Seeking the Narrow Way

 

Seeking the Narrow Way

A Fifteen-year-old’s Search for Truth

Richard Hollerman

It has been years ago now that God worked in my heart to seek Him and pursue eternal life. Although many years have elapsed since that significant time, aspects of it are indelibly written on my memory. Join me as I describe my life situation as a young, earnest, and searching adolescent boy.

I am assuming—for the purpose of this account—that you are a young person yourself. Whether you are a boy or a girl, you may be twelve to twenty years of age.  I think that I’ll be able to identify with you since I was that age myself! But our story begins when I was fifteen years of age.

My Early Years

When I was a pre-teen and early teenager, I lived in a small town in western Pennsylvania.  I may have been a little different from you, yet there were also parallels. I enjoyed traveling and especially was fond of exploring the woods over the hill from our modest house.  I enjoyed building models and had an extensive model railroad layout.  I did fine in school but can’t say that I excelled in most subjects.  I was quite reserved, even shy, in my growing-up years.  I was not particularly drawn to reading (but later in life this was to drastically change), but read what was expected of me in school.

Dangerous Assumptions

Maybe you are like me in some respects.  We make assumptions that are not necessarily true. We tend to believe our parents, our school teachers, television programs, books, and pastors or priests. Maybe we don’t have the deep maturity or experience to examine truth claims objectively so we just assume that others haven’t misled us. This may be okay with respect to some things in life, but it can be deadly in regard to spiritual things! The Bible says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”[1] We must not suppose that what we have been taught or what we presently believe is entirely trustworthy, but we must be willing to check all things by using God’s Word, the Bible. Jesus settled this when He prayed to the Father, “Your word is truth.”[2] If it is God’s truth, then we need to go to it with confidence and expectation.

As I entered my teen years, I recall enjoying life and the many life opportunities. I was doing a lot of interesting things, learning many facts, making things with my hands, and would sometimes watch westerns on television. I enjoyed my collie dog and spent a lot of time with him. I suppose that in general things were going along quite well. But I must admit that high school experiences and relationships brought numerous challenges and perplexities. Maybe that is the way with you as well.

I can recall that I just assumed that what I believed was correct and truthful. I thought that I was right with God and would go to heaven if I died.  I thought that heaven awaited me and maybe you feel the same way. Surveys reveal that most people—young and old—think they will go to heaven when they die. I was soon to learn far differently![3] I thought that I was pleasing the Lord and tried to do right.

As I think about this now, I was relying on different things that I didn’t do to make myself acceptable to God. For example, I didn’t smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, use profanity, gamble, or take drugs. I went to church weekly, along with the rest of the family. It was just expected of us and I thought that this was just what a Christian did as part of the denomination where I belonged. We seemed to have a warm and loving family. However, I was soon to discover the truthfulness of a weighty Bible verse: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”[4]

With all of this, I must admit that sometimes I wondered during these years about my relationship with God. Was I doing enough? Was I avoiding all wrongs?  I would pray at night and ask God to forgive me of any failures during the day. I would look out the window of my bedroom and view the starry sky and wondered about God and His will. When I would walk in the woods with Pal, my dog, I would think about God as Creator.  Questions would regularly come to me: Would I really go to heaven? Was I prepared?  Was there something I was missing?  I think that I didn’t give a lot of thought to Jesus Christ, although I didn’t doubt that He was the Son of God. I just didn’t see how He fit into God’s plan to get people into heaven.

Shocking Discoveries

During these years, I didn’t know the Bible very well.  When we were young, Dad or Mother would read Bible stories to us each evening, thus I knew many of the accounts of people in the Bible quite well. But it never occurred to me that the Bible was to be used as a source of truth and that God expected us to search the Bible for this truth. My dear grandmother had given me a New Testament when I was twelve years of age when I was “confirmed” as a member of my denomination (this was to make me a full-fledged member of the church). But I don’t remember reading the New Testament very much.

