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When were you converted?

Have you ever stopped to think what a bonfire salvation testimony time would be like if the gathering was made up of Puritans? I think many people would be shocked to find out that most of them didn’t know the time and date of their conversion, nor did they really care. Do you really – I mean really – know the time and date of your conversion? Notice, I’m not asking whether you know that you have been converted. I’m asking whether you really know the exact time it happened. I’m curious to see your comments.

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12 Responses

  1. i don’t know. there were several memorable events. the first was when i was five and scared following a car fire–asking questions about heaven. then i was scared plus indignant, because my parents told me that if i’d died they didn’t know if i would go to heaven (appalling to me since i was good and my brother josh was clearly bad). so i wanted to pull off the road and pray to get saved right then. i doubted immediately because i knew i didn’t have my eyes closed when dad was praying with me. when i went forward a year later to confess to my pastor that i remembered not closing my eyes, he must’ve misunderstood or i must’ve talked myself out of it. either way–i was baptized at age six, which was pretty great because then i could take the crackers and grapejuice like jason klingerman did.

    i was under conviction/made decisions again at 10 at camp and 13 at camp and quite a few other times, made sure to close my eyes those times and then decided to take a break from doubts. by 17 i was pretty secure that somewhere along the line my salvation must’ve been cinched in one of those events. i was a household name in my youth group, sunday school teacher, junior church worker, camp counselor, christian school student, choir member, church member, communion-taker, dress-code-adherent, demerit-less, alcohol-less, drug-free, etc etc etc. by their fruits you shall know them, right?

    as an aside–christianity makes common sense to many thinking teens. after all, if you’re good, you don’t wreck your car in a drunk driving accident like that wayward alumnus of your school did. you don’t get pregnant and have to go up in front of the church to apologize and be humiliated. you don’t die of an overdose. you don’t hang yourself. you don’t spend all your parents’ money and patience on rock concerts and curfew-breaking. you get better jobs because you look sharp and honest and don’t have a criminal record. best of all, you are popular in your cultural circle because everyone likes the nice kids and it’s relatively cool to be at least somewhat spiritual–wouldn’t want to stand out.

    in keeping with my reputation as a spiritual servant-hearted girl, i went to camp again, this time for a month as a kitchen worker. in a staff meeting we were challenged to pray for the kids but first of all to be submissive ourselves to the Holy Spirit. i.e. no matter what he asked us to do, commit now to yield to that conviction and respond rightly to it. i did make that commitment to yield.

    three days later, i heard a sermon that i had actually heard three years earlier and not responded to. the moment i let down my guard/pride and considered the notion that perhaps the message was for me, i was under immense conviction immediately. i refused to go forward because (1) everyone else in the room seemed to be, (2) i’d done this before and didn’t want to make yet another emotional decision, (3) what in the world? i’m a good kid–if i’m not saved, who really is?

    i prayed fervently that night and the next morning that God would keep me under conviction if that’s what it truly was (instead of a figment of my imagination) and illumine my understanding if i really was not his. then i went to my Bible and landed upon Matthew 7. here i’d done all this great stuff (although that wasn’t much in comparison to these people’s exorcism powers and healing powers) but i didn’t really know Jesus and really didn’t see his power as what kept me going in doing all those good things. i prayed and told Jesus that i was lost and confused and had no idea what it was going to take to save me since i’d been down this road before apparently to no avail.

    it hit me sometime that week that it isn’t me that does the saving. it’s Christ. it’s like a toddler getting on the same jet plane as a NASA engineer–in spite of varying understandings of aerodynamics and turbo engines, they can both pretty much trust that plane will take them to DisneyWorld or wherever their destination. it’s the plane that does the flying, not them. all they have to do is get on. and it doesn’t matter what i know, how well i prayed, how much i really really meant it that time, what i remember, whether my eyes were closed, and so forth. as dr. barrett says, it’s not the amount of or the strength of your faith that gives it its value–it’s the Object of your faith that makes that faith good or bad/enough or not enough. ‘not what these hands have done…’

    maybe i was saved that day, or maybe when i was 13 or 10 or 5 or somewhere in between. i look back to the summer i was 17 as the summer when a new kind of good work began in me–the kind that only God could do in my depraved heart. that’s the kind of evidence that provides assurance to me now–when i look back at a trail that i could not/would not/did not blaze and acknowledge that ‘God did it.’

