If You’re Secretly Afraid You Might Go to Hell…
Last week, I wrote an op-ed for Fox News Opinion called, “How to Know the Moment When You Really Got Saved.” I have never written something that provoked so many comments, personal emails, or Facebook messages. Fortunately, most of the responses were filled with awe at how completely God saved us through the blood of His Son, Jesus. And one of those messages, in particular, touched me.
A woman named Nancy commented on my Facebook page and said the following:
Thank you SO much for your article on Fox! I have been deeply troubled about whether I was actually saved or not, because I can’t remember the exact date, and because I can’t repeat chapter and verse of the Bible. I do read it, and I do try to live for Jesus, although I know so well I am a sinner. Your piece helped me to understand and gave me a great peace of mind. I just want to be with Jesus, and I didn’t want to “think” I was okay if I really wasn’t. It helped me realize that it’s not what I’ve done, but what He did. I’d never heard it put that way, but it immediately became crystal clear to me the instant I read your piece. I know that Jesus worked through you to reach me and others like me. Thank you for making yourself available. I am finally at peace!
There are people who read Nancy’s declaration of simple faith, and they think, Now just wait a minute, Nancy. Before you get all excited about salvation, you’d better understand that you can’t just get saved and do whatever you want. We need to see the fruit in your life.
To those people, I would say this: When someone believes, like Nancy has, and stops walking in fear, the fruit of the Spirit grows in its most natural setting. Our finger-wagging and clarifying only inspire more needless insecurity from someone whose love for Jesus will naturally motivate them to obey. As I said to two other readers who felt like I was preaching “cheap grace”:
I think it’s interesting that Jesus uses the metaphor “born again” to describe what happens to believers upon conversion … We should be a new creature with a new nature, yes, but babies have to grow up, and our heavenly Father is patient with us as we grow. Once a spiritual baby has been delivered into His arms, He’s not looking for an excuse to put the sometimes-disobedient child on the doorstep.
It’s a process, folks. As Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by one offering He has forever perfected those who are being made holy” (emphasis added). I love how the verse speaks of our perfection in the past tense and our holiness in the present-progressive tense. “It is finished,” yes, but in the meantime, we’re still “work[ing] out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (John 19:30, Philippians 2:12). We don’t fear and tremble out of insecurity, though — we do so out of awe at the terrible price Jesus had to pay to finish off sin when He hung on the cross and endured His Father’s white hot rage for us.
Let’s be real: The reason so many of us are obsessed with figuring out exactly what part we play in our salvation is because we’re afraid we’re going to miss the mark and spend eternity in hell. This shouldn’t be.
Remember, people, God is not only our Dad, He is our Shepherd (John 10:11), and He understands that sheep are some of the dumbest animals on the planet. We will test His patience and get caught in thickets and need to be rescued over and over again, but here’s the thing: If He’s the Shepherd then that’s His job, so let’s humble ourselves and let Him do it.
In the spirit of Psalm 23, let’s lie down in green pastures, be at peace beside the still waters of rest, and let Jesus restore our souls with these words: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).