I have a friend who went to her church’s summer camp every year and felt the need to repent and be “born again” every time. It was the only way she knew how to deal with her “backsliding”. Annually, like a ritual, she feared she had lost her salvation, and then rushed to be saved again.
We may look back with a knowing smile at my friend’s childhood misunderstandings of what it means to be saved; yet this misunderstanding gives us a window to a much larger set of misconceptions that we sometimes unwittingly participate in. When we evangelize or disciple, we communicate the idea that committing to Christ brings us assurance of eternal salvation. That is of course true, and in the case of my friend, that assurance would have helped her not go through her annual cycle of anxiety.
Where it goes off the rails is when salvation is narrowly defined as a one-time event only.
Salvation is past and future. We are saved when we commit to Christ now but we will also be saved in the future when we appear before Christ. Salvation is also in the present; we are in the process of being saved as well. That is because our own efforts to rid ourselves of sin are not enough. The response to our lack of ability to live righteously is not to give up and go about a life of sin because we’re secure in the notion that “it doesn’t matter anyway, I’m saved.” The response is to reach out to Jesus’ offered hand to save us from our sinful condition.
Addicts know this only too well. They reach a point where they know they don’t have power over their behavior and need the help of a higher power to change. As Christians, we can tend to either ignore our need for change, or we try to do it all ourselves in our own strength.
Neither approach is what God is looking for. We need to reach out to Jesus and cooperate with him as he works to change our heart on a daily basis. Jesus changing our hearts is what changes our behavior. Our desire to be renewed will grow out of our relationship with God. When God shows us we need to change, we can respond by asking for the grace to change, and cooperate with the grace we are given.
Where do you need to ask God for the grace to be renewed today? How are you being saved this day?
Shannon wrote this blog with the help of his friend and ministry partner, Nader Sahyouni, who is a source of constant encouragement. Nader is a Christian counselor and spiritual director. He has a passion for spiritual formation and leads guided retreats which focus on addressing the blocks or obstacles that people have in their relationships with God.