My dear Phyllis.,
My heart goes out to you ... not as much for your afflictions, but for the fear that has crept in to steal your confidence. I do not believe that your stumbling across my site was an accident ... not because it's MY site, but because it is HIS message of freedom that you are reading in it.
I used to think I was saved and had no problem because I knew I was going to heaven. Phyllis
I went to a Bible College that was very big on "knowing you're going" to heaven. Preaching this message was our purpose ... our mission. I learned to ignore the fact that we focused much more about "heaven" than the Bible did. We tried so hard to present heaven as the free gift of God, but I had to ask myself over and over why the Bible didn't say it like that. I used to wonder (and was quite disturbed about my wondering) why the Bible was not as clear on the gospel as WE were! We had a 7-step presentation that seemed to make a lot of sense, but we had to use a verse here and a verse there to make it work. I have discovered that the message of the gospel is FAR, FAR better than any concept of a PLACE to go to after we die; it seems to good to be true. :)
Now, why would I tell you about this? Because you share the same sense of contradiction, don't you?
For at one time you THOUGHT you were "saved" and KNEW you were going to heaven. Does that mean you're not saved ... or not going to heaven? Did it just go away? Did you just imagine it? Were you misled? Was it all a hoax?
But something tells you that "it" is STILL very real. Am I right? Somehow it won't go away. But you are afraid that you no longer have whatever you used to have.
Have you ever wondered WHY you still believe in Him? Why isn't it easier to just tell yourself that it was a fool's false hope? But I'll bet you've already tried that a few times. The simple fact is that you cannot NOT believe Him ... isn't this true?
A question: How do you think you got "saved" in the first place? Was it something you did ... or was it something miraculous that God did? If it was something you did then you could undo it, couldn't you? If it was something God did then you had nothing to do with it ... you could neither start it nor stop it.
Phyllis, here's the problem: Religion has insisted and continues to insist that the miracle that happened within us is somehow explainable by natural causes. Yes, I said Religion. You were told that you got saved by doing something ... or maybe like me, you were told that you couldn't do anything EXCEPT to make a "decision" to trust Christ. Either way, what happened was that you and I became focused on the "thing" we did ... whether the "faith" thing or the "works" thing.
When doubts get the better of us then "faith" gets put into the spotlight. We get stuck in the trap of trying to determine the quality of our faith: do we have enough? will it last long enough? is it accurate enough? is it sincere enough? is it Biblical enough? is it official enough? is it real enough? ... and the list goes on and on.
Though my Bible College taught me that salvation was free and that faith is simply "accepting Christ as my personal Savior" and I could be "sure" of salvation, it also taught me that many, many people had believed a "mixed" or "muddy" message and were not saved because of that. No wonder I felt the need to scrutinize my faith ... it fell into the category of a "muddy" or "mixed" foundation.
I had been brought up in a denominational church that didn't walk the aisle or make decisions ... and I couldn't actually remember having made a "real" decision to trust Christ. So after I had been in Bible College for maybe a year I got a little unnerved by the possibility and figured I better make a "decision" at one of the weekly evening meetings. I thought to myself, "What if I had never trusted Christ and would not be allowed into heaven on a technicality!" So, I "talked to God" and let Him know I was "making a decision to trust Christ in case I had not done so already."
There is no doubt that I was a believer in Christ, but my confidence had been thrust into the realm of my ability to make decisions and choices ... and of believing the "right" way. Though I talked about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and claimed that He was my savior (which He was) I was being taught to put my confidence in the fact that I HAD TRUSTED Christ, instead of in Christ Himself.
This is why it becomes so important to be "right" about Bible doctrine. If I'm wrong about something major (or even something very minor, so it seemed), then I could be wrong about whether or not I adequately "trusted" ... for it all rests within the realm of mental acuity. It's no different from anybody in the world who thinks they have to be right all the time.
YOU doubt for the same reason I do: you have been looking at yourself for far too long. The more you look at yourself and at your qualities the more you come to the conclusion that you are an absolute failure and have no real qualities, right? It is the natural thing you learned to do in the world. It is also what religious institutions have taught you to do. It's called LAW ... and it will rip you to shreds and then squash you like a bug. And by the sound of your email it has done exactly that to you.
Forgiveness of sins means that your sins are no longer held against you. NO LONGER HELD AGAINST YOU! What do you suppose could cause this to be true? A decision by you to trust? A decision by you to improve? Something you do to appease God? A real serious dedication? Isn't it true that when Jesus hung on that cross and said, "It is finished" that He fully accomplished forgiveness? "And I will remember (bring to mind against) their sins NO MORE"! There is nothing that you CAN do to bring forgiveness about. NOTHING.
The reason you question whether or not you are forgiven is that you have been tricked into thinking that God isn't satisfied with His son, Jesus, and the thing he accomplished by putting an end to sin when he died on the cross. God CANNOT hold your sin against you for it is all been taken out of the way. HE CANNOT HOLD YOUR SINS AGAINST YOU. "Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
It is not about you and what YOU have done, it is about Christ and what HE has done. But through HIM you are forgiven and have been given the Spirit of God ... and your life is now about HIM. Not because YOU make it about Him, but because HE HAS MADE IT ABOUT HIM.
Fear will keep you from resting in this reality and it will keep you always searching but never finding. Phyllis, God loves you so much ... you are His beloved ... He gave His son for YOU!