  2. Your testimony, Joy, is an excellent illustration of the mystery of conversion. “But the ‘mysteriousness’ doesn’t end here. In the regenerate man himself the act of God by which he is renewed is so ‘secret and unsearchable’, involving as it does his subconscious being, that he can by now means tell with certainty when it occurs. Regeneration is not instantly recognizable either to observers or to a man’s own consciousness. Referring to the proposition, ‘All that are new born know the time of their new birth’, the Puritan Giles Firmin asked, ‘What divine, that did deserve the name of a gospel-minister, did ever deliever such a doctrine?’ Certainly while regeneration itself is hidden, its effect are known, yet the speed with which these become observable in the consciousness of a convert is subject to wide variation.” (Iaian Murray)

  3. since salvation I have wanted to be a person whose character and life pointed people to Christ. It is nice to know that God uses even the ungodly to accomplish His purpose in the lives of His people.
    What!, you’re hoping you got the details right? Like I am going to be any help remembering those. I have a Palm Pilot! I vaguely remember what I got for Christmas without having it sitting in front of me with labels that say, “you got this for Christmas”.
    Seriously though, it is always a wonder to look back and see all of God’s character traits blending and weaving to create so much detailed providence in the life of one of His sheep. How more assured would we all be, if we more often recounted the doings of our Father! How much more would we marvel at His grace that pervades our wretched lives! How much lower would we bow in humble adoration before the throne of God! How much greater would be our appreciation for our CHRIST!

  4. Our problem is that we have trained a whole generation to delight in the events of salvation more than the evidences of salvation. Consequently, we find the testimony of someone who was saved out of drugs and promiscuity to be more thrilling than the report of increasing evidence of the transforming work of Christ in a soul. As a preacher this emphasizes the importance of preaching the doctrine of perseverance. Spurgeon said that was his number one theme in his pastoral ministry.

  5. I agree with the problem and the results mentioned by Pastor Bixby. I struggle in finding the core problem. Does the fascination with the events of salvation stem from an improper view of our position before God (lack of teaching on our depravity), an improper view of God (lack of teaching on His holiness), or a combination of both (lack of teaching on Christ’s accomplishments for His own)? The theological/philosophical framework that the training is based on must, must, must be centered on God. Otherwise, you have a man-centered, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, look what I let God save me from- mentality. Furthermore, there is a tragic diminishment of God’s amazing saving grace shown to those He has called to Himself. I am all for recounting the amazing deeds of God, God told the people of Israel to recount His deeds to remind themselves of Him. The stories were about HIM, not about what the people were like before they met Him.

  6. The thing that really helped me and changed my understanding (and possibly heart–who can really tell?) is to focus not just on “God,” who can be spoken of as a vague emotion and cover for just about any idea, but to really focus on Jesus and the reality of who he is: “God with us” and “the image of the invisible God.”

    I’ve grown up in a Christian family and have “prayed the prayer” more times than I can remember. I looked ok on the outside, but I was pretty rotten inside and in private. After a bigger “conversion experience” (again, who knows what was real), I eventually dove deeply into legalism. Only after big family troubles and finding a Bible I could easily understand did I really start to see Jesus. Everytime he called down the Pharisees, I kept thinking, “that’s us,” and “that’s me.” It has taken quite a while and is still in process, but the more time I spend seeing Jesus’ humanity and trying to live/think it out, the more secure and grounded I seem to be in the faith.

    Once we begin to see Jesus not simply in his deity but also in his humanity, in his amazing completeness, we begin to see the Father. Conversion is not about me. Life is not about me. Love is not about me. It’s entirely about, for and through Jesus, by his works, love, and grace. He lives his holiness and goodness through his people, and that is a great security. That is the hand of God in a life.

  7. “Conversion is a great and glorious work of God’s power, at once changing the heart and infusing life into the dead soul; though that grace then implanted does more gradually display itself in some than in others. But as to fixing on the precise time when they put forth the very first act of grace, there is a great deal of difference in different persons; in some it seems very discernable when the ver time of this was; but others are more at a loss. In this respect, there are very many who don’t know the time (as has already been observed), that when they have the first excercises of grace” (Jonathan Edwards).

    “According to Edwards, the only two sure things about conversion are that it is ‘very various’ and ‘very mysterious'” (Stephen J. Nichols).

