Thursday, October 21, 2010

So what exactly is "salvation" anyway?

Salvation is one of those subjects that many people do not like to talk about. The majority of people believe that there is nothing to be saved from and think that the subject is pointless. Then the other group of people believes that they have discovered salvation through some form of a religion, be it Christian or not. Salvation by definition is to escape oneself by finding freedom in Jesus Christ and being restored to one’s original purpose and design.

Salvation as a concept is not unique to Christianity and therefore it cannot be assumed that every person mentioned in the group above truly has Salvation. Because many of the world’s major religions claim a “salvation”, what Christianity when referring to Salvation means today must be examined in greater detail. According to Alister McGrath, “The distinctiveness of the Christian approach to salvation lies in two distinct areas: In the first place, salvation is understood to be grounded in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; in the second, the specific shape of salvation, within the Christian tradition, is itself formed by Christ” (McGrath, 387).

The Bible speaks of the necessity of Salvation throughout the entire Bible. It is made clear that the fall and reality of sin in mankind’s life has left man in corruption and rebellion in need of a Savior. The effects of sin are shown to affect all aspects of ones life, whether it is intellectually, volitionally, emotionally, relationally, or behaviorally (Eph. 1:3; Tit. 1:15; Rom. 6:6; Tit. 3:3; Rom. 5:10; Rom. 3:12). In essence there is no hope for any area of one’s life without Salvation.

Although the fall is observed very early in the Bible, destroying the perfection that was seen, the promise of salvation is also recorded early in the Bible, offering a future hope (Gen 3:15). The promise of salvation comes early in the book of Genesis and along with it comes the provision and proclamation of salvation (Gen. 3:15; Acts 2). The provision is told to come through the Messiah on the Cross, which will bear all of man’s sins and this will be the atonement for them. The proclamation of a Savior coming that will offer Salvation is also a recurring theme throughout scriptures, specifically the New Testament (Mark 10:45; Luke 19:12; John 1:12).

There are several major conceptions of Salvation seen within Scripture. Salvation is looked at as a union with Christ, which encompasses an ontological, sacramental, covenantal, moral, and experiential union. The Bible also describes salvation through the use of metaphors and analogies, which compares salvation to the vine & branches, a building, a body, and a marriage (John 15; Eph. 2:19-22; Rom. 12:4-5; Eph. 5:23-32). In the life of a believer, Salvation is what is looked at as one’s justification from sin, reconciliation to God, adoption through Christ, and redemption (Exo. 23:7; Eph. 2:12).

It is noted that there is also a particular pattern found in salvation. It first starts with mercy and grace being expounded in ones life (Eph. 2:4; Eph. 2:8-9). As mercy and grace are operated in ones life, an election and calling by the Spirit of God takes place on one. The following three types of election are found in the Bible, election to service, corporate election, and personal election (Rom. 11:4; 1 Pet. 2:9; John 10; Eph. 1).
The calling by the Spirit of God in ones life is first a call to repent and receive salvation (Isa. 65:12; 1 Cor. 1:9; Heb. 3:1). Upon receiving salvation, there comes a second call on the life of all believers, which is to serve and minister to others (Eph. 4:1; Gen. 12:1-3).

When one is marked with receiving Salvation, a conversion is said to haven taken place, regenerating that person’s heart. Conversion comes through repentance in one’s life that is acted upon by faith (Acts 3:19; 2 Cor. 3:16; 1 Sam. 7:3; Isa. 30:15; Gen. 15:6). Through this Salvation process one becomes regenerate, in other words there is a new spiritual birth that takes place as the former way of life is left behind and a new man is created (Jon. 3; Col. 2:13).

Even though as a person becomes regenerate, they are looked at as a new person in Christ, there is still a progress in Salvation to being in union with Christ. This process is considered sanctification, which can be found mentioned most in Romans 8. Sanctification is the idea that one has been saved from the guilt of sin through justification and now they are continually being saved from the power of sin by being sanctified.

Although it is recognized that Salvation is a process, it is not something that can be taken away once received. In other words there is eternal security in the work that was done at the cross, even though people need to be continually saved through sanctification (Psalm 37; Jon. 5:24; Eph. 1:14; Phil. 1:6). The moment one has been elected and called by God unto Salvation, there is never a point that same individual will be unelected or uncalled. In essence “once saved always saved” as far as actually regeneration took pace in ones life.

Although Salvation is not always a popular subject for people to talk about, in the life of a believer it should be the most important topic of conversation. As noted Salvation comes through one way in the person and work of Christ, but it is the job of every believer to make sure that every person hears this message as Christians are tools to be used by God in the election and calling of individuals unto Salvation.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What does it really look like to live with purpose, intention, and on mission?

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it really means to live with purpose, intention, and on mission as a follower of Jesus. Many of you may initially respond with something such as, "Oh, you need to read 'The Purpose Driven Life' there you will find out how to live a purpose driven life." I am not saying that is necessarily a bad book, in fact I have read it, but it is not exactly what I am referring to here.

I understand and recognize that my life has purpose, but what I have been challenging myself on is what if I lived everyday with missional intention. What would that look like? I look back on my own upbringing, which was a good one, but see that many times in my case we would do things to purposely avoid the "sinners" of the world as if we ourselves weren't sinners. The intentions were the best and we were doing what we thought best, but I often wonder how what we did was really living on mission and what it communicated to those around us.

So, what would not living with missional intention look like? Avoiding the large cities, in my case growing up that was Charlotte, because they are full of dangerous people who do bad things. Spend the majority of your time with "saved" friends and family because they are uplifting and only use Christian cuss words like shoot, darn, and heck. Oh, and of course you would have the occasional Christian family that you may secretly question their relationship with God because they have beer in their refrigerator. You make sure that your life is full of church activities, you speak "Christianese", and living on mission is something you get to do in the summers for a week in another city because they need Jesus more than the city you live in.

Now, what would living with missional intention look like? Instead of avoiding the cities, Christians should be flooding the cities, because they are full of sinful activity. Just in the past two years there has been a shift globally and now over half of the worlds population lives in these large cities and how will they ever know how to live differently if they are never told about Jesus and His love? Instead of spending the majority of your time with other Christian friends and family why not spend it with people who do not believe like you. Get to know your neighbors and not just the ones who go to church. Get to know these people, they maybe your own family, and pour the gospel into their lives.

My pastor J.D. Greear said this morning, "Most people have created a form of a functional universalism", referring to how most of us at the end of the day believe that as long as people generally live a good life and follow the rules of their religion then they are okay and will not spend eternity separated from God. I strongly agree with that statement as I look around at how most of us who claim to follow Jesus live our lives daily. The question I would like to pose to you then is are you living with purpose, intention and on mission or are you living a life in a bubble where everything is "Christian"?