Thursday, August 13, 2015

ReligionSpeak: "Being Saved"

"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.  
Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle 
in the way of a brother or sister."
Romans 14:13

In my Women’s Bible Study this morning, the question of “being saved” arose, and coming on the heels of my reading of Romans 14:13 last night, it occurred to me how our ReligionSpeak can be a real stumbling block for people of faith, whether they are new to Christianity or have been raised for years in the faith.

Our discussion leader pointed out that she was raised in the faith, from her grandfather who was an evangelical circuit preacher, to her father who inherited his strong and strict convictions.  She now is an integral part of her faith community, but reflected at one time in her history, “Am I really saved?”  

After all, she had no extraordinary experience to point to in order to show the exact moment when she gave her life to Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Not all of us can point to a singular “come-to-Jesus” moment comparable to Abraham’s experience of God in the burning bush, or Samuel being awoken by God’s call in the night, or Matthew being called to follow Jesus from his tax collector’s booth, or Paul being struck blind on the road to Damascus. 

We have a Biblical faith:  we are “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11: 1).  But is that enough?
We don’t have an exciting story to tell, so are we saved?

I might have thought there was an easy answer to this question, but when I started reading various sources on the Internet, I discovered that different denominations and different teachers hold very different views of how to interpret the scriptures around this subject of salvation, or “being saved.”

I should have known that what God intended to be simple, human beings managed to complicate!

According to Cliff and Helen Leitch at
“Virtually every Christian denomination has a unique doctrine about salvation and the related idea of justification, making a sinner acceptable to God…In addition to Bible teachings, these doctrines are based on church traditions and the ideas of popes, bishops, and theologians such as John Calvin, Martin Luther, Jacobus Arminius and John Wesley. Many of these doctrines emphasize one aspect of Bible teaching over another and apply different interpretations to Bible passages. Many wise and devoted people have spent a lifetime of study and prayer and have come to different conclusions about salvation!
          All Christians, however, agree we can be saved only by the grace of God; we cannot save
          ourselves or determine our own fate after death.”

I will share my view of the question, with the hope that it will get you thinking about your own faith journey and your own answers to such questions.

If someone asked me when I “got saved,” I would tell them, “About 2000 years ago, when Jesus died on the cross.”  If you want to hear about my “extraordinary experience” or my “exciting story,” I will send you to the Gospels to read about Jesus’ birth, crucifixion, and resurrection.  The extraordinary experience and exciting story is not my own; it belongs to Jesus Christ.

My salvation didn’t even happen in my own lifetime! 

What DID happen in my lifetime was my belief and acceptance of what Christ did for me.

I believe that we are saved because God sent Jesus into the world to bear the punishment for our sins, because Jesus died on the cross that our sin might die with him, and because Jesus came out of the tomb, thereby defeating sin and death itself. 
I’m not saying I don’t have a role to play. This amazing act of sacrifice by Jesus is a completely unearned gift to me (see Romans 6:23), but I have to accept it.  A gift does not belong to us until we take it, open it, and make it our own.  When I tell God that I believe with certainty that my sins were forgiven and my relationship with Him was restored when Jesus died, at that moment I am entering that amazing state of grace we might call “being saved.”  For the rest of my life, I will rededicate myself to that decision (sometimes hourly, as one of our Bible study members suggested!), and learn more and more what it means to walk by faith in this blessed identity of Forgiven Woman and Child of God (see John 1:12). 

That walk by faith is not my salvation.  John records Jesus as teaching, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9). I receive salvation by walking through the gate; what happens once I get to the other side is what Paul refers to as “working out your salvation” (Philippians 2:12).  Suddenly I'm not in this thing called Life alone; I have God by my side, His strength at my disposal to live out my faith in obedience to Him. 

What that life of faith, that walk with God, that radical obedience, looks like is the subject of many, many more posts—maybe a book or two, in fact!

For now, rest assured in Jesus’ work of salvation, already completed on the cross.  You don’t have to look for something spectacular to prove your salvation to someone else or to yourself.  You don’t need fireworks and earthquakes and signs and miracles.  Don’t put that stumbling block in your own way, or in someone else’s way!  Don’t make “being saved” some sort of daunting ReligionSpeak that makes you question the security of your relationship with God. You need only open your heart daily to accept the gift of God’s grace and forgiveness, and then you can walk in the reconciled relationship that Jesus made possible for you. 

Let’s not forget the truth of Jesus’ teaching in one of the first Bible verses many of us learn:  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”(John 3:16). 
Not long after, Jesus also taught, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).  Let’s not look for things to put us into the bondage of doubt, but live in the freedom of God’s Truth!


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