Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Lately I've been thinking quite a bit about the process of salvation. Partly because I'm in relationship right now with someone who is dying of bone cancer but who may - or may not - be saved.

In some ways I can see God working in my friend's heart. I can see my friend responding to my prayers. I hear my friend affirm that he knows that Jesus loves him, and that my love for him is reflective of that same love. But is this enough? Does that mean anything? If my friend died tonight, would he be welcomed into God's loving embrace?

I don't know.

But this conversation makes me wonder. What does salvation look like? Does someone need to pray a prayer or affirm certain doctrines in order to be saved? If so, what about the thief on the cross? He wasn't baptized. He wouldn't have been able to clearly explain to anyone what the Gospel was, but Jesus affirmed his simple act of faith was enough to ride shotgun with Jesus into paradise that very day.

For that matter, I started to wonder something else. When did the Disciples get saved? Can we pinpoint their conversion experiences? I mean, was Peter saved when he threw down his nets and followed Jesus on day one? Or was he saved when he affirmed that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God? Or was he saved when he denied Jesus three times? What about when Jesus asked him to feed his lambs? I mean, do we see any point in the New Testament that resembles a conversion experience for Peter that you and I would recognize? What about the other disciples? When did they get saved?

On one level, I know that this inability we have to pinpoint the moment of salvation is partly why Jesus commands us to not judge one another. Why? Because we're really not very good at it.

If you and I were next door neighbors to the Rich Young Ruler, we'd have sworn that guy was going to enter the Kingdom of God. But when Jesus makes him the offer, he walks away with sadness. He can't do it.

If we lived next door to the thief on the cross, we'd have sworn that criminal, low-life scum would never have any cheance at redemption. And we'd be wrong.

Only God knows our hearts. We can barely know our own hearts, much less the heart of someone else. So, if we're commanded not to judge one another's salvation, how can we really know either way?

In all of this I do admit that my frustration and anxiety about my friend is largely selfish. I want to know that he is saved so that I can rest easy. I want to know that my investment of time and energy with this friend wasn't for nothing.

Would I still have served and loved this man knowing his ultimate decision might not ever be known to me? I think so. Over time I've really, genuinely grown to love this gentleman. He's like a part of my family. He's a part of me. His death will affect me deeply, regardless of his eternal condition.

I may not ever really know whether or not my friend Robert is saved. For now, I will continue to serve him, and to show the love of Jesus to him, for as long as I can. I know that God is the one who ultimately deals with each of us individually. I can sow, another can water, but only Jesus gives the increase.

I trust my friend into the arms of Jesus, and I trust my Lord is faithful and true. He is a loving, kind, and giving Father who judges fairly. If nothing else, I can trust that God loves him more than I do, and that God is good.




Anonymous said...

Hey Keith,

I really appreciate your blog and the honesty of your journey. I'm in a similar place with my wife and in the process I'm amazed with how the Lord shatters expectations, especially mine. My wife has a heart as big and as tender as anyone I know. She truly loves and feels it. Some would say that she doesn't have all the correct doctrine but the love she has...Sometimes I think she may be closer to the Kingdom than me. So I watch and learn.

Marc said...

It seems to me that "getting saved" is a modern phenomena. What you had in the early church was getting baptised which meant dying to sin. As far as I can tell from the early writings you just stopped sinning but relied on God for mercy (as you were merciful) if you inadvertently sinned. There was no sense of once saved, always saved, but of a change of life-style consonant with Jesus call to repentance.

The reason is there is no "ticket to heaven" purchased by Jesus but that everyone, Christian and non-Christian, will be judged by their lives and can expect mercy on the base of how merciful they were. There is no loophole so Christians are in the same boat as non-Christians except that they know this judgment is coming.

norma j hill said...

maybe salvation journey rather than salvation experience. "Saved" based on a one-time prayer or whatever, is like saying you have been married for 50 years, even though once you "said your vows" you never spoke to your spouse again and lived completely separate - or at best, parallel - lives.

Your post encourages me, because I've asked the same questions over and over... having been raised in a tradition where being able to point to a distinct moment and place in time where one "said the sinner's prayer" was the big thing (and really not being able to do that myself)

Mark said...

I also think it is hard to really pinpoint the "moment" of salvation. I too think it is a process. Add to the confusion the fact that, before the birth of Christ, old testament people were credited with righteousness, before righteousness was officially even available (through the death of Christ). David even talked about the forgiveness of his sins, a concept that was foreign to the established religious principles of the day.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Hey Keith, we've been praying for you and Richard for some time now and well this Sunday actually we thought, we'd just ask you a few questions after we finished. Hope that's ok. We wondered if you have spoken to Richard about who you believe Jesus is? Also, if you've explained what He's done in you? Finally, have you asked Richard what he believes...? I guess knowing the answers to these questions, will help us pray more specifically.