Christian Salvation

It seems that a LOT of people, including Christians, have a number of misconceptions regarding Salvation and Prayers and Answers to Prayers. Here are some thoughts on these subjects.

Salvation

When you ask Jesus to enter your heart, He actually does! Right then! But, the person might not realize it has actually happened! There is no great flash of light! And if that person then starts rattling off a laundry list of Prayer requests (or even a single one) it can sometimes seem like He isn't really there. How could this be?

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He IS there! He is extremely patient with us! He is patiently waiting there, until you get to the point of being able to understand a lot of important things. This involves learning. Church Services and Bible study are meant to accomplish these ends, but they aren't particularly effective when a person cannot easily "relate" to what is going on. You might know that feeling!

Maybe you attend a Church that seems to be on a different "page" than you are on. Or one that seems to get all tangled in worldly matters or gets totally focused on one narrow aspect of Christianity. Or even one that is incompatible with your personality. About a year before I was Saved (at 19), a Catholic friend invited me to join her for Sunday Mass. At that time, the Catholic Church still did the entire Service in Latin. I didn't understand a single word that went on! I remember thinking how useless it would have been for me, personally, to regularly attend such a Church, as my friend did. After the Mass, I commented to my friend that I hadn't realized she understood Latin, and she said that she didn't. Apparently, she, and many of the others, were just going through some sort of rites (my personal view), without the slightest chance of learning new things about the Christian Faith.

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Fortunately, the Catholic Church has changed their policy and now have Mass in the primary language of whatever country the Church is in! But still, such an environment might not be best suited to everyone. Neither might an environment where Pentecostals are sometimes falling on the floor and thrashing about or suddenly bursting out in Speaking in Tongues!

Separate from the learning and development of Faith that can (and should) occur in Churches and Bible study, BELIEVE can probably help a lot, too. One of it's main purposes is to help "Teach" and inform and clarify. If there is some subject that particularly intrigues you, like "Salvation", BELIEVE has a comprehensive presentation on it. That way, you wouldn't have to wait a bunch of weeks until a Minister gets around to giving a Sermon on the subject that interests you!

So, the many presentations in BELIEVE might help you better understand different aspects of Christian Faith. Being able to find and attend a "comfortable" and suitable Church will help a lot, too. Since Jesus is already patiently waiting in your heart (even though YOU don't realize it!), at some point, you will certainly have an epiphany, where suddenly a lot of separate concepts are seen as parts of a larger whole. That's a pretty good description of how I got Saved when I was 19. It was truly a remarkable experience! You have something really amazing to look forward to! But no one has any way of knowing how soon you will be capable of grasping the totality of it.

That gets us to the "words" business. No words could possibly describe that experience I had. No Pastor could ever "Teach" it. The "words" just don't exist. And so we have to use "words" that sort of "skirt around" the true essence of it, Teaching all the things we Pastors Teach, hoping to prepare people to be able to attain a personal insight that is magnificent to the ninth power!

Revivals

There are some Churches that hold "Revivals" where they claim to "Save" hundreds of people all at once. Nope. There are others that brag about "Saving" large numbers of Souls, whether in Churches or in Missionary work. Nope. They are taking credit for something they have no right of. Yes, in extremely rare situations, a person can be truly Saved during a "first contact" with Christianity. But that seems to be very rare. Much more common is for "Seekers" to learn and learn and learn some more, and then to struggle at making sense of all that apparent nonsense! I'm saying that if this describes you, you're probably on the right Course! Jesus is already patiently waiting in your heart. You are exploring, learning, studying, growing. An important part of that is "discernment". Unfortunately, there is a lot of garbage out there. YOU have to figure out what is Truth and what is being presented because of somebody's selfish goals. BELIEVE is meant to be able to help in this area. It's often very hard to tell the difference between slick promotions and Truth. Your Holy Spirit will always help you sort through such things.

All in all, I'm saying that you might be headed roughly in the right direction, even if you do not necessarily see much progress going on. Explore. Learn. Study. Be as discerning as you can. I think Jesus is pleased when people are honestly inquisitive about Christian subjects, even unusual aspects of it that you might be considering. I think it assures Him that you will eventually get to where you are trying to go.

A funny thing is, that once you "get there", you will ask yourself "Why did it take me so long to figure all this out?" because it will then seem so simple and obvious to you! I cannot explain that, or even help you leapfrog ahead. I'm just telling you of my experiences. And that you will laugh at how difficult and confusing it used to seem! And, all the while, Jesus is just patiently waiting for you, smiling, Loving!

Prayers, Answers to Prayers

When people say, "Jesus didn't answer when I called Him", I think it's just us being sort of egotistical. Oh, HE heard you. And, He may have even answered you, but possibly in some way that you are not yet capable of comprehending. We tend to have the approach "I want ice cream, with the expected response being either yes or no that we get ice cream." This assumes that we know and understand the right questions and requests and the "correct" responses to them. What if Yogurt, or a salad, unexpectedly appeared in your possession? Would you recognize that as a "healthier" response to your request? Doubtful! We're just not too smart, sometimes!

