A Million Ways to be Saved

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Mel slowly admitted how distant she felt from God, how distant she had always felt. Even though she had walked the aisle at church multiple times and given her life to the Lord on numerous occasions, she still felt disconnected.  “It’s like there is a blockage between us,” she whispered with tears in her eyes, “And I just can’t figure out what it is.”

“What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

Ask this questions to different Christians and you will probably get multiple answers.

  • Pray the sinners prayer
  • Ask Jesus into your heart
  • Raise your hand, walk the aisle, etc
  • Make Jesus the Lord of your life
  • Repent
  • Be Baptized
  • Admit, Believe, Confess (ABC)
  • Receive the Holy Spirit
  • Etc.

Good old “Christianese”, the words and phrases that we Christians throw around without considering their meaning. It’s a problem, and I’m guilty too. Until a few years ago, answering the question from Acts 16:30 terrified me. Honestly, I avoided having to “share the gospel” if possible. When an opportunity presented itself, I often went with kind but meaningless things like “God loves you” or “I’m praying for you”. Those words sound nice, but they aren’t the Good News!

It wasn’t until I went to Bible school (at Frontier School of the Bible) with my new husband, and sat in a Personal Evangelism class taught by Dr. Richard Seymour that it finally clicked!

Strangely enough, I wasn’t the only one there who had never understood salvation. My college friend, Kristine, who had been in church her whole life, ended up trusting in Jesus because of Dr. Seymour’s class. Something he says happens every year!

Seriously? Every year people who love God enough to want to go into full-time ministry come to Bible school, hear the clear gospel, and get saved? What is wrong with our churches? Maybe it’s our Christianese!

What exactly is it that saves us?

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

By grace, through faith, not by works. As in, it is not based on anything I DO! Well, that knocks off praying a prayer, raising a hand, walking an aisle, repenting, being baptized, etc.

What about “Ask Jesus into your heart”? This phrase is incredibly confusing, especially if you take it literally. And who does it get used with most? Incredibly literal children.

The Bible tells us that we are given the Holy Spirit once we are saved as a guarantee of our salvation. So, we don’t have to ask for Him to come in. Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9-10. 

Revelation 3:20 talks about Jesus standing at a door, knocking, but it is not talking about the “door of our heart.” And, when you read it in context you will see that the verse is being written to a Christian church and it is not talking about salvation.

Hmmm… So, why do we use this phrase when telling someone how to be saved?

And, “make Jesus the Lord of your life?” This is the idea that in order to be saved, or as an evidence of salvation, a person must completely surrender, give Jesus total control, and make Him “Lord”. Isn’t Jesus already the Lord whether we live like it or not? And isn’t this basing our salvation on works?

I feel like this approach has good intentions, but misses the mark because often people end up either trusting or doubting based on their own actions…if they are making Jesus Lord. There is too much emphasis put on me and my performance, and not enough emphasis on Jesus and what He accomplished for me on the cross. Christians who believe in lordship salvation have a lot of verses they use to back up this idea, but I’d encourage you to look them up and put them in context.

So, then, how can I be saved?

I listened to my new friend as she shared her heart and her frustrations with Christianity and God. She wanted to be close to God, but it wasn’t working. I asked if I could share some verses with her. We turned to John 3:16-18

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (A familiar verse) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” 

“What if you have always struggled to feel close to God, because you never understood salvation?” I asked. “What if you were always trying to do something instead of believing in and accepting what Jesus has already done?

Mel examined the verses in front of her. “Can it really be that easy?”

I smiled, “I think it is.”

She signed, and I could almost watch a weight fall off her shoulders. Then she smiled.

I don’t know if that was the moment Mel trusted Jesus, but the when and how aren’t really important…the important thing is that we do!

What do you think? Too easy? What are you reacting to? What emotions are you feeling?Want to know more? I’d love to hear from you!

I included a link to Dr. Richard Seymour’s website. I’m also including a link to a Facebook note about salvation that I wrote back in 2008 after sitting through Dr. Seymour’s class. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Living in the Real World of Gray

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I was raised in a world of black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, us vs. them. Granted, my parents were more tolerant than a lot of families I knew, but the atmosphere was still there. And, it didn’t help that I naturally tend to think this way anyway.

Let me give you some examples. Oy!

Wrong and bad things (in no particular order): dating, college, women wearing pants, public school, blue jeans, bearded men, women with short hair, being friends with the opposite sex, Disney movies, any movie rated more than PG, movie theaters, white bread, pork, music with a “back-beat” aka rock and roll, CCM, country, etc, tattoos, multiple piercings, you get the point.

