First, because I made the trip from the pew to the alter because it was expected, because I was told I should, and because others expected it of me. I didn't make that walk because I felt convicted, and I didn't make it because I thought it was what I needed to do. At the time, my decision to go forward was solely to please others. I think this is what led to the second reason I doubt that I was actually saved at that point.
The other reason I don't believe that first walk saved me is because it didn't change me. Oh, I felt changed a little for a week or so, but there was no real change in my heart, and there certainly was no real and lasting change in my behavior. I went to church on Sunday and Wednesday (because I was made to, not because I chose to) and lived like a heathen the rest of the time.
It was 20 years later when I realized this, when I really became convicted that I had it all wrong. And that's when, all alone in the cab of a farm truck on a dirt country road, I really prayed Jesus and asked Him to save me.
" 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good." ~ Titus 1:15-16
For all those years, even while I thought I was saved, I was corrupted and didn't really believe. Now I always believed Jesus was real, and even that He really was the Son of God, but I never really let myself believe He was my Savior, and that He died to save me and everyone else, not until that day on that old dirt road. I realize that now because that's the day I really started trying to change, to change and live a life that He wanted me to live.
I don't think I really understood what it meant to truly believe in Christ as a kid and young adult. What I knew of the Bible was John 3:16, and in my mind, I thought He was real so I was saved. But I didn't realize truly believing that God sent His only Son to live and die so that we could be saved, that must change us! It's impossible to understand the awesome mercy and grace that God provides so that we have a chance to spend eternity with Him, and not be changed!
Actions do matter! The way we live as Christians does matter! I was taught that our actions don't save us. We can't do enough good works to get into Heaven. That's all true. It's stated numerous times in the New Testament. This is what I took to mean my actions didn't matter once I walked down that aisle and was baptized. But then James said, "Faith without works is dead." He meant that, once you really know Jesus, you're going to want to do good works. You're going to try to do good.
Jesus said, "by their fruits you will know them," talking about those who believe in and follow Him. You see, it's not our works that save us, but our salvation that absolutely must change us in such a way as to produce good works. Once you've been saved, "all things are pure." In other words, everything you do should be done in such a way as to glorify God and lead others to Jesus Christ. For all those years I thought I was saved but was still "corrupted," nothing was "pure" to me. That's why I looked upon everything, not as something that could be used to glorify God, but as something that either could or couldn't provide me with some sort of earthly pleasure. By my actions, I denied God. I was detestable, disobedient, and unfit, as evidenced by my actions.
Now, that's not to say that everyone you see who commits a sin is unsaved. And it's not to say that once you're saved you'll never sin. I am not saying that at all. We are all sinners and there would have been no need for Jesus to die on the cross if we weren't. That and the fact that Satan prowls the earth looking to tempt us and turn us away from God make certain that, at times, we will all make a wrong choice and disappoint Christ. But this verse and this message relate to those who live in sin.
This passage is talking about people like I was, who claim to know God but continue to deny Him by their actions, day in and day out. It's a lifestyle of sin that gives it away, a lifestyle that leads others away, or turns others away from Jesus Christ.
I realize now that a life lived loving and trusting God must be evidenced by that life being lived for God. It doesn't mean we won't fail Him from time to time, or even often. But we should ask ourselves, when others see us, do they see the hand of Jesus Christ guiding us? If the answer to that question is no, then we need to make a change.
If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.