When we take to our computers, on the screen we see little pictures or images called “icons.” When we put our cursor on the image we want and click on that “icon,” what happens? Well, if I do it, the whole system crashes and at least one “W” falls off the WorldWideWeb,but, if a normal nine year old clicks on an “icon,” the whole program represented by that icon opens. From there, you can google down the amazon if you want. To click on the icon opens the whole program.
What happens in spiritual salvation, the great internal change that God provided for us, provides for us still and will provide for us always? Well, when we click on the icon of the Church, who is Jesus, our Savior, the whole program of God opens for us. Suddenly, in Jesus, we see how all of history fits together in the plan of God; History becomes Holy. The Prophets of God suddenly make sense not just as cranky old bearded men. The Law is more than a Buzz-Kill. If, that is, if we see how in Jesus, the Christ, God intends to offer grace to humankind before humankind even knows its need of grace.
To explain Christian Salvation to the world, one would have to say first what it is not. Christian salvation is not the promise of something somewhere else, sometime later. Christian salvation is a present thing, the possession of which we may now have and for which we would, if Salvation were properly shown to us and certainly understood by us, we should put away everything else we might ever have in order to possess this one thing; the work of God in saving mercy in us.
Christian salvation is not the immediate end of sin, unrighteousness, injustice, bigotry, greed, anger or any of a hundred other acts that trouble the soul and tarnish the world. The Christian yet sins (acts) for Sin is still a part of our reality. Our sin works cannot lose us to God, however, anymore than our sin’s works can first keep us from God, who is intent upon our salvation. When we sin we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, the Totally Righteous One, who keeps us ever before the Father.
Nor is our Christian Salvation something “once visited, but never with it dwelt.” Salvation is not a passing thought, but, rather, a history of God’s gracious works met with a person in a moment of blissful pardon, which begins a life time of growth.
These are the things salvation is not, but, then, what is it?
Since Christian works occur in history, we need to say what Christian Salvation is in its best historical sense. Do you remember how we started this message, with a word from the computer age, about how one clicks on the screen image, or icon, and the whole program opens? In this same way, when you open your life to the Christ (click on God’s icon) the whole work of God, all the works of God open to you. Whatever good, compassionate, kind, decent, stern, rigorous, demanding thing ever done by Holy God opens to you. You become partaker of, participant in and partner with God in all God’s gracious acts in history.
And what is the evidence, or proofs, of this interaction with God? If it is not sinlessness, what is the evidence of one’s salvation? The only proof we have is that of our faith.
Think of it. Since God, from outside ourselves, most brightly shone to us in the express image of Godself, God’s Son, Jesus, God has been steadily removing all visible evidences of His own existence. Where there were signs, they shall cease. We could almost (indeed, must) look ever more closely to see God at all. You might think this; that, having shown Godself to us so very clearly in the God-Man, Jesus, God now removes from us all that might make us give over to Him, insisting instead that we follow by faith, believing for the greatest blessing, that we believe without seeing and trust without the slightest ability to produce knowledge acceptable in a secular world.
If you follow God in this way to salvation, you will exhibit all the fruit of the spirit and a virtue not mentioned but constantly exhibited in Scripture; courage. Imagine the courage-faith of Abraham, to leave his native land and all his customs. You are part of that courage. Think of the courage of Noah, who built a boat in a desert land. You are part of that courage.
Think of the courage it takes to let someone beat you bloody and then haul a rough-timbered cross naked uphill under in inclement sun. And you are part of that courageous act when you accept God’s proffered grace.
Then, we ought to say what good it is, this whole program of faith that opens to us when we click on the Christ Icon. What does it matter if one has Christian Salvation?
Christian Salvation is that which makes good for the body and the soul. Christians live among a race of humans which variously deny either the reality of the soul or the consequences of the bodily acts. Christian Salvation implies that what we do with the body matters in the soul and what we do in the soul nourishes or condemns the body. Neither is merely temporal; all the good results (fruits) of our actions in body and soul live on and on and on.
My old Philosophy professor, Nat Tracy, used to say, “If you are going to live forever, you had better work on yourself harder than you work on anyone else.”
And he was right. This shell in which we now dwell insists itself upon us. Christian Salvation impacts us, body and soul, and thus makes us more than the sum total of our vulnerabilities.
My Level Five Agnostic friend, when asked about how she finds morality anywhere, says she finds her morality in the natural order, in the weakness and vulnerability of others.
Christian Salvation says something more. In our faith, we say that God does not mean for humankind to have weakness or be vulnerable to sin, death or judgement. In the Society of Eden, in the City of God, in the Heaven to come, God shows us that death and suffering are temporary, while life and serenity or durable. In Christian Salvation of body and soul, there is are these things; meaning for now and hope for later.