Treatise: When Was I Saved?
Was it when I properly understood sound theology, or was it before that, when I acknowledged God as my Lord, if not yet understanding (though thinking I did) what it meant for Him to be my Savior? This is something that my mind comes around to thinking about every once in a while. It’s not a troubling thought, but it’s a difficult one to resolve. I may never be able to. But thankfully, it doesn’t matter if I do. And there may be a way around this question, which I’ll develop here in a little bit.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in God – The Christian God. One of the earliest memories I have from Sweden was, I think, a television show where the young girl lead character was sitting with her mom/aunt/grand-mother, and maybe her little brother, and looking in a picture book. A page flips, and someone points at a figure in the middle of the image and says ‘this is God,’ (or else Jesus), and it’s possible ‘Jesus’ was a separate figure somewhere in the picture that was also pointed to. It was a dark image. It could have been set in outer space. I don’t know. For some reason, the middle character appeared to have a sort of “elf” get-up in which he was dressed. Green tights, hat, pointy shoes and frills around the neck..so from whenever that was, to about 8 years of age, maybe a little after, if I imagined “god” in my head, it would be that “Link to the Past”-esque character. No eyes, that area was dark. Reddish, medium-length hair. It’s a weird thing to remember but it’s the earliest memory I have that I know is an actual memory and not just knowledge which I can’t determine when I received. The simple point of this is, I was from an early age exposed to the concept of the Trinitarian God. There are a couple of children’s books in our house to this day, and one of them is where I have the image of a fish spewing out Jonah onto a beach implanted in my brain from.
I only have one other memory of my own thoughts, (have you noticed that memory is of two sorts? One of things you experienced, and the other of thoughts you had?) and that is of trying to explain to my brother how history was supposed to work. When I was little, I loved dinosaurs, and had memorized the geological layers in the beginning of one of my dinosaur books into a little song. I knew the ‘scientific’ timeline of the earth, and it put humans at the very tippy-top of the “Nutid” segment. So I said to my brother, time is like a “Y.” One branch represents the Bible’s history and the other represents ‘prehistory.’ It’s much longer than the other one. They’re different, that’s why they’re separate, but “at some point, they come together, and then they continue together from that point on.” Because both of the histories, though different, were both supposed to be the past end of a timeline ending in today’s reality, of which there was clearly only one of. Looking back c. 15-17 years later, it was intriguing to consider that I had invented “Gap Theory” all by myself as a kid. Apparently that was a satisfying conclusion to my young mind, because I don’t remember ever thinking about it again. The only other memory about religion I have from before we moved is seeing a video of me running around the pews at my brother’s baby-baptism (Sweden is mostly a Lutheran country, insofar as denominations are concerned).
I don’t remember when I learned that “Jesus=God,” but I must have understood it from the first moment, because I don’t ever recall having a misconception about Jesus’ identity, at least officially speaking. I do remember something dawning on me when I read an article on Answers in Genesis entitled something like “Christ the Creator?” which pointed out that Jesus, as God, was actively involved in creating the universe. It was not something that the Father did while the Son sat passively aside and did nothing. But while no one ever really “gets” the Trinity in full, the way He Himself understands Himself, I remember being aware of the concept since I was little. I don’t, however, remember when I was aware of Christ dying for us on the Cross. Maybe I always knew that, too, since I don’t remember ever learning it. But here’s the rub: it wasn’t until roughly winter 2010-2011 when I understood HOW the Cross accomplished salvation—through a substitutionary atonement, where He took our punishment and we undeservedly receive His reward for living the perfect life. My question is, if I didn’t understand salvation completely, was it then possible for me to have faith in it? The object of my faith never changed (unless my conception of God was an idol throughout my youth?), but my understanding changed over time. So the question is, would I have been saved when I believed in Jesus and my conscience had quickened me to obey the Law and ask for forgiveness for sins, even if my knowledge of substitutionary atonement and a complete understanding of Biblical repentance and a faith-based soteriology (not works) was lacking?
This is an open question. If you’re reading this, I want you to think about it. I don’t have the definitive answer to my question, yet. I do have some answers that I’ve reasoned my way to, but they may very well not be the final word on the situation. Therefore, think deeply about this and don’t let me tell you what’s right and true – think, and decide for yourself.Here’s my resolution of the question: looking back through my life thus far, I can see the ‘hand of God,’ as it were, operating, guiding, and influencing my life at key moments and important ways. Now, being able to see the working of Providence is not the same as being saved, because God is omnipresent and does not only involve Himself in the affairs of the Saints. But it is nonetheless encouraging, because at the very least it means that at no point in my life was I completely alone, without God watching over me. Also, the important thing is ultimately not at what point I was saved, but whether I am saved now. It’s not where I was, but where I’m going that matters. It sounds cliché, but that’s just because it’s said so often. And it’s said often because it happens to be true – it’s more of a proverb than a cliché, then. And considering the verses that say “He chose you from before the foundation of the world…”, it would be fair to say that even in my youth, before my “awakening,” I was still destined to be saved. Salvation, being a one-time event, is something that doesn’t apply to parts of a person’s life, it’s something that applies to their whole life (you’re either saved or not saved), it’s just realized at a particular point in that life. (the italicization here is done just the way I would stress the words if I was speaking). And so, in a manner of speaking, it has always been the case that I would be saved, and so it’s really only my current saved state that matters. “When” it ‘officially’ happened is nearly totally irrelevant. The question is almost completely meaningless. Here’s the thing: if you’re unsure of whether you were saved before and just became more theologically passionate, or whether you were a nominal/false convert before and have now truly repented and become a true convert, then what do you do? Do you act as if you were saved, or do you act as if you weren’t? It’s not that hard, when you think about it. Here’s what I did: Martin Luther once said “all of a Christian’s life is one of repentance.” Repentance is something that you do initially in order to accept the free gift of grace that God offers you, but you don’t ever stop repenting. Do you ever stop sinning? No. So repentance is not something that, if you do it, it would somehow imply that your prior repentance wasn’t genuine. Repentance is a continual activity of shunning sin, asking forgiveness for your missteps, and pursuing righteousness. What I did one night was to go up on a hill, as I liked to do at night, and prayed simply for the sake of my conscience. If you ask for God to save you from your sins and you’re already saved, it’s not as if you can risk “undoing” it. I made the decision to ‘rededicate’ my life to pursuing Him. I probably will do so again in the future. I already have again since then. Like married couples rededicating themselves to their vows, you don’t reject the past by emphasizing it. And that’s why it doesn’t hurt to pray again “just to make sure,” and to get your heart and mind right. You do it for your own psychological benefit, so that you have no reason to doubt your salvation, and thus you deny Satan an opportunity to attack your faith and attempt to discourage you. I didn’t have a huge change in my morality from ‘before’ and ‘after’ my “reawakening.” (And that statement is worth explaining, at another time.) That contributed to second-guessing myself. Whatever the past circumstances, I’m now confident of my status before the Throne, and am at peace with that. Now I put the question to you: what would you have done if you were in my position? And even more importantly: what will you do now?