Wednesday, August 22, 2007
HOW MUCH ARE YOU SAVED?
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
The goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared..., so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
For there is one God;
there is also one mediator between
God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
who gave himself a ransom for all.
I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you... through which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you... Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, he was buried, and was raised on the third day.
While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.
Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.'
Psalm 27:1; Isaiah 12:2; John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 8:1,2; Titus 3:4 & 7; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 2:5,6; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 5:1,2,6,8-10; Matthew 16:24-26.
'Save the rainforests'! 'Save the whales'! But if it has not happened to you already, it will: someone will ask you in a public place 'Are you saved?'. (To which a theologian retorted, 'I'll be damned if I'm not!').
'Jesus saves' can still be seen on some old church buildings or bulletin boards. (To which a Jewish student responded, 'Jesus saves, but Moses invests!').
What does it mean to be 'saved'?
On a memorable night in the Trinity Term of 1929, the great scholar C.S. Lewis, alone in his room at Magdalen College, Oxford, 'admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.' In that moment he began to be 'saved', a term he (and the New Testament) often used.
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S.Lewis has a vivid picture of what it means to be saved. Eustace, a dragon, is transformed back into a person. Eustace remembered that dragons can cast off their skin like a snake, so he began to work on himself. At first just the scales came off, but with more effort the whole skin started to peel off, and he stepped out of it altogether. He began to wash but noticed his foot was still hard and scaly. So he scratched away and finally peeled off another layer of dragon skin. But under it was still more. Then Aslan, the lion, offered to help. Though Eustace was afraid of Aslan's claws he lay down before him. His fears were justified: the first tear was so deep it went down to his heart. When the skin was at last off him, Eustace found it 'ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been.' Then Aslan bathed him and dressed him in new clean clothes... You will guess who Eustace and Aslan are.
'Salvation' is a key concept in the Bible. The name Jesus (or Joshua) means 'God saves'. The Old Testament Hebrew word yasha, 'to save', really means to be wide open, to be free. Salvation is freedom. Not freedom to do what you like, but the opposite: freedom from whatever is binding, controlling and destroying you, and freedom to serve God and others. Jesus is our Saviour: that is, he wants to make us whole persons. 'Salvation' in the New Testament has therefore a wide range of meanings, including healing (Matthew 9:22), and rescue from danger (Matthew 8:25, Acts 17:20).
The key to being 'saved', however, means doing something about our sins. Zaccheus, a swindler, decided to return more than he'd stolen, and Jesus said 'Today, salvation has come to this house.' But you are not saved merely because you do good; you do good because you are saved. You are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and faith is a gift - you can't 'earn' it. In an article 'I Was Decided Upon' C.S. Lewis wrote, 'It is not enough to want to get rid of one's sins. We also need to believe in the One who saves us from our sins... Because we know that we are sinners, it does not follow that we are saved.' A man said to his Irish friend, 'It's great to be saved!' 'Aye,' said the Irishman, 'it is. But I know something better than that.' 'Better than being saved? What can possibly be better than that?' 'The companionship of the One who has saved me,' his friend responded.
So salvation is personal: Paul said 'He loved me and gave himself for me' (Galatians 2:20). Christianity is a rescue mission: rescuing sinners from death and giving them eternal life, life in all its fullness; rescuing us from selfishness, to friendship with God. It is life and health and peace and joy and fulfilment. It is a crisis (I was saved) a process (I am being saved), and a destiny (I will be saved).
It is also social. Salvation is for the whole of a person, not just for the soul of a person. Jeremiah preached against the attitude which says 'I'm safe, because my religion's the right one' but is not concerned enough about ethics and justice (Jeremiah 7:1-15). A religion divorced from justice, love, mercy and honesty was also attacked by Jesus (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42).
Salvation is also ecological: God is concerned for all his creation. The whole universe is to be transformed (Romans 8:19-25).
And (all this and heaven too!) salvation is eternal. As the old preachers put it, we're saved for time and for eternity! Frederick Buechner says somewhere, 'To love God is to be saved... [but] you do not love God and live for him so you will go to heaven. Whichever side of the grave you happen to be talking about, to love God and live for him is heaven.'
