If you have been following these posts for any period of time I pray they have stretched your mind and perplexed your thinking. Why? Relationship. If you are in relationship with someone then you communicate with them, right? God is desperate for a relationship with us. He came all the way to earth to restore what was broken. He does all the fixing and we get to step out of our hiding place and commune with our Father who made us. So it should be natural for us to ask the question. It is actually a good test of understanding when you reach a perplexed state. Do you ask Jesus? Do you feel the freedom to ask Jesus? Do you turn to doctrine instead?
Historically fallen Adam has approached God through religion. What I mean by religion are the man-exercised, man-chosen, man-efforts, rituals, doctrines, rules, regulations, etc that mankind uses to close the gap between us and a distant God. Usually the purpose is to avoid certain punishment when performance is suspect; or to illicit a favorable response like rain or any other blessing; or to attempt to influence an afterlife experience or destination. I realize I am way over-generalizing but take a deep breath, don’t be offended and let this play out.
Even in Christianity we have rules and denominations and doctrines and rituals and tradition and a whole bunch more stuff to appease God. In some cases the worshipers are approaching a loving God in elation regarding His goodness and grace. In most cases God is angry and intent on sending people to the hell they deserve so this worship is an attempt to appease Him. Jesus is then the perfect sacrifice that they point to and say “but God you can’t because of Jesus.” In either religious environment you would get a similar question. “Are you saved?” In a traditional religious context that means one thing. Jesus intended another.
If someone says “are you saved” in a Christian setting they are asking “are you going to heaven” or “are you not going to hell.” Those are good “religious” questions. They will bring up discussions about doctrine and dogma, rites and rituals, beliefs and blessings, position and posture. It is a fun discussion but not the right question in the right context.
It is like someone asking me about talking to houseplants. This may see like a strange analogy but that is on purpose. If someone asks me “do you talk to your houseplants?” I might respond with a yes or a no. If my response is in agreement with the person who asks the question then maybe the discussion is over. If however, they are “leading the witness” because they want to know my belief system, then maybe there are follow-on questions. Then we will likely have to pull out the scientific evidence to support one or both sides of the argument. In the end if we both agree then we are in community. If we disagree then both parties will accuse the other of being wrong with nothing but future house plant growth as a “proof” of who is right.
When Jesus was talking about fruit He was talking about a very different thing. Actually when He talked about everything it was His intention to move us from “religion” to relationship. Jesus saves us absolutely. He saves us to relationship not to heaven. Destination is a byproduct of relationship. The relationship we have in this life will continue into the next. This is what religion misses. This is what Jesus came to reveal.
Jesus Himself said this:
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me. 7 If you had known Me [had learned to recognize Me], you would also have known My Father. From now on, you know Him and have seen Him. (AMP)
If you see this passage through a religious lens then it is a statement of “exclusivity.” I can’t convince someone to see differently. I can point out places where you have permission to see differently if that is your desire. I can show you how to ask the right question. As an example, a simple one at that in response to this passage, Jesus says that he came to save the whole world. He said if we believe in His name we will be saved. Funny thing is His name means Jehovah saves. Paul tells us that God desires everyone to be “saved.” He also says that we are being reconciled to God. He says that the ministry of law (religion) is death and condemnation when the ministry of the Spirit (relationship) is life eternal.
So now ask the right question. “What does it mean to be saved?” That is what Jesus came to do. He came to save the world to God. I can do all the Greek stuff and dazzle you with academic acumen but instead let me just say it in plain English. Jesus came as God so you could meet Him. He comes as God in the Holy Spirit so you can be in relationship with Him. Religion is trying to “find” or “approach” or “appease” a god from a distance. Our Father instead comes to us as Jesus so we don’t have to go looking for Him. God brings the relationship to us. Jesus saves us to that relationship. He takes our sin so we don’t live in condemnation and hiding from a good God. He intercedes to free us from the slave-master Sin and takes our wages of death from the Sin employer. He fixes all the fallen nature stuff in us that keeps us from seeing a good and loving God. He repairs all the stuff the enemy has done to us so we can be free to love God instead of blaming Him for stuff He didn’t do. He is the perfect expression of love on the cross as an example and demonstration of what love looks like. He frees us from ourselves so we can love God with nothing in our way. This is His salvation and more. This is what it means to be saved and more. This is the beginning, middle and eternal relationship that God has always intended for mankind.
So if you still see salvation as a destination I would encourage you to ask the right question. Ask Jesus to reveal who He is as what He came for. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your life and give you the mind of Christ. Jump into “His death” in baptism to come out in His life as a new creation. Let the Spirit of God make you new. Let Jesus baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Let the salvation begin. Like all of us there will be some “sticky” stuff that needs to be removed but Jesus is the great physician and very good at His job.
I understand if this makes your head hurt. I was a very conservative “Christian” for all my life. I may have been off on my own journey ignoring God, but my fundamental foundation was Bible proves Bible and only authorize people can speak into my life and any teaching contrary to what I hear in the pulpit is from the devil….that kind of stuff. In that place you can’t ask the right question. You only ask the questions on the approved list. That is religion. Religion is a bondage. It is a trap to keep you from a relationship. In a relationship you have the freedom to ask the right question.
I can’t convince you with any well-crafted argument. Only the Holy Spirit can reveal the truth. I can show you a door or a window or a sliver of light for you to ask the right question. This is and has always been God’s plan. In my personal journey it has been difficult to give up my old way of thinking. Sometimes it feels hard, sometimes it feels painful, sometimes stretching but always LIBERATING. When you meet Jesus face to face everything changes in a moment.
Even just today I received a call from a good friend with amazing news. He has had back problems forever. Just last night he encountered Jesus and was healed. Words can’t capture the joy I heard in his voice. The most amazing part was what God asked him when he got a new disc in his back. He said “are you still mad at Me?”
Listen, if you just don’t get this and it makes you mad to read it, Yay!!! There is your sliver of light. Run to it. Raise your fist and yell “what is going on?” If you feel cheated by the established religion and rules…Yay!!! there is a window. Jump through and find Jesus waiting to show you more. If you are afraid that what I am saying could “get you in trouble” then Yay!!! there is a door. Run right up to it and open the door. This is what Jesus said:
Rev 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (ESV)
It is that simple. Jesus makes it possible. We get to choose. Ask the right question. He has an answer.