Consider the term "saved". A non-Christian hearing the term might ask "saved from what?" It's a simple term for a complicated topic. It can mean saved from one's sins; or it can mean saved from oneself. It can mean saved from the natural consequences of my actions. But fundamentally it means one's eternal salvation. Until you've actually experienced salvation, from a Christian perspective, it's very difficult to understand what it means. And it's harder still to describe it. But I can tell you as a Christian that I'm saved, and when I think about it, it's a pretty incredible condition to be in.
I understand how use of the term can irritate non-Christians. First of all, many people don't think that they need to be saved from anything, much less themselves. And to add insult to injury, Christians tell them that there is only one way to be saved- through Jesus. But before you get mad, just understand that Christians are simply relating what the Bible tells them that Jesus said. He said that He is the only way.
You might argue that this is simply misinterpretation of Jesus' words. But I would argue that He didn't leave any room for misinterpretation. Read the gospels. I think you'll agree that Jesus claims were uncategorical. And that may be why they are hard to accept for some people. Most of us subscribe to some sort of ethical framework based in "fairness". And it just doesn't seem fair that God would create such a narrow path to eternal salvation. It seems more fair that He would create a system in which our good works would be weighed against our bad deeds. And if the good outweighs the bad, then we get a free Heavenly pass. We reap what we sow.
The problem with this framework, however, is that it rests upon a bad assumption. Reaping what you sow assumes that we begin life with a net zero balance. In other words, it assumes that from the moment of our life, our cosmic scale is in perfect balance. Our ledger of life is clean of any debits or credits. The fallacy with this thinking is simple. God gave us our lives. So, in truth, we begin life with a pretty large debit balance- God's gift of life to us.
And of course, it only goes downhill from there. We consume. We need. We use all kinds of bad ways to get those needs met. And the deficit balance only grows. At some point in our lives, we may begin to act selflessly. Selfless acts certainly reduce the deficit. But could you ever do enough good to pay God back for your very life? About the only way that I can think of would be to somehow sacrifice your own life in His service. Do you know anyone who has done that lately?
I can only think of one person. His name is Jesus. Granted, He lived and died on earth long before I got here. To conclude what I have about His life and death, I must rely on the documentary evidence, the Bible. The Old Testament describes a savior who bears an eery resemblance to Jesus (Old Testament prophecy is pretty fascinating stuff. If you want a taste, read Isaiah. Look for references that describe Jesus birth, life and death). The New Testament describes His life. I also rely on the testimony of witnesses. They tell me what they believe and the impact of it, and Him, on their lives. I rely on the evidence in my own life. I read the Bible. I follow its instruction. And it works for me.
There's one other piece of testamentary evidence upon which I rely. The book of Acts indicates that after Jesus died and ascended into Heaven, He returned. He wasn't in the same form that He assumed during His earthly existence. It was in the form of a spirit, the Holy Spirit. Jesus called it the "Comforter". Christians believe that when we become Christians (that is, we tell God we are sorry for what we have done with our lives- essentially a deficit sin balance; we accept the fact that Jesus paid for our sins- we believe in and trust in Him; and we promise to follow Him going forward- making Him the Lord or our lives), we become indwelt with the Holy Spirit. In other words, God comes to live within us.
The Holy Spirit ultimately validates all of it for me. I read the Bible and He teaches me through that reading. I pray and He "speaks" to me. This is another misused "Christianspeak" term. Non-Christians hear it and for them, it confirms everything. Christians are certifiable. They hear voices. They're crazy. But when God speaks to me, I mean it metaphorically. If you've seen the movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark", you know what happens to people who are exposed directly to the power of God. I'm talking about the Nazi officer who is carrying the Ark of the Covenant and accidently peeks into its contents. He melts instantaneously.
I suppose I just offended my conservative Christian friends with the foregoing analogy. But I think the point makes sense. God is so great, and so powerful, that I imagine a direct communication from Him, unfiltered, would probably have a severe and undesireable outcome. At least in this life.
So, when Christians talk about God speaking, it's not audible. Instead, He speaks to me through the Bible (His Word) and through the circumstances of my life. He causes things to come together in such a way in my life as to continue to propel me through all of it, in such a way that I continue to become remade more and more in His likeness. I have to continue to trust in Him for it to work. And I have to continue to obey Him, at least as best as this miserable little human shell that I live in will allow.
More importantly, He speaks to me through the life of Jesus. I believe that Jesus was God's Son. Jesus is that filter through which God communicates to mankind. He shows us that God loves us and wants to take care of us. He shows us that God loves us so much, He was willing to suffer crucifixion and to die for us. So, Jesus really is the only Human who ever lived who actually did end up with a credit balance on His life. And He invested that credit balance in each of us. It's sort of like giving us an envelope containing a check for deposit in our eternal bank account. The check will pay our way into Eternity. Christians often refer to it as a "free gift".
The only question remaining is whether we will accept it. We can cash the check. Or we can leave it in the envelope.
Deposit the check. If you're not sure how, send me a message. Or I'm guessing God has placed someone in your life who can help. Look around you- they are there, just waiting for you to ask. And by the way, so is He.
And have yourself a Merry little Christmas.