Written By Joanne S. Dionela, Philippines
I was born into a fairly religious family. I attended church regularly, and participated in the same church activities as my parents did—not just in one church, but two. Nobody ever questioned the state of my salvation. Naturally, I didn’t either.
In high school, however, my paradigm on faith and salvation was shaken up for the first time. One day, my elder sister asked me a strange question: “Do you want to go to hell?” Obviously not, I thought. Who wants to go to hell? And with my regular attendance at two churches, how could she even suggest that?
But she went on to explain to me that my salvation was not linked to what religion or church membership my parents had, but by the grace of God. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)
Then I encountered a passage from Romans 10:9–10: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
That shook me up more. Did I actually have to verbally profess my faith to God and declare Jesus as Lord to be saved? Did I actually have to believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead? Did this mean that despite all my previous religious acts, I didn’t have the right to become a child of God? And that if I didn’t believe these things, it would mean an eternal separation from God? It sounded terribly unfair to me.
The irony, however, was that it was indeed unfair—but not to me. In fact, the requirements for my salvation were completely unfair to God, since He paid for my salvation with the life of His own begotten Son. Jesus’ death on the cross provided the ultimate and only way for our redemption, not just from hell but also from a life without His guidance, blessing and purpose—which is as good as death.
At that point, I began to understand that there was nothing I could do on my own to replace what God had done for me. My paradigm on faith and salvation was turned on its head. At the end of the day, I was but a “religious” sinner who desperately needed Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. And I needed to confess it with my mouth and believe it with my heart, taking God at His word in faith.
So I did it. I repented of my sin and declared Christ as my Lord and Savior. This proved to be the wisest and best change in thinking I have ever undergone. It gave me purpose, meaning and direction in life, and I have never been the same again.
I’ve also come to realize that contrary to what I used to believe, repentance is not just about being emotional and feeling sorry for what we’ve done wrong. It is also an attitude that brings about true and lasting change in us. And the best way for us to stay in this new paradigm is to heed what Romans 12:2 says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Have you experienced a similar shift in your paradigm?