I think one of the toughest questions to address in Christianity is the actual determination of one’s genuine faith.   Typically we draw conclusions based on external behavior.  We may listen for verbiage that evidences alignment with Christ.  We examine associations and lifestyles and draw conclusions accordingly.   We consider that genuine belief will bear the fruit of a heart that has been impacted with the gospel of Jesus Christ and a changed lifestyle, accordingly.

The problem with that is that we gauge a person’s spiritual condition based on a set of criteria that meets with divergent opinion.   Because the truth is we make assessments on genuine faith based on that criteria that will be contingent upon 1) our hermeneutic; 2) our tradition and 3) our theological presuppositions.   That criteria will take into consideration the extent of sin that is allowed in a believer’s life until they can be determined to be one of the unregenerate.   If one lives a lifestyle of disobedience, are they really a Christian?

This is a question I have often asked of my rebellious years out of fellowship with the Father.   How can one who professes faith in Christ return to the life they have been freed from to the extent that they live as unbeliever?  Yet that is my story.  So I will expose myself and my rather unpretty story for the sake of addressing this question and to demonstrate how our criteria can cause us to quickly place a label on exterior behavior but yet involves complexities that a surface assessment may not consider.

Here is my story

I spent part of my childhood Roman Catholic until my mother’s death when I was 9 years old.   My parents had divorced when I was 6, so when I went to live with my dad and I was grafted into his missionary baptist church.  But I did not hear the gospel until my first year in college, fall 1982.  There I met a  couple of Christians who began to share the good news with me and invited me to a campus bible study.  Immediately I struck by the fact that these folks seemed to have something I didn’t.  I came again the next week, being more impressed with what I heard and what I saw.  I may not have known all the correct verbiage, but I did know that I was a lost person and that Jesus Christ was the solution.  He died for my sins and I needed Him.  So in the quietness of my dorm room one night shortly after that 2nd visit to the campus bible study, I told Jesus that I wanted Him.  Now, for my theologically astute friends please know that this is what I knew at that time.  I could not recite the 4 spiritual laws or Romans road or give you a break-down of vicarious substitutionary atonement.  But who can when they first come to Christ? My life changed.  I begin to see the ugliness of sin.  The things that I associated with fulfillment lost their appeal to me.  I read my Bible and loved to learn about Christ.  I witnessed to friends, families and even strangers.  In fact, I recall this one instance when I was deep in prayer on one of my visits home.  I felt a nudge to go outside and did so.  Sure enough, one of my neighbors, a young man not too much older than me, was leaning against a car.  I began to share the good news of Jesus Christ with him and he accepted Christ.  I don’t know what happened to that young man but I had a strange sense that he was in trouble and would not be around much longer.  The bottom line is that I had a heart and passion for Christ.

But, some things began to creep in through cracks of unresolved issues due to loss, brokenness and some harmful events in my formidable years.  I was also under some unsound teaching and harsh legalism that did not provide the proper foundation for spiritual maturity and growth, only a rigid reliance on external behavior.  Eventually, I began to make compromises, that turned into bigger compromises.  My self-esteem issues due to events in my life began playing themselves out through unhealthy alliances with men, godly ones at first but eventually – ungodly ones.  The sin that crept in slowly was now full steam ahead and making many demands. By the time I married in 1986 to a non-believer as a result of the trajectory I was on, I had discontinued fellowship, discontinued prayer and Bible reading and discontinued sharing the good news of Christ.  The turn in my life in fall of 1982 had now turned back around by 1986.

It did not stop there.  I essentially lived as one who did not believe and had never believed.  I divorced four years after marriage, and after a few more unsavory relationships ended up with who would become my second husband.  I followed him from California to Boston and we lived together.  We got married in April 1997 and my son was born in September.  You do the math.

But I was miserable, aligned with a man with selfish tendencies and not great care for me.  In fact, there were times he was quite unkind.  Ironically, he came out of a Christian home and most of his family members were devoted followers of Christ and very active in ministry.  I began to develop a friendship with one of my sister-in-law, who unbeknownst of my history, would interject comments here and there about Jesus and God and how he loved me.  The same was true of my mother-in-law.  Neither had any idea of the path I had been on.  My misery and their witness began to converge to a pivotal point by the end of 1998.  After one of the most loneliest and miserable weeks of my life in which my husband stayed in bed for most of the time,  the life of these 2 dear ladies reminded me of the joy that I had once known as a follower of Christ.  Shortly after that, just after new year, my husband collapsed due to end stage renal failure, which was only exposed after this collapse.  He spent the first two weeks in ICU with a life-threatening blood infection.

By then the Lord had my full attention.  I was deeply confronted with my rebellion and my desperate need for Christ.  Again, in the quietness of my home, I knelt with a heart-felt desire to return to the love I had once known.  I immediately picked up my Bible and began to read again.  One passage that still resonates with me til this day is John 6:66-69  and Peter’s response – “Lord to whom shall we go, for we know that you have the words of eternal life”.  How could I have turned away?

That was almost 13 years ago.  I was back in fellowship – with God and His people. Since that time, the sanctification process has been on a steady incline with some dips here and there.  My husband passed away in 2004 and a theological paradigm shift in 2006 followed by some intense study would serve as the catalyst for my steps to seminary.

But that same trajectory has given me more information regarding the criteria for genuine belief and has made me reflect on that 13 year rebellious period and question if I was really a Christian.  Because that is typically what having more information does.  Yet, there are valid reasons for believing that I was never a believer and some valid reasons for believing that I was, but one that hit a long dip in the sanctification process.  So what do you think?  Here are some points to consider

Yes, I was a Christian

  • There was a change in lifestyle after confession
  • What non-believer has an interest in sharing the gospel and being led to do so?
  • It shows that sin can master a believer and the Spirit is grieved
  • The Holy Spirit was still active in bringing about repentance even though the time period seemed very long to get there

No, I was not a Christian

  • A genuine believer cannot live in a sinful lifestyle for that long
  • A genuine believer cannot abandon fellowship with the Lord and have no interest in serving Him

NB: I don’t believe that salvation can be lost.  The Holy Spirit permanently indwells and seals the believer (Ephesians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5), baptizing them into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27).  Either one has the Holy Spirit or they don’t (Romans 8:9).  But one can grieve the Holy Spirit by following after the flesh (Galatians 5:17) and become subject to sin (Romans 6:16) and disobedient to Christ.

