Tag Archives: love

Salvation: More than a ticket to Heaven?

God Saves

When someone says, “I’m Saved!” There is always the contextual question, “Saved from what?” Except if it’s said at Church. Within Christianity Salvation has become synonymous with Eternal Life. Salvation means that if I believe, one day I will go to Heaven. Yet, should Salvation always equate to being rescued to Heaven?

There are many places in the Scriptures that Salvation is past, present, and future to the author or reader. One tricky example is Romans 13:11 the Apostle Paul writes,  “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed?” Was Paul saying that he was not “saved” yet?

Or take for instance Luke 19:9. Jesus said Salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day. Does this mean Zacchaeus died and entered Heaven that day?

“In the Old Testament, God’s acts delivering the people from hunger, bondage, and other difficulties are usually called ‘saving’ acts, and Yahweh is repeatedly praised as the Savior of Israel.  In the New Testament, ‘salvation’ may mean either healing or deliverance from sin-and sometimes both.  Thus, salvation has to do, not only with one’s eternal destiny, but with everything that stands in the way of God’s purposes of communion with creation-and specifically with the human creature.  Thus salvation includes both justification and sanctification.

In the Greco-Roman world in which Christianity was born, there were many religions offering ‘salvation.’  Most of these understood salvation mainly or exclusively as life after death, and often combined these notions of salvation with the ideal of escaping from the material world. Given that context, it is not surprising that quite often Christians lost the fuller notion of salvation that appeared in their Scriptures, and came to think of salvation merely as admission into heaven-sometimes even seeing such admission as an escape from this physical world.  Perhaps the most notable development in soteriology [the Study of the Doctrine of Salvation] in recent decades has been the recovery of the wider notion of salvation as including, not only salvation from death and eternal damnation, but also freedom from all sorts of oppression and injustice.  Salvation, in its fuller sense, certainly includes eternal life in the presence of God; but it also includes the process of sanctification, whereby we are brought greater communion with God; and it includes also the destruction of all the powers of evil that stand between God’s purposes and present order of creation.”

-Justo L. Gonzalez, Essential Theological Terms. pg 162-163

Salvation cannot be understood in reference to one particular saving act of God. Jesus has rescued us from many things, and will one day rescue, redeem, and renew us and creation. The one unifying aspect of Salvation throughout the Scriptures is that God does the saving apart from the help or interference of man.

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What did Jesus’ death accomplish?

1. Propitiation: Jesus died and took God’s wrath stored up for us because of our sin.

2. Expiation: Jesus died to cleanse us.

3. Sacrifice: Jesus died as our sacrifice for sin before God.

4. Victor: Jesus died to crush our enemies.

5. Redemption: Jesus died for our freedom.

6. Justification: Jesus died to forgive us.

7. Ransom: Jesus died to pay our debt and free us the enslavement of sin.

8. Example: Jesus died as the example of God’s wondrous love.

9. Reconciliation: Jesus died to restore the relationship between God and man becoming our mediator.

10. Revelation: Jesus died to reveal God.

* This was all adapted from Mark Driscoll’s Sermon series,Christ and the Cross, and Doctrine: What Christians should believe.

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Is the love of God dwarfed by his ability to communicate?”

There is a question I’ve asked myself in a moment of contemplation that haunts me.


“Is the love of God dwarfed by his ability to communicate?”

As disciples of Jesus we have been set free by the love of God. We experienced this freedom when we heard, understood, and received the message of the Gospel. God sacrificed everything, humbled himself and took on the likeness of a man; he even humbled himself to the point of death on a cross… Why? Because he loved us!

God went through extraordinary lengths; exhibited divine patience and mercy, to ultimately offer grace through self-sacrifice. Yet, this message goes unheard for millions in with each passing generation.

How can we reconcile the grandeur and vastness of the love of God, when it stands in contrast to his impotent ability to communicate this message?

You, and I, we believe we have this innate right to know important things first hand. We see and act as people who are entitled to the things of God. When something fails in our lives we excuse ourselves and shift the fault to God, as if he already owes us something. We are people clouded by our sense of “rights.”

So when it comes to the message of the Gospel we detest the idea that all aren’t given equal knowledge or opportunity. We scream at the injustice of such a God. And no matter how much we inquire and search, the Bible is clear on the scandalous message of practicality.

The scandal of particularity is that God has not chosen all equally. He has equally given his blessing, nor his revelation. He has not called all nations or people to be his witnesses, nor has he ultimately given salvation to all.

As democratic people of the West we cannot understand a God who does not give equal opportunity. Yet, this is the tension we are faced with in the scripture.

God called the nation of Israel among all the nations of the World to be his witnesses. Why? Simply because.

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Deuteronomy 7:6-8

Transition with me to the New Testament and examine the life of Jesus. God chose to become a man, not many men in many generations on many different continents. No, Jesus came in the flesh just once. Then as a man he called 12 disciples, and of the twelve he had only 3 that he did everything with. Furthermore, as a man he began his public ministry at the age of 30 and only lasted approximately 3 years. And in those 3 years he taught, fed, and healed the crowds, but he also singled out individuals like the woman at the well and Zacchaeus, and chose to spend a few hours, or an evening with them alone. He did not allocate his time equality, as some would say “fairly.”

