By Brian Anderson
I was raised in a Christian home, in a fine denomination that taught me the truth about God from childhood. We attended weekly, but by the time I entered high school we had moved away from a favorite church and had found it difficult to find another church that seemed like home. The unfortunate result was we had almost dropped out of church by the time I was a sophomore.
Then I met a girl. (He went to church with the girl who would someday be his wife …) She invited me to her church. “What kind of church do you go to?” “Baptist,” was her response. “Hmmm,” I thought, “Is that a cult?” Oh well, she was really, really cute and that was one more excuse to spend time with her so I said, “Sure!” I went with her to this tiny little church with 30 people in attendance. About the first thing someone asked me was, “Son, are you a Christian?” I thought, “Duh! What do you think I am, a Buddhist?”
They must have read the expression on my face. “What I mean is, have you been born again?” he said.What in the world was that? “Born again?” I didn’t have a clue what he meant, but it sounded like the thing to be, so I said, “Ahh, sure. Yes. Absolutely!” He looked a little skeptical but accepted my statement and we went on.
These people were odd. They talked funny, calling their pastor “Brother.” I thought only monks were called Brother. But I also noticed they seemed very sincere, very excited about their faith in God. I was drawn to them, but skeptical at the same time. Did they teach the truth? So, I began a process of examining their doctrine. I found they believed, at the core, the same things I’d always been taught. That the Bible was true, our authority for life and faith. They believed in the Trinity. That Jesus is God, came to earth, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for my sins and was raised, bodily, the third day.
Okay! What a relief. Not a cult after all! It was good to know I wasn’t going to go to Hell or something for attending there. But they kept talking about their “salvation experience,” when they got “saved.” Slowly what they were saying dawned on me. They were saying it wasn’t enough to agree with certain doctrines about Jesus in my head. They were saying we have to choose to receive Christ by faith. Their way of expressing that was to talk about “accepting Jesus into your heart.” It made sense. I read the Bible, and I saw people making choices. “Yes,” or “No,” to God was all over the Bible. To believe was more than to agree certain things about God were true, it was to put my entire trust and devotion in him. Had I done that? Really? Had I ever, truly, given my life to Christ? I didn’t know! I was shocked and horrified to realize that I might have been assuming I was right with God, when in fact, perhaps a greater commitment was necessary, a free choice of my own to receive Him as Lord and Savior.
By this time I’d married the girl, and we were very active in the little church. But I was struggling with the question, “Am I truly saved? Beyond my infant baptism, when did I make that decision for myself? At my confirmation?” I wasn’t sure. Months of struggle culminated one Sunday morning. At the end of each service they offered an “invitation,” which was a time for anyone to come forward and make decisions about their relationship with God. I stepped out into the aisle. I know the people in that little church were beaming with joy. They must have been thinking, “Finally!” The pastor was a good friend of mine by then. I’d been pestering him with questions for years! He met me, smiling, and I said, “Ron. I know what I need to do.”
He trusted my word, and pointed to a front pew, “Brian, you do whatever you need to do.” I sat on the pew, and everything else went away. There was music playing. I no longer heard it. There was singing. It was gone. It was just me and my God. I prayed.
“Lord Jesus. You know that I have believed the right things about you for as long as I can remember. That you are God, that you came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for my sins and was raised the third day. I have believed these things, but Lord, I don’t know if I have ever given my life to you. I have searched and searched my past, and I’m just not sure. But one thing I do know. Right here, right now, I want you as my Lord and Savior more than anything in all the world! I’d die for you, if that’s what you wanted me to do. So, Lord, if you aren’t already there, I ask you to come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior.” That prayer changed my life. It gave me the assurance I needed to begin to grow in my faith, and the joy flooded in. It wasn’t about which church to join, that took two more years! (And lots of Bible study about baptism!) It wasn’t about going into the ministry, that took four more years. It was about me and God.
What about you? Have you been “saved,” “born again?” Pick your own terms, have you made a life-changing decision to receive Christ as Lord and Savior of your life? It’s up to you. He won’t force you. No one can. If you want to, it’s simple, and it’s hard. Hard to give up your independence of spirit. Hard to trust God, whom you cannot see with your eyes, yet. But it’s also simple. A prayer, sincere, offered in faith. You could do that right now, if you so choose.John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (NIV)
If this is the desire of your heart, pray this prayer or one like it: “Lord Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner, and I couldn’t go to Heaven without you. But I also believe that you love me. That you are God, came to earth, lived a perfect life for me, died on the cross for my sins, was raised the third day. I invite you to come into my heart, to be my Lord and Savior. I ask you to forgive my sins, the sins of my past. The sins of today. And because you are God, and know all things, I even ask you to forgive the sins of my future. And I promise to try my best to love you and serve you forever. Thank you for changing me. Amen.” It’s not the prayer. They aren’t magic words. It the choice, the faith those words express. God keeps his promises. “Whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Welcome to the Journey!