Years ago I worked with a man whose native language was Selfdeceitish. He once boasted how he stunned a client silent with his “brilliant analysis.” (His words.) But the client told me they were dumbfounded at my co-worker’s astonishing incomprehension of their concerns. Worse than ships passing in the night, they were sailing a storm in the Atlantic while my co-worker’s counsel offered surfing tips for the waves off Maui.
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He habitually embellished the value of his contributions at work, church, and with his family.
But he was also a sympathetic person, caring for anyone in emotional pain, and he spoke of the cross to everyone he met. However, a decade ago he adopted the belief that “everyone goes to heaven no matter what,” and he stopped speaking of the cross (because salvation was automatic), and he became the next Billy-Graham-evangelist for Universalism.
I puzzled long and hard about how to connect my friend’s deep insecurity with his embroidered boasts of accomplishments and his rejection of orthodox Christianity. Then, two months ago, I read a young author’s self-analysis of his own writing and the puzzle pieces began to form a picture.
The aspiring author said his writing had deteriorated badly, but he couldn’t admit its defects because he desperately needed it to be good. So he lied to himself. Then in a “brilliant analysis” (my words) he came to the realization that …
“The quality of my writing had become the measure of my life.”
Salvation from What?
Scripture claims that after the fall, all of life collapsed into moral, physical, and spiritual decay. Brotherly loved mutated into Abel’s assassination, spring showers became hurricanes, and humanity’s connection with God was amputated. Every corner of creation began to crumble.
The answer to the fall (our lives east of Eden) is salvation. We think of salvation as a stairway to heaven, but Scripture says we need deliverance from all of the fall’s effects. The psalms cry out for rescue from marauding enemies, plagues, and depression. But the psalms also warn that the weapons of this world cannot save us from the effects in this world:
The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue. (Ps. 33:6-7)
Every human heart is desperately trying to achieve salvation from what causes them the most suffering. Christians do not turn to Buddhas and Baals for salvation to a heavenly life, but we do turn to pop-psychology for redemption in this earthly life.
My coworker sought emotional deliverance through the exaggeration of his contributions, and the author’s brilliant line captures that sense perfectly when he reflected, “The quality of my writing had become the measure of my life.”
That is, his salvation was found in the bravado of his fictitious self-worth.
Salvation to What?
My friend quit evangelizing because he equated salvation with eternal life. But God is interested in more than an unending succession of minutes and hours. True redemption is a depth of life not only an extension. That’s why Jesus says, “This is eternal life, to know You.”
My father was a pastor who repeatedly claimed his life’s call was to “Introduce Christians to Christ.” He said too many believers know about God, maybe even know theology about God, but don’t know God. Their lives are not enriched with the life-delighting joy of knowing Him.
Without rich knowledge of Him, we look to the world’s “great armies and war horses” for the redemption of our insecurities, anxieties, traumas, and egos. We are splashing in mud puddles while God invites us to sail (and surf) the sea. This side of heaven. That’s why Isaac Watts wrote:
The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets
Before we reach the heavenly fields,
Or walk the golden streets.
Let’s torpedo the desperate attempts to achieve self-salvation from our insecurities, and taste those sacred heavenly sweets today.
Calvary Church of Valparaiso IN has asked me to lead their men’s ministry in a Hearing God Conference in their church building Friday and Saturday, November 12-13, 2021. The very reasonable price of $25 includes breakfast and lunch on Saturday and a copy of my book, Hearing God in Conversation.
For more information about the men’s retreat, Click Here or on the image Hearing God image.
Had an inadvertent whispered “wow” come out of my mouth at the end of this article. It was more than a reaction to impressive eloquence of qualitative word-smith work. It was a heaven-prompted recognition of what God wants for me here on earth, this very day. Thanks for facilitating that, Sam.
I head that quote (about the “quality of my work is the value of my life”) about two months ago. Then I re-heard that old Watts hymn, and that is what really struck me.
YES!!!! I believe in heaven, the afterlife, God making all things new. Yes, that is salvation, but only part of it.
I love that line, that we can begin to taste the heavenly fruits now, today, BEFORE we walk the golden streets.
Thanks for your comment.
My exclamation at the end of this was, “Yes!” Reminds me of Paul’s cry (Phil. 3:8-10) and that of Psalm 27:13. Thanks Sam for putting that call out today, and for bringing that Isaac Watts line – wonderful!
Your comment is terrific. I’m going to put some of those verses here, for their power:
He says “just knowing Christ” is worth all things (including beatings, suffering, shipwrecks, stoning, etc.); salvation is not less than life eternal, but it is more.
Not just pie in the sky by and by (we can taste heaven’s fruits today!).
There was a moment in the last few years when it became clear to me–or “God spoke to me”–that what I wanted from God, the need that drove me to salvation, was not something that God unconditionally promised to those He calls, elects, sanctifies (i.e., “saves”). In short, God didn’t promise me anything that was driving my discipleship.
In light of the fact that God offers to those He so treats as sons a lot of great and wondrous things, amazing things, many of which I experienced. Knowing these things helped me to suck it up and go on with God.
Great personal insight.
I think MOST people come to God with the belief that he is going to grant them that very thing they most need.
And he DOES; except that the thing WE think we need is rarely the same thing HE thinks we need.
We are like three-year-olds who think our greatest need is a lollipop; and our Father says our greatest need is to grow into sons who are filled with His Spirit.
Eventually, over time, we finally begin to want the same things He does, and then He grants us the desires of our hearts.
When I live this out, life becomes a joy to experience, not a burden to endure.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10 ESV
Yes! The thief wants to steal deep life THIS side of heaven as well as simply keeping us away from heaven itself.
I will start by saying/writing that the reason I believe that people look for some kind of validation/salvation in things other than God is because God is not interactive in their lives. From within God’s silence and absence people are looking for the feeling and knowledge that God is actually there for them. When you spend a lifetime without any indication that God is actually present that is. This is when people look elsewhere, when they feel like God has dropped the ball and doesn’t care enough to do anything. Thoughts like; Why won’t God help me? Why have you forsaken me?, pop up and God does nothing to prove them wrong.
In my case I gave myself to God through Jesus 42+ years ago and have never seen, heard, or felt anything from God. Does God know how harmful His lack of involvement is? So far I have managed to hold on to my hope for salvation (barely). I don’t know if it is faith, conviction, or plain stubbornness that has keep this only hope alive. After 42+ years of nothing but silence, absence, and unanswered prayers from God it becomes extremely difficult to find the fortitude to keep trying.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that I will ever not believe in God and Jesus. What I am doubtful of now is God’s intentions. God’s lack of involvement breeds doubt, discouragement, disillusionment, despair, and misery in a believers life. God’s lack of involvement is straight up torture to me.
So basically put, God pushes people to look elsewhere by His lack of actual presence and interaction. Thanks
God bless you, through the Holy Spirit, in Jesus holy name, Amen.