I am not much into the Calvinist/Arminian debate, and I am not looking to get into an argument about double predestination. I know about TULIP. There are any number of ‘isms’ out there which define and define the theological landscape, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading about them and even writing about little every doctoral student has to do. It is important, however, to be able to articulate what it means to receive Christ, accept Christ, follow Christ, be in Christ, as well as any other verb you want to put in front of ‘Christ’ that relates to the new life offered in faith. It can still be a challenge to present the Message using language that is true to Scripture and relevant to our culture. I was reminded about this after reading this article about salvation by John Piper.
The question of salvation is the most important one there is, as it relates to one’s eternal destiny. This is why I am in the ministry and have remained in the ministry, and that is to be able to preach and teach the gospel and offer an opportunity for persons to make a decision for Christ. Sometimes this is easy to forget, especially with all the “church work” that goes with the territory. We need to remember what it’s all about.
There are indeed three ‘time’ dimensions for salvation: I am saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved. Spiritual formation is part of the salvation experience, discipleship and followship included. So, it is imperative in my mind to recall several passages which affirm that key question offered by the jailer who was fearful of Paul and Silas escaping prison: “sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Their answer? “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .”
The “little gospel” as described by Martin Luther, or John 3:16, includes this admonition: “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Many have heard this reference, and even now I remember the man with the multicolored hair who found a way on TV at all the big sporting events. Even Tim Tebow threw of 316 yards against the Steelers, and this has elevated interest in this reference for that reason. Oh well, I digress.
Believing sounds like a decision to me. Jesus repeated asked individuals to “follow me.” He still does through the proclamation of the Word and work of the Holy Spirit. Salvation involves a transformation of the person based on knowing Jesus Christ and allowing his or her faith experience to be nurtured through spiritual formation. Ideally this occurs in a community of faith known as the church, but apparently folks like Justin Bieber don’t find that necessary. He is not alone of course, but I continue to maintain the importance of personal spiritual growth. Salvation is personal, but it is not private, and the story of what Christ has done in our lives should be shared through our words and actions. It reminds me of the old song “I have decided to follow Jesus.” There’s good theology there, beginning with a decision to believe Jesus and in Jesus.
I do respect differences of opinion on this issue, but I guess I am not ready to give up on continuing to urge persons to make a ‘decision’ for Christ. It’s the most important decision there is, and a key motivation to continue giving and going on missions.