John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
My friend, Theresa (pictured above with my mom), went to be with the Lord in July. She was only in her early 40s and it has been hard to deal with. It has been very hard for her family. But, there is one thing for which I am extremely thankful, and that is the knowledge that she is with the Lord.
You see, it hasn’t been so many years since Theresa discovered that, though she’d been “in church” (Independent Baptist) all her life, she was not really born again. She was not trusting the Lord only for her salvation. She was trusting in the fact that she was “active in church”, that she was doing so many “right” things. That is, until the Lord literally knocked her props out from under her.
It happened along these lines: Her family went through some difficult situations over the course of some years. Much of the trouble was associated with “church life”, as it were. Eventually, her husband decided to take his family “out of church” entirely, at least for awhile. I know a lot of people would denounce this as a “bad decision” and sure to produce “bad results”. As it turned out, it was exactly what the Lord had planned for Theresa at that time. He knew it would take that to get her attention.
Because she was trusting in all her activities in the church environment to prove to herself and to others that she was “saved”, it took the removal of all those things to shake her up and make her unsure of her salvation. Had she continued “in church” as she knew it, she might have never had those false props knocked out from under her. When she was no longer playing the piano, working in the nursery or with the children, attending services and helping out in various other ministries (real or invented), she no longer had anything to rest upon as proof of her salvation.
Well, during this time of upheaval in her spiritual life, the Lord led her to read my dad’s web page on the Gospel of John. As she read through it, she came to some point where she disagreed with his comments. She called her husband’s attention to it and asked him, “Do you believe that?” Her husband read it, and as it was a simple restating what John had written under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, her husband said that, yes, that was true and he believed it. She said simply, “I don’t.”
This began a teaching time in which her husband took her through the Gospel of John himself and taught her what the Bible clearly says we must believe to be saved. Anything she didn’t understand or felt she didn’t believe they went over carefully and he explained those things to her, reasoning from the word of God. Finally, she came to the point where she realized that she believed the Gospel, and she marked her true salvation from that time.
I have a tremendous respect for Theresa about this. She was brave in being willing to admit that she was wrong and to put her trust in Christ. And yet, it was not a public show made for men’s eyes, but a quiet and true decision that she made in the privacy of her own home. Humanly speaking, it is hard for a person to humble herself and admit that she was never born again after she has worked as a Sunday School teacher, done good works, been “faithful in church”, been baptized, become a “member in good standing”, and generally been thought to be a “good, godly person”. It’s likely there will be some family and friends who won’t believe it and will deny that this person had not already been saved. It takes courage and humility to face this. And, sadly, there are many people who, though raised in “a Christian home” and spending their entire life “going to church”, are not really saved.
For my own part, I could tell the difference in Theresa. While I had presumed that she was saved before, there had always been this strange thing between us that I couldn’t account for nor understand. I call it a wall, partly because it felt like something I couldn’t get through. Also, though she was friendly and helpful, I always felt as if she thought she was competing with me for some reason. I couldn’t understand it at the time, but in retrospect it makes a lot of sense. You see, because she was trusting her works for her salvation – or, rather for the proof of it – she was undoubtedly comparing herself with others to establish her position with God in her own mind. In other words, she was thinking, though probably unconsciously, “I’m better than that person, so I know I’m saved.”
2 Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
After Theresa became a true believer, that wall, that tension of competition, was gone between us! If you have never experienced such a thing, you can’t imagine how real it can be. She was literally a different person, a new creature in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
We became such good friends that I counted her among those who “spoke my language”. (You know…those friends whom you can talk to without having to stop and explain everything. When you tell them a thought or a feeling you had, they “get it” right away without seeming puzzled.) She also was a great blessing to me because of the great love she grew to have for God’s word. Though I didn’t always agree with her, I knew that she was striving diligently to compare herself with God’s word, rather than with other people. She was also a tremendous blessing in my life during a health crisis that I went through shortly after she was saved.
Having told her story here, I expect that you can understand how thankful I am to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is with the Lord. How merciful and kind our Father was to allow her to live long enough to realize she was not saved, to understand and believe the gospel, and to have an opportunity to pass that on to her children.
What about you? If you are reading this today then the Lord has allowed you to live to this day for a reason. If you are trusting in your good works – your church attendance; your activity in the choir, nursery, visitation, youth ministry, etc. – to establish your salvation, you are not trusting the right things. Those things never could and never will save anyone. It is the Lord Jesus Christ alone who will and can save.
Titus 3:4-7 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
What are you trusting for your own salvation? Do you think that only people who are “in church” or who are doing “_____________” can be saved? Do think that only people who keep Moses’ Law can be saved? If you stopped “going to church” how would you know you are saved? Would you know because you have believed, or would you stand in doubt? Are you proving your salvation to yourself and others through you works, rather than resting in the finished work of Christ? My desire is not to compel saved people to doubt their salvation. My hope is to help someone who is trusting in their works to realize this and turn to Jesus Christ before it is too late. Life is short. There is not time to be mistaken on this subject.
If you have any doubt please go and read this page on the Gospel of John.
If you are already saved then you are alive still this day because God has some work for you to do. Are you going about your Father’s business?
1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
Also please see: Faith Is Rest