For the last several weeks I have been mentoring a young woman who came to our church because of her interest in reformed Baptist theology. Like me, and so many of our membership, she comes from a Southern Baptist background. And as so many others I have met, she questions the decision that she made when she was a child—a decision to accept Christ, so as to escape hell. As with many who grow up and encounter a different gospel—the truth that she never heard before—she is finding that fire insurance does not necessarily provide eternal assurance.
I cannot, nor can any minister, family member, or friend, assure her that her decision as a child was valid. Only the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit can apply this”seal” to her own mind and heart. We’re not saying that childhood experiences of faith are not real, but, that if they are, they will last. They not only last, but they grow. Even when we have doubts, these may be means of God’s grace to establish our faith and relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not where we were ten or twenty years ago that counts for salvation, but where we are today, in our relationship with Christ.
From my own experience—and so many others who have walked the aisle, shook the pastors hand, done the baptism and church membership—these made little difference in my life. I compare it to the birth of a newborn baby. We don’t bring the baby home, put it in a crib and leave it there. We personally hold it, feed it, teach it, bring it to maturity and adulthood. Discipleship in the church for the past decades has been almost nil. When church conventions started looking at numbers the emphasis was placed on getting as many as possible to sign “on the dotted line.” From that point salvation was done, left to the individual, whatever the age. Evangelism has become “the thing” in a lot of churches. Getting the decisions are the big thing, but how much emphasis is on discipling the new converts. How many are able to disciple those who are “won to Christ?”
The first part is the exciting part, mostly emotional for a lot of people; but afterward we are required to give ourselves to “sanctification” in “obedience of faith;” to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is the Word of God that feeds us and the Spirit of God that satisfies our new heart’s desires. We know nothing of these things, except as we have someone to teach us. True, many have on their own, grown without personal help, but this is rare. We need the whole body of Christ, and someone in particular to take us by the hand, under their wing, and with the truth lead us in the truth; with the “milk” until we are ready for the “meat.”
In part II of this article we will share what Linda and I have recently discovered about Christ, the Lord of grace and glory, in “Heaven Opened—the Riches of God’s Covenant” by Richard Alleine, a Soli Deo Gloria Publication.