I’ve been writing down our children’s testimonies. It has been helpful (and humbling). I will probably post them with commentary soon, but I figured I would start with my testimony. Since many of my friends did not grow up in Christian homes, or hear the gospel until they were older, I figure it might be helpful in our discussion on children and salvation. (My testimony has the added benefit of being personal, and thus, easy for me to share and discuss.)
I made a profession of faith as a young child. I think I was four. I don’t remember much about this experience; I think I sat on a step outside a classroom with a Sunday school teacher. I also don’t remember any response of my family. I remember much more clearly getting baptized at age six, especially being questioned by the pastor. “Does baptism save you? Can you get to heaven by being baptized?” I remember clearly my feelings of indignation that he thought I would believe those terrible errors. I knew that salvation was a gift of God and not based on anything I had done.
I can remember feeling quite a bit uneasy around this time when my brother (two years older) told me he wanted me to be saved. Even though I had already made a profession of faith, he was worried, and his worry got me a little worried. I can remember feeling a little fearful at this time because I couldn’t remember “the event” clearly. But remembering the baptism conversation about salvation that I had with the pastor helped me.
I began to doubt my salvation off and on throughout junior high and high school. The biggest problem was that I couldn’t remember what I had said that day. One night I was bothered enough to humble myself and wake up my mom. I am a very private person, and this was the first my mom knew about any concerns I might have. Nevertheless, she did not remind me of my salvation experience. She simply explained that there were several reasons a person might doubt his salvation. This was a very helpful conversation, because up until this point, the only reasons I had heard at church or youth group or youth camp was that you doubted your salvation if you weren’t really saved.
The first reason a person might doubt his salvation is that he’s truly not saved. The doubting is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It’s important to take doubts seriously, because it is dangerous to convince one’s self that he is saved when he is not. As a person draws near to God, the Holy Spirit is capable of helping this person understand truth. Avoiding God may cause these doubts to go away. I nodded as I listened. The possibility of thinking I was saved when I wasn’t was the reason I was taking these doubts seriously.
Then Mom explained that a saved person could also doubt his salvation because he lacked knowledge. A person’s worry about the safety of his money in a bank will not change the reality of security. The Galatian Christians were an example of this problem. They were saved, but they were confused about their salvation. The apostle John wrote to Christians who were facing persecution and doubting their salvation. His stated purpose in writing first John was to give the believers information that would help them evaluate their relationship with God and receive assurance of their salvation. Today, genuine believers who have not been discipled commonly doubt their salvation. The solution is to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The more a true believer knows about God and his plan for salvation, the more confident he grows in his own salvation.
Another reason a saved person might doubt his salvation, is if he is struggling with sin, or not dealing with sin appropriately. My mom showed me I Peter 1:5-9.
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
After mom talked about all these possibilities, she told me that I needed to examine myself, pray, and determine where I fit. She didn’t ask me for a response or evaluation on the spot, but simply left me and went back to sleep. I wasn’t sure that I fit in any category, but the idea that my doubts alone were not automatically indicative of a lack of salvation was comforting. I went to sleep easily that night.
A final piece of knowledge came in college when a pastor commented that people who are trusting in Christ find great assurance in what Christ has promised and accomplished. People who are trusting in a prayer or event find more assurance remembering the event of their salvation than the word of God. This was a helpful distinction for me. As long as I tried to analyze what I had said, or what I was doing for Christ, my focus was on me. But I discovered that when I meditated on Christ and his promises, I was comforted and strengthened in my faith. My growing confidence in God’s ability to keep what I committed to him dispelled any lingering doubts, and soon thereafter, my doubts disappeared. II Timothy 1:11 became a very special verse to me. “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”
Like anyone, our own experiences shape how we approach our children and their salvation. In particular I do know that my mom’s approach had a tremendous influence on me. It demonstrated that a doubted childhood conversion does not have to be addressed by “Of course you were saved, I remember….” I am grateful for her wisdom.