A conversation on salvation
Today we are continuing our conversation through some of the key principles found in the Book of Hebrews. The foundation of this book that we see over and over and over again is that Jesus is greater. Greater than angels, greater than Moses. Greater than you and I. And this is the heart of Hebrews and what I need to hear again today: Jesus is greater than our situations.
We started off the series with an overview of that concept and ended with the processing of moving from being told to actually processing Jesus’ greatness.
These things don’t sink in just by someone telling them to you. You have to process them for yourself. We ended our last piece of conversation by wrestling with the question What things trip you up from pursuing the reality of Jesus?
And now today we walk into the complexity of Salvation.
The dictionary definition of salvation is preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss; deliverance from sin and its consequences, believed by Christians to be brought about by faith in Christ.
Hebrews 2 points to some of the goals we’re aiming for in this series.
It’s crucial that we keep a firm grip on what we’ve heard so that we don’t drift off. If the old message delivered by the angels was valid and nobody got away with anything, do you think we can risk neglecting this latest message, this magnificent salvation? First of all, it was delivered in person by the Master, then accurately passed on to us by those who heard it from him. All the while God was validating it with gifts through the Holy Spirit, all sorts of signs and miracles, as he saw fit.
Hebrews 2:1-4 MSG
Life is full of opportunities, both good and bad. We’re surrounded by them constantly. What happens when you miss an opportunity?
What do you feel and how do you respond when you realize that you missed an opportunity?
Opportunities missed happen for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes things we’re unaware of but had opportunity to take. And sometimes things that happen completely outside of our control. But sometimes because we ignore them.
Again the words from Hebrews 2.
How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.
These words were not about missing salvation we’re unaware of. It’s not about missing something outside of our control. It’s about missing something we had an opportunity to take but decided wasn’t worth it. Squandering. Ignoring all of the ramifications of it. Not a momentary salvation but salvation as a recurring experience.
Let me plunge us deeper with two complex questions. I encourage you to let go of whatever need you have internally to be “right” about this. Our right-ness has to come directly from what God tells us, not from a need to be right. Talk about your thoughts. Talk about things you’ve learned. Talk about what’s confusing.
What opportunity is missed when a relationship with God is dismissed? Neglected? Abandoned? Overlooked? Ignored?
The greek word for ignore in this text really shows the picture of having neglect. To be careless with or to disregard something as not having value or significance.
This same word is used in the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 22.
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
We can see that the people in this parable missed opportunities, but I bet they didn’t think about missing the opportunities. They ignored. They paid no attention.
Wedding? Eh, that’s not important. I know I was invited but I’m busy with other stuff. It’s fine.
The parable represents ignoring relationships with God. Ignoring his pursuit of us.
What opportunities are missed by ignoring relationship with God?
Salvation is not just about getting (though we do “get” things).
Salvation is not just about later (though it does affect the later.)
Those are part but not the focus.
Salvation is about caring now.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
We inevitably see some of salvation as what we can get out of it. What it does for us. Gets us out of hell. Gets us free from evil things. Gives us good feelings. Gets us a mansion in heaven (whatever that means.) What do we miss when we frame salvation through the lens of what we get out of it?
What do we miss when we pursue salvation purely for what we get from it?
What is salvation?
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
How salvation is received is more important than how it is delivered. Seeds are scattered. What will I do with them?
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
Salvation is chosen through committing to a process of relationship and growing in trust and belief.
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and [His] love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to [the] hope of eternal life.
Salvation is given as a gift and we can’t earn it by being good enough.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Salvation is transformative.
In light of all of these things, again, our goal is to process.
Today’s goal as usual is not just to get you to get the right answer. Go deeper in the process. Ask God to open your eyes in understanding, commitment, curiosity. A transformational and foundational relationship with Jesus is what we’re after.
It is radically easy to tell someone what to do or to be told what to do.
The picture looks quite different for the average follower of Jesus reading this letter. Life is hard. Following Jesus has brought painful persecution. It’d be much easier to just return to the old ways to avoid the hardship. Was Jesus really the messiah? It doesn’t feel worth it right now.
Simple declarations to these people in this moment would not cut it. Faith, believing, not ignoring the reality that Jesus is the messiah, the savior, is something these people had to choose. To process. To walk out and follow. Instead of ignoring.
Sometimes ignorance is because we’re unaware. Sometimes it’s wilful because we want to avoid pain or discomfort. The reality is that real relationships can’t take root if we’re ignorant. We can get to some levels, but we won’t experience depth. It will only go to surface levels.
Again reflecting on the parable of the seeds and the sower. We are not responsible for the seeds or the growth. We’re responsible for the condition of the soil. God has given us the authority to care for our own soil. We might not always know how but it’s ours. Ignorance and ignoring lead to unhealthy soil that doesn’t allow for deep growth.
What different reasons do people have for having a relationship with others?
What are your reasons for having relationships with other people?
The reality of relationship with Jesus looks a little different than relationships with other people in our lives. But the reasons we have relationship with Jesus might come from the same places as the reasons we have relationships with other people.
What different reasons do people have for having a relationship with Jesus?
There are some reasons that have an aspect of truth, but in isolation they can twist our perspectives.
Eternal life is often the goal of salvation conversations. But what is eternal life?
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
That’s a little bit of a different picture than just getting out of hell and going to heaven when I die. Eternal life is now. To know God and Jesus. Know - greek means first hand, experiential knowing, the deepest intimacy possible, was used to describe the knowing between a husband and wife in sexual intimacy.
We should probably do an altar call here. A message about salvation isn’t complete without us inviting you to pray to ask Jesus into your heart. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s wonderful to get to a point of realizing you need AND want relationship with Jesus. But it has to come from inside you. Knowing God in intimacy and union can’t be something I hand you. Though we can learn together how to connect more with him.
All of the external things we could give you won’t cut it. This has to be something internalized.
What reasons do people have for having a relationship with Jesus?
What reasons do you have?
Take It Deeper Questions
Read Acts 16:16-34
When you were growing up, what was guaranteed to get you in trouble with your parents?
What do you perceive as happening internally in Paul and Silas’ through this story?
What was happening inside the jailer though this story?
As if explaining to someone who has never heard about Jesus or salvation, what does it mean to believe in Jesus and be saved?
How are you encouraged, challenged, focused or frustrated by this narrative today?
Bible Reading Plan
1 Timothy 4
1 Timothy 5
1 Timothy 6
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