Beyond Theoretical Salvation
Profession of Christ’s lordship in our lives isn’t a magical formula. It’s more than a theory about how we can get saved if we confess the right doctrines. The confession has meaning only when it’s understood to be a genuine pledge to surrender one’s life to Christ. (See yesterday’s post.) But I want us to notice something that is as obvious as it is overlooked. Our pledge to surrender our life to Christ isn’t itself the life we pledged to surrender to Christ. The actual life we pledged to surrender is the life we live each and every moment after we make the pledge. For the only life we have to surrender is the life we live moment-by-moment.
Think about it. Our lives are nothing more than a series of moments—a series of “nows”—strung together. To surrender our “life” is to surrender this. But you obviously can’t surrender this all at once. You can only do it one moment at a time.
The pledge of life isn’t the life we pledge. You can think of it like a vow in marriage. Over 30 years ago I looked into my wife’s gorgeous eyes and pledged my life to her. But the pledge of life I made to her wasn’t itself the life I pledge to her. My pledge didn’t magically give us a good marriage (would that it was that simple!). Rather, the actual life I pledged to my wife was the life I have lived each and every moment after I made the pledge. For the only life I have to give t0 my wife is the life I live moment-by-moment.
The quality of my marriage, therefore, isn’t decided by whether or not I made a pledge all those years ago. It’s decided by how I live out that pledge now, on a moment-by-moment basis.
So too, the quality of our relationship with God and of our Kingdom living isn’t decided by whether or not we made a pledge 30 years ago or yesterday. The quality of our relationship with God is rather determined by the extent to which we are living out that pledge in the present, in each “now.” Whether we’re talking about marriage to another person or our marriage to Christ, our pledge is without content except insofar as we are living it out now, in this moment, and now in this moment.
Unfortunately, because of the magical, formulaic, legal-transaction view of salvation that pervades American Christianity, we often confuse the pledge of our life to Christ for the life that we pledged to Christ. We tend to assume that our life is in fact surrendered to Christ because we once-upon-a-time pledged to surrender it to Christ.
In reality, the only surrendering that makes any bit of a difference is the surrendering that’s happening right now.
It’s so easy for us to believe in Christ Lordship and to be theoretically surrendered to this Lordship, but to forget about him and rule our own life in most of the moments that make up our actual life. We have theoretically surrendered to the Kingdom, but the majority of our life is lived outside the Kingdom. Our life is theoretically the domain of God’s reign, but most of the “nows” that make up our actual lives are not made the domain of God’s reign.
I believe that the single most fundamental challenge of Kingdom people is to move beyond the theoretical Christianity that permeates our culture and to strive to increasingly make our moment-by-moment life the domain in which God reigns.
Richard Beck over at Experimental Theology wrote a reflection on insights he gained from the book How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life by Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky. He points out how the advent of money changed the way we view our needs and made it easier to hoard without noticing it. It’s a…
OK, we don’t really think this is the difference between theology and philosophy, but how does this guy not get that not believing in believing is, itself, a belief?
For Memorial Day, we thought we would repost Greg’s thoughts from 2007. In this post, Greg expresses his conflicted feelings over this holiday and gives a brief defense of Christian pacifism. *** Hope you all had a happy Memorial Day. (Isn’t that something of a misnomer — a happy time remembering people killed in war?) Memorial Day…
Paul tells us we are to be “imitators of God” (Eph 5:1). The word for “imitate” (mimetai) literally means to “mimic” or to “shadow.” This means we are to do exactly what we see God doing, nothing more and nothing less, just like our shadow does exactly what we do. We are to imitate God’s…
In yesterday’s post, I summarized what Jesus and the rest of the Bible says about prayer. For many, that is enough. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it for me.” But for others, like myself, the practice of petitionary prayer raises a number of theological questions that need to be answered. The trouble is…
This is the seventh of several videos Greg put together to refute Bart Ehrman’s claims published in the article What Do We Really Know About Jesus? In this segment, Greg argues against Ehrman’s claim that the Roman census in the birth narrative was fabricated. If you missed the first six installments you can find them here, here, here, here, here and here.