When I was in college, I lived with the perpetual fear that somehow I had missed the salvation boat, that although I had placed my trust in Jesus, in the end, I would come before God’s throne, and He would shake His head and say, “I’m sorry, but you just thought you were saved.”
I tried to eliminate every vice I could, told everyone who would listen about Jesus, and surrounded myself with other believers. I showed up for church services, volunteered to help the needy, read my Bible, and tried to pray without ceasing. But I still couldn’t shake the fear of condemnation.
I had asked Jesus to come into my heart when I was 5 years old, but my childhood innocence evaporated into shameful teen activity that included uncontrolled anger, unforgiveness, gossip, and sexual permissiveness. So I figured that I hadn’t really been saved as a child, and I wasn’t sure what I needed to prove that my salvation had finally taken after I came back to Jesus.
You can only ride the salvation insecurity rodeo so long before you fall to the ground and beg for mercy, which is what eventually happened to me. It was a years-long process that I wouldn’t relive if you paid me, and it eventually led me to the conclusion that, yes, I certainly do need to be able to point to a moment in time where I’m absolutely sure I was saved, but that moment doesn’t have anything to do with saying a prayer or herculean efforts to act like a Christian.
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, NKJV). I think it’s interesting that Jesus used the metaphor of birth to help us understand salvation.
I don’t remember the day I was born, and you don’t either. The reason: Newborn babies don’t have the capacity to understand what’s happening to them when they come into the world. And I think that’s true of a lot of Christians as well. They grow up in the faith, they agree with the beliefs of their parents, and eventually, they embrace those beliefs for themselves.
When are those folks saved? Are they saved the day they say the sinner’s prayer? No, the Bible doesn’t say anything about a prayer saving anyone. Are they saved the day they believe? Well, yes (Acts 16:31) — but for a lot of us, it’s really hard to tell when exactly that first happened.
That doesn’t provide a satisfying answer for most of us, though. We want to be able to point to a moment when we can say, without a doubt, that Jesus saved us. Well, Hebrews 10:14 tells us that “by a single offering,” that is, by Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross, God “has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” We’re certainly responsible for working out that perfection “with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), but nothing we’ve done can add to the work that was completed by Christ on the cross.
So the next time you get insecure about your salvation, don’t get antsy if you don’t remember the exact day (or year) it happened. Stop and remind yourself that it happened late one afternoon, 2,000 years ago on a hill in Palestine. If that doesn’t convince you, nothing will.