A final word from W.E. Sangster: 'To know "full salvation" is not only to be forgiven and sure of the way home; it is to be so indwelt by Christ, and so loving towards others, that we are ready (with Moses) to be blotted out of the Book of Life if these cannot be saved also. Only Christ can give us love like that. It is his love, loving in us... It can make us unafraid to face the question: "How much are you saved?".'
Different people at different stages of life need to be saved from different things. Some people have to be saved from a nagging sense of guilt that never leaves them. Other people have to be saved from a sense of meaninglessness. Other people need to be saved from terror at the brevity of life.
To be saved by faith means that if I place my trust in God, if I let my attention be focused on God, God will grasp me and will give me yasha, [salvation]. He will give me space, room, and wholeness.
Martin Marty, 'Saved by Faith' in LaVonne Neff et al, Practical Christianity, Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 1988, p. 185.
Nice people don't need to be saved... We never put it to ourselves quite like that, but something very like it is often at the back of our minds when we give thought (if ever we do!) to the subject of salvation... And yet the Bible knows of only two final classes, the saved and the lost. There is no in-between niche for nice people. In the last resort we must be found in one or other of these two classes, and the second doesn't sound inviting...
Leon Morris, Salvation, Beecroft, NSW: Evangelical Tracts and Publications, n.d., p.2.
While we may have some clear criteria whereby a person may decide whether he or she is a Christian, it may be a much more difficult thing sometimes to decide whether one is Christian!
W. Cantwell Smith, 'Christian: Noun or Adjective?' in Questions of Religious Truth, New York: Scribner's, 1967, pp. 99-123, quoted by Paul Trudinger, 'On Being Saved', Canberra: St. Mark's Review, Autumn 1989, p. 22.
...It is both curious and sad that this note of salvation by grace is often muffled in much modern churchmanship. In a message to the Church of Scotland that profound scholar, Professor Tom Torrance, deplores its absence. He claims that we have become so mesmerized by the world's material needs that we have shifted our message away from salvation by grace to salvation by social righteousness and political action. In our obsession with making the church relevant, we have made it the servant of public opinion. To be sure, the Christian is desperately concerned with social righteousness and justice. The black people of South Africa need salvation from the atrocious indignities of apartheid. The starving millions of our world need salvation from poverty and hunger and hopelessness. The victims of oppressive regimes need salvation from cruel injustices. These are all authentic Christian concerns, and must be addressed by the church. But how great and pressing is the need of all for the personal salvation graciously offered by God in Christ crucified and risen again! To withold this gift of grace is to offer stones instead of bread, the Bread of life...
John N. Gladstone, 'Magnificently Charismatic', a sermon preached in Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, Toronto, date unknown, p.3.
The term 'full salvation' has long been loved in some evangelical circles. It is used to indicate the depth of the change Christ can work in a human life and his ability to work the change now. 'Full salvation' is not only pardon from sin but increasing deliverance from it, power to have victory over the inward as well as the outward sins, and victory not only in eternity, but in this life as well. The term grows in meaning... it now has range as well as depth. To have 'full salvation' is to be saved in our relationships as well as in our deep solitariness...
W.E.Sangster, How Much Are You Saved?, Westminster pamphlet no. 11, London: Epworth, 1959, p. 15.
Not what these hands have done,
Can save this guilty soul;
Not what this toiling flesh has born
Can make my spirit whole.
Thy love to me, O God
Not mine, O Lord, to thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest
And set my spirit free.
Literally, 'adding insult to injury', while Jesus hung on the cross, they said 'He saved others, himself he could not save' (Matthew 27:34)... Yet back of the voices of ridicule is a truth as deep as reality itself... They were right! Precisely because he was saving others, he could not save himself. This is the 'law of redemption' that is rooted in the very way our universe is put together. No matter what area of life you are talking about, it has always been true that 'saving others' and 'saving self' are mutually exclusive...
For many years I was troubled by all the theories of atonement that talked about 'blood sacrifice' and 'penal substitution', and it never made sense to me until I realized that not even a God can solve personal problems by the exercise of power alone. If human beings were robots or puppets or objects that could be moved around by force, then salvation could be a simple 'power transaction'. As any parent of a rebellious child knows full well, there are no easy answers to setting right a spirit that has gone wrong. Solutions relying on power wind up destroying the person you want to save. Only by getting involved with the sickness and appealing directly to the heart can resolution come. This is what the Old Testament principle 'Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission or sins' is all about.
