Saturday, August 29, 2009

To my Baptist friends

1. There is a downward pull throughout life against which we all struggle. It manifests itself in addiction, hatred, violence, depression, confusion, selfishness, arrogance, suffering, emptiness and a host of other destructive actions and social systems.

2. We all need help in overcoming that destructive force which is both internal and external . We may or may not be aware of our need. God must open our eyes.

3. God, working through other people, random circumstances, our own prayers and desires, etc., will provide that help.

4. ...If we don't resist...if we freely cooperate. Our cooperation involves faith, repentance, love, denying self, charity, worship, hope, etc.

5. This is a life-long process. Salvation is a process through time rather than a point in time. There will be many key moments along the way, but none of these can be labeled "the" moment of conversion.

6. I believe with all my heart that the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus was absolutely necessary for human salvation, however, understanding it or even knowing about it is not necessary as one begins this process. This explains why people living before Jesus was born and people living today who have never heard of Jesus can still experience God's grace and salvation.

7. Ultimately, salvation is to experience oneness with God. Everything else flows from that union. This is the common element in all religion. In Jesus, God becomes one with us so we can become one with God. In Jesus, God shares our humanity so we can share His divinity. As we die with Christ and start loving God and others through Christ, we experience oneness with God through the power of the Holy Spirit. No longer separated from God, we are reconciled to God and each other and thereby experience the peace and healing associated with that. We enter the Kingdom of God and become part of the body of Christ, the church.

8. As we seek to evangelize and "preach the gospel", our focus should not be on theology and persuading people to "believe" the right things. Our focus should be on helping people experience God's love and grace in overcoming the downward pull of sin in their lives... help people on the road that leads to destruction change direction and find the road that leads to people who are losing the battle, start winning the battle. We spend too much time trying to get people to believe certain things about Jesus and "accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior." We need to meet them where they are and show them that God loves them and desires to help them experience freedom, healing, forgiveness and purpose...just like Jesus did. If they have questions about religion, let them hear about Jesus; but if their lives are broken, which is more often the case, let them see Jesus in us
Someday every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. All the world will see "the Lamb of God which takes the away the sins of the world." But for now, those of us who have been crucified with Christ should do the things he did...take good news to the poor, freedom to the prisoners, release to the captives, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, etc. Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men." Our deeds lift up Jesus far more than our words do. People will be drawn to Jesus when they see Jesus in us. To be drawn to Jesus is to be drawn along "the road less traveled". To be drawn to Jesus is to be drawn into a loving oneness with God and God's people.

10. Theology will come later. Deeds are more important than creeds. The world needs our hearts and hands more than our heads. As St. Francis said, "preach the gospel everywhere, and if necessary, use words." I pray God will give us the wisdom to know when to use words and when to love. The Bible tells us "God is love". Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and to love others. Salvation is about learning to love and be loved, and thereby experience oneness with God. This oneness with God that Jesus makes possible by the power of the Holy Spirit manifests itself through love. It feels like love. It is attained by love and produces love. "Now abide faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love."

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