What Does It Mean To Be Saved? Part 4
When we say “Jesus Saves” what do we think of?
Unfortunately in the West the term has become a bit cliche and sadly often invokes images of wild eyed preachers on the street or TV pleading for us to repent or suffer eternal damnation.
But I like to think of it as coming home!
In Acts Chapter 2 we see the first instance of Jesus being invoked for the purpose of salvation since his sacrifice on the cross. The disciples are huddled together when the Holy Spirit comes down on them. It gets so crazy (yes, the first charismatic meeting) that everyone in the neighborhood comes out to see what the ruckus is all about.
The verdict from the onlookers is that it is just a drunken party. (A model for church? Mmmmmm Just asking…)
Anyhow, Peter, who just short time ago was denying Christ begins to publicly declare him to the crowds. He goes into a detailed explanation Israel’s history all the way up to the point where they nailed their own God to a tree.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.
Acts 2: 36-40
The message of Jesus seems to produce two very distinct responses. Either people are “cut the heart” and ask what they can do to respond or, like the religious crowd in Acts 5:33 they want to dig their heels in or even try to stamp out the message.
This whole series has been about what does salvation really mean. What must WE DO! Which is what the crowd asks Peter. Peter tells them, “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”
But Steve, isn’t this a different salvation than what Jesus was teaching in the first 3 parts of this series?
Not at all!
Jesus had been proclaiming his Kingdom and was inviting people to become citizens in a new way of ordering society. He declared over and over the principals on which his Kingdom operated and how people who wanted to participate in that Kingdom would relate to God and those around them. Jesus declared salvation whenever people were able to see his Kingdom (born again? John 3:3) and began to live lives in keeping with that.
Peter is doing the exact same thing! His response is that they first repent which, rather than mean some crazy response from a wild eyed preacher, simply means to “change your mind”. Acknowledge your going in the wrong direction and respond to God’s invitation to return. Realize you carry the image of God in your spirit and you are his child.
Then be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. There are many names Jesus has been given and they all signify his attributes and character. Baptism is an initiation and, in this case, a submersion. Peter’s invitation is no different than Jesus’ was in the Gospels.
Change your direction, take up your birthright as a Child of God and acknowledge your citizenship in his Kingdom. Then be submerged in his character and likeness (i.e. take on his name) “transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
And what are we saved from?
Peter is pleading with them not with the threat of eternal damnation but to stop being a participant in “this perverse generation.” I think a lot of evangelicals forget that the Bible starts on Earth and ends on Earth. Revelation ends (Rev 21) with Heaven descending again on Earth and being united…as it was in Genesis 1.
It’s always been about here. Jesus came to bring heaven here!
As Brian Zahnd would say we are being saved from the Kingdoms of this world which have always centered on an axis of power enforced through violence and invited to participate in God’s alternative society which is centered on an axis of love and enforced through mercy and forgiveness.
Heaven and Hell start now and God is is still offering salvation to those that want to come home!
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