So to answer the question of whether I was a Christian, the genuine answer is that I don’t know.  Update edit: But I have a stronger conviction that I was a genuine believer who feel into a prolonged period of disobedience.  And what I do know is this:

1)  Determining genuine faith based of others can involve some complexities that we may not have considered

2)  Whether my return was actually a return or a genuine conversion is irrelevant to the fact that 13 years ago God drew me to Himself and I have walked with Him ever since.

3)  Sin is a serious task master and slave driver.  James warns that there are buttons in each of us and the propensity to have them pushed that could lead to disasterous endings (James 1:14-15).  By doing so, the sin we give into lassos us into doing its bidding, which is why Paul admonishes the believer to not give ourselves to it (Romans 6:12-16).  Christ paid the sacrifice for sin once for sin of all times (Hebrews 10:10-14) but engaging in sin is like opening his wounds afresh and insults the grace of God (vs 29).  The heart can become hardened as sin wrecks havoc and the affront to the Savior can diminish to barely a whisper.  Impaired judgments will ensue as will God’s corrective hand of judgment (Hebrews 10:27; 12:5-11).   Keeping a soft, teachable and repentant heart, a reverent fear of the holiness of God;  continued affections towards Christ and accountable, godly relationships can avoid such calamities.

I would be interested to know of those who can relate to my story.  I suspect there are many.  I also caution those who draw harsh and rigid lines with rash conclusions regarding a person’s faith.  We don’t know all the details or the work that God may be doing in their life.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    71 replies to "Was I Really a Christian?"

    • Ron

      I would be interested to know of those who can relate to my story. I suspect there are many.

      Yes, there are many. An interesting quote from John Wesley (longish):

      This is a point which may exactly be determined, and that with the utmost certainty. If it be asked, “Do any real apostates find mercy from God? Do any that have ‘made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience,’ recover what they have lost? Do you know, have you seen, any instance of persons who found redemption in the blood of Jesus, and afterwards fell away, and yet were restored, — ‘renewed again to repentance?’ ” Yea, verily; and not one, or an hundred only, but, I am persuaded, several thousands. In every place where the arm of the Lord has been revealed, and many sinners converted to God, there are several found who “turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.” For a great part of these “it had been better never to have known the way of righteousness.” It only increases their damnation, seeing they die in their sins. But others there are who “look unto him they have pierced, and mourn,” refusing to be comforted. And, sooner or later, he surely lifts up the light of his countenance upon them; he strengthens the hands that hang down, and confirms the feeble knees; he teaches them again to say, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour.” Innumerable are the instances of this kind, of those who had fallen, but now stand upright. Indeed, it is so far from being an uncommon thing for a believer to fall and be restored, that it is rather uncommon to find any believers who are not conscious of having been backsliders from God, in a higher or lower degree, and perhaps more than once, before they were established in faith.

      http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/86/2/

    • Ron

      Whether my return was actually a return or a genuine conversion is irrelevant to the fact that 13 years ago God drew me to Himself and I have walked with Him ever since.

      But if you have no assurance that your original conversion was authentic, how can you have any assurance that your most recent is?

    • ruben

      I have a similar background, I grew up Catholic and received Christ as a young teenager, I changed completely after that experience. I got involved with different groups including a very strict fundamental baptist church. This was during my teenage years and I could not live up to the teachings they gave me, we moved to the US and something in me cracked, I gave up on faith, so far as saying I was no longer a Christian. After a few years somehow I was called back and returned. My reading of Hebrews 4 says there should be no more hope for me, but I figure if I love Him and live my life this way at least it would be better than just living a normal life. I don’t know at what point I became a Christian, my gut tells me that it was the first time and that I had slipped and been misled after that.

    • Ed Kratz

      Ron, I am inclined to believe that my conversion was genuine, as an evaluation of the evidence supports, even though the question does come up in my mind. I do believe that a Christian can become so engulfed in sin that it renders them ineffective and subject to judgment. I raise the question the way I did because I think we make really rash judgments about where somebody stands. But the dilemma does support the need to take an honest assessment of one’s faith – 2 Corinthians 13:5 and 2 Peter 1:10

    • cherylu

      Ruben and Lisa,

      I think I would have to ask what could of made the changes in you the first time around if you were not really Christians at that point? One doesn’t just change from the inside out, which seems to be what you are both saying, for no apparent reason at all. So my belief would have to be that you were both Christians who later fell away for a time.

    • Ed Kratz

      Ruben, thanks for sharing that. The one passage that I had to really wrestle with and did so for a long time was Hebrews 6:4-8. I plan on writing a post soon about that particular passage.

    • JohnY

      I could share a very similar story about falling away from Christ, with the exception that I know I was ‘saved’. I look now as see that Christ had not been formed in me and the world drew my attention and I became caught up in the things of the world. Only recently, this past year, did I break away from sin due to the unhappiness I was experiencing. God began to draw me back to Himself and I followed. I say followed because looking back I see I was taking steps that allowed Him to reveal Himself to me more fully until I again cried out to Him. I now consider that I should use the remainder of my life to serve Him by loving others as He commanded and seek to glorify Him in all things.
      I’m thankful that He is merciful and loving and believe that I never ‘lost’ my salvation but became ensnared by evil. His kindness to free me from sin and restore me is one alternative that I see He could have chosen for me, but that’s another story.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Lisa,

      I *absolutely* can relate to your experience, hence I’m going anonymous here. At 19, new in the faith, I married what turned out to be an unbeliever and together we quite church and gave up on what I now know as sanctification. We couldn’t have been unhappier or more distant, and 6 years into the mess/marriage I committed adultery.

      But Lisa, I *hate* hearing the question you’re asking. Why? Because when I get asked, “Were you a Christian at the time?” the reason they’re asking is in hopes that I’ll say “No” and then they can say, “Oh, well then it’s all under the blood and you are a new creation.” Of course, if I answer the opposite, they say the opposite.

      But the fact is, like David, I was a spiritually and emotionally wayard young man of God when I committed adultery. At this point so-called Christians ponder, “hmmmm,” and proceed to inform me in various ways how this sin will then stick with me, bar me from one ministry or another, prevent me from living a full Christian life in one way or another, curse me in one way or another. In other words, so-called Christians ask this question to determine if you should enjoy full unencumbered membership, or if your church life will more reflect a Protestant (earthly) purgatory as a sinner.

