Life Stories
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Gretchen Shaffer

Salem, VA

As a little girl, I was raised to believe that in order to be saved, all I had to do was "ask Jesus into my heart." I didn't even know exactly what that meant, but because I didn't want to go to hell, I asked Jesus into my heart many different times just to make sure it took.  Throughout my elementary and high school years, our family went to many different churches in our little town in Pennsylvania. As a result, I knew very little Biblical truth about Jesus, the church or the expectations of how a Christian was supposed to live.  But, the truth is, even though I was convinced that I was saved, I never read the Bible, I never prayed and I didn't have any desire to give up sin. But, I prayed a little magic prayer that made me convinced that I was saved.

Two years after I graduated High School I married a great guy from my home town,  Nick Shaffer. We moved to Pensacola, Florida and decided that we should go to church every Sunday. We did and truthfully, I didn't get much out of it but I felt good about going. Our first several years of marriage were extremely difficult and we fought a great deal.  We had sown a lot of sin into our relationship and we had a hard time just keeping things together.  Even though we were both professing Christians, Christ was not at the center of our relationship and we did not honor one another above ourselves.  Then, about 2 years into our marriage, Nick came to me and told me that he knew that he had been running from God and he knew that he was supposed to be a preacher. He confessed that he knew this since he was a senior in high school, but he simply did not to submit to God's will for him and he had already accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, so God would just have to understand.  Hindsight is always 20/20, so I know now that much of the turmoil in our lives at that point was a lack of submission to God's authority in his life, in addition to the fact that I wasn't really saved.

God wrestled Nick's will to the mat and He won! Through a series of miraculous events, Nick was able to get out of the Navy within a short period of time.  We moved to Fort Worth, Texas for him to begin seminary.  God gave him a great gift to boldly preach the truth of the Word of God with power the Holy Spirit.  For the first time in my life, I felt like I really heard the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I heard the gospel and my heart was crushed under the weight of my sin.  I can't tell you exactly the day that I got saved, but I do know it was as I was sitting under Nick's preaching. God did an amazing work in my dead heart. It was almost as if I didn't realize that I wasn't saved until I actually got saved; then I turned around and looked back at the fruit of my life and realized that there was no evidence at all that I was truly a born again Christian.  

Here is what made the difference for me. My belief went from being about everyone out there in the world to being very personal.  Before I was truly saved, I knew and believed that all people, including me, were sinners and that we all deserved God's punishment in hell.  I believed that Jesus came to live a perfect life and then to die on the cross to save people from their sins. You see, it was all vague and about everyone in general, not specifically about me and my sin specifically against God. But praise God, this all changed when I heard, truly heard the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and responded in repentance and faith. By God's grace, He made me to see my sin and to cry out to Him for salvation.  It wasn't about saying certain words in a prayer.  It was my recognition that without God saving me, I had no hope of salvation.  He has forgiven me of my sin and has given me a new heart that desires to honor Him in all that I do. Everything in our life has changed since God has redeemed my life for my good and His glory. It is evidence that true saving faith yields godly fruit in a person's life. Now God's Word alone is our authority and wisdom for living.  Contentment and satisfaction come from knowing Christ and being known by Him.  Nick and I have been married for nearly 25 years.  We have 5 amazing children and serve the Lord at West Salem Baptist Church. 

Please do not be fooled like I was.  Salvation isn't a just matter of saying a magic prayer or just asking Jesus into your heart and then living however you want to live.  It isn't even a matter of knowing the truth about Jesus and agreeing with it.  It is a matter of personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished on the cross on your behalf. At one time in my life, I had to look backwards to something that I did (prayed a little prayer) to convince myself that I was saved. For some people, they may look backwards to a time that they walked down an aisle at church or got baptized or something like that to convince themselves that they took care of business with God way back when.  Here is the truth, if you have to look backwards at something you did for "confirmation" of your salvation, you are not saved.  Salvation is all about what Jesus did for you, recieving his work on your behalf and then by God's power and grace, living a life that honors him and is in keeping with his commands out of a heart of love for the one who lived and died for you. True salvation will show in your life today.

So, what exactly is the gospel and how is someone saved? 

1. God is holy. This means that God is completely set apart and is utterly unique.  There is no one else like him because He is perfect in every way. He is the definition of truth and purity.  In Him there is Light and no darkness at all.  He has never sinned.  He is incapable of that.  He is God and in charge of everything and everyone because He made it all, AND to Him everyone will give an account of their lives.  Because God is holy, sin cannot be in His presence and more than that, He must punish sin (rebellion against God) because all sin it ultimately against Him.  In other words, this is God's world and all sin must be accounted for because God is Holy.  He can't just wink at it and sweep it all under the big universe rug in the sky.  

This leaves us with a big problem!

