A Lost Believer?
by Mary Atwood
May I give you my personal testimony? I was a lost believer for so long and the Lord delivered me from that trap. I pray that none of you let Satan blind you as he did me.
Allow me to go back quite a few years to the early seventies. It was a Saturday morning and I had just told our pastor that I did not know if I was saved or not, but was very troubled. He began to counsel me as best he knew how, but of course, he did not know my heart. In that room I came to realize that this man, even a pastor, could not help me and a feeling of total doom came over me. I believed I could not be saved, that God was not going to save me.
My thoughts then, went back to my earliest "religious" experience. As an eleven year old child, I had walked the aisle of our local denominational church, having told myself that I had "to do it sometime, it might as well be today". And "doing IT" was, in my mind, walking the aisle to "go forward". I had been taught that I was born a sinner and that I needed to be saved. I accepted this, and so on this particular day my pastor shook my hand and asked, "How do you come?" Being a child, and a very shy one at that, and not knowing what on earth he meant by that question, I just shrugged my shoulders. To this, the pastor told me to sit on the front pew, fill out the card, and mark the little box, marked "baptism". At the end of the altar call, this "wonderful" pastor then told the congregation, that I had just gotten saved and for everyone to come forward and shake my hand. I remember so well thinking, "I just got saved? Really? Is that all there is to it? Well, that wasn't so hard after all!"
In our car, driving home, my parents made some comment about my "decision" and I remember wishing they would be quiet and not talk about it. It bothered me, even then, but I thought, "The preacher told everyone I just got saved, and preachers don't lie, do they?" So I assumed I was saved, I had done what was necessary, and I went on in my ignorance for about ten more years.
Now, don't take me wrong here. The conviction I felt as an eleven year old child never went away totally, but only for brief periods. I became very religious, trying, I think, to salve my conscience. I tried to read the Bible and pray and play the good Christian role that I was taught. I found, however, that I could not be good enough and there was never any real peace in my heart. I knew something was wrong.
One day at 21 years of age, the idea was presented that I could be lost and yet be a church member! A visiting evangelist, during a "revival" service had preached a sermon on lost church members! It hit me like a ton of bricks! Until that time, I did not know that was possible! I "went forward" again and talked to the preacher about it and told him I thought I might not have been saved when I was eleven. He told me to kneel down at the altar and pray about it until the Lord showed me the answer! I did just that and decided then, that I must have been saved when I was a teen! After telling the pastor this, he told me that all of my conviction and trouble was probably because I had been saved after I was baptized and that I would not get peace until I was ebaptized. So, even though I was seven months pregnant, into the baptismal waters I went again!
Sure enough, the conviction went away, but not for too long! Steve's job transferred us to Cattanooga where we joined the little Baptist church, that was later to become Grace Bible Church, and for the first time in my life, (yes, it's true!) I heard the true "gospel of Christ", how that Christ shed His blood to pay the penalty for our sins! I knew he had died, but had never known WHY he had died! I saw that this gospel was not preached until the apostle Paul preached it, that it was a new, separate and distinct gospel. This new pastor also taught us that this gospel that Paul preached was the power of God unto salvation! (Romans 1:16). The conviction began again, only greater! I could see, according to the scriptures, that Paul's gospel, not that of Peter and the 12 disciples, was the power that would bring a person to salvation. I also knew I had never known this gospel before until coming to Chattanooga, and that that could mean that I might not be saved at all!
I saw that the scriptures tell us to "rightly divide the word of truth", and could conclude that there were fallacies in what I had been taught in my denominational upbringing. I knew that if what my former church taught was wrong about these things, then they could be wrong about the means for salvation also.
Oh, how the Lord sought to convict me and how I ran from Him! My pride began to swell up in me and I would think, "I have to be saved, after all, look at my life. A person doesn't do the things I do and believe the things I believe unless they are saved. But why am I under such conviction? Why do I have no peace about it?" I certainly believed in Christ, I believed in who He was and is, and now saw that He died on the cross to save us from our sins. I had no problem with any of that. I even believed and was learning to "rightly divide the word of truth". I thought, "Is it possible to be a 'lost believer'?" I read passages on salvation, and prayed many times, "Lord, if I'm not saved then save me." All the while not willing to admit once and for all that I was lost, doomed and damned for a devil's hell! I believe now, in looking back, that my foolish pride just did not want to admit that I really NEEDED a Saviour!
At one point, I said to myself that if I was not saved, then I would rather die and go to hell that have to admit to my husband, family, and church members that I had not been saved all along. I also thought that if I did get saved I would not tell anybody.
