1 John 5:9–13 (NRSV)
9 If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. 10 Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
What is salvation for? This question is the very question that we consider every Wednesday evening. I may sound like a pretty silly question but just consider it for a moment…What is our salvation for? Many answers may come to mind, but as those answers enter your mind again ask the question what is salvation for?
I ask this question because it is one that has been ricocheting around in my mind for several years in one form or another. The immediate response that comes to mind is, “so I can go to Heaven…” well actually that is probably a bit of a cleaned up super-spiritual answer because actually that answer really is, “so I don’t go to hell.” If we are honest with ourselves, this is the first answer that came to our minds. For many of us that very answer is the beginning point of our spiritual journey. But if that is all that salvation is for why exactly are we here?
If all salvation is for is to get us to heaven there were be very little reason for us to come every, or nearly every Sunday to worship. Yet here we are on yet another Sunday singing praises, reading scriptures, and centering down to listen to the spirit of God. Yet so often that is the message that the church pushes out to the world, have faith in God and avoid hell. Because of this over and over again we hear calls for people to come down to the altar to pray to receive Jesus as their savior. What then? We are saved but what good is it, is it just a life insurance policy that we purchase and wait for it to mature so we can collect the benefits later on?
No that is not salvation. That is sales and marketing. That is packaging up the gospel to make the consumer feel like they got a great deal for minimal cost. It is simple, concise, and a bargain. Yet often that is how we try to present the good news to the people of the world. The reality is that answer is not fully wrong, but it is not full either. It is a shell of the gospel, hollow and shallow.
What is salvation for, what is the Gospel for, for that matter what is the Gospel? Questions like this run through everyone’s minds at one point or another throughout their spiritual journeys, because questions like this arise out of a life lived. Every moment we live events occur that cause reactions, at times the reactions that we experience are very pleasant while at other moments these events break us down at the knees causing us to reconsider whatever we once thought we believed. What is salvation for?
Throughout John’s epistle he has had to deal with these sorts of questions. He is writing a letter to people that had a belief that God was going to establish a kingdom among them within their lifetime. That Jesus was ascended to heaven to prepare not just a place for them, but that he was going to prepare the armies of God to overthrow the powers of the world immediately and establish a new order and kingdom that would have no end. The problem was that the first disciples, the ones that witnessed Jesus and walked with him as he performed many amazing feats, were all slowly falling to various forms of persecution. So faith was being questioned, what is this thing we call faith for, if it was not what they first expected?
John tells us listen to the testimonies. Listen to the stories, the accounts of those around us. Listen and observe because in those words we will begin to see a glimpse of what God is doing and the beginning of the answers. The story of our lives are powerful because our story is one that no one can really question, it is simply what we experience and observed around us. We may not interpret the events the same way as the one speaking to us, but we cannot say that it is legend or tall tale because it is personal, and we were not there. But words of women and men can only go so far. Testimony is a court term, it brings to mind images of a court room where lawyers are coming forward asking questions and an individual is recounting observations as they remember them. Our story is powerful because it is what was seen, it can be used by other to assist them in making judgments, but testimonies can only go so far, because it is simply one piece of evidence. One piece of evidence does not make the case because the evidence only points to the truth. The truth lies deeper within.
John then says that God also give a testimony, and that testimony is even greater than all the testimonies of mankind. The testimony of God has been collected throughout the ages and continues to be presented for the ages to come. It is the testimony that dwell in the pages of scripture and in the hearts of humanity. Which leads us to something else. The heart. When the ancients spoke of the heart they did not have the same knowledge as we do today, to them the heart was an abstract concept they knew it was deep within, and that life was connected to it but they did not know that it was an organ made of muscle tissues that was used to circulate blood throughout the body to provide the various systems the nutrients and elements to live. To the ancients the heart was simply the essence of life. That part deep within that gave purpose and meaning, it was your truest self.
