One of my favorite stories on being "born again" comes from singer/songwriter Rich Mullins. He said he was being interviewed by a representative from an evangelical program that wanted to have him as a guest but felt like they needed to check him out beforehand because of rumors they'd heard.
They asked him how old he was when he became a Christian, and he said, "I guess about 2 or 3." "So young?" they responded, "What happened?" Rich said that in Sunday School they sang a song, "Come into my heart, Come into my heart. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus..." The woman said, "Well, that's not what I meant. You couldn't have possibly been old enough to understand what you were praying." And then Rich responds, "Lady...we never understand what we're praying. And God in His mercy does not answer our prayers according to our understanding, but according to His wisdom."
Rich goes on to talk about how he was baptized at the age of 10 because after saying a bad word in front of his mom he knew he'd sinned and needed to get right with God. The lady pressed further and said, "No, but what we really want to know is when were you born again." Rich said, "Lady, which time?" He goes on to explain that he used to get born again about once a year, then at college it turned into more of a quarterly thing. Finally, by the time he hit his forties, he was getting born again about 4-5 times a day.
When Are We Saved?
As a Christ follower in this faith tradition we call Brethren, I believe that people ought not to be baptized until they can really understand what is they are professing when they call Jesus Lord of their lives. Rich's story brought up a great question, though. When do we ever really know what we're praying when we ask God into our hearts? I think we have to admit a certain amount of ignorance out of humility. We never know fully what we are getting ourselves into, but in faith we attempt to put our whole selves in God's hands. And in our imperfection, we have to continually give ourselves over to God as we mess up and discover parts of ourselves that we didn't even know we had that must be given to God.
Brethren have put voice to this process by saying, "I am saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved." Salvation is not an event, but a process. What Jesus accomplished through his life, cross, and resurrection is being accomplished in us continually and will someday be accomplished in its fullness when all things are made new. Accepting salvation as a free gift of grace (Eph 2:8-9) is the first step of working out that salvation through an active faith made concrete in our lives (Phil 2:12, Ja 2:18).
As a pastor, this makes my job both way more difficult and way easier at the same time. It's more difficult because I cannot simply get folks to pray a prayer and be settled til they get to heaven. I have to actually love, care and invest in them. Yet it's also way easier because it means I have the opportunity to freely meet them where they are and guide them through the next step in their journey with Jesus. It's an enormous privilege. It also gives me the freedom to acknowledge that I am still being saved in the process as well. I am still learning and growing. I am still making mistakes, being forgiven, and being healed.
What about you? Where are you in the process? I invite you today to have that conversation with Jesus, and invite your friends and family as well.