When I was fifteen years of age, I was wrenched out of my complacency. I came to see that the Bible was really the way God communicated His truth and His will to us!  In other words, I came to see that the Bible was not meant to just give interesting and moral lessons and accounts of people’s lives, but it was meant to be spiritual light to overcome our natural spiritual darkness.[5] We read, “The unfolding of Your words gives light, it gives understanding to the simple.”[6] Whereas I once thought that I knew what I needed to know since I had gone to Sunday School and learned from the teachers and also I had listened to the pastor give his sermons. But it became clear to me that I needed to go further than this and examine God’s Word for myself! I hadn’t been an extensive reader but this was soon to change because of a new motivation!

God commends people who are willing to study the Bible for themselves and seek for answers to life’s basic questions.[7] I came to see that I had been ignorant about many different Biblical topics and even confused about what God expected of me. How had I failed to grasp these basic truths of Scripture?  If we wanted to repair a car, we would need to consult the automobile repair manual. If we wanted to repair a computer, it would be important to know something about the rudiments of the computer and read a computer instructional manual. If we wanted to take a trip across the country, we surely would need a map. Likewise, if we want to know something about God and His will for us, isn’t it logical that we would want to examine His “instruction manual,” the Bible?

With this in mind, I eagerly began to read God’s word to determine His will on many things. The Bible says that we must “receive the love of the truth” “so as to be saved.”[8] God will condemn those “who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”[9] This showed me that I needed to treat God’s Word with the greatest of respect, believe every word of it, and obey whatever it said to me. It wasn’t just a collection of interesting moral lessons and fascinating stories, but it was the word of the Living God and I needed to read it to discover the will of Almighty God! I began to spend large amounts of time in my room reading and studying—seven days a week.

I learned that the church in which I held membership, the church that all of my family were part of, had misled me on many counts. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was one of the more liberal mainline denominations in the country. Much of what they taught and practiced were merely religious traditions that were not based on God’s Word. I read that Jesus had told His disciples about the religious leaders of His day (the Pharisees), “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”[10] I had been a “blind man” (a blind boy), following “blind” religious leaders!

When Jesus responded to these religious leaders, He pointed out their hypocrisy and their departure from God’s perfect will. “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”[11]  He accused them, “You are experts in setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”[12] Jesus went on to say that they were “invalidating the word of God by your tradition.”[13] I came to see that there were many ways that these modern-day denominational leaders had departed from the pure and simple commands of Christ in Scripture and had erected a human organization that differed greatly from the simple ways of Christ in the New Testament.

As a young person, I was limited in what I saw. However, I could see enough that I was disappointed in what I was seeing in the church of my youth. It seemed that the Bible was opening up countless things that I had not seen before.  I believe that it will be this way with you, my friend, if you really apply yourself to a fresh new study of God’s Word.  I knew that my school friends didn’t have any idea of what I was learning. They seemed to be more interested in the school sports, the dances, the music, the school academics, and such things. 

I also knew that my parents and relatives must have thought that I was taking these spiritual matters too seriously. Why couldn’t I be content to believe just as their religious authorities wanted?  Why would I question the theologians, the professors, the pastors, and the other churchmen who supported the denomination of my youth? I asked my dear Dad why our church wasn’t practicing certain Biblical teachings and his response stuck with me: “Do you mean to say that all of our denominational professors and leaders are wrong!” If they were wrong about some things, I had to accept that fact if I was to be true to God’s Word.

I came to see more and more hypocrisy in the church. The pastor would even smoke cigarettes in the classes and in the church building!  (Later, my parents told me that he was involved in an affair and committing adultery with a church member—which was one reason for their eventual choice to leave the church.) I could see good “churchianity” but this was far removed from the simple way of Christ I was reading about in Scripture.  It was a difficult time for me for what was a fifteen-year-old boy to do under these circumstances?  Many young people rebel by taking drugs or smoking or drinking. Surely some thought I was “rebelling” by rejecting the religious establishment and traditions of my church. But it wasn’t at all. I simply wanted to know God and follow His will. As Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men.”[14]

