"Perfect love casts out fear."
I was raised up going to church and always believed in Jesus, that He was God's Son who died on the cross for my sins and raised from the dead. I believed all the Bible. Nevertheless, from the time I first prayed the Sinner's Prayer as a child of eleven, I was plagued with doubts and fears that I was not really saved. I even had a fear for a while that I didn't really believe Jesus had existed, let alone the Resurrection, and feared because of this, I would miss the Rapture and be left behind. I would run through the house in fear, looking for my family. I tried to keep someone I knew was a Christian in my sight all the time. Finally, I was brave enough to tell a few people about what I was going through, and my Dad comforted me from his Bible. I can't remember exactly what he said, but he read from the part in the Bible where Jesus told Thomas, who has doubted, that "Blessed are those who haven't seen me and still believe". I'm not sure what else Dad said about that and tied it into my problem, but as soon as Dad read that to me, I remember feeling peace and never feared about it again.
I had a lot of rebellion in my Jr. High and High School years. I remember in High School I would try to push thoughts of God and Hell out of my mind because I was having so much fun, and while I knew I'd return to Him eventually, I didn't want to until I was done with my fun. Sometimes I'd be so scared of Hell when I'd lay in bed at night.
Once I even had sort of a vision of it: the cavern, flames, the big pit full of fire and all the people and demons where I would be going if I didn't wake up in the morning. I was so scared. I prayed to God not to send me there, even though I knew I deserved it, and still wasn't ready to repent from my sins.
God was softening my heart to back to Him. My teen years were coming to a close, and I began to want to settle down and live for Him. I did recommit my life to Him on my wedding day.
Everything seemed to be fine, until I hit my mid-20's, and began spending a lot of time online reading Christian webpages, wanting to learn about things such as prophecy and creationism. The prophecy websites began to make me feel that the coming of Christ was very near, and I started to stop taking much interest in life and planning for the future. I felt like, "What's the use? Jesus is coming back soon and all that we have and work for won't matter anyway, it'll just go to whomever is left behind, and then it'll all be destroyed anyway." Well, with this attitude, I almost slipped into a depression. I didn't see the point of anything. I felt like Jesus would come back so soon that to start anything or work toward anything was just pointless.
Then something happened in Fall of 1997 that shook me to the core. I had always had this fear of blaspheming the Holy Ghost. People in the church would talk about it from time to time, and how it was the only sin that would never be forgiven. Nobody seemed to explain exactly what this was, but I thought it was to say or even think anything disrespectful about the Holy Ghost. I was afraid to even say "Holy Ghost" and was uncomfortable singing the "Doxology" hymn for fear I would pronounce His name wrong or something. Well, one day, a thought came to me and that was it - I knew I had blasphemed the Holy Ghost. I felt God's Spirit leave me, and I felt so alone, empty, HOPELESS. I was in agony. I knew it was too late for me, I could never be forgiven. I went to the internet and found some websites that helped explain what the sin against the Holy Ghost was, and this helped me some. I was still so shaken, and wasn't quite sure God was in me anymore.
From then on, everything confused me about the Bible. I would have these doubts, fears and bad thoughts and desperately search through the Bible trying to find comfort and answers. The Bible seemed very hard to read to me from then on, it was as though everything seemed confusing and contradictory. I began a study of eternal security, and read everything I could in the Bible and what others had written to try to confirm to myself that the Bible did teach this. It didn't help that I was receiving conflicting messages about it at church. One week, the pastor would teach as though you were secure, then he'd turn around and say the opposite. I left chuch more depressed and conflicted than if I hadn't gone at all. I couldn't understand why the Bible seemed to be teaching the same way, why was it so for eternal security in some verses, yet totally the opposite in others? I'd think I was grounded in grace, and then some teaching would come along and confuse and scare me again.
Some friends in another city went to a church that taught eternal security, and I loved spending time with them and learning. They were such "real" people, who weren't afraid to admit their sins and lovingly help others. It seemed how Christianity should be. I was still confused since I was receiving conflicting messages between that church and the one I attended at home. This church in the city was much too far to drive to make it our church, but we attended occasionally.
Another thing that occurred was that I was getting so interested in demons and spiritual warfare. This began to take over my life and caused me a lot of fear. I was so tired of looking for a demon behind everything and having to "command" them and remove curses from everything. I felt like this was a type of bondage. I began to research online and in the Bible about it, and found that I had been in a false doctrine that was focusing me more on the devil than on Christ. And it wasn't the least bit scriptural, they were just teaching experiences people had as Bible truth. They had sought truth outside the Bible and this was the fruit of it, what I was experiencing. It was such a relief to be set free from that stuff. I'm learning to search the Scriptures before I believe just any old thing, and see for myself if it's true.
Last year, early 2004, I took a big interest in the movie that was coming out, "The Passion of the Christ". After seeing that, I knew that what Jesus went through for us was truly ENOUGH. There was nothing that could be added to His sacrifice for us, He truly paid it all.
I had a surgery in March of 2004, and while in the hospital, my usual fears of not being truly saved would try to come, but it was as though they were being repelled by God. Nothing was scaring or causing me any mental anguish as I laid there recovering in the hospital bed after the surgery. For this, I was very grateful to God for giving me that complete peace while I was in such a vulnerable state after surgery and in physical pain. It was as though I could just rest and know that God was protecting me and my mind while I recovered.
While I was recovering at home after the surgery, I spent a lot of time online looking for eternal security websites. I found a great one at www.bible.org. These people seemed to think the same way I did, thought about the same things I did. It was very reassuring. I was finally convinced that once we are saved, we are always saved, no matter what we do or don't do. That salvation is Jesus + nothing. This was so amazing that I literally could have jumped for joy if I hadn't been in such pain. I went around sooo happy and peaceful and joyful for days. Nothing in the world could have brought me down. Life was wonderful.
