I’ve often referred to myself as a “cultural Christian.” I grew up in the church, walked the aisle at 8-years-old, said a prayer, and was baptized. Then I spent the next 18 years doubting my salvation and “rededicating” my life again and again. I didn’t have genuine faith. Then, when I was 26, during a women’s Bible study through Romans, I entered into a saving relationship with Jesus. My experience reflects the theme of Denise Wilson’s new book “Seven Words You Never Want to Hear.” I invited Denise to share with you today because I believe this message is important. Thank you Denise for your book and for sharing with my readers today!
I’ve lost count of the number of times I prayed to ask Jesus into my heart. As a child, I used to preface my prayers with the words, “This time I really mean it.” I know I’m not alone. It’s common practice in evangelical Christianity to ask kids to repeat a salvation prayer.
No doubt some kids who ask Jesus into their heart are genuinely saved, but sadly, many aren’t. Despite all my prayers, I wasn’t truly born again until I was fourteen. It happened while attending a Christian youth camp. I don’t look back on a prayer as the proof of my salvation. The funny thing is I don’t even remember praying. I know it was real though because my life began to change.
True Faith Begins with Repentance
False conversions are the result of false gospels. “God loves you and wants you to be in his family” is true, but it’s not the gospel because it leaves out the principle of repentance. The real good news of the gospel starts with understanding the bad news of our sinful condition and our need of a Savior. Without repentance there is no salvation.
A.W. Tozer said,
“It is my opinion that tens of thousands, if not millions, have been brought into some kind of religious experience by accepting Christ and they have not been saved.”
Many are self-deceived, believing that they are right with God, when in fact they are not. I can’t think of anything more frightening than standing before God after death and hearing the words, “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matt. 7:23).
In the context of that passage it’s clear that the people hearing those words claimed to be Christians. They call Jesus Lord and even perform miracles in his name. Despite their outward show of faith, the passage makes it clear that they have no real relationship with God.
The concern is even greater when we realize that it won’t be just a few people. The Bible says, “many” will hear those words (Matt. 7:22).
We Can Know if We have Genuine Faith
To know for sure that our faith is genuine we are told to examine ourselves. Paul gave these words to the church in Corinth.
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Cor. 13:5)
My friend Nancy told me how when she was twelve years old she doubted her salvation and went to her mother to find assurance. Her wise mom didn’t point her back to the time she had prayed to ask Jesus into her heart. No, what she did is what I would advise anyone who wants assurance of salvation. The mother took her to the book of 1 John and went through the tests of genuine faith found there. (You may also enjoy “7 Biblical Truths that Help Us Understand True Faith.”)
God wants us to know for sure that we are his children. If you want to be sure you are saved, take the test. Do you love the world? Has your lifestyle changed? Do you love and justify your sin, or do you hate it? John Piper said, “The mark of a believer is not the absence of sin, but the fact that we are fighting sin.”
The Bible includes these, and many more tests of genuine faith. We don’t want to wait until death to find out if we got it right.
Thank you Denise Wilson for sharing today!
Denise lives in small-town Ontario, Canada, with her husband, two boys and a whole bunch of chickens. She has been passionate about sharing the gospel ever since her conversion experience as a young teen. This passion led to her first book, Seven Words You Never Want to Hear. The book was written out of concern for the “many” who profess faith yet are not truly born again. Find out more about Denise and the book on her website.