How to Remember God in a Secular Age

Certain details from that day are branded on my mind. I can’t usually remember what I had for breakfast the previous day, but I can tell you all about a certain day from my life over two decades ago. I got dinner from a Krystal drive-thru in my hometown. I spent the evening alone, driving around in my white GMC Jimmy. I can recall all the specific circumstances that led to that fateful evening—my heart of rebellion, terrible decisions, and the threat of very serious consequences stemming from my actions.

I can also remember vividly how I felt: first, the guilt, shame, regret, and loneliness; and then, the relief, cleanliness, newness, and joy. I still believe it was the very first time I ever experienced true joy. For the first time in my life, I felt truly alive. Of course, the day I’m describing is the day that Christ saved me.

But here’s the question: Why do I remember that day so well and not July 6, 2020, or May 19, 2010? I think I know the answer. For the past two decades, I have regularly engaged in practices that actively bring that day to mind. I have retrieved those memories so often over the last twenty years that they’ve remained alive and vivid in my mind.

Every time I witness a baptism, I think about the day God saved me. Every time I celebrate the Lord’s Supper with God’s people or hear someone else tell their story of how God saved them, I call to mind the unique circumstances of my own salvation story.

Sometimes I call that day to mind out of joy. Sometimes I call that day to mind out of necessity, like when I’m sharing the gospel with someone and run out of words to say. I often just tell them my own story. Other times I call that day to mind out of desperation, like when I’m neck deep in my own doubts or frustrated over continuing sin in my life. To get to my point, there’s probably not a week that goes by when I don’t reflect on the day that Christ saved me.

For the Christian, remembering isn’t just a passive wish—something that may or may not happen. For believers in Christ, remembering is a practical necessity. It’s life or death. It’s a primary weapon in the war we are all fighting—a war to persevere in our faith.

Even if you can’t remember that specific day, we are called to remember other significant occurrences of God’s mercy and provision. We all must remember the days of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, for every time we eat the bread and drink the wine, we do it “in remembrance of him” (1 Cor. 11:25).

Remembering is not optional for us; it is a call from our Lord. When Moses led Israel out of Egypt, he declared, “Remember this day in which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place” (Ex. 13:3). He then instituted the Passover celebration and the Feast of Unleavened Bread to ensure they never forgot. They were supposed to talk about God’s deliverance and law to their children (Dt. 6:4-9).

The world is not conducive to remembering. We are surrounded by technology and media—marvels of human ingenuity. We may sing about God’s mercies at church, but our day to day lives bear witness, not to God, but to human mastery over the world. As Alan Noble has written, “Your experience of the world is a testament to humanity, not God, because everything in your experience conditions you to look to this world and its physical laws.”

So how do we remember? The answer today is the same as it was for Moses and the generation of Israel he led out of Egypt. We must cultivate habits of remembering. We will remember only if we prioritize remembering.

Right now, I’m taking a Latin class that requires me to memorize hundreds of vocabulary words. To fulfill this requirement, I must organize my life in a way that prioritizes memorizing Latin words. Therefore, I make flash cards and reserve several times each week to reviewing them. If I don’t have habits of remembering, I won’t remember, and I’ll fail.

If we are going to remember God’s grace throughout our lives in this secular age, we must cultivate habits of remembering. We must regularly gather with the church and participate in its life and mission, prioritize his Word in our daily lives, and talk about his mercies to our children. Our lives must be organized around remembering.

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