The testimony of God dwells in the truest self of humanity, the image of God. John says that if we do not believe we are calling God a liar, because we are rejecting that testimony. Which bring many more questions up, but continues to revolve around a central theme. What is salvation for and along with it what is life for.
Throughout the New Testament we hear eternal, everlasting, and abundant life spoken about. It is easy for us to get hung up on one particular meaning of those words. I would like us to consider a different meaning today vitality, or essence. “God gave us vitality, meaningful, essences of life, through his son.” He gives us true foundational, meaningful, actual life, life that endures through the trials, continues through every trial that can be thrown at us. Something that through the darkest or brightest situations life that can be filled with joy. This is a very different type of life than that life that the world has to offer. It is a life that goes beyond just what we experience today or even our life time but endures though ages and ages. It is humanity. It is creation singing the praises of its creator dancing with God through the symphony of life.
You see often we do not see the larger picture, we only see what is right us. That is how the world views life, just what is before us. This narrowed view of life damns so many things. When we fail to embrace the fullness of life with Christ we limit what God can do through us. We have limited resources, limited time, limited energy, limited everything we can only operate in a very small area because that is life according to the world. How can we minister within our limits? We cannot. We cannot bring a testimony of peace and nonviolence to the cities of America because the job is too large and we are too small. We cannot end the hideousness of human trafficking because we are just a small group and there are millions of people that are already in bondage. We cannot stop wars because we do not have enough time to negotiate peace. We cannot….
The limits we have are vast. We cannot do anything because we are trapped within a worldly view of life. Life that is only here now, life that is not enduring, that does not continue, that will end when we end. But John and the apostles were bearing witness and testifying to a life that was much different. Jesus came announcing that the kingdom of God was at hand. Immediately people began attach that statement to their worldly understanding of kingdoms and life. He said that within that generation he would usher in that kingdom riding upon the clouds, which brings many more ideas and understandings. John then writes his letter at the closing of that generation say it is true, the kingdom is here the only reason we do not see it is our eyes are not focused in the right places. We cannot see the vastness of the enduring and everlasting life because we are looking though eyes that are trapped in the bondages of the temporal world. But the kingdom is here, it is all around us.
That kingdom is right in front of us. God is calling us, writing his commands and desires on our hearts urging us to embrace the enduring life right here and right now. He is calling us to salvation through him so that we can bring that enduring life to the world that is stuck in its own limitations. What would happen if we did not live constrained by the limits of the world? What if we did not believe that time was a limiting factor? Would we pursue the things that God has written deep down in the core of our being? What if we believed that the resurrected Christ could build his kingdom where we are now and allow that work to endure throughout the ages? Would we allow the limits of this world to hinder us from living the enduring life that is found in Christ?
The reality is that life endures with or without us. It has endured for thousands if not millions of years. And it will continue well beyond what we perceive to be our life time. So why then are we focusing on the short term things instead of the things that endure? Jesus showed us how to focus on the enduring things. The things that matter are found in Prayer, worship and service to others. That rhythm of life, the lifestyle that Jesus lived while he walked the earth and called twelve men to participate in. Jesus did not see the limitation of these twelve men but he saw the eternal, enduring, abundant life that was living at the core. He showed them how to nourish that life, how to steadily pursue the goal and the task set before them, joyfully enduring whatever the world threw at them. And the kingdom has come. It begins when we enter into that lifestyle and start living with Christ and then sharing our lives with those around us. Letting the evidence of God’s testimony be expressed through our actions and words.
John then writes, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Everything we do endures, just as our spirit endures with Christ. The question remains what is our salvation for? It is for us to propel the kingdom of God into the ages that come after us. It is for us to live in lives with the endurance of Christ at the center of what we do. It is for us to boldly take on the various lifestyles of the world that are limiting humanity from experiencing the life that God has testified lives within the deepest recesses of our hearts. He wants us to live our lives totally for him. Taking for ourselves the lifestyle He showed us so that through us and the enduring lives that began centuries ago that continues through us we will see his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Our salvation is not for us, but it is for Him and for the world he created.