In the Bible, it says God knows everything about us- intimately. So, if He KNOWS us, how could He NOT know us and tell us to depart from Him? I'm so confused. I thought I was saved, been to church, pray, speak to Jesus and pray to Him CONSTANTLY. But lately I've been feeling abandoned by Him and it has caused me to completely lose faith in Him. Feels like He couldn't be farther from me and like He doesn't love me. I have been so hard on myself and really spent a lot of time in introspection trying to figure out what I could be doing wrong. I'm not perfect, but I've left so much of my sinful ways behind. I also wonder if I truly am saved. Do Christians absolutely HAVE to be baptized? Maybe that's my problem- maybe I need to get baptized(?) I just don't understand why I'm feeling this way.
Your many questions touch on an area of Christian thought over which sincere and well-informed Christians have long debated: the assurance of salvation. Some denominations believe that such assurance is commonly available to believers, some that it is granted specially by God to select believers, and the rest that no person can have complete assurance since everything could change before they die should they lapse back into gross sin.
Some Protestants hold that such assurance is possible, among them those that hold to these confessions of faith:
The Canons of Dort (1618–1619) and Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) give similar answers for the sources of assurance for those in Christ.
- Assurance comes from faith in the promises of God.
- Assurance comes from the testimony of the Holy Spirit testifying to our spirits that we are children of God.
- Assurance comes from “a serious and holy pursuit of a clear conscience and of good works” (Canons of Dort 5.10).
The above is excerpted from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/assurance/
That article also list many scripture verses related for the topic, including those that a believer may apply to themselves as a test to see if they are walking in faith. One scripture commonly cited is:
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 3:19-24, NIV)
This and the rest of 1 John deal with spiritual discernment, including how to tell if you are walking in the truth. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for Christians to experience times when they doubt their salvation. This touches on another distinction: the believer’s subjective condition versus objective position. Our condition is how we feel, and our feelings are changeable. Our position is what Jesus has done and promised. Christ’s finished work is unalterable, perfect, and complete, and his promises true and unbreakable. One of the challenges we all face is to learn to look to the Bible and its eternal truths and lean on Christ instead of trusting our feelings. Our feelings are sand. His Word is a rock.
Even for those denominations which believe in perfect assurance, this state is attained after a period of effort, prayer, repentance, Bible study and maturation, and yes - suffering. Suffering especially dispels the delusory conceit of false believers because only true faith can survive such suffering. Thus you will find in the Book of Job that his clearest apprehension of the character of the savior occurred in the midst of his suffering.
The below is summarized from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assurance_(theology)
These are by no means the only views found in Christendom.
Methodism. John Wesley believed a believer can have perfect assurance as to whether they have saving faith NOW. They can lose it tomorrow through gross sin.
Lutheranism. Martin Luther taught that believers can be assured of salvation.
Calvinism. Calvinism teaches that believers may have assurance of their salvation especially through the work of the Holy Spirit and also by looking at the character of their lives. The idea that because good works necessarily result from true faith one can gain assurance by observing evidences of faith in their life is called the practical syllogism.
Catholicism. The Catholic Church teaches that an infallible certitude of final salvation, as supposed in Calvinism, is not a usual experience, as seen in the sixteenth canon of the sixth session of the Council of Trent:
"If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema."
Some denominations insist that Baptism is required for salvation, others do not. I am a Baptist and do not believe it necessary for salvation, but it is an act of obedience and obeying Jesus is a good thing. What Baptists believe is that Baptism is the entrance into the body of Christ - the church - and communion is the continuation of that fellowship. You mention doubts and inner conflict. You say nothing about the church. Regular fellowship with a healthy, Bible believing church is essential if you want to overcome these feelings and attain a spirit of self control. I never would have found the assurance I have without the support of my college Bible study and later my church.
Harvest. Regardless of whether you believe in an absolute assurance or not, every denomination has room for times of spiritual harvest. The road out of the place you now find yourself is toward your next spiritual harvest. It may be useful to assess where you are along that process.
- Preparation. Sovereign acts of God to set the stage.
