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Monday, June 4, 2012

The Salvation Equation

You're in trouble if your salvation message looks like this
I once thought that Christians of all backgrounds, denominations, and doctrinal teachings could unite on fact that we are all saved by Christ Jesus. That the forgiveness of sin through Jesus’ death on the cross and our faith in Christ and His eternal salvation could unite us all. I’m not saying I thought it did, but I always believed that it could; that two unlike minded believers could at least start on the foundation of the saving power of Jesus. But these days I’m noticing a lot of people have some very different ideas on how to get to heaven. And that, my friends, is not only disheartening, but a little frightening.

It frightens me that lost people are going into churches seeking to be found, seeking to find what is missing in their lives and they are given a formula or a list of ways to clean up their lives in order to attain eternal life. Jesus’ free gift and a deep relationship with Him seem to be lost in the muddle of formulaic salvation and legalistic ranting. Where did this come from? Ok, I admit, I have known that legalism has been alive a well through most of all of Christian history and still continues to hold on today. But these ideas that you need to speak in tongues to be saved, that immersion in water ushers in your salvation, that your views on doctrine will determine your fate in the afterlife, or that if you stumble back into sin and then get hit by a bus that you are damned to hell, have taken me by surprise. I thought that Christendom had settled all of this along time ago.

“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([a]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.” John 3:16 Amplified

"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,  to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Romans 3:21-26 New Kings James

So let me just say something. Speaking in tongues does not save you. Baptism does not save you. Living a holy, clean life does not save you. Twenty five years with no doubt in Christ or backsliding does not save you. Doctrine does not save you. Your faith does not save you. JESUS CHRIST saves you. He is the ONLY thing that grants you eternity in paradise. So while it is important to accurately understand the Scriptures and doctrine and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and be obedient to the call of Baptism (or any call you receive from On High), let’s not tell a desperate, dying world that they first have to pass a test in order to receive Christ’s love into their lives. Jesus paid the price and completed the equation when He willingly died on the cross and then rose 3 days later. That’s it, all sins were forgiven that day and eternity was ushered in. Our part in our salvation is to recognize Christ as Lord, to accept His salvic power, to recognize that we need forgiveness and to enter into a relationship with Him. Jesus loves you. Right now. Always has. He loved you when you were ugly and vengeful, when you were pathetic and addicted, when you were blind and greedy. He loves you in all of your mess and He wants you to know it. He wants to know you and for you to know Him. And He wants you to accept His free gift of salvation because He wants to be with you in paradise. There is no formula. There is only deep abiding love and a longing for unity.

Our churches and leaders should certainly be teaching us and leading us in ways to live lives closer to Christ. Our pastors should teach us how to be righteous and holy. But they should never teach a list of requirements to receive and keep salvation. If I’m so focused on how fragile my eternal fate is, how does God have any power in my life? If I’m preoccupied with following all the right steps to prevent eternal damnation how can I lead a secure life inspired by the Holy Spirit’s guiding. He did not give us an attitude of fear. But what He did give us is Everything.

Have any of you heard some hokey messages on Salvation lately? Or have you left church wondering if what point your pastor was trying to make? What kind of message did you hear when you first committed your life to Christ?