We’ve been going through a sermon series at Blueprint called Genuine Faith, focusing on the book of 1 John. As part of this series, Pastor John O. has reminded us that there are four kinds of people in the world: those who are saved and know it, those who are not saved and know it, those who are not saved and think they are, and those who are saved and don’t know it. Today’s post is a story from the third category. There I was, standing in front of everyone. My mother had waved me down the aisle of our small Missionary Baptist Church to make the “walk of faith.” I looked over to my left as my cousin stood there next to me smiling from ear to ear. She had done this before and all I could remember was her whispering to me, “You’re saved now!” After the pastor asked me a few questions, which I had memorized because I had seen many others go before me, I recited the three affirmative answers: ‘Yes.’ My baptism was scheduled and concluded a couple of weeks later and I was saved – or so I thought.
Many people, like myself, have suffered from what I like to call the simplification of salvation syndrome. This is where churches convince hundreds if not thousands of unassuming sinners to believe that a simple repetition of a prayer, a walk down an aisle, or a “spiritual” experience has relieved them from the wrath of God and permanent residence in hell in the next life. While I feel there is great need to call these churches to a greater level of accountability in how they propose salvation to people, I realize now that the church’s negligence never absolved me of the responsibility I had to genuinely understand the gravity of my sin and the true work of Christ to free me from that sin. This is not to completely disregard the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people who come to know Christ in these ways, but it is to say that the people who come to faith in these ways do not always possess a certain grasp of what true salvation is.
The fact of the matter is that real conversions require real understanding. “Understanding of what?,” you may ask. Understanding of three essential things:
- One’s sinfulness and the penalty for that sin
- The work of Christ in saving sinners
- Understanding what it means to repent and turn from sin to a life of service and devotion to Christ
The fact of the matter is that my misunderstanding of these essential facts led me to believe I was saved, but in the truest sense I had not come to grips with my sin, I had not believed and confessed Christ as Lord, and I definitely had not repented. In my thoughts, words, and actions there was no real evidence of the transformative power of the gospel… until I went to college.
At this time, I sat in a seat at yet another church and again there was another petition from God for my life. However, this petition was different. In this pastor’s speech there was no quick rambling off of phrases that were repeated verbatim each week, there was no urging me to come to the front of the church, there was no pressure from him at all. However, there was an extreme urge on the inside of me, a pull towards something I felt was innately better, but that I could not explain on my own. More so, I felt an extreme discomfort with the inconsistencies in my life in comparison to what the pastor was speaking and the Bible was explaining. There, for the first time, what I now know as conviction had gripped my heart and I truly understood what my sin was like in God’s eyes and what the remedy was. I wrestled with this reality for a couple of weeks afterwards, but in a moment of sobering realization I knelt in prayer to confess and repent to God for my sin, and I was saved.
Now, not every person has a story as dramatic as mine or even as clearly defined as mine, but each believer has a story. If you cannot identify a point in time or a span of time where the gospel wrecked your life and changed the way you viewed yourself, Jesus, and life, I would urge you to ask yourself a few critical questions:
- Do I understand that I am a sinner and what the consequences of my sin are?
- Do I understand and believe in who Christ is and why He is so important?
- If I do understand these first two things, am I willing to ask God’s forgiveness for my sin and live my life in grateful service toward Him?
- Am I willing to submit to a church that encourages me to grow spiritually and live my new life in community?
All of these questions helped me understand my true need for Christ when I was genuinely converted, and I believe that they can help anyone seeking to know God even now.