Significant events tend to leave a timestamp on our consciousness. We remember details about where we were, what we were doing, and who we were with at the moment it happened. I can tell you the exact circumstances I was in when I first heard about the attack on September 11, 2001. My parents’ generation has stories of what they were doing when the assassination of President Kennedy was announced.
But it happens with good things, too. We remember exactly what was going on when someone proposed to us, or when we heard about the arrival of our first grandchild, or when we got the call to tell us we’d been accepted for a dream job. Time momentarily freezes, and we remember our setting with unusual vividness.
My Spiritual Birthday
It can be just as true of the moment we first came to Christ. Many Christians can tell you all about their exact conversion date. I can pinpoint the day in August 1993 when I consciously put my life in the hands of Jesus. I was at a Christian summer camp for the first time, and we were on a mountain-biking excursion for the afternoon. As I sat at a picnic table talking with one of the leaders, the reality of all Christ had done hit me with unmistakable force. It hit me for the first time that he had died for me. I was suddenly aware that I was at the ultimate decision point. I couldn’t just acknowledge it and get back to living my own life. If Jesus had done this for me, then he was someone I could trust with my life, whatever following him would involve.
I’m glad I can remember my conversion date. . . . But there can be a downside in being able to look to a specific point in time.
I’m glad I can remember my conversion date. There are times in my Christian life when it does me good to remember how fresh the gospel was that afternoon and how irresistible Christ was to me. There are times, when I’m feeling stale or jaded in my walk with the Lord, when remembering how I came to first know him gives me the impetus to keep on following him.
After all, Paul tells the Colossians, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him” (Col. 2:6). To continue walking, it helps to have a vivid memory of how I first received him. I was needy; he was sufficient. I was lost; he was searching. He is no less compassionate now than he was then, and I am no less in need of him now than I was that summer day.
But there can be a downside in being able to look to a specific point in time. There’s a danger that we trust in having prayed a prayer, or walked an aisle, as if that is the basis of our assurance. It can provide a deceptive form of security. I trust in how I responded on my conversion date rather than in what Christ has done.
Most Important Date
Which is why it did me good to hear the testimony of a good friend this past Sunday who doesn’t know his conversion date. He prayed a prayer of commitment to Christ as a young boy, but he knows he didn’t really understand any of it at the time. He wanted to please the people around him by praying it, and besides, he’d been promised candy if he did it. So he shared in his testimony:
I can’t really point to a specific date and time that I was saved, since it was more of a process that culminated sometime in high school. But when I was saved does not matter as much as the fact that I am saved.
It’s like any other important relationship. I can think of one close friend, for example, and I can tell you exactly when we first met. But an equally close friend is someone I can’t remember meeting. Our becoming friends (and we’ve been good friends for more than a decade) was more of a process. It’s no less of a friendship for not having a specific, defining start point. The key is what the friendship has become, not how it began.
As my friend put it, ‘The date that matters to me is AD 33, when Christ died for me and rose for me.’
As my friend put it in his testimony, “I’m putting my confidence in Jesus, not in a prayer or a date, and I know that I am in fellowship with God because I have repented and turned to the gospel in faith. Many people have a date in their Bible for when they got saved, but the date that matters to me is AD 33, when Christ died for me and rose for me.”