jesus saves

i will never forget the moment i accepted Christ. when i was at vacation bible school around seven years old,  i wanted this thing i’d been hearing about since birth that seemed to change everyone around me. i had prayed a prayer at a puppet show previously when i was four–a moment i remember vividly–but i just didn’t feel like it had done the job. maybe if i prayed a little harder and got baptised that would do it, i thought.

it didn’t.

i spent many years of my youth ritualistically praying in my room alone and sometimes with my parents and sometimes in the church pew. i was doing everything right. i threw my system of a down cds in the church trash can and i didn’t know any bad words. i read my bible. why couldn’t i feel secure in my salvation? i would waver between frustration and desperation over this, sometimes being able to put it out of my mind and sometimes plagued with obsession. this created a deeply-rooted insecurity in me that still exists today in my weakest and messiest moment. i started researching the subject of eternal security, a subject that–if you know me well, you know–is something i am very passionate about. i often fail to explain why: it helped me understand the truth of salvation and studying it ultimately led to my personal acceptance of Jesus Christ.

my dad gave me a book when i was 19 that would ultimately end up changing my life. “what every christian ought to know: essential truths for growing your faith.” i started reading it on the way to atlanta for the forward conference the summer of 2007. chapters two and three had me feeling so insecure. here i was on a church trip in a church van going to a church conference with my christian friends, and i was feeling scared that i wasn’t really saved again. a familiar feeling that i liked to put out of my mind. i chalked it up to “everyone feels this way.” but in my heart i knew that i was different than these people around me. my heart wasn’t the same. my joy was flawed and inauthentic. i just didn’t understand.

i started getting angrier as the day went on. i was praying for reassurance. i was praying so hard i was sweating. i remember so vividly telling God how angry i was at him for letting me feel this way. “have i not done enough for You to just give me peace about this? i witness to people for You. i act right. i think right. i do everything i know to do.”

and then i got bold. in the middle of the conference as everyone around me was getting their Jesus on, i was frustrated. i couldn’t take it anymore. i looked up at the ceiling as if Jesus was hanging out in the rafters and i said in prayer that if i could not resolve to know Him i was giving up right then. i would rather revoke everything i had ever said of Him, unlearn everything i had every heard of Him than to feel inauthentic and tired in my “relationship” with Him.

i was scared lightening would strike me dead, as i had been a big rituatlistic actor for years in my faith–and knowing that renouncing Christ was the one unforgivable sin.

then something i will never be able to explain happened. it wasn’t a special song, but i will remember it forever. hillsong united started singing “hosanna” and i started feeling something different in my heart. for the first time in my life, the Lord was clearly speaking to me. the Lord said to me in my heart that i had been putting on a show for years. i had been reaching and doing and trying to climb my way to heaven through my actions and that was just silly, impossible, missing the mark. how could i misinterpret His word after hearing it so often for so long? the reason Christ is different from all other religions in society today is because all I have to do is accept Him. He has done the work for me. He died for me–for every failure, every stumble, every sin in my life and in the lives of all who live.

i cannot save myself. i cannot earn salvation. i cannot gain salvation. i can only accept Him. i accepted Christ that night in 2007. it may sound looney and it may not sound like a moment worthy of explaining in such depth–but in that moment i was finally alive in my Spirit, and i was full of joy knowing what it truly meant that Christ had died on the Cross for me.

i have never really shared that moment before here or anywhere. i had so much pride in being saved since i was a child even after that night. i didn’t want to be seen as a “new christian.” man, my pride has always crippled me. i feel it is important to discuss the journey now, because i realized some things today. salvation doesn’t insure a perfect life. it doesn’t mean putting on a face that everything is OK. it’s not black and white. christians are sinners like everyone. they’re hypocrites and failures and a bunch a gray people in a gray world. it’s Christ in Christ-followers who is unblemished, and sometimes Christians don’t display the Lord accurately. sometimes they don’t display Him at all.

i’ve been conflicted for a year and a half. i started hiding from church. i don’t know if i have been to a service three times between today’s easter service and last year’s. at first i was OK. then i became lazy because of work, and then i didn’t want to admit i was struggling with sin. i didn’t want to admit i had gotten into a pit that i couldn’t get out of. i wanted to still be the erin in choir, organizing mission trips, leading bible studies, interning in the youth department. but i made some choices that i felt were inappropriate for those roles (like drinking, bad relationships, etc.), and i bowed out. rather than seeking Godly council, i progressed to a point where my heart was hard and blinded with my earthly choices.

i realized this today. i kept nursery, and hugging on the babies and seeing lovey-dovey couples made me feel so agonizingly helpless and impatient. i often give in to this desire to keep up with everyone around me. i’m too old to hunt easter eggs. i can’t pretend to be a kid this year to avoid feeling bad. i can’t stay out of work like i could ditch on college classes. i’m almost 24. i want to be on my way to starting a family and a life beyond myself. then i remember that when i accepted Christ, i accepted that even though it’s natural for me to be stubborn, impatient and selfish–i’ve got to wait. if i don’t wait on Him and His time and take things into my own hands, my life will be a tornado full of murk and trash like many moments of the past two years have been. if i do wait, i will be rewarded.

He put Philippians 1:6 in my head to comfort me today. though i am not happy, that’s just my circumstances. i have my joy in knowing that the most important thing in my life, my relationship with Christ, is fully intact and growing again. the Lord has placed specific desires and traits within me. i am not letting go of the hopes i know are of Him for i know i can be confident He will fulfill them in His time. it is my job to take in his word, give to others and live a life each day accepting and appreciating what He did for me on the Cross.

it has never been me. it has always been Him. and i’m glad to have that straightened out in my heart again.

i post this in hopes that my vain journey around the bend for quite some time will resonate with someone who reads this and that they will be inspired to put their pride, their confusion, their stubborness, their sin, their sorrow, their circumstances aside and see the simplicity of returning to Christ.