John Claypool, 'The Paradox of Salvation', sermon preached at Broadway Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas. (Weekly sermons published by the church, Vol. XIV, No. 2, Nov. 3, 1974).
I believe everyone has another self imprisoned within him or her. It may require soul surgery to bring it out, it will require repentance, a change of heart, conversion, new birth... But the real self is the person Christ loves. He sees within us hidden possibilities, he sees what we might become. Salvation is Christ's gift of 'becoming', enabling us to realise what God intended for us. In the preface to his book The Tragic Sense of Life the Spanish writer Unamuno writes '...A new friend enriches our spirit... by what he causes to discover in our own selves, something which, if we had not known him, would have lain in us undeveloped.'
Ivor Bailey, in a sermon preached from Maugham Church, Adelaide, 7th October, 1973.
According to Kittel's great Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, the Greek word for salvation was used in the ancient world from Homer onwards of 'an acutely dynamic act in which gods or people snatch others by force from serious peril' whether the danger was a battle, a storm at sea, condemnation in a law court, illness or death... We use the same terminology today, when a surgeon saves a patient's life by an operation, the fire brigade saves someone trapped in a burning building, or a rescue team saves a climber stranded on a mountain rockface. In each case somebody is in acute peril. 'Salvation' means nothing unless there is a situation of grave danger from which a person needs to be rescued...
So let me ask you: have you received the salvation which the gospel proclaims? Have you trusted personally in Christ who once secured and now offers this salvation? Only then shall we be able to say from our experience: 'I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.'
John Stott, 'Salvation Today', a sermon preached in All Souls' Church of England, Langham Place, London, on 7 October, 1973. Published in All Souls' Magazine, date unknown, pp. 11-15.
Conversion begins but it never ends. It is an increasing process in which we gradually become more and more what we should be, until, after the day of judgment, these categories of fall, conversion and righteousness disappear and are replaced by new categories of a new life. As Christ says: `I make all things new' (Rev 21:5).
John Garvey (Ed), Modern Spirituality, an Anthology, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1985, p.36.
Lord save me.
Lord, save me from
the sins that separate me from friendship with you,
the wilfulness that leads me to stray from your love and your laws,
and the selfishness that separates me from being there for others.
Save me from
self-despising which separates me from enjoying living with myself,
or the pride which prevents me from seeing myself realistically,
and the immaturity which is unable to accept others' uniqueness.
Deliver me from
bad habits that imprison me in addictive behaviours,
laziness which prevents my realizing your full potential for me,
or workaholism which confuses ends and means.
Rescue me Lord, from
closed-mindedness which prejudices me against receiving a new idea,
or the stubbornness which causes me to be unteachable,
and any bigotry which exalts my beliefs or my group above others'.
Redeem me Saviour, from
the enticements of the world, the flesh and the devil:
the seductions of fame, temptations from lust, or violence which
destroys rather than heals.
Thank you, Lord and Saviour, for the good news that if I believe in you, trust you, commit myself to you, I will be saved. Thank you for doing for me what I cannot possibly do for myself. Help me to change any attitudes, beliefs or behaviours that are not pleasing to you and therefore are unwholesome for me and unhelpful for others.
Help me to ask often,
'What must I do to be saved?'
'Day by day, am I being saved...?'
May God bless you with every good gift from on high.
May he keep you pure and holy in his sight at all times.
May he bestow the riches of his grace upon you,
bring you the good news of salvation,
and always fill you with love for everyone...
May the Lord God be your strength, your song, your
salvation, the stronghold of your life, your fortress, so that you will
never be shaken, and trusting him will not be afraid.
Daily Mass Book, Brisbane, The Liturgical Commission, 1990, p.38 for benediction (first part).
C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, ch. 14. quoted in Kilby, A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C.S.Lewis, London: Geoffrey Bles, 1968, p. 133.
C.S.Lewis, 'I Was Decided Upon', Decision (September 1963), quoted in Clyde S. Kilby (ed.), A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C.S.Lewis, London: Geoffrey Bles, 1968, p. 131.
W.E.Sangster, How Much Are You Saved?, Westminster pamphlet no. 11, London: Epworth, 1959, p. 15. (for quote in homily)
By Rowland Croucher (chapter 3 in GROW! Meditations and Prayers for New Christians, JBCE 1992/1993