At this point, after reading my previous post, you might wonder what happened to me as a child, did I ever get over the dread of being separated from my mother and family? Well, yes I did – but it wasn’t the Evangelical way. To the Evangelical, assurance of salvation is extremely important. They will hand out Bible verses that are not meant to be questioned, very often they will want you to record the day and time in some manner, they will emphasize that your salvation is assured at every turn they have; but there was nothing in those things that I found at all helpful. Not the verses, not the prayers, not the preaching; none of it was helpful – there had to be something else.
When I was 14, not quite having turned 15 yet, my mother was again late coming home; and, as normal I had begun to panic. I remember I was pacing the floors again, I was in tears again, I was again in hysterics that I had been left alone. But this time, instead of reading my Bible for comfort, or recalling the verses I had memorized, or praying for God to “save” me again, I remember I kneeled down at the side of my bed and prayed “God, I can’t do this anymore! Bible verses don’t work, and I have asked you to save me so many times, I don’t know if I am saved or not. But please God, just take this fear away.”
At that moment, I felt something I never knew before, I felt peace, total peace. I got up from the side of my bed, and looked out the window to see my mother walking up the sidewalk. I just watched her. I didn’t feel the same “safe for another day” feeling that I normally did, I just felt at peace. I knew then that those feelings of dread that I had experienced so often would never return, God had taken them away – and they never did return.
I did continue to believe in the Rapture for another 12 yrs or so, but it never held me in the grip of fear again that it once did. That day, kneeling beside my bed, God worked a miracle in my life; God became real to me that day. That day I found a God that was, for whatever reason, able to reach into people’s hearts and minds in ways that words in the Bible, and theories spoken by preachers could never do.
The Evangelical reading this would probably say that this was the moment I was “truly saved”, my conversion. I have nothing against that – I do actually believe in the concept of conversion. On that day, I see my conversion to being a disciple of Christ beginning, it was not the final step, it was not enough be “saved”, one had to begin a journey to follow Jesus in teaching, example, and life, as well as in death and resurrection.
The best way I know how to describe the Evangelical view of conversion is that they will look at “salvation” or “conversion” and see Jesus as a kind of façade. The façade of a building is the front – where the entrance is. It can be very beautiful and most architects place special emphasis on this part of the buildings design; but it is only the façade. What is inside is where we find the functionality of the building, why it is there and how it is of value. Look at John 10:9: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved…” This is Jesus the door of salvation. Evangelicals will see salvation as this. Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, which open the door of salvation; but is there anything on the other side of this door? I did not find anything in Evangelicalism to show me there was.
Evangelicals will overwhelmingly believe in the “once saved always saved” idea, and the majority will believe in the “salvation by faith alone” idea; but as time has gone by I have begun to realize that the Evangelical salvation is really a very theoretical salvation. It requires little by way of practical application. Sure, they will want you to go to church (their churches), and they will want you to “grow in Christ” (as they define it), but there is little requirement for discipleship. I define discipleship as following the teachings of Jesus and His example. This lack of discipleship tends to leave a kind of void, a gap in understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus (i.e. Christian). This void has proven to be easy to manipulate and take advantage of by leaders whose motivations have actually been the advancement their own political position and influence. People like Jerry Falwell, his son Jerry Falwell Jr. and Pat Robinson on the religious side, and like Pat Buchannan, Ted Cruz, and even George Bush on the political side. All sought to manipulate the void created by an incomplete, and misunderstood idea of “salvation” toward their own ends and political standing
We must see that John 10:9 goes on: “…he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Then in the next few verses Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd. These words stand out to me though here: Go in and out, find pasture… This is not a passive, theoretical salvation I see here, it is an active salvation. It is one of movement, and finding safety and nourishment in Jesus.
It took a number of years of moving forward and backward, in and out, before I came to terms with the ramifications of what happened to me that day – and in many ways I still am working on that. What I can say with certainty is that I learned that being a Christian was not about saying a prayer that will hopefully get you to heaven and keep you out of hell; that is not what conversion is. Christianity is about the life we live here and now, and how we live as Christ lived. What I have learned in my Christian life is that Jesus, Jesus alone, is the Way. The way we should be living our lives now, not just to go to heaven, not just to believe in the crucifixion and resurrection, but Jesus is the example we need to look at to live our lives every day. I learned that Jesus is the Truth; not our preachers (and definitely not our politicians), they don’t hold the truth – only Jesus, and Jesus alone. And I learned that Jesus is the Life; the life we should be living right now. Our churches do not hold the key to Life, our preachers do not hold the key, Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Way to the Truth about the Life we should be living. (John 14:6)