The year was 1967. One evening my brother invited me to watch Billy Graham on Television. I thought it more important to go out and play with my friends. The next evening, however, I found myself pasted to the television. As I slowly inched my way down the couch, getting closer and closer to the T.V., I felt as though the world's weight had been placed upon my shoulders.
Later, from the edge of my bed, considering the things preached, I rose and cried out to God from my heart, "God help me." Immediately a sense of peace came over me and again speaking, this time to myself, "I'm glad that's over."
On a hot summer evening, in Brooklyn, New York, an entrance into the doorway of heaven was granted to me. It was not because of anything good in me. To the contrary, grace had been given to a sinner, otherwise destined for an eternity in hell.
During the previous school year, the teacher said, "They go to hell." Her statement was in response to the question, "What about people who never hear the gospel?" I thought to myself, "I'm glad I'm Catholic."
During those days, before hearing Billy Graham, I would pray for the men in Vietnam just before sleep. One night a cold chill came over me, thinking to myself, "I don't know there is a God, and if there is one, I don't know if I will go to heaven." The thought followed, "If there is a God, please help me to go to sleep because I don't want to think about this anymore."
Not very long after hearing Billy Graham while speaking to my dad, I heard the words come out of my mouth, "I know there is a God." Something significant took place in my heart the night I prayed - I received a new one. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
It would be six years before receiving an assurance of salvation. Many people struggle with having all doubts removed from their hearts concerning their eternal state. In my case, after becoming deeply conscious of unrepentant sin, the thought began to gnaw at my soul that I was denying Jesus.
After speaking to the Billy Graham organization, they sent me to Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan. The counseling received was both a sharp reproof and very comforting. Repentance was once again the only means of restoring my aking conscience. After changing my ways, by the grace of God, I pursued attending a gospel-preaching church.
During the days that followed, much time was spent in the word of God. When my wife was expecting our first child and sitting in the doctor's office, God's words seemed to jump off the page. Everything was in the past tense. Paul was telling the Romans that they were saved.
It was not a matter of work but faith in Christ alone. God gave to me at that moment the assurance for which my heart longed. Assurance of salvation is something that changes the human heart like few other things. "Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge." (2 Corinthians 1:21, 22)
This pledge is not for God's benefit; He needs no reminder of our salvation. We, however, are in desperate need of the assurance that turns dead works to obtain salvation into the good works of appreciation. I began to work out of gratitude for what Christ did for me on Calvary's cross so many years ago.
From that day in 1974 until reading John MacArthur's book, FAITH WORKS, there had been no doubt in my mind about my salvation. Many times I fell to the attacks of the devil, but assurance had been mine because the Bible told me so.
Then a new view of a familiar verse caused darkness to enter my soul. "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 Corinthians 13:5)
Having left Catholicism so many years before had done wonders for my spiritual condition. I could relate to the trials and freedom granted to Martin Luther. However, salvation is not something we should ever take for granted but press hard after it.
I participated as a leader in a church that changed around me, in what seemed like a moment. It became time to examine myself and see if I was in the faith. As I looked deep into my soul and spent much time in prayer, I am not exaggerating at all by saying much. The unimaginable happened; doubt began to arise.
When the dust began to settle about a year and a half later, a more prosperous and more profound assurance filled my heart anew. Since then, I have come to understand there are three sources of confidence granted to the believer. One is an objective understanding that comes from the word of God. We trust God's word when we acknowledge that God is speaking directly to us. That is objective assurance.
The second kind of assurance arises from the observation of a subjective transforming work in us. Our behavior begins to change. Our thoughts, words, deeds, and desires become different and better. This confidence, however, is the weakest form of assurance. It is all too easy for the devil to wreak havoc in our minds when our behavior is not so good.
The third kind of assurance is the sealing by the Holy Spirit of promise. This confidence is an extraordinary work that takes the believer to heights of usefulness otherwise not possible. Why? There is an end of self that raises the believer's awareness of our need for the Holy Spirit. Self-centeredness is detrimental to our labors of love.
There is nothing more significant than a love for the person of Jesus Christ. To love His Church, and His will is terrific. To enjoy the blessings we receive and even with gratitude brings great pleasure to God's heart. Nonetheless, to love Christ for no other reason than He is worthy of our love is the highest state of being that we can obtain.
"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ ...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:7, 11)
To know Jesus is to love Him!
To love Jesus is to desire to know Him more!
"And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death." (Revelation 12:11)