I actually think that there is a more common situation. When we demand that ice cream, a far more insightful parent (or God) might realize that this "child" needs to learn Patience. I can see the possibility where the ice cream might be INTENTIONALLY withheld (for a while) in order to allow a larger lesson to be learned. Good parents sometimes do such things. In our limited (child-like?) minds, we might not see the "Patience" lesson being present, because WE WANT ICE CREAM! We humans tend to have a lot of self-centered thoughts, and I think that God sometimes finds ways to allow us to have "learning opportunities". He knows that we have a LOT to learn! Now, this doesn't mean that you will actually LEARN patience from such an experience! You were just given the OPPORTUNITY to do so! Most kids/people probably wouldn't, but some would. Most of us tend to react by starting whining and crying about being neglected and ignored, etc. My parents are MEAN! Jesus doesn't care about me! See what I mean? We Pray for some thing, often fairly short-sighted. God's response is FAR better than we could ever have hoped! He has chosen to give us an opportunity to learn a personal "skill" that can become a permanent part of who we are. We asked for ice cream. We were GIVEN the opportunity to become better human beings! What an Awesome God we have! He overlooks the shallowness of our request and presented us with something incalculably better!

Why Evil Exists

Please consider expanding on this idea regarding us polluting the planet, hurting each other, lying, cheating, stealing, etc. I am sure God is displeased with such things. He certainly has the capability of instantly solving all of them. But what would we have learned? That we could do absolutely anything, without the slightest negative consequence to ourselves, because our Loving God would always take care of everything! Nope! I think that He knows that we often have to learn things the "hard way". Just like the "ice cream" demand, we have much larger lessons to learn, and such lessons must be learned individually. God would NEVER treat us in such a way as to encourage us to become ignorant of the consequences of our actions. But He is so intelligent that He knows that sometimes, only "tough love" really gets through! Our God, Who Loves us so totally, must sometimes watch us fail, individually and collectively. A parent must watch a child fall off a bicycle while first learning to ride, WITHOUT HELPING. That parent probably suffers as much as the child when the fall occurs. Imagine the agony that God and Jesus must go through due to all the terrible things we do, to each other, to Their planet, even to Their Church. It's almost amazing that They still Love us!

It is my hope that these various comments have given you things to think about. Many subjects have been touched on. If you ever expect me (or any other human) to give absolute answers to life's many questions, I cannot. I can give guidance, as suggested above. That's all.

If you are persistent in your exploring, you WILL come to really understand how it all fits together. Wherever you happen to be in that journey, the remaining amount might fall into place in a day, or a week, or a year, or in 5 years, no one can know. Your personal motivation toward studying and thinking through and resolving these matters will affect the "speed" that you get there.

In any Sermon, we are primarily limited to "words". There are MANY things and concepts that "words" do not adequately express. The depth of love between a husband and wife is an example. Christianity has many such subjects. It is probably true that most Christian Churches probably over-emphasize Jesus over the Father and the Holy Spirit (in the Trinity). There is a practical reason they tend to do this. We humans actually got to experience Jesus as a mortal person, so He "seems" more understandable and real to our limited brains. Only a handful of humans ever witnessed the Father (Abraham, Adam, Moses (sort of), Solomon, a few others) so it is much harder for us to "personally relate to" Him.

As to the Holy Spirit, since It has nothing "concrete" to envision, it is much harder to conceptualize or discuss. Consider the much simpler concept "anger" which we all understand. How could you ever describe or discuss "anger" to someone who had never experienced it? The Holy Spirit represents that sort of communication problem for Clergy, because most in the Congregation do not believe they have ever experienced It. (I personally believe that virtually all of them have, but haven't recognize it.) For these practical reasons, most Christian Churches tend to concentrate on Jesus, and on the Bible's "words".

A Random Comment, Meekness

"Meek" and "being a doormat" are NOT the same thing. Many people (especially many Christians) seem to think that the "meekness" that Jesus honored means that Christians should quietly accept unfair abuses by others. The fact that there were a number of Martyrs who did this for their Christian beliefs has ingrained this attitude. There is an interesting poster I've seen that lists several desirable goals. They include CHANGING the wrongs we think we can correct, TOLERATING the situations where we think we cannot change, and having the INSIGHT to know the difference (I grossly paraphrased; my apologies to the original author). Those Martyrs found themselves in hopeless situations. As it happens, their choices back then really HAVE "changed" things. It obviously didn't do them any good as people because they were burned, crucified, stoned or otherwise killed. But later generations WERE changed as a result. However, for most of us, being a Christian does NOT mean that we have to stand idly by and be abused and walked on by countless others. Your Holy Spirit will aid you in having the insight to "know the difference" of the two possible situations. Sometimes, a Christian SHOULD stand up for his/her personal rights and/or beliefs. That action would not "violate" any "meekness" guidelines.

Jesus was "meek" but He also intensely defended what He knew to be the Truth. Meekness, in His sense, IS a good thing, and is something to work at. But, self-image, and defending one's integrity and honor and Faith, is also very important. In some ways, I see elements of meekness in both Presidents Carter and Reagan. In Carter's case, he tended to get trampled by the politicians, which was sad. But Reagan never got "walked on" because people knew he would intensely defend his positions. These seem to me to be very different aspects of meekness involved.


This presentation was first placed on the Internet in February 2000.

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Pastor Carl
A Christ Walk Church