Here at SSU, we’ve started out the year with a theme of various members of the community sharing their stories/testimonies in chapel. I was asked to share, and I did so this past Thursday.
For starters, I had mostly forgotten that I was going to do so. It’s not like I had to prepare what I was going to say: it’s my life and I know where I’ve come from. I’ve also had the opportunity to share this story many times because God has given me a good story that should be told. And no, I won’t be telling it now.
When I tell my story, it’s raw. It’s also quite dramatic, because that’s the way God did things with me. For all you people who feel inferior because you’ve had a comparably “boring” life story: be thankful. Dramatic is not fun to live. But I digress.
What’s the point of me saying all of this? Well, for starters, the story of my coming to faith has a definite moment of coming to faith. It makes for a natural ending to the story, but that’s deceptive because it’s also just a beginning. This is especially more true as more and more time-over six years now-passes from the moment I started to follow Jesus.
The next day, a friend thanked me for sharing my story and asked if I still tell my story the same way that I used to. I said no, definitely not. As I thought about why, I thought about how much has changed in my understanding of faith, salvation and what it means to be a Christian.
Before, I would have told my story in a way that made my “moment of salvation” the entire focus and climax of the story, reflecting a gospel of sin management that ignores the rest of life. This salvationism is what is preached by many good and sincere evangelical Christians who fail to see that this gospel has nothing to say about the rest of life. It’s what I was indoctrinated into.
Now, however, I definitely tell my story differently. I no longer divide my life in pre-saved and post-saved. I’m still working out my salvation and will be until the day that I die. I still ended my story with the moment that I decided to follow Christ, but I did so in a way that said that this was a dramatic event that served as a transition from one chapter of my life to the next.
Salvation is about the past, present and future. I need saving for today and tomorrow just as much as I did for yesterday. I am presented with the choice of whether or not to follow Jesus on this journey on a daily basis. I will say yes, with his help.
18 responses to “Change”
Funny you said that. Funny because it kind of echoes some of my present headspace and because I shared a bit of my testimony at house group on Wednesday and, like you, must confess that I tell it a lot differently. I put more stress on the whole picture (my 6 years of following him) than on the initial conversion experience.
I definitely resonate with that Matt, though I find it more difficult to integrate that idea of salvation into my worldview, but what else is new.
Regent and St. Stephens seem like they are on the same page to me. Good stuff. =)
Matt, I see what you are saying. However, for me what you are describing is salvation vs. Salvation. I think there is pre-Saved and post-Saved but as a Christian there are moments of being saved and not-saved but that doesn’t affect thefact that you are Saved. Does that make sense with the capitalization and not capitalization?
You say “this gospel has nothing to say about the rest of life.”: However, I feel you are misrepresenting Evangelicalism. You fail to recognize that Evangelicals DO focus on the rest of the life by recognizing the importantce of Sanctification and Discipleship both done while one is Saved or has received Salvation. What do you think? I think this explaination takes away the extremism of both sides and place the importance on both the Salvation moment AND living for Him therafter as equal and mutually exclusive importance. DH
Hey DH, thanks for coming by.
While I may be guilty of hyperbole, I do believe that a gospel that is about a moment of salvation that guarantees you your spot in heaven does not leave much motivation for anything like sanctification and discipleship.
Sure, the Bible and the social pressures of churches will still impell one in those directions, but I do not believe that a gospel that is merely about a moment of salvation contains much of anything within itself to do so.
The problem here is probably one of terminology. While evangelicals like to separate salvation and sanctification, perhaps we could learn from the Catholics who combine both of those evangelical terms as two sides of the same salvation.
“…does not leave much motivation for anything like sanctification and discipleship.”
If one isn’t motivated to sanctification and discipleship from their “so-called” salvation experience than I would question if the person was really saved in the first place. If a person truly accepted Christ with all their heart soul and mind they will want to do the works asked of them by God. “If you love Me you will keep My commandments.” Why combine3 the two and thus reject the Faith that happens when one “confess with your mouth the LJ and Believe in your heart that god has risen from the dead you shall be saved.” It doesn’t say if you do a bunch of works,etc. but “you shall”. I still don’t understand the combination when the combination denys Faith that is actually there and that that is also a “work”, Faith.
