My favorite question to ask Christians is how they came to trust in Christ. The answers I've heard testify to the diverse experiences God uses to bring people into a relationship with himself. Most commonly, people say they trusted him as a child at camp or at Sunday school or while praying with a parent. They often follow with something like, "But my faith really became my own when I was a junior in high school."
How are we to understand this variety of experiences and the apparent two-stage process many seem to undergo in arriving at saving faith?
The term saved is popularly used to refer to regeneration and justification. But when the Bible uses the word salvation in a spiritual sense, it describes the broad range of God's activity in rescuing people from sin and restoring them to a right relationship with himself. Salvation in the Bible thus has past, present, and future tenses. A believer has been saved from the guilt of sin (justification, see Eph. 2:8), is being saved from the power of sin (sanctification, see 1 Cor. 1:18), and will be saved from the judgment and presence of sin (glorification, see Acts 15:11).
While the subjective experience of being saved may look very different from person to person, the objective state of being saved is definite and absolute. From God's perspective, there is a definitive point in time when those who have trusted in Christ pass from death into life (1 John 3:14).
Whether or not one can remember the moment of spiritual rebirth, it is a miracle that initiates a number of new realities. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, the spiritually dead person is made alive in Christ (Titus 3:5). The convert's filthy rags of self-righteousness have been traded for the perfect righteousness ...