When Christians talk about salvation, we often give the impression that it is a moment in time in which we flip a switch that means we will go to Heaven when we die. While I believe Heaven is important, salvation is bigger than what happens when we die.
In the last Fundamentals post, we looked at humanity and sin. Sin broke our good relationship with God, with our fellow humans, and with creation. Salvation brings an opportunity for restoration of those relationships as well.
Walking with God
God has always wanted to walk with us. He created us to be in relationship with himself. In the days of the Garden, he walked with the man and woman in the cool of the day. It was his habit. Through the times of chaos, the patriarchs, and the early law, God reached out for fellowship. The Old Testament writers spoke again and again about a time when God would write his law on our hearts and the need for external coercive measures would fall away. A time of restored relationship with God, and a renewed sense of fellowship with him.
Jesus came, announcing a fulfillment of prophecy and the nearness of God’s Kingdom.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand…” The response that Jesus calls for is repentance and belief.
Repentance is a concept that gets a lot of bad press. At it’s core, though, it is simply a call to change your mind and change your direction. We do it all the time without even thinking about it. I was using a particular brand of laundry soap, it gave me hives, so I repented of using that soap and switched to one that didn’t.
My daughter had a choir concert out of town a while back. It was important that we get there on time for the rehearsal because I was driving 2 other girls to this event. I followed the directions and couldn’t find it. I drove back and forth, up and down the same street for a half mile in both directions and couldn’t find it. Finally I rechecked the directions and realized I had turned right when I should have turned left. I repented and went back to where I made the wrong turn and took the right one. We got there right on time.
The story of humanity making a wrong turn at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil begins with an idea that we need to be more like God. There is just one problem.
Only God can be God.
We’ve displaced God, taking on the role of owner of creation and judge over ourselves and others. We’ve often trashed creation, and we do a terrible job of judging rightly. We tend to see our wants as needs, and the mistakes of others as much greater than our own. Salvation begins the process of restoring God to his rightful place in every aspect of our lives.
The way to restoration in our relationships is taking on a new view of self and others. A realistic view that Jesus talks about in his parable about the speck of dust and the log. The Holy Spirit helps us discern where we’ve gone wrong and begins to form in us the ability to see through the lens of grace. We have to know who we are in our brokenness and receive God’s healing grace for ourselves when we find we are not able to live up to a perfect standard. Only then can we begin to extend that same grace to others. That is how we find healing in ourselves, forgiveness for our mistakes and the ability to offer the same healing forgiveness to others.
In the beginning we had a job to do. We were to be stewards of creation. When we walk in sin, that relationship is broken as well. Paul says that creation cries out for redemption. It is our job as Christians not only to administer grace to our fellow human beings, but to care about all of creation. That means asking God how we can participate in stewarding creation in our daily lives. It means caring about things like waste of resources, mistreatment of animals, and even climate change.
You and I can’t fix these things on our own, and that is not our job. But it is our job to care and to do what we can to manage this gift well.
God desires to do more than give you a ticket to heaven. God wants to bring restoration to your daily life, your relationships, and the whole earth.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17
Below is the statement on salvation from our regional Faith and Practice.
Salvation is a personal matter between people and their Maker. It consists of forgiveness for sins as well as sanctification or the cleansing of sinful human nature. People can be redeemed because of the atoning death of Jesus Christ and the direct work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit restores people to fellowship with God the Father and enables them to love Him wholeheartedly. Salvation does not depend on outward ceremonies or symbols. Sanctification is the work of God which is accomplished through the baptism with the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer who is yielded totally to God. The believer is thus empowered to witness to the living Christ. Sanctification is both an act in which one’s heart is cleansed and a process in which the life is continuously disciplined to God’s holy standards.