Good and right things (contrasted to the bad ones): courtship, women in skirts and dresses, homeschooling, khaki slacks (for males), clean shaven faces, women with long, flowing, gently curled hair, sticking with friends of your own gender, movies rated G and PG that weren’t Disney, preferably old fashioned ones, fresh made, whole wheat bread, beef and chicken, classical music or instrumental hymns, one set of small stud earrings for females only, blah, blah, blah.

Okay, that’s extreme you say. What does this have to do with me?

Here is what I have noticed. Christians, even “normal” ones are often terrible at living in the real gray world. We choose sides, and fight to the death about stupid issues that aren’t even that important in the long run. We alienate people with our feisty opinions about politics, abortion, homosexuality, the End Times, Calvinism, debt, divorce, health care, etc. Before you get all mad at me for putting some of those topics in the category of “stupid issues”, let me say that I believe in personal opinions and convictions based on Biblical truths. But, our convictions and opinions should never be stronger than our love for people and our desire to see them meet Jesus.

If we have truly met Jesus in a real and personal way, if we have experienced His amazing grace and forgiveness, if we are overwhelmed by His love for us, then there should be one and only one issue that motivates us. Sharing the real Jesus with the world!

I’m sure as you’ve read this, other “hot topics” have popped into your mind. It’s not that I don’t have opinions about things like breastfeeding, organic foods, school options, political leanings, abortion, and gay marriage. I just realize that my opinions and beliefs don’t make me more or less “godly”. I’m okay with not being “right”. I know that there is only one thing that changes my status before the God of the Universe: what I choose to believe about Jesus.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:17-18

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Too often Christians forget that God didn’t rescue us so that we would be “perfect”. He made us blameless through Jesus so that we can have a relationship with Him. Why do we get so caught up in changing peoples’ actions and beliefs to make them look “more Christian” instead of teaching them to know Jesus so that He can change them from the inside out as He sees fit. Do we doubt the power of the Holy Spirit? Do we forget that He is real? Why do we put so much value on “outward” goodness while ignoring our own inner struggles and sins? What if all Christians set aside the things that divide us and chose to help each other really get to know Jesus. What if our love for Jesus and our passion to share Him with everyone around us was stronger than our differences? What if we cared more about Jesus than about being right?

ID-100365286Truth is that while there are some “black and white” truths in the Bible and in the Christian life, there is also a lot of gray.We need to welcome the gray even if it scares us and makes us uncomfortable. Because that gray area is where freedom happens and where our relationship with Jesus grows. There is room for gray because there is room for growth and change.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.:-)

Finding Hope this Christmas

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The lights seemed to twinkle. I sat in the quiet morning, the only one awake, staring at my Christmas tree. My Bible was in my lap; a cup of coffee in my hand. I should have been feeling peace and contentment, delighting in this special season, right? Yeah, not so much. Instead, I was very aware of the wrongness in the world, and I was feeling depressed, dissatisfied, and hopeless.

“Why, God? Why don’t you stop it? Why don’t you fix it? The world is so screwed up! When are you going to do something?”

“Two thousand years ago”

It always surprises me when God actually answers me, not out loud, but in my heart. (Although, out loud would be surprising too!)

I was out of time at the moment, kids to wake up and get out the door. So I couldn’t keep contemplating God’s answer. A couple hours later, I was alone driving in the car and my thoughts went something like this…

Yup, the world is a mess; it’s broken. Christmastime can make us even more aware of that brokenness. This deceptive holiday pretending it should be a time of warmth, smiles, and tingly feelings, but often more a time of stress, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and frustration. Humph! But, what am I supposed to be celebrating? Jesus. The hope of the world. Baby Jesus. This story is too familiar. God, let me see it new!

Jesus coming to earth. This is where everything really changed. Before Jesus: laws, and rules, and animal sacrifices, reminding us that we couldn’t be perfect, that we were separated from God. There were promises of hope, vague prophecies yet to be fulfilled, stories that pointed to something coming, but it wasn’t clear. And then, something crazy happened, something hinted at, but never guessed. The Creator became one of His creations. God quietly slipped into the world. Coming as a baby. The Savior was here. Hope was born.

I found myself crying and smiling at the same time.

The world hasn’t changed. It’s still a broken mess. But, Jesus… Jesus brings hope.

I would encourage you these next few weeks to find a quiet chunk of time where you can really contemplate what it meant for Jesus to come to Earth. Let it sink in and be reminded of the hope we have because of Him!

 

Stay tuned! I’ve got more to say about Jesus. 🙂 Up next, how Jesus destroys our false views of God!