Sunday, July 19, 2020

A Brief Personal Interlude

    What does it mean to be saved? We considered this question early on in our Bible study. Let me say from the beginning, as many others have also said, salvation is more than ‘going to heaven when you die’. It is more than having a ‘come-to-Jesus-moment’ so we can get our sins forgiven and secure a good exit plan. The Kingdom of God is not some future event which will occur after the rapture-the existence of which is itself questionable. Being saved is not about separating ourselves from the ‘world’ and it certainly is not about adopting a strict moral code and forcing it on everyone else. Being ‘saved’ is a right here, right now event involving the kind of total shift in thinking many people are simply not prepared to make. I realize an awful lot of people do not want to hear this but that does not make it any less true.

            Salvation is relationship, re-establishing the broken connection between us and God. It is about turning away from whatever it is we are following and turning towards Jesus, about actually following Him. After all, Christianity was first referred to as ‘The Way’-it is the Way of Christ. It is about knowing-and being known-as opposed to ‘knowing about’. And here is perhaps the most revolutionary-not to mention controversial-statement you may ever hear-we do not worship the Bible. We worship the God of the Bible.

            This is not something I cooked up on my own. I certainly do not mean to disparage, denigrate, or demean the Bible. It does, after all, contain the very oracles of God, so please stay with me here. The idea of salvation as relationship has been taught by modern writers and teachers across the theological spectrum from N. T. Wright, Oswald Chambers, and Richard Foster to Richard Rohr, Marcus Borg and John Domenic Crossan, not to mention John, Paul, and Jesus Himself. I cannot overstate how important this is.

            I know this to be true from personal experience. Now, before you jump all over the experience thing, keep in mind the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (and Wesley knew a little bit about holiness)-scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. My experience is this-the traditional way of salvation did not work for me. I managed to accumulate a whole lot of knowledge about Jesus while barely knowing Him at all. What this produced-simultaneously-was a great deal of hubris and a whole lot of bad, addictive behavior I could not break free from. The result was pride in what I knew, on the one hand, and tremendous guilt over what I was doing and could not stop, on the other. All this was accompanied by the twin feelings that the way I was doing and being taught Christianity was not quite right (and that the Church as I knew it was loosing its way) and something was about to happen (think “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story).

            My change of mind did not occur overnight. I think what happened was all the above writers combined with some good stuff I learned in college and began to gang up on me. Once I saw the truth of here-and-now relationship in one place I saw it all over the place. Things I struggled with for years suddenly began to make sense. So, let me share a few things I now know to be true because they will become important later.

            First, salvation is relationship. Our connection to God is already built in, it just needs established (or maybe re-established). This is the real meaning of ‘image and likeness’ and it applies to everyone. We turn away from (fill in the blank) and turn towards God who rushes to meet us. Which leads me to…

            Second, whatever we have done, no matter how bad, has already been forgiven:

“as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.” Psalms 103:12

“I, I am he
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 43:25 (Italics mine)

            Third, God never gives up on us. Never. Ever. I know this to be a fact. God is and always has been on our side.

“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (Italics mine)

“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" Romans 8:31


“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

            Think deeply about these verses. They are foundational to everything we will be talking about and they are right here right now facts. God has done it. It is for everyone. And in fact, today is a great day to start a new relationship.



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