Thursday, November 13, 2008

Waiting for Salvation to Click

When I was a little girl, a pastor from a local church offered our public school the opportunity for children to hear the gospel message. Every now and then, he would come round up the kids whose parents gave permission and bus us to his church where he would teach us about Jesus. At the end of his sermon, he would ask if anyone wanted to receive Jesus as their Savior. And just about every visit, I would pray with him, as he led the entire group in the prayer for salvation.

Jesus, I know I am a sinner. Please forgive me for all of my sins. I believe You died for me and I want you to come and live inside my heart. Help me live for you every day. Thank You. Amen.

After prayer, this pastor would ask if any of us prayed with him. I know I raised my hand more than once. But I never felt changed. I never felt different. I had said the words, and understood the concept, but in all those years, I didn’t feel like salvation ever clicked.

Then, I went to summer camp. We had morning devotionals with our Bibles and study journals—woodsy setting, find a spot alone to pray, dewy grass, crisp lake. It was my first experience with morning devotionals and I loved it. Somehow my time with God made me feel important. Like, I’m special and here’s how I’ll prove it: it’s just me alone with God and that’s enough.

Every evening, after a full day of activities, meals with silly songs and play, we would have our campfire. Sitting inside the large dining hall near the huge, stone fireplace, we’d listen to the teacher speak of Jesus. He explained something that in all my years of hearing the gospel message I had never heard. No one at the church we attended had gotten this across, and neither had the pastor who ministered to school children.

"When you accept Jesus as your Savior, you’ll have amazing joy. That’s how you’ll know it’s real."

For some reason, in everything else he said, that really stuck with me. I don’t remember praying that night for salvation. But, when the week was over, part of our trek home included a bus ride.

There I was, sitting on a long bench seat alone and pondering the week. That camp director’s words came back to me, along with the other messages I’d heard about Jesus’ awesome gift of salvation, and there, alone on the seat, bouncing down the freeway, I prayed that Jesus would save me. He had shown me my value; he’d been meeting me and sustaining me all week. I chose Him.

Salvation clicked.

Then, the camp director’s words became a reality. Suddenly I had so much joy flooding me, and joy was a new status. I’d been happy at times, and even overjoyed (like, say, on Christmas), but this was different. This started deep inside and made its way out, like a fountain. That’s when I knew it had finally clicked.

I’m not sure what the difference was. I have often wondered, through the years, if reciting a repeated prayer is too impersonal to have much impact. But I think it has more to do with the person’s heart. If you believe the words you’re praying, the impact will be genuine. I'm also not saying it's the only way to know salvation or that everyone's experience will match. It's all a matter of God's grace.

If salvation has never “clicked” for you, ask Jesus to show you what you need to see or understand. Then, pursue Him with all your heart by reading the Bible daily, listening to worship/Christian music, and attending a Bible-teaching church. Seek out a seasoned Christian who lives in joy (i.e. holds no grudges) and ask about salvation. But don’t dominate the conversation. Listen.

If you seek God with all your heart, you will find Him. He promises that over and over in the Bible. (see Deuteronomy 4:29, Jeremiah 29:11-13, even Hebrews 11:6—He rewards those who diligently seek Him and Genesis 15:1—God Himself is our exceedingly great reward)

My prayer for you is that if it hasn’t already, salvation would click for you, and you would know Him and His joy.

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