A Date or a Process?
Here’s the truth …
“… you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it" (1 Peter 3:15 NLT).
When I was in college, a friend of mine brought me to his church about 45 minutes away from campus. He asked me during the drive when it was that I gave my life to Jesus. When I didn’t have a specific date and time to report, he seemed disappointed somehow, like I was supposed to recall a significant moment when I invited Jesus into my heart. It caused me thereafter to become very introspective about it; and it’s a good thing, because it was not the last time I was asked that question.
Why is that? Why do Christians focus on a date when, to me, the process seems so much more important? Wouldn’t the better question have been, “Are you a Jesus follower right now?”
I pondered and realized that there was, indeed, a particular day I could have mentioned when I was 20 years old. I came home from college on Thanksgiving Break and learned that my parents had started attending a new church. I went to a service with them and, at the end of the service, answered the call by the minister to come forward and accept Jesus as my Savior. So, subsequently, that’s what I tell people now.
The irony is, though, that Jesus may have come into my life that day but I wasn’t really living my life for Him until years later. It certainly was my intention at the altar to become worthy of having Jesus in my life, but I had a lot to learn before He could ever say that I was putting Him first. That’s probably why it wasn’t a significant moment for me and I had to remind myself of when it actually happened. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? There is never going to be a worthy moment in our life when we can be ready enough to be able to invite Him into it! Otherwise, if we were able to be perfect with the flip of a switch, we wouldn’t need a Savior in the first place, right?
Adrian Rogers said something in What Every Christian Ought to Know that was liberating for me. He painted the picture of two people trying to get to Atlanta from Florida. One person flies there on the airplane and another drives. The person driving actually passes the “Welcome to Georgia” sign along the way. The person flying would not see that sign. He makes the point about the person flying who would say: “I don’t remember when I crossed the state line, but I know I did because I’m in the Atlanta airport” (Rogers & Rogers, 2012, p. 45). And that’s the issue right there. Is the exact date important, or is the fact that you are there now the more important of the two?
What do you currently believe about your relationship with Jesus? Did He die for you? Do you see yourself in Heaven one day, conversing with Him? Do you talk with Him now through prayer? Do you feel Him talking back to you through His Word? Do you realize that the Bible was written as a form of communication so that you could get to know Him in a more personal way, and you don’t need to have someone read it for you and interpret it for you? It is a book unlike other books in that you can read a verse today and it relates to your life differently than if you read that same verse a year from now.
Now please hear me. It is important that you realize when a switch came on for you and you started to live differently because your dedication to being a Christ follower clicked for you. More importantly, though, are you able to tell someone why you believe what you believe? The Bible says, “…you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it" (1 Peter 3:15 NLT). For some, it may boil down to a date when your life changed. For others, it might simply be an ongoing time in your life!
People should be able to see a change in you if you once were living to please others and now you live to please God. But I believe that such a change is a process and is not something that can be traced back to a specific date for everyone. For example, I have a very good friend from my elementary school days who lives across the country. We converse almost daily. We tried one time to remember the exact moment we met and simply couldn’t trace it back. Does that really matter, considering the fact that we lift up each other regularly and know each other’s lives inside and out today? Nope! When you ask Jesus into your life, you can take your time getting to know Him in a more personal way and eventually learn that the date when you met becomes less important in the grand scheme of things.
So, focus on what’s in front of you, ready to be enjoyed, ready to talk to you right now! That’s Jesus, always at the ready, whether you write down the date you first met Him or not!
… and that’s the truth as I know it!