WHERE YOU EVER TRULY A CHRISTIAN?
I really hate this question.
I get this question quite frequently, and I think of nothing more dismissive and condescending. It takes all the pain that I’ve gone through, the countless nights in prayer, the tears, the anger, the fears, and the struggles with my job and family and says…
NAH, THERE’S NO WAY YOU WERE EVER TRULY A CHRISTIAN
Really? Then why does this hurt so much?! Why would why I sacrifice my entire life, move hundreds of miles away from my family, take a very low paying job, if I didn’t think it was to the glory of God?
BUT DID YOU EVER ASK JESUS IN YOUR HEART AND INVITE HIM TO BE YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR?
Yes, I did. 3 times to be exact. I remember going to youth group and being challenged by the youth pastor and he had a decision sermon. He said:
“Now with everyone’s head bowed and eyes closed, if you would like to invite Jesus into your heart, look up at me now.”
And so I looked up and asked for him to pray for me to become a Christian.
And then next Sunday at Church, during the Pastor’s sermon:
“..but all this was done so that you may God loves and wants to be a part of your life. He created you and he wants to save you. If you’ve never invited Jesus into your heart I want you to do it now. Pray this along with me…”
I noticed his “sinners prayer” was slightly different than my youth pastors. I wasn’t sure if I need to say both versions so I prayed with the pastor then too. You know, just to be sure I was saved.
A month later we went on a youth retreat, and the youth pastor invited all those who wanted to receive Jesus to stay after the session for a talk. I stayed after and he said:
“John, I thought we already prayed for you to receive Jesus. You don’t have to do it every week. Jesus heard you the first time.”
But I know what you’re thinking:
JUST BECAUSE YOU SAID A PRAYER DOESN’T MEAN YOU WERE REALLY A REAL CHRISTIAN
Ok, so you’re thinking that a Christian means someone who follows Christ. It’s not enough to pray and say you believe in him but you have to actually pursue him.
Well I wasn’t raised in a Church or by Christians. I received a Bible for the first time when I was a teenager. You know what I did with that Bible? I read it. I wanted to know about God and who this Jesus guy was I kept hearing about. I went through the Gospel of Matthew first. I thought Jesus was amazing. I didn’t understand much about him, but I knew I found someone who was not your average religious teacher. And so I kept reading the Bible.
I started inviting friends to come with me to church because I thought, “hey this bible thing, even though its really old, it still applies to our lives today.” Eventually when I got into college I started doing campus evangelism, because I thought more people needed to know about Jesus.
I got into ministry because I read the bible so much, I actually knew more about it than my friends. People kept coming to me with their questions about God, the Bible and life. It was so fun to help people understand these things. Someone suggested that if I enjoy reading the Bible and explaining it so much, maybe I should become a pastor. So I changed my major, enrolled in seminary, and kept volunteering as a Sunday School teacher.
Yes, I prayed everyday. I tried to pray without ceasing. I honestly believed that God was there, and that he was watching over me. I honestly believe that hell existed and people were going there if I didn’t tell them about Jesus. I honestly dedicated my life to serving Jesus and the Gospel thinking the Holy Spirit would support me and guide me.
When I got married my wife and I couldn’t afford a reception and we were ok with it because we believe the “wedding” was us standing before God and being united as one flesh by his Spirit.
YEAH, BUT WERE YOU FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT?
If you mean, did I speak in tongues? No.
If you mean did I rely on the Spirit to guide me and “speak” to me? Yes.
Yeah but nothing! If I wasn’t a Christian then nobody is.
I understand that you may think that “once saved always saved” necessitates that those who leave the faith never truly had it to begin with. But that’s just bunk. It’s also not biblical. I can accept the fact that you believe I’m lost. I can accept the fact that you think I’m not saved. I can accept the fact that you think I’m going to hell (or will cease to exist, if you don’t believe in hell), but you have no basis to question if I ever truly believed. I believed as much as anyone could. Then one day I couldn’t believe anymore.
I was a Christian, now I’m an atheist.
I hope this answers your question.