Stories of Salvation
I Thought I Was a Christian, But I Wasn't!
by Erin Nelson
For years, I claimed to be a Christian. I believed in God, even loved God. I was baptized, went to church, read my Bible, taught Sunday School, sang in the choir, told others about Jesus, listened to Christian music, wore Christian T-shirts and even trained to be a Christian radio DJ. I went on foreign missions trips, was selected to be the next leader of my college Bible club and was commonly referred to as "the God Squad Girl". I attended several Christian churches throughout my life and in all that time... here's the kicker... I never understood the Bible, never heard the gospel and was actually NOT a true Christian!
One spring day I'd had it. I knew something was wrong but I didn't know exactly what. I remember I was driving down the road and I said to God, "I don't know where you are. Why does it feel like you're on the other side of the world? Oh God! I HAVE to know where I am and where you are! Please, if you could just draw a line for me and show me where on that line you are and where on that line I am, then I'll know what's going on." Months passed and I had no answers. Eventually, I transferred to another university in another town and began looking for answers again.
It was fall. The new semester just started and a church brochure showed up at my apartment door. I thought to myself, "This is God showing me where he wants me to go!" So I went to this church and begged the pastor there to show me what I had to do to get close to God and have a REAL relationship with him. He told me I needed to be baptized by immersion ...now keep reading because this is not at all where the story ends! I was assured by the other folks in the church that once I came up out of the water, I would be a new person. God would shower his power upon me and I would have visions, see angels, speak in tongues, hear unearthly music and somehow I would be swept into a mystical relationship with God Almighty. I was so excited! I couldn't wait to get truly close to God. So, I went to the church, got my baptism robe on, went down into the water with such anticipation and hope and when I came up out of the water -- voila! -- I was wet. And that is all...beside being very, very angry! I knew I'd been lied to. Nothing happened. I spent the rest of the evening with a half smile on my face as the church folks celebrated my "salvation". I left the party early and never went back.
I was devastated. I complained, cried and begged God to reveal himself to me. I even wrote letters to him out of sheer desperation.
Shortly after, I was walking through the commons at the Student Hall and saw a familiar face. It was a the short little Indian man I'd seen before from one of the campus ministries. I stopped to talk him and get information about his club. We shot the breeze a few minutes and I pretended to be a "super-Christian" but once the hall cleared, I removed the "mask" and asked him, "Why does it seem like God is on the other side of the world?"
Arun smiled at me with the warmest eyes I'd ever seen and he asked me to come sit down with him. Then he did something no one had EVER done for me. He opened the Bible, put it in my hands and said "read these verses." I read scriptures about sin, hell and repentance, verses I had never seen before. For the first time since I asked the Lord to show me where I was on that line and where he was on that line... I KNEW the answer!!!
It was the most wonderful day of my life up to that point. The frustration, the wondering, the waiting was over! At last, I knew where I was in relation to God, and let me tell you what I found out that day: I wasn't even ON THE LINE. I was beneath it. Waaaaayyyyy beneath! And God? He wasn't on the line either. He was waaaaayyyy above it! Arun didn't explain any of this to me. God's Word alone made it very clear to me that I did NOT know God.
Arun shared with me many more verses and I realized, not only was I not saved, I was a sinner. No, wait! Please understand...I don't mean I was a sinner. I mean, I was a SINNER!!!!! All of a sudden God's Word opened my eyes to what I really was and it was UGLY! It became very apparent to me that I had DEEPLY offended a holy God and I was LOST, HELL-BOUND, and in BIG TROUBLE. So the best day of my life was also the scariest. I knew at that moment I had to be saved.
Over the next couple months I attended Bible studies led by Arun and went with him to a sound, Bible preaching church where I learned more about God and his plan to save me from the penalty of my sin. Though I understood my peril, I was comforted knowing God loved me and gave his Son to die for me so I could escape my fate. The Holy Spirit dealt with me through the preaching of his Word.
I struggled a little with some false teachings that prevented me from fully understanding exactly how one puts their faith in God. Somehow I got it in my head that faith was some kind of mystical spirituality you had to earn over years of being "good" but God broke through all that confusion and showed me that faith was simply believing the promises he made to save me and trusting him to keep those promises. That's all I needed to understand. So on the night of March 6, 1995, at 21 years old, I went out to my car (for total privacy) and asked God to forgive me and save my soul. I put my complete trust in his Son for the payment of my sin and to rescue me from eternal damnation. My salvation was real and all these years later, I am so happy to be a real Christian and I KNOW IT.
If you're not perfectly sure you're saved, you CAN know. The Bible says "... that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). God wants us to have assurance of our salvation AND he wants us to get the real deal...true salvation and not an imitation. Even though I desired to do right, please God and be a good Christian, I never had any assurance my salvation was real until God stepped in and showed me through his Word what I needed to do to be saved. And you know what? It was not at all a bad thing for me to find out I'd never really been saved. It was a very good thing, in fact, for me to examine myself against the Word of God and to allow him to show me my true condition. God wants us to KNOW if our salvation is real or a sincerely-made false profession. The way to do that is to let God's Word show you where you are spiritually and follow the leading of the HolySpirit by that Word. You shall know the Truth and the Truth will make you free... and that's a promise you can absolutely believe God for!
Stories of Faith
More to Come!