Growing up, I spent agonizing sleepless nights wondering if I was really saved, wondering if I had finally done something to make God turn his back on me and walk away. Essentially, what I believed was a false gospel. And it came from not knowing what the Bible says about salvation. Probably, it came from the way my parents were raised. When a religion teaches that you must add your own merit to Christ's merit, it leaves one believing you can enter God's kingdom by your virtue and exit God's kingdom by your vice. That kind of thinking is not without consequences. It was not uncommon to hear phrases like, "He has fallen away" or "She's no longer walking with the Lord" or "He's a backslidden Christian." But all that did was to strike terror into my young heart. How, after all, does one fall away? And how close was I to that state of non-grace at any given time?
I remember having a discussion later with a Presbyterian friend in high school about losing one's salvation. When I said that's what I believed, she was scandalized. Standing on the basketball court behind the school, she tossed the ball away in disgust. "You can't lose your salvation, Noel. God throws your sins as far as the east is from the west. Where does the east meet the west?"
Could I dare to hope?
As an adult, I began to eschew the emotional, unverifiable approach to God. I've always been pretty consistent with my prayer and Bible reading times. But I had wasted countless hours of my life waiting for God to speak to me, then wondering if that was really Him. What a relief the day I realized that the Bible was God speaking to me! Thus began my love of theology, the study of God. Through this pursuit, God has had much compassion on me. And I began to discover that God preserves the saints. There it was, right there in the Bible!
God is the author and finisher of my faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
He who began a good work in me will bring it to the day of completion. (Philippians 1:6)
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:35-39)
Why had I never seen this preservation and perseverance of the saints before? This was the comfort I had been looking for. This was the assurance a child of God so badly wants from her Father! My pillow ceased to be a place of terror and began to be a place of rest.
I've been on this theology adventure for ten years now. The more I know about God, the more I know God, and the more I am amazed and humbled by who He is in spite of who I am. Now, whenever someone makes a claim about Him, I simply get it in writing.