Wednesday, January 20, 2010

thinking out loud about salvation

For some unknown reason - walking the dog on a cool early morning with my hands deep in the pockets of my snug leather jacket - I've been thinking about the concept of salvation.

I know, it sounds like the spiritual equivalent of nerdy (kind of a Jesus Geek!), but this kind of "meditation" has become a natural byproduct of the intentionality that is beginning to define my devotional life.

I was thinking about how the foundational Jesus message has become so distorted, and how the Gospel is tragically misrepresented via the day-to-day witness of people and institutions who claim to speak directly for God... and I started wondering about one of the central questions of "Evangelical Christianity...."

You know the question. It's "Are you saved?" But I'm beginning to think that it's the wrong question - or at least the wrong form of the question. I think a better question is this: "Are we participating in the ongoing work of salvation?"

"Are you saved?" has a punched-ticket quality to it, something checked off a list, something leveraged, something people are bludgeoned with, something that's only about me, something limited in scope.

Salvation is the invitation to a full and complete experience of all the potentiality that life as a child of God promises.

Jesus said this in his Sermon on the Mount: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" - Matthew 7

At first glance it sounds as if Jesus is simply being another legalist - follow all the rules and you'll earn your way to heaven. But that's not where Jesus is coming from. Christ's invitation is to participate in God's work of salvation. Christ suggests that salvation is a way of life in response to a decision. Christ talks as if salvation is God's gift to this world and that we - as God's children - are tasked to be the delivery system.

We live in a broken world, and it's a world that needs to experience redemption on every level. Jesus talks constantly about God's kingdom in action here on Earth and how it is qualitatively different to business-as-usual: The kingdom of God is like this... the kingdom of God is like this... the kingdom of God is like this.... Rob Bell (Mars Hill Bible Church) uses the phrase "Heaven crashing into Earth" to explain the effect of kingdom living.

Salvation is not a ticket to heaven that we get punched. Salvation is an invitation from God, delivered by Jesus, to participate in kingdom life, in bringing that reality into our world on a day-to-day basis.

In other words, I'm saved into something. That something is the ongoing initiative of God in this world - the work of salvation.

I am 100% certain that this kingdom life will morph into something more beautiful and eternal after I no longer inhabit this (rapidly aging) body of flesh and blood. When I die I am going to be with God even more profoundly that I am now. Jesus made all this possible by offering himself as an atoning sacrifice on my behalf, on your behalf, on behalf of this world.

What Jesus did do was to restore the opportunity for relationship between the Creator and the creation. What Jesus did do was to invite people to participate in all that this new relationship makes possible. What Jesus did do was to bring God's Kingdom to earth.

"Are you saved" is not so much about where we go when we die as it is about what we're up to now we're alive. Salvation is the ongoing work of God.

Our opportunity is to participate.

Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10

1 comment:

Pastor Tim said...

Very, very good reflection. I've been thinking "Are you saved?" is the wrong question for a long time! Never do I find Jesus being so comfortably black and white.