This is a companion to my last blog “What Has Become of Salvation?” In that blog, I wondered if the apostles would even recognize what we are talking about when we discuss salvation. Altar calls, repeat-after-me sinners’ prayers, and even the phrase “personal relationship with God” were unknown to them. Preaching Christ didn’t conclude with “Just As I Am” and an invitation to be saved, calling on the name of the Lord was assumed to be a spontaneous outpouring of the heart rather than a prepared canned response, and their understanding of being disciples automatically implied a new and ongoing relationship with God. As I said in the blog, salvation wasn’t an event to be celebrated; it was The Way to live.
Although we don’t live in the first century and modes and means of communication have been transformed dramatically, the pathway to salvation remains the same. The invention of the microchip and ever-changing cultural mores can never alter how we are born again or how we are to be transformed into new beings by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Confronting the world with the truth.
The Gospels reveal Christ. Acts through Revelation is the record of how the apostles and early Christians confronted the world with that revelation. They wrote and spoke about repentance, godly sorrow, and the new creation made possible through Jesus Christ. They accommodated nothing that undermined the truth of the gospel of Jesus. They weren’t out to save sinners. They knew only Jesus could accomplish that task. They were simply following His instructions to take the truth to the world.
Forty-five times the Apostle John used the words “true” and “truth” in his gospel. In His prayer in John 17:17 Jesus directly appealed to the Father:
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
For some reason, in the modern church, truth seems to have taken a back seat to feelings and emotions. Salvation is often presented as the cure for self-esteem problems. In many churches, worship is planned to elicit emotional responses. Repentance, suffering, sacrifice, and selflessness are seldom heard in today’s sermons and songs.
One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes comes from an essay he wrote and shared with a gathering of Anglican priests and youth ministers on Easter Sunday, 1945. He explained why he believed their task was as difficult (if not more so) than the first Christians:
“A sense of sin is almost totally lacking. Our situation is thus very different from that of the Apostles. The Pagans…to whom they preached were haunted by a sense of guilt and to them the Gospel was, therefore, ‘good news.’ We address people who have been trained to believe that whatever goes wrong in the world is someone else’s fault…They approach God Himself as His judges.”
And that was in 1945. It has gotten exponentially worse. In today’s Christian culture God is forced to accept every sin under the sun that people like to indulge in by means of His love. Lewis was prescient in being able to see this development coming down the pike as later in his address he laid out precisely why it was happening then and would only continue to worsen in the future:
"One of the great difficulties is to keep before the audience’s mind the question of Truth. They always think you are recommending Christianity not because it is true but because it is good…You have to keep forcing them back, and again back, to the real point."
Salvation is about truth.
It is useless to entice and invite someone into a personal relationship with God without first establishing truth. And there seems to be a great deal of confusion in Christianity today about the eternal reality concerning truth. What makes the truth true is its changelessness. Truth doesn’t evolve. Man’s ability to comprehend and grasp truth certainly goes through changes. But the truth doesn’t.
This is what I meant earlier about confrontation. I don’t mean with raised voices or implied threats. Someone needs to confront those who think that being loved by others and receiving numerous commendations about their innate “goodness” means they are saved, with the reality of Original Sin. It doesn’t matter how many civic groups a person belongs to, the words of Isaiah still declare the truth:
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment (Isaiah 64:6).
Christianity is not about helping people find a way to live with their sins. It doesn’t matter how many millennia pass. Sexual immorality of any sort will never be acceptable to God. Love doesn’t hide that truth. Love doesn’t demean and ridicule those ensnared by sin, but neither does it apologize for the reality of their sin being sin.
A physician who thinks he/she is being nice to the morbidly obese patient by never suggesting he lose weight is only making the patient’s future grimmer. The doctor must point out the truth if there is to be future at all for that patient. The doctor shouldn’t be insulting or demeaning but if there is to be a better outlook for the patient he/she must be faithful to the truth.
Our task as Christians is to be faithful to the truth. We can fill our churches with happy people if we never bring up sin or repentance but we’re not being obedient to the Head of the church.
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True…(Revelation 19:11).