We Need To Be Born Again Four Times?

When I was a youth pastor, I can remember having a visit with a youth about a camp experience that she had.  As she spoke to me she said, "Pastor Matt, I was saved when I was 12 at a camp."  Now the interesting back story to this is that she is a daughter of a pastor.  She had been attending my youth group because her local church didn't have an active youth ministries.  In response to her comment I fired back an inquisitive response, "Wow, so you were going to hell before you were 12?  Praise God for this camp."  I can remember her response.  Her face crinkled up and she said, "No I wasn't going to hell before I was 12, but... huh, hmm."  There was an obvious epistemological crisis going on for her as she tried to reconcile what she believed to be a conversion experience with the reality that her mother and father had raised her as a child in the truths of the scriptures.  After I let her struggle a bit I gentle said to her, "Maybe what happened to you at that camp was not that you were converted but that you came to an new understanding of sin and grace."

I can remember the late Timothy Ysteboe saying that we need to be, "Born Again Four Times."  You may now be just as confused as I was when I first heard him say this.  What Dr. Ysteboe was attempting to do was grab attention to show that there are different Christian experiences and stages in development for children and youth.  (Tim had a way of throwing things at you to catch you off guard.)  Each of these experiences yield new understandings of sin and grace thus bringing about experiences where individuals believe they are converted, when in actuality it is not a conversion from being a non-Christian to a Christian, but simply a new understandings of sin and grace.  (Note: In all reality we are technically converted daily as we are gifted repentance and faith by God through His Word) For example here are the four stages of development:
  1. Unconscious Faith:  In the waters of baptism the child is given faith and the name of the Triune God is written on the baby.  At this point the baby has an unconscious faith that simply receives and lives in the grace of his/her baptism.
  2. Conscious Faith:  Later on around 4-6 years old a child comes to the knowledge of sin through their actions.  They may steal a cookie from the cookie jar and then realize their sin.  The knowledge of sin comes to light through their actions and thus the understanding of Jesus and His grace become much more personal in a tangible way.
  3. Awakened Faith:  As youth progress to their early teens (i.e. 10-14 years old) they begin to have cognitive battles between self, sin and God.  They wrestle with the moral problem of not only taking the cookie, but wanting to take it.  Furthermore, they wrestle with questions of "why shouldn't they or why should they take the cookie."  Their new understandings of sin and grace develops further.
  4. Intellectual Faith:  From 17 yrs old to the mid 20's young adults enter into an intellectual stage where they question the faith, handle doubts and ask, "Why do I believe what I believe?"  This stage can continue throughout life as it so often does.
The previous material comes from a document titled, "Examinging Spiritual Growth in the Life of a Christian."   As you can see from the document and the previous four points, these stages may be gradual, sporadic or marked by crisis and/or stages.   The life events are not always points where a person becomes a Christian, though they may be, but many times they are points where a person comes to a new understanding of what it means to be a Christian.  

So enjoy the previous material.  Enjoy pondering your journey seeing how God was and is at work through every stage of you development.