I continued to make changes as I learned more and more of God’s will. I ceased calling the preacher “Reverend” for I came to see that this was quite hypocritical; besides, this is found only once in the KJV—and it was applied only to God.[15] I could also see the hypocrisy of all of the religious garb or vestments, for this was strangely similar to the practice of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.[16] All of the “pomp and ceremony” of the three choirs, the pastor, and the attendants also troubled me. I came to see that the early Christians also worshipped the Lord with simple singing, not the elaborate church music and instrumental accompaniment that was offered in the church.[17] Thus, I discontinued singing in the worship service.  I also learned that the early congregations of saints were led by elders (also known as shepherds or overseers), not by a “pastor” or “councilmen as in our denomination.[18]

As I continued to study Scripture, I concluded that these inspired writings promoted an entirely different way of life than what I was acquainted with in the “churchianity” around me.  I read the Lord’s command, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy, and where thieves do not break in or steal, for where your treasure is, there you’re your heart will be also.”[19] Where could I find people who had this kind of perspective on material things?

I also read and memorized the following passage which I found quite shocking when I first came to see what the apostle was saying: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”[20] I thought to myself, “Who on earth really believes this? Do any of my friends at school really know that this is true and should be obeyed?  Who really has heeded the command, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world”? How was I to obey this?  I began to discard and burn things that I considered to be “of the world” and stopped watching certain TV programs. What more would God show me—if I was open to receive it?

I also came across passages like Paul’s words, “Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” The apostle went on, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”[21] This seemed clear enough: I was to treat my body with respect and care for it. It was not to be abused with tobacco, alcohol, or drugs. I was not to be conformed to the worldly ways around me but was to renew my mind so as to please God. I concluded that this would refer to what I was reading and seeing and the general perspective of life that God wanted to change. It was dawning on me that God was calling me to live an entirely different way of life, one that was more in harmony with God’s word and more out of step with modern life.

I continued to read and came across Paul’s instructions to Timothy: “I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.”[22] I considered how this would change so much of what women (and men) would do. They were not to dress in immodest and provocative clothing—clothing that would “turn on” men or clothing that would cause other women to be envious.  It was obvious that this included things like bathing suits, shorts, and much more! It would do away with some things that women prized, such as jewelry, elaborate hairdos, and the like.

In fact, as I read 1 Corinthians 11:14-15, I could see that God wanted women to have long hair and men to have short hair. How different the teaching of the Bible was from what I had known in the world of churchianity and in the general public. The public school that I attended was totally different from the will of God I was discovering in His infallible Word.

I had been used to trying to live a generally “clean” and “respectable” life as a young person, but I could now understand that God expects much more than this. Jesus said that unless our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees (the religious leaders of His day), we will not enter the kingdom of heaven![23]  

Furthermore, Paul tells us to “die” to ourselves! Paul wrote, “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”[24] Was I willing to be “crucified” to the world and have the world to be “crucified” to me? This spoke of a “death” to the world and its wicked ways. I further read, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”[25] I could perceive that this meant I was to die to the flesh or the fallen nature that was in me. I further read that in baptism, “our old self was crucified with Him [Christ], in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”[26]

All of this was astonishing for it goes to the heart of who we are and what we think and say and do. I concluded that that it meant I was to die (or be crucified) to sin, die to the world, and die to the flesh. This had deep and far-reaching consequences. It would radically change the way I was conducting my life and would affect greatly what my future years would be like. Step by step, God was revealing truth that had to be true even though most of my school friends and others were unwilling to receive it.

I could now realize that all of this would require a complete reorientation of life. How could these Bible teachings be applied and why was it that it seemed that others were not also seeing what I was learning? I read some of the radical things that Jesus said, such as, “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.”[27] Don’t we all “love our life” and who, in his right mind, would “hate his life” on earth?  But this is just what the Lord required of those who would follow him. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate God’s work in nature or admire that which is worthy, but it does mean that that which is negative, fleshly, impure, selfish, and sinful must be renounced in order to follow Jesus Christ, the very Son of God.

