Monday, December 29, 2008

The Gospel of the kingdom 7: A Never-Ending Story

Salvation is a life-long process. It doesn’t begin at Law One and end with a prayer after Law Four! I like the children’s fantasy film The Never Ending Story. After the film, just before the credits begin to role, instead of saying “The End” it says “The Beginning.” The adventure has just begun! They released a fourth part to The Never Ending Story, so I guess we can take them at their word. Like marriage, when you say your vows, the engagement is over, but the marriage has just begun! When you say the prayer to commit to Jesus, it’s not the culmination of your salvation⎯it’s the beginning!

The gospel is not just for the unbeliever, but the Christian. It's the power of God for salvation for those who believe (Rom. 1:16 emphasis added). In fact I don’t think the non-Christian will take the cross seriously for him or herself until we take it seriously for ourselves! It’s not enough that we have once tasted the blessing of the cross. To attract the lost to Jesus, we need to have an appetite for the gospel ourselves. The more it means to us, the more attractive it will be to the lost. Why should they be interested in that which we give feigned interest in ourselves? If they don’t see that we need it ourselves, then why would they feel compelled to need it themselves?

Salvation is so much more than mere fire insurance or reservations made in heaven. It is not just a “Get-out-of-hell-free Card.” Salvation is a transformed life. Salvation is a becoming. Regeneration is an ongoing process of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Each of us should be more like Christ this year than we were the year before. Our lives should reflect more of the grace and truth found in Christ next year than they do this year.

I have as much or more need to take up my cross and follow Jesus today as I did years ago when I first started on this path. My need for freedom remains. My need for being cleansed and renewed is as strong or stronger than ever before. I once heard Billy Graham, who has walked with God much longer than I, say, “The closer I get to heaven, the more aware of hell I become.”

Theologians refer to this ongoing salvation process as sanctification. It means to be set apart for significance. The idea is that we are in a process of becoming closer to who we are to be in heaven⎯closer to being like Christ Himself. If we are truly moving closer to God, nearer to holiness, our awareness of our own flesh must become more obvious to us. Our sensitivity to sin and its subtleties should increase as we grow closer to Christ.

Some older Christians have done away with certain obvious sins, and their spiritual life is now placid and in their own minds holy. But comparing ourselves with ourselves is foolishness and is not anywhere near what holiness is all about (2 Cor. 10:12). For one who is truly becoming sanctified in Christ, the more they take on the character of Christ, the more they realize the distance they still have to go to realize the fullness of Christ.

We should all experience a deep hungering for the things of God as we know Him better, not a duller routine of spiritual and cultural behaviors suitable to be labeled “Christian.” There is so much more in Jesus, we have not even come close to the fullest knowledge of Christ.

We must recognize that salvation is more than a decision made at the end of the saw dust aisle in a tent. Salvation is a process. It is a state of being. It is also a destination. It is so much more than what is sold to people from most pulpits, tracts, and crusades today.

1 comment:

pilgrim7 said...

100 people were crowded into an Irish pub. According to the latest statistics only 2 would be gospel-trusting in their relationship with God. While in full knowledge of these statistics, if one of the pair would turn to the other and asked, "How many of these people in here need the gospel?" the answer would betray if he or she really understood the gospel of Jesus and the apostles. If they said 98 they get the gong. If they said 100 they may be getting the core teaching of the NT. As T. Keller often says, "the gospel is not the A,B,C's of the Christian life, it is the A to Z." The whole gist of the 2nd book written in the New Testament - Galatians - is "everyone needs the gospel all the time." Good post Neil. Cheers, Roy.