Last week we started a discussion about “Simple Religion” and as promised at the end of the discussion, I shared that we would continue the discussion this week and focus on “Simple Salvation”.
More often than not, religion seems to confuse life more than it helps. Too often, well meaning people take positive aspects and focus points for our lives and emphasize them in the same breath as “religious” thoughts which lead onlookers into thinking that many non-religious things are in fact religious. Too much of these unsuitable associations will lead people to label these well meaning people as too strict or even “legalistic”.
On the other side of the religious discussion are those who have been fed up with strict legalists and instead strip everything away saying things like “Since Jesus died for everyone [which is true], everyone is saved and will go to Heaven.” While I cannot argue that this isn’t “simple”, it is nowhere near Biblical and that presents a problem.
Where’s the “Accurate” Simplicity?
I once heard a pastor describe our Christian lives following three phases of growth. While I don’t remember the details he shared in each of the sections, I understand these three phases to be very Biblical and also very simple too.
1) Follow: While Jesus walked the earth, He often extended invitations to people. Many of His disciples — including those who were closest to Him — were directly called by Jesus. In most cases, there isn’t any explanation given, simply an invitation. Some people chose to reject the invitation, while it appears that most accepted the invitation.
While our invitation might not be as direct as the early disciples, our faith walk with Jesus begins with “following Him”.
2) Believe: As Jesus traveled through Israel, He healed those who were sick, freed those who were trapped in sin, and challenged those who thought they had life figured out. In most of the first two cases, Jesus links the individual’s belief in Him as the source or cause of the healing. In several cases, Jesus links His ability to heal people with the ability to forgive sins — which upset the religious leaders of His day. With these claims, Jesus was elevating His ministry to one that partnered with God and that placed Him on a completely different level than the religious leaders who looked to each other and the teachers who came before them.
While it might not be as easy to understand or put into practice, the next step for us is believing that Jesus can heal us, free us, and help us grow into being the people that God created us to be. Even the challenges that Jesus had with the religious leaders were attempts to push them past the ruts and traditions they had trapped themselves in.
3) Obey: As Jesus taught His disciples (those who followed Him), He would routinely come down to the idea of obedience. In spite of what some might say, obedience is important . . . but before casting this article into the legalist bin, understand that it isn’t me saying obedience is important — it is Jesus.
While preaching and teaching His disciples, Jesus would say things like “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” “A new command I will give unto you,” and “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” All these phrases focus on obedience and we must be willing to obey Jesus in order to keep growing with Him.
What catches the legalists is that they put “obedience” before “following” and “believing”. They focus on the action over the motives, and assume that because obedience is present, the other two phases will be taken care of.
Getting the phases out of order is unlikely to result in lasting growth. Without the Holy Spirit, and without spending time with Jesus, all the obedience to His commands will never lead to a relationship with Him, and while we might live a better life in the end through our obedience, we will have lost our salvation.
Easy or Simple?
These three phases don’t seem easy, do they? While they might sound easy on paper, they are not easy to put into practice.
However, where does “simple” come in when we’re discussion salvation? Everyone has their own version of the answer, and I’ll share mine with you as we conclude this newsletter: “We know we are saved when we are intentional about continually growing closer to Jesus — through the three phases I shared earlier — and when we purposely turn away from sin in our lives in favor of living the life that Jesus asks us to live.”
Are you unsure how to grow closer to Jesus? Do you wonder what type of life Jesus requires of us? Why not find out for yourself using an online study tool that I developed a few months ago. Learn more about it here!
What comes to mind when you hear the words “Simple Salvation”?
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