Of course, the doctrine of grace is something that we have to guard against, as it seems to be our human tendency to try to add our works in here and there. It seems to be what we naturally gravitate to, even if we don't realize it.
Well, although I believed in eternal security, I still had doubts and fears as to whether I was really saved. This didn't bother me as much as it used to, but sometimes it would. And there were still those Bible passages that seemed to say one thing and then later, the complete opposite. I found a book at a Christian bookstore called, "Reign of the Servant Kings" by Joseph Dillow. This book used word studies, context, history, and compared Scripture with Scripture to show that the words, phrases, and parables in the Bible were NOT saying you could be saved and then lost, but were talking about discipleship and your good works earning you rewards. This finally made the Bible come together for me without feeling tossed to and fro, with every wind and doctrine, and totally cemented in my mind that salvation is secure, and the passages that seem to conflict with that, are talking about our works as Christians that have to do with rewards basically.
All this was wonderful, but that still didn't help me totally with those occasional doubts of "Am I REALLY saved?" I believe all this was caused by the conflicting and confusing messages I'd received all my life about salvation, what you had to pray or "do" for salvation, etc. For example, some say you must pray the Sinner's Prayer and confess sins or confess Christ in front of someone; others said you just believe and don't have to pray, etc. I was always thinking back on my own experience and wondering if I did it right. I knew that I believed, but there was always doubt for some reason or another. I knew I shouldn't fear Hell as a Christian, but if you aren't sure if you TRULY, REALLY are one, then you do have a fear of Hell.
I also couldn't fathom that all the people around me that weren't saved, and those in all the world who had never heard of Christ, were going to spend eternity writhing in agony and flames. If Christians really think that, then NOTHING else in the world is important, only spending every day and night begging people to accept Christ before they die. The idea that so many were going to spend forever in Hell and it's agony was just too terrible to think about. It also seemed to conflict with the passage in Scripture I'd read about there was going to be so many people before God's throne, praising Him, that it was just too many to count. People from every tribe and nation. If only a few were going to be saved for real, then how could the Bible describe such a multitude in Heaven? I didn't want anybody to go to Hell, but yet Hell seemed to be there in the pages of the Bible and in the teaches of the churches.
I had heard there were Universalists - people who believed all would eventually be saved. I felt like that would be wonderful if true, but I didn't see how it could be, because the Bible didn't teach that (so I thought). I felt like the people that believed that were in heresy and under some false teaching that would send millions more to Hell.
Yet I felt guilty for not proclaiming the gospel to everyone I came in contact with, so they could miss Hell. There were so many people, it felt hopeless. And to be the kind of person who "preached" to everyone I was around seemed so un-natural and weird. It was the kind of person I would want to avoid myself, let alone become.
As I was growing in grace, I saw hypocrisy and unloving things in myself that God was working on removing. I wanted to be more humble, more Christ-like, not judgmental and so much more LOVING. Love was becoming a huge focus in my life. I was seeing where I was falling so short in loving others, and being too protective of my ego, my time, my life, etc. I really had a desire to change; to not judge others or condemn them, but to truly love everyone the way I should.
One evening about two weeks ago, my husband was telling me about a book he was reading, where a man knew he should have witnessed to a friend but didn't. The two were drinking, and on the way home had a wreck. The other man was killed. The Christian man said he knew his friend was burning in Hell forever because he didn't tell him about Jesus. When my husband told me this, it really caused a fear to come over me for some reason. It was the same fear I'd always had off and on, but this time it seemed so intense, and I was so tired of this fear of Hell. There had to be real peace sometime in the Christian life! I decided that I would research Hell on the internet until I came to a real answer that would put all this to rest once and for all.
I knew what I'd always been taught about Hell all my life and I'd seen some websites about that (such as the "screams heard from Hell" and terrible ones showing how long certain dead, famous people had been in Hell), so I didn't need to look at that angle. I typed in "No Eternal Hell" in the search engine and read the descriptions of websites that came up. I thought there would be some sites on annihalation, which I'd heard of, but which didn't seem particularly good either, since you would totally cease to exist. Of course, that's better than existing forever in agony and fire, but something about never existing, about losing yourself, was frightening too. It kind of reminded me of some of the New Age teaching about how eventually everyone would meld together in a big nothing, losing yourself - your personality, everything.
I found some websites such as Tentmaker, which I explored more and more each day. At first, I was looking at them skeptically because I wasn't going to abandon the doctrine of Hell just because some liberal types didn't want to believe it existed. But the more I read, the more I saw that through word studies, context, history, and comparing Scripture to Scripture, Hell just doesn't exist!! It was more than I could dare believe deep down for days. It gave me hope and comfort, but I couldn't fully let myself believe something that would be seen as heresy and which went against a whole lifetime of indoctrinization.
I also read on these sites about how prophecies given in the New Testament came true in and around 70 A.D. Although I haven't finished reading these things, I've read enough that I can see in the Bible and the book by Josephus that these things did come true! Now I have a different perspective on the times we live in and prophecy. I no longer have the apathetic attitude about not living life that I'd had when listening to prophecy preachers.
But the more time I spent on these websites (and I spent a lot of time on them!) the more it sunk in - this is TRUE! The truth really does set you free. For the first time in my life, I could love others the way I felt the Bible wanted me to. Without condemning them in the back of my mind or judging them. I loved everyone in the world. I felt so free! I also loved and praised God so much. I loved him more and saw His love the way it should be - for everyone for all time. I can't even put into words how much peace, freedom, joy and love I have felt since the truth sunk in. God will save everyone, God loves everyone. I finally have no fear. I have peace, joy, hope, love. Thank you Jesus!!!