  8. i have thought much about God’s grace gradually displaying itself in some more then others as Edwards mentions. first munching on it only in the world of academia and then batteling with it with every emotion i have. it can look all clean on paper, one cross or two, but when you look at someone you love and try to place their life on that paper it isn’t as clean.
    i am sure that i was saved when i was five and as edwards talks about, God’s grace began to gradually diplay itself in my life, sometimes in the tiniest of increments and other times like a flood. i have had preachers try to make me believe that this evidence may not be enough and that i am not really saved unless i can remember a massive, emotional repentance when i clearly turned from my own wickedness to God. who remebers that when they are five? a professor once told me that it is not about when you prayed what but about who you are trusting now. it all makes sense to me when applied to my own life.
    on the other hand… my brother also says he was saved when he was five but God’s grace isn’t evidencing itself at a rate appropriate to man’s timetable. many have already written him off as unsaved but i battle. to admit someone i love so dearly to be unsaved- ouch, you don’t do that on a hunch or a could be. but to see what seems to be a dead spiritual life with only faint flashes of growth makes you wonder. but who really decides? how does one pray? God’s grace is clearly not displayed according to my schedule but is there not a need for christians to be like christ? i know that showing your salvation by your friut is possibly one of the most twisted biblical truths but what does it really mean then? can you have no fruit visible to man a truly be a child of God? aswering these questions with the face of someone you love becomes nearly impossible. and maybe that’s the way it should be. my job is to love him like Christ does, pray for him always, and live a life devoted to God infront of him. only God knows the rest and i guess that’s good enough.

  9. i spoke with my kindergarten teacher about becoming a christian after a chapel message given by my pastor in my christian school. he gave a simple message on is. 53.6 and it made sense to me. i remember wondering why more kids weren’t coming along with the teacher too.

    i think it was when i was 9 or 10 that i was at camp and heard a series of messages on the end times and got scared about my eternal future. i believe i prayed again; however, i don’t think i even told anyone about that.

    when i was thirteen i remember talking to my mom about salvation again. i think i was wondering if it could all be true. one thing that stuck with me was that certainly if people had believed this for hundreds of years and it was something that even caused the pilgrims to leave europe, then there must be something to it.

    somewhere in my teens, i dedicated my life to the LORD and really wanted to serve Him with all my heart. i remember, however, when i spoke to my pastor about being baptized that he asked me if i had ever doubted my salvation. i referred by to my conversation with my mom. he surprised me, however, when he asked me this question again right before he immersed me. somehow i had felt on the spot because it made me question things again.

    years later at college i heard a message about “planting a stake” if you couldn’t remember exactly when you were saved. that got me to doubting again . . .

    i believe it was when i took a class from dr. barrett and when i began attending heritage bible church that i realized that salvation is not about what i did. it is about Christ.

    i also remember reading in a book explaining eph. 2:8-9 that our believing is a gift of God. these were very freeing thoughts to me.

    i will admit that there are times that i really struggle with doubts and i think that i’m going to go crazy. it’s very easy for me to compare myself with other people, and whenever i hear a story about a person who got saved when he was five and then needed to get saved again when he was 13, i start wondering about my own salvation. if that person wasn’t a christian, what am i?

    but i know that i can’t compare myself with others, and i know that i have to keep asking God to help my unbelief and to keep me humble, to keep me realizing that there is absolutely nothing that i can do to earn salvation or be good enough to deserve heaven. it can’t be my way. sometimes i really can’t figure it all out and how everything fits together, but i’ve realized more and more that salvation really is a mystery and a miracle. basically, it’s something that i really can’t grasp with my weak human understanding, so i have to just tell God i don’t understand but i want to obey nevertheless. oftentimes for me that’s just admitting over and over again that i can’t do it on my own.

    i have to admit that if i compare all the things i know about God and the Bible now to what i knew as a five-year-old, a ten-year-old, a teenager, etc. i certainly didn’t know much then. i don’t even remember if i repented of my sin when i was five, even though i’m pretty sure i knew what sin was. nevetheless, somewhere down the road i definitely started getting convicted by my sins and began confessing them to God.

    so, i guess i don’t really know that i can put a date on my conversion either. but i believe that that’s where grace comes in. although i can’t tell you exactly when i was saved, the Lord started working sometime, and in the meantime, He’s given me a heart that’s kept seeking after Him–even in the middle of times of doubt. in effect, it’s pushed me to a deeper knowledge of His Word and Himself. that i’ve been on this same path–in spite of difficulty–is another work of grace in itself.

    as an aside, i have been very encouraged by the lives of the patriarchs and those found in heb. 11. God called them to a task and gave them a promise. they obeyed, even though they didn’t know exactly what was ahead of them. sometimes they had to wait years and years and years until a promise was fulfilled. sometimes they didn’t even live to see the promise fulfilled on earth. but they trusted God and obeyed Him nevertheless.

