29 November 2008

Salvation and unity

Two items that appeared in my email inbox this morning encouraged me to write something myself. One was a blog post by Prayeramedic, the other an email from 'The School of Christ'. Meeting togetherThe blog post questions the process by which people are encouraged to join the Church, the email questions our idea of unity within the Church.

They are strong messages and they demand that each of us consider where we stand on these important issues.

The two messages
Prayeramedic pulls us up short when he writes on 'The Heresy of the Sinner's Prayer'...
I'm not saying it's wrong to use a prayer to help people confess Christ, but to convince people that they are saved simply because they pray a prayer is ridiculous -- it is not the Gospel of the Scripture. This runs deep, it runs at the heart of how the Church never talks about sin anymore.

Chip Brogden ('The School of Christ') also yanks on our reins when he writes on 'Spiritual Unity'...
People will pick up on this phrase, "that they may all be one", and try to create a unity that embraces everyone equally, no matter what they teach, what they believe, or how they live. In this false unity, every path to God becomes a valid path of spiritual expression and should not be criticized. Of course this contradicts what Jesus had just said about Himself being the only Way to the Father, but it certainly makes it easier for us to create unity for everyone. Is that what Jesus wants - quick and easy unity through compromise and concession?

What are we to make of these messages? Are these challenges valid? Does it matter?

Their validity
I believe the challenges are valid and it matters very much indeed. In the first case, unless we understand what Christ did and why, we cannot fully engage with the process of becoming a believer. And in the second case, if we don't understand what Christ meant by 'being one' we will stand very little chance of living in unity as he intended it.

In both cases we see that there is the same principle at work. Either we understand what Yahshua said in his terms, or we see it on our own terms. If we see his words through our own wisdom we are certain to miss the point. And these are two very important points indeed. We need to be sure that we are walking in his powerful light, not merely in the darkness of our own intellect and emotion.

This is not about what we would prefer, it's about the facts as they have been explained to us by the One who really knows.

In Romans 8:1-17 Paul writes about living in the Spirit of Christ. In verse 9 he writes, 'If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ' (emphasis mine).

Chip Brogden quotes from Yahshua's amazing prayer in John 17:20-26. The prayer is intended to include today's believers, this is clear from verse 20, 'I pray also for those who will believe in me through [my disciples'] message'. And he wants us to be one in the same way that he and the Father are one (verse 21).

So it's impossible to deny that unless we have the Spirit of Christ we do not even belong to him, but also that if we do have the Spirit of Christ we will be drawn into oneness with Yahshua, with the Father, and with one another.

Reasoning it out
Why is this? It is because if I am in Christ I must have his Spirit in me. I cannot be in him unless he is also in me! This is salvation, to have his Spirit in me.

And if I am in Christ and he is in me, then where he is I am also. And as he is in the Father and the Father is in him, I too must also be in the Father and the Father in me! And as the Spirit of Christ is the Holy Spirit, if Christ is in me the Holy Spirit is in me too.

So now we can see that the Father, the Son and the Spirit are one, and all of us who believe are also one because we are all in Christ together. We can't help but be one. So our unity is not dependent on our will or attainment, but like salvation itself it depends only on being in Christ.

So the Kingdom of Heaven is not something to be attained, and it's not a place we will go when we die, the Kingdom is the place of unity with the Father, with the Son, with the Spirit, and with one another. The Kingdom of Heaven is here right now and it's attained solely by the will and purpose of the Father.

The purpose of unity
But there is one final point. What is the purpose of the Father in all of this? To find out we need to look again at John 17:23, 'May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me'.

There we have it. The unity has a function. It's so that the world will know that the Father sent the Son and loves us the same way he loves the Son. The unity is there to stand as evidence, but not just any old unity will do. 'Complete unity' is what the Almighty is looking for in his people, absolute unity with him and with one another.

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