July 18th 2010

Salvation

“…God, who reconciles us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NIV)
 
I was reading a book on theology, as I often do while sitting in an aeroplane. It was rather quiet for the first hour of the flight. Then the man next to me noticed the book and asked, “So all I have to do is to say a prayer and then suddenly I am a Christian?”

An interesting question. I explained that it is a shame that Christian salvation is often thought of as a transaction, a sort of business deal in which a person says certain things or does certain things and then God reciprocates by giving them salvation.

God has actually already done everything that was needed for human salvation. In Jesus, God has already saved us from our sins and has become the perfect human being on our behalf. Through the Holy Spirit, our heavenly Father opens our hearts to know that he loves us and accepts us and wants us. The Holy Spirit makes Jesus real, and through the Spirit, the believer comes to know Jesus and live in union with Jesus. The resurrected Jesus is real to an authentic Christian and, through Jesus, the believer has fellowship with the Father. In other words, the gospel is all about knowing Jesus, not just knowing and acknowledging facts about him.

When the person and work of Jesus are limited to historical facts and memorised verses, the whole point of reconciliation is lost. The good news is that God loves us and wants a relationship of peace and joy with us. And it is through Jesus that God has made that happen.

As it turned out, the man I was talking to was a non-practicing Jew. His final words to me as the ’plane landed were: “I highly respect what you just explained to me. I must think about this more.” As we went our separate ways, 1 Peter 3:15-16 came to my mind: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….”

The reconciliation that Paul talks about in second Corinthians is not only with God, but also with our fellow human beings. It is a transformation of the heart, a new life that is made spiritually clean and whole from the inside out so that we can eternally be free from all the many forms of human dysfunction that cause conflict and pain, even though we still experience dysfunction in this life.

When the centre of our life is made right with God, we become free to respond positively to the ups and downs of this life in the flesh. In biblical language, the heart is the centre of our being and, by the gift of God exercised through faith in Jesus Christ, the heart of an authentic Christian becomes centred on God. It’s all by grace.

In Christ, God has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. It’s a gift to be received with thanksgiving.

Prayer
Holy Father, the message of salvation in its pureness and simplicity is one that can convict even the sceptical but is so alien to our natural way of thinking that it so often becomes illogical. Help us to understand it clearly and so to impart it to those who ask of us clearly. In Jesus’ name.
Amen

Study by Joseph Ttkach

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