I grew up in Illinois. Our family attended the Lutheran Church for a few years, then stopped going to church altogether. When I was 12 years old, I was enrolled in LaSalle-Peru Christian School. This is where I heard about salvation. I knew that if I died without being saved, I would go to hell. I was so afraid of going to hell that one day I prayed and asked God to save me from hell.
Thinking that now everything was OK, I went on living my life, doing what I wanted to do. I later married and moved to Pennsylvania. There I started attending the Lehigh Valley Baptist Church. As I listened to the preaching and learned more about God’s Word, I realized two important things.
First, the Bible teaches that salvation is a relationship with God. Therefore, if a person is truly saved, their life will be different. There will be a definite change in their life after salvation, and they will have fruit to prove that they are saved. This was very troubling to me, because I had not experienced any such change in my life. I had gone on just living my life the same as before, still caught up in my sin, and doing what I wanted to do. “There was nothing in my life that would indicate that I was a child of God.” There was nothing in my life that would indicate that I was a child of God.
Second, I learned that if you come to God for salvation, you must come to Him on His terms and not on your own. Therefore, just praying a prayer because you want a fire escape out of hell is not true salvation. The Bible teaches that a person must come to God in repentance of their sins (a Godly sorrow for sin, a desire to turn from that sin, and a desire for God to be in charge of your life), and in faith (believing that God will save you). I knew, as I looked back at the time when I prayed that prayer, that there had been no repentance of my sins. That was evidenced by the fact that there had never been a change in my life.
As I thought on these things, I was very troubled. I had no peace in my heart, and no assurance that I was saved. Inside my heart, a terrific battle was raging. As I read the Word of God and listened to the preaching at church, the Holy Spirit would trouble my heart and convict me of my need to be saved. But then Satan would come along and tell me that I was OK. After all, I had prayed a prayer when I was 12 years old, so I was surely all right with God.
This battle went on for several years. I even prayed several times for God to save me, but I could never admit that I was indeed lost. My mind kept bringing up that prayer I had prayed when I was 12. “I was still coming to God on my terms.” I was still coming to God on my terms. Before a person can be saved, they must admit they are lost and there is no hope but Jesus. I was not willing to do this.
But the Lord didn’t give up on me. He kept working in my heart and showing me that I was lost and not saved. Every time I heard a sermon on hell, I was fearful because I knew that I was going there. I had no peace in my heart, and no assurance of salvation. Finally, on February 16, 1997, I could not take it any more. I admitted to God that I was lost and hopeless before Him. I humbled myself before God, repented of my sin, and asked Him to forgive me. In faith, I believed that He would save me, and I asked Him to take control of my life and help me to live for Him.
What a difference the Lord has made in my life! I now have peace in my heart, and the evidence of a changed life that the Bible talks about after salvation. I am not perfect, but the Lord continues to work in my life, showing me areas of sin, and changing me into what He wants me to be. I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when I die, I am going to heaven. I don’t have to fear hell anymore.