The life that God wanted was not just something that was to be kept on the pages of Scripture. No, the teachings of God’s Word have to do with what we eat, how we dress, how we speak, how we drive a car, what we did in school, and what we do with our time. It would have much to do with our entertainment, what music we listened to, what education we sought, and what kind of job we would want to pursue. In other words, I could see that God was interested in all of our life—and wanted our life to be turned upside down, according to His righteous ways. The early Christians were accused of “upsetting the world” and, in some measure, this is what the disciple of Christ does in our own day.[28]

Maybe one of the most disconcerting truths that I learned had to do with our view of family, friends, relatives, and all others.  The Lord said that our priority must always be Him—Jesus Christ—and no human being. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”[29] He was saying that even the closest of ties—that of parents and children—must be secondary to our absolute loyalty and commitment to the Lord Jesus! Our commitment must be to other disciples of Christ. Jesus explained, “Whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”[30]

So life-altering was our Lord’s demand of absolute commitment that He declared, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”[31] We might make a double-take here and wonder if we have read this correctly. But, yes, we have read it just as Jesus spoke it. Although we are to “love” our father and mother, our husband or wife, our children, and others,[32] still our love for the Lord Jesus must be so intense that all other loves seem like hatred in comparison. These truths that I was discovering convicted my own heart in many ways. Maybe you feel the same way as you read them!

I spent much time that spring and into the summer, pursuing God’s will from His Word. I memorized Bible verses and tried to determine how I was to apply these newly-discovered truths to my own life. This I concluded: my life would need to be radically changed, and this would be true of anyone else who was willing to follow Jesus as absolute Lord. Jesus’ words to His disciples touched my heart: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”[33] Jesus then asked His disciples certain penetrating questions: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”[34] I was dreadfully afraid of “forfeiting my soul” and concluded that I’d be willing to lose the world to gain Jesus![35]

Formerly, I lived a fairly simple life: going to school, playing with my dog, exploring the woods, building things, watching TV, and riding my bike in the neighborhood. As I grew older, I continued to live a fairly uneventful life—at least this is how many people probably would have thought. But then came God’s call to my soul and the opening up of His Word, something that I had never seen before. Christ’s radical words entirely changed my view of life and what was important. After all, if we must live eternally and if most people will be lost and only a few will be saved and go to heaven,[36] the main goal of our life should be to glorify God and do His will!

If even most “religious” people will be denied entrance into God’s righteous Kingdom,[37] we must live our life here in light of eternity and not be sidetracked by the passing pleasures of the world.[38] Eternity with God was the ultimate goal of life and nothing must deter us from this passion!

During these months, I became increasingly separated from the normal activities and relationships of youth. It seemed that my primary focus was on seeking God’s will and pursuing eternal life. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “From childhood you have known the sacred writings [the Scriptures] which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”[39] I was searching the Bible to learn how to have the salvation I desperately needed. Young person, do you also find this same passion burning in your own soul? Are you desperate to find answers so that you can be assured of heaven?

I must bring this account of my search for truth to a conclusion.  That summer I grew increasingly uncomfortable with my situation. I had come to the conclusion, through my incessant search for God’s word, that I was spiritually lost. In other words, I was guilty of sin, just as “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”[40] I came to understand that this sin separated me from a holy and righteous God. I had read the words of Isaiah and could see that it applied to me: “Your iniquities [lawless deeds] have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”[41]

I also came to be very aware of the dreadful and eternal consequences of unforgiven guilt: “The wages of sin is death.”[42] Paul asked, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”[43] Since “there is none righteous, not even one,”[44] I could see that this meant me—I could not enter God’s eternal kingdom! What was I to do?

