Unconditional Salvation (Part 2)

Part 1

Everyone is saved

When I say everyone is saved, I basically mean that no one needs to worry about their eternal destiny; only love lasts forever, most importantly the everlasting love of God.

(Keep in mind, however, that this kind of “salvation” is not what the scriptures speak of when they use the same word (as I explained in the previous post). I am just speaking in terms of how the word “salvation” is currently used among most people who call themselves christians.)

Some people think that when I say that God saved everyone I am saying that God forces everyone to have a relationship with him and is thus a control freak that removes our freedom. (I would say quite the opposite, actually.)

Let me give an analogy. It’s like humanity was drowning in an ocean, some were asking God to save them, some weren’t. But God saved them all! He didn’t refuse to save some just because they didn’t ask him. But the one’s who did not ask for help now have a choice as to whether they will accept the reality that they have been saved. They can continue acting as if they are drowning (although that would be a very poor choice!), but in reality they have been brought onto the ship of his love.

Nevertheless, those who refuse to accept reality cannot remain in their delusional strike forever. Eventually, they will be brought to their senses because they will become hungry. In the same way, all people, created in the image of God, were designed with a natural desire for the ultimate pleasure, God, and a repulsion to everything opposite. Their disgust for the false and their attraction to God will eventually pull them out of their insanity and bring them to recognize things as they really are.

This analogy falls short, however, because nobody was ever really “drowning.” We never needed to be saved from an angry god. God was never required by his nature to punish people for eternity for naughty things they do or forced to give up his loving pursuit of them because, in their ignorance of what God is truly like, they “rejected God,” which, more accurately, was merely a rejection of a certain idea of God.

Not everyone is saved

Speaking in the sense that the scriptures do, however, not everyone is saved. That is, not everyone has experienced deliverance from all negativity in life.

A particularly notable topic concerning salvation in the New Testament is being saved from the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. If you have never looked into this and its relation to the scriptures, I would encourage you to do your homework. It will significantly alter the way you read the scriptures. The ignorance among christians concerning this historical event is likely the foremost reason why many confuse passages where this destruction is spoken of as a reference to being saved from eternal damnation.

There’s a difference between being saved and becoming saved. No one needs to become saved. Salvation is freely available for all to live in. But some need to be saved. That is, it would do them well to live in that salvation that is theirs already and act like who they truly are.

People can become something but not act like it. For example, if a prince thinks he is a beggar, he will go around asking people for food and money simply because he is unaware of the reality that those things are already abundantly available to him.

This is why you will read scriptures passages like the following: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Notice how both connect the experience of salvation to consciousness – repenting (changing your mind) and knowing.

God’s desire is that everyone live in and experience the salvation he created for them. This happens by believing the truth that they already have been saved.

True salvation

Ultimately, salvation is not even a status of whether someone is saved or not.

Salvation is a person. 

In the Old Testament people call God their salvation (Psalm 27:1 & Isaiah 12:2) and say that salvation is in God (Jeremiah 3:23) (where everyone happens to be). The name Jesus means “Jehovah is salvation,” and Jesus himself says that eternal life is to know him (John 17:3).

Salvation is about experiencing freedom from every negative thing and enjoying relationship with Jesus here and now.

And all humanity is saved – is able to live in the abundant life in Christ.

If you find this post hard to swallow, I think I might know why. Stay tuned for the final post!

Part 3

*****

Also see:

Distractive Biblical Obsession (Part 4)

pointer

Part 3

Bibles aren’t meant to be studied or memorized

The early believers didn’t do any private bible studies. There are no exhortations to study or memorize the scriptures in bibles. Only once are they commanded to be read corporately (1 Timothy 4:13), and Paul was only talking to an apostolic leader, not to a congregation in general.

Bible study is like studying a map. Its purpose is to get you to a destination. It points to a reality. But once that destination and reality is reached, the map is no longer needed. It fulfilled its purpose. People can study and discuss the map all their life, or even memorize it, but never know and experience the reality. Many mistake the bible for the reality itself, thinking there is Truth in it. It can be used as a medium for God to communicate truth through, but Truth is not in it. Truth is only pointed to. Truth is a reality – the reality of Jesus Christ, the living person in us.

The idea of bible studies is silly because the scriptures were never written to be studied. Paul didn’t write what he did so that the recipients would spend the rest of their lives picking apart every little word he wrote. This is the attitude that the Pharisees took on, but look where it got them! Only intellectual knowledge can be gained by studying bibles, but Holy Spirit provides revelation.

Bible memorization takes verses out of context and treats them as truth. It can also be used, intentionally or not, as a form of brainwashing, whereby a particular interpretation is attached to certain verses so that those verses are equated in a person’s mind with the truth of that interpretation. This is partially why we see christians posting a bible verse in response to something as if their citation is the end-all proof of their position. It also shows lack of trust in Holy Spirit regularly speaking to us and leading us into all truth. Instead, there is a reliance upon manual recall of verses memorized to be “led.”

Under the Old Covenant there was the Law written in a book. But now it is written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). What was external has been made internal.