Hi again DH. (at least I’m guessing the last anonymous comment is you again?)
Again, I do have some troubles with your line of thought, but some agreement too. Firstly, I had a tremendous experience of God that I would still call a salvation moment, even if I’d be hesitant to call it that around people who didn’t understand what I am and am not saying by that. It did precisely what you said it should: it propelled me on towards a desire for discipleship and sanctification like you wouldn’t believe. I can still hardly believe it, but I was there!
My problems are twofold. The first is this: what about people who can never point to a salvation experience, but have steadily grown in faith. Lacking a singular experience, where is the motivation for these people?
My second problem comes from my own experience. Sure, I had a blast of zeal after my own dramatic salvific moment, but it sure did sputter after about two years. I needed something beyond just my experience to propel me forward, and a mentor of mine pointed me in this direction when she shocked me by saying that “I don’t think we should even talk about getting saved anymore.”
And to come back to your use of Romans 10 about confessing and you shall be saved. Paul talks about salvation in a number of ways within different contexts. Here is certainly a case for some kind of salvation moment, but that still leaves us with the first problem I mentioned about people who are obviously Christians who cannot point to such a moment.
Also, what about other times where Paul says to “work out your salvation” (Phil 2:2) and Peter says that we can “grow into Salvation.” (1Pet 2:2) There seems to be some ongoing aspect of salvation here that would be easier to explain away for the sake of tidy theological systems.
Anyways, that’s a snippet of my journey of understanding. Thanks for thought-provoking dialogue DH.
I guess I see a little bit but I would venture those who can’t point to a moment would have a time where they “confessed with their mouth and Believed with their heart that God rose from the dead”. It might havetaken time faith to faith but ultimately faith to Faith, if you get my drift.
On thesecond one. I think some of what Paul was talking about on salvation is actually Sanctification and other is with regard to Salvation. This seems like a contradiction but it isn’t for it is equivilent to salvation and Salvation, if you get my drift. I believethe “work out your salvation” isreferring to Sanctification working out the salvation with the Salvation you already have. So I agree that there is more to Salvation that Salvation and that that particular thing that you are referring to IMO is actually Sanctification.
Also, on a side note, I too agree that it can “fizzle” that is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit not thatwe don’t have all of God becausewe do but that we need and outpoaring from what we received at the time of our Salvation. For me I got Saved when I was five accepting Christ as my Savior and at 18 received the out-poaring of the HS I received at five.
So “grow into salvation” is actually that “grow into salvation” not “grow into Salvation”. A more equivilent term to salvation, as opposed to your Salvation, would be “grow into Sanctification”. For all who Believe by Faith the motivation is Sanctification. I think those who can’t point to a moment have a moment and that the motivation thereafter is Sanctification. What do you think? dh
A pleasure once again DH. I’m curious: are you somebody I know or just a cyberpilgrim who has wandered in?
Anyways, as to you first part about confessing with your mouth somewhere along the way, I agree that it’s essential somewhere along the way to declare that Jesus is Lord. To me it would seem that this finds agreement with my journey metaphor.
As for your turning salvation into sanctification in the two passages I mentioned, I both agree and disagree. While it is convenient theologically to think of salvation and sanctification as two separate things, I think that it is also eisegesis. If Paul meant to say sanctification, why didn’t he? He was an intelligent man; surely he could have said what he meant. If he actually said what he meant, then it’s quite possible that things we think of under the heading of sanctification more rightly belong as part of salvation.
I’m not sure what else to say. I’m somewhat confused about your last paragraph, so I won’t respond to what will be probably a misunderstanding. So, I’ll leave it there for now.
One other thing. Probably one of the most helpful things I’ve read on this topic is Dallas Willard’s “Divine Conspiracy,” especially the chapter called “Gospels of Sin Management.” I highly recommend it, since it says things much better than I have a hope to.
