“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”
– Heb 9.27-28
I was brought up in a Christian home, was in church since I was born, heard the Gospel and made a confession of faith at a young age. The Lord was so gracious to me in keeping me from some of the grave outward sins of rebellion and worldliness, but the doubt of true conversion set in at a young age for having not seen a radical transformation in my life. So much so that at the age of six I starting having a recurring nightmare. Our house had a circular driveway that went behind the house and between the house and garage. I regularly dreamed that I was standing in the driveway, facing the stone-built garage, and I could see Jesus in the sky calling home Christians (the rapture), and I could see many people ascending up to Him. I was standing there, with my arms up, jumping. I was trying to go, and crying and asking Jesus to take me up, but never did my feet leave the ground.
Paul says in 2 Cor 5.17 that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things [have] passed away; behold, new things have come.” Just last week I heard it said, in reference to this passage, that you cannot be a completely new creature and not know it. While I completely believe that assertation to be true, I also know that most all Christians will doubt their own sincerity of heart and that people like me, who never lived a life of outward debauchery, can wonder if their faith with the lack of “major [outward] transformation” is enough.
So how do we know? We test our hearts.
You cannot be part of a family unless you are born into it. How do you know that you have been born? If you are alive! Are you Spiritually alive? Do you long for Christ? Do you feel the conviction of sin? Does His presence mark and affect your daily life?
I fully believe that there is a place for “Hell, Fire and Brimstone” preaching – as there is a very real expectation of damnation for those who do not love the Lord and trust in Him for their salvation. But following Christ is so much more than the escape from God’s wrath. When you sin and are convicted, do you feel badly because you have done that which you know to be wrong? Or is your heart crushed because you have again broken the heart of God and committed another act for which Jesus had to die? Do you love Jesus in such a way that you long for Him to return? Or do you enjoy life and it’s pleasures – hoping that at the end of seventy or eighty years, when you have lived life to its fullest, that then you will die peacefully and go on to the next good thing? Is Jesus the bridegroom for whom you are waiting and would jump up without notice in the middle of the night to greet (Matt 25) – or is He a fire insurance provider whom you would just assume delay His arrival until you have satiated your desires with this world? Would you want to go to Heaven if Jesus were not there?
The author of Hebrews says that Jesus will return to save “those who eagerly await Him”. Jesus Himself said that He has come that we “may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10.10).
For what do you desire? For what do you long? For what do you hope? I had a conversation just last night with a girlfriend about things we want out of life. Marriage. A family. A life of meaningful service to God. Normal things that you hear in Christian circles, to be sure. But she is living an exemplary life of trusting the Lord in His timing, and she desires Him first. Those other things are peripheral and I know that her heart would rejoice at the opportunity to go home to Him if it came. She would jump up at midnight to meet Him. And we know that we are of Him if we live in such a way.
All sin is damnable. If you ate a cookie one time when your mom said don’t eat it, you have broken the Law of God. Adam and Eve ate a piece of fruit; and because of that one small sin they incurred a curse, separation from God and the reality of damnation was established for humanity. God’s grace in salvation is just as dynamic, powerful and miraculous for those who have tremendous late-in-life conversion experiences and five year olds who come to grips with their sinful disobedience to their mothers. And all people who repent of their sin need to regularly check their hearts:
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”
– 2 Cor 13.5