My journey from popular Christian myths and confusion to Assurance of Eternal Life

December 16, 2011
By dreiher2

When I was growing up there were a number of myths which I held to which are not true, and which kept me from Assurance of my eternal life.  Here are 12 of them.

1. I used to think that there was a difference between head faith and heart faith. I thought that simple head faith was not enough to get to heaven, and that you needed heart faith. I heard the term “easy-believism” a lot, and thought it was to be avoided at all costs. I understood all of the exhortations in the Sermon on the Mount, and in Hebrews and the rest of the Bible to be for us to examine our faith. We needed “heart faith” in order to get Justification Salvation. Of course most speakers and teachers made it pretty clear that we could not merit or earn heaven by our works works. However there were conditions our faith in Christ had to meet.

2. I used to think that trust was a better word than believe. When I heard people preach on John 3:16,17 they would at first read the text where it said “believe,” but then they would immediately substitute the word “trust” for the word believe in their invitation. I thought that there was something wrong with the word believe in the Bible, because obviously there was something more a person had to do besides just believe.

3. I had a collection of tracts second to none. Every had a different ending in the prayer or invitation. It varied from 1 or 2 things to dozens of things a person had to do in order to be saved. I got the picture that you really had to do most of these things, and keep doing them to get to heaven. How could all these tracts be wrong? When I would hear people preach, they often would say some of the things I saw in the tracts, that is, during the invitation.

4. I heard sermons explaining that trust was active. In other words, our trust had to be active, not dead, and show evidence for it to be genuine. It was not in the sense of “earning” eternal life, but in the sense that God would save us as long as our trust demonstrated itself in a real way. I understood it in this active sense, and strove to do my best for the Lord, that is, trusting Him to help me live for Him.

5. When I was around 8 years old, I was Baptized (in a Baptist Church) along with my parents and one of my brothers. (My younger brother was still too young). I knew the right things to say in the interview with the pastor. I relied on an experience at 5 where I told God I was sorry for my sins and asked Him to forgive me. Of course now I know that I did not need to ask God to forgive my sins in order to get to heaven. I needed to believe in Jesus for God’s kind of life, eternal life. I thought sin was the primary issue keeping people out of heaven, and that we needed to keep confessing my sin, believing and trusting and working to meet the conditions to make it to heaven. I believed this way for the next 10 years or so.

6. When James referred to a “dead” faith, I heard it taught that unless faith resulted in good works, then the faith was “dead” or “false” faith. Dead faith could not save. I was taught that unless our faith measured up to the proper standard, then we would go to hell.

7. I continued to hear teaching that sin was the primary reason a person goes to hell. I heard lots of sermons which had invitations which said a lot of different things. LOTS of different things. One would talk about making a decision to believe, one would say accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, and some talked about believing in Jesus death on the cross to forgive me from my sins. Some would say I had to repent and turn to God. It did not make a lot of sense that there would be more than one thing I had to do, but it was pretty clear that I needed to deal with the sin problem somehow first, and then continue to do so on an ongoing basis to demonstrate that I did not just have “head” faith. I don’t remember any teaching about really being eternally secure no matter how we lived. You had to keep measuring up to show your faith was “heart” faith so you could get to heaven.

8. The way people worded their invitations, I understood it to mean that when you make a decision to accept Christ, THEN Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and you go to heaven, BECAUSE your sins are then taken care of. It was sort of an existential event that when you make this decision, then at that point Jesus’ death was for you. Before that time it was really not for you. In other words, Jesus’ death for your sins was not real, only potential. Until you make that decision, Jesus’ death was not for you and your sins were not paid for yet.

9. I saw the Florida Bible College hand illustration probably hundreds of times. You know, the one with the wallet, which goes as follows.  One hand represents man. Other hand represents God. Wallet represents sin. Here is our sin on us. We cannot get into heaven because of sin and God cannot look on sin. Jesus died on the Cross to take away our sin. When we believe in Jesus as our savior God takes away our sin so we can go to heaven. While the person says “when we believe in Jesus as our Savior. . . ” the hand representing God then takes the wallet off the hand representing us. In other words the sin is removed by Jesus at the moment we believe. That is not really true.

It is a great illustration when done right. The way it should have been done is this. This hand represents God. This hand represents us. Sin separates us from God (place wallet on us) because we are spiritually dead because of the sin. Jesus died on the Cross to take away the sin of everyone who has ever lived. He takes the wallet off of the hand representing us and puts back in his pocket. The sin no longer is the issue. However we are still spiritually dead, separated from God, and we do not have God’s kind of life, eternal life. All we have to do now is to believe in Jesus for everlasting life which God offers as a free gift so we can get this kind of life and go to be with God forever when we die. He made this offer possible as a free gift because Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for everyone’s sin. The issue is believing in Him, not to get rid of the sin which somehow existentially vanishes when we believe so we can go to heaven, but for getting eternal life.

10. A new pastor came who started teaching 5 point Calvinism and especially limited atonement. The evangelistic “Youth Ranch” was no longer actively supported by the church. At the time, I thought nothing of it, but now I understand why. It practiced persuasion evangelism which is contradictory to 5 Point Calvinism. A person cannot be persuaded to believe. According to the Reformed/Calvinist model, they believe because they are regenerated first, Sovereignly by God, and nobody can do anything to be born again. It just happens. It does not matter whether they decide to become open to the truth and check out the evidence.

11. I read about Calvinism, but it did not really seem to make sense. If Christ had the opportunity to pay for the sins of the whole world, why would He only die for some? It seemed to make God some sort of cruel monster. I tried to understand it, and to believe it, but it just did not seem to be right.

12. I still did not understand that sin was no longer THE reason people go to the lake of fire. The issue in Rev. 20:15 really was whether their names were written in the book of life or not. According to John’s other book the way to get God’s kind of life, was by believing (at one time) in Jesus as the one who gives them kind of LIFE they need to go to heaven (eternal life) and who secures and guarantees their eternal destiny by giving us that kind of life which can never be lost. I knew that the leader of our Youth Ranch was sure of his eternal destiny. I wanted that. When I was 19, I remember talking to him one night where I believed in Jesus alone to save me apart from anything else I was doing. I was sure of my eternal destiny from that day forward. I did not understand as much as I do today, but I know that from that time forward I was sure I was going to heaven.

That was the end of the journey of uncertainty, and the beginning of a new one with Assurance of Salvation. I view it as the time I actually was saved. I don’t think a person can be saved if they have any doubt about Jesus’ promise which gives 100% assurance of their eternal life. You either believe Jesus’ promise, or you do not.

Shortly afterward, I left that church that I grew up in, and started attending a church (Calvary Fellowship Church) started by some Florida Bible College grads, Rick Rodriguez and John MacMurray. It was then that I finally understood the teachings of Grace, and started growing spiritually. During one of the College/Singles retreats at Florida Bible College in Hollywood, I bought an interesting book in their bookstore entitled, “Gospel under siege” by Zane Hodges. I could identify with just about every line in it. One of the speakers at the retreat, Dr. George Linhart, referred to another book by Zane Hodges, “Grace in Eclipse.” There was a phone number on the back cover of Prof. Hodges’ books, and I remember calling him several times and ordering more copies.

I am so glad that God gave me the opportunity to understand the true means of getting everlasting life, and being 100% sure of it!

- Don

Leave a Reply

User Login