Matt he did say it that is why there are multiple definitions for the word salvation. One must look at the context of salvation. I just don’t believe that it is Salvation but salvation.
I think that is the problem people don’t understand the concept of multiple definitions and just stick to the 1st definition rather than looking at the second and tertiary definitions of the word.
I would be interested inwhat the misunderstanding is on thelast paragraph. I think we can discuss this. I see a greater coming together not 100% and more like 75% but a cmoing together none the less. In my understanding John MacArthur in many of his sermons and books has some wonderful things to say about Salvation vs salvation or how I would state Salvation vs Sanctification. (Howpefully this will help you onthe last paragraph.) :) DH
I don’t feel it is eisegesis in that the definition of salvation and within the context of scripture in light of scripture is how I said what I said. dh
I’ve gone back and more carefully read the paragraph I was having trouble understanding and I basically see what you were getting at. All of the Salvation vs salvation stuff was doing my head in, but now that I’ve gone back, I believe I understand you to mean that salvation is something that includes Salvation and Sanctification. Salvation itself is defined as the entrance to following Jesus. Do I have that right?
For me, it’s fine for the sake of a systematic theology to split things up like this to make them understandable, but my concern is that, when we try to apply this stuff to life, it gets really confusing. When I have to distinguish between Salvation (as a doctrine) and salvation in its myriad forms in the Scriptures, I get all kinds of confused and upset.
I would propose that we stop calling “Salvation” (the entrance to the faith) that at all, since it just confuses people when put next to all of the senses in which salvation is biblically used. Rather, let salvation–in all of its diversity and richness–speak for itself, while we use other terms to explain the fullness and richness of the great salvation that God has granted us in Christ.
I still think we need to use Salvation as the entrance point. Why not just say to Believers be Sanctified (be ye Holy even as I am Holy) and Salvation as the entrance point. Why push away from the terms when in fact there are multiple words to say the terms to explain them deeper and to understand that un-Believers need to first Believe and Believers nned to live for Christ and be as Sanctified as possibly as they can be. BI feel this works because if we do your way people would get a false sense of security into thinking they are “saved” when they aren’t or my point using your terminology “have no entrance point in Faith”. The overruling thing is “Without Faith it is impossible to please God.” This isn’t doctrine but understanding of the Scriptures what is literally being said. There is a difference.
Does that make sense? dh
Well, to me we basically seem to be in agreement in spirit, but our basic disagreements are centred around methodology and semantics.
So, allow me to take a step back here. If I’m telling somebody about following Jesus, I don’t want them to just “get saved.” I want them to understand that Jesus calls them to a life of following him, not merely to a salvation that is too easily understood as a moment in time.
I’m not as concerned with people who have a more nuanced understanding of salvation such as yours. I’m more concerned with people who understand salvation as a moment in time and tell others that Jesus just “wants them to get saved” as a singular moment where their sins are taken care of. This kind of thing just doesn’t have much to say about salvation for all of life.
It does not seem like you have this understanding that I’m opposed to. But still, I believe that your terminology is too easily taken in that direction and that is why I’m advocating a restating of these things.
Matt, I think we are coming together. I totally agree. However, I feel that your approach can also have thesame affect in the reverse. If people believe all they have to do is “following him” or doeverything God wants them to do but doesn’t acknowledge Jesus is God, has risen and is alive today, never repented of their sin, never had a personal relationship with God then it also gives people a false sense of security. (kind of like works without Faith). So I think theextremes of both sides should beequally acknowledged. However, I do think lead people to accept Christ is important but that the follow up with regard to Discipleship and Sanctification are so important. From my experience of churches with “alter calls” I see churches making Discipleship, home groups and the like but that the lay people who accept Christ don’t desire to do these things. My 20 year experience in Evangelical churches doesn’t have what you are facing at all of “alter calls and thats it”. I know no church that states this type of theology. However, I do think thateven though Discipleship is preached regularly, that Sanctification isn’t preached or is indirectly mentioned in a less way without the importance. If more sermons on Sanctification with the Holy Spirit convicting Believers about personal sin, like they did in the middle of this century, were preached to go in conjunction with the Salvation message I think you would see more Believers doing what they are supposed to do. To me not giving a plan of Salvation leaves the person with a “cliff hanger mentality”. People already know they need to do good things but the explaination of Faith is just not presented in many non-Evangelical churches and projects a works based Salvation that is dangerous. dh
Thanks again for keeping this dialogue going. I appreciate it.
