I am Saved

Only One Way to be Saved

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12 HCSB

He bowed his grey head, his wise face serene. The African rainforest loomed behind him, strung with vines and bursting with green.  A monkey shrieked in the distance.

“May our ancestors forgive us and give us blessings,” he said in his tribal language, touching his forehead.

“Amina!” the crowd chorused around him.  It means “amen.”

“May they give us good crops and much rain.”

“Amina.”

“Please accept our sacrifice, ancestors.”

“Amina.”

Then, he tipped the gourd he was holding, spilling a bit of the palm wine out onto the fertile earth.  He touched the wet spot and then his forehead again.  The other elders, all clad in robes of homespun navy and white, crouched down around the puddle to do the same.  Now, they could drink from the gourd.  The sacrifice had appeased their dead relatives, whose spirits would more likely help them now.

These precious people in West Africa trust in the good will of the spirits.  If they have it, their children will live and go to school, their rice harvest will be plenty, their village will prosper.  If they make the spirits angry, though, their babies will die, drought will choke the rice and the village will wither.  Who will save them if the ancestors don’t?

Animism is a religion of fear.

Across the planet, Asian families burn incense to Buddha in gilded temples. On the same continent, Indians strive to please a pantheon of gods. In the Middle East, Muslims try very, very hard to be good and keep all of Allah’s rules. Right here in the United States, millions of people think that if they just live uprightly, God will let them into heaven – even if they’ve never really known His son.

We all have one thing in common.  We all believe in God.  True atheists are rather rare, and I never met one in Africa.  But so many of us from some many different cultures try to reach God through doors he’s said will not open.  He’s made an exclusive path.  It’s not politically correct to say it, but it’s the truth: Salvation is found in no one else but Jesus Christ.

Salvation from what?  From fear.  From rules so numerous we can never keep them. From working so hard to please a god whose favor is not sure at all.

Salvation from wrath.  We deserve a fiery punishment for all we’ve done wrong, and Jesus provided the way out of that – the only way.

Salvation from meaninglessness. Salvation from myself.

I’m saved – by the only savior there is.  Precious Jesus.

I am Saved

Clean Hands and a Smudged Face

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. ~Psalm 51:2, NKJV

This ongoing, forever sure salvation is mine. Given by the amazing grace of God, being revealed daily, and stored up for the time when I meet Him in the home He is preparing.

Yeah, see, this is indeed why an unbeliever quirks their eyebrows at our vocabulary. A question flashes through their mind, so blatant I can read it on their face.

Why do I need to be saved?

You’re a sinner.

Naw, I’m a pretty good person. I pay my taxes, take care of my family, and haven’t stolen anything more important that a pencil.

But you’re still a sinner.

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Kind of like a conversation I had once with my son when he didn’t want to take a bath. “Mom, my hands are clean. I just washed them.”

I looked at his smudged face, inhaled is odoriferous, sweaty little boy stench. “No, son, you’re dirty.”

“But I just washed my hands!”

He couldn’t see his grimy face. He didn’t recognize that he stinks. All he knew is that his hands were clean.

This is our unsaved hearts. I can’t come to God with clean hands and a smudged face—it’d be like my son only washing his hands before going to his uncle’s wedding. He can’t be the ring bearer smelling like last week’s socks and looking like he’d rolled in the dust. It just isn’t done, because it’s rude, it’s disrespectful, and it’s wrong.

We look at our works and maybe think, I’m good. I don’t need a cleansing. But the truth is, without the scrubbing that comes from Christ, we stink.  Every one of us. So when I say that I’m saved, I’m saying that I have been and I am being washed. Washed in the atonement given by the death and resurrection of Jesus, so that now I can go to the wedding. Clean, inside and out.

