Salvation or Safety?
The last year or so has been a season of growth and transformation in my life. If I had to summarize this time with one word, I guess I would have to go with “FREEDOM.” The great paradox of this experience has been discovering that the pathway to true freedom comes through total surrender. Not that I have achieved a status of total surrender, but I am striving more for it every day. And as I further surrender my will and my life and my relationships to the Lordship of Christ, God grants me greater freedom and His Spirit empowers me to experience greater heights of joy, purpose, and fulfillment. In the spirit of my ongoing quest for freedom in Christ, I want to share a few recent reflections and insights regarding much of my past journey as a Christian.
Much of my life as a Christian and church member has been driven by a desire for safety. With a belief in the Christian teachings regarding the three-in-one God, Satan, heaven, hell, sin, salvation, and such, I think my aim has been to search the Bible for the correct formula to guide my actions (and to a lesser degree my mind and heart) in such a way that will keep me safe from the terrible consequences of sin and the generally dissipated condition of this fallen world. The formula I have followed (or at least attempted to follow) has been very religious and certainly addresses very spiritual issues. And I really believe if I was a better man, a truly righteous man by nature, this formulaic approach to spiritual safety would be quite sufficient for living an exemplary life that would please God greatly and offer a high standard that others should follow.
The problem is – I am not a truly righteous man by nature. I am sinful by nature. I have such twisted places in my heart, mind, and spirit that I am absolutely incapable of following any prescribed plan of living in such a way that I can keep my self safe from the ravages of sin and the sinful world in which I live. I am increasingly realizing that the pursuit of safety, no matter how religious or seemingly spiritual the means, will ultimately fail. (see John 5:16-47, especially verse 39) A sinful man cannot keep himself safe. I’m gonna level with you, here. This has been a highly unnerving eye-opener for me! It would seem my whole framework for living has failed me and left me naked and doomed in a dangerous world made worse by the sinful nature that continues to burst forth from within me.
But I have great hope!
For underneath this religious pursuit of safety I have found the answer. I first had to rethink my question. “What must I do to be safe?” Thirty plus years of pursuing an answer to this question had left me enslaved to both a way of life that appeared righteous and a way of life that was totally limited by MY woefully lacking ability to achieve righteousness for my self. So I now thank God for bringing me to freedom by beginning with a new question, “What must I do to be saved?” And the answer is so simple it is jarring. I must put my faith in Jesus. For by the grace of God, through the power of Christ, the one and only risen from the dead son of God, I am set free from the bondage of sin and the slavery of self-righteousness.
The really amazing thing for me is that now that I am clear on the only source of my salvation, and no longer wasting my focus and energy on the self-righteous pursuit of safety, I am free to pursue a full relationship with Christ and to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. And I am coming to believe that my salvation in Christ does NOT guarantee my safety, for this is still a dark and dangerous world, and I serve a King who leads his subjects into wild adventures that frequently include sacrifice, suffering, and death. And I am now eager to follow the High King wherever He calls and leads me, for “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
With Hope in Him,