Since this is the last Sabbath of the quarter dealing with the “Teachings of Jesus,” I am going to break some polite rules governing this column – mostly unwritten and some of them of my own making – because this particular lesson provides a wonderful opportunity for us to discover things in Scripture we had forgotten or never knew before. And let me be extraordinarily candid about the situation facing Adventism right now. A great fear is stalking the land, a fear that if we don’t reinforce what we have always said, and with greater emphasis, the church will disintegrate.
In some ways, Adventists are very conservative, believing in a God who answers prayer and who is coming again. But even the most conservative Adventists are “liberal” in at least one key respect: “mortalism,” the belief that the body is a holistic unity and does not have a separate soul. Mortalism means no eternally burning hell, a very “liberal” idea.
This one time, at pathfinder camp, we ran out of food. On Sabbath. I, being a pathfinder leader’s worst nightmare, quoting chapter and verse, said ‘If the disciples were allowed to pick grain, surely we could go buy some bread?’ Needless to say my pathfinder leaders were not impressed with my pre-adolescent exegesis and practical application of Mark 2.
From its very inception the church has grappled with clearly understanding the mission Jesus assigned. It is not that the words Jesus spoke to the disciples are hard to find or understand. The words are simple and direct. They essentially defy any human misunderstanding; nevertheless, the church has debated the concept of mission for centuries. The words of the mission are located in five different places in the New Testament: Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-22 and Acts 1:8.
In his book “Practicing Resurrection,” author Eugene Peterson makes the terse statement, “Church is difficult.” I say more, it is audacious. Only the with-God-nothing-is-impossible-
God could attempt it or would attempt it. We look and often our eyes see more defeat than victory. We assess and see more strife than unity. And it weighs us down and weakens faith.
But it need not. Facing conditions as they are we can return to the Word of Christ and the Father, praying to see once again what they saw and yet see in this initiative called the Church.
What does Jesus tell us about growing in him?
If “repentance” is the crucial element in God’s plan of salvation, then what comes next? How does the believer grow “in Christ” ? For Paul, the idea of being “in Christ” was crucial. Note 2 Cor. 5:17 (NRSV): “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
The question of how do I be saved has always puzzled humanity. The roadmap to salvation is twisted and filled with obstacles when we keep focusing on how we get saved as opposed to who saves.
Our self-help shelves at the bookstore are booming with solutions on how to become a better parent, how to be successful in business, how to save your marriage, how to get fit, how to lose weight: the list of How To programs is extensive.
Leading Question: What do Jesus and Gospels tell us about salvation before Jesus died on the cross?
Given the strong emphasis on substitutionary theology in evangelical circles, a position which sees the death of Christ as essential in the salvation process, it is instructive to note the teachings of Jesus on the theme of “salvation,” teachings which would have been given before he died to pay the price for our sin.