I am Saved

I am Saved: A Joint Post

I am Saved: A Joint Post

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God though the death of His son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  Romans 5:9-10

From Susan

“Saved” is such a churchy word.  I hesitate to use it when I’m talking to someone outside the church culture, because I’m afraid it will conjure up images of sweaty televangelists and Bible-thumping, out-of-touch do-gooders in my listener’s mind.  But it is such a beautiful word, one that sums up so much amazing theology in a single syllable.  So why does it sound so odd to non-believers?

One of my quirks is that I love English grammar, so bear with me.  I think it’s because in regular English, we don’t go around talking about “being saved” very often.  If a flailing toddler is snatched out of a swimming pool, he doesn’t grow up and tell his girlfriend, “Hey, I’m saved from drowning.”  Oh, he might tell her the story, but not in that syntax.  He’d place it as a one-time event firmly in the past. “When I was 2, my uncle saved me from drowning.”

So why do we Christians put in the present tense so often?  The clue, I think, is in this verse.  We were (past tense) saved from our sins by Jesus’ death on the cross, and we shall be (future tense) saved from the wrath of God because of it.  And right now, today, I am (present tense) reconciled to God, saved from a meaningless life on earth separated from Him.

It’s ongoing, this salvation of mine.  It happened when I was 8 years old.  It’s happening now. And after I die, when I stand before God, it will happen.

From Jen

There is an interesting transition in this verse. Saved means more than the typical “He saved me from my sin” that Christians will often say. That idea, in the context of this verse, is communicated by the word ‘justified.’ A legal term, and not really one that is personal. It means that I have been declared ‘not guilty,’ because of some legitimate cause—in this case, the sacrifice of Christ. In other words, my sin is paid for, so therefore God declares that justice has been met.

This is distant to me. One may have gratitude, or relief because of this legal justification, but it isn’t personal. Not in the way we mean when we say “Jesus is my savior.” But look at the transition in this verse. Our sin has been justified, we are saved from the wrath of God… and having been saved, we are now reconciled…and now that we are reconciled, we are saved.

Is this circular? Perhaps. But follow the progress, because it leads to life. Justified (no longer standing in punishment), saved (from deserved wrath), saved (from both wrath and punishment by the death of Christ) reconciled (brought into a right relationship with God) and then saved (by the life, the resurrection of Jesus, to a life in and with Him).

No wonder we say we are saved, as in the perfect present tense. It isn’t simply a one-time event. It isn’t in the impersonal past. It happened then, it is happening now. I know, because God allows me to have a relationship with Him. I know, because I live.

I belong

Belonging to Christ and Each Other

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.  Gal. 3:28-29 NASB

I belong to Christ, and so I am His heir.  That is rather mind-boggling, to think of being an heir to the God of the Universe.  And I’m not the only one.  There’s a whole passel of us, and this verse puts us all in the same family – Abraham’s descendants.  It points out that no matter our nationalities, occupations or genders, we are all siblings.  We belong to Christ – and to each other.

The past few months, this reality has been so vivid to me.  At the end of June, a church in Oklahoma called my husband as pastor.  They didn’t know us, really. Oh, they interviewed us.  The listened to my husband preach.  But basically, we were strangers.

Only they haven’t treated us that way.  They’ve treated us like family.  Over a dozen of them volunteered to drive Texas to help us paint and repair our house so we could put it on the market in top shape.  A couple of deacons surprised me the next weekend by showing up at my door with big machinery they use in their business.  They just up and landscaped my front yard for me – bushes, decorative rocks, the whole nine yards.  When they were done, the place was so cute that the first people to tour it offered us a contract.  We close today.  Why?  Because my new family helped me.

And moving day?  A whole different group of heirs from our new church drove down with borrowed trucks and trailers.  They hefted my boxes and hauled my furniture across the state line.  Once I arrived, still different siblings brought me dinner every night.  They’ve gone out of their way to invite my children to activities and introduce them to other kids their age so they wouldn’t feel lost their first day of school.  That was yesterday.  And I got several texts from heirs telling me they were praying it would go smoothly, and it did.

