Monday, June 8, 2009

Salvation: A Moment or A Process, or Both?

I grew up in a church where it was very important for people to remember the “moment” of their personal salvation experience. Some people call this “being born again,” others call it “getting saved,” still others call it “finding Jesus” or “getting the Spirit.” It really does not matter what one calls it, so long as a person knows that at some point in their life they have made peace with God and made a commitment to follow Him with their lives. Growing up, I often heard people share about this moment in their lives with great detail. Those who could not recall the experience with vivid details were sometimes suspect in their faith.

When I moved to the northeast I began to meet a lot of people who were less clear about the “moment” of their salvation. When I talk to them about what salvation means, they clearly understand it and claim to have it, but they have a harder time actually being able to pin point the exact moment it occurred. These people often did not grow up in an evangelical church. It is not uncommon to hear them talk about their personal salvation as a process that occurred over several months instead of at a single moment.

Recently I did a poll on my blog and asked people to respond to a series of questions about their own personal salvation experience. Only 22% indicated that they could remember the exact date and details of the experience. Whereas 77% indicated that they were confident they had such an experience but could not remember the exact date or details. Though my poll may not be as scientific as one done by a professional national polling organization, it does seem to agree with what I hear from those who are willing to talk to me about their personal salvation experience.

As we move into a more post-modern era, perhaps we need to worry less about remembering the exact moment of salvation and focus more on helping young people think through whether they have ever even had such an experience or not. After all, remembering the date is not what gets us into heaven; it’s the repentance of sin and commitment to Christ that makes the grade. So let’s focus on that and help young people be sure of their faith.


  1. I do remember the day and the place where the Lord had mercy on me. I guess I'm blessed being the wretch I was I needed a real Savior who forgave sins (had a bunch, still do) but more important to me then the day is the revelation of Christ in me. He is real. I always felt that's when grace appeared. like Paul said, "when God revealed His Son in me." Thats what I want to know is Christ real to you and when did He become so?

  2. I believe as we get older and the great wonder of Scripture comes to light, we learn more of what it means to be saved and realize just how little we actually know. (the Bible has the unique ability in that the more you learn the more you learn the less you know).

    Knowing now what I do about salvation, I sometimes question my initial salvation experience because I was so clueless to what it was really all about. All I knew back then was I wanted to be rescued from my own self and the direction I was headed. But, as I begin to question the reality of my salvation experience, I am reminded that the simple faith of a child is enough and the confidence I have in what happened is restored.

    Our process of growing and maturing in the Lord is also a process of realizing the Lordship of Christ in different areas of our lives. What I mean by this is sometimes a five year old doesn't understand what it means to count the cost and is not likely to lose friends because of their faith in Christ. However, at age 15, when being a Christian means limiting the choice of movies, friends, and music (et al) some people realize just exactly what following Christ is all about. Some backslide and then "get saved all over again."

    There are no simple answers. I do know that on Nov 14, 1979, I asked God to save me. I remember it clearly and always will.

    Thanks for being provocative with your blog!

  3. I do so appreciate your effort to examine the salvation experience. I too had a specific encounter and day of committing my life to Christ that occurred as a result of two months of hearing the truth proclaimed and taught to me. I cannot help but wonder if what we encounter here in the Northeast is not so much a matter of modern or post-modern, but... Read More a development of the Spirit's action and result of there not being a call for intentional commitment. At any rate, it will always be a mater of "before I knew Christ" and "after I knew Christ," whether a specific day or moment can be recalled. I was a doomed, lost and hopeless sinner before I knew Him. Now I am a child of the living Lord our God. Stunning!