“Has it ever occurred to you that one thousand pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one thousand worshippers meeting together, each one looking to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become unity conscious and turn their eyes away from Jesus to strive for closer fellowship.” ~A. W. Tozer
What if we’re talking about a “salvation issue?”
What’s a “salvation issue?” Will somebody please tell me what a “salvation issue” is? We get into discussions about “salvation issues” and we start ranking things in order of importance to God, in terms of what’s going to save us or condemn us. And we’ll talk about baptism and church and the authority of Scripture and worship practices. But we never talk about helping the poor or being kind to our enemies. Scripture says those are actually the weightier matters.
They’re all salvation issues! Everything we do is a salvation issue! That’s why the heart is the most important thing. The attitude is the most important thing.
“The Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” ~Romans 14:17
As children of God and followers of the King, we take our example, we take our inspiration and motivation, from Jesus. The Son of God is the one who motivates us to live with each other the way we do. We realize that Christ Jesus never once did anything to please himself. Instead, he gave up everything, he sacrificed everything, to benefit and build up others. And by choosing to serve others instead of please himself, Jesus sets the pattern that we must accept as our own. Putting others first. Putting the needs of others first. It’s never about me. It’s always about you.
It’s not about hands. It’s about hearts. It’s never about hands, whether they’re raised or clapping. It’s always about hearts, whether they’re pure and holy.
And Paul puts it on the strong. It’s up to the strong, not the weak, to make sure this happens in God’s Church. It’s on the strong to bear with the failings of the weak brother. That’s hard. It’s up to the strong to make the sacrifices and concessions to our weaker brothers and sisters. That’s not easy. It’s easier to be the weaker Christian, drawing lines and insisting everybody cater to me. It’s the strong, Paul says, who are able to grasp the truth that our love and mercy and grace to others is Christ-like.
Here’s what separates the strong Christians from the weak. Bottom line. Here it is. Strong Christians with strong faith realize that the more you sacrifice and the more you give up for others, the more Christ-like you are. The more you insist on your own way and the more you assert yourself for your own interests, the less like Christ you are. Pretty simple.
So if all of us, all thousand of us here at Legacy, all-how-ever-many-there-are at your church, if all of us to a person decided right now today that we put ourselves at the end of the line, that we would all bend over backwards to make everybody else happy and sacrifice our own feelings and desires in order to build up others—if we all did that—wow! If we all accepted each other just like Christ; if we all bore the failings of the weak just like Christ; if we all pleased our neighbor for his good just like Christ; it still wouldn’t result in a perfect church. It won’t eliminate our differences of opinion. It won’t do away with all arguments and debate. But it would mean figuring out how to live together. And we’ll know for sure that the Christ who unites us is greater by far than the differences that may divide us. And our grace-filled conversations and our mercy-laden interactions with each other will reflect that conviction.
“THE” salvation issue is Jesus Christ:
1 John 5:11-12
“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
—Our salvation is in Jesus. Jesus. He is THE line in the sand.
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
—We tend to associate condemnation with sin, when in fact we are condemned for lack of faith in Jesus.
What is ultimately the object of our faith? Deep down, in the core of our hearts, in the very depths of what makes us who we are is individuals, in our innermost intimacy with God, in places we don’t talk about with each other, where, ultimately and finally, do I hang my hat in order to get to heaven?
What is it that makes me “saved” versus “lost”? Those are the only two options when we face God on judgment day. Which am I? Based on what?
It cannot be…it won’t be…on anything I do (thank God for that): good deeds, upright lifestyle, righteousness, worship practices…it can’t be. I’ll mess it up, and regularly do.
It HAS to be on Jesus. Has to be. Everything we do, in the Christian lifestyle to please God, is our RESPONSE to, and the RESULT of, that faith…in Jesus. And we still mess up. And God’s grace still wipes us clean.
Foir those of us who are inclined to make a list of ‘salvation issues’ I pose the following:
The Next Five Steps
Imagine that you have been mentoring a new disciple of Christ. He/she has heard the good news about Jesus, believed on and gladly confessed His Sonship before others, truly and deeply turned away from a life of sin, and has been immersed through the waters of baptism into a new, Spirit-drenched life.
Imagine that this person asks you, “What are the next five steps in following Jesus?”
What do you say?
1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind,
2) Love your neighbor as yourself,
3) Apply the Word,
4) Connect as a Family,
5) Evangelize your Community,
And practice all five steps in the loving and nurturing faith community we call God’s Church.