Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It Is Hard To Be Saved

Before I began to take my faith seriously I used to laugh at bumper stickers that said. “Jesus Saves.”  I was always tempted to take a sharpie and write “at Citibank,” right after the little slogan. Thankfully, I never acted on the temptation. I think the reason that the whole topic seemed so silly to me was that from all outward appearances, we in today’s America had better lives than the entire human race before us; just what were we supposed to be saved from? My secular way of thinking told me that we were safe, and that this kind of talk was to be kept within the walls of the church and not as an intrusion into my field of vision outside of church.

It was not until I was in my early 30's that I was introduced to the theology of the Western Reformation. It was then that I heard for the first time that God knew everything that I had ever done, said, thought, and wanted, and being the perfect being- he was extremely offended, so offended that he could not bear to even look at me. It is here that I was told that Jesus, the Son of God was loving and for that reason He became man to take on the punishment of the angry God and Father for me and all sinners who would receive his sacrifice by faith. 

I finally understood what saved meant; or at least that is what I thought. I accepted the reformation’s claim that to be saved meant to be saved from the Anger of God, because God loved me in spite of His wrath.  It was comfortable to believe that all I needed to do I order to be saved was to believe in my mind, and confess with my mouth that Jesus is my Lord, and I would be transferred from the Damned column into the saved column. Faith alone in Christ alone is all that was required- EASY!  My actions, important as they might be, would never affect my justification so long as I believed. This would remain my understanding for the next 15 years. 

It was not until I discovered Eastern Orthodoxy that this Western truncation (reduction to a small portion of the whole truth) began to become visible to me.  I must say that I all of this time I whole heartedly believed every word of the Nicene Creed. Yet, I was not able to see the Way, the Truth and the Life (Christ) as presented in the New Testament.  Due to this truncation my interpretive grid was off just enough to skew the person of Christ and thus ‘salvation’.  What I learned from Orthodoxy, the faith of the one undivided church until today, was that ‘salvation’ was nothing less than becoming exactly like Christ by the grace of God (deification).  The wrath of God was not the center of salvation. If God is one, how could one person be angry and not the others?  In fact, it is the one constant love, mercy, longsuffering, and compassionate love of the one united God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that is the driving force behind salvation. What I needed to be saved from was from myself. I needed to be saved from my darkened heart and mind that was bent on destotting the likeness of God to which every person is called.  What I needed to be saved from was sin and death that dwelt in me.

This meant that I had to begin to see “being saved” as something altogether different; it began to seem as an extreme sport of transformation, and as something that would require my every breath. I finally understood the Lord meant when he said He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  There is never a moment that my attitude, thoughts, words, or act that does not affect my salvation. Moreover, I began to understand that I should never assume that I am saved until I have attained unto the image of Christ.  Salvation is not what I believe in my mind alone, but rather what I believe with my whole person. I began to understand that it is unacceptable not to grow I holiness daily, weekly, monthly, and so on. Salvation is Christ-likeness, nothing less will do!

What then do I find?  I find a great deal of unbelief in myself.  I find that it is much easier to be satisfied with simply believing that God the Father is no longer angry at me because of the Cross.  I find that I would like to be like Christ, but that I just don’t want to have to work at it very hard.  I find that of which St. Paul speaks in Romans 7.  I find that I would prefer to have Christ to do it for me.  I find that I have to constantly preach the gospel to myself: “The kingdom of heaven has arrived (Mat 10: 7).” I find that I constantly forget that I am on a journey to that kingdom of God empowered by His grace, and that I like to pretend that I have arrived. I find that ‘salvation’ is hard.  Yet, salvation, Christ likeness is what the gospel offers to those who desire it, and God in Christ loves to give it to all mankind.

In Thy kingdom remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest in Thy kingdom.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward is great in heaven.