Salvation According to Jesus: Repentance and Change

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Isaiah 1
10. Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

11. “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

12. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?

13. Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.

14. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.

15. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!

16. Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.

17. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

18. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

Luke 19
1. Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

5. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6. So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

8. But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

9. Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

“Stop doing wrong.”

Accepting Jesus Christ as your “Lord and Savior” and “be saved” is not, nor has ever been, the point of Christ’s life, ministry, and death. The “point” of Christ was the end of the reign of sin and death in our lives, to cure our souls of all our ills, and to lead us to a new way of life in this world now… Amen.

Modern Christian doctrine, especially Evangelical doctrine, tells us that “salvation” comes in the form of “eternal life in Heaven” through saying those “magic words”: proclaiming Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

That’s it: say the words. Get eternal life. No more, no less.

However, as we see in today’s readings from Isaiah 1 and Luke 19, saying “magic words” has nothing to do with God’s “salvation” for all of us. It is completely about changing who we are.

“But, wait, Trig,” many of you will argue, “that is works righteousness! That’s earning your salvation. Where is the free Grace by faith alone?”

Ah, yes. The familiar “salvation through Faith alone” construct of Paul, who wrote very clearly that Christ’s Grace cannot be earned, but instead is a free gift.

Romans 6

23. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2

8. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9. not by works, so that no one can boast.

And he would be completely correct. You cannot earn the free gift of God’s Grace.

“Huh…?”, you say completely lost.

It’s okay, it took me a long time to wrap my head around this concept, too. So here it is, as clearly as I can write it:

Grace is not “Salvation”

  • Grace is God’s mercy and clemency. Death was the only fate of all life on Earth since the dawn of time. God’s mercy is to remove the death sentence from life. Grace is the unmerited freedom from death. It is mercy, and it is free. None of us can earn it, or lose it. I picture an inmate on death row receiving clemency from the governor. With that clemency he will not die, but he is still in prison.
  • “Salvation” is our rescue from sin, not our rescue from death. “To save” (sózó in Greek) means to heal, to rescue. I think a better word in modern English would be “rehabilitation” or “new life”. I picture that same inmate, who, while under clemency, is reformed and rehabilitated, and finally receives parole into a new life.

“Come down immediately…”

1024px-Jan_Luyken's_Jesus_21._Zacchaeus._Phillip_Medhurst_CollectionWhen Jesus first saw Zacchaeus the tax collector, he had climbed high into a fig tree in order to see. He was a short man, and amongst the gathering throng of his fellow humans, he couldn’t see Jesus. As his true self in this crows, as in life, he had no advantage. So he climbed the tree, and elevated himself above the rest, in order to have advantage and see Christ first. And what was the first command of Lord Christ to this man?

“Zacchaeus, come down immediately.”

Step one in seeking true and lasting Salvation, Rehabilitation, and New Life: lower yourself. Bring yourself low. Stop pretending you’re something you’re not. True acceptance of what you are is the first step in approaching God for repentance. In this symbolic moment, the elevated man had to become a short man, even shorter than others, once more.

“I must stay at your house today.”

Second step: when God asks to enter your “home”, your heart and soul, do not deny the spirit admission. Be a ready and welcome host the the Lord.

“Today, rehabilitation has come to this house…”

This is why Jesus proclaimed that “salvation” or “new life” had come to the “house” of Zacchaeus: he had recognized the free gift of mercy promised by God to Abraham, saw how love was embodied within the life of Christ, and had repented.

Repentance is the final and most important step in seeking your own Salvation, Rehabilitation, and New Life:

Repentance: not just “I’m sorry”

In the biblical Greek, repentance (metanoeó) is much more than admitting fault. It is a “turning back” or “changing of mind or attitude” about someone. It is an entire change of perception, coupled with action, i.e, don’t just admit the wrongdoing, fix the hurt and damage you caused as well.

So there, you see a complete vision of Grace (mercy and clemency from death) and “Salvation” (i.e. healing and rehabilitation). No “magic words” or required, nor wanted.

However what is required for true Salvation (healing and rehabilitation), is much more difficult rare than simply having a “coming to Jesus” moment. It requires a change of self, and a reckoning of the price of what you have done to others, and even what you could have done FOR others.

Isaiah 1

17. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

The Great Rehabilitation Still Awaits

While many among us have been able to be rehabilitated from many of their sins in this life, we all must still be rehabilitated from the Greatest Atrocity mankind ever perpetrates against itself:

christ-crucifiedWhen love and truth comes among us, instead of embracing it and taking our own Salvation, Rehabilitation and New Life to heart, we taunt it. We laugh and mock it. We call it meaningless and weak. And finally when truth and love endangers our worldly systems of power and control, we arrest it, beat it and crucify love and truth. Every. Single. Time.

This is the end for every messenger proclaiming love and truth that comes to us, even today. Yet, Salvation patiently awaits to come into the collective House of Man. It waits for us to repent, to see ourselves as we are, lay our history and our choices bare and without excuse, and start to finally repair the damage we have done to each other.

We rush to our temples of salvation and offer our prayers and sing our praise. We ask for mercy, not for each other, but for ourselves.

We fill the coffers with offerings, as if each dollar might be a tipping point in the Lord’s favor. We buy our way into Paradise, while our fellow creatures around us are still in want.

Lord, may we finally bring ourselves low, humbly accept you into our homes, and finally, thankfully repent. Then can we begin the true work of the Kingdom on Earth.

Isaiah 1

13. Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.

14. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.

15. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!

16. Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.

17. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Amen.

 

Trig Bundgaard About Trig Bundgaard

Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your feedback, thoughts and ideas about what I've written. Especially if it's contrary to my views!

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Grace and peace to you!

Romans 5
"18. Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
19. For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous."

Comments

  1. Wow! This says so eloquently what I’ve been trying to articulate. Thanks. I plan to share this and save it for future reference as sermon fodder.

  2. This clarifies what I have been grappling with for while. It seemed to me that True Salvation was a change of heart. A change of attitude. A change in behavior. The whole “Jesus’ only purpose was to die and spill His blood.” made no sense to me. If so, why didn’t He just die as a child at Harod’s hands? Why bother preaching? THIS is what I get from the gospel. Thank you for putting it into such beautiful words.

    • Amen, Carolyn!

      The Gospel was meant to change the world, and bring on the Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. A time of positive transformation and restoration for all mankind. Instead, The Gospel was repackaged as an individual’s “Get out of Hell FREE card”.

      The sad truth is that Hell is real, and it’s here now for billions of people across the Earth. We could have collectively progressed as a race and through selfless thinking over the last 2,000 years, we might have eliminated much of the suffering through inequity and injustice experience all over the world.

      But alas, the power of the Kingdom was co-opted for the power of the Church and corporation, and here we are…

  3. Amen. Amen. Amen!

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