Richard Collings, Caerphilly, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
I don’t know when I was saved – is my profession of salvation genuine?
Probably the majority of readers will find it difficult to relate to this question because the moment of their conversion is etched indelibly in their memory. It may seem inconceivable to them that someone can ‘have passed from death unto life’, 1 John 3. 14, and not know the date this miracle occurred.
Sadly, some, though thankfully only a minority, may have the temerity to suggest that such a person cannot be saved. In their opinion, the reality of conversion must be endorsed by stipulating a time when, and a place where, a profession was made. Whilst such a mindset may derive from a genuine desire to ensure that no one is resting on a false claim to conversion, it is going beyond what the word of God teaches. In addition, it has the potential to rob genuine believers of the assurance of salvation.
However, there will be some readers whose personal experience is akin to mine. Brought up in a Christian home, they were influenced by the word of God and sheltered from the allurements of the world from the outset of life. No ‘dramatic’ conversion took place and no radical change of behaviour was possible. To such, the need of being saved was accepted from the moment they first heard it. Despite their limited understanding, God’s gracious provision of His Son as Saviour was imbibed without question. As a consequence ‘getting saved’ was perceived as a necessary event – but, humanly speaking it was far from being momentous.
Testimony meetings can be tremendously encouraging but there is a potential flip side to them. There would be very limited numbers attending a meeting to hear of the conversion of a child. However, if someone is converted who had sunk into the depths of profligacy or criminality we may be able to pack a hall to the rafters to hear their story! The atmosphere can be most moving, particularly if there is a sprinkling of tear-jerking anecdotes. The speaker will be able to transport the listeners to the very spot and the precise minute of their compliance with the message of salvation. Furthermore, they will be able to exult in the fact that through the emancipating power of the gospel their lives were revolutionized. For them, ‘old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new’, 2 Cor. 5. 17.
At such meetings there will be those who never had that remarkable kind of change – for by God’s grace they never needed it! They hadn’t lived a wanton existence but were saved as children. However, they may feel that as the change was not so spectacular either they are not saved or they are at best a second-rate convert. Plagued by doubts and uncertainties, which are fuelled by not knowing where or when they were saved, they go home and for the hundredth time they ask the Lord to save them. How sad and how unnecessary, and yet many of us can relate readily to this scenario. In addition, Satan can use this situation to intensify the feelings of insecurity, thereby depriving the child of God of the joy of their salvation.
In the mercy of God, there are some dramatic conversions and it thrills us to hear about them. Thankfully there are many ‘ordinary’ conversions too – and neither is superior or inferior to the other. Speaking in Belfast many years ago Albert Leckie described his conversion as follows, “as a child the Lord opened my heart as a flower opens its petals to the sun”. In Acts chapter 16 we have the accounts of the salvation of Lydia and of the jailer from Philippi. Of Lydia it simply says ‘whose heart the Lord opened’, v. 14, but it took an earthquake to bring conviction to a hard-hearted jailer.
The word of God teaches that the reality of a profession can be assessed by many factors. James is most explicit; he stipulates that a claim to faith must be accompanied by appropriate works, James 2. 14-26. The apostle John states that an evidence of having eternal life is that we love all fellow Christians, 1 John 3. 14. In concluding the parable of the sower, the Lord refers to the seed that fell into good ground saying, ‘But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience’ Luke 8. 15.
Whilst no external change may be possible to anyone saved as a child, the subsequent lifestyle, particularly in adolescence and adulthood, should confirm that a former profession was a genuine work of God in their experience.
To any who have anxieties about this very real issue please put your mind at rest. Obviously there must have been a time when, and a place where, you first believed but it is not a requisite of salvation that you can recall either of them. What is certain is that the Lord knows the location and the timing of every conversion for ‘the Lord knoweth them that are his’ 2 Tim 2. 19. It is possible to be saved but not know when it happened. It is possible to be saved and not know where it happened. However, it is impossible to be saved but not know how it happened.