THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Do all Christians have a "salvation moment"?
By Beth Hyduke
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Whether a person's conversion is sudden and dramatic or gradual and seemingly ordinary is not the crucial issue; what is critical is has it happened to you? The Bible is clear that either the Holy Spirit is indwelling you or He isn't. It is of paramount importance that we know that this has happened to us; it is not necessary that we know exactly when it happened.
This brings us back to the issue of assurance. Some days you may feel empty inside, you don't spend enough/any time in the Bible, and find that this time away from God negatively affects your thought life. This is an experience all Christians can personally relate to. As the old hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" goes, we are all "prone to wander and to leave the God we love." Because we still have our old sin nature, we still sin against God and against others and we are still drawn towards spiritually unhealthy lusts and cravings. You want to do the things of the flesh — not because you haven't had the dramatic conversion experience you desire — but because your sin nature is still active within you, warring against your desire to do what is right. This conflicted nature is what Paul wrestles with in Romans 7:18-23:
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.If you are a Christian and you are experiencing sin in your life that you want to be rid of, it does not mean that you need to be reconverted or have some dramatic, supernatural experience. It means that you need to deal with the sin, addressing it in repentance and asking for God's forgiveness and strength to overcome it. Sanctification (the ongoing work God does in us after we are saved) is a lifelong process in which we are made more and more able to become dead to sin and alive to righteousness. We become more aware and sensitive to sin in our lives, and through our weaknesses and inabilities, recognize our true dependency on God. Philippians 1:6 says, "...He who began a good work in you will perfect it" until the end. First Peter 5:10 says, "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast." Unlike feelings or emotions that come and go, these are God's surefire promises all Christians can rely on.
If the sin in your life is causing you to doubt your salvation, I highly recommend that you read 1 John which deals with the theme of assurance: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13, emphasis added). John goes on to offer a series of tests we can employ to determine whether we are truly saved. (John MacArthur did a great sermon on these spiritual tests of faith in 1 John titled Is It Real? that I would recommend.)
In closing, I want to share with you an illustration that was helpful to me after I became a Christian but was still wrestling with assurance. I had heard many Christians give testimonies in which they described their conversion in terms of the way they felt during or immediately afterwards — expressing feelings of deep joy or peace or belonging — but my own experience was so different that it made me wonder what I had gone through and whether it was authentic. I eventually came to realize that the presence or absence of such emotions was such a secondary consideration, it is almost immaterial. Maintaining a commitment to Christ, especially when doubts, obstacles, and problems spring up, requires something much more substantive than good feelings. Additionally, while it is true that conversion results in inevitable change, sometimes awareness of the change does not come right away but takes time to dawn on you. Here's the applicable illustration that helped me see this: When you cross the border from Switzerland to Italy, the scenery doesn't become instantly Italian. It's still cold and starkly alpine for a number of miles. It's only as you go further into Italy that slowly the snow gets left behind and the sun gets warmer and it becomes obvious you are now in a different country. The border represents the moment of decisive change from one nation to another, but only as you press on into the new country can you expect to discover just how different a place you are now in.
In the Christian life, changes for some are immediate and obvious, while for others, they only become apparent as you press on in faith, seeking to grow in grace. Studying in and meditating on the Word, praying, worshipping with other believers in fellowship, and daily committing yourself to God in service are the means God uses to sanctify us and to prepare us for eternal life with Him.
Image Credit: spinheike; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life
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