Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Minimum for Salvation

It was one of the most eclectic groups of pastors I have ever been in, and we were all navigating our way through a class on Systematic Theology 101. The teacher had a Reformed background, but the pastors ranged from Arminian to Calvinist in their experience. They all agreed that they were at least saved, but they could not agree if they were saved before or after they repented. You might not be familiar with the debate on this, but it is humorous at times. Another thing they could not agree on was “how they stay saved”.

How to stay saved. It is also not a new debate, but I will state my belief here and now. Trying to stay saved is like concentrating on keeping my heart beating. The thing will beat whether I think about it or not, and thinking about it too much will probably shorten my life due to stress. Striving to “stay saved” will also wreck our walk with God. He keeps my heart beating in the same way He keeps me in His hand.
Jn 10:28-29

Anyway, the teacher was talking about grace that day, and those of a legalistic persuasion were getting nervous because all their “works” and energy to stay saved were being rendered null and void with each consecutive verse from the teacher. Then one pastor knew he had the question that would stump the teacher.

“So then, what is the minimum someone has to do to be saved?”

The teacher paused just long enough to inhale enough air to answer. He neither planned to hear such a question that day nor did he plan the answer that he gave. It just popped out to the astonishment of all the listeners.

“The minimum to be saved is the same as the maximum to be saved.” No one expected such an answer, and most of the class had that expression on their faces that puppies have when people try to talk to them, just a slight tilt of the head to one side and a tightening of the brow. It was a wonderful moment that I have never forgotten.

The teacher went on to explain several simple truths, and a few of these are from me:

  • It is not what we do to be saved, but it is what Jesus did to save us. He did the work. Rom 11:6
  • The Holy Spirit reveals to us that we are lost, no hope, no exit, just very lost. Jn 16:5-15
  • The Holy Spirit brings to life whatever we have read, seen or even thought about concerning the gospel and our lives.
  • The Holy Spirit reveals to us the person and ministry of Jesus through whatever we have read, seen or even thought about.
  • Something happens in us, a breaking, a softening. We can sit quietly, we can wail in terror or we can laugh. It makes no difference how we respond with our emotions.
  • In the end we yield; we give way to Another. He takes control ever so gently and turns everything to a new direction. This is repentance.

So then, where is the work? Sorry I left out our contribution, but it comes in various forms:

  • We work hard to resist the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives before we are saved…and sometimes even afterwards.
  • We work hard to convince people they are lost. Sorry, it is not our job. The Holy Spirit does the convicting.We are to be living witnesses who share our hope.
  • We work hard to punish ourselves even after God has forgiven us.
  • We try to clean our spiritual house with bulldozer techniques instead of letting God gently remove the baggage.
  • We run so far ahead of God in His plan to the point of exhaustion. He then walks by as we are straining at the oars – He is usually walking on water – and He instantly brings us to our destination. Mark 6:45-52; Jn 6:16-21

Yes, we do a lot of unnecessary work trying to help Jesus finish what He has already done and accomplish in our strength what He plans to do through us by His strength.

Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Heb 10:14