      In other words, Lisa, 99% of the time this whole line of questioning is a sick set-up:

      1. If you retroactively deny Christ in your life, you get grace — all is forgiven and the slate wiped clean.
      2. If y affirm your past trust in the saving work of Christ (before your “sinful ways” *groan*) then you get denied grace, your slate is dirty and you wear the scarlet letter(s) of whatever sin(s) you committed.

      So though a *gross* misunderstanding/misapplication of 2 Cor. 5:17, throngs of Christians ask this question and tempt many of us to (retroactively) deny Christ to get grace. Amazing, sad, and very common.

    • ruben

      Hi anonymous, I think that way of seeing one’s sin is really wrong, I think God forgives all our sins period. That does not take away the consequences, as these are part of the created order. I do however believe that God sort of turns His back on you when you turn your back on HIm – he lets you go your way and sort of refuses to engage in your life like He does when you are close to Him. So all sorts of good things may happen to you but you know inside something is missing or wrong. If you are following Him and sensitive to His Spirit then He corrects you more easily and more often. Just a pet theory of mine.

    • mbaker

      Lisa,

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I had no idea you have been divorced also. Unfortunately for some who comment on this blog it seems to be THE unforgivable sin.

      I agree that we can’t lose our salvation because we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and that is dependent upon what Jesus did on the cross.

      The sanctification process is on going, however, to conform us into the image of Christ. That certainly does not happen overnight but is a whole life process for the believer.

      And if we believe that God works even through our sin (as Michael pointed out in his post on divorce), then we can probably say that those of us who have been through such things have a certain compassion for others that we perhaps would not have had otherwise.

      Thank you for your honesty, and may you be blessed for being so straightforward about where you’ve been. I have found that when I honestly share my faults and mistakes with others they respond to Christ’s message much more so than being preachy and legalistic. As one of the posters noted above it isn’t easy, however, to be the ‘bad’ believer sometimes in a sea of folks who if they ever have committed a sin won’t own up to it, and lord it over others, forgetting that we ALL have been in some sense prodigal sons.

    • ScottL

      More than answering questions, thanks for sharing your story, Lisa.

    • Hodge

      I think most of us have this same experience. The question really becomes one of how we take the third soil in the parable of the sower. If those who do not bring forth fruit are still Christians then we can say that we were Christians during those rebellious years. If not, it seems we are at a loss. I think the context of Matthew indicates that the third group is not saved. In fact, that seems to be one of the main points Matthew is trying to make about the religious community.
      Wesley, of course, is not much help to a Calvinist, since Wesley believed that you could lose your salvation, jumping on and off of the boat. So he would probably say that you were saved, condemned, and the saved. That’s not really an option for us.
      I think it’s also important to note that many apostates, who did not return, also had a great passion to preach the gospel and live a godly life at one point, but do no more. Thus, we see one of two things: 1. The Holy Spirit works in a persons life and gives them graces to seek good even though they may not be saved (Augustine thought that He did this usually for the sake of the Church), and 2. one can have passions and seek Christ for other reasons than the one that he or she has been regenerated/saved.
      There’s also the idea that the HS is working in one’s life before he or she becomes a believer, and even has them believe (in John’s more superficial sense), but not regenerate them until later (then they really believe, in John’s ultimate sense). I think this happens with a lot of people. No one can tell what is what in the future, but we need to make judgment calls for the sake of others based on what is, not what has not yet come to pass.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Thus, we see one of two things: 1. The Holy Spirit works in a persons life and gives them graces to seek good even though they may not be saved (Augustine thought that He did this usually for the sake of the Church), and 2. one can have passions and seek Christ for other reasons than the one that he or she has been regenerated/saved.

      I’m wondering what your Biblical support is for these two statements? And why do you think that the starting point for these occurences, specially your # 2, comes directly after the person calling out to God for salvation?

    • Ron

      That’s not really an option for us.

      Yes, “us”.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      I believe the starting point comes after one calls out to God for salvation because God is faithful to respond to a person who does so, even if they are not regenerate. God seems to give graces to individuals as long as they hold a superficial faith. I would use the feeding of the 5000 as an example in John 6. Christ gives them food and teaching as though they are really His own; but their subsequent rebellion toward His teaching displays their true rejection of Him, and that their faith is only superficial. This is a continual theme in John. People seek out Christ and have passion for Him, but it is largely for other reasons than being regenerated (in this particular case, they’re there because they somewhat believe in what’s going on, somewhat believe in Him, have spend their day listening to Him, and are fed and taught as a result.
      Hebrews 6:4-6 is another example. The lives of the Israelite kings who follow God early in their reigns but then stop following Him later in their reigns are also good examples of this.

    • cherylu

      So I guess God working in a person’s heart and life to the extent that they are changed to think and act like a Christian and they and others believe they are Christians doesn’t mean much of anything then?

      Sounds like He is giving them just enough “grace” to fool them into thinking all is well when He has never saved them at all.

      I don’t know how anyone can ever have any assurance of salvation in such a system. How do you know you are saved, Hodge? Your faith may not be real. God may have just given you enough grace to make you think you are a Christian and tomorrow you may fall away and find out your belief was totally false. In reality, your Christian life may be a total sham.

      • Ron

        Sounds like He is giving them just enough “grace” to fool them into thinking all is well when He has never saved them at all.

        But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? 😀

        I don’t know how anyone can ever have any assurance of salvation in such a system.

        They can’t. Simply look at Puritan autobiographies where extremely devout men and women struggle over the question “how can I be sure I am of the elect”? Supposedly the mental and emotional turmoil caused by this question led to a significant number of suicides among Puritans (but I’ll need to look that up to verify it).

        To be fair, the issue of assurance is, in my opinion, actually one of the trickiest, thorniest, practical issues in Christianity, period, whether or not you are a Calvinist.

        • Hodge

          Ron,

          I agree. The assurance issue is a matter of presently evaluating oneself in light of the Scripture. It cannot be a future assurance without the present. Even Calvin once stated that he could not say whether he would believe in the future, as we ourselves do not even know if we are the elect. Hence, all must persevere in the faith.

      • Hodge

        “Sounds like He is giving them just enough “grace” to fool them into thinking all is well when He has never saved them at all.”

        Well, if you want to paint God with that brush, but I prefer to see it as His justice and use of the non-elect to help the elect, as well as His mercy to include the non-elect in many of the blessings of the elect. Would it be better if He just cursed the lot of them in everything?

        “In reality, your Christian life may be a total sham.”

