I came to salvation by one of the most wonky, serpentine, and circuitous paths known to man. Like millions of kids, I went to Vacation Bible School each summer, and when I was seven or eight, I felt led to go forward and give my life to Jesus Christ. I remember speaking to a preacher in a blue three-piece suit with a head of perfectly styled hair (courtesy of Vitalis and a generous measure of black dye) and the whitest set of chompers I’d ever seen. I remember him talking me through the Romans Road, praying with me, and asking me, “Doesn’t it feel good to know you’re saved?” Naturally, I nodded enthusiastically because it felt great. Awesome, in fact.
And then nothing else was done. No one really followed up with me and took it upon him or herself to disciple me. (Yes, I know that’s a noun, but I’m making it a verb for the purpose of this post.) Everyone made the assumption that because I went to church and “looked the part,” I understood exactly what things like salvation and eternal security meant. As a result, I grew up as a sort of “half-baked Christian.” I looked right and smelled right sitting on the shelf, but if someone had pressed me, I would have collapsed just like the meringue I was. In fact, that’s exactly what I did when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and I had a true crisis. Thank goodness I did. That was what laid me low and compelled me to seek His face.
I often wonder how much farther along I would be in my Christian walk if I had been properly taught and guided by a spiritual mentor, if someone had stepped in the gap for me. There’s nothing to be gained in lamenting the fact I didn’t, but I sometimes have question mark moments in my faith where I repeatedly ram my head against something like Mario.
I hear people talk about spiritual matters, saying things like, “God told me that…” or “I just felt the Spirit leading me to…” and I start to have small panic attacks, wondering, “I’ve been a Christian for decades. Why is that I’m not hearing or perceiving these things? Is there something wrong with my faith?” And, of course, there’s the thought, “Am I really saved?”
I think the difficulty arises because of a human desire for spectacle. I sometimes wish I had a salvation experience that was more, I don’t know, instantaneous. Part of me longs for a moment of which I can say, “THAT was when it happened. I was never the same afterwards.” The people to whom Jesus witnessed were much the same; they were looking for huge, showy events to convince them of His deity, but that’s not how God works. He speaks in a “still, small voice” instead, one that takes a discerning ear to hear (1 Kings 19:12). That’s why Jesus chastises them concerning His capacity to heal. Frustrated, He states, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe” (John 4:48). However, despite their error, the sick child they wanted Him to heal began to recuperate the moment Jesus said the word. It all took place well out of sight of the masses.
My doubts, though small, are the gaps the devil tries to put his bony fingers in so he can pry me open and strip me away from God. (I’ve come to realize that the fact that he’s trying so hard is evidence that I’m saved and sanctified. After all, why would he mess with someone who already belongs to him?) And there were times in the past when I fell for his lies and stepped away from God, perhaps because I was ashamed. Of course, I was always saved, and I could never lose my salvation. But I didn’t understand that until much, much later. It’s so simple that it’s terribly easy to over-interpret it as we search for what we interpret as “divine.” The apostle Paul plainly states the truth in Romans 10:9-10:
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
I read a passage from Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman a few days ago that truly spoke to my heart on this issue. In it, he discusses Psalm 118:27, “The LORD is God, and He has given us light; bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.” The imagery is of the Old Testament and references the atoning sacrifices the Jewish people were required to perform; however, there is application for the Christian. Why? This passage speaks of the coming of Christ–the Sacrifice for all. We must always remember who He is, what He did, and what that action truly means. Cowman writes:
“Is not this altar inviting thee? Shall we not ask to be bound to it, that we may never be able to start back from our attitude of consecration? There are times with life is full or roseate light, and we choose the cross; at other times, when the sky is grey, we shrink from it. It is well to be bound. Wilt Thou bind us, most blessed Spirit, and enamor us with the cross, and let us never leave it? Bind us with the scarlet cord of redemption, and the golden cord of love, and the silver cord of Advent-hope, so we’ll not go back from it or wish for another lot than to be the humble partners of our Lord in His pain and sorrow!”
Sometimes, when I’ve slipped up or I start comparing myself to other Christians and judging myself by human standards, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking I’ve never truly been granted salvation. I know that it is utterly and completely incorrect, but in my weaker moments, it’s easy to think this way.
Oswald Chambers writes in his masterwork, My Utmost for His Highest, “Many of us have a mental picture of what a Christian should be, and looking at this image in other Christians’ lives becomes a hindrance to our focusing on God. [We tell ourselves] ‘This is not salvation— it is not simple enough.’ He says, in effect, ‘Look to Me and you are saved,’ not ‘You will be saved someday.’ We will find what we are looking for if we will concentrate on Him. We get distracted from God and irritable with Him while He continues to say to us, ‘Look to Me, and be saved…'”
My focus has too often been on the wrong people and things rather than the cross. That’s why I decided to make a little visual reminder for myself I’m calling my Binding Cord. It is merely symbolic and has no “magical” powers. However, when I look at it, I am reminded of Mr. Cowman’s assertion that I am bound to the cross. I am staked there by Christ Himself, and there is nothing in heaven or on earth that can pull me away. I stand on the promise of Jesus, the one recorded in John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (emphasis mine).
I’m not crafty by any stretch of the imagination, so I went the simple “friendship bracelet” route. I made just short of a billion of these in middle school, and the process came back fairly quickly. Using a pillow (covered in a jaunty IKEA pillowcase) and a few pieces of thread, I started knotting my bracelet together.
Notice the red thread…
I didn’t always keep the two strings I wasn’t looping taut enough, and as a result, the red started to bleed through and show between the knots. At first, it enraged me because I wanted this bracelet to be perfect, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was symbolically fitting. After all, the blood of Christ washed away all my sins—past, present, and future. There is no part of my life or self that it has not fully permeated. It is the reason I can know His love (gold) and have hope (silver). The scarlet thread symbolizes what truly liberates me; it is the “tie that binds” eternally.
The end result was a little less polished than I wanted, and I’m sure I’ll try to make another one before long. However, it’s serving its purpose for me.
If you’re struggling the same way I did, I’d love to speak with you and help you come to a better understanding of salvation. You can contact me at emeraldelf (at) gmail (dot) com. Also, if you would like one of these bracelets as a reminder for yourself, I’d be happy to make it and mail it to you free of charge. Please contact me via email or in the comments section below if you’re interested.
Soli Deo Gloria!