Now, I think it is only fitting that we kick off the posts with the subject of salvation. If you have already received Jesus you might be tempted to skip over this one. I know I would, but a recent struggle has changed my mind. This topic isn’t just for people new to faith; it is a subject that has at times given me pause, throughout my walk. It is so important that, as Christians, we know and have clear cut, biblical, and accurate information about just what it means to be “saved”. There is a lot to address on this subject. For now, though, I would like to address doubts about salvation, its permanency, and how to know you are really saved.
Not so long ago, I had been struggling. I was down, depressed, and feeling broken. I had just left a job that I thought would be my forever job, because the corporate climate was extremely competitive and draining. I didn’t feel like praying, or reading my bible. I upheld my commitments at church, but halfheartedly. I wanted so bad an answer from God as to why I was feeling this way. I thought He had led me to get the job that I had, and the way it ended was so disappointing that my heart was shattered. But God was silent. I didn’t feel His presence. I went to church and I could barely listen to the message. I forced myself to read the word, but I couldn’t get through a chapter without being distracted. Eventually, I began to get bitter, and that led to me sinning. I hurt my family with harsh words. I even told a couple of lies, which is something that I thought I had been completely delivered of. I started thinking of myself like a hypocrite and condemning myself. It was like there was a voice in my head telling me I was no good, and all the things I thought were true were not. It eventually got to the point where I started doubting whether or not I was really saved.
That was the tipping point. My heart was completely shattered.
That Sunday, I found myself in the back row at church, listening to the message. My pastor was talking about heaven and God’s eternal goodness. Something began to stir inside of me as he spoke about what God has planned for His children on the other side of eternity. I began to weep as he talked about all the things that I wasn’t sure I would ever get to experience. I hungered for connection with my Jesus again. The One who had been so up close and personal with me before, so real, but I just couldn’t seem to find Him.
After the service I went over to fill my cup at the water cooler and collect myself. My good friend Heather came up and tapped me on the shoulder. Upon seeing my face, she asked me what was wrong and if she could pray with me. I hadn’t told anyone the way I had been feeling, so it was a huge relief just to explain how devastated I was at God’s silence, how lonely it felt, and how broken I was because I had been doubting my salvation. She smiled. Heather could see what I could not.
Somehow, I had slipped into thinking that I could do something to make God stop loving me. When I gave my life to Christ, I couldn’t describe it to you by saying that I prayed. It was more like my heart actually had been ripped out of my chest from the sin that I had been living in, and for a long time I had been walking around with it in my hand trying to figure out how to put it back in. I tried a lot of things to make me “whole” again. I did yoga, practiced the various 12 step programs, went to counseling, used my fair share of drugs and alcohol, tried to fix me with relationships, and pretty much anything you can name that I thought would make me feel better. None of it worked, because I was trying to make earthly things repair my spiritual problem. Eventually the consequences of it all led me to prison, and that is where I came to the end of myself. I realized that nothing I done or tried had ever worked. It was a total loss. I was confronted with a dilemma, and I needed a miracle.
I wanted so badly to be free of addiction and of the person I had become. I decided that if God could break the chains that had been holding me down so long, that I would give my life to Him. So one night I cried out to God, and I felt his Spirit fall on me. He delivered me of the desire to use drugs and alcohol instantly! Other things were a process, and some still are. I was genuinely remorseful of the things that I had done to the people in my life. I had hurt so many. I wanted to distance myself as much as possible from the old me. So I started telling everyone around me what Jesus had done for me. I felt the urge to share it with everyone. I started acting differently, talking differently. I was so grateful for the gift I had been given, and it was manifesting itself in my life.
But here go the thing… I was delivered, saved, redeemed before I did any of that! God didn’t wait for me to change my life, until He would give me a new one. He did it when He heard the cry of my heart. If I could have done it on my own, I already would have. That’s not how this works! The word says that as people, we look (or judge) others by the outward appearance, but God looks at our hearts. Salvation doesn’t happen because of the way we act, or the words we say. It is a heart stance!
At my church we don’t do alter calls. If you don’t know what alter calls are, it is an invitation, made by the pastor or leader, for anyone who does not have salvation to come up to the altar to say a prayer to receive Christ into their hearts. As my pastor explained, the reason why we don’t is because sometimes they can be emotion filled moments, but they don’t really get down to the heart of the matter. People say the prayer, and it’s very emotionally powerful, but the next day it’s all but forgotten in some cases. Not to say that it is like that for everyone who answers the invitation, but it has a lot more to do with the persons heart rather than the words they are saying.
You are basically making a decision to forsake all of the brokenness in your life, handing it to God, and giving Him a commitment to follow through. It’s serious. It is like getting married. It’s a huge decision, and it should not be taken lightly. What you are feeling at the time should come second to what your commitment level is, and your faith that God is the true Savior of your life, and the Forgiver of your sin.
We have to come to a place where we realize that we are broken people, living in a broken world, and our only hope is a Savior. We have to get that way down deep inside of us. We have to realize our need for forgiveness for the things that we have done.
Acts 3:19-20 says, “19Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.”
Did you catch that? It’s when we “repent” and “turn” that God wipes away our sin. Not when we repent, turn, and complete this list of righteous tasks. No, He forgives us, based on what the intention of our heart is. It is by His grace. And once we bring our heart, humbly before the Lord, “Then times of refreshment will come” from His presence! What an amazing promise! We don’t earn salvation. He loves us so much, that He gives it freely.
It is a definite symptom of salvation to want to do the right thing in the eyes of God, and the bible clearly tells us that we should follow up our salvation by telling people about Jesus. However, in doing so, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if we make mistakes, and sin again (which sin is 100% sure to happen), that we will lose it. We forget that God does not give things like we give them. He doesn’t give us His love, mercy, and forgiveness and then snatch it back if we anger Him with a bad decision. Once we have made the decision to give our hearts to Him, there is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from His love.
So when I had spoken to Heather that day about my feelings of separation from God she smiled because she could see that my hurting had been caused from His silence in the matter, not because He had actually left me. She could see that if I was that torn up about not feeling His presence, that His presence had to have been there at one time or another. You can’t miss someone you’ve never known! So she helped me to see that, and through that realization I was able to overcome the barrier that had been holding me back from experiencing the fullness of His love, mercy, and forgiveness for me.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38 makes it pretty clear that God doesn’t go back on His commitments to us.
So why do we question it? What is it that is inside of us that makes it so hard to first receive and then hold onto His love? I think that the answers to those questions are not simple, and we will address those questions and many more in the chapters to come. For now, let’s reflect on God’s love for us, and think about our commitment that we have made or are thinking of making to Him.
Can you pinpoint a time in your life, where you humbly made a decision to turn your life over to Christ?
What drove you to make that decision or has been holding you back from making it?
What do you feel your “heart stance” was at the time? Were you aware of the seriousness of the decision?
Have you ever had an experience where you doubted God’s love for you or ever doubted your salvation? If so, what are some things you used to combat those feelings?
What areas of your life are you holding onto that you know you should probably give to God?
My prayer for you this week is that you would seek God. Sometimes the reason why we have a hard time connecting with the eternal gifts He has for us, is because we don’t ask Him to show us. When we draw near to Him, He draws near to us. Lift up your voice to Him. He wants relationship with you, and never stops knocking on the door of your heart.