AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
When a baby is orphaned as an infant, he has no idea how serious his situation is. He doesn’t understand that he is alone in the world with no legal guardians who are devoted to loving and caring for him. When two strange faces loom over his crib at the county orphanage, he doesn’t recognize that their eyes are filled with love for him. When that couple then goes into a long legal battle to fight to get legal guardianship of him, the baby is oblivious. To him, the days pass by as a series of being lifted in and out of his crib, eating, sleeping, and staring up at a colorful mobile. He doesn’t know or appreciate that there are two strangers in the world who have become so bonded to him that they’re aching over the thought of losing the chance of being his parents. Then when the day comes that those two strange faces reappear and lift the baby out of his crib and take him miles away from the orphanage, the baby doesn’t realize that his entire life is being radically changed for the better. When he is gently set down in a new and different crib, he registers the new surroundings, but he doesn’t realize what they symbolize. He has gone from living in an orphanage to becoming the son of a couple who are deeply in love with him. Legal papers have been transacted which had no effect on the baby himself, yet those papers have set his life on an entirely different course.
The moment you became saved, your soul was not anatomically changed. You were still the same creature you were the moment before you got saved—still human, still ignorant, still selfish, still flawed. And yet the moment your Creators declared you to be Their child, the eternal future of your life was radically changed. Suddenly you are going to Heaven instead of Hell. Suddenly you are swept up in the embrace of a God who dearly loves you and has always wanted you. Suddenly you receive an entirely different identity in His eyes.
The great change that happens at salvation happens on God’s side, not on ours. At salvation, our Creators decide to change Their perspective of us. They declare us to be eternally forgiven of all sins. They declare that They will never again cast us away from Them. We go from being rejected to being accepted. We go from being outcasts to being children. And though adopted babies on earth grow up to outlive their earthly parents, we Christians will never find ourselves re-separated from our Gods. Once They accept us, Their acceptance is permanent. They have described Their New Covenant to us as “an eternal covenant of peace.”
So if it’s true that salvation doesn’t radically change our internal nature, why do so many say that it does? Because they are trying to explain changes they have observed in others. Many Christians have very dramatic conversion experiences. Some feel an overwhelming flood of joy and peace. Some receive instant healing of various trials and torments. Some speak in tongues. In our haste to explain these cases, we have erroneously decided that salvation must involve some great transformation of our inner soul. But no, it doesn’t. When we speak of the soul going from dead to alive, we are really talking nonsensically. Human souls never die. They are alive from the moment that they are created, and they remain alive through physical death. The souls in Hell are alive. Unsaved souls in the world right now are alive. We’ve greatly confused ourselves by relying too much on some limited metaphors put out by the apostle Paul. Every soul is alive, but not every soul is accepted and forgiven by God. Those who are not are spiritually dead only in a metaphorical sense—they are not yet accepted by God and therefore on a road that leads to eternal torment. Those who are saved aren’t extra alive, but their futures are certainly a whole lot brighter. If we want to be theologically correct, we shouldn’t be using death and life language at all. Instead, we should be talking about saved versus unsaved; accepted versus not yet accepted; children versus enemies.
Not every Christian has a dramatic conversion experience. Many simply pray a heartfelt prayer and then wonder if God was even listening because His response to them is so imperceptible. Why is this so? Why do some receive dramatic healings and quick fixes while others struggle on under the same old burdens? To answer this we need to remember that God is the One who brings trials into our lives, and every trial has a spiritual purpose behind it. Many trials are about driving us towards salvation. Once we cross that line, God instantly lifts off the trials which have served their purpose and we experience miraculous healing. But many other trials are about ongoing growth. Once we get saved, these trials continue to serve a useful purpose, so God leaves them in our lives. It has nothing to do with how sincerely you prayed. It has nothing to do with favoritism. It has to do with the specific set of teaching tools that God currently has at work in your life at the time you are saved. Only those tools which no longer serve a purpose are taken away. The rest remain.
So what about the other things—the rushes of joy and peace, the speaking in tongues? Why do some souls get dramatic confirmations that have inspired the development of the very erroneous “baptized in the Spirit” doctrine? Here it is a matter of faith development. Many souls are in desperate need of tangible evidence that God heard and received them—without such evidence they would become permanently lodged in fear. For such souls, God provides sensual confirmations. Here He is acting like the shepherd who scoops up the lambs who are lagging behind the flock. He carries them up to the front of the pack and sets them down again so that they will not be left behind. Such confirmations are glorious to experience, yet they are also temporary. When the day comes to start working on faith development, there will have to be a break from constant sensual feedback.
Meanwhile there are many other souls who have been equipped with the resources they need to dive right into some immediate faith building lessons. For these souls, God withholds sensual confirmations not because He loves them less, but because He is most eager to begin the training they need to acquire deeper levels of confidence and trust in Him. It’s not about favorites. We are each on our own individual journeys with God. He does not treat us all the same because we are not all designed to relate to Him in the same way. But He loves us all dearly, and He has designed each of us with a desire to relate to Him in a way that He is most eager to fulfill. In the end, all who listen to God will end up richly satisfied in their own walks with Him. We won’t be looking over our shoulders envying what another fellow has. We’ll be like a man in a restaurant who has just finished a large meal. He leans back in his chair very satisfied and not the least bit interested in what anyone else has on their plates. His own food was delicious and satisfying to him, and he feels quite blessed.