Every evening on our YouthWorks mission trips, the staff plans an activity for us. It may be educational, inspirational, fun, or it may support our host church. In St. Louis, we attended a midweek worship service which included an altar call. Some of our kids went forward to “ask Jesus into their hearts,” which prompted some questions later that evening. I tried to answer their questions by briefly sharing a little of my own spiritual journey.
I was baptized as an infant in the Lutheran church and subsequently raised in that denomination. I’m told that when I was about five years of age, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I replied, “A missionary,” even though I am sure I had never yet encountered a missionary.
When I was twelve, I was confirmed in the Lutheran church. Two years later, I went to a Christian coffee house and asked Jesus into my heart. However, I only went back to that place two or three times. But I again asked Jesus into my heart a year later at Milwaukee Gospel Tabernacle. A few months later was baptized by immersion at M.G.T. With all that as a background, I asked our youth, “When was I saved?” They shuffled in their seats a bit, unsure of how to answer. Finally I said, “I really don’t know when I was saved. But I know that I have been saved by the grace of God.” Salvation is, after all, a mystery. We may not know the specifics of how or when we are saved, but we can know with certainty that we are saved.
Some folks treat salvation as if it were some sort of immunization: inject the blood of Jesus once to your life and you’re set for eternity. In his book, The Spirit of Disciplines, Dallas Willard asks, “Why is it that we look upon our salvation as a moment that began our religious life instead of the daily life we receive from God?” (pg. 28).
Think of it: when Jesus walked among us, he never once asked someone to invite him into his heart. But he did say time and time again, “Follow me.” Salvation seems to be a lifelong walk with God. Throughout that long journey, there will be many times when the Holy Spirit moves us in special ways. When that happens, we should never dismiss or minimize that grace of God.
In St. Louis, some of our teens went forward and prayed a sinner’s prayer. Praise the Lord! That sinner’s prayer had the same content as the prayer they offered at their Confirmation. For that matter, it’s the same prayer you’ve offered when you’ve participated in a service reaffirming your faith. We are in a lifelong journey of faith in which we strive to follow Jesus more closely every day. Throughout our lives, that journey will include many, many commitments, recommitments and prayers.
I don’t know if I really knew what I was doing when I was confirmed. But I do know that I had a desire to live for God and God met me at my point of need.
God will meet you at your point of need. We are all sinners, so our presenting need is forgiveness. God has promised that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). All we have to do is ask. And when we do, God responds with salvation. But as God saves us, God expects us to grow in his grace, and that is a lifelong journey because salvation is not a moment, but a lifelong adventure with God.
Yours for the Mission,