2. Man is a sinner.  All people have sinned against God.   Every single one of us, me, you, the guy in Africa, and the sweetest little old lady you know. Everyone one has sinned because we are born sinners, fallen people. Think about it, do you have to teach a 2-year-old to lie?  Nope. We have sinned in everyway imaginable.  We have acted as if God doesn't exist, we have spurned his authority and rightful rule over us.  He gave us the 10 commandments to show us how to live and we couldn't even keep them! (Have no other God's before me.  Do not make any graven images. Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. Do not take the Lord's name in vain. Honor your father and mother. Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not covet.)  Jesus said, even it we commit these sins in our hearts, we are guilty. Well, scripture (God's breathed-out written Word, the Bible) tells us that the wages of sin is death.  Death isn't just a ceasing to exist in this physical body.  No, death is a seperation from God forever in a very real and horrifying place called hell. It is a place of punishment and torment where God pours his wrath out on sinner.  It will last forever and there is no hope of a second chance.  

This is the horrifying future for every single person ever born, unless God moves to rescue us.

3. Jesus Christ is the Savior of Sinners.  Because God is merciful, He was moved in his heart with pity and compassion towards us as sinners.  God made a way to rescue us from the penalty of judgement against us for our sin.  He made a way for us to esape which His wrath being poured out on us in hell. Here's how.  God sent His own perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth on a to seek and to save sinners.  Jesus Christ, took to himself human flesh and was born as a baby.  Jesus Christ was God incarnate, or God  in flesh.   Jesus lived a perfect life on this earth; He never ever sinned, not in thought, word or action.  He perfectly obeyed the heart and willl of His Father.  He was tempted in every way that we are, yet He never committed a sin. He lived a perfectly righteous life.  However, the world hated Him and did not recieve Him.  When Jesus was 33 years old, He was comdemned to death for claiming to be God and was crucified on a cross at the hands of wicked men. Yet, no one took His life from Him.  He willingly laid it down, so that He could take it back up again.  Here is what is so important to understand about Jesus death on the cross.  Remember, that the wages of sin is death?  Well, if Jesus lived a perfect life, how could He die?  This is the heart of the gospel right here, Jesus didn't die for His own sins becuase He didn't have any sin. Jesus died for the sins of all who would believe on Him. He took those sins upon Himself and died to pay for them.  God poured out all His wrath on Jesus for all the sins of everyone who would ever believe.  So, in Jesus' death, He took the punishment and death we deserved so that God would remain just and holy, and so that we could be saved from the punishment in hell which we deserve.  Jesus was our substitute.  He shed His blood on the cross so that our sins would be paid for. What an amazing, sacrificial, giving and loving God! It's what some people have called the great exchange.  God treated Jesus as is he lived your sin-filled life and punished Him according to your sins, and in exchange, God will treat you as if you lived Jesus' perfect, sinless life and will reward you accordingly.  Then, after 3 days, Jesus rose from the dead.  God the Father raised Him up proving that the sacrifice He made for sinners was sufficient.  Jesus broke the power of sin and death over those who would believe.

But Jesus substitutionary sacrifice isn't just automatic for everyone.

4.  My response.  So, here is the question.  What must I do to be saved?  This is what makes Christianity different from every other religion in the world.  Every other religion (Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Buddhist) teaches that there is something we can do to earn salvation.  That is a lie and man can never do enough good to earn salvation.  The problem is that even all of our "goodness" is stained with sin and God has to deal with our sin according to His holiness.  What makes Christianity different is that God did all the work necessary for salvation for us. There is nothing left for us to do because God did it all!  Salvation is to be recieved by faith.  It is a gift of God's grace. You see, God worked on our behalf because we were incapable of earning it.  So, in order to be saved is simply own the fact that you are a sinner.  Own it.  For the longest time, I couldn't say out loud, "I have sinned againt you God."  I was too proud and it was like sour vinegar coming out of my mouth.  But, God knows you are a sinner!  He knows it and that's why He came to die.  So, confess your sin and then repent of them.  To repent means to turn away from those sins. In other words, refuse to associate with your old lifestyle. Acknowledge that fact that you know you deserve His just punishment in hell for your sins. And finally, you must place all of your trust in God for your salvation.  Trust that Jesus died in your place and paid the penalty for your sins on the cross. It's personal. Your sins.  Confess that you have no other hope than in what He did for you and that you are trusting in Him alone for salvation. The Bible says that, if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved.  

Salvation isn't a matter of cleaning yourself up and then coming to God.  No way!  It's just the opposite.  It is coming to Him BECAUSE you are a sinner.  It is coming to Him dirty and needy and letting Him wash you clean and forgive you. If you do this, God will not turn you away.  He will hear your prayer and recieve you as His own.  He will give you the gift of salvation and the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that will enable you to turn away from sin and to live a life of obedience to His Word.  He will make you new and will give you a new heart that will want to obey Him. He will be your Savior AND you will desire to follow Him as Lord.


There is so much more I could say. I would love to show you the gospel from scripture so you don't just take my word for it. If you are not confident of your salvation as you look at your life today, please find a Bible and start reading Romans and the book of John.  These things are most important things you can ever think about on this earth. Please email me at if you have any questions or want to talk more about these things.  I would love nothing more.  If you don't have a church, please know that you are always welcome to our church, West Salem Baptist Church, Salem, Va.  540-389-2129

I encourage to you consider the truth about the gospel Jesus Christ and respond to Him in repentance and faith.  

Saved By God's Grace,





Visit my church: West Salem Baptist Church