What We Must Do (9)
… for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14.17
Faulty views of the faith
Ask the unbelievers you know what they think of Christianity, and you’re likely to get a variety of responses.
Some might say it’s good for those who need it, making it clear that they, being independent and self-sufficient find such a psychological crutch unnecessary.
Others might say they think the faith of Christ has become irrelevant in our day, which is why they regard it as irrelevant to their lives.
Still others might flare up, get indignant, and start accusing you of trying to cram your religion down their throats.
It’s not likely, however, that many will say, concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that it is the key to helping people learn to live together in mutual love and respect, so that everyone can flourish and be at peace, society and culture can be beautified and enriched, and everyone can know true joy and lasting fulfillment. After all, if they believed that, wouldn’t they be Christians already?
Why are so many faulty views of Christianity floating about these days? It’s not primarily because aggressive unbelievers have misrepresented the faith or exaggerated its failings. For all their boasting and bluster, their straw-man caricatures of the faith, and their outright lies and distortions, they haven’t really had much success in persuading people to their position, as we’ve seen.
Mostly these misrepresentations of Christianity exist because we who hold the faith of Christ have not been clear about what we believe, why we believe it, and why believing in Jesus makes a difference in our lives. Paul was clear, as he spoke to the philosophers on Mars Hill. Stephen was so clear, that no one in that angry crowd misunderstood his message. Certainly Jesus was clear about what it means to believe in and follow Him.
But Christians today, who have become largely silent when among the lost of this secular age, have not been clear about the faith, and, as a result, false understandings have filled the vacuum of notions about what kind of religion Christianity is. And, on top of that, we haven’t exactly lived, in a caring, courageous, and consistent manner, the beliefs and convictions we claim to hold dear. If we’re looking for someone to blame for the widespread misunderstanding of Christianity in our day, we only need to look around on Sunday morning.
But we are Christians, presumably, because we find that Jesus brings an experience of life, purpose, meaning, joy, and peace that nothing else has managed to provide. So why have we been so reluctant to proclaim this to our under-the-sun generation?
The day of salvation
The Apostle Paul declared, “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6.2). Now. But the fact of salvation seems to have eluded most people, including a great many of those who profess to possess it. What does it mean to be saved? Saved from what? Saved for what? So it’s the day of salvation: just what does that mean?
The Biblical idea of salvation carries the meaning of wholeness, of rediscovering true humanness. It means being set free from the snares and chains of mere lust and foolish self-interest – all that under-the-sun living Solomon warned his son against – so that we can discern more noble aspirations and pursue more fulfilling and satisfying paths.
Throughout the course of human history those who have known the salvation which God grants us through Jesus Christ have been responsible for bringing more in the way of beauty, goodness, and truth to the human experience than any other movement, philosophy, or religion. In every area of culture and society, the presence of the saved has meant liberation for human creativity, genius, and wellbeing. Yes, of course, there have been problems along the way and blips in the road. Christians aren’t perfect, as we know.
But where the salvation of God has truly taken root in a person’s life, everything begins to change. The life and love of Jesus replace mere self-interest, the peace of eternal rest overcomes all anxiousness and fear, and joy that nothing can shake or steal settles over the soul. In such a condition, people begin to flourish as never before. Together in their flourishing, the followers of Christ bear the fruits of their salvation in culture in ways that delight as they ennoble, and in societies, such that freedom and justice abound for all.
Now is the day of salvation! The Kingdom of God has come to earth, and righteousness, peace, and joy are expanding all over the world. If you are not experiencing this, it may be that your view of salvation is simply too small. If being saved means to you only that your sins are forgiven and you’re going to heaven when you die, then you don’t really understand the full power and scope of what Jesus has accomplished on your behalf. He Who is making all things new is ready to do the same in your life and, through you, into every arena of your life – all your relationships, roles, and responsibilities.
The Christian hopes for the glory of God (Rom. 5.1, 2), that is, that he might see God at work in and through him to bring honor and glory to His Name in all we are, think, say, and do. Now is the day of such a great salvation – now! And those who are saved strive to realize that glorious salvation more and more each day.
1. As you understand it, what does it mean to be “saved”? Saved from what? Unto what? For what?
2. Do you think we as a community of believers have done a good job of helping people to understand why salvation is such Good News? How about your church? Why or why not?
3. What are some examples you might point to, from the course of human history, to demonstrate the power of the Good News of Jesus and His Kingdom?
Next steps – Preparation, Conversation: How well do you understand the meaning of salvation? Ask some of your Christian friends what it means to be saved. Then listen to some music by Johann Sebastian Bach and ask yourself, what did it mean for Bach to be saved? Or read some poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins, view some paintings by Rembrandt or Vermeer, and ask: What did it mean for these people to be saved? Where do you sense a need for more of our great salvation in your life?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.