My Relationship With God, From Salvation To Sanctification
By Daniel Pliss, HigherTrek 2019.1 Alumnus
My salvation story is probably not unlike something you’ve heard before. I was kicked out of my Christian high school when I was 16 (long after I’d worn out my welcome) and struggled through addiction for three years before I decided to stop running from Jesus. I cried out to God for help and He brought me to my knees this exact month four years ago. I committed my life to Him in that moment, a sinner saved by grace, much like the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.
Have you ever thought about what the Prodigal Son’s life was like after the evening he’d returned home?
For the next few months, I did everything I could to live a good Christian life. Read the Bible every day? Check. Show up at church every Sunday? Check. Go on a missions trip? Check. Within half a year, my life looked entirely different. I even had the opportunity to attend HigherTrek, but turned it down with little thought or prayer. Why would I need to accelerate my growth when I was already doing everything I’d been taught? I was already growing and I had certainly already been saved.
My good Christian routine continued for three more years, and to be honest, had my older brother, Aaron (a HigherTrek alumnus), not lovingly confronted me, I’d probably still be going through the motions. Aaron sat me down and pointed out several areas of my life in which he believed I was ready to improve. Many of them directly related to biblical manhood. There’s a difference between modifying behavior to avoid sin and asking God to grow you into the man He created you to be. I’d become content in the comfort of my predictable Christian routine and was doing little to transition into the next phase of my life. A few weeks later, I applied for HigherTrek, having no idea what God was about to teach me.
My sanctification story, unlike my salvation story, is probably something you’ve never heard before.
I had no idea God would use HigherTrek to unleash so many heavenly blessings on my life. I experienced the Father’s deep love for me through the people I met and the experiences we shared. The guys in my group became brothers despite coming from different states. We got honest with each other about our past and experienced healing together (James 5:16 is real!). With the guidance of HigherTrek’s staff and teachers, I engaged with the Word of God in a way I never had before, including experiencing the power of memorizing Scripture. All of this released me from the shame I’d been carrying with me since being saved. I didn’t realize how much the shame of my past was still holding me back. I learned that I’m not defined by my past; I’m a new man in Christ, sanctified, a friend of Jesus, adopted, a loved child of God, and much more.
How did this happen? Older Christian men poured their time, service, prayers, wisdom, life experiences, and knowledge into us. We met with pastors and missionaries and learned what the life of a disciple-maker looks like on a daily basis. We were taught about evangelism, the mission field and how to disciple other guys. We learned how to be served and how to serve others. We also had a ton of fun, taking a ferry into New York City and seeing the Yankees play the Red Sox. Those memories will last my entire life. At the end of our 14 days together, none of us wanted to leave. Our final “goodbye” was bittersweet; we all left with a vision for our lives and on mission for Jesus.
Now, I am in love with the Word, hungrier for wisdom and humility, and continue to memorize scripture (something that has helped me turn my thought life into my prayer life). HigherTrek was like the treasure in my life that I didn’t know I was looking for.
Looking back, I didn’t really understand the relationship between salvation and sanctification, nor did I understand where I was in that process. I subconsciously assumed that since I was saved, I needed to subscribe to a set of Christian behaviors and, in doing so, would live a good life.
But God has even more for us than that. The relationship between salvation and sanctification is found in Hebrews 10:14 (I’m adding the emphasis), “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” I experienced the truth of this verse during HigherTrek and I have you to thank for investing in me. Thank you for allowing me to experience God’s love in a way I hadn’t before. This experience changed the trajectory of my life forever.
In the months that have passed since HigherTrek, God opened doors for me to share my story multiple times. I’ve shared my story with church groups and even got to share the Gospel with recovering addicts.
But one opportunity still baffles me.
One morning, while reading my Bible before work, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me. I was overwhelmed by a desire to go back to my former high school and visit the superintendent who kicked me out. It took me a week to pick up the phone and ask for Mr. Stratis. When I told him what God had done in my life, he actually asked me if I’d come back and speak to students at the school. I’ve accepted the invite and will soon get to share the Gospel with high school students from the perspective of a prodigal son.
I like to think that, at some point, the prodigal son journeyed back to the places he went when he squandered his inheritance and wrecked his life. I like to think God used him to bring restoration to those who struggled as he did, and even to help prevent others from running away from Jesus and back into the arms of their Father.
Because that’s the beauty of what HigherTrek teaches us. Changing ourselves is just step one; the real mission is going out to change the world.
-Daniel Pliss, HigherTrek 2019.1
Daniel Pliss grew up in Florida but is a current resident at The Mission House, a ministry of Lincroft Bible Church in Lincroft, NJ. He lives there with five other HigherTrek alumni who have chosen to live on mission for Jesus. Through the church and The Mission House, God continues doing great things in Daniel’s life.