I could take you to the place where it happened. I could point to the pew where a seven year old girl sat and the spot at the altar where she knelt on that Sunday morning in 1968. I could not tell you the date nor am I certain as to whether it was in the spring or summer but I can tell you the events leading up to that day as well as what happened afterwards.
To the best of my knowledge, the catalyst that set things into motion was a question, a simple question that a child asked her Sunday School teacher. "How do I know if I am saved?" I suppose it is much like the question this title asks. "Are you really a Christian?"
The question the child really meant was the same question the Philippian Jailer asked Paul. "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:29) Unfortunately, the Sunday School teacher did not understand that and she gave the sage answer, "You will just know."
Fortunately I was not satisfied with that answer and continued to think about it. Was I saved or was I not? How could I find out and if not, how could I change that?
My Sunday School teacher may have missed a "teachable moment" but thankfully the Holy Spirit never does and He began to teach me. He whispered to my heart that I should ask God for God knows everything. I had learned that Jesus loves the little children so surely He would not "shoo me away" if I asked Him a question. So that is exactly what I did. I asked God.
God did not give me the short answer. He began with my need for Him. Gently and lovingly, He opened up my eyes to the fact that He loved me but there was something between us. That something was sin. There were things I did and thought that weren't right and that hurt Him because He loved me so much!
I hurt God! I remember the grief I felt when I realized that sometimes my actions hurt God! In fact, sitting here today at my computer thinking about how sometimes my actions DO hurt God brings tears to my eyes.
While I did not know it at the time, what I was experiencing is what the Apostle Paul refers to as "godly sorrow".
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 (KJV)
But there was more.
God reminded me that not only had He created me, He loved me! He didn't want anything between us. What? For me this was truly "Good News"! I was "naughty" at times but though it grieved Him, God didn't hate me. He loved me and not only did He say He loved me, He proved it!
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
Oh how I longed to make things right between me and God but I didn't know how to do it. I had probably heard the words of how to do so in church or Sunday School and indeed, I may have heard them from the lips of my mother or grandmother but at that point I simply did not make the connection.
Early one Sunday morning, prior to the beginning of Sunday School, the little group of believers who had gathered in a small church, suddenly felt moved upon by God to deviate from their normal routine. They found themselves praying for the salvation of the parents of the children living in a poverty-stricken area whom my mother picked up for Sunday School.
I remember sitting on the pew next to my mother, watching and listening to their prayers. A deep longing rose up within my heart! I wanted to ask Jesus to forgive me but alas, I couldn't. Why? Because first of all, in my mind, I was not one of the people being prayed for and secondly, there had been no altar call or "invitation" given!
My mother, who had been praying fervently abruptly stopped. I am very thankful that I have a mother who is both sensitive and obedient to the Holy Spirit. She turned to me and said, "Would you like to ask Jesus into your heart?"
Silently I nodded but then sadly whispered that I couldn't because there had been no altar call.
My mother looked at me for a moment puzzled and then suddenly she understood the reason behind my reluctance. I was afraid that I would get into trouble for doing the right thing at the wrong time!
Quickly she helped me understand that it is always the right time to talk to God. Always. However, she would be happy to walk down the aisle to the altar if I wanted her to do so. I did.
There were no fancy or flowery words that day. My prayer was very simple. At first I couldn't stop crying. God revealed to me who I was without Him and I found myself hiding my face. That was me? Oh! I did not want God to see me! How could He possibly love me? How could He ever forgive me? I cried and cried tears of despair and grief.
I had to do it because it was the right thing to do. I knew that if you did something wrong, you needed to say, "I'm sorry" and ask for forgiveness, even if forgiveness wasn't granted.
Was I sorry? Yes, I was so that is exactly what I said. I said, "I'm sorry, Jesus. Please forgive me."
And He did.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
But there was more.
You see, on that very day I did not merely share what happened with the people at church. I shared it with my friends. In fact, that day a truce was called among the children that lived on my block simply because I told the "enemy" what Jesus had done for me that day. I told her that God loved her and therefore I did too and I would not fight with her or anyone else anymore.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15
I learned that day that because God loves us, He wants to be in relationship with us. In order for any relationship to thrive, you must get to know one another. God of course already knew me but though I had known of Him, I had really only just truly met Him. This meant I needed to spend time with God in order to get to know Him better and so that He could teach me how He wanted me to live.
How can we say that we love God and yet never want to spend any time with Him? How can we say we are a follower of Christ and yet we never "sit down at His feet" and allow Him to teach us? How can we say we love Him when we refuse to obey His commandments? We can't for Jesus said:
If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. John 14:23-24
When the Philippian Jailer asked Paul what he must do to be saved, Paul and Silas' response was:
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Acts 16:31
so I think the question that begs to be answered is, what does it mean to believe? If we say we believe but refuse to repent, if we say we believe but refuse to obey God, if we say we believe but act like we don't, do we truly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? We are not saved by works but at the same time James tells us:
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. James 2:17
I believe if we declare, "I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and am therefore a Christian" we do not simply say it, the world sees the evidence of it in our lives.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version, Public Domain.