The assurance or trust which people say faith provides, and which they call a “truly saving faith,” is not a spiritual assurance or trust but an earthly one when it is based on faith alone. Spiritual assurance or trust derives its essence and life from good actions done out of love and not from the truth that belongs to religious faith apart from those good actions. The assurance provided by a faith separated from good actions is dead; therefore real assurance is not possible for us when we are leading evil lives. An assurance that we are saved because of the Lord’s merit with the Father no matter how we have lived is a long way from the truth as well.
All who have spiritual faith, though, have an assurance of being saved by the Lord, because they believe that the Lord came into the world to give eternal life to those who both believe and live by the principles that he taught. They know that he is the one who regenerates such people and prepares them for heaven, doing so all by himself without their help, out of pure mercy.
Believing what the Word or the church teaches and not living by it may look like faith, and some may even conjecture that they are saved by it; but the truth is that no one is saved by faith alone. Faith alone is a conviction one deliberately induces in oneself; therefore I need now to describe the nature of such self-induced convictions.
A self-induced conviction is when we believe and love the Word and the teachings of the church not for the sake of their truth or in order to live by them but for the sake of profit and respect and to be thought learned. As a result, when this is the kind of faith we have we are not focusing on the Lord or heaven but on ourselves and this world. People who aspire to worldly greatness and crave an abundance of material things express stronger conviction that what the church teaches is the truth than people who have no such aspirations or cravings. This is because for the ambitious the church’s teachings are only a means to their own ends, and the more they love those ends, the more they love—and trust—the means.
In reality, though, what determines the strength of their conviction at a given moment is how intensely their love for themselves and for the world is burning and how much that fire is affecting their conversation, preaching, and actions. During moments on fire they are completely convinced that what they are saying is true. When they are not feeling the fire of those loves, however, they believe very little—some have no belief at all. This shows that a self-induced conviction is a faith of the mouth and not of the heart, so it is really no faith at all.
People whose faith is self-induced do not know from any inner enlightenment whether what they are teaching is true or false, and as long as the crowd believes them, they do not care. In fact, they have no interest whatever in knowing the truth for its own sake. As a result, if they cannot obtain status or profit they abandon their faith (or at least if they can do so without putting their reputation in jeopardy), because self-induced conviction does not live deep within us. It remains on the outside, only in our memory, so we can call on it when we are teaching. This means that this type of faith vanishes after death, and so do the truths that go with it, because the only kind of faith that remains then is the kind that lives within us—that is, that has taken root in our doing of good and has therefore become part of our life.
The following passage in Matthew is about people whose faith is self-induced:
On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, haven’t we prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many great things in your name?” But then I will declare to them, “I do not know you, you workers of iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22, 23)
Then it says in Luke:
Then you begin to say, “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.” But he will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.” (Luke 13:26, 27)
They are also described as the five foolish young women in Matthew who did not have oil for their lamps:
Later the other young women came along and said, “Lord, Lord, open up for us.” But he will answer and say, “I tell you truly, I do not know you.” (Matthew 25:11, 12)
The oil [that should have been] in their lamps means the good actions from love [that should be] in our faith.
from New Jerusalem, Sections 115-119