How I Became a Christian

Below is the testimony I shared in church a week and a half ago about how I became a Christian:

I think you all know me. My name is Daniel Schilling, husband of Katie Schilling. I’ve decided just to briefly share my testimony of salvation tonight.  Before I begin I want to state the obvious, that my testimony is not meant to glorify me or anything that I have done. Our stories of how we came to saving faith in Christ are not stories about what we have accomplished by our own power, but what God has done in us. We can take no credit for our salvation.  Jesus said

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)

And

 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.  (John 15:16)

As far as I can tell I came to saving faith in Christ at a very young age. I think I was four years old when it happened, however, I have found evidence in some old letters of my mom’s that it might have actually happened when I was as young as three years old. The way I remember it is that it started with a conversation with my older brother Benjamin. He came up to me one day and told me rather undiplomatically that if I didn’t believe that Jesus died on the cross and say that I was sorry for my sins I would go to hell. Now I already knew a few things about God and Jesus,  but somehow that just didn’t sound right to me. So I asked my mom if Ben had gotten his facts straight, and she told me he had. She didn’t use the word repent because I wouldn’t have understood it, but she told me that I needed to be sorry for my sins and believe that Jesus died on the cross for them. After I talked with her I went into the bathroom by myself and prayed to God to forgive me and told Him that I believed in Jesus.

From that point on I believed that I was a Christian, and I think I really was. Obviously there was a lot of theology that I did not understand at the age of four, but the point is that I believed and submitted to God as much as I was able to. You do not have to be especially intelligent to become a Christian. You simply have to humble yourself and take God at His word.

A few years later around the age of seven or eight I went through a difficult period of doubting my salvation. I’ve talked to other friends who have grown up in Christian homes and been saved at a very young age and it seems like this might be a normal thing for a lot of us. For me it was the result of a sinners prayer that I heard on a audio-tape set that we had when I was a child. The individual on the tape said that if I prayed the prayer and really believed it that I would become a Christian. Now of course that prayer was intended for someone who was not a Christian yet, but I knew I was already a believer. Nevertheless, I prayed the prayer anyway in their words, just to “make sure” that I was a believer. I figured I had nothing to lose. I did this again and again many times. I estimate that I probably prayed the sinners prayer about 20 to 30 times. The result of this was the opposite of what I had hoped for. Instead of becoming more sure of my salvation, I became less sure, until finally I became so confused that I decided I was not a Christian any more. This period of doubting probably lasted two to three months, which, for an eight year old child, is an eternity. It finally passed, however, as God restored my faith in Him and took away my doubts. One of the key moments in my recovery from this spiritual doubting took place when one of the elders at my church preached on eternal security. He said that we cannot lose our salvation, and suggested that if we were constantly worrying about our salvation after believing in Christ, that we should just stop worrying about it. I took his simple advice and it worked.

As I grew older the Holy Spirit continued to work in my life to mold me and shape me and convict me of sin. I remember one time when I was about ten years old that I heard a sermon on the Armor of God in Ephesians chapter six. The preacher explained how God has equipped believers with the spiritual protection and tools necessary to fight off temptation. This means that we have no excuse for choosing to continually sin. And yet, at the age of ten, there were certain sins I clung to. This sermon convinced me that all the responsibility for those sins rested squarely on my shoulders, since God had already made his power to resist sin available to me as a believer, I was simply choosing not to use the armor that he had given me. Eventually, by God’s grace I overcame the specific temptation that I was struggling with and repented of it.

The last memory I want to share is a decision that I made at the age of 13. It was not a decision to be saved; I was already saved. But it was a conscious decision to turn every aspect of my life over to God. It is true that I loved God and wanted to serve God before this, but as a child I still struggled with a lot of greed and didn’t always see the big picture. I had at times wanted to become a missionary when I grew up, but at the age of thirteen I realized that I could not realistically expect myself to live for God as an adult if I did not start living for Him as a teenager. After all, Jesus was my Lord, and as a believer, nothing besides complete submission in every area of my life made any sense. So that has been my conscious goal since the age of thirteen. I have grown a lot since then and learned a lot since then, and I have also stumbled and sinned since then, but by God’s grace I have been forgiven for these things and, I hope I can say humbly that God has restored me to the right track after these stumblings. I can do nothing by my own power, but I know as the Apostle Paul indicated in II Corinthians chapter 12 that God’s grace is sufficient for me, for His power is perfected in weakness.

Before I close I just want to say that God’s offer of salvation is not just for me, but for all people. Jesus died for all people as the Apostle John pointed out in His first Epistle. He wrote:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an [a]Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the [b]propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (I John 1:1-2)

So Christ’s death is for everybody. But this verse and others like it do not teach that everyone is automatically saved. It is clear from other passages in John’s epistle that he was not teaching universal salvation. There are many verses in the Bible that warn us that we will not be saved if we reject Christ. For example, the Apostle Paul says in the book of first Thessalonians:

it is only just [c]for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you,and to give relief to you who are afflicted [d]and to us as well [e]when the Lord Jesus will be revealedfrom heaven with [f]His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty ofeternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified [g]in His [h]saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. (II Thessalonians 1:6-10)

Therefore, Do not make yourself an enemy of God, who first loved you while you were still a sinner. There is only one thing for you to do to escape the Just wrath of God: repent and believe in Jesus Christ. I think faith is a pretty straight forward concept. I like the children’s Sunday school song that says that “faith is just believing what God says He will do, He will never fail you, His promises are true.”

So that’s faith. But what about repentance? What does true repentance look like? I think the Apostle Paul gives us a pretty good picture of what true repentance looks like in his second epistle to the Corinthians. He write

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance [d]without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this [e]godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.  (II Corinthians 7:10-11)

So we see then that repentance is simply sincere, Godly faith, that produces a change. It’s realizing that what we are doing is wrong, and believing that God has made available to us the power to change. It’s not a case of us changing ourselves, It’s God changing us. It is a change that God is capable of working in any of us, be we 80, or thirty, or 4.

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