I’m going to say something perhaps a little controversial–we’ll see. The most important moment of your faith was not the moment you were baptized. It was not even the moment you accepted Christ. I know, controversial! But bear with me.
A.W. Tozer said of his contemporary 20th century churches:
Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him.
I think what Tozer was getting at is echoed in today’s 21st century church culture. There is an abundance of rhetoric describing the importance of accepting Jesus, getting baptized, and having your life changed by Him. All true.
We are taught and expected to know our “story,” and to share our testimony with others. Beautiful and good. When we meet new Christians, in an effort to get to know them we often lead with a question that goes something like, “So, when did you become a Christian?” or “When did you give your life to Christ?” These questions are so valuable and important to form relationships with other believers. I’m not saying any of this rhetoric is wrong. I just think at times it can be a little misleading.
As Tozer expresses, this kind of talk can make our faith more about that moment than anything else. We shout from the rooftops about the day we met Jesus in some big way, but we speak much less often about how we’re meeting with and experiencing Him today. Less about what our faith journey looks like now. I think the church can make too big a deal about our moment of salvation–not in its importance and necessity, but just in that we talk more about that moment than the importance of continually seeking out God and giving our lives to Christ daily.
The moment we accepted Jesus, He saved us eternally; I believe that. But it was still a moment in the past. I believe that God calls us to live for Him every day. Live in the present. Be just as in awe of Him today as we were during that first moment of salvation.
Let’s look at Peter, my favorite disciple. Peter knew who Jesus was. He was called by Him into a life completely different from the one he had previously known as a fisherman, and he ran with it. He followed hard after Jesus throughout His ministry. Peter was the one to affirm Jesus’s divinity and messianic purpose (Matthew 16:13-16). Despite all of this, Peter still denied Jesus three times when he was arrested. I can’t imagine what was going through Peter’s head during those moments. And I can’t be sure I wouldn’t have done the same thing. Peter may have had intense moments with the Lord in the past, but he still had to choose to seek God in the present, and in those moments of denial, he didn’t. Peter was graciously, mercifully reinstated by Jesus Himself, and got the chance to reaffirm his love to the Lord’s face (John 21:15-19).
What I’m saying to you is this: Our daily pursuit of the Lord, our daily offering of ourselves to Him, matters so, so much, and I wish churches would talk about it more. Like Peter, even after we start following Jesus, we are vulnerable to deny Him for any number of reasons. We are also always forgiven and accepted in Christ when we humble ourselves before Him after our mistakes, like Peter was.
If we believe that our baptism or our first conversion holds all the weight in defining ourselves as Christians, we’ll be disappointed when we inevitably mess up and question our salvation. This has happened to me. After getting baptized, my faith became rocky. I started wondering if my baptism was valid now that I was struggling so much in my faith. Wasn’t becoming a Christian supposed to change everything?
I believe it did, but not because it made me immune to trials and perfectly resistant to temptation and doubt. It changed everything because it gave me the hope of forgiveness. Gave me the knowledge of the One to whom I could go all my life. Christianity is definitely not a one-and-done deal. It’s a daily pursuit of God. It’s the knowledge of who Christ is. Forever seeking after Him even when we don’t feel Him or don’t want to try.
Maybe you didn’t struggle with this like I did, and that’s amazing. I write this for those of us who tend to overanalyze things, and especially for those of us who have trouble in desiring big, emotional moments as evidence of their faith. One moment with the Lord is amazing and important, and I believe He will give them to us in His grace when He sees fit to do so. But don’t let your faith depend on it. Because one moment doesn’t define our status with God. If you have a desire in your heart to know God and you seek Him, take that as stronger evidence of God’s work in you. That desire was given to you by God’s Spirit, and the more you get to know Him, the deeper your faith can go.
So the next time you meet new Christians, you can definitely feel free to discuss when they came to Christ, but maybe also ask them about their faith journey. What has God been teaching them recently? What does their relationship with Jesus look like today as opposed to last year or last week? How have they grown? Where do they still need to grow? What does seeking the Lord regularly look like in their lives? When we ask ourselves and others these questions, we open the door for deeper spiritual growth and deeper relationships, as well as for the opportunity to encourage our brothers and sisters in their daily walk with Christ.
Do you agree? Disagree? Have a different perspective or story to share? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
This article originally appeared on the blog: gracefortheinfj.wordpress.com.
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