On a recent Sunday at First Baptist Church in Fulton, Kentucky, Alma Brock declared that she had been born again. The congregation was excited, but shocked! Why? Because Alma has been faithfully attending and serving at FBC since she and her husband of 67 years, George (also a deacon at FBC), moved to the community in the 1960s.
“I was never trying to deceive anyone. I just assumed all of these years that I was saved,” Mrs. Alma explained. But over the past year, doubts had begun to creep into her heart and mind. She wondered if she could ever dare let anyone know. What would people think?
As Mrs. Alma wrestled with doubt, her mind returned to when she was a young girl and a well-meaning camp leader had led her to pray a prayer of salvation without actually explaining the gospel. Instead of her assurance being rooted in the person and work of Jesus, it was rooted in the fact that she had done what the camp leader had asked her to do. She believed in God, knew who Jesus was and what he had done. She read the Bible, prayed, and faithfully attended and served in the church. But as the truths of passages such as Matthew 7:22 and James 2:19, etc. remind us, believing in God, knowing about Jesus, reading the Bible, praying, attending church- even being a deacon’s wife and serving on committees - are insufficient to save us.
One morning Mrs. Alma dropped by my office and shared her doubts. I read with her from 1 John 5:1-5 and discussed the characteristics of genuine faith (believing the truth about who Jesus is and what he has done, a genuine love for the Lord and his people, a life that reflects the fruit of faith and obedience). After talking through these things, I prayed with her, encouraged her to go to the Lord and ask him to show her the truth. I also gave her a book dealing with assurance to read. She returned the book to me a week or two later saying she “felt better.” But the doubts never truly left - bringing her to a point where she could no longer deny the truth - she had never truly been made new by the Spirit of God. So one night while lying in bed, she placed her faith in Jesus Christ to forgive her of her sins and to make her right with God.
Then came that Sunday morning when she made it known to her surprised church family that after a lifetime of assuming that she was reconciled to God, that it had only been recently that the Lord had opened her heart to repent and believe.
I am so thankful for the Lord’s grace in not allowing pride or fear of what others might think to silence Mrs. Alma’s doubts. What a wonderful testimony of grace and perseverance! May it drive every pastor and every church member to never assume salvation, but to trust in and proclaim nothing less than the gospel of Jesus, calling all people to repent and believe.
STEPHEN CAVNESS is pastor of First Baptist Church in Fulton, Ky.