  10. When were you converted? Bob, these questions that you post on this page are way to deep for me! You know my intellect, but here are my rambling thoughts anyway….

    Let me answer with a question: Are we confusing conversion with sanctification? We all look for what we must be in order to prove our salvation. We must look a certain way, we must use the “approved” section of the official good-Christian dictionary, our sideburns must not grow past the middle of the ear and our skirts not a handwidth above the knee. “You see, if I do these things, then I must be a convert” is the thought.

    I believe I was converted at the age of 4. I know 4 is young, but I remember thinking about God and how he died for me. I remember thinking about the lessons my mom taught me about Jesus. I remember thinking about how Jesus loves me. So, I asked my mom about praying to God for forgiveness of my sins.

    Since that day I have never doubted my salvation, but I have been disappointed with my sanctification many times. I have looked at the aweful sin that I have involved myself in and become angry. Angry that I, as a converted soul, would allow myself to wallow in the grossness of sin.

    As I counsel teens, I find that most kids who doubt their salvation or wonder when they were saved are really just dissappointed in their spiritual lives. The complaint I get the most is, “if I were really saved, then I wouldn’t do ….” I believe a tactic of the devil is to get us to wonder if we are saved. Ever notice how effective we are for Christ when we are wondering about our salvation?

    I understand that the last part of your question is that you are not asking if we know we are saved, just if we know when we are saved. But could that possible be a strategy of the Adversary to lead us to doubting our salvation?

    The answer that I come to is that it really doesn’t matter. God knows when you name was finally written down in the Book of Life.

    Is conversion a one time act? I believe so… I was trying to think of Biblical examples of someone who was converted and it was a process of several decisions.. I can’t think of any.

    Are some confused as to when that time was? I am sure some are. But upon examination, are they confused as to when they were converted or are they confused as to the speed of their sanctification?

    Just something to think about. . .

  11. When was I converted? Most certainly at age 9 at camp. I prayed and got really really excited and had all kinds of new vocabulary. That all came crashing down when my mother, the wife of a Methodist minister, was outraged that those radical kids would put such foolish ideas in my head.

    I knew the truth about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. I knew about the trinity and the deity of Jesus. But it wasn’t until a sequence of providential events led me to a camp ground surrounded by 20,000 screaming teenagers (someone throw me a rescue line). I can’t put my finger on anything any one person said. No particular moment was special. I didn’t even say any special prayers (is that heresy in Baptist circles?) But this I know, the person who left the place was a new creature from the one who arrived. There was definately a difference, a noticeable difference, in my life. It was noticed by those around me. A chance to witness.

    But, I have come to new discovery recently. How can a person really be saved unless they are really lost? What is it we are being saved from? It has only been lately that I have really begun to understand the sinfulness of sin. Grace is cheap to Christians because we don’t know just how unworthy and desperately dependent we are on God’s grace for our daily breath.
    I am a sinner. I am stained and everything I think, say, do….my motivations and desires are all stained by my sinfulness. I claim to be serving a living, holy God that cannot co-exist with sin, but I do so without ever acknowledging my sinfulness. We confess our sins, but not our sinfulness. (am I getting this right?) Horton asks, “What’s so amazing about grace?”. If we start to really look at our depraved lives, we can’t help but see how amazing God’s grace really is.
    What does this have to do with conversion? How can a man see himself truly, as God sees him unless the Spirit of God reveals it? I can only hope that God has shown me my sinful heart for some reason other than to make me meet for his just wrath.

  12. That’s a great question, even if I am joining the conversation late. Growing up in a baptist home and in a Christian school, I remember how hard some chapel speakers would hit on the “date and time” arguments as evidence of salvation. I was actually jealous of some of the pious kids that had the date written in their bible. Here I was, loving God, trusting Christ, attempting to serve Him, and worried that I’d be thrown out of Heaven on a technicality.

    I can’t tell you for sure when my conversion took place. I remember some episodes as a young student when I responded to the gospel message. I remember being baptized. But I can’t tell you for sure when that was, or even if that was the moment that I truly turned my life over to Christ. I do, however, know that it happened. I covered this subject with my Sunday School class a while back. Surprisingly (since we are in a Baptist church), few of them remember the time and date, but they are all confident that it took place. To illustrate the point, I asked how many of them were born. Of course, they all raised their hand. I then asked how many remembered being born. Obviously, noone remembered that. When I asked how they knew that they were born, they replied “Because I’m alive now.” I challenged them that the same answer applies to the new birth.

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