I could find a thing or two to keep arguing about here, but I don’t think that I’ll bother because I’m convinced that we’re after the same thing and we agree with what the spirit of the other is saying, even if we disagree on some details.
And you are of course spot-on when you say that any theology formulated as a reaction to something runs the risk of swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction. The last thing I want to do is forget grace, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So, thanks for the reminder.
I’d still recommend giving Willard’s “Divine Conspiracy” a read if you’re interested in thinking about these issues more.
I think Matt we are doing a little coming together. I still trhink the bigger problem then the problems of the Evangelical church are people who think good works get them to heaven, aka works without Faith. I think if we recognize both of these problems with equal emphesis, like I think we do, then I think the Body of Christ will be edified more. I only mention this because it seems the problems of the Evangelical church are the only ones focused on or at least emphesized greater. I feel we need to focus and address on ALL of the problems rather than just one. Does that makes sense?
To me this is just as much a problem as what you are addressing but theEC type church never acknowledges this that I mentioned in the previous responsee already know they need to do good things but the explaination of Faith is just not presented in many non-Evangelical churches and projects a works based Salvation that is dangerous.” What are your thoughts on this? I’m not trying to argue but see if even greater agreement than the wonderful one we have already can be obtained. dh
Fabulous discussion. I really appreciate this “iron sharpening iron”. :) dh
I’m not sure that anybody in the evangelical church thinks that good works will get them to heaven. There are people who are moving to a more Catholic understanding of salvation, but nobody would say that works without faith would get them into heaven.
And I agree that we can’t become so obsessed with either faith or works that we lose sight of the other. Total agreement there.
One of the problems in the EC is certainly that, in trying to restate and reformulate Christian thinking and expression, the baby can easily be thrown out with the bathwater. In moving towards people actually starting to take the teachings of Jesus seriously as statements about how life should be lived, we can lose how necessary faith is in that. I’d like to think of faith and works as two sides of the same coin. And I’d also like to move away from thinking about going to heaven as what is gained in salvation, but rather to think that we have entered into the eternal life of the kingdom of God that begins right here, right now. Life in the kingdom includes a life that continues past death, but it starts now, and is embodied in a life filled with faith and works. Faith is for living, not for dying.
And yeah, I agree that this is a great discussion. :)
I mentioned non-Evangelical not Evangelical and the growing non-Evangelical idea and the concern thereof. I hope that helps. I personally think we shouldn’t move away from afterdeath. I agree we need to focus on this life but to have no focus on something the bible says “encouragre each other with these words” and/or not be encouraged by something God’s Word tells us to, seem odd to me. For me Faith is for Living and for dying. To me eternal life is just that eternal life and it is beyond just this life but includes this life. I just don’t feel Faith and works are two sides of the same coin in that many work but have no Faith and those who say they have Faith but have no works at all have no Faith at all in the first place for true Godly works are a confirmation of the Faith that is already there. To me it is what you say AND what happens after this physical life. why else would a good amount of the NT mentions what happens after this life. Heck, even Martha said (paraphrase) ” I know Jesus I will see my brother Lazerus at the resurrection from the dead.” To me not to encourage people at all about eternal life andfocus only on this life does a disservice to people and is another “cliff-hanger” in the whole discussion. I just don’t feel that mentioning eternal life and/or the life afterdeath leads to what you are concluding. I do feel that focusing on works leads to people to not turn their lives over to Christ heart, soul and mind. dh