When I was growing up, I somehow mistakenly thought that a child just “grew into” Christianity or just lives a good, moral, religious life and this assures him of heaven.  But as I read Scripture, I came to see that a personal choice was needed to respond to God’s choice of me. There must be a point of transformation, a point of climax, a point in which we are “rescued . . . from the domain of darkness, and transferred . . . to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”[45]

There must be an event that changes our relationship with God. Throughout the New Testament, the presupposition is that every person has a “before” and “after” in his life—before salvation and after salvation.[46] At a point in time, one is reconciled to God, forgiven of his sins, saved from sin, given life from the dead, and we enter the kingdom of God and the body of Christ.[47] The church I had been part of as a child just didn’t believe this or emphasize it at all, thus this came as a surprise to me—a wondrous surprise from God!

I realize that many people read through the Bible and claim to be “daily Bible readers,” but they may not directly apply what they read to themselves. When we do relate the message of Scripture to ourselves, we can’t help but be confronted with the dreadful reality of our own separation from God and our condemnation before Him! None of us fully and completely obeys God but Jesus warned, “He who does not obey the Son [Jesus] will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”[48] Paul went so far as to plainly declare, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”[49] When I was young, I had little grasp of the reality of Almighty God’s dreadful, awesome displeasure (wrath) over our personal sin. But now I came to see that “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”[50]

This is a message that I had not heard or read before. I don’t recall learning of this terrible “bad news” from sermons in my youth or from Sunday School teachers when I was growing up. I don’t remember reading it anywhere. The Bible stories that my parents read seemed to major on simple moral lessons and not convicting truths that would make me uncomfortable. I had just assumed that if I was good enough and avoided the bad, somehow God would just accept me and take me to heaven. I thought that if I were to ask God to forgive me each day, He would forgive and accept me. I felt somewhat secure, but perhaps there was still a bit of discomfort in wondering whether I could be good enough to please God.

Actually, we can’t be good enough! Paul says that God “saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness.”[51] We are made acceptable for heaven, “not as a result of works [or good deeds], that no one may boast.”[52] We can’t achieve salvation; we must receive it from a gracious God. I was trying to save myself by my good deeds, by avoiding the wrong, and by my moral character. In reality, this is impossible. Sin—any sin—will bring spiritual death.[53]

With these truths in mind, I became increasingly terrified about dying. I just had arrived at my sixteenth birthday and was facing an unknown future. In the previous year, my good friend, John, had drowned in the stream nearby and I served as one of his pallbearers.  Life was so fragile—and death was so sure! All hope for John was gone, for “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”[54]

Then during the summer I was continuing my studies, Mother awakened me one morning with the announcement that Fred, another friend, had been involved in a fiery car wreck the previous night in which he was burned alive in his wrecked car. I was afraid to climb into a car and drive even though I was now qualified to learn to drive and obtain a driver’s license. But what if I were to die in some way! I knew I was unprepared to face God in judgment! Do you also sometimes think these kinds of thoughts, my young friend?

But how could I be saved from this wrath [or holy anger] of God against unforgiven sin? I knew that Christ was the only way.  He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”[55] Jesus was willing to give Himself for our sins,[56] and die for us[57] by dying for our sins.[58] In other words, Jesus “Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross,[59] the absolutely righteous and sinless one for us who are unrighteous and sinful.[60]

Scripture says that He took my sins and your sins on Himself and died for those sins so that we need not be punished for our own sins! We need not face God’s wrath and punishment ourselves since Jesus was willing to suffer and die on our behalf. Then Jesus was “raised from the dead” on the third day and ever lives for us in heaven![61] He said, “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.”[62] He is our loving Savior!

For some months, I was coming to understand that I needed to turn from my sins and place my faith in God through Jesus Christ. Since He had died for me and rose to new life, I must believe in Him and live for Him. Probably the most popular and beloved verse in the whole Bible says it well: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”[63] I had to repent of all of my known sins, regardless of how difficult that would be.  Peter declared, “Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away.”[64] Our faith must be a repentant faith, and our repentance must be a believing repentance. That’s the only way.

By the way, I came to understand that we must have a deep sorrow over the sins we have committed and this leads to true repentance over our sins and our turning to God. “Repent” means to change our heart and mind and this leads to a change of life. And “faith” means an inner trust and reliance on God to save us through Christ. We must have this inward response of faith and repentance and committal if we expect to be saved from sin and be united to Christ Jesus.