        Assurance comes in the affirmation of orthodoxy and orthopraxis in terms of loving God and other Christians in the truth and in action. If we do so, we can know that we have eternal life; but it isn’t simply a matter of having these for a few moments, or for part of our lives. It is a matter of having them for the rest of our lives. Each day we must test ourselves to see if we are in the faith and persevere by loving God and loving the brethren. That is when the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are saved. As I said, however, no one knows the future but God. No one knows the elect but God. Hence, we must persevere in the faith each day.

    • Anonymous

      Ruben,

      I’m afraid you’re missing my point. If someone steals something the natural consequence might be jail and repayment. For sexual sin it might be disease or having to deal with a pregnancy. These are immediate consequences of sins; almost universally applicable to both saved and unsaved alike. But when a believer in Christ objects to having his/her sin thrown in the face for the rest of their life, it’s not about trying to get out of consequences, as I think you’re implying. 

      Instead, what I’m commenting upon is the number of “older brother” types (from Jesus’s parable of the prodigal) who forgo grace-driven restoration in favor of saying, “But, Father, look what he *did*! He can’t just come back to full fellowship without the stain of his sin. What about the consequences? Shouldn’t he be at least known for, well, you know, his really bad sins? Surely he cannot wear the signet ring, for such a sinner brought shame to us! Surely not ALL family honor and opportunity should be restored to a returning transgressor! And while, sure, he can come back, surely your not going to ‘reward sin’ with some party, are you Father?”. So what I’m decrying are those who — ignorant of the magnitude of their own sins, and the Grace we have in the Gospel — would take that Older Brother stance against those who “backslide” or sin while believing on Christ. To Lisa’s original topic, I’m merely pointing out that that the question (“were you a Christian at the time?”) is a red flag for one of the favorite ploys of the Older Brother types that plague our fellowship. 

      Not my warning, but His: “…if you do not forgive others their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins.”

    • Ed Kratz

      Anonymous,

      I appreciate your concern, trust me I do. But that is the opposite result of what I hoped my story should demonstrate, that we should NOT make rash judgments about a person’s sin and if that is indicative of genuine faith. It should give that group you described above hesitation to make such declarations rather than an assigning of the scarlet letter.

      If one is repentant of their sin and falling away, they are to be embraced with open arms and affirmed, as Paul commends in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. But there also has to be discipleship to foster growth and maturity. That does take a few loving and godly folks getting in your business as a means of support. But as Paul says in Galatians 6:1, this is the job for the spiritually mature not the ones that want to impose legalistic standards to make sure the believer is looking the part.

    • Ed Kratz

      Ron,

      I’ll be honest. I get nervous when I feel myself distant or less sensitive to sin.

    • Laurie M.

      Lisa,

      I think we’ve discussed this before, but the timing of the key events of your life mirrors that of great events in my life uncannily, from year of first conversion to years of marriages to year of returning to Christ due to the loss of a husband (though my loss was through abandonment rather than death). Of course we even started at the same church listening to the same unsound doctrine. I even had an e-mail recently from a gal who came to Christ due to my testimony when I was eighteen. She, unlike me, continued to follow Christ faithfully ever after. I still haven’t sorted out a response to her yet. Perhaps I’ll give her the link to your story. It will save me having to write it all out myself.

      I still puzzle from time to time over all the same points you have here, still without answers. I still come back to what you’ve come back to, and to the parable of the sower, and to this “… he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

      Those years apart from Christ have reiterated for me the very real dangers of neglecting so great a salvation and hardening my heart, the very real threat the writer of Hebrews warned against.

    • Dr Mike

      Lisa:

      Thanks for taking the risk to divulge more of your past. It’s always good to know more about people I interact with frequently.

      What has yet to be discussed are additional “factors” such as election, efficacious call, and depravity. I wonder at times, too, about myself – then and now! – but keep coming back to verses such as 1 Co 2.14:

      “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

      I seemed (and seem) to understand things that, if this Scripture is true, I shouldn’t. How can I account for that apart from having been or being a spiritual man, i.e., a man with the Spirit? I can’t. I suspect your experience has been similar.

      Plus, what about election? Was it really our choice to believe initially? What we do subsequent to regeneration can and sadly does include much prodigality, but that is ex post facto. How do we reconcile passages such as Rom 3.10-11 with seeking if we were unsaved? Were we truly seeking God? Well, if I wasn’t, then I’ve never sought anyone or anything in my life.

      You (and I) seemed to have been drawn to Christ, but that is problematic if salvation does not occur. Jesus said that no one comes without the Father drawing them; if we come, we will be raised on the last day. Sounds like salvation to me.

      If you were not saved (or I am not saved), then there are a lot of verses and passages that don’t make sense, and behaviors – such as loving God and seeking Christ – that shouldn’t happen.

      You were a prodigal child, but you were in the family: you never stopped being the Father’s child even when you were up to your armpits in hog slop.

      Nice image, eh?

    • Tabitha

      I absolutely share your experience to some degree. I was saved at 19 and had zeal for the Lord for a few years even experiencing persecution. However shortly after marrying my husband who is a believer, I began to enjoy the blessings more than the blesser, the Lord. So my husband and I both slowly returned to the vomit of the world and lived at one point as complete unbelievers. During this time I was absolutely assured in my soul of my salvation ( but thank God I was not questioned at certain points because there was no fruit and I may have questioned it if pushed?). I eventually became aware of my absolute misery and inability to do a thing about it but run back to my Father( a la prodigal son). I love how God works because His encouragement to return to Him was also through an old friend I lost touch with, who I happened to witness to during my zeal in college and she did not get saved til later on. It was her witnessing back to me that made me flee the world, back in the arms of my loving Father. He has since restored me and my husband, we suffered through the years together. I now have a healthy fear of straying too far from my Father. Prayer. Bible study and teaching my children is my work from the Lord.

      I love to hear stories of restoration. I truly think there will be many more to hear in Heaven.

      In Christ

    • Bernard Shuford

      My torturous journey along these lines is not necessarily “over”, but the basics of it are at http://karnardkreations.com/bernardshuford/wordpress/2007/12/7-05-07/ if you would like to read, Lisa. (You asked about those with similar stories. Mine isn’t as well written as yours, but there it is…)

    • jero

      i donot know how to answer your question but consider this

      [19] But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
      (2 Timothy 2:19 ESV)

    • SPP

      Lisa,

      Great post on a thoughtful topic and, as mentioned previously, always great to hear of restoration. I do not know for certain whether you were, in fact, a believer before you fell away, but I am positive you could have been.

