Today we continue our Lenten journey towards the cross, and then to the surprise of that first Easter morning. From the grief and pain to the joy and the hope.
Our theme this last 4 weeks have been Surprised by Hope. We have taken a look at the Hope for the world. Matt did a great job making us aware that the Kingdom of God isn’t just a not yet reality, but that it is a present reality as well. That we are to be people of hope right now, right here, right in the present. We then looked at the Hope of Heaven, and talked about the fact that heaven and earth overlap, and that Jesus is moving and working to make earth look more and more like heaven. And we are called to participate in that work as well. Last week we talked about the Hope of the Second Coming. We talked about the hope of the second coming means that he will come and set the world right, and return it back to the way that it was truly meant to be. Not come down, scoop us off this doomed planet, and destroy it, as so many think.
So today we are talking about the Hope of Salvation. We will be spending time taking a good look at what is Salvation, what it isn’t, what we are saved from, and more importantly what we are saved for. I almost hesitate in using the word saved due to the almost negative connotation that it brings up in a lot of us. Images of hellfire and brimstone, heavy handed evangelist yelling “Are you saved?”, and the images of the movie called Saved that came out a few years ago. But if we are really honest, we realize that this is a biblical term, and that we need to unpack it from its cultural context (or at least the evangelical, fundamentalist context). Once we do that we will, I believe, realize that Salvation is a more beautiful, more wonderful, and more hope filled reality, not only for the future but also for right now in the present.
To look at the idea of the hope of Salvation we are going to look at a passage of Scripture that many use to talk about grace and the fact that we can’t “earn salvation” but we are going to include the very next verse, which is often missing when people talk about grace and salvation, and use this particular text. The text that we’ll be looking at this morning is Ephesians 2:8-10 which says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
The Apostle Paul in the first two verses is saying that the hope of salvation is Jesus. It is about his work, his life, his death, and his resurrection. Salvation is a work of Jesus and a gift given to us. Nothing we do can earn it. We can’t be good enough; smart enough, love enough, and follow Jesus enough to somehow have God in our debt. Only through God’s grace, are we able to have the hope of salvation. Salvation, according to Paul, has to do with people being rescued from the fate that they would otherwise have incurred. It answers the question as to how that rescue has taken place and who is ultimately responsible for it.
But, to me, that begs a question. What exactly is this thing called Salvation. The common idea is that salvation is because Jesus died on the cross, so that we could go to heaven when we die. But I don’t believe that is the entire story. In fact I believe salvation is not “going to heaven” but “being raised in life in God’s new heaven and new earth.” And it is more than just a one time shot either. The work of salvation, that was done by Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, is much more than just about an end destination. In its fullest sense, salvation is about whole beings, and not merely souls, about the present, not simply the future, and about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us.
It is pretty clear according to Paul that we aren’t saved by good works otherwise we would boast. But so often, people think that is the end of the story. That it ends at verse 9. Yes, it is quite clear that through the resurrection of Jesus, we are saved FROM sin and death. But there is more to salvation than just being saved from sin and death. God is saving and restoring all of creation (not just ourselves…..look at Colossians 1:20 which shows us what he saves by his death on the cross…”and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”) and he is inviting each of us into his work of sorting out what is wrong in the world. God’s people aren’t saved by good works, but we aren’t definitely saved for good works.
So often if we read verses 8-9 and stop there, so much of what salvation truly is gets lost, or can get lost. Some people believe that salvation is a one time deal, done by God and all we have to do is accept it. So we accept Jesus as Savior and not King and Lord. We walk down an aisle, say a prayer and we are in. And then we go on living anyway we want, because salvation is about being saved from Hell and for heaven, and we have already “sealed that deal.” This type of understanding of salvation castrates discipleship and mission. Why follow Jesus as a disciple, why partner with Jesus in the work of his Kingdom, if salvation is only about Jesus as Savior? All we have to do is look around at the state of the church today to realize that so many people have bought what the church has sold them, this understanding that salvation is just about me, my forgiveness, my eternity with God. We quote the first two verses, without the third verse, and we change the entire meaning of the gospel to being about us.
When we buy into, what Dallas Willard calls the gospel of sin management, that it is about the individual’s personal forgiveness of sins, we lose the true hope of salvation. We lose the power of the gospel. We lose how the gospel and salvation can make a difference, not only in our own individual lives, but our corporate life together, and also out into the entire world. We true lose that salvation is truly a gift from God, and that then we are to embody that gift of salvation, in our lives, and through our good works, the world can begin to look more and more like heaven.
You and I, when we are a vessel of the gospel, filled with God’s salvation, we are his masterpieces. We become a song, a dance, a painting, a photograph, a poem of the Kingdom of God. Our lives then point to the beauty, the hope, the redemption, the setting things to right that only God can fully do, but calls us into that work nonetheless, and the hope of salvation.
So yes, as I said before, Jesus offers salvation from sin, death, and the evil of this world. At the same time, his salvation is a call to something. We are saved from sin and for good works. Just as Jesus is sorting out the brokenness in our lives and the world, we are called to help him in his work of putting things right in our lives, society, and even in the created order. God is not perched off on some heavenly throne, sitting on his hands and waiting to battle evil and sort out the wrong in the world at some future time. He is entering human history each and every day through you and me. Salvation and judgment are coming today as we lock horns with evil, battle against sin, and become agents of God’s new creation right where he places us.
But what does this hope of salvation look like on the ground? What does it mean for you and I each and every day as we wake up go to work, to school, as we interact with friends, family, neighbors, etc…? How are you and I called to be masterpieces of his salvation and Kingdom in this world? Let’s talk about these very things together…..
1. As you reflect on the Scripture text and the message this morning, what thoughts, questions, insights, ideas, etc.. come to mind that you would like to share with the community? 2. How are we being and how can we be songs, dances, paintings, poems, photographs pointing to the hope of salvation in Jesus both individually and corporately? 3. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?