I also noticed that I needed to be baptized into Christ and into His death.[65] When I was a baby, three months of age, my parents had me go through a water ceremony administered by the pastor. The church called this rite “baptism.” I had assumed that this was the expected and right thing to do; it never crossed my mind that this would be simply another “tradition of men” that could not be found in God’s Word.[66] Most denominational scholars admit that there is not even one single Bible verse that clearly teaches infant baptism, thus they must use theological reasoning to admit baby baptism into the church.  I was shocked!

I had just taken for granted that a baby should be “baptized” by having the pastor pour a small amount of water on the infant’s head with the proper formula taken from Matthew 28:19. The founder of the church had said that this is how a child is “born again” or “born of water and the Spirit” in order to enter God’s Kingdom.[67] He said that the child is forgiven in baptism, given the Holy Spirit, made a member of Christ’s church, and will enter the kingdom! I could see that this didn’t really rest on solid evidence in Scripture. God was opening my eyes more and more to truth and error.

However, during these months of study, I thoroughly studied the places where “baptism” and “baptize” are found in the New Testament and what I found opened my eyes to some amazing discoveries. I learned that baptism was only for people who were old enough to believe or place their faith in Christ. As Jesus said in His Great Commission, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved.”[68]

Further, baptism was meant only for people who were willing to repent of their sins and live a new life: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”[69]  Further, I could see that baptism was not merely a pouring, sprinkling, or moistening with water, but a full dipping or immersion into water, in the likeness of a burial and a resurrection.[70] This is what the Greek language says,[71] and it is just what happened to Jesus when he was immersed in the Jordan by John the baptizer[72] and what happened to the Ethiopian when he was baptized or immersed by Philip.[73]

Along with all of this, I came to see that this baptism of repentant believers was directly associated with salvation promises. In other words, Peter said to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ “for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”[74] Throughout Scripture, baptism is related to such spiritual blessings as salvation,[75] washing away of sins,[76] entering Jesus Christ and His death,[77] and coming into the possession of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[78] The Spirit Himself was given as a gift when one believed in Christ and was baptized.[79]  Jesus didn’t say that one should be baptized (as a baby) and then believe (when he is older)—but one should believe in Christ and demonstrate this faith in baptism.[80]  Indeed, this was an eye-opening discovery that God showed me. Obviously, all of this brought even more guilt to my soul!

After many months of careful study in the privacy of my bedroom with an open Bible and an open, inquisitive mind, and after living with an increased sense of guilt because of my sins, I knew that I needed to make a change.  But I didn’t really know what to do. I definitely prayed and prayed for God’s help and guidance—and for my own salvation from sin, death, and condemnation.

Finally, on August 23, about 3 PM, on a sunny summer day, I chose to respond to the Lord by being baptized into Him. This opened up an entirely new and different chapter of my life—one that was entirely different from what I had experienced during the preceding sixteen years!

 

A Short Explanation

At this point, I must be honest in my reporting the story of my life, particularly how I came to Christ. I’ll not detail this at length for it would take a book twice as long as this present short story. Although I did feel an immense relief at the point of my baptism at age sixteen and considered myself forgiven and saved, I later came to discover something more. Some years later, after much additional study and while traveling in another state, God showed me that I actually had not been saved at age sixteen—as I thought I had been.  I had all good intentions as a fifteen- and sixteen-year-old boy, and sincerely thought God had saved me, however I came to realize that I had not grasped the true significance of the gospel or good news of Christ and His marvelous salvation. I concluded that I had not truly believed or repented before the Lord. This is why I made another response of repentance and baptism at a later date.  But this story would take much further elaboration; now is not the time for this.  My many articles, tracts, and booklets describe the additional considerations that came to my mind after my experience at age sixteen. Please write and request further information on this.

Does this speak to you?

