Growing up around Christians, and attending a church that preached the Gospel, gave me a knowledge of Jesus Christ. At that time I thought that knowing about being a Christian made you a Christian. I knew people who professed to be born again, and I saw a difference in their lives. I just did not quite understand that I needed to be born again to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. (Note: "Saved" and " Born Again" are biblical terms referring to the forgiveness of sins by God and the rescue of the person from the power and penalty of that sin. This is God's requirement for everlasting life.)
Although I had attended church pretty regularly as a child, I did not attend faithfully as I got into my young teenage years. Although I said I believed in Jesus, and thought I was a Christian, I still did not understand the full implications of having a personal relationship with Jesus and living fully as he would have me do.
Later in my teen years, I was influenced by my friends who were not Christians and I fell into all sorts of sin: smoking, drinking, drugs, etc. At 18, I was pregnant and chose to get married. The first six years of my marriage was a disaster. In May, 1984, my husband wanted a divorce. He saw no other way. At this time I still was not attending church and did not have that positive influence in my life.
One night, two men from a nearby Baptist church came to visit my husband. That same night my husband accepted Christ as his Savior. When I came home from work, he told me what had happened. I wasn't too surprised. I was familiar with the terms Saved and Born Again. I really believed I was saved as a child, and I told his so.
At about that time we started to attend church, mostly at my husband's urging. I was still concerned for my shaky marriage and I prayed and asked God to do whatever it would take to save my marriage. He did that, but not the way I thought he would.
We joined Victory Baptist Church and started serving the Lord. I did, and said, all the right things, so I thought, for nine years.
In July, 1992, the Lord led my husband and our family to Lehigh Valley Baptist church. At that time I was away from all my friends who had a more shallow standard of what it meant to be a Christian. I began to hear messages on salvation by repentance and by faith. My focus turned to what God really wanted: a change of heart. I started seeking God's will for my life. I knew something was missing. I began to realize that there must be sin that I could not see. I really needed for God to reveal it to me. This went on for quite a while. I began thinking that maybe I was not saved. Then I thought how stupid that was. Just look at all I do for the Lord. Although I still did not see it, my self-righteousness was the root of my sin of pride.
On September 12, 1993, the pastor preached on the theme of discerning the will of God. One thing that struck my heart was that God never pushes us, but He gently urges us, to do what is right. That topic was right on target. God's will- that's what I had been seeking. Then God spoke to my heart, gently asking me if I was truly saved.
I could not truly answer "yes". There was doubt and confusion in my heart. After the service, I went with my husband to talk to the pastor and try to get some assurance from him. The pastor talked to me about real repentance and faith, which included a change of heart. As he said that, it occurred to me that I had changed everything but my heart. The pastor said that he could not tell me if I were lost or saved. Only God can know my heart.
My husband could not help me the answer the question of whether or not I was saved. He was confused also, because he remembered how I had told him that I was saved as a child. I believed that I was probably a Christian because I knew who Jesus was and what he did. And I thought that I must be saved because when I asked the Lord to save my marriage, it appeared that He did just that.
That's when God opened my eyes. For the first time I saw that I was lost. But, it was God's perfect will and desire to save me on September 12, 1993. That night I bowed my head, repented of my sin, and in faith, asked Christ into my heart and Him to change me and to forgive me, a sinner in need of salvation. Recognizing my own sinful condition in God's eyes, I knew I had to change my heart. I couldn't do anything to earn my salvation. It is His free gift, only to be accepted.
That night I knew I was in God's perfect will--His perfect plan of
salvation as found in the Bible, Second Peter 3:9,
The Lord is not
slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is
long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but
that all should come to repentance. I was included in the
If you have grown up around Christian people as I had, you may feel comfortable that you might be a Christian. But a sinner cannot make himself or herself a Christian. Jesus said, "Ye must be born again, to enter the Kingdom of God." Just like we are born into this world and into a particular family, we must be born into the family of God. Repenting of our sins and exercising our faith in believing that God sent Jesus to be our Savior-- that is the only gate to enter Heaven
If you would like to know more about the Savior that changed the life of Betty Wagner, and her husband, Myles, you are welcome at theLehigh Valley Baptist Church
Or call us at (610) 965 4700 or 1-800-893-9586.