A Letter to Christians Who Doubt  Their Salvation:

There are so many Christians in the world today that are truly afraid of the day of their death. They’ve never received the assurance of salvation talked about in places like: 1 John 5:13, Ephesians 1:13-14, Philippians 1:6.

Christians crave the feeling of being or knowing they are saved. They want to feel it all the time. In every circumstance, in every moment, and as deeply or more deeply than they did the last time they felt it. This is anxiety. This is worry. Jesus didn’t say, “try not to worry,” he said, “..DO NOT worry…” (Matthew 6:25-34) He commanded us not to. Easier said than done, maybe, but so are most things for us with God. But this is what trust means. If your wife or husband says they love and trust you, but then constantly ask you if you were out sleeping around and being unfaithful to them, you would very much so doubt the words.

Why would God, Who has demonstrated His love more fully, more perfectly, more purely, be treated the same as a human spouse?

I asked this even to myself for I have struggled with this many of my days and for most of my Christian life. But here’s the catch…

I wasn’t really living the Gospel for most of it. ARE YOU?

We have the benefit of a blessing we often are unaware of, don’t really believe, or take for granted, generally. God is a God of transparency, of simplicity, of humility, Who speaks. God has told us many, many times and in many, many ways what it means to be saved. Our old selves will be crucified in Christ’s death (Romans 6:6, 14), we will be renewed to good works and a changed life (Ephesians 2:10), declaring the Gospel everywhere we go (Matthew 28:19-20), actually going to and participating in a church (Hebrews 10:25), giving generously (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), and stewarding ALL of our blessings: our lives, families, wealth, words, time, food, resources, and on and on to maximize His return on His investment in you (Matthew 25:14-30). We will be known by our love (John 13:35) and our fruits (John 15:1-11, below).

So here’s the abridged version of my story:
My mom has always told me I gave my life to the Lord when I was 3. Said I understood better than some adults even then. But, of course, I don’t feel that way. In my pre-teen years I had a horrible experience with some church leaders that marred me. At 16 I completely ejected myself from anything relating to church as hard and as fast as I could propel myself away. I started dating which led to fornication. Got addicted to pornography shortly after that. I started partying and drinking. I tried drugs and started putting myself into worse and worse situations. This led me to fully embrace agnostic post modernism which transformed my life into one where I truly believed morality was subjective, or at least meaningless, God may or may not exist (who could know?), and if those things were true: what was a lie? What was doing what I wanted to get what I wanted? What were friendships and relationships? I could move on. If someone stopped trusting me, there were other people. If someone bad mouthed me, what was truth anyway?

But then my life started to change. I became numb to the pleasures I pursued. Others’ trust in me was eroded which complicated my life. I was surrounded by people who were primarily concerned with their own pleasure, living in cycles of stupifying themselves in order to experience a new high or avoid a low. I was completely immune to guilt in my heart, even though my mind recognized what I was doing was wrong, and this desync started to become crippling. I’ll never forget telling my mom, “I wish I just had a conscience again. I truly don’t feel badly about anything.”

Then, at 21, I had my collapse. My prayer was answered but not in the way I expected and never in the way I would have wanted.

I went to a party, drank a little, and smoked a LOT more than I should have. God met me there…or left me there…with roughly 10-20 minutes of Hell. I will write about that another day, but that’ll have to suffice or we’ll get too deviated. Over the next 18 months the mental strain that 20 minutes caused me sent me into Oblivion. I weighed about 150 lbs when it happened, but I lost 35 pounds, couldn’t sleep from having persistent night terrors and visions of demons, and for right around 18 months was sleeping primarily in 10-20 minute bursts because I was terrified of sleeping. Unfortunately, when you don’t actually sleep, your body still makes you do some form of it in the form of daydreams and hallucinations. I was having night terrors even while I was awake. I just wanted death. I wanted to live, but this was unbearable.

Trapped between a life that is Hell and a death of my own making with Hell waiting on the Other Side was one of the single worst feelings I have ever had. But here is the mercy, grace, goodness, and simplicity of God: what do you do when you are trapped? Cry out.

So I did. I cried. I begged. I pleaded. And He was there.

I was given, in that moment, roughly 2-10 minutes of peace in my brokenness. But it quickly faded. I was not “through”. I was lying in a pit I had made, but I was given a spoon. I had no right to be freed from it in the blink of an eye; completely dug up and standing on solid ground feeling the sun on my face. If I had been, what would have stopped me from chalking it up to bad luck? To believing it was a coincidence? God made it clear to me that I had slowly and methodically put myself in this pit, and He was going to show me something by watching me dig myself out with a spoon, helping me when my arms were exhausted, my hands were torn, and my mind couldn’t make my fingers lift another speck of dirt. I marched onward, one spoonful of dirt at a time.

