But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
— Philippians 3:7–11
I grew up in a Christian home. I’m immensely grateful that the first song my parents taught me to sing was Jesus Loves Me. And the fact that I was baptized before I knew how to do long division means I’ve had the luxury of maturing in my faith for about as long as I’ve had time to practice tying my shoes. But let’s entertain a sinister question for a minute: how much of my faith is my parents’?
Paul was a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” and by the old covenant of Jewish faith, he was clean. Paul was a good Jew, in large part because of his family. He was born with Hebrew blood in him and raised with Hebrew traditions. Paul knew that the traditions of his family and his ancestors made him a “Hebrew of Hebrews.” He also knew that these practices meant nothing in his new faith.
Some of us might feel like modern-day Pauls. We grew up in church, our parents dedicated us while we were still spitting up on our Sunday clothes, we went to every church camp and Wednesday-night church service. Those things didn’t save me. They didn’t save you. The perfect love of Christ Jesus did. Like Paul says, righteousness comes from faith, not the law. Those of us who grew up this way should be very careful not to fall into the lie that salvation can be earned. You cannot know God by your parents’ faith.
Conversely, if you did not grow up a gold-star Christian, that does not invalidate your faith. In fact, Paul suggests that your new faith is its own form of blessing. It can be intimidating to walk into a crowd of Christians that have practiced being Christians their entire lives. Don’t let them make you feel like an imposter. I am immensely lucky to have grown up in a church, but if you are new to Christianity, you are lucky to know that your path to salvation was built entirely by the God of mercy.
Don’t equate spiritual maturity with salvation. The God of grace, the God of second, third, fourth, and fifth chances, the God of forgiveness, is your salvation.