“I remember back when I was eight years old, I asked Jesus into my heart.” This is how Colton began our conversation together. He told me about how he was raised in a Christian home, went to church almost every Sunday, and how he was involved in something called “Boy’s Brigade” at his church. Colton went on for awhile, sharing his story, his testimony, and as he revealed more and more about himself to me, I began to recognize a pattern: His story was like so many others, like mine.
Colton spoke about how, shortly after this experience, he drifted away from the church, the Bible, and from Jesus. He got involved in almost everything imaginable that was pleasing to his flesh; he “sinned like the devil,” and happily so for many years. As he spoke, he mentioned that there were times when he would feel guilty for the way he was living and would ask Jesus into his heart again, and again, and again. According to his recollection, a hundred or so times.
He said this went on for many years, until about the age of 32. It was then, sick and tired of his life, guilt and shame weighing him down; knowing there had to be more to this life then what he was experiencing, Colton Acknowledged his sinfulness and with repentant faith trusted Jesus Christ to forgive and cleanse him of his sins!
The pattern I recognized is disturbing. Countless numbers of people have the exact same testimony, myself included, and many fail to realize that nowhere in the Bible are the experiences of people who trusted Christ for salvation ever like this. If you doubt what I am saying, go the scriptures for yourself and find one, just one. I can save you some time, there isn’t any. But there are many examples of people who turned from their sin to Christ and had their hearts dramatically changed by the inner working of the Holy Spirit (The Apostles, Timothy, Lydia, Ethiopian eunuch, Nicodemus, and Zaccheus to name a few). Nowhere in the Bible do we find any one who was truly “born again,” with the Spirit of God dwelling within them, living like they always lived, as enemies of God (Romans 5:8-10; James 4:4).
Perhaps the gospel isn’t being clearly and faithfully taught in our churches. Perhaps our cultural Christianity has corrupted the gospel with some form of error, impurity, or by way of deceit (1 Thessalonians 2:3). Maybe it would be worth the time to open our bibles together and read what the Lord says about, “so great a salvation.”
While thinking through this it became apparent to me that I should qualify the particular issue I am writing about so as to limit any confusion along the way. I AM NOT talking about how a person becomes “born again,” or the order of salvation, as many sound faithful Christians like to debate. What I am reflecting on in regards to salvation is the fruit of it in a persons life; the change the Holy Spirit makes in a redeemed sinner!
Shouldn’t there be some kind of evidence that our heart has been changed if a divine work of God has truly taken place within us (John 3:3-8)? Don’t it make sense then, that after a repentant sinner responds in faith to God’s amazing gift of salvation, that there would be a manifestation of that change in his heart, IN HIS LIFE? Things like a different attitude towards sin, God, and His word. A change of conduct, putting off the old man and putting on the new and living in a manner that is pleasing to Him (Ephesians 4:22-32; Colossians 3:12-17)?
The Bible teaches that at the moment of salvation a believer is sanctified, set apart unto God, and is then identified as one of His children. This aspect of our sanctification is instantaneous and positional, it has to do with our new standing before God. Another aspect of sanctification is known as experiential. This has to do with the work of the Holy Spirit within us, in which He conforms a believer into Christlikeness. He makes them more like His Son through obedience to His written word by the enabling of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 2 Corinthians 3:18). As a new believer moves forward in faith, the old man (the rebel) is left behind and the new man (forgiven) emerges. All things become new now that he has peace with God (2 Corinthians 5:17)!
This, my point, is how we ought to evaluate whether our salvation is the real deal or not. Has your thinking changed? Has your conduct changed? Are you growing spiritually? Are you desiring God and His word? Do you long to be with your savior? These are a few of the questions we should ask ourselves, if we are serious about the character and effect of true biblical regeneration.
Do you know Jesus as your personal savior? Is your testimony like this one? Perhaps the Lord has been merciful towards you by working in your heart over the years drawing you unto Himself, lovingly helping you to see your hopelessness and need of Him. Maybe it’s time to forsake all else and “look unto Him and be saved” (Isaiah 45:22).
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“Little children, make sure no one deceives you, the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous (1 John 3:7).”