“Have you been saved?” the pastor asked Sunday. He was in church as a young boy when the Holy Spirit tugged on his heart so strong he felt it might leap from his chest. He knew he had to respond. That moment, he turned from sin and placed his faith in the name of Jesus alone for salvation. It was what he calls his “divine transaction,” the clearly identifiable instant when Jesus became his Lord.

“What about you?” he continued. “Have you had a divine transaction?”

Two moments came to mind.

At age nine, I responded to a Baptist altar call, when the preacher invites you to the front of the church to pray for Jesus to come into your heart. Walking the aisle that day, I’m sure I was sincere in wanting Jesus to make me and my life better. I’m sure I really wanted Him to save me. I’m sure I meant every word I repeated as someone led me through what’s called the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

The thing is, nothing changed in me. I was drawn to Jesus, but I was never transformed by Him. He wasn’t my Lord. I didn’t have a relationship with Him. I had a to-do list of tasks to accomplish and ways to act. Somehow I decided that if I could check them off, I could justify myself to God that I was saved.

I tried really hard to convert myself and be a better person, but when it repeatedly proved impossible, I gave up. In guilt and shame, I embraced whatever mirage the devil dangled as the answer to my happiness, fulfillment, and need for love, significance, and belonging.

Year after year, I attended summer church camp, Disciple Now, and other special retreats. Even there, my attention was focused on finding someone or something to make me feel special and loved, but somehow, the experience would still produce a spiritual high. I would think, “This is it! This time it’s going to be different!” In that protected church environment, I had hope. But as soon as I was home, I collided head-on with myself, and the same things that weighed me down before dragged me down again.

I never stopped knowing in my head Jesus was the answer. I’m not sure I believed it in my heart, and I couldn’t see how I would ever get it. My hope for salvation was in my ability to change myself; therefore, I lost all hope.

From the outside, I looked happy, like I had it all together, but if you spent any time in the private place of my thoughts and emotions, you would have encountered deep darkness and despair. Depression. Addiction. Loneliness. Doubt. Self hatred. Shame.

Nineteen years later, I had a second moment: a divine transaction I’ll never forget.

I was three months into my second marriage and three months pregnant. My first failed marriage had led to another a mere five months after the divorce was final. James and I fought all the time. Our relationship and home life were a train wreck.

It was after 11 p.m. I had gone to bed. Alone. James was “out.”

Then the phone rang. I don’t remember our exact conversation, but I know this: he was drinking with his best buddy, and I free-fell to a new personal bottom. Hadn’t I just left an alcoholic? Wasn’t this one supposed to be different? Oh it was. This time, there was a child involved! In that moment, the Lord opened my eyes and gave me understanding. He turned my heart to Jesus.

I finally got it: I’d never get good enough to give my life to Jesus. I had to put my faith in Him right where I was, at the end of myself and all possibility that I would ever be able to make myself any different.

And I was never the same again.

Things weren’t radically different right away, but the transaction was complete and irreversible. The process called sanctification, by which God does the changing from the inside out, had begun. I had a new heart from which new thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and actions could spring forth. Please know, it’s a process. I still have days when I act so unlike Jesus that the devil makes easy prey of my assurance of salvation. Our habits and deep-seeded thought patterns can take time to reprogram, maybe even a lifetime. We get a new heart, not a new flesh, so there’s always going to be a struggle as our selfish nature fights against the Spirit of God who dwells within us. It’s what keeps us mortally dependant on Jesus. If we could do it on our own before or after He saves us, why would we need Jesus?

Friend, we all need Jesus. We have all sinned, and without Jesus, we are separated from God. But in Christ, we are forgiven and guaranteed eternal life in Heaven. He really is the only way.

What about you? Is God turning your heart to Him right now? Respond! Not with a canned prayer, but with the faith God gives you as a result of His grace. Click here to know more.

Lord, thank You for your salvation and Your sanctification at work in us as You make us more wholly Yours today. For those whose hearts You’re stirring right now, please give them faith and courage to respond.