Yesterday we were in the bathroom and I was doing her hair.
In puffs. For church. She’s three.
And we were in a hurry-late-hurry.
And that’s always when big questions seem to surface.
She asked: “Do you still love me even when I don’t obey?”
(She’d just managed to spill a large glass of milk in the process of breaking up chunks of pumpkin bread while spearing them with a straw as part of her breakfast routine).
I had told her not to.
She had continued.
I said: “Lydi, I love you always. Always, always, ALWAYS…no matter what you do, I love you. How much do you think I love you?”
She said: “A gazillion.”
“Yes,” I said, “But even more than that.”
She said: “Do you think I am going to hell.”
(And I cringed at the thought of a 3 year old who even asks such a question).
But it’s a good question.
Because when the lights go out and we are all left to our real thoughts, with our real–
Don’t we wonder it as well?
And so I answered: “Lydi, without Jesus, none of us could be in Heaven with God. And He loves you so, so, so
It doesn’t matter what you do, or have done…He loves you so much that He sent Jesus on a rescue mission to make sure you could be with Him in Heaven.”
And then at church–
It was time for communion.
And our three older kiddos took communion…
Walking to the front, taking the bread (His body), the wine (His blood) and I was torn.
A mix of whole-hearted-joy for these Littles who have already spoken words that echo a need for His forgiveness…
Mingled with the doubt, that sometimes creeps in.
Do they really know Him?
Do they really love Him?
Is it real?
Are we just teaching them rituals that inoculate?
Are we giving them assurances that will mask their need for Him?
And then another voice whispered…
“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” ~Mark 10:14
And that’s how I first met God.
I was four and I knew I chose wrong.
And it made sense that I needed someone to cover the consequences of the wrong that separated me from a holy, perfect God.
And there were years of closeness and years of walking away and a college-Keith-Green-music-moment when the song lyrics played over and over in my head–
“To obey is better than sacrifice,
I don’t need your money, I want your life.”
And I chose Him.
Not a sacrifice of works,
But a laying down of me.
But it wasn’t over then.
There have been times of dryness when my soul felt cracked and weary.
And months when I strained to hear God’s voice and He seemed far away.
And battles with sin-resurfaced that made me feel so weak.
And the death of our child, when I wrestled with His purpose.
And at times I still wondered?
Let’s make that present tense.
I still sometimes wonder.
Am I really sure I know Him?
Am I really sure He knows me?
And that’s why when they sent me J.D. Greear’s new book–
“Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart– How to Know For Sure You Are Saved”
I agreed to read it.
I’ll admit that I don’t love the title.
But on the other hand,
“Ask Jesus into your heart” can quickly become a catch phrase.
Words numbed by decades of overuse, or misuse.
Or maybe, like me, you’ve asked Him into your heart repeatedly.
Over and over professing faith.
Only to wonder several months later if it really–
My greatest fear for myself and those I love is–
“Depart from me, I never knew you.” ~Matthew 7:23
And this book was,
One of the best explanations of salvation and assurance that I’ve ever read.
Isn’t that the biggest, realest, hugest, eternally-impacting question we can ask?
Even if you don’t believe in Heaven and/or Hell…
Just in case there’s any iota of doubt.
Isn’t it a question worth asking?
Does He know me?
Do I know Him?
Even for those who mock the question…
If there’s one ounce of wondering–
About if Heaven and Hell and God and Satan and sin and salvation are real.
Isn’t it worth examining?
And for those of us who want to know…
Who seek the assurance.
Who want to know-we-know-we-know Him.
To know for sure that we are saved.
Isn’t it worth pursuing?
And so I read with a lump in my throat.
Salvation is not religion.
“Religion commands us to change our behavior, but it cannot change our hearts” ~ J.D. Greear
God wants us to live with assurance and certainty about His love for us.
He wants us to love Him.
He wants us to know Him.
So God tells us what is required for salvation–
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” ~Acts 16:28-31
“…repent and believe in the gospel.” ~Mark 1:15
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” ~James 2:14
As Greear explains, “faith does not exist apart from its action…faith starts with mental assent, but if this mental assent does not lead to obedience, it is not yet faith” (Greear pg. 40 and 41).
But we still fail.
We still sin.
Did you catch that?
The most important moment in your relationship with God is this very one.
As Greear shares, “You can summarize the gospel in four words: Jesus in my place” (35).
“Righteousness (and restored relationship with God) is a free gift to all who believe that God is gracious enough to give it to them in Christ” (Greear 38).
And the moment that matters most, is not a past memory of a prayer prayed in years long ago.
Salvation may (and often does) begin in one moment, where we see our need for Him, His forgiveness, and His Son…
When we know we need redeeming.
When we feel the weight of our sin separating us from Him.
When we are overwhelmed by the grace and mercy He shows in pursuing us.
When we claim His promise to finish the work He has started in us (Phil. 1:6).
When we start to love Him and we realize He loves us.
But the assurance we long for is found “by continuing in the posture of repentance and faith” that began on the day of our conversion (Greear 109).
So where are you–
Are you leaning in close, recognizing your need for forgiveness, resting in His love for you, trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross?
Then have assurance and cling to God’s promises of faithfulness–
Do you have doubts and questions and wonder if you really know Him at all?
Then turn to Him in this moment. Forgetting what is behind, repent and believe–
Do you read this with skepticism, wondering if any of it is real or true or necessary or plausible?
Then consider this a whisper from Him. A call from God’s heart of love to search for Him–
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” ~Jeremiah 29:13
J.D. Greear’s book would be a great place to start.
(and I’m giving away two copies of this book at the bottom of the post)
In it he clearly answers:
How does God explain salvation?
What does “Jesus in my place” mean?
What is belief?
What is repentance?
Can we lose our salvation?
How do we look for evidence of genuine faith?
What should we do when we doubt?
The book is short. It doesn’t cost much. Greear is funny. I could relate to him.
And I came away with a new depth of assurance about my own faith.
Because even though it may be difficult for me to pinpoint the very moment I asked Jesus into my heart,
I know that today I am leaning in close, seeing my need for Him, thanking Him for His grace, resting in His forgiveness, trusting in His love for me–