Alright before the people in my church who I have told not to read this, but who read it anyway, freak out, I’m not 100% clear on all that I am going to be saying here, but some of this just feels right to me.
What if the way that we have been talking about salvation for the past 30 years or so is wrong? What is our emphasis on “conversion” and praying the sinners prayer and getting “fire insurance,” has actually hidden the truth of the gospel. Now I’m a hard core Southern Baptist (or at least I was raised that way) and I do believe in that old once-saved-always-saved philosophy because I think the Bible backs it up. I also believe that people are “saved” even if that isn’t the best term for it. But I can’t for the life of me figure out how we got the idea that someone praying a prayer that has all of the elements in it will make them saved.
I think the biggest way that we have made mistakes is that we put way too much emphasis on Heaven and Hell and not enough on Jesus being the Lord of your life right now. When I hear people talking about evangelism most of what I hear is talking about what happens after we die. But Lordship (and eternal life for that matter) don’t start after we die they start right now. But if you listen to most evangelical people they will talk more about the afterlife than our everyday lives.
Somewhere we have gotten everything turned around and have chosen to believe that Jesus is our Savior first and then he can become our Lord later, but it can’t work that way. We must start with surrendering to Him as Lord and then He can save us from our sins. It is then that we get the benefit of His payment for our sufferings. But if we don’t see Him as Lord then how can we take Him as a Savior because if we don’t see Him as Lord then we don’t see that He has enough power to save us.
Maybe this is getting a little crazy, alright, not maybe it is getting a little crazy, but I am trying to work out in my head a new way of looking at salvation. Our current way seems too much like a transaction for me. Granted it isn’t really a fair transaction, but it seems like a business deal none the less. We confess, we ask, and Jesus saves. That is the plain and simple of it. I am always amazed about how Baptist can speak that and then right afterwards claim that it isn’t by works we are saved. The whole hinge of that plan is what we do (confess and ask) it is all about our works.
I think it my own mind there are 2 words that are very important to this whole thought process: surrender and journey. Salvation at its heart isn’t cleaning up your own life or making a decision or even choosing God. Salvation is simply surrender. It is giving up and stopping fighting. It is finally letting the God who has been chasing you catch you. It isn’t anything that you are doing, in fact it is the opposite of that it is finally stopping doing stuff. It is finally giving up all of your plans to save yourself and just letting God save you.
You see we have all sorts of ways that we try to save ourselves. We try to be the best at our jobs or at a sport. We try to find the right person to love us and maybe like Tom Cruise said “complete us.” We even come to God looking for things that we can do that will at least keep the control with us. I think that is my problem with our current “plan of salvation” is that it is all about us. Most people are all about themselves and salvation comes when all of that is gone. Salvation is at its heart surrender.
I think the next part of salvation is a journey. This is what people who have been to seminary might call Sanctification. But we are walking with God and as we walk with Him we become more and more like Him. As He points out stuff in our life that needs to come under his control we surrender more and more of what we are to Him and He takes what we let go of and makes it wonderful. We can’t know at the beginning all that Lordship will require, but we have a desire to surrender and let God do whatever He wants with us, even if He wants to take our lives.
It is sort of like when you get married. On my wedding day I knew that I loved Meredith, and with all that I understood I wanted to give my self to her. Now several years later I know so much more about her, and love her that much more. Our relationship has grown and changed, but that doesn’t make what I was feeling then less valid I loved all that I could understand at the time. Now I can just understand more.
Alright this has gone on for way to long already. As I was writing I started writing the following new version of the sinners prayer that I think more accurately reflects the attitude of a heart that is ready for God.
Lord, take all of me and do what you will, lead me wherever you want, and even if you choose take my life because I am tired of running anymore. You are bigger than me. You know more than me. You are the creator of the universe and you know better than I do how to live this life. On top of all of that you love me and have proven that love on the cross. You have been pursuing me with that Love and offering me life beyond my wildest dreams. I have been trying my best to be the god of my own life, but that hasn’t worked out. I’m sorry for placing myself above you. I see now that you are the one true God and you and you alone are worthy of my praise. So Lord, I give up. I want to stop running. I want to surrender to you as the one true Lord. I don’t know what all that means, but right now for all that I can see I give my life to you. Lord, I don’t have the strength even to surrender to you. My heart cries out and begs to be the center of attention, but I know that you have the strength to save me from my sin and turn my heart to you. I also know that you love me enough to continue to make me more and more like you. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!