If I’m Not In Danger, Why Would I Need God To Save Me?
One of the things that limits the effectiveness of Christians is their perception of salvation. For reasons of convenience in communication and in deference to the simplicity we felt we needed in evangelism, we have allowed the marketing message to become limited: salvation has become a one-time event based on a decision we make at a specific point in time. Our modern perceptions of contracts has done the rest; we easily arrived at an understanding of salvation as being a contract we enter which offers us certain benefits (such as going to heaven after we die, divine intervention on demand to provide us with the easy life, healing from all sickness and discomfort, financial security, and so on) which we get in return for attending church meetings and not cussing in public. Overstating? A little perhaps but realistically, we have largely dropped out the heart of the “contract” – it’s all about a transformed relationship with Christ and the progressive outworking of personal transformation as we develop in our understanding of who God is and what he has called us to be. That process inevitably involves life on the cutting edge and with it the need to rely on God to work his salvation in us. Our contract (now just an insurance policy against adverse outcomes) precludes all that.
Let’s be clear, we are not talking about being “saved” by what we do but about doing things that express and reveal our “salvation.” Salvation cannot be a static, one-time event standing on its own as a key decision in our lives any more that the day of our birth stands alone. They are both part of an ongoing series of events and experiences which together define and reveal life. We would regard a baby that was born and even got bigger but never developed to be deformed (or whatever politically correct word you would like to use.) Such a baby would never grow to independence from its caregivers and it would never function as it was capable of doing despite the fact that it was designed to do so. The parents would feel the disappointment and deep grief of the tragedy. There might be compensations but always the sense of loss remains.
So what does God feel when he sees humans taking up his offer of salvation in part but never developing into the persons he intends for them to be, memorializing the day of their “birth” yet never reaching towards their potential? How is it for him to offer us a totally new and revolutionary lifestyle only to watch us pick and choose the bits we like (candy) and refuse to touch the things that don’t suit or appeal to us? Instead of becoming the sons and daughters he hoped for we become the malformed and dysfunctional individuals he never imagined, and worse, we did it by misguided free choice.
There is something significantly wrong and it is showing in the widespread impotence of the church in our nation. At a time when our nation desperately needs men and women of faith who are equipped and ready to step into high impact ministry we find . . .? In times of moral decay, financial struggle, personal adversity, unemployment, ethical laxity, rising homelessness . . . our churches have difficulty engaging with people on real life issues. If these aren’t days of opportunity for helping people find faith, it’s hard to understand why not. How bad does it have to get before we decide the time is NOW? It’s not a function of the times being right for God to move, it’s a function of the church being functional enough to operate as it was designed to do. In turn, that’s determined by the state of discipleship of the people who make up the church.
So, long story made short, an essential part of discipleship (one we have neglected or downplayed) is the growth in relationship with Christ. In much the same way as doing a work project with a person you saw each Sunday for years helps you suddenly get to know them in a new way, so the experiences of life work to help us know Christ in an entirely different way.
The type of experiences are vital in this. It’s more than total time spent together, it’s emotional and deeply personal connection that counts. You only learn so much about a person sitting chatting in Starbucks; it’s when you are seeing them reaching their limits of tolerance or patience, struggling with fatigue or frustration, wrestling to reach a goal, that you begin to see the real person and what they are made of. It’s the difference between knowing what they want to tell you about themselves and seeing them for who they really are. It isn’t always so pretty to see but it’s real.
We can sit in church and say all the correct things, disclosing what we want others to see, keeping it nice and pleasant, and most of all, under control. Our relationships remain superficial and mostly fictional – both between each other and with God. No growth.
Or we can decide to bring our relationships (with God and with each other) into the raw emotional struggles of life. Faith meets reality. This is where we need to be working out our salvation since it’s where we encounter the fear and trembling! Initially those struggles may be all about us and our issues but as we grow and develop they become increasingly about the challenges and issues of living as ministering people. Life expressed.
Salvation is dynamic and progressive. Yes, he saves us from our sin, but he goes on to save us from ourselves and then to save us as we obediently step into unfamiliar and uncertain situations, expressing our ministries and living in reliance on him. It’s where the growth occurs. Life on the edge.
It’s a free choice, which one is smartest?
Some things the Bible says about salvation:
“The name of the Lord is a strong and mighty tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10.
“Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow and the Lord will be with you.” 2 Chronicles 20:17.
“Now I know that the lord saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand, Some trust in chariots and some in horses (wealth and possessions, tanks and AK 47’s, their wits and their own resources) but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” Psalm 20.
“. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion . . .” Philippians 1:6
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed . . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his purpose.” Philippians 2:12,13
“In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold which perished even though it is refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1
“God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13
“And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Romans 13
Posted on May 29, 2012, in Active faith, Self-awareness and tagged adversity, divine intervention, faith, growth and development, hardship, Jesus Christ, life on the cutting edge, reality and realism, salvation. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.