For most of my life as a Christian, salvation was a one-time event. You went to the altar call or got yourself baptized and the deal was sealed. I learned in Sunday school and from countless sermons that salvation was through grace or sometimes through faith, depending on the denomination. The primary reason I could be saved was that Jesus died for my sins. I have since discovered that these are half-truths, really.
Before you decide that I am a heretic for questioning the time-honored formulas for salvation, I have to first clarify that I firmly believe in all of the statements of the Nicene Creed. My issue is not with the Bible but with the perception that somehow salvation is a singular event. Without touching the issue of once saved, always saved, I have discovered that when it comes to salvation, it is a regular event. A daily one, really.
Not only is salvation happening continuously, I bear the responsibility for making it happen. I don’t mean that my effort somehow saves me. I mean that in emphasizing only the death of Christ as our means of salvation, we overlook the real source of salvation which is the resurrection. Salvation is the life of Christ lived through me on a day to day basis. If we find our churches weak, could it be because we stop with the cross and neglect the practice of resurrection in our daily lives?
In fact, Romans 5:10 says For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. The death of Christ reconciles us to God. It is the life of Christ that saves us. Saves us from what? This question haunted me for quite a while. Being saved from sin remains an abstract concept if it is tied only to the death of Christ. After all, one can be forgiven and still live with the monkey of habitual sins on one’s back. However, it sure doesn’t look like the resurrection power of Christ, either.
My conclusion is that the acceptance of our salvation is an event, but one that opens the door to a lifestyle of salvation. We must practice being saved. The hallmarks of living a saved life are victory over evil, power from on High, and a life that changes the atmosphere around it. How does this happen? How do we practice this resurrection from being spiritually dead to alive and active?
- Do the things Jesus did. We do not pick up a violin and just play a concerto. We train for years. We surround ourselves with mentors and teachers. We spend hours alone in practice. Why do we think then that we can become spiritual giants with church on Sundays and a quick prayer session on our way to work?
If you want to be like Jesus, you have to act like Him. Solitude, fasting, study, and communing with His Father meant that when the time came for Him to become an itinerant preacher, He was ready. We cannot be like Jesus without these disciplines. Even Jesus couldn’t be Jesus without them. Want to heal the sick? Pray for the sick every chance you get. Want to bring people to a knowledge of Christ? You had better get to know Him so well that He becomes internalized. That way, when people get to know you, they glimpse Him.
- Train in obedience. Remember even Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered.
Our wills are so subtle. It is like we are born thinking we know the right way to do things. Oh, wait. We are born that way. Our hearts are stubborn from the get-go. Let your days begin with praying, “God, show me a better way.”
I had a season where God began testing my obedience by having me put grocery carts back where they belong. When I resisted a little, I found myself waiting in a long line at the grocery store with a sign that explained that loose carts raise food prices and dent cars. It was a treatise on grocery cart etiquette and I stared at it for thirty minutes. I complied, but I also learned how obstinate my heart really was that day. Want to know how much you love God? Evaluate your obedience towards Him.
- Begin to live from the inside out. For many years, I was convinced that my external realities prevented me from experiencing joy. If only my external circumstances changed, then my internal state of being could then change. This is a damned lie. I am not swearing here. I mean very heartily that this lie is from the pit.
When I read accounts of martyrs singing hymns while being burnt alive, I knew that they had found an internal reality that had nothing to do with their external circumstances. When we are told to seek first the Kingdom of God, that should be our first hint that the search is inward. If we would walk in spirit and in truth, then we must first understand what that means.
For me, walking in spirit and in truth means exposing every thought, every action to the Holy Spirit. Walking in the light means allowing God to shine a flashlight into every nook and cranny of your life. He will expose the chains and the lies. One by one, He will unknot the snarls in your psyche until you are walking unhindered in His presence. By the way, this is the working out of your salvation. The fear and trembling come in when you begin to realize the effects of those snarls on not only your life but the lives of those around you.
The practice of salvation is learning how to be saved for the purpose of readying ourselves for the last great moment of salvation, the resurrection of our bodies. We spend our lives here with the great purpose of preparing ourselves as the bride of Christ. Now is our chance to have faith. There is no need of faith in Heaven. Now is our chance to learn obedience. In Heaven, our obedience will no longer be a struggle.
If you want to have more spiritual weight, if you want to be free of those things that dog you, then there is a more effective way than all the best-intentioned resolutions bravely made public on social media. It is the Way, the following in the footsteps of Jesus who lived and moved as one with the Father. So put away any tendency to over-spiritualize your salvation. While you are here on this earth, you must get your hands dirty. Till up the soil of your hearts, prepare the way for the Lord to move. Only then will you get to partake in the Harvest.
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