I had a friend die recently last weekend, and this caused me to really think about what am I doing with my life. Out of curiosity and interest I researched near-death experiences, which I believed some of them to be true. I read about people seeing hell and realizing how horrible it is for some people. It sounds like the worst thing possible. Something I never ever want to see. I quit gambling, I quit using steroids, I quit a lot of other things in my life that were affecting the way I live and my relationship with God.
The problem is I have a hard time really meaning what I say to God when I pray. I get the feeling that I am only trying to live for him because I don't want to go to hell. This tears me up, what he did on the cross, even though I cannot see it, I know what he did for me. And I want to be grateful. How do I become grateful for that? No matter how hard I pray and try to talk to God I just feel that there is always doubt in my heart, mostly about where I will end up when I die, and if he really is hearing me. I know I'm supposed to surrender all and I have basically done that in a material sense. I now try to love people and would love to do something involving ministry, but for some reason, I still have doubts about where I'm going after I die. Sometimes I feel that Jesus is saying it's ok, don't worry, but that doubt is always there. I try to make the words I say to God mean so much, but I feel that they don't hit. I need help. What do you think?
One thing that I've noticed over the years is that many people only go half-way in their religion. They eagerly give up sins, but they don't replace it with anything else. "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation" (Matthew 12:43-45). The problem is they leave their house empty and I think that in part that is what you are feeling.
There are two sides to Christianity. To only remove sins is to fail. Following Christ is so much more than leaving sins behind, it is about learning to live righteously and pleasing in God's sight.
There is a whole book just on the topic of not doubting your salvation. It is the book of I John and I would like you to read it several times -- it isn't very long. With each reading, you are going to pick up points that you missed the previous time. But for the moment, let's focus on one:
"Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:3-6).
One cause of doubting is uncertainty about what God expects of you. That means you can gain more confidence as you learn in greater detail what the Bible teaches and see that you living by its teachings in your life.