Scripturally Illiterate?

July 13, 2010

Even the phrase is offensive! “I know a little something about the Bible,” one might say.

“I have a couple of paraphrased verses in my head that help me along the way. I even know the lyrics to quite a few Christian songs. I know that Jesus loves me and that should be enough. Right?”

Just answer this question and then read on. How does a person “get saved”? Now before you give your answer hear my one rule. You have to support it with scripture. Go.

If you are like most of us, the question elicited an immediate response of, “That’s easy!” followed by a run to the concordance to look up that one verse that I have hung all of my eternity on. Maybe some of you even googled an answer. My point is that few of us, who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, can substantiate what that is, exactly. Worse. Most of us can’t find it in the only authority on the subject… The Bible.

If I went to a doctor and asked how I could be healed of a rash and he, in turn ran to Webmd.com, I would have reason to doubt his credential and qualifications. Yet we do that when it comes to healing sin. Let’s face it. We are spiritually illiterate.

Our answer to people is to “say the prayer.” In some cases we hedge our bets a little as well by telling them to go to church, pray and read their Bibles (ironically) try to live a better life and some green tea wouldn’t hurt. It is like my doctor handing a couple of aspirin, some ointment, a capsule of benadril and a prescription to sit in an Epson salt bath. Sure, it’ll work. But I don’t know exactly which part did what. I don’t know if all of the above worked or if it was the combination.

To make matters worse, we live in an era of subjective truth which leads to objective sarcasm. “I’m sure Christ works for you,” with a big roll of the eyes.

A ministry friend just asked me if I would walk him through a couple of these theological questions. He’s been saved for quite a while now and no one has ever taken the time to ground him. I said “Yes,” so I figured I might as well respond here too.

Let me start by stating my three critical rules for understanding foundational theology.

  1. There are very few one-verse answers. Most of these easy questions are a compiled understanding throughout scripture.

  2. Begin by trying to see if there is a precedent within the nature and character of God. In other words, as I read scripture does this seem to be in keeping with whom God is?

  3. My experience (emotion) is often a good support to my base beliefs but it rarely is the base for my theology. That is because my heart and my mind can be shifted and bent to opinion.

There. Now let’s take a short look at the question of how a person becomes “saved”.

A. The word “saved” is a really common theme in the Old Testament. It most often refers to God rescuing Israel from it’s enemies. So what we know is that the word is not just about eternal life. David uses it a lot in reference to God saving us from our sin. It also is used in reference to saving us from eternal judgment. (Jeremiah 30:7, Psalm 80:19, Romans 5:9)

B. We know that it is through Jesus Christ, His substitutionary death on the cross and His resurrection that we are saved. Romans (5:10)

This is a great time to remind you, when you are looking for a summary answer, to the question of “How do I begin a relationship with God?” that the best short answer is found in Romans chapters 3,5,6 and 10.

Let’s take a look at that answer. According to Paul, we were powerless and then Jesus Christ took our sins. So much for everyone who thinks that they will straighten up and then God can accept them. God showed His love by dying for us while we were committing sin.

He paid the price of our sin (which was death) that appeased the Father. We were created to know God and through Christ’s death, we were restored to the place of relationship with the Father God. All of that and more from three verses in chapter five. No guesswork so far.

In Chapter six, we see that our obedience is our love gift back to God. We don’t continue to win our salvation because we never earned it in the first place. In fact, if I go back to chapter five, I see that Christ continues to do this work for us. He is not only the past way to God, but the continuous connection to God who is our Father. (John 15)

C. Confession and repentance are a critical component to this relationship with God. Romans 10:9 is the best single verse on this portion of the reconnection to the God who created us, whom we left. Confess with your mouth, which best is described as admitting your inability to connect to God without Jesus, and your continuing to live in disobedience to the plans of God. Believe in your heart that Jesus rose from the dead; real commitment to this information, which requires a certain amount of action. The truth is, if I don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, everything else becomes unimportant. If there is no resurrection then we have one earthly life to live. There is no accounting for our lives and no reason to live anyway but immersed in self-indulgence.

Repentance is close to this “confession” concept but is a bit more active. It is a word that denotes turning our life habits around. Repentance, however is a post salvation process.

Here is where “The Prayer” came in.

It is a verbal confession of our need for Jesus to save us from our Sin (life condition apart from God which incurs His wrath). It is a belief in our hearts because it requires an action. It acknowledges that Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God the Father (John 14:6).

Whether I can lose this gift or not, whether I have to experience a showing of God’s power immediately after these things, well that should be a matter of personal study. There are tons of great websites that coach us in the deeper things of our belief. Itunes offers some great pod casts regarding theology. http://whitehorseinn.org is a great site for smart debate and discussion about fundamental theology. Where I don’t always agree with the outcomes of their discussions I always know where to go to get a more clear answer.

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