      Hodge,

      Rregardless of whether or not you know, for certain, if you are elect, believers can and should know if they are God’s children. You can tell Lisa or any other professing believer that they are/were not a true believer as much as you like, but the idea, whether believed by John Calvin or anyone else, that none can know if they are elect is nonsense. We do not persevere so that we may have been elect, we are to persevere because we are elect. The Apostle Paul was most certain he was elect, not by his perseverance but by the finished work of Christ.

      • Hodge

        SPP,

        My point is that we only know that we’re elect by our perseverance, and we only know that we persevere when we do each day. It’s not a one time evaluation or just an evaluation of a temporal period in our lives. So I don’t disagree that we persevere because we’re elect. I disagree that anyone knows that they will persevere. I have too many atheist friends who had all of the characteristics attributed to believers in terms of their drive for Christ, seeking God, understanding spiritual things, etc. I believe they did this not on their own but by the graces of God; but they were not elect because they did not persevere, and it is clear that they are not returning.

        “The Apostle Paul was most certain he was elect, not by his perseverance but by the finished work of Christ.”

        Paul: “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.” (1 Cor 9:26-10:5)

    • Ed Kratz

      Tabitha wrote

      “During this time I was absolutely assured in my soul of my salvation”

      I took this same position, even during the rebellion. If someone had asked me then (and as I recall saying a few times) if I was a Christian, my response was yes I still believe but not practicing. Even for a number of years after I came back, my testimony was just that – I came back; I rededicated my life to Christ.

      It was only after beginning systematic study that I started having questions. But I do have a much stronger conviction that I was a believer than one who wasn’t. The evidence listed in post is telling and particularly this point – what non-believer has an interest in sharing the gospel with non-believers? So I am going to modify one of my statements with respect to the question of not knowing.

      However, I do believe there is value in self-evaluation, circa 2 Corinthians 13:5 and 2 Peter 1:10. I recall a co-worker that I befriended a few years ago, who was convinced of his faith because he had an experience at a church and said the prayer. Yet, he had no interest in aligning himself with scripture and gravitated towards very liberal teachings. Was he a genuine believer?

      And speaking of evaluation, I thought this was interesting

      http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/examine-yourself

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Do you not find it more then just a little bit disconcerting or anxiety causing to think that you may not be one of the elect? To think that you may be one of those that God has predestined for damnation? (You do believe in double predestination, right?) To think that perhaps all of your Christian life so far has been something God graced you with to help the true elect? And that if this should truly be the case there is nothing at all in the whole wide world that can be done to change the matter?

      (In case anybody is wondering, this has been one of my problems with Calvinist theolgy for a long time now. But I don’t believe I have ever heard anyone admit before that they can’t know if they are one of the elect and that there is no assurance for the future at all in their understanding.)

      • Hodge

        Cheryl,

        It leads to a sober Christian life and one that runs quickly to the presence of God. It leads to loving Christ all the more when He comforts. But what if we willfully persist in evil and still want to claim to be a Christian? The writer of Hebrews says that it brings great fear of judgment. Two things work for us in our pursuit of Christ: 1. God causing the flesh to fear Him, and 2. God causing the spirit to love Him. Too many evangelicals have put aside the former and just embraced the latter; but I think embracing the later exclusively leads to a superficial and marginal Christian life. So fear is good when it causes us to examine ourselves, the gospel, the Lord in our lives, and causes us to run to grace. It is one of the foundational pillars that holds up our perseverance.

        • cherylu

          I agree with what you are saying here Hodge. I think anyway–we often seem to be talking past each other.

          However, it doesn’t seem to me that you are getting my point or the point I have read or heard others make.

          If God gives grace that makes it seem you are a Christian and yet at any time can pull that grace away so that it becomes obvious you are not one of the elect even after many years or maybe almost a life time of serving Him, doesn’t that you leave you with a rather unsettled feeling? If He does pull that grace away, you won’t be able to persevere anymore.

          My question is, doesn’t the idea that God might be giving you “false grace” (for lack of a better term) and making you think you are truly persevering in the faith when you really aren’t and all semblance of that perseverance might be gone tomorrow give you at least a little bit of an unsettled feeling? Doesn’t it bother you even a little bit to think that you may be one of his chosen and elect ones because of what He Himself has done in your life only to find out somewhere down the road that you are indeed reprobate and bound for an eternity of torment in hell?

          I don’t see where there is any comfort in that at all. Comfort for this second maybe, but no comfort for the days to come at all.

        • Hodge

          Cheryl,

          I think you’re talking about certainty here, and I could say the same thing to you without bringing God into the equation. What if Christianity is false and you’re really going to hell because Islam is true instead? What if you’re in a coma and dreaming that you will be saved but you’re actually not? We can do the uncertainty thing all day, but my point isn’t that you cannot know or be comforted today. It’s that we must persevere to know in the future. We cannot get comfortable about knowing.
          Now, if God has so chosen that there be unregenerate persons in the church, both for their sakes and for the church’s, and I happen to be one of them, of course it would bring discomfort to think about it. But I would say with Calvin that how do we know the elect persevere but that they do? I know from the human side of things that God is just and will grant me salvation through believing and so that is what I have to be concerned about, not whether He has elected me, since that is something I will not know until I have persevered. Do you see what I mean? I know you don’t agree, but that is the way I view it. God has set up a covenant and I need to be sure to enter that covenant with Him. He will do whatever He wishes in terms of whether I will remain in that covenant with Him, and I need to do what I wish with it. That’s the only thing I need to concern myself with in terms of salvation.

        • cherylu

          PS

          Hodge, the bottom line for me here I is that I can find no comfort or assurance at all in a perceived “perseverance” that may not be the real thing but just some kind of grace God worked in my life even when I am not truly saved.

          If He works that kind of “grace” in a person’s life that is not saved/one of the elect, there is no way that I can see that we can ever tell if our perseverance is the real thing or not. I might persevere more then any of the writers of the Bible and still find somewhere down the line that it has all been false. How can you find any comfort in a supposed perseverance that there is no way of telling if it is based on a truly regenerated life or something much different then that?

          What you are experiencing today may not be because you are one of the elect at all. And there is absolutely no way for you to tell since you don’t know if God will remove it from you tomorrow or not. Maybe I am just funny this way, but that simply does not hold comfort for me.

        • Hodge

          Cheryl,

          Do you believe someone can lose his or her salvation? I’m trying to get to whether you are a Calvinist (of course you’re not), an Arminian, or a hybrid that believes in Once Saved Always Saved (a doctrine found more in fundamentalist circles)?
          If someone believes Arminian theology then aren’t you presented with the same problem?

