If you really received Jesus Christ as your Saviour, you were.
In the ministry, we have come across at least one hundred cases where people are confused as to when they really got saved. When they were younger, they prayed a prayer and they thought they were saved. Perhaps this happened at a youth camp or a revival. Years later, they had another profound “experience” that seemed more like real salvation than their youthful prayer. Now they are wondering if they were really saved “back then.”
My own personal experience mirrors this problem. I prayed to receive Christ when I was fifteen years old in the parking lot of a chapel at the school I was attending in Tennessee. When I was thirty-two years old, I had a “head on collision” with the Lord in my den at midnight in September of 1986. My life has undergone drastic changes for the better since then. The time between the age of fifteen and thirty two was pretty fruitless, although there were spurts of “good works” in some of those years.
I was troubled for a long time whether or not I had gotten saved when I was fifteen. One of the problems is that there was so little fruit to show for the salvation. Another was the life of sin. And so I began searching the Bible to find the answer to this dilemma.
The answer is in Matthew 13, the parable of the sower. The sower sowed seed in four different places, representing four different types of the hearts of men. He sowed by the way side, on the stony places, among the thorns and in good ground.
Those by the way side refused to believe, so the devil stole the word out of their hearts. Those in the stony places were glad when they first heard the word, but they gave up under affliction before they ever had any “root” (Rev. 22:16, representing Jesus Christ) in them. These two groups of men are both lost.
Those who received the word in the thorns were choked out of fruitfulness by cares, riches, pleasures and lusts, after they had begun to bear some fruit. Teachers generally say that this group is lost. However, they became unfruitful, showing that they had borne fruit for a while, which they couldn’t have done without the “root.” And, of course, those in the good soil produced lots of fruit out of honest and good hearts. These two groups of men are both saved.
Now, did you notice the similarities between the second group on the stony ground and the third group among the thorns? Both of them sprang up, indicating that the received the word joyfully. Both of them endured for a while. But the second bunch got offended and quit before they were saved. The third bunch, on the other hand, bore fruit a little while after they got saved and then they got choked out. Down the road, they look about the same.
So, the fact that you became a very fruitless and choked out Christian is no indication that you didn’t really get saved “back then.” Likewise, the fact that you prayed “the sinner’s prayer” is no indication that you did really get saved “back then.” The determining factor is whether you truly received Jesus Christ. If you did, then you have the “root” in you and you were saved. Thus, your backsliding came as a result of the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, or the lust of other things entering in that choked out your ability to bear fruit for the Lord.
Perhaps it was chasing the elusive pot-of-gold that choked your heart from desiring the eternal riches of producing fruit for the Lord. Perhaps it was a young love that choked out your affection for the Lord. Maybe it was lust for sin that got you, since this old world is full of tricks to stir up the flesh. Whatever it was, it made you feel like you were lost until you got straightened out with the Lord. Now that you are producing fruit, it seems like you weren’t even saved “back then.” But you were if you had the “root.”
If you didn’t have the “root” in you, then you weren’t saved and couldn’t have produced fruit out of your stony heart, anyway. The Lord used the intervening years before your next “salvation prayer,” when you truly received the Lord Jesus Christ, as a time to soften up your stony heart so that it would be an honest and good heart out of which good fruit would grow. The difference between now and then is so profound because you weren’t even saved “back then.”
Perhaps now, you can figure out what really happened to you “back then.” If you can’t, don’t worry, just be sure that you are saved and living for the Lord from now on.
Hope this helps,
Pastor Bevans Welder