Every time Jesus talks about salvation, he’s talking about a relationship. Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Luke 9:23, Matthew 16:24-27, Mark 8:34). That’s a relationship. When Zaccheus, a wee little man was he, invited Jesus into his home and gave up his life of grifting, Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” (Luke 19:9) When the teacher of the law asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered in a parable about a man who showed kindness to a stranger that was on his last leg. (Luke 10:25-37) When Jesus talks about salvation, he talks about learning to love like God by walking with him on the Christian Journey.
This idea of a Christian Journey is shown throughout scripture. It’s something we see in the lives of people around us, and it’s why, in spite of our best efforts to make Jesus into wish-granting a genie, the church continues to have a positive place in the world.
The Christian Journey is a unique experience for every person, but commonalities exist simply because of who God is and the nature of human brokenness.
The first thing to know about being on a journey with God is that God’s interests, God’s nature, God’s heart drives the journey. If we take the story of God in the Bible seriously, then we should know that this journey is driven by God’s love… for us. All of us. (John 3:16-17) God created us as an act of love, and sustains us as a constant reminder of that love.
Sadly, the other part of that story is that we walk away from that love. (Romans 3:23) We get caught up in the next shiny thing, our passions, our hurts, our own wisdom and walk away from the one that loves us. There’s a saying that goes, “Sin makes sense in the moment,” But sin isn’t what we’re made for, and that leaves us alone and broken, missing the journey.
If that was it, the journey would be a tragedy, but God’s love is resilient and God’s willingness to reach out to us in our wandering is probably the most amazing part of this whole story. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” (Romans 5:8) We’re still lost. We’re still broken. We’re still wandering in the wilderness, but God, being God, is always there. It’s in those moments when we see what love really looks like. (1 John 4:9)
Awakening to God
Imagine being in the darkness, and someone turns on a flashlight: it’s utterly blinding. You need the light, but you’re yelling at that person to “shut it off!”
You know what that’s like – when your own hurt and neediness is so overwhelming that the moment you get a glimpse of hope, it can be painful to even consider, let alone look at directly. But that light, God’s love, is also the thing beckoning you back, to look up at the one waiting to continue the journey. It’s a choice, to look away or to embrace the light that’s there. It’s not something that you would have ever done on your own – could have ever done on your own. (Ephesians 2:9) It’s a gift to walk with God.
Repentance and Restitution
One of the most confusing things about how we talk about God’s love is that we make it too personal, as though God’s love for me exists in a vacuum. But God’s love is for all of humanity, and the hurt and brokenness I’ve lived in for so long doesn’t just create wounds in my relationship with God – it leaves long lasting scars in others. Awakening to God’s love means I begin to understand what it means to love people the way God loves, and that requires something more than just saying I’m sorry. It requires humility. It requires restoration. It requires seeing people the way God sees them. It requires loving my enemies. It requires forgiveness.
Trust and Faith
The journey requires a complete change in direction. If we keep walking the way we did before, then we can expect to end up in the same dark places, the same loneliness, the same wandering. Something has to give if this relationship, this Journey, is going to make it. We have to trust that God has something better.
The book of Hebrews in the Bible says: “Now faith is being sure of what you hope for, and confident of what you do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)
God’s love isn’t like some immutable law of nature. God’s love is as unique and personal as each person God has chosen to love. To step fully into that kind of love – with only a hope for what could come of it – that is faith. To trust that a Journey with God is worth giving everything… it requires confidence in the very nature of God – something we couldn’t possibly understand.
Hebrews also says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)
That makes a lot of sense. Who would want to be in a relationship with someone who didn’t trust them? But without that faith, how could we hope to continue on the Journey?
“Are you saved?” If the question is, have I done all the right things and believed all the right ideas to get into heaven, we just need to look at Jesus’ answers to that question in the Gospels. Jesus always answers that question with a personal challenge rather than a set of universal guidelines. But if the question is, “Have you been saved from your wandering, from the feeling that you have to do this on your own?” then you absolutely can know, based on how you answer that question, if you’re saved. (Hebrews 10)
At this point, it’s time to get this journey moving forward. It’s time to give our focus, our effort, our complete heart to our journey with God because it’s worth it. Not some fantasy life where you spend every waking moment in prayer and Bible study, but rather being committed to living out God’s will where God has put you. In your family. In your work. In your community. In your church. God’s love transforms every moment into an opportunity to see God’s kingdom come into being on earth as it is in heaven.
The more we live out God’s love, the more we see what God’s love is all about, and that brings us even closer to understanding who God is, what God cares about, and what God hopes for us and the people around us. (Matthew 5-7) It’s like this feedback loop, but instead of getting noisier, our eyes and heart become clearer. (2 Corinthians 3:18) We want God’s love for people and we’re willing to do what it takes to see God’s will expressed all over the world. That’s what it means to have life, and to have it abundantly. (John 10:10)