The Protestant clergy have rescued the Bible from the darkness of papal libraries and have scattered it abroad over the whole earth. They have exalted it in the highest terms of human praise. They have studied, commented, and explained, nay even tortured every word, phrase, and expression in the original and translations, for every possible interpretation. The result is that Christianity is smothered in theology and criticism: the truths of revelation are wire-drawn and spun and twisted into the most fantastical shapes human fancy or human logic can devise. A system of technical Divinity has been constructed which rivals the complexity of all the machinery of the Romish church. – Stephen Colwell

Part 5

“Have you been Naughty this Week?” – Rethinking Accountability

How do the following questions make you feel:

“What sins have you committed this week?”

“Have you been spending time in prayer?”

“Did you keep up with your Bible reading?”

I smell legalism. If I answer negatively, I feel condemned; if I answer positively, I feel self-righteous.

These are some of the common questions asked at “accountability group” meetings, and they exemplify their purpose and spirit. Regrettably, this type of meeting is based on the assumption of a dysfunctional relationship with God.

When Jesus is sufficient motivation for you to be a good boy or girl, talk with God, and spend time diving into the Scriptures, being accountable to human beings becomes unnecessary. If you need other people to make sure you do these things, then you have a heart issue and there is a good chance that you are stuck in legalism. You are trying to “do what you should do” instead of doing it simply because you want to.

Legalism tries to directly deal with your behavior. But the real problem isn’t your behavior but your beliefs, because your behavior is born out of what you believe.

“Man is what he believes.” – Anton Chekhov

“You are what you believe you are.” – C.S. Lewis

Confessing your sins, praying with others, or reading the Bible together will not transform your behavioral patterns because they do not address your beliefs.

What kind of accountability, then, should Christians hold among each other?

I like how Kris Vallotton puts it: “Accountability is awesome if it is account-for-your-ability and not account for your disability.”

Christian accountability is about declaring who you already are in Christ by faith, regardless of whether you believe it or are acting like it. It is reminding you of your true identity so that you believe it and actually do start living it. It’s helping you to trust the truth in order for you to walk in an awareness of it.

This doesn’t mean ignoring junk going on in your life. Rather, it means denying that the junk is a part of your identity and reminding you that you are much better than how you are acting.

Instead of focusing on our failures let’s constantly tell each other of Jesus’ success. By the cross he made us righteous, sanctified, holy, pure, perfect, and new. Conversing with God and encountering him in his written word are not religious duties anymore but fun adventures. Although we may feel like these things are not true, our faith in their reality will cause us to act upon and experience them in our daily lives.

I propose a replacement for accountability groups: reality checks. Reality checks are also done by asking questions, but they are thoroughly different in content from accountability group questions. For example:

“Do you believe that your old sinful self is dead and doesn’t exist anymore?”

“Are you aware that you have absolutely nothing to worry about?”

“You know God is perfectly pleased with you, yeah?”

Since some people have never heard or don’t believe the truth, it needs to be told to them. Thus reality checks also take the form of declarations:

“Your old sinful self is dead and doesn’t exist anymore.”

“You have absolutely nothing to worry about.”

“God is perfectly pleased with you.”

As a side note, Peter and Paul both performed reality checks for the churches they wrote to by way of repetition and continual reminder  (Philippians 3:12 Peter 1:12-13).

Allow me to make some clarifications.

  1. The goal is not to randomly say Biblical truths but to discern by Holy Spirit what people need to hear in relation to what they are experiencing. The goal is to get our eyes off of our problems and onto Jesus. We walk by faith, not by sight.
  2. I am not claiming that accountability groups are evil. I took part in accountability groups during all of my high school years, so I am aware that good can come out of them. But I am suggesting that they are rooted in misconceptions regarding life in Christ and that they bring about unintended negative consequences. I believe there is a better way, which I briefly described above.
  3. I am not suggesting that we gloss over struggles we are experiencing by spouting one-liner doctrines and pretending everything is just fine, nor am I saying it is okay for someone to be stuck in sin. What I am saying is that, in the vast majority of cases, the troubles we go through seem problematic only because of a lie we believe. Thus we should deal with our beliefs and God will take care of the problem.
  4. I am not saying that you do not need to have deep relationships with Christian brothers and sisters. In fact I affirm that this is vital. We often need to talk through misunderstandings we’ve held on to with friends who can help clarify our thoughts and feelings. I am saying that these relationships shouldn’t be in the form of an accountability group. What we really need is community, not accountability. Accountability naturally happens in genuine communities, but accountability by itself does not give rise to community.

Finally, I want to tell you right now–you are completely righteous, wholly sanctified, entirely holy, flawlessly pure, totally perfect, and brand new; you hear God and he speaks to you; and you will have tons of fun with God as you interact with him through exploring the Bible.

All because of what Jesus did for you.

The awesome thing about reality checking is that reality in Christ is always full of good news.

Happy reality checking 🙂

Check out these articles if you’re interested in reading more about accountability:
http://www.newcovenantgrace.com/accountability-vs-manipulation/
http://www.conversantlife.com/the-church/mike-foster-why-i-dont-believe-in-christian-accountability-part-1
http://www.covenanteyes.com/2011/12/27/why-christian-accountability-groups-are-awkward-unhelpful-and-often-fail/