        • cherylu

          Hodge,

          As I have said before somewhere on this site in one of the marathon discussions on Calvinism, I don’t call myself a Calvinist (obviously) but I’m not at all sure I call myself an Arminian either–although I lean more to that side of things obviously. I’m somewhere in there!

          I think the main thing here is that in the understanding you have spoken of here it is God Himself that is working this grace in someone that has absolutely no chance of ever being saved. Making a reprobate appear to himself and others to be elect. If God can give that grace and then freely remove it at any time because the person was not elect, I see absolutely no way at all to ever trust if what appears to be persevering is really persevering at all.

          I have always believed that if God indeed graced someone with the fruits of salvation it was because they posessed salvation. I just don’t see God giving someone what appears to be the fruits of salvation unless a person is saved. If they can or can not lose that salvation later seems to me to be another question.

    • rusty leonard

      I would be interested to know of those who can relate to my story.

      Yes very much so.

      I essentially lived as one who did not believe and had never believed.

      As did I, but I will not share the details in public.

      The thought that has captivated me of late is thinking about the love Christ had for me during those times of selfish living. It makes me weep at times, thinking that He sealed me with the promised Holy Spirit and I played the harlot.

      I like to think of our relationship as a marriage as in Ephesians chapter 5:32. We exchanged rings like any couple, He gave me His Spirit, I gave Him my body. (Rom 12) And then I took it back and played the harlot. But He never did. He should have divorced me, sent me outside the camp to be stoned but he didn’t. Instead He loved me with an everlasting love and endured my selfishness. Now I am captivated by His love, like a moth to a light, dying to myself as press in to get even closer.

      If one lives a lifestyle of disobedience, are they really a Christian?
      Could I call myself a Christian? No. Did others call me a Christian? No. Did Christ consider me one of His? Was my name still in the book of life? I didn’t know. But now I do know. Now I am His. Now I am called a Christian and I have a strong motivation to never not know again. I am being consumed by His love and loving it.

    • Ed Kratz

      Cheryl,

      You said

      “In case anybody is wondering, this has been one of my problems with Calvinist theolgy for a long time now. But I don’t believe I have ever heard anyone admit before that they can’t know if they are one of the elect and that there is no assurance for the future at all in their understanding”

      Please understand that there are variations on Calvinism. I glean from Hodge’s comments that he comes from the Reformed tradition affirmed at the Synod of Dort. In this system, perseverance determines election. So justification is only affirmed through sanctification. In other words, one can only know they are elect because they keep moving forward. In my opinion, this system does not allow for prolonged or widely deviant behavior relative to a normative Christian experience and will compel a continual examination.

      I, on the other hand, gravitate towards a modified Calvinism that is dispensational and Amalrydian (I’m at DTS go figure). In this system, unconditional election does not negate the fact that a believer can be carnal and still one of the elect. Therefore, a believer can demonstrate deviant behavior because of there is a dual nature at work and if one does not consistently follow after the Spirit, there is the likelihood of carnality, i.e. following after the flesh.

      If your interested, I would highly recommend reading The Five Views of Sanctification that provide greater details of this distinction.

      • cherylu

        Thanks Lisa,

        I do know there are many “shades” of Calvinism. And I can certainly understand and agree with what you are saying a whole lot more then I can what Hodge is saying on this issue.

        His understanding seems to me to make it totally impossible to have any real assurance at all. How could we really know until we are face to face with the Lord after our death? He did say there is no assurance for the future.

        After all, if God can give one that is not elect grace to think and act and look like a genuine believer and then remove that grace at any time, how can anyone ever have any confidence at all that won’t be the case for them? What if one lives 90 years thinking they are the elect because of this grace of God in their lives and then shortly before death the grace is removed and it becomes obvious they were not the elect at all? I find this whole concept totally unsettling and I must say, down right frightening.

    • Josh Mueller

      Was Peter a Christian before Jesus’ prediction about his future state of mind in Lk.22:32? The word used for “turning” here often is used elsewhere for the turning to Christ in conversion (Acts 3:19; 9:35; 11:21; 26:18).

      I think we all go through various turning experiences throughout our lives that cause us to see more, understand more about God and follow Him more decisively or faithfully than we previously did. And sometimes that also may include taking two steps back before taking one step forward.

      It’s self-defeating to be constantly introspective or even try to pick a particular point in time where we could say: now this was really it!

      I was reminded of Bonhoeffer’s poem “Who am I?” that he wrote during his prison time in the concentration camp in Flossenbuerg. I particularly like the ending because the essence of our faith lies not in our capacity to believe or the accuracy of our self-judgment, but in the way we are known to the Lord and are able to commit ourselves to His mercy and grace.

      By the way, Chaplain Mike at internetmonk made an excellent point about the often misunderstood exhortation in 2 Corinthians 13:5. It was posted there on November 7, for those who want to read it. I can’t post the link, or the comment won’t pass the spam filter.

    • Josh Mueller

      If you google “internetmonk Examine Yourself?”, it will be the first result.

    • Ed Kratz

      Josh, I posted the link in comment #26

    • Josh Mueller

      Thanks, Lisa. That’s what happens when you operate with false assumptions – like: no one gets to post links!

      I should have read all the comments more carefully.

    • Skaggers

      Lisa,
      Great post (as usual). I think of all those people that get saved a church camp or VBS and the church rarely hears from them again. I do think that your statement reflects a additional criteria that Christians generally place into the equation (as if it were actually a math formula): TIME. If I “got saved” a week ago and then went back to my old ways.. Then I was never saved, but if I “got saved” 13 yrs ago, maintained good orthopraxy, then started down a wrong path, I am still saved, just backslidden. I don’t know if this factor should be included, but many of us put “time” in as a criteria for assurance of our own salvation (not to mention when we gossip about other people’s). Whether you were saved back then (which I seem to believe) or saved more recently, I am just glad you are a part of Christ’s body!

    • SPP

      Hodge,

      Try again, your quote of Paul does not enhance your point. Paul preached for the sake of the elect but had no idea if he was among that group?? Sure.

      • Hodge

        SPP,

        I’m sorry. I just quoted Paul. Do you think he really knew he was one of the elect and is just lying to the Corinthians to make a point?

