How much did you understand when you first believed?


Have you ever asked why God’s forgiveness is of any value? Or what about eternal life? Have you ever asked why a person would want to have eternal life? Why should we want to live forever? These questions matter because it is possible to want forgiveness and eternal life for reasons that prove you don’t have them?–John Piper, Pierced by the Word

Every single time I read a piece written by John Piper he drives me to search out the ultimate meaning of a thing. In this case, he wants me to evaluate my desire and motive for the forgiveness of my sin.

After a few paragraphs of demonstrating why many of the reasons people pray for God to forgive them of their sins are not the right reasons, and, therefore, not saving reasons, he explains that the only “saving motive for wanting eternal life is given in John 17:3: ‘This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ If we do not want eternal life because it means joy in God, then we won’t have eternal life. We simply kid ourselves that we are Christians if we use the glorious gospel of Christ to get what we love more than Christ.”

I agree 100%.

However, I also believe that we all have to start somewhere. Not everyone who comes to faith in Christ is going to start with a pure desire for Him. I didn’t.

My faith began something like this:
“I AM GOING TO HELL IF I DON’T BELIEVE THIS?! I WANT TO BELIEVE IN JESUS!”

I’m only slightly exaggerating.

I understood what I would consider the absolute bare minimum about following Jesus: 1) I knew I was a sinner.
2) I knew that Jesus never sinned.
3) I believed He was God’s Son.
4) I believed He died on the cross so that I wouldn’t be punished for my sin.
5) I believed that if I turned away from my sin, and followed Jesus, then I would go to Heaven and be with Him when I died.

That’s it.

That is not the gospel in all its beauty and fullness. Far from it.

I knew virtually nothing of church membership. I didn’t know I had to be baptized until it was explained to me. I didn’t know that turning away from sin would be so hard and be something that I have to fight to do for the rest of my life. I didn’t know that God is meant to be the One to satisfy all of my deep desires. I didn’t know that God had planned me and granted me faith. I didn’t know that assurance of eternal life isn’t the whole point of the gospel. I didn’t know one iota of what it meant to love God. I didn’t understand that forgiveness of sin and eternal life are valuable because God is infinitely valuable.

Over the years, God has moved my heart from thinking of mere self-preservation to desiring and knowing Him more and more. God has used many people, Bible studies, sermons, and books to do this. But it had to start somewhere.

This prayer is also in Pierced by the Word. I want to share it.

All-satisfying God, forgive us for making

Your good gifts a substitute for You.

We are so prone to mistake the portrait for the person.

Satisfy us with Yourself.

You have promised in the New Covenant,

“They shall all know me from the least to the greatest.”

Let this be our portion now–a kind of knowing,

O God, that treasures the One we know.

Let us experience the gospel in its fullness,

which is Christ crucified and risen for sinners to bring us home to You.

In His name we pray. Amen.

7 Comments on “How much did you understand when you first believed?

  1. Amen to that! Sanctification is an amazing process that God accomplishes in our lives. I want to know Him more and more, I want Him to be my joy and my hope…Blessings on you Leslie…

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  2. Great post. I was five when I came to faith in Christ, I did not understand more than those basics you listed at that time, either. But, praise His Name, God has continued to open my understanding and lead me to grow in understanding and grace. I want Him to be my joy and know Him more, also.

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  3. So true! I struggled for a long time because I was so young and didn’t understand everything – was it real? I now know for sure that was the beginning point for me – where the work of God began in my heart. Something can be said for childlike simplicity.

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  4. I agree with you, Leslie. While I think statements like Piper’s are true, for me it is very easy to let them plunge me into self-condemnation and looking inward for the source of my salvation (“I don’t have that kind of pure desire for God! Maybe I’m not really saved…I’ve got to work up that kind of love for Him or I won’t be saved!”) That kind of love is the result of genuine salvation, developed over the lifelong process of sanctification, not an immediate thing that happens the moment the Holy Spirit regenerates someone.

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  5. Well said, Heather.All of the comments on this post are excellent!

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  6. Wonderful post Leslie! I agree. I do believe there was a beginning work in my life at an early age, but not true conversion for me until much later. I had this “infatuation” if you will with Jesus…God….Heaven.But the truth. The truth about my depraved nature and ultimately God’s grace were not revealed until later in life. Praise God for his timing and His provision!I love the prayer at the end. Beautiful.

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  7. Thanks for sharing!!! I think you and I knew about the same thing! : ) I really didn’t know anything outside of that! But when we are in heaven….I’m sure we’ll realize how little we knew on earth, right?! And in 10,000 yrs we’ll realize how little we knew our first 100 in heaven! Praise Him!

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