The door to the classroom slowly opened. Long boney fingers clung to the door as an unknown person entered. She carefully shuffled her feet as her tall thin body slowly moved trying to keep up with them. Her hair was a mess. Her face looked sad and scared. She made her way to the seat in the room where I was teaching. I couldn't help but notice her as she fumbled her way to the place in the Gospel of Luke where we were studying. Finally, she found it and then looked up at me with the most penetrating look I had ever seen.
After a few minutes, she cleared her throat and said, "My name is Connie." I said, "It is nice to meet you." She said — as she continued to clear her throat and sip on her water — "I don't have much longer to live. You see, I have inoperable cancer. The doctors said that I might have three months, maybe four to live. I am scared. I have a three-year old named Tony. My husband divorced me last year and I, well I... (she took a few more sips of water)... I want to know Jesus. Can you tell me about Jesus? I want my boy to know that his mother gave her life to Jesus."
I said, "Yes Connie, I will tell you about Jesus."
As long as I live, I will never forget the day Connie walked into my class. Some will question her motives of only wanting to know about Jesus because she was dying while others are excited that she turned to Jesus in her most difficult time of her life. I choose the latter. After all, it was Jesus who said:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly (Matthew 11:28-30 TM).
For Connie, Salvation started when she acknowledged her need for Jesus. She already believed that it was through Jesus that one could experience the relief of a shamed life. She believed that because of Jesus she could fully immerse herself in the redeemed life — the grace life and the forgiven life and the eternal life. For Connie, it wasn't following some five-step process to obtain salvation; rather, it was a desire to surrender her life and allow the redeeming power of Jesus to cleanse her.
The entire class began to share with Connie the wonderful stories of Jesus and their personal relationship they had with him. After class, Connie and I chatted. She said, "There is nothing more important to me in this life that I desire more than to give my life to Jesus." That day, she did! I will never forget seeing her face as she walked so weakly to the baptismal pool. Instead of having a sad and scared face, she had a smiling face. As I held her 96-pound body in my arms, I baptized her. When she came up, she praised Jesus, hugged my neck and for a few seconds, there were no thoughts about cancer or four months to live. It was total salvation that day.
The crowd cheered and clapped and began to sing happy birthday to her. For you see, that was her new birthday — the birthday that matters mostly. Baptisms of those with seeking and searching hearts are special — worthy of cheering, clapping, and singing with the host of heaven's angels who rejoice before the Father in such moments.
For Connie and her family, there was no complicated formula to obtain salvation. A seeking heart that confesses Jesus as Lord and believes in the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 10:9) yields to this Lord in baptism and experiences resurrection into the new life (Romans 6:4). Salvation won by the Savior is brought by grace to the sinner. It is not works based. It is not earning points to go to heaven. It is not following some church theology. It is surrendering one's life to Jesus and following the Lord's teaching as his disciple (Matthew 28:18-20).
If you would like to know more about Jesus I'd love for you to email me — I'd love to visit with you about Jesus, faith, salvation, and people like Connie!