        And why exactly does John write a work that gives guidelines to believers so that they can determine whether they have eternal life if that’s something we can just know already? Why does he indicate that those who do not love the brethren are of the devil instead of Christ regardless of whether they profess Christ? Shouldn’t they just say that they are elect too because of what Christ has done? Everyone believes that a person is saved by what Christ has done, but we also believe a person must exercise faith in Christ in order to have His work applied to them. It is whether they have faith that is the issue. Hence, James tells us that faith without works is dead, and the works there are similar to what John says. I don’t see how you’re sarcasm negated what I said. Would you like to present an argument in your favor?

    • Ed Kratz

      Thanks Skaggers. I think you make a great point about the time factor and one I tried to bring out in the factors in favor of genuine belief with regard to the 13 years being a prolonged dip in the sanctification process. I think because it was such a long time, it can make the genuine belief more questionable, as opposed to maybe a year. But we do that, don’t we? We assign timelines to things and if it doesn’t fit within what we may deem a reasonable time period, then there’s something amiss.

      So yes, the same could be true of what appears to be genuine belief. Thanks for bringing that up.

    • aztexan

      Lisa asks:
      “The evidence listed in post is telling and particularly this point – what non-believer has an interest in sharing the gospel with non-believers?”

      Answer: MANY. We see this all the time, Lisa. Firsthand I know several folks who were waaaay into “discipleship” and “evangelism” as kids/teens/young adults who have backslid right out of the faith. Youth group and “WWJD” and all that junk were this set’s “thing” for a time, but they grew out of that phase. I’m sure if you’ll ask around you’ll hear this story from tons of Christians; it’s a tragically ubiquitous phenomenon in the visible Church.

      Scripturally, look at classic passages such as Mt. 7:21-27 (mark v. 22). Consider the case of Demas and unnumbered other disciples who seemed earnest and fervent for a while before ultimately turning permanently back to the world and its passing pleasures. It is even mentioned that there were enemies preaching the Gospel for nefarious purposes, to bring fame and power to themselves and/or to fan the flames of persecution against the Church. To this Paul said, in effect, “That’s cool with me. God can use even wolves’ preaching, so long as they’ve got the Gospel right. If the Message is being conveyed, then I’m happy.”

    • Hodge

      Here’s my question:

      I have a friend who went to seminary with me. He was a Calvinist and dedicated believer. He was passionate about the gospel and about the Word of God. He entered a pastoral ministry. He prayed continually. He sought to do good where he could.

      Was he saved?

      He’s now an atheist and a very bitter one at that. He has blasphemed God in so many ways I cannot even count in just our short conversations since. He is not returning. So was he saved? And if you say, No, then what is the difference between he and Lisa? Lisa returned and he didn’t? So are you arguing that it was Lisa’s perseverance that causes you to judge whether she was and is saved? And what if you saw Lisa when she didn’t return? What would you say then? My point is simply that EVERYONE judges whether one is saved based on perseverance. Can we ultimately say who is saved and who isn’t? That’s really only for God, but we can repeat what He’s told us and make judgments of ourselves along those lines? Of course, we need to test ourselves to see if we really belong to Christ. So what is that I’m saying that’s different than what you might say about my friend or about Lisa’s original religious experience?

    • SPP

      Hodge,

      I will reiterate – you can doubt your salvation as to any extent you wish and not think one can have assurance of salvation, but the Council of Scripture teaches otherwise. Without regard to context, pick and choose any specific verse and question whether you and others are saved, if it pleases you. I have no certainty of others, but for myself I am most assured, not by my behavior but by His work – and would encourage other believers likewise.

      I believe my argument is sufficiently made, as far as I am concerned, so I will rest on this and you can pick up your argument with others, if you wish.

      • Hodge

        I’m unclear where your argument was made at all, much less sufficient. I’ll tell my atheist friends that they are still saved because their assurance rests on His work and not on their genuine relationship with Him. Your declarations are strawmen. They have nothing to do with our reception of salvation, only how it was accomplished apart from us. I’m glad you know that Christ has cleansed the water for you, but you do have to actually pay attention to whether or not you’ve drank it. That’s my only point.

    • mbaker

      Spp,

      Thank you for reminding us all of this : Calvinists, Armianians, or combinations.

      “I have no certainty of others, but for myself I am most assured, not by my behavior but by His work – and would encourage other believers likewise.”

      It is always HIS work whether we are obedient or not, that determines our salvation, and our assurance of that, NOT whether we are Calvinist, (what ever the five schools of it are or are not), or some form of Armianianism, or other belief.

    • Butters

      That internetmonk link was spot on. I’ve always wondered about that 2 Corinthians 13:5 passage, and how it doesn’t match so well with the ‘scrutinize your faith’ take on it.

      I recently wrote some personal reflections on assurance here:
      http://butteredmusings.blogspot.com/

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      “If they can or can not lose that salvation later seems to me to be another question.”

      Actually, I don’t think it is another question. If you could have absolute certainty that you are saved, but lose your salvation, then how exactly did you have absolute certainty of your salvation? If you are not saved in the future, you are not saved in the future. You may have been saved in an Arminian system, but doesn’t that cause you to have the same fear that a Calvinist may have? (Just FYI, I don’t think Calvinists live in constant fear; I think fear is merely a part of sobering the fleshly mind; love is the stronger pull toward Christ.) So I don’t really get it, unless you believe OSAS, which in that case, you would think you would believe that even my atheist friend is saved. Is he? What do you think happens to these people in your view, Cheryl?

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      There are certainly verses in the Bible that make it sound like a person can not lose their salvation. OTOH, there are also verses that sound like a person can walk away from the Lord. I am not completely sure, but I tend to think a person can walk away.

      But I believe if they were saved God is going to work in their lives–maybe a lot of ups and downs. Maybe some drawing back and going forward.

      What I have a hard time believing is that God Himself gives His grace to a person that is not saved in such a way that they and others believe they are. Seems really odd that it would coincide with them crying out for salvation too.

      As for your atheist friend, I would certainly say if he persists in his non belief in God until he dies that he is not saved at that point even if he may have been earlier and for some reason lost that faith and turned away. But is the final chapter written for him yet? It is not over until it is over as the old saying goes.

      • Ron

        Here’s a gem from Johnny C (emphasis mine):

        Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts. Sometimes, however, he communicates it also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness. -Institutes (III, 24.8)

    • John from Down Under

      Was I Really a Christian?

      DOES IT MATTER???

      I have mixed reactions about this post (though I’m a ‘fan’ Lisa 😉 ). This question would make more sense coming from a non-Calvinist like me but why would a Calvinist even ask this question?

