Friday, 28 April 2017

Salvation - past, present and future Part 1

One thing you will quickly discover when you become a Christian is that although you know you have been saved from sin and forgiven and reconciled with God, and things have quite clearly changed in your life, old sin habits continue to persist. That flaring temper is still there, and although it is less vociferous than before, it still rise us and explodes no matter how many good intentions not to do it next time. Or you struggle with addictions to over-eating, or selfishness or gossip. What has happened? Surely now we are Christians we are "new creations"? Here is the promise from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV).

Moreover, the old 'me' has been put to death. here is another promise, this time from Paul's letter to the Galatians:

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."  (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)

If it is no longer I who live but Christ, and because of His work on the cross and my faith in Him I am now a new creation, then how come I still have certain character traits and sin habits that are more like the old me rather than the new?

It is because 'salvation' - from the Greek word meaning to be healed or made whole - is a process, not an event. Unfortunately, many Christians see it as an event and talk about being saved on a particular day when they gave their life to Christ. In terms of the day I responded to what Jesus had done for me on the cross made a decision to follow Him, I can pinpoint the day as being 31st August 1981. I can, therefore, using the jargon, say that I was 'saved' on that day and in that moment. But if I was 'saved' or made whole on that day, why is it I still struggle with being whole? Why is it that I still have bouts of explosive anger, moments of selfish self-indulgence and other manifestations of sin that are completely unrepresentative of the Christ who is in me and who I now follow? If I have now become a new creation, why is it that the old still stalks me, and disfigures the character of Christ in me?

This is the problem Paul was struggling with in Romans 7:7-25 especially the following verses (15-24):

"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"  

Paul then, like us, is struggling with this dilemma. He knows he has been justified by faith and reconciled with God - he has been 'saved' - and yet he is aware that the battle, instead of being won, still rages on in him and although he knows what is right and wants to do it, still struggles with the sin which shows itself so quickly and easily in his life. He talks about this sin being in his 'members' (see verse 23). There is something in his mind and body which seems to 'remember' past sin habits and chaarcter flaws and still acts them out in him.

This is not as strange as it sounds. When I injured my right hand I had to learn how to use my left hand instead while the other recovered. So I had to learn to open doors, type, hold a fork, change my clothes, brush my hair and teeth all with the unfamiliar left hand. It has been a struggle because when I have to do any of the above my right hand "moves by itself" to do them because it 'remembers' having doen them all before. Even now, when I still have to use mostly my left hand when my right hand is painful or weak, I still instinctively use my right hand, even though it is uncomfortable and sometimes painful (which is why I am taking so long to recover). The habits and routines of right hand usage over 59 years and deep seated and do not chaneg overnight. I have to learn new ways of living using the left over the right. It is frustrating, difficult and challenging. What has this got to do with salvation? See the enxt post to find out.

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