When a celebrity or author comes to town for a book signing we understand we may only stand before them for a moment, possible get to share words for a minuet, then be shuffled past. We also think nothing of the friends they choose or the people they invite over for dinner understanding that they are human.

Yet, if God was came to town, and after standing in line for hours, we saw him invite one man over for dinner, or talk with one woman for an extended period of time, meanwhile shuffling others past him, we would exclaim “How dare he?” We would question his justice, his love, or his power to speak with us all.

However, this is precisely the scandalous message of the Bible.

So let me return to my original question, “Is the love of God dwarfed by his ability to communicate?”

No, we must understand that God’s love is not dwarfed by his ability to communicate, but our ability to receive. In the end, it is our pride that hinders the receptivity of the Gospel. We think God should speak directly to us, not share his message through others, even creation. We cringe at the reality that God has called a few and chosen fewer to make disciples of the nations.

Entertain the idea the maybe God chose to share his Gospel second-hand because the first step in receiving the Gospel is humility; humility to see that we are sinners, humility to see that we are not the center of the universe, humility to surrender everything and worship him.

Don’t be turned off in reading this, nor let your pride get the best of you. Understand that God loves you, and that he just might have called me to share his love with you.

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Christianity compared to other Religions

 

 

Religion: Man pursues “god.”

Christianity: God pursues man.

 

Religion: Man tries to appease “god” by doing good.

Christianity: God sacrifices himself for man, to reconcile the relationship, because man is sinful.

 

Religion: If man works hard enough he might be able to reach salvation/nirvana.

Christianity: Man is hopelessly lost and a slave to sin. Only by God’s grace through faith can one be saved.

 

Religion: Truth is a path, lifestyle, doctrine, or teaching.

Christianity: Truth is Jesus.

 

Religion: Man, by his own will, reforms his life.

Christianity: God frees, and transforms man, empowering man with his Spirit so that man can lead a new life.

 

Religion: God is needy, wrathful, or indifferent toward creation

Christianity: God is love, because God is triune. Love only exist in community, and since God is self-existent and eternal he was love before creation, nor did he need creation to love.

 

 

Christianity can be twisted and perverted in any of these areas reducing it to just other religion that controlled by the hand of man.

 

However, when we understand and believe the *Gospel of Jesus it is the power of God to save, transform, and breathe life into our broken world.

 

*The Gospel of Jesus is the good news that says man is hopelessly lost and enslaved to the things of this world. But God in his great love pursues man, and made himself the substitute for the corruption and punishment our sin created, dying on the cross, and rising again the third day welcoming us to live under his rule as newly freed and redeemed slaves.

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Imitation of Christ

I’ve begun to read the classic devotional Imitation of Christ by 15 century author Thomas à Kempis. This book has cut me the core with the turn of every page. It is written with short 1-2 page chapters addressing different aspects of the Christian life. I can hardly put the book down, but in this momentary pause I wanted to share some of Kempis insights that have meant the most to me.

Chapter I

“What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but rather a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without the grace and love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.”

Chapter III

“What good is much discussion of involved and obscure matters when our ignorance of them will not be held against us on Judgment Day?”

“If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On the Day of Judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived.”

Thomas à Kempis constant call for humility and excessive of faith and love through action has become another voice reforming what I believe it is to be and live as a Christian.

If you haven’t read this book… Read it. If you haven’t read it recently… Read it again.

This book is public domain, so for those who don’t want to purchase a copy you should be able to find a free copy online somewhere.

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Worship is a gift

Worship is a gift, not that we give but that we are allowed to give.

Worship is hindered by sin one has committed toward other people. When one worships while in sin their worship is reduced to vanity and is offensive to God.

True worship is the highest expression on man. It is a reversal of the great command and the second which is like it, to love the Lord you’re God, and love your neighbor, because we first have to love our neighbor before we can approach God and display our love to him in worship.

Furthermore, Jesus said he would receive our love and acceptance of him based on how we loved and acceptance the least of our brethren. So if one does not love his neighbor why would they want to worship God the maker of man?

Worship has been reduced to an individual expression. It has become something one does before God, instead of something that one does before God and man. Worship has been reduced to praise rather that a holistic expression of a life before God. What I mean is that one can sing praise songs for 30min on a Sunday without respect for their actions during the week and consider it worship.

Worship is the command we are privileged to participate in only after we have obeyed his command to love our neighbor.

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Righteousness not camouflage.

Christ blood is not some divine act of camouflage so that we can continue to sin unpunished.

Christ blood does not only cover our sin, but it cleanses us. We are WASHED in the blood of our crucified lord. Our sins are not just masked with a big red ink splat. It is by his blood we are welcomed as sons and daughters of God. The Holy Spirit comes to live and reside with us, teaching us to walk with him and be like him.

We cannot continue to treat the spilt blood of Christ as if it were something that little red light flasher in the movie Men in Black that makes people forget what just happened. Christ blood does not make God forget our sins, his blood cleanses us from them, it allows us to enter a new life were we are to live righteously.

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