      Does the determinism of the Calvinist view allow for this type of retrospection? If you were marked out as ‘elect’ from eternity past you were most certainly ‘always saved’, even though you made decisions that were not commensurate with the fruit of a regenerate believer (by Hodge’s definition as I understand).

      Conversely, if you WERE NOT marked out from eternity as an ‘elect’, the question becomes equally irrelevant. Since there’s nothing YOU could have done or do to change your final destination, the question becomes groundless (other than the fact that you would never know either way).

      However your questions whether you were ‘a Christian’ and Hodge’s college mate whether he ‘was saved’, become a little more relevant if we frame them in a time-space continuum context (loosely speaking) and ask the question something like this: if you died THEN would you have ended up on the right side of heaven? Equally, if Hodge’s friend was to die when he was ‘living like a Christian’ and ticking all the boxes of ‘Christian fruit’ in an empirical sense (assuming he was not putting on a big act), where would he have ended up?

      The honest answer to both of course is ‘I don’t know’ as only God knows. I only reframed the question because in your case we tend to answer ‘yes’ because of what happened afterwards and you have bounced back, and Hodge’s friend went the other way so we tend to think ‘no, he wasn’t’. The ‘what-happened-after’ gives us an empirical advantage to answer the question. What I’m saying is ‘what if there was no after?’ in both these scenarios and your lives ended at that point? How would we have answered the SAME question then?

    • John from Down Under

      Cheryl et al,

      In terms of Hodge’s ‘you don’t know you’re saved till the end’, as troublesome as it sounds I think the biblical evidence vindicates him at least as far as 1 Peter 1:5 and 1 Peter 1:9 goes. LITERALLY speaking we won’t know until the end. Between now and then we believe but we won’t know objectively until that day (though some folks who think they ‘know’ that their salvation is in the bag will get a rude shock in the end – Matthew 7:21-23).

      However there seems to be a mitigating factor (one of several) for the ‘not yet’ period so we’re not left hanging in suspense like a student on an end-of-year exam waiting to find out if his name made it on the list despite the fact that he believes he ‘did well’ on the test. The inward witness of the Spirit (Romans 8:16) though offering intuitive assurance, does not necessarily cry ‘subjectivism’ but cements our certainty as a direct testimony to our own spirit as opposed to assurance that comes from a line of reasoning (deduction).

      I have a similar testimony to Lisa’s which I think would be redundant to go into at this point, but one thing I distinctly remember is that in my ‘rebellious time’ I was thinking of myself as a sheep wallowing in mud and being unhappy about it, unlike a pig who enjoys mud almost as its natural habitat. The conviction factor was overwhelmingly strong and sin was no longer as joyous as in my pre-Christian days.

    • Adulcia

      Thanks for sharing everyone.

      I think the Grace of Christ is much greater than any one of us (including me) fully gives it credit for. Hosea is a great metaphor for a faithful God in the face of unfaithful believers.

      I only know that God is faithful, even when I am not. It’s not what I do or don’t do by which my salvation is gained, it’s what I receive of the Grace of Christ.

      I count myself a Christian, and Saved, yet I am also a redeemed sinner. And yes I still sin. My faults may not be as visible or as noticeable as those shared by others here, and I haven’t considered myself to have “back slid-den” in my faith. But I am not perfect. I haven’t earned God’s favour, neither do I deserve it.

      So with that in mind, when I consider those I know who have professed faith in the past, but now live a lifestyle that disregards that faith, I think that could so easily be me in other circumstances. I don’t think God gives up on those people, but he still longs for their return into relationship with Him.

      It is by Grace we are saved, isn’t it? Isn’t that the whole point of the crucifixion and resurrection?

      So, Lisa and others, In my own, uneducated opinion, yes I do think you were still Christian, even when you were living in rebellion, even if you didn’t recognise that at the time.

    • […] a brief overview of his teaching on suffering and evil. Lisa Robinson also shares a post with her own personal story and relates it to the question of how we determine if one has genuine faith or […]

    • Mike

      This sounds sooo much like my own life. This is what has led me to embrace the doctrines of election and irresistible grace. Check it out:

      I was “saved” out of a life of drugs and alcohol. I was literally on the verge of killing myself. I turned from these things to Christianity and the church. I said all the right things, did all the right things. I was reading my Bible, and learning a ton of stuff. This sounds like the Holy Spirit teaching me scripture right? That’s what I thought, too. The church I was attending had some great “How to interpret the Bible classes” come to find out, I just learned how to twist what I was reading to fit into dogma and doctrine. The reason I say I was never saved before:

      1. I bore no fruit outside of what my flesh was able to counterfeit. I hated prayer, and never led anyone to the Lord. I basically used Jesus as rehab.

      2. I eventually turned away, embracing pluralism and even identifying myself as a Satanist at one point in my “rebellion.” Scripture constrains me to say there is no way I was ever truly saved before if I was capable of saying that I thought Jesus never existed.

      That being said, there really is no way to know if you or I was saved before, and it kinda matters, but it kinda don’t. I KNOW now that I am in Him and He is in me, that is all that matters. The story of my true conversion is a lil too long to post as a reply, but it syncs up with what scripture says about conversion. Whereas before, I was like one of the people who came to Him because they thought He’d feed them, now I feel like He has called me, opening my heart up after the hearing of His word, Him giving me even the faith necessary to embrace the message.

      God is good, sink yourself into Him right here and now. Live like a new Christian feeling the renewing power of His presence, with the fire of a backslidden saint zealous to reclaim the lost years and opportunities to share Him with others. We may never know…

    • Bob

      Thanks Lisa for this thread. It seems like we all have similar experiences which is encouraging to me. I know I am not an isolated case.
      I came to Christ late in life at 50 with a past life full of sin. Since then, its been, well, full of ups and downs. During the times of unbelief, doubt, etc. I tell myself to never give up as Jacob never gave up. I think that there must be a tension when it comes to assurance. As Paul tells us, we must strive for our salvation. If we had an absolute assurance that we are one of the elect, then through our pride, we would become complacent and boastful. So maybe it is a good thing that we have these concerns over assurance. It keeps us on our toes so to speak.
      This might not line up with this doctrine or that doctrine, but its how I come to deal with it. I do hold it in my heart that Christ will finish what He started, despite my failings.

    • ruben

      I think thinking about being “really elect” can drive one crazy, instead of trusting and loving God we tend to think of Him as a cruel trickster. I don’t think we should think we can elevate ourselves to understand His mind and spend our lives figuring out the things that human brains cannot contain.

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