Philippians 1:6: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”

My two cents for free! [topic: eternal security]

written: Thursday, September 27, 2007

My two cents for free!
Current mood: thankful
Category: Religion and Philosophy

During our ministry time the other day at church, there was a pretty heated debate about the idea, “eternal security” or “once saved, always saved,” which basically means that
once a person accepts Christ as their personal Savior, meaning that
1.) they believe that he is the one and only way to heaven,
2.) they live their life believing and furthering the fact that He sacrificed His life for their personal sin,
3.) and they grow in wanting to know His heart and follow His will for their life
–once they believe and live out these principles, there is no way they can lose eternal life, or their salvation.

For those of you who are perplexed because you’ve never heard anyone argue against the security of your faith in Christ, there is a belief, which is commonly associated with Pentacostal doctrine, that a person can “fall from Grace,” or, in other words, lose your salvation (that the Word of God promises is eternal, as long as one believes in Him.)

(You can obviously tell my stance…i would say “my opinion,” but the Bible states clearly that you cannot lose salvation, and I would gladly be lukewarm on the issue if I didn’t believe it is evident in the Word.)

I won’t get into the argument yesterday, because I did a poor job of keeping emotions under wraps enough to express my point clearly and effectively. I used too many personal examples and opinions instead of focusing on what God clearly states in the Bible.

1: No, i am not regurgitating Baptist doctrine: I am regurgitating my studies of the Word of God, and my interest is based on nothing but curiousity. I don’t think you can say a prayer and live however you want to. I believe salvation is the very act of believing in the Lord and what He has done and is doing in your heart and in this world, and when you believe that, there is evident change in your life–because how couldn’t there be, when you are aiming to be a representation of He who perfectly walked this earth, wholly man and wholly God?

2: Yes, I KNOW being saved is a relationship between you and God. Like I said, Salvation is the very act of believing in the Lord. People draw illustrations and say when sin breaks the line, you have lost your salvation. Well, where is that line? No, I won’t just know–because that isn’t Biblical. There is no such “line,” just like the Bible doesn’t mention an Age of Accountability, so I don’t know how old a kid has to be to be responsible for his salvation. But many Christians hold some made-up idea with age 5 or 7 (Well, how do you know? “I just know.” WRONG.) The Bible doesn’t say it, therefore, it’s just speculation

3: It isn’t my place to judge situations in which people die in sin. It isn’t my place to judge peoples’ hearts as being saved or unsaved. As long as you live believing in Jesus Christ, you are SAVED through His perfect sacrifice. It’s no more complicated than that.

I am merely saying that
the one and only Lord Jesus promises me eternal life, and when you say I can LOSE that eternal life–well, then that eternal life isn’t very eternal then, is it?
And not to mention the fact that I didn’t do anything to derseve it anyway, so what can I do to lose it?
And if I didn’t deserve it, then I sure didn’t earn it, so what sin could earn me “falling from Grace”?

Oh, and doesn’t the Bible happen to mention that all sins are seen as equal in the eyes of the Lord?
So, if you proclaim to be a Christian, yet you are a hopeless gossip your whole life, and you die gossiping–and you KNOW you are living in that sin–will you go to Hell? Will you burn right beside Ted Bundy who murdered countless women? You say, “Erin, now that’s a little extreme. I mean, everyone gossips”
And if all sin is equal like the Bible says, and you happen to believe that living in continuous sin will make you “fall from grace,” then, to me, that is what you seem to be saying.
The above idea seems to create a pretty exclusive, unattainable heaven when in the Bible, God is explained as the God who loves all mankind and wants to see them all saved. It seems like a fearful life of being scared to do anything for fear of losing the gift God gave you unconditionally.

The following is an example of what He didn’t say in John 3:16, a common Bible verse (I added the content in brackets to show an exaggerated form of the “falling from grace” idea),
“For God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him” [and doesn’t commit more than forty sins in a day or live in sin for more than two weeks] “shall not perish and have everlasting” [as long as you don’t break “the sin line” which is up to you to figure out where that is, so long as you know that the everlasting part is conditional upon your actions, minimizing the sacrifice of the most perfect Jesus on the cross] “life.”
NO, it says, “whosoever believes in HIM shall not perish and have everlasting life,” meaning there are no other conditions God thinks important enough to add in to qualify you for life eternal.

He didn’t say you will have it as long as you’re pretty much sin-free.
Why do people make God so difficult?
If he wanted you to know you could lose your salvation, He’d make it clear in the Bible. If He wanted you to know your salvation was secure for eternity, He would say so in the Bible–OH WAIT, HE DOES!
So, it’s not much of a debate anymore to me.
No, it isn’t an essential truth in order to get into heaven.
But it is a pretty exhausting way to live life if you don’t have to.
And, yes, it is an unarguable Biblical truth. Not taken out of context. Not watered down. Not squeezed or analyzed to make it seem like that’s what it may mean. It’s black and white. Word for word IN THE WORD OF GOD.

(i’d love to hear anyone’s findings in the Bible about this issue. Opinions are ok, too, but, not to be rude, you are wasting your breath if you don’t give me a verse, in context, to back it up. Because if God didn’t say it, or if words are being manipulated, I’m really not interested.)

Currently listening :
In Christ Alone
By Keith & Kristyn Getty
Release date: 28 August, 2007