Are you a young person who has been reading my account above?  Maybe you are age ten or twelve. Or maybe you are fourteen or sixteen—about the age I was when all of this happened to me. Or you may be somewhat older yet, even eighteen or nineteen. Whatever your chronological age, maybe I have written some matters that have touched your heart deeply. Now you may be in a quandary about your own life and how you should look at your spiritual condition before God.  Let’s discuss this a little further.

Maybe you were “baptized” as a baby as I was. Or maybe you were “baptized” as a ten or twelve year old. Or maybe you haven’t had much spiritual input from any perspective and you grew up in a home where there wasn’t much religious training at all.  It could be that what I’ve written has touched you and you have applied these matters to your own life.  Now you are wondering where you stand before God and what you should do. 

Peter writes, “Be all the more diligent to make certain about His [God’s] calling and choosing you.”[81] In other words, you need to examine yourself, your heart, and your experience to determine and make certain where you are with God.  “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!”[82] Are you willing to “test” and “examine” yourself to determine if you really are saved from sin—or whether you have accepted a counterfeit salvation that has deceived you? The Bible warns, “Do not be deceived.”[83]

You may wonder what you should do now. I would encourage you to spend much time with the Bible, just as I did. Be willing to set aside every distraction—the TV, the music, sports, computer, games, and every other competition for your attention. I suppose you are in a public school (unless it is summertime) and if this is the case, you may need to even let the schooling take a secondary position in your life. After all, you need to make sure you are right with God and prepared for eternity—and this is far more important than any other earthly pursuit. Your spiritual condition before God and your preparation for heaven is a million times more vital than anything else in life! Surely you can agree with this, now that you have read about my own quest on the earlier pages.

You may only live for another fifty or seventy years on this earth, but remember that eternity lies out before you—millions and billions and trillions of years, and endlessly through all future ages! You will want to be sure of your relationship with God and your preparation to be with Him forever! (Remember that very few are prepared and the vast majority are deceived and will spend eternity separated from our holy and loving God!)[84] Hell is not a place where you will want to go after death! We must also realistically admit that many young people die—long before they have completed their expected lifespan.

Now some practical things you can do at this point in your life. First, study the New Testament (the life of Christ, the life of the early Christians, and the letters) with all of your heart. Pay special attention to the life of Christ, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the commands of Christ. Also, give much reading and thought to the book of Acts which records the salvation of various people and groups of people.

Second, you should make sure that you earnestly pray to God for His help and enlightenment. God will speak to you through His Word but He wants you to voice your pleas to Him to show you the truth. Sincerely and humbly ask God for His guidance. Cornelius was lost in his sins and he prayed continually.[85] Paul also was seeking God in prayer before he was baptized by Ananias.[86] Plead with God to show you the truth by which you will be saved.

Third, write to me and request free literature that can explain the way of salvation more thoroughly. We have only been able to give the bare outline of what you need to know in this booklet. But there is more and we are willing to send you more to read.  (Remember to supply a secure mailing address that we can use in writing. Make sure that the address won’t allow any correspondence to be lost.)

Fourth, if you have access to a computer, check out our website: Truediscipleship.com. This has many hundreds of relevant articles for your help and information. Some of these directly relate to being saved or forgiven of sins. Some also relate to young people. Check this out especially in the “Priority” section and the “Biblical Topics” section.

Fifth, if you are sure that someone you know has been truly saved, maybe you can speak to him or her.  Maybe your father or mother might know Jesus truly and, if this is the case, you can speak to them. If they are actually part of churchianity and are not truly saved, they also need to read and consider these things and we would be pleased to send something to them also.

Sixth, you can write to us and we will try to help in any way we can.

My young friend, whether you are a boy or a girl, you are in an ideal place in life. God may give you many more years in life to come to know Him and serve Him with a true heart.  “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth.”[87]  Now is the time to learn and to make a choice to seek the Lord while He may be found.[88] Don’t go through life in deception. Don’t think you are right with God when, in reality, you are not truly saved from sin or in harmony with the Lord.  Don’t allow the passing pleasures of the world to keep you away from what is eternally important! Come to Christ now! Now is the day of salvation.[89]



Notes

[1] Proverbs 14:12. We will be using the New American Standard, Update Edition (which is both clear as well as accurate).

