Guest Blogger JF Gallagher (that’s my son)
January 3, 2015
I have been in church my entire life. My father is a Baptist preacher and thereby I know a ton about Jesus the Bible and church stuff in general. This is great. I have a good grasp on what a Christian is and what he does and how he thinks. So, I know what it means to be saved what is should look like how a Christian should live etc. Quite often in the church world, the question arises “How were you saved?” What is your personal salvation story? Your testimony. A simple question and for those who are saved easy to answer. So this brings us back to me, the good little preacher’s boy who when asked this simple question freezes. Why do I stumble through this question? What is so difficult about articulating my salvation story? Perhaps, the problem is that I did not have one. My “salvation story” was actually one of pride and sin.
When I was called on to recount my salvation experience, I recited my story which, deep down, I knew was missing something. I would say was saved when I was young. Since I grew up going to Church every time the doors were open, I knew who God was and what He had done for me. Then, one night in bed He called me and I answered. I knew the steps to take and the words to say so I did. Bam I was saved. Simple and easy, this was the story of how I got saved, or so I thought.
I told myself and everyone who asked that I was saved. I had convinced myself that when I repeated those words to myself in bed with my eyes closed and hands folded that I had asked Jesus into my heart. I was wrong. But, I still had to figure that out. I continued in this dishonest state for years. Whenever I doubted my salvation, I would reassure myself “no, no, remember that one night in your bed? Yea that’s it. See no worries you’re saved.” I could not tolerate the idea that I was not a Christian. After all, what would people say if they found out the preacher’s son was not truly saved. And besides, who could doubt that I was saved? No one did. Except me.
I allowed my pride get in the way of my eternity. Through many church services, I ignored the calling on my heart to preserve my image. I was a well-respected young man of Christ who certainly did not want to lose his status simply because he made a mistake, and besides I was saved. Right? I had become consumed by sin and I allowed it define me. I knew this mindset was not pleasing to God and needed to be changed but, I was unwilling to destroy my reputation. After all, I had an image to maintain. But I still had sin in my life and had to fix it. Okay, no problem. I got this. I am a good church boy. I know how to cure this sin. I have a Bible, I can pray, and hey, I’m already going to church. This should be easy. I can rid myself of this sin no problem. I took the correcting of my sin into my own hands. Well, I tried and failed. I would screw up time and time again. “Oops, I messed up time to try again after all, I’m only human.” I said these words to myself over and over to no avail. I was trapped in my sin. I continued to sin even when I was trying to do what was right (this grew increasingly aggravating). I hated my sin. I should be able to end it. I slowly came to the conclusion that I must be missing something. While “reading” my Bible, and by reading I mean flipping through aimlessly, I stumbled across some verses that finally connected with me.
I read the words again. Romans 7:15 “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Wo, hey that’s me. I was doing what I did not want to and the good I was trying to do I was not. Cool. So, I kept on reading. Romans 7:17 “So now it is no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells within me.” So sin dwells in. Wait, now this cannot be me. I was saved. Remember that one night in bed. Oh well guess it can’t be me because I KNOW I am saved and thereby sin cannot dwell there. I once again repeated my words of reassurance to myself that I was saved but the doubt still lingered. Then, I read verse 19 which said the same thing so this must be important. It is in the book more than once. Maybe I am wrong that would explain that longing and weight on my heart. Well, I continued to try to put an end to my sin and continued to fail. All the while the truth of scripture reverberating in my mind. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” I continued on this destructive path if failing and trying to remedy the problem on my own and the weight on my heart grew. While on this path, I ended up working at Falls Creek. I did not anticipate anything great would happen while I was there I just thought it would be a fun summer job. But, God had other plans.
As a summer staffer at Falls Creek (the Oklahoma Baptist camp ground), I was put into a small group of a few guys. One of whom was the leader. This leader was there to mentor us and help us grow spiritually. When I was put in this group, there were only two things on my mind; I wish this weight on my heart would go away, and I am saved I don’t need to say or do anything. At this point, I clung to my sin and it was killing me I just could not see it. I was unwilling to ask for help. I could not let anyone see how low I had fallen. Once again, I allowed my pride to get in the way of my eternity. All this was unknown to my small group leader and I just told him I wanted to read my Bible more. He liked the idea and offered some good books to read. As I read and discussed them with him, he challenged me to dig in deeper and discuss the truths I found. All this digging was hard. But, through this exploration of His book Christ was working on my heart. He showed me truths and how His book applies to my life and ultimately my need for Him. After weeks of learning and Him breaking down my wall of pride, I was finally ready to make a real change.
During a Sunday night staff worship session, I was bombarded throughout the service. I may not remember what the speaker was saying or the songs we sung but, they all led me to the same place. Christ reminded me of all the things He had been revealing to me through the past weeks and years and how on my own could never defeat the sin in my life no matter how hard I tried. He also told me that simply being able to recite a story and know all the right answers was not enough to get into Heaven. I still had to come to place where I surrendered my life to Him. I was finally ready to lay down my pride and follow Christ.
After that service I went to my small group leader and told him “I need Jesus.” He did not hesitate and I did not feel that he thought any less of me. We found a seat and sat down. He asked me “what’s up?” and I told him. I told him of the battle I had been waging over the past few years and of the revelation that God had shown me. I no longer saw a need to fight it alone. I had to have Christ in my life. So, I prayed. Unlike last time where I simply recited some words, this time I meant the words I said. I asked the Lord to forgive me for all my foolishness and sin and asked Him to be the Lord of my life. At the end of that prayer my burden was lifted. I felt like a new and freed man. I now knew that I had Jesus in my heart and nothing could change that. When I was asked how I was saved I could now answer with confidence.
Being able to simply give a response to the question of “how did you get saved?” does not make you a Christian. Nor does knowing the answers to all the “churchy” questions. You can tell everyone that you are saved and even convince yourself of the lies you have chosen to tell but, you still need Christ. Until you come to a place where you are willing to give it all to Christ and let Him reign as your savior, the question of “how were you saved” will always be a terrible one. Next time you think about asking someone how they were save, perhaps a better way to start is by asking them if they have ever gave their life to the Lord.
© 2014 SF Gallagher