September 16, 2018 Sermon
Theological Priorities – Part 1: Personal Salvation or Kingdom Now
Ephesians 2:5-8 and Luke 17:20-21 Sandra Larson and George Furniss dialogue
Here is a dialog between a HYPOTHETICAL Kingdom NOW Christian and a Personal Salvation Christian. What do you believe? G: Christian faith is all about here and now! S: Whoa! Christian faith is all about eternal life!
G: Well Jesus told the Pharisees who sought the kingdom of God that the kingdom of God is within you and among you.
S: True. Yet John 3:16 (the most quoted scripture of all) says: Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but will have eternal life! Eternity is a lot longer than a mere human lifespan. G: Paul puts emphasis on the transformation of our minds--NOW. Paul summarized: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is that is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Is believing that Jesus died for our sins and promised us eternal life enough for us to find abundant life now?
S: Assurance of God’s forgiveness and the promise of eternal life offer the ultimate gift of peace of mind. Such faith is especially huge when facing death or bereavement.
G: That’s true. In an age when fear of Hell was drummed into pre-Reformation Europeans by the Catholic Church, Jesus dying for sins brought tremendous reassurance. Yet people in our culture tend not to have a strong sense of sin or guilt. People in our country suffer from loss of hope, disillusionment, and a sense of powerlessness. God’s “Kingdom Now” inspires people to help create God’s vision of a harmonious world.
S: It’s not up to us to save our world. We are saved by grace alone. Jesus will return and will transform everything.
G: Saved by grace alone absolves Christians of responsibility for helping to implement God’s vision for our world.
S: Not at all. The gift of salvation and receiving God’s amazing love inspires Christians to reflect that love.
G: I agree—the love of Jesus inspires Christians to reflect his love. When Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within you, he meant that each person has an ability to access the invisible reality of God’s vision—within their own mind. For Jesus, the kingdom of God is a present reality for those who develop spiritual eyes to see it. That is the “journey inward.” Propelled by that vision, Christians are launched on a “journey outward,” to help transform the world with God’s love, power, and peace. S: How can you profess Kingdom Now when clearly the world today does not reflect perfect harmony? G: Abundant life is a paradox of both NOW and not yet. We see dimly. Yet we can glimpse the world that Jesus points us towards.
S: As a personal salvation oriented Christian, I believe in Jesus who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
G: God’s vision is for worldwide harmony. Christians can be strong and benevolent… and even open minded. We can hold our distinctive beliefs about Jesus Christ AND listen appreciatively to wisdom found in other religions.
S: As a personal salvation oriented Christian, I can appreciate some wisdom from other spiritual paths. Still, I am convinced that Jesus Christ is the way to true salvation and I am committed to evangelizing whomever I can reach with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ final instruction to his followers was, “Go Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” What is your spiritual inspiration to make new disciples?
G: Quaker Christians and many others believe in the Light Within. Christ speaks in our inner consciousness. In contrast, most North Americans focus on what we can discern with logic or our five senses. Focus on “objective reality,” as we call it, disregards looking inward into our own heart or soul. Spiritual transformation involves learning to listen to God’s spirit speak into our inner silence-- as the prophet Elijah experienced. Like physical athletes who train for strength and endurance, Christians can develop spiritual disciplines as “athletes of the Spirit.” By disciplined spiritual conditioning, we can live more fully in God’s world of love, peace, joy, light and power—starting NOW.
S: Hmmm. Kingdom Now and Personal Salvation theologies seem to have a lot in common, despite the different emphases. The Eternal pervades our immediate existence; and our prayers and contemplation seek connection with the Eternal. Maybe Christians should be careful to balance both salvation and Kingdom Now. Eternal salvation and “abundant life now” are two parts of the same divine grace! Praise be to God!
G&S: (Hug) Thank you for sharing what you believe.