Doubting Your Salvation
Now here's a subject that often causes fear and trepidation in the minds of church goers. I know it did in mine for many years. Growing up in the "Bible Belt" in the southeastern part of the United States my first recognition of guilt and a feeling of sheer panic occurred one Sunday morning at the tender age of seven while attending my mother's church. I do not recall the sermon delivered by the preacher but what I do recall is the manner in which he delivered it. His face indicated that he was angry. I remember he shouted through most of his message. He painted a picture of hell fire that was so desperately hot that once you found yourself in such a place there would be no escape.
The custom of this particular congregation was to sing a hymn following the preacher's sermon called an "invitational hymn." Like many churches this was the time to consider what the preacher had said in his sermon and if a congregant felt convicted in his or her heart and needed to make a decision of any sort while the music played one could slip out into the aisle and walk toward the front of the church. There was a kneeling alter where congregants could kneel in prayer and one by one the preacher would come to each person and counsel with them concerning their particular need.
While the music played I found myself replaying the picture of this terrible place. In my mind's eye I saw my seven year old body falling into this flame and I kept hearing the idea that you will be there forever and ever and ever! As tears ran down my face I looked at my mother and she asked me if I wanted to walk down to the front of the church. I told her that I would go. By the time I stepped out into the aisle there was absolutely no room for me to kneel at the alter. The preacher was busy counseling most of the congregation who had responded to his sermon. Since there was no place to kneel I simply sat down on the first pew and waited for the preacher to come counsel me. It took quite a long time for him to get to everyone. By the time he finished with the ones kneeling he offered a prayer of benediction and dismissed the congregation. You know how it is, people need to get home for Sunday lunch.
So there I sat on the first pew, the church congregation getting up an leaving to go home and no one came to inquire about my need. With no resolution to my panic I carried this burden for years. As time went by I bet I walked down several church aisle trying to find some sense of resolution.
I have observed numerous tactics for getting congregants to walk the aisle to make some decision for Jesus. I recall one revival preacher during an invitation begin to ask the congregation on what he called "family night" if you are a father come down to the front of the church. He kept asking people various questions like if you are a mother or a daughter or a son etc. to come to the front until he had just about every person in the congregation standing in front of the platform. Then he made this statement, "I bet you never thought you would walk down the aisle of a church. Now that you are here let's do business with God."
Now you may disagree with me and that is certainly your prerogative but to me that is not how to convey the love of God in Christ Jesus to anyone. In my opinion what I experienced that evening was manipulation and it reminded me of the first time I heard it as a seven year old.
So where does the notion of doubting one's salvation come from? As I have pondered this question it is becoming clear to me that there is a glitch in the message of salvation that I internalized growing up. I was told that in order to be 'saved" I had to invite Jesus into my heart. I bet I asked Jesus into my heart hundreds if not thousands of times but I continued to suffer with bouts of doubting my salvation. Not too long ago I made an earth shattering discovery that has not only rocked my world but has completely put to rest the notion to ever doubt my salvation again.
Allow me to direct your attention to Galatians 1:15-16. For those of you that hold the King James Version of the Bible in high esteem I'm choosing that version. The Apostle Paul speaking, "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
In the sixteenth verse it says "To reveal his Son in me ..." When I discovered that God had revealed his Son in me meant that God wouldn't reveal something that wasn't already there. That's what revelation is, a removing of the veil. Salvation is in Christ and this Christ was revealed in me. It says in John's gospel, Jesus speaking, "In that day you will know that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you." No more doubts! Thanks be to God!