When we read the term 'saved' what do we think? I have heard some say that 'saved' means praying the salvation prayer at the altar. Some think being saved is having an overwhelming feeling of God's Spirit telling us that our sins are forgiven and that we are children of God. Some think that we will all be saved and that somehow all of this life is 'washed out' by God's desire to bring all people to heaven. Some don't think of salvation at all and feel that we live life, do good deeds, and that this life is the beginning and end of our existence. Truly there are so many permutations of this idea of salvation that I could write entire books about the options. And isn't it amusing that in formulating our idea of salvation, we often leave out the only opinion that counts ... God's!
Sunday we will examine a grace called Justifying Grace. Justifying Grace is God's free (but not cheap) gift to us where a good and perfect God chooses (not on our merits but because of His goodness) to provide a way of reconciliation with Him. That way is named Jesus ... the sinless man who dies as a sacrifice for all sins. We are reconciled to God by Jesus and are 'justified' by His act of love, forgiveness and life-giving sacrifice. We are both saved from what we have done and saved to a life of service and devotion to the one we call Lord and Savior. This grace is better than mercy (not getting what we deserve) and better than justice (getting what we deserve). It is, in fact, getting something good that we don't deserve.
One point I will make both today and Sunday is one thing salvation is not. Francis Chan asks if Jesus' life, death and resurrection was all so we could go down to an altar or attend a 'mountain-top' camp, pray a prayer and then live life as if our ticket is assured for the heavenly banquet Jesus speaks of in Scripture? He makes the point that we often treat that moment as the end of a journey ... not the beginning of a journey. We cheapen the life in Christ to a moment in time ... not a life of following.
Maybe this is why we have so many church people who dutifully attend services but do not participate in His service. Maybe this is why we have a nation full of people who say they are 'Christians' but so little 'Christ.' Maybe this is why many non-Christians love Jesus and have animosity toward the Church. Maybe it is why many in the Church are worried about how holy we look instead of being humbled by how lowly we are. Maybe this is why we want our expectations met in Church but are unconcerned about the expectations of Jesus.
John the Baptist placed himself in this place of awe, humility and servant-hood when he saw Jesus and said "He must increase and I must decrease [John 3:30 NRSV]." Maybe life in Christ is a perpetual process of us becoming less, Jesus becoming more ... until all that is left looks like Him. That doesn't sound like an event, a momentary emotion or a mountaintop profession ... it sounds like a journey. Pastor Randy