I feel like I came home, even though I’ve never lived here before.  The reason is tucked in this verse: We are all one in Christ.

Thank you, Jesus, that I belong to you and your other children.

I belong

Privileges and Responsibilities

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:37-40, NIV

I was working with my daughter on an English assignment today when this passage poured into my mind. Her reading was called “Ali and The Magic Stew,” and it is what I would call a Muslim parable. The story is about a rich young boy, spoiled and unkind, who must live the life of a beggar for a day in order to save his father. It was a good one, and when we finished with the assignment, I extended the lesson, taking my daughter to the book of Matthew.

We’ve thought about belonging this week, really soaking in that comforting truth. But perhaps it would be wise to look past what that means for my comfort. Swishing that around in my mind this afternoon, I mentally traveled back to the first time I’d seen The Blind Side. Sitting in that theater, I was actually in tears ten minutes into the movie. Moved deeply, not because of pity, although I felt that too, but because of conviction. Leanna saw what most people refused to look at and acted on it. I prayed as I wept, ‘God open my eyes.’

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these…”

Belonging to Christ is an enormous comfort. But as is true with privilege almost universally, it demands responsibility. Today I was again prodded by the Spirit—convicted because I have become comfortable, content to live my suburban, middle class life with blinders on to the rest of the world. Sadly, as a church, we have largely neglected the command of Christ, and the responsibility of our calling, to care for the widows and orphans, to lovingly uplift the downtrodden and those in prison. It, by and large, has become standard for us to refer those cases to the hands of a government agency, an action that renders the Church impotent in a culture that grows more proud of its darkness by the day.

Whose fault is that?

Mine. I crave the comfort of privilege while ignoring its calling.

God, open my eyes. You have made me yours, and have assured me that I belong. Show me, Lord, how to be useful.

I belong

Belonging to Christ, not the Law

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

Romans 7:4 NIV

“I just can’t do anything right!  I can’t please you!”  Have you ever yelled those words? Screamed them in your head?  Usually, they are directed at a person whose expectations are just too much for you to meet, but whom you desperately want to make happy.

A father.  A mother.  A husband.  A child. “I love you.  I want you to be pleased with me. I keep trying, this way and that way, with new techniques, new resolve, with effort overflowing, and yet … I fail.  I can’t keep all your rules and follow all your directions perfectly enough to win your favor.”

That’s the position the Israelites were in with the Old Testament law.  They had a gazillion rules to keep, and they kept breaking them, because those Israelites were as human and broken and sinful as you and me.  They had become slaves to the law.  It had become miserable.

And then Jesus came, offering a new way to find God.  Not through rules, but through grace.  This verse describes the turning point.  Before, you were married to the law.  You belonged to it.   But you died to it.  And you have a new life now, one in which you belong to someone utterly unlike the law – Jesus.

Instead of offering us a list of rules and a grumpy face because He knows we’ll break them, Jesus says … Come, be mine.  Let me love you. Give your life to me and let me mold you. Let me point out your sins, not to wear you down but to help you live more freely without their chains. Let me accept you despite all your faults.  You please me, just because … you belong to me.

When we live under that kind of freedom, when we are cherished by God, the good fruits (good works) grow out of grateful hearts transformed, not enslaved hearts striving to try to get it right.

Belonging. Freedom. Joy.  Mine in Christ.

I belong

I Am His

 

“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands . . .” Isaiah 49:15-16, NASB

While oftentimes faithfulness is revealed in the darkest moments in life, I believe that it is forged in the sunshine. The times of plenty are not only times to celebrate the bounty and joy of provision, but they are times to store up for the future. Spiritually, this is essential.

Oh heart of mine, write these words in the deepest places. Brand them so they cannot be removed. He has engraved your name on the palm of His hands–He will not forget you. You belong to Him.

Love this song . . . It played in my mind today as I was pondering this post. I pray it would bless you as it does me.