Friday, March 25, 2005

Living God's Love - Conversation Five

In chapter three of Living God's Love Holloway and Lavender suggest that we may do well to speak of our life in God more as a covenant of love between a loving Father and we as his sons and daughters than as ascent to a particular set of beliefs, though that's not unimportant.

They look at what salvation really means. Does it simply mean not burning in hell? Or does salvation ultimately mean more than "being saved." They point out that our language of "conversion" or "getting saved" might lend itself to an under-realized view of the life God gives us now and cause us to see our salvation only in terms of a post-life-on-earth benefit. That's more of a transactional conversion than a relationship transformation that includes the idea of God saving us for relationship with him now and forevermore.

Next they talk about repentance not merely as feeling sorry for sin but a complete turning away that prepares us for relationship. Pharisees rejected the preparation of John the Baptist by repentance and therefore were not in position to be transformed by Christ when he came into their lives. Philip Yancey, in What's so amazing about grace? speaks to this in his discussion of Romans 6:1-2 with this illustration that really fits Lavender's and Holloway's focus on our life with God as a relationship. Yancey says when we get married, we do not immediately ask our spouse how many times we can cheat. What?! I know my wife would call that asinine, with the emphasis on the first syllable. No, continuing to sin or dancing around it will not promote the relationship that God wants us to enjoy with him any more than cheating on a spouse.

Finally, the authors show how repentance leads to a relationship commitment of baptism, which is not as much "doing" on our part as it is "receiving" and "appealing" to God's grace (I Peter 3:21-23). As Alexander Campbell pointed out, baptism is not a pardon-procuring process but a pardon-certifying or receiving ceremony. By it we formally witness to the story of God's love for us and join in this powerful, life-changing, redeeming, saving life story. We join with Christ in his death, dying not only with Christ but to our sin and living a new washed and cleansed life free from the shame and guilt that characterizes a life "out" of Christ rather than "in Christ," one of Apostle Paul's favorite phrases.

The authors leave us with one final picture of the church, which will be discussed more in-depth in later chapters. The picture is in John's Revelation (19:7), the bride of Christ, dressed in lily white, fresh as Spring on untouched land. The church is the bride of Christ the lamb of God. The future we have is to be fully known and to fully know God in Christ who we walk with now by the Spirit.

For reflection and deeper thought sample questions from the end of chapter three:

  • What do you remember about your initial response to God's loving call?
  • Have you truly repented of a self-focused life? What can help you do so?
  • What do you need to do to stay focused throughout the day on God's love for you? Develop a plan to remind yourself--notes, reminders from friends, hourly thoughts, etc.
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