That last week, I dreamed twice of the "rapture" taking place and I was left behind. I thought about my children, and them going up in the rapture without me. Living became torture for me. Finally, I could stand it no longer! I felt I either had to get relief or die!
Thus, after explaining my problem to my pastor, that day in his study, he led me to say the "sinner's prayer" and to ask the Lord to save me. After I prayed, he asked if I was saved, to which I replied, "No." I wanted to say yes, but I was tired of lying and knew I could no longer be deceptive about it. I needed peace, I wanted peace; I knew I was still lost. The pastor then said, maybe I was already saved and Satan was trying to cause me to doubt. I knew within my heart that it was not so. I was lost, so lost that even the Lord would not save me. We went through the prayer routine twice, but nothing changed. I admitted to the preacher finally that asking the Lord did not get me saved. The preacher did not know what to do with me. He did not know how to help me so I got up and headed for the door. I had come to the conclusion that the Lord was not going to save me. I must be the worst of sinners.
I finally saw myself as the Lord saw me, that I was filled with foolish pride; and pride is one of the seven things listed that God hates. (Prov. 6:16-19.) I knew I had been depending upon my own righteousness all of these years, and I remembered the verse in Isaiah that says, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" in His sight. (Is. 64:6) I finally saw that I was no good, that there is "none good, no, not one", as Romans says, and that there was nothing within me that God saw as good.
As I grabbed the door handle, I knew I could not live with this torture anymore, so I began to think of driving off of a cliff of a nearby mountain. (Yes, I am telling the truth!) With the door handle in my hand I could not let go. I suddenly saw the flames of hell and knew that if I walked out of that door that I was headed straight for hell! But what could I do? I had asked the Lord to save me twice in that room that very day and He had not done it. Yet if I walked out of there I was headed straight into the flames of hell. Then all of a sudden the Lord shined the "light of the glorious gospel of Crist" into my heart (II Cor. 4:4) and I remembered what the preacher had been preaching to me all along, that Christ died for MY sins! "HE DIED FOR ME! YES, ME! HE WILL SAVE ME!" I thought. I realized that there was nothing I could do within myself, but that he had already paid the penalty for me! He had done it for me! I thought, "What Love! He loved ME enough to die for ME!" It suddenly became so personal! I trusted HIM to save me in that very moment and I walked away, saved, and sure, and by the scriptures I know that I am saved for all of eternity! Praise God, there is no sin God will not forgive! He will save a sinner such as I! What a glorious wonderful revelation that was!
I could stop here, but I feel as if the story is not complete. I feel as if the reader will want to know that my pastor did not know what had just happened in my heart. I merely told him I was now saved and walked out. I was puzzled as to why I was saved in a different way other than what he had told me "to do". I knew that I had merely trusted what the gospel of Christ says, that Christ died for my sins, and that I had put my trust in Christ, after truly seeing this gospel applied to ME. While pondering this thought, I went home and found Ephesians 1:12-13 and to this day I am still praising God for these verses. They say, "Christ...In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise". I nearly shouted, when I realized the verse says we are saved by trusting in Christ, not by walking an aisle, or repeating or saying a prayer.
All of those things are something we DO to try to get saved, but trusting Christ is trusting in what HE has done for us! Exact opposites! The verse also tells us that we are saved AFTER we hear the gospel of our salvation! A person cannot be saved without having heard the gospel!
Why did it take me so long to get saved? Because the denominational system I was in had muddied up the gospel and mixed it with the kingdom message. They had taught me to DO things to get saved. I had to see the gospel of Christ, Paul's gospel, as separate and distinct, different from what was taught in Matthew through John. Praise God for "rightly dividing"!
Also, I was trusting in my own righteousness, like the Jews of Romans 10:3 of whom it is said, "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."
I thought I was seeking after God, when in actuality, I was running from him. Romans 3:11 says, "there is none that seeketh after God." II Cor. 4:3-4, tells us, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
Yes, dear friends, it is possible to be a "lost believer"! I was one! We find a wonderful truth in I Cor. 15:1-4, "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins...."
We can see so plainly the words there, UNLESS YE HAVE BELIEVED IN VAIN! It certainly is possible to be a lost believer! I had BELIEVED IN VAIN! We also can see from Eph. 1:13 that TRUE belief is synonymous with trust. In my case, this was what I had missed.
Women, don't allow Satan to blind your minds as he did me for so long. Trust Christ today, HE DIED FOR YOUR SINS! Have you truly believed, and trusted HIM for your eternal destiny?
Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."