Newborn babies are often ugly, red, and misshapen from the rigors of birth, but they are undeniably beautiful in their own right. Innocent and fragile, they are unspoiled by life.
So, too, is there a beauty to be found in the newborn believer. Freed from sin's dominion, a new innocence surrounds the baby Christian and a hunger for God pervades his life. Older Christians often gain new encouragement from the exuberance of new Christians.
I'd like to share my story with you. (This is long but is, I think, worth the read.)
I grew up in a truly Christian home where God and His Word affected every aspect of life. My parents' Christianity was more than the average "church time" Christianity. They didn't just claim Christ with their mouth; they lived Him in every facet of their lives. For example, if we children wanted to go to a friend's house, we asked Mom and Dad for permission, of course. However, they wouldn't just say yes or no. Instead, as a matter of course, they would open the Bible to a random passage, choose a verse, and see if it appeared to give a positive or negative response. Now, I realize that this seems very extreme, and I can't say that I follow this course of action myself, but it is a great illustration of how much God was a part of everyday life.
Of course, having Christian parents and growing up in a Christian home didn't save me, for salvation is an individual decision that only I could make for myself.
I always wanted to please my parents and do what was right. When I was very young, possibly four or five, I can remember my Dad explaining salvation to me and asking if I would like to get saved. I said yes because I knew that would please my Dad, but I certainly didn't understand what I was doing. This profession of salvation did nothing for my soul, for the desire to please your parents is not what saves you.
When I was about nine years old, we had half a watermelon for lunch one Sunday. Mom put the rest in the refrigerator and told us not to touch it because we would eat it after supper that night. Loving sweets of any form, I found the watermelon irresistible. I took a thin sliver from the top and then a little more. I'd leave and come back to eat "just a little more" until I was horrified to realize that I had eaten a huge chunk of watermelon. When Mom saw the watermelon, she was angry and demanded to know who had eaten it. Knowing that I would be in trouble once I told her that I was the culprit, I lied and vehemently declared that I had nothing to do with the crime. After church that night, she told me that she knew I was the guilty party and that, instead of only being punished for disobedience, I would be punished for lying to her as well. At this point, I burst into tears and sobbed out that I needed to be saved. The ruse worked: Mom and Dad gladly led me to "salvation," and I got out of the much-deserved punishment. This profession did nothing for my soul, for "salvation" for the purpose of evading punishment is duplicitous, and God will not honor lying.
Two years later, my family attended revival preached by J. Harold Smith. On the last night, he preached his famous sermon, "God's Three Deadlines," about people passing the deadlines that God sets for our salvation. Scared of going to hell, I went forward and made a profession of salvation.
In the years that followed, I lived the Christian life to the best of my ability. Anyone who knew me would have declared me to be not only a Christian, but a good one. Yet I struggled with assurance of salvation for a long time. I couldn't understand wherein the problem lay. I had asked Jesus to save me from my sins, and He promised that whosoever comes to Him will not be cast out. Then why the constant battle for assurance?
Over the past year, the battle intensified. I tried confessing my sins to God, sure that my unconfessed sin was the cause of my doubt. I grew weary of the struggle, and at one point I even told God, "I am tired of fighting! Go away and just leave me alone!" I immediately regretted thinking that, for it seemed as though God did go away, which terrified me. If I truly wasn't saved, I sure didn't want Him leaving me alone to die and go to hell!
Finally, on Monday morning, June 18, 2007, God used a dream to get my attention. In it, my former pastor's wife made a simple statement about our being sure of our salvation. Apparently, she saw something in my face, for she laid her hand on my arm and asked me, "Aren't you?" As I sobbed out that I was not sure, she called to her husband, and the dream faded. I woke to find tears streaming down my face as I realized that, in my dream, I had finally admitted what I was too proud to admit in my waking moments: I was not sure of my salvation.
The first thought that came into my head was to call my (current) pastor's wife. As I got up to turn on our bedroom light, Satan fought me with all his might. That may sound weird to you, but, believe me, the battle was real.
"Just think what people will say; everyone knows you are a Christian! Think about what your Mom will say - she'll be so disappointed that you're making another profession. Don't call Mrs. W.; it's too early, and you don't want to disturb her. Besides, you're already a Christian. Remember that profession of faith you made nearly 20 years ago?"
"No!" I literally said this out loud. "I am going to get saved!"
I reached for the phone book and found my pastor's name. I dialed the number, but when it rang, I was disappointed to hear the church's answering machine come on. Of course!
Satan tried again. "Don't bother her. It's too early!"
"No!" I repeated as I found my pastor's home number. I dialed the correct number but was disheartened when my pastor answered. I wanted to talk to his wife! I asked for her, and he immediately handed her the phone.
"I hope it's not too early and that you aren't too busy, but I just wanted to talk to you," I said.
"Well, I'm packing for the missions conference, and we have to leave in a few minutes," was her reply.
"I just want to get saved!" I burst out.
"Oh! Well, let me give you to my husband," she replied.
Pastor led me to salvation, and I prayed, asking forgivenes for my sins and acknowledging that I had been trusting in my profession of faith for my salvation but that I now trusted in the Person of Jesus Christ for my salvation. After I hung up the phone, the chorus to an old song kept ringing through my mind:
Oh! I know it's real.
Praise God, the doubts are settled,
For I know, I know it's real!
Do pray for me. If Satan cannot keep a person from getting saved, the next best thing to is to keep him (her, in my case) from serving the Lord. He has already launched a strong attack, and I do not want to be derailed in my Christian life.