THE ABIDING LIFE
Salvation and the Christian Life
By Gwen Sellers
Salvation is central to the Christian message, yet the way we often talk about salvation seems lacking to me. We act as though it is all about Heaven and some sort of cosmic bank account. Just make sure you've linked on to Jesus so your account is settled and your ticket to Heaven is good to go. The call to salvation often includes the reality of sin and our total inability to pay the debt that sin incurs against God. We suggest that people who are saved shouldn't go around sinning and should generally try to be "good" people. But real life application doesn't always seem evident. Isn't there something more to the whole Christian thing than just going to Heaven or trying not to sin too much? If not, why bother to get saved now? If Jesus doesn't make a difference to my real life now, then what's the draw?
Having these thoughts, I start feeling guilty that it's always about me. What do I get out of salvation? I want God to fill my longings and meet my needs. It becomes about what God can do for me rather than about the stark reality that I am utterly helpless and in need of God's mercy.
As with most things, I think there is a balance here. Yes, I am a sinner. I deserve an eternity of torment and punishment. I have offended Almighty God and should be made to pay. But, in an amazing show of both justice and grace, God offered Himself for me. He chooses to pay for my sin and invite me into fellowship with Him. Did you catch that? He does both things: forgiveness and restoration. He doesn't just wash away my sin; He actually makes me His daughter. And, as His daughter, He wants to bring me to completion. Part of that completion is learning how to not sin so much. Sin is not my truest identity so it shouldn't characterize my behavior. In Christ I am a slave to righteousness, but it is a slavery that brings freedom (Romans 6). God's commands are meant to bring that which is truly life. And it isn't all just about not sinning. It's about living the life God has prepared for me (Ephesians 2:8-10; John 15). God has given me longings that He yearns to fulfill. He has bestowed my life with purpose. It is right to go to Him with my needs and desires. It is not right to be an entitled brat. But neither is it right to continue to dwell on my sin or to not pursue God with an honest heart. I must accept the gift of forgiveness and continually enter into the fullness of life. This is done in real life relationship with God, not in mere acceptance of a ticket to Heaven or attempts at moral performance.
These aren't necessarily new thoughts for me, but they have been stirred of late. For one thing, I'm reading Dallas Willard's book The Divine Conspiracy.* I haven't yet finished the book, but it has struck a chord in me. He talks about our misunderstandings of salvation as solely about Heaven rather than as something practical to the lives we live in the real world. Salvation has come to mean only justification rather than regeneration. But Jesus is more than just the way of payment. He has actual meaning in our actual lives. Salvation changes us.
A balanced salvation message was reiterated at church in talking about Acts 3:11-4:4. In part, our pastor pointed out that Peter's message was not simply "repent that your sins may be blotted out." It was "repent that your sins may be blotted out and times of refreshing may come." Yes, Christians are called to leave sin. We have incurred a debt that we cannot pay apart from Jesus. And we are expected to not walk in sin anymore. But the life Jesus came to bring isn't just about not doing bad stuff anymore. It's about being filled with the Holy Spirit and getting on board with God's plan. We leave behind the lifelessness of sin and embrace the life-giving plan of God.
Someone once told me that when we surrender something to God, He always gives us something else in return. In salvation, it's a double-whammy. We're dead in our sin and God chooses to make us new. Being made new, we leave sin so that our hands can be free for God to fill with life. Truly, His grace is amazing. Salvation is but the start of all God has in store.
Continue to "Thoughts on Salvation: Happy or Holy"
* Please note that while I find this book to be beneficial in my own spiritual growth, I do not necessarily fully endorse all of Willard's points. As with all things, each of us should judge what we are taught against the truth of Scripture.
Image Credit: Andrea Santoni; "Untitled"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation Biblical-Truth Christian-Life Personal-Life
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Published on 1-15-15