Many Christians can remember precisely when they were saved: the date, the time of day, the exact location, the people involved, and the circumstances leading up to the moment of decision. Others are less clear: they remember the person who prayed with them and where they were, but they can’t remember the precise date, only a general timeframe. Still others can’t even remember that much: they know they’re saved, but they don’t remember how old they were when they got saved, or even making the decision for Christ.
Usually, those who can’t remember precisely when they were saved were brought up in the faith and have followed Christ from childhood. In their recollection, they have always loved Jesus and trusted Him, and they can’t pinpoint a moment of salvation. In contrast, those who lived in rebellion prior to salvation or who had a moment of crisis leading to faith in Christ will usually remember the time, place, and situation in great detail.
The Philippian jailer in Acts 16 had a dramatic—that is to say, a traumatic—conversion experience. He had just survived an earthquake that released all the prisoners from his jail, and he was on the verge of committing suicide when he was stopped by Paul and Silas. The prisoners had not run away, and two of them were there to share the gospel with him. Without a doubt, the jailer remembered for the rest of his life precisely when and where and how he was saved. The apostle Paul himself had had a harrowing salvation experience, involving a vision of Christ, three days’ blindness, and a total change of his life’s direction (Acts 9). He had little trouble remembering when that happened.
But not everyone comes to Christ under such circumstances, and not everyone remembers precisely when they were saved. The fact is, it doesn’t matter. Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). God does the saving; it is His work, and He remembers all the details surrounding each soul. We are saved by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8), not by the strength of our memory. “Do you remember precisely when you were saved?” is not a query we will face in heaven.
A person can be saved and not remember the details about when. This is especially true if he or she was saved as a child. What’s important is our understanding that there was a moment of salvation, even if we can’t remember it. There was a time when the Holy Spirit came to indwell us, when the Lord brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light, when our sins were forgiven and we were justified. No one was born saved. We are all born sinners in need of salvation. At some point in time, we had to hear the gospel and respond in faith to it.
More important than knowing when we were saved is knowing that we are saved. We should never assume we’re saved simply because our parents told us so or because we’ve attended church our whole lives or because we get tingly when we sing praise songs. Rather, we should be wise and follow the Bible’s command to “examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NLT).
The epistle of 1 John gives us some tests we can use to ascertain our faith. If we are truly born again, our lives will trend toward the following, even if we can’t remember precisely when we were saved:
1. Desiring to fellowship with the people of God (1 John 1:3)
2. Walking in the light rather than in darkness (1 John 1:6–7)
3. Admitting and confessing sin (1 John 1:8)
4. Obeying God’s Word (1 John 2:3–5)
5. Loving God more than the world (1 John 2:15)
6. Habitually doing what is right (1 John 2:29)
7. Maintaining a pure life (1 John 3:3)
8. Sinning less (1 John 3:5–6)
9. Loving other Christians (1 John 3:14)
10. Loving without hypocrisy (1 John 3:18–19)
11. Keeping a clear conscience (1 John 3:21)
12. Experiencing victory in our Christian walk (1 John 5:4)