I think that I have a very unique perspective than most people regarding salvation. A good many of the believers that I know were saved pretty early in life. They don’t really remember a time that they weren’t saved. It just always has been this way.
I, however, was not saved until I was 35 years old. I distinctly remember not being saved. I also remember a lot about the time that God was drawing me to Himself.
I always knew there was a God. I also knew that I would go to Hell once I died because I had enough knowledge to know that I wasn’t where I should be spiritually. It was a subject that I tried to avoid thinking about at any cost. I just hoped that when it was my time to die, I would have a few minutes to “get myself right.” Other than that I would push away any thoughts concerning God, Jesus, or my eternal destiny.
I remember when God started opening my heart to His advances. Here are some of my thoughts from that time that I wrote in a previous blog:
It seemed every time I got in the car to go to work in the morning “the Marshall Minute” was on. This is a little minute-long spot where the minister of St. James United Methodist Church would speak on some topic and relate it to Scripture. Every time it would come on I would change the channel. I absolutely hated it. Not really because of what was said in the spot but because I could feel God working on me. I would just get so mad.
Well, anyone who tells you that God doesn’t have a sense of humor is wrong. He absolutely does. Because not only did I hear this everyday, but it started that another station picked it up and when I would change the channel, it would be on that one too! It really infuriated me. And then people at work started talking to me about God and witnessing to me. Every book I would read would have something about religion or God in it somewhere – even though they were secular books.
During this time in my life I was really angry at God. I had a lot of hatred towards God because I felt He had ignored my prayers and let my mother die of cancer when I was 19 years old. This hatred of God almost became like one of my children. I nurtured it and grew it up really big. I had it so long at this point that it was part of who I was and I couldn’t imagine how to begin to let it go.
So, as God started working on me, I started working against Him. A lot of people believe that the decision to believe is all theirs. They believe they can choose God at any time. They believe that they have the will and the strength to do that. I beg to differ on this point. Because I can tell them, you don’t. And not only that, you don’t want to either. The Bible says, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” — Romans 5:10
You see, I remember being God’s enemy. Oh, I didn’t think I was God’s enemy and I wouldn’t have put it that way at the time, but I was basically shaking my fist at Him. All I wanted was to be left alone. I wanted God to quit bothering me, quit drawing me to Him, and quit making me feel so guilty.
The first thing that happened was I begin to see my guilt. The Holy Spirit was showing me just what a guilty, worm of a sinner I actually was. He had to break me down to get me to even begin to see the light. Everywhere I turned, there He was.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall[a] on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You. ~ Psalm 139:7-12
There was nowhere I could go to escape from God. And the more I tried to escape from God, and couldn’t, the more I hated Him.
I thank God He did not give me what I wanted. He could have just left me alone. Because He does that sometimes. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;” Romans 1:28 “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” Psalm 81:11-12
He could have done that to me and that would have been right and just. But He didn’t! In His mercy and grace and lovingkindness, He didn’t leave me in the dark, deadness of my soul.
So when I pushed, He pushed back even harder. And finally, I saw His light and believed. And the light shined and the darkness was gone. “For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.” Psalm 18:28
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
John Newton (1725-1807)