- Plowing. Suffering that may seem to have no purpose or redeeming value.
- Planting. Receiving new teaching from the Bible. The devil will try to trick you out of believing, like the bird snatching the seed. Find more mature Christians to help you work through your doubt and confusion. Meditate on Jesus. This is the battle for your mind.
- Pouring. The hot sun and rocky soil of hardship and persecution will try to scare you out of believing. You need the Holy Spirit to soften your rocky heart through the conviction of sin to repentance. That same Holy Spirit will comfort your heart and relieve you of your fear and grant you courage. This is the battle for your heart.
- Plucking. The weeds are cares and worries that your flesh will use to distract you from the faith. The antidote is to focus your priorities away from materialistic goals toward spiritual ones and adopt new habits of behavior. Appeal to the father to help you rearrange your surroundings and relationships to foster this change. This is the battle for your hands.
- Produce a Harvest. Son, Spirit and Father work together to produce a beneficial outcome in your life and the life of the people you serve. This harvest is tangible evidence that your faith is real.
- Peace. You experience a time of peace. Then you begin working toward a new harvest.
I have gone through many such harvest cycles in my life. One lasted about two months. Some lasted a few years. One lasted about fifteen years. Sometimes they overlap. One constant has been that the Word (seed) often made no sense at first, or seemed to do nothing. Seeds do not grow overnight. Looking back, I see that Bible passages that made no sense when I first read them transformed my life in big ways later on. Expect this.
When Jesus says that he will declare to certain people "Depart from me, I never knew you" this is lack of intimate relational knowledge and not informational knowledge. These people were not in a personal relationship with the Son of God as both Lord and Savior. Notice how they appeal to Jesus for entrance into the Kingdom on the basis of what they have done for Jesus rather than on the basis of what Jesus has done for them:
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ - Matthew 7:22
The entire scene depicts one of judgement and, since Jesus is the righteous judge to whom God has entrusted all judgement, we can rest assured that Jesus accurately knows the content of each human heart and mind: If he did not know perfectly he could not judge perfectly.
Notice in Matthew 7:21-23 that these "workers of lawlessness" say "Lord, Lord" and have done many things that outwardly might look like "wonderful works":
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (ESV)
Man looks on outward appearance but the Lord judges the intentions of the heart and he knows who are his.
Consider a parallel passage in Matthew 25. At judgement, when Jesus praises the actions of the righteous, they are unaware of when they had accomplished these things:
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ - Matthew 25:37-39
And then when he chastises the wicked for what they did not do he gets a similar response:
Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ - Matthew 25:44
Jesus' response to both groups (and to us) is the same: Whatever you did or did not do to the least of Jesus' brethren you have or have not done to Jesus himself (verses 40 and 45). It's not a matter of saying, "Lord, Lord" or doing showy things in his name, it is a matter of 'boots on the ground' love for those around us. Religious activity for it's own sake is a trap.
Now hang onto that and plunge into 1 John, the stated purpose of which is that believers might KNOW that they have eternal life:
I write these things 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
And what are "these things" that the Apostle John has written so that we may be assured? Woven all throughout this epistle is love. Having received the love of God demonstrated for us and to us in Christ Jesus we love God in return (we love God because He first loved us) and the way that we have been given to express our love for God is to love our neighbor:
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. - 1 John 4:15-21
Do not doubt that God loves you. He has proven it in Jesus and Jesus has said that he will NEVER cast out those who come unto him. Do not focus so much on what you think you need to give up or undertake. Focus on how you may better understand the depth and breadth and height of God's love for you so that you may love those that God places in your life with that same kind of love.
Self discipline and growth in holiness are important aspects of spiritual maturity but if we make them the primary focus we can become despondent (when we fail) or prideful (when we do well). Love is the path of assurance. If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God ask him to teach you how to love those around you, seek opportunities to grow in love, knock on the doors of those opportunities as they appear and pour yourself into the lives of others.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. - Matthew 7:7-12
If you want to do the will of God and gain assurance focus on love. Trust in the Lord and do right. Perfect love casts out fear.