at last.

Your prayers are all filed in Heaven, and if not immediately answered; they are certainly not forgotten, but in a little while shall be fulfilled to your delight and satisfaction. Let not despair make you silent, but continue instant in earnest supplication [1].

In another place He also says,

Still remember that prayer is always to be offered in submission to God’s will; that when we say that God hears prayer, we do not intend that He always gives us literally what we ask for. We do mean, however, that He gives us what is best for us. If He does not give us the mercy we ask for in silver, He bestows it upon us in gold. If he does not take away the thorn in the flesh, He says, “My grace is sufficient for thee, and that comes to the same in the end [2].

So, if it seems that God does not answer our prayer, there are a number of reasons for that, but we always are to pray that God’s will be done and rest in that.


In these verses, John seeks to assure believers who are confident before God, obey His commandments, and do what is pleasing to Him, that God will answer their prayers, even if it does not seem like He does. As a result, we are to come boldly before God in prayer, lifting our requests up to Him. After which, we are to remain confident He has heard us, and we are to know that He will answer in due time and in the way He sees fit, if He has not answered already.

So then, may we all examine ourselves to see if we are true believers. If we are true believers, may we all go boldly to God this week in our time of prayer, knowing the Lord hears us and will answer us in due time.


[1] Spurgeon on Prayer: How to converse with God, compiled and edited by Harold J. Chadwick, 59-60.

[2] Spurgeon on Prayer: How to converse with God, compiled and edited by Harold J. Chadwick, 304.