Do you know what an inoculation is? Maybe as a child you were immunized with shots so that if you were exposed to measles and whooping cough and other diseases your body would be immune to them. What happened is that a weakened form of the real disease was put into your body while you were young and your immune system fought against it and won. And by doing that you built up a resistance to that disease so you would never contract the full-blown disease. For me, growing up in a Christian home was like that immunization shot. I was “inoculated against being a true Christian.” Let me explain.
There are many privileges and blessings of growing up in a Christian home. I was protected from the dangers and addictions of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex, rock music, and sinful entertainment. I am truly thankful not to have the scars and lingering regrets that many of my friends have who indulged in those things while growing up.
But there’s a serious danger of growing up in a Christian home.
And it’s actually more dangerous than the vices above. You see, attending church, Christian school, and being involved in church ministry allows one to come into constant contact with the Truth of God’s Word. That can easily result in conformity without conversion. And it can result in great accumulation of Bible knowledge and motivation to walk on the “straight and narrow” path. I did that. I enjoyed being “a good kid” with all the respect and acknowledgment that went with that. I was looked up to by others. And I did not rebel against what I was hearing in church – I knew it was true, and that “God’s Way was best.”
I had grown up in a pastor’s home – in Hawaii – and had seen the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ which was preached every service transform people’s lives. Addicts turned to Christ and were freed of their slavery in a miraculous way. People who were drifting with no purpose were suddenly passionate about their love and devotion for Jesus after He saved them. I saw that over and over again and knew it was real, not a religious gimmick.
And as a young teenager I had “made a profession” myself, meaning that I had come to realize that I had never prayed to be saved as so many of my friends had. So I went through the steps of talking to someone, having them show me the Roman’s Road verses, and lead me in a “Sinner’s prayer.”
I became immune.
And that was my official inoculation shot. From that point on I could claim I was “saved.” I had a point in time and a place where I prayed to be “born again.” From that point on when I heard preaching about salvation I could easily resist. Hence, I was immune to strong salvation preaching.
I finished high school and went through Christian college and several years of service as a Christian school teacher convinced (most of the time) that I was OK with God.
But upon moving to Pennsylvania to teach I was under some preaching that challenged my self-righteousness. I had friends my age who were passionate about Christ and talked like He was a real part of their personal life, directing them and speaking through His Word to their personal needs. I began to realize how hollow and shallow my spiritual life was in comparison.
The preaching about how “Bible salvation” that saves a soul for eternity also transforms a life here and now began to bear fruit in our church. We started seeing deacons, Sunday school teachers, laymen – and even the Pastor’s wife – getting genuinely saved. Every time one of them shared their testimony I became concerned. Was I truly saved? Could I be deceived? Why was there no evidence or fruit of salvation and Holy Spirit power in my life?
I identified with Judas Iscariot
Near my 35th birthday I began to beg God to make clear to me where I was spiritually before Him – saved but backslidden and confused, or lost and deceived. I truly believed He wanted me to know where I stood and wanted me to be saved, so I began to seek Him. In answer to that prayer God led me to listen to a sermon I had on cassette tape about Judas Iscariot. Judas was part of the inner circle of the early church and was well respected by everyone (no one then had any suspicion he would betray Jesus). But despite being that close to Jesus he did not have that personal relationship with him as Lord and Savior. I immediately identified with self-righteous but well-respected Judas and God convicted me that I was indeed just as lost as he was.
That led to a week of diligently immersing myself in the Scriptures – not as a perfunctory religious duty – but now as a life-and-death search for answers about salvation. I claimed Jeremiah 29:17, “If ye will seek for me with all your heart, I will be found of you!” God began to reveal Himself to me in a way I had never experienced before.
Surrender and humility opened the door
Finally on February 17, 1997 I came to a point of full surrender, ready to admit that my sin of self-righteousness and pride was keeping me from salvation, and ready to submit to whatever God had for me in the future. He was my loving Savior and Lord.
Looking back I am deeply concerned that I could have been so deceived. But Isaiah 17:9 is true when it says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it.” I am concerned about the many who grow up in my church and Christian school, but never truly get saved, though they may conform and even make a profession, thus inoculating them. And many good folks I know are deeply religious, attending church and being very involved in good works and service to God, the church, and others. But “by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Have you “caught the real disease”, so to speak, of life-changing salvation? Or have you been “inoculated” against that by experiencing a weakened form of Christianity or religion that makes you feel comfortable in your sinful condition? Whether you recognize yourself as a sinner in need of help, or view yourself as a “good person”, Jesus is the answer and He wants to have a personal relationship with you! Seek Him with all your heart!
I posted this here on the PACESuccess site because I want to encourage and challenge parents to pray diligently for their children’s true salvation. And perhaps some parents reading this can identify with the emptiness of living a “good life” but not having a relationship with the Lord. Read other testimonies of changed lives at our church’s website.)
For parents who want to help their children find true salvation in Christ, I recommend the book, “Bringing Children to Christ” in our store.
Here’s a story from last year about how the PACES helped a few of our teens to find Christ and salvation.