Over the course of the next 6 years, my life, in terms of behavior, changed relatively little, and I struggled mightily with the state of my mind. My mind became dramatically different slowly with studying, but I didn’t behave too terribly differently. However, I learned to trust this:

If God had gotten me through the last 5 minutes without torment, then He could get me through the next 5. Then 6. Then 100. Then 10 days. Then 10 years.

I still had to use my spoon, but He was the one truly freeing me. And how? By trusting that He would never leave nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). He taught me through this horrible experience to trust Him. That’s where He started anyway. I still got in His way regularly. Sinned constantly. Was awful to people around me, but I genuinely trusted Him to get me through the next day. So daily, I kept digging with my spoon, trying to undo all the horrible things I’d done, despicable changes I’d made within myself, become more reliable and trustworthy, and on and on.

And with that tiny spoon, I learned over and over again how useless it was to dig. I could never free myself from the pit, and for every spoonful that I dumped over the side, I kicked 10 pounds back in. He needed me to learn to participate, to struggle, to behave in a way that was ready to fight for what was right, and to trust Him in what He was working in me. The spoon taught me that lesson but was only the beginning. I never felt saved…I just felt “not trapped”. You might think those are the same, but if you have ever been truly lost somewhere, freedom while wandering does not feel the same as when someone finds you and returns you to where you truly belong.

We have reached the end.

Thanks for staying with me. I know that was long, but it’s necessary for the point.

To struggle against my sin was a good thing. A desirable thing. But it never really accomplished any true result. Sure it made me diligent, made me contrite, made me fight and struggle and grow strong in a way. But it also left me exhausted, frustrated, and weak from knowing the battle could not be won. I would wake up tomorrow and have the same fight I had yesterday, or maybe a repeat from last week, but it would be the same. I would fight, I would lose, and I would repent. But the lesson was coming.

The day I translated the lesson of trust and the gift of the spoon into the daily struggle I had with pornography was a pivotal day, although I wouldn’t realize how strongly until later on. I had succumbed again to temptation, filled with guilt and shame, but I had finally been broken. I knew it wasn’t enough to just struggle, but “What else is there?!?” I screamed in my mind. And then it dawned on me. I needed to be free of it by looking elsewhere. I was focused on my sin. I was fixated on it. Always keeping one eye on it, and some day, whether tomorrow or 10 days from then, when the wind blew hard, my eye being on it would cause the wind to blow me into it.

The key is to look beyond. To fix your eyes on Him, and aim at and pay attention to nothing else. As I did that, I completely cut porn out virtually immediately (clean from it for 5 years or so). After that, I started aiming for more time reading scripture and replacing the time I would have watched porn and abused myself with teaching and preaching on YouTube. Over the next couple years, my life was transformed. I stopped swearing in my daily life. I stropped abusing myself altogether. I got involved in church. I started tithing. I was reading my Bible, studying, invested in Logos Bible Software (DO IT! I do not have a partnership), and my life was entirely different.

One day I woke up early to get to the train to see my best friend in Chicago. I was listening to Christian radio (unheard of for the old me!), singing a song that I loved, and I had a moment of clarity: I was no longer the man I used to know! I was completely made new. And it was obvious. I wept. It washed over me like a tidal wave deeper and more comfortable and peaceful than any of the yeas of struggling with torment. I was truly free, truly saved, and it was obvious.

If you truly struggle with knowing whether or not you are saved, the test is simple: look at your life! Are you studying the word? Do you devote time and attention to prayer? Do you participate in a church (not just “go”)? Do you have a hunger for God’s Truth, His Word, His Church, and a passion for preaching and talking about the Gospel? If not, get on it! Fix your eyes on Him and stop looking at anything else. God is simple and humble, and it is so glorious I don’t even fully grasp it. But that’s what He is.

Do you hate your sin enough to start loving righteousness? If not, then start trying!

Let this article be me passing off my war-worn spoon. Pick up the spoon He gave to me, and begin using it in your own life.

Resources to fuel your hunger for God’s Word:
Mike Winger’s Jesus in the OT

Evidence for the Bible

These two playlists are the resources that kindled a burning love for God’s Word more than anything else previously had. Enjoy them!

Finish it all off with the word’s of Christ Himself:

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-grower. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He cleans it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit from itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
Legacy Standard Bible, John 15:1–11.

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