[2] John 17:17.

[3] Matthew 7:13-14.

[4] Proverbs 14:12.

[5] “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

[6] Psalm 119:130.

[7] “Now these [people from Berea] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were true” (Acts 17:11).

[8] 2 Thessalonians 2:10.

[9] 2 Thessalonians 2:12.

[10] Matthew 15:13-14.

[11] Mark 7:8.

[12] Verse 9.

[13] Verse 13.

[14] Acts 5:29.

[15] Psalm 111:9.

[16] Matthew 23:5-7; Luke 11:43; 20:46.

[17] Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16.

[18] Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; 1 Timothy 3:1ff; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Peter 5:1-3.

[19] Matthew 6:19-21; cf. Luke 12:15-21; 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

[20] 1 John 2:15-17.

[21] Romans 12:1-2.

[22] 1 Timothy 2:9-10.

[23] Matthew 5:20.

[24] Galatians 6:14.

[25] Galatians 5:24.

[26] Romans 6:6; cf. vv. 1-5.

[27] John 12:25-26.

[28] Cf. Acts 17:6.

[29] Matthew 10:37.

[30] Matthew 12:50; cf. Mark 3:35.

[31] Luke 14:26.

[32] Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19.

[33] Mark 8:34-35.

[34] Mark 8:36-37.

[35] Cf. Philippians 3:7-10.

[36] Matthew 7:13-14.

[37] Matthew 7:21-27.

[38] Hebrews 11:25; 2 Peter 1:3-4.

[39] 2 Timothy 3:15; cf. vv. 16-17.

[40] Romans 3:23.

[41] Isaiah 59:2.

[42] Romans 6:23a.

[43] 1 Corinthians 6:9.

[44] Romans 3:10.

[45] Colossians 1:13.

[46] Cf. Ephesians 2:11-13.

[47] Acts 2:37-42; 3:19; 26:18, 20; Romans 5:1; 6:3-11.

[48] John 3:36.

[49] Romans 1:18.

[50] Hebrews 10:31; cf. 12:29.

[51] Titus 3:5.

[52] Ephesians 2:9.

[53] Romans 6:23.

[54] Hebrews 9:27.

[55] John 14:6.

[56] Galatians 1:4.

[57] Romans 5:6, 8.

[58] 1 Corinthians 15:3.

[59] 1 Peter 2:24

[60] 1 Peter 3:18.

[61] 1 Corinthians 15:4, 20; Romans 6:4-11.

[62] Revelation 1:17-18.

[63] John 3:16; cf. 3:14-18, 36; 5:24.

[64] Acts 3:19; cf. 20:21.

[65] Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26-27.

[66] Colossians 2:8; Mark 7:8, 9, 13.

[67] John 3:3, 5, 7.

[68] Mark 16:16; cf. Acts 8:12, 35-39; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12.

[69] Acts 2:38; cf. Romans 6:1-5.

[70] Colossians 2:12.

[71] The New Testament was written in the Greek language and baptize [baptizo] means “to dip, immerse, sink, submerge, or overwhelm.”

[72] Matthew 3:13-16.

[73] Acts 8:38-39.

[74] Acts 2:38.

[75] Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21.

[76] Acts 22:16.

[77] Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12-13.

[78] Matthew 28:19.

[79] Acts 2:38-39; Galatians 3:27; 4:6.

[80] Mark 16:16; cf. Acts 8:12; 18:8; Galatians 3:26-27.

[81] 2 Peter 1:10.

[82] 2 Corinthians 13:5.

[83] Galatians 6:7a.

[84] Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.

[85] Acts 10:2, 4.

[86] Acts 9:9-11.

[87] Ecclesiastes 12:1a.

[88] Isaiah 55:6-7.

[89] 2 Corinthians 6:2.

 

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