Submitted: December 29,2010 | Written by Jessica Mahon |
When I was seven years old I lived with my mom and stepdad in a small, rural town in west Texas. Although they were not technically Christians at the time, my parents regularly took me to services at Immanuel Baptist Church, and it was there in Sunday school that I learned John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” As I was leaving class that day my teacher, Paul Webb, said to me, “All you have to do is ask Jesus to come into your heart.”
I don’t remember responding to him at that point, but I did ponder on his words and that verse for the rest of the day, and it was still on my heart as I climbed into bed that night. I decided to take my teacher’s advice and do just that: ask Jesus to come into my heart. But just as I was about to, this question popped into my head: “Now, you’re not just doing this because Paul told you to, right? You have to really mean this.” I only had to think for a split second before I knew for sure: Yes, I really do want Jesus in my heart, and I really do want eternal life. Although no one had told me specifically what ‘eternal life’ meant, I remember being under the impression that it meant I was going to Heaven. So I prayed: “Jesus, please come into my heart. Please be with me and live in me, and be Lord of my life.”
All of a sudden I felt lighter. Happier. I went to sleep that night snuggled in a blanket so warm and peaceful that it can only be described as God’s love.
I continued to go to church regularly and, despite my mother’s disapproval, cheerfully gave all my birthday money to the offering plate and Sunday school change jar. I read many Bible stories and tried on more than one occasion to read the Bible all the way through, but I usually got hung up in the book of Numbers trying to keep up with all those “begotteds.” I carried my Bible to school with me and wanted to share its stories with all the people I knew whom I thought could benefit from knowing the living God, but my enthusiasm was greatly diminished by the many discouragements from my teachers and then-unsaved parents.
No one ever explained to me the ramifications of being saved, the responsibilities, the rules…. No one ever told me that I couldn’t lose my salvation. So, like anyone else who’s uneducated in God’s set definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ I was easily led astray and spent practically all of my teenage years in an anguishing conscience battle as I simultaneously searched for God and worldly acceptance: two completely incompatible things. (…Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. James 4:4)
I stopped going to church when I got my first job, which was right after high school graduation. Soon thereafter I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and married my high school sweetheart, Justin. After about nine months we found ourselves both unemployed and, desperate for income, took up a job delivering phone books, which was both exhausting and miserable. But it was then when we’d hit rock bottom that God reached down His hand and offered us a lift: we delivered a phone book to a preacher who called himself Brother Champion. Upon finding out that Justin was a computer geek he quickly offered him a job, followed by an invitation to church service at his house. I’ll admit I was reluctant to go at first; Bro. C seemed quite eccentric and had more energy than I’d seen in any white-haired man before, but, knowing deep down that I needed to be in church, eventually gave in. And wouldn’t you know it, all my doubts and suspicions about Bro. C were completely dissipated upon meeting his wife, Pat, who is the sweetest, kindest, and gentlest woman I’ve ever met (and Bro. Champion’s not half bad, either!).
Week after week we kept coming back and Bro. C showed us more and more about what the Bible says about being a Christian. I realized that I hadn’t been doing a lot of the things a Christian should do, and began to doubt my salvation (after all, nobody had ever told me that I couldn’t lose it in the first place), so when Justin prayed to receive the Lord Jesus as his Savior, I did too. I asked God to forgive me for all the wrong things I had done in my life, and to please guide me and rule my heart. I meant what I said, but this time I just didn’t feel any different. My prayer was not in vain, though. Since I hadn’t received any real Biblical instruction during my life as a Christian up until then, that became my new starting point; a rededication, if you will, of offering myself to learn and do the will of the Lord, and I have done my best to stick to that decision. A few months later I was finally baptized as a symbol of how Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose again all to save me from my sins, and to show that I have died to myself and have been born again, a new creature in Christ. And I have learned more in the short time that I’ve been under the instruction of Bro. Champion than all those other years combined.
If there was one thing that I’d want the person reading this to know, it’s that you can be absolutely certain that you’re going to Heaven. As the saying goes, “If you’re 99% sure you’re going to Heaven, you’re 100% wrong.” Jesus Christ died on the cross 2000 years ago to pay the price for all our sins (All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6) because He was the only one who could. We, by ourselves, are unworthy and unable to get to Heaven (For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23), and no matter how good of a person you are, or how often you go to church, or how much you donate to charity, it would never be enough to make up for all your transgressions. (For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8,9) Remember the lie you told as a child when you did something wrong and didn’t want to get caught? That piece of candy you stole? The mean or inappropriate thoughts you had about a classmate or coworker? Even “little” sins are still sins, and God considers them such serious offenses that just one is all it takes to set you on the road to hell.
But there’s hope! You may be hell bound right now, but making a complete turnaround is as easy as saying a prayer. It starts with repentance: a change of mind that agrees with God that we are sinners, and that we don’t want to be sinners any longer (God…now commandeth all men every where to repent… Acts 17:30 ). We have to agree with God and believe that what Jesus did on the cross was for us. In Acts 16:30-31, the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas: “…’Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved….'” We simply believe on Him as the One who bore our sin, died in our place, was buried, and whom God resurrected (That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9-10). (For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:13). Just ask the Lord to come into your heart and save your soul, it’s that easy! And when you do, rest assured that from then on, you have a place in heaven, and nothing you ever do can change that. Once saved, always saved! (These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life… 1 John 5:13). Ever since I learned the truth about my salvation, there has been a peace in my soul, and I can’t wait until the day when I get to meet my Lord and Savior face-to-face in Heaven! I hope I see you there!
Association: Southern Baptist