Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BAM. Saved.

We make salvation way to easy.

Okay everyone, close your eyes and repeat this prayer after me to accept Jesus into your heart…

And then, that’s it.


But it is significantly less simple than we would like to believe.

For starters, we overlook repentance completely.

Oh sure, we are totally fine with confessing sins, but leaving them behind, and living a new life in Christ, well that’s a little too radical. Jesus would never ask that of me.

And we wonder why Christians live just like the rest of the world.

And it might just be because we don’t work out our salvation with fear and trembling, like we’re supposed to.

There’s this passage in 2 Peter 1:

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins."

First of all, I have to give credit to my friend and fellow Cusco 40/40, Alex Adams for pointing out this passage and making me think about its implications.

“Make every effort.” So this adding to our faith does not come without exertion of some kind. It isn’t just waking up everyday, “Hey, check it out, now I’ve got self-control! Sweet, I wonder which one I’ll get tomorrow…” It is an endeavor to pursue more of Christ in our lives, more of the Holy Spirit’s power working in us, and surrendering again and again until we are perfected by love into Christ’s image. It is a struggle, constantly attempting to, through the Spirit’s power, add to faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge self-control…

And it is interesting that perseverance is among this list of traits meant to characterize the Christian. How is perseverance developed? According to James, through “trails of many kinds.” Suffering.

Come on, now you’re telling me I have to suffer.

Yes, it is necessary to suffer as a Christian, and to do it rejoicing. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

“In increasing measure.” The process of salvation does not end after we say a prayer. We are being changed and shaped into Christ’s image. And during this process, we are producing the fruit of a Christian life “in increasing measure.” I should not look the same day 1 as day 15, because on day 15, there will be more godliness in me than on day one. These qualities characterize the Christian life. Without them, we are “ineffective and unproductive.”

Are our churches in the United States filled with ineffective and unproductive people? Is the church making a difference in its community? If not, it is most likely full of ineffective, unproductive Christians, who believe they are saved but do not experience these qualities in their lives in increasing measure.

I saw a study conducted by the Barna Group about Christianity’s impact on the world, be it positive or negative. The research showed that less than one percent of the population complained Christians are too aggressive in their evangelistic efforts.

Really? Less than one percent? Does that not bother us?

Hello, we were called to “make disciples of all nations…” Not just to go, but “as you are going.” We are told that we are Christ’s ambassadors. We are asked, “How can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe if they are not told?” We have a very clear job as Christians, and no one complains that we are doing that job too well.

Because we are ineffective and unproductive.

It is no wonder that the church is filled with people who are “nearsighted and blind.” I find this phrase remarkable. I am nearsighted, literally. And what characterizes a nearsighted person? They can’t see far away, only what is close up. The rest is a blur. And there are people, whether supposedly Christian or not, who live their lives nearsighted. They only look at what is directly ahead, the next moment, never thinking about future consequences.

“I came here tonight to party. Who cares how I’ll feel tomorrow.”

“I want to be with this person now. I’ll deal with my spouse later.”

“I want this pleasure now. It doesn’t matter if I’ll regret it later, because it is awesome now.”

This is obviously not a direct line of thinking in the people making these decisions, but it is the essential truth. They focus on the immediate gratification given by the sin, and do not think past it.

Nearsighted and blind. It is why scandals happen in churches, because someone supposedly good and godly doesn’t see ahead, and falls.

And if we want to be effective and productive Christians, not nearsighted and blind, we must make every effort.

We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

We must constantly remember that we have been cleansed from sin, and we want to live in Christ.

“We who have died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?”

I am trying to make disciples in Cusco, Peru. And it is so incredibly hard to make people understand what salvation really means. You want it to be something easily explained in three bullet points, but it really is not that simple.

It is a miracle, and we CANNOT forget the magnitude of this gift.  And we need to make sure we are working out our own salvation, making every effort.

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