Friday, March 18, 2011

To Whom Does The Work Of Salvation Belong?

It is difficult to suppress the thought sometimes that we are doing it all wrong. I mean we still have this old world idea of treating salvation like factory work. We set up a system, teach everyone the system and then expect that we will mass produce salvation. We consider our factories (churches) successful when we start achieving high numbers and we are able to turn out new Christians by the hundreds each week. Praise God if this is his hand at work and praise him even louder for his great work of grace, but woe is us if we have left out the most important step of our "method". There can be no salvation if the Father has not revealed the Son.

There can be no authentic salvation if the Father has not revealed Jesus to the individual. We can make impassioned pleas and play on the hearts of our audience. That audience can respond to the emotions or even to the logic of our argument but such a response can dissipate in a short period of time because the work was done by the argument of man. Salvation is a wonderful work that belongs to God. If God does not call the individual and reveal to him the Son then how can a person "know" Jesus as a personal Saviour?

The Word also makes this clear, that the Son must be revealed by the Father. Let's start with John the Baptist:

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34)

John said he would not have known Jesus except that Jesus was revealed to him by the one who sent him. He was sent by the Father. Later we have Peter's confession of Jesus, when he declared that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus' response:

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven." (Matthew 16:17)

We have gone through a few decades now of the Church Growth movement but the problem started long before that. It started as soon as man thought he could come up with a method to make it easier for people to accept Jesus. However, today it is difficult to see past the business of salvation and growth in the Church; all our fancy programs and tools geared to maximize the attractiveness of the Church. Don't get me wrong, I think everyone has their heart in the right place but my concern is for those individuals in our "system" who think they know Jesus but become disillusioned after a while. The reason for their disillusionment is because Jesus never really became real to them. They joined us because people were friendly and welcoming and it felt like family. They stayed because it gave them a sense of belonging and purpose. They loved the entertainment value of the music and the humorous pastor. People really seemed to be going somewhere, there was a clear vision and a common goal. Yet, they still felt empty and lost and eventually everything else faded away because Jesus was never revealed to them.

Jesus explained:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44)

I am not saying we stop preaching, teaching and evangelising. No, in fact I believe we need to be doing more of it, but it is powerless without the anointing of God. We are not busy with the work of this world and so the methods of this world have no lasting effect. We must understand that we are involved in a supernatural work and we must see the words we speak and the actions we take as having a supernatural effect. We must leave God space to work and we need to understand he will use whoever he wants wherever he wants. We only need stay close to him and obedient to him. We need to be sensitive to the Spirit because there are those around us who are ready to receive and others who are not. We must be ready for every opportunity and we must understand that our words do not matter but the anointing does. Paul explained:

I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:3-5)

I praise God for the great orators in the Body, the great communicators of God's Word, the deep teachers who correctly handle the Word of God because we need them. But they are not the mass producers of salvation because salvation cannot be massed produced. Salvation is individual and it comes from the anointing of God as he reveals his Son to individuals. I praise God for those he has called to work the trenches, those who get muddy in everyday life, who work with the unclean masses, who remain sensitive to the Spirit and who are present to make the most of every opportunity. They are not necessarily the best educated, the greatest communicators, the best with social skills or even the most liked but what they are is anointed. As they speak the Father reveals the Son and people step into the Kingdom for eternity.

I would like to see us get back on track. I would like us to start seeing who is responsible for the salvation of man. I would like us to step back from our methods and concentrate more on our relationship. I would like to see us give more room to God to work. I would like to see a real revival among God's people, a revival for the lost. I would like to see a great awakening in our land but understand that this can only happen if God is calling to the people. My prayer, my conversation with my Father right now is that he would begin to call so that people could respond. My place is simply to explain that voice to people who are hearing it. I don't need to argue them into the Kingdom because God will be revealing the Son to them and I will only explain what they are seeing. This is God's work of Salvation and I am privileged to be part of it.

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