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Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Many Shades of Belief

John 3:16 (ESV)
16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

I gave me life to Christ over forty-one years ago. I don't know if I knew what I was doing then but whatever it was didn't stop there. It was like a seed that was planted that grew. It consumed me from the moment I believed. Yes,  I wandered away and back again. I have had ups and downs but I could never deny to whom I belonged. I could never truly walk away.

I have wondered about those who are so casual with their faith in Jesus. They do not seem to be bothered by adultery, lying, hatred or any of the things we would call major sins. They seem to be able to say that they believe in Jesus and do these things anyway. I can't understand this as faith in Jesus. I perceived it as non-binding agreement. They appear to visit their faith but never really live there.

My former understanding of salvation was shaped by my observations of people who claimed to know Jesus but never really made lasting sacrifices to Him. I reasoned that they were not under the law and had no obligation to follow any standard of conduct in order to maintain their salvation. I told myself that salvation is free and they could never earn it anyway.

Meanwhile, I struggled with scripture that said we must forgive one another if we truly know Him. I didn't really understand what Jesus was saying when He said that we must hate our mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, wife and children and even our own lives if we are to follow Him. I explained it in the most superficial ways. I said it was a matter of comparison.

I also found myself without explanation to Paul's statement of being crucified with Christ. How could he ever say that? How could I identify with that? I couldn't see myself as crucified with Christ.

So, I am coming to a new understanding of salvation. It does not violate the theology I have learned in the past but it does enhance that theology. Salvation is an identification with Christ that is so deep that we become one with Him. It is like a marriage in that He is no longer external to us but truly resides within us. His presence is so deep that all other things are external to us. Our own lives become secondary because He is who we are. We  do not lose our personalities are our own identities but He becomes as much a part of our identity that we do not act apart from Him. To do so is a violation of who we are. It is immediately apparent when we do so and we must make it right or we will have conflict at  the depth of our very souls. Our faith is always deepening to reveal Him to us. Our lives are always changing to reveal Him.

Each day we know Him better. It is our life. So much so that I can identify with Him on the cross. I can say that I have been crucified with Him. I can say that I hate all that is outside of my life. I can forgive because His forgiveness is always with me.

I do not know if those who visit Jesus but do not eternalize Him are saved. I don't condemn them. I just don't know. I see that faith has many levels. I don't expect it to be a grade in which one must reach a certain level to be saved. I do expect that some of what people are calling faith isn't faith at all.

I am not trying to say that I have it and others don't. However, I do know that I have it. I was never good enough to have it. I never worked hard enough to have it. I have it by grace in which God gave me the faith to have it.

I can't imagine how someone can say they have salvation and not be radically changed.

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