Salvation – Its Not Just About You

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We are currently in the season of Lent. This is a time when we would traditionally pay more attention to themes such as confession, sin and sacrifice. This is an important area of our lives because, as I’ve often even wrote here, sin kills things. That’s simply what it does. But, the flipside is that salvation heals things.

Here, though, is what I want to unpack today: Sin isn’t just what we do (actions), it’s also part of our systems and relationships (systemic).

Pentecostal theologian, Amos Yong at Fuller, puts it this way, “Sin itself is undeniably social in character. … Because all creation labors under the bondage of sin, human creatures struggle with sinful relationships, life systems and environments from their conception. But, if sin has this inextricably social dimension, then so has sanctification.”

He goes on to write that “the purification from sin and the consecration to holiness therefore inevitably have to involve the reconciling of alienated relations, the redemption and renewal of social structures, and the healing of the world.”

What this all means in theological jargon is this: Salvation isn’t just about you and your sins; it’s about everything in the world – that in and through Jesus’ death and sacrifice, He wants to save not only us from our personal bad actions, but also the broken relationships we have in the broken social structures around us.

What this means is that salvation isn’t only individual, it’s also relational and cosmic. Meaning it involves everything. And, this is really really good news.

Jesus is not just interested in saving you, but also in saving your broken relationships, and the broken systems in and around us. Jesus is about a salvation that involves all the different aspects of “us.” Sin has a social dimension to it, and so does sanctification or salvation. Jesus wants to save every area of brokenness in the world, including our relationships and systems.

I write all this to remind us of one thing at Lent: That, yes, the world is broken and we can see it all around us – we don’t need to deny it. Instead, we can work against it, because Jesus is interested in saving every bit of creation.

Of course, we should confess our sins and brokenness during Lent. We absolutely should invite Jesus to work in our lives – to convict us, heal us and transform us. But, we should also ask how we might partner with Him in the healing of the world, because salvation has never been about just “you,” but about all of “us.” Sin does have a social dimension to it, but redemption does too.

So, during Lent, as we focus in on our sin and brokenness, let us not forget the broken systems of the world and the relationships around us that need to change. Because, while we might sometimes forget this, Jesus certainly does not, so neither should we.

Saving the Word Sin

sinI recently listened to a sermon that made an interesting comment. While this wasn’t the whole focus of the sermon the point was this: we’ve moved from a culture of confession of sins, to managing mistakes.

And I think this is true. We often no longer think of ourselves as “sinning” but instead we make a mistake. We made a poor choice, which we are sure to improve upon next time. We made an error in judgment but we will improve. We have a problem that needs a little alignment. We have virtually removed the language of sin from our vocabulary.

Now this is probably in response to a very poor understanding of what sin really is. Sin is not a moral term, it is not a term that means you don’t have value or worth. Sin is a theological term that reminds us that our relationship with God has been broken and needs fixing.

And here is why I think we need to keep the language of sin in our vocabulary (as misunderstood and abused as it has been). The reason is this: I never take my mistakes to God. I acknowledge them, recognize them, and even give reasons for them. But I don’t take them to God.

With the language of sin we are reminded of the need of confession, and confession is a practice we need to keep. Confession invites God into our lives for transformation. Confession is where we acknowledge our weakness and limits and ask God to do something miraculous. Confession is where we often start to see God work. The problem with the language of “mistakes” is that we never take them to God. And therefore, we don’t invite God into our lives to do a powerful, transformative, and redemptive work.

So while I surely make mistakes, I also sin. And lately I’ve been realizing the importance of naming what is really happening in my life. Because when I honestly name what is happening, and call something in my life sin, I am also simultaneously inviting God in. And I just think that’s important.

Confessions of a Pastor: Limitations

plaster, old damagedI have a confession. I’m an imperfect person. I have faults and flaws. I’m not sufficiently good, wise, or amazing to make things work everywhere. I know I have limitations, I know I have temptations, I know I make mistakes, and I have regrets. You might be like me too.

We live in a world though that sees confessions such as these as weakness. Imperfections and limitations are things to be covered up, avoided, or denied. But this is not the way in God’s Kingdom. In God’s Kingdom limitations are not to be avoided but actually embraced because they are where God works best. As Paul says, it is in our weakness, our limitations, our imperfections, that God is strong and does his best work.

Sometimes I come to a situation, a crisis, or even a Sunday with a feeling like I don’t know what to do. I don’t have the experience, the skill, or the knowledge to draw upon. I have no idea how to make things work. I reach the end of myself and see my limitations. These, though, are precisely the times when God seems to act most. When I say to him I have no idea what I am to do – so this one is up to you. When I say to him – God, this is bigger than me, so it needs you. When I embrace the fact that God I am small and broken – but accept the fact that even in my weakness God wants to use me. And he wants to use you even with your weaknesses and limitations.

This isn’t about excusing sin and failures of that sort. This is about realizing that we are not God, that we are not perfect, that we do not know everything, or know how to act in every situation. This isn’t to be lamented but embraced because when we embrace the fact we have limits we embrace the fact that God doesn’t.

It is only when we acknowledge our limitations that we also acknowledge our need and dependency on God. As I said I am not sufficiently amazing, wise, or skilled to succeed without God. I need God each and everyday in my life, work, and in his church if I am to be faithful. I cannot rely on myself, my limits remind me of my desperate need for God.

So for you – when you come up to your limits – what do you do? Do you embrace them as a moment for God to work? Do you embrace them as a reminder of our dependency on the Spirit that lives and moves in us? Or do you avoid it, deny it, or try to compensate for it?

My suggestion is this – the next time you come to the end of yourself, embrace that fact because it is often the beginning of the work of God.

Lenten Reflections: Stations of the Cross, Station 10

Station 10: Jesus is Stripped of his Garments

Written Reflection:

Jesus is now stripped for his garments. He is now totally open, vulnerable, able to feel the shameful looks and angry stares of the crowd. As the soldiers rip off his garments it opens the poorly closed wounds and fresh blood is seen.

Jesus stands naked, bloody, as people jeer at him. He is completely defenseless before them, as a lamb led towards the slaughter. And as the people look at him, Jesus looks to heaven. Picture the anger of crowd, the condemnation, the pride, and the arrogance. Take a moment and confess when you too have looked down at someone. Confess to Jesus moments when you have been like that crowd, and receive his forgiveness

Never Go It Alone ~ Peter vs Judas

On Sunday we landed on one main difference between Judas and Peter. They both betrayed Jesus. They both were attacked by Satan. They both felt deep remorse for their mistake. They both sought to confess it and make it right. But one went to Jesus, the other went to people who didn’t care. Jesus and Peter had a conversation, a connection, and ultimately a confession. Jesus and Judas never had that. Judas went to the religious leaders who simply heaped on the guilt, shame, and pain for Judas. He left feeling more alone than ever. Peter left Jesus’ presence with a purpose.

Sometimes the difference between having a mistake, betrayal, or failure being something that lasts, and something that is overcome is the difference between going to Jesus and going it alone.

Judas was left to deal with his betrayal on his own and he couldn’t do it.

Peter dealt with his with Jesus.

I think we can learn from this. Confession can heal the soul. Confession brings someone else in, so we aren’t going through it alone. Confession can bring life to a broken area because we are asking for help. This is the big difference between the path of life, and death; the path of Peter and the path of Judas.

So today my challenge is simple. If you have been holding onto something, trying to go it alone, dealing with it isolated and by yourself, bring someone else in. Confess what’s going on to Jesus. Confess it to a true friend, who isn’t interested in the details, but is interested in you. Peter makes it through because he walks with others. And so can you…