Salvation is all about me… I get to be with God

Last week I was sitting in a Starbucks and my table was next to two middle-aged men who clearly have a passion for Jesus.  Without deliberately eavesdropping, what caught my attention was one man’s reflections on salvation.  He said, “what’s amazing about salvation is that its all about me.  I get to be with God and God gets to be with me.”  This is a beautiful and transformative reality of salvation, but it begs the question… How does salvation function from a biblical perspective?

For me, salvation needs to be placed in a narrative framework that is broader than only an individualistic understanding.  A couple years ago, I attempted to summarize my understanding of salvation in a narrative statement, which I’ve revised some off and on.  I would probably nuance some things differently if I were starting from scratch today, but the broad scope of the following summary fits my current viewpoint:

In the beginning God created the cosmos intending that image-bearing humanity would be in peaceful relationship with God, creation, others, and self.  These looking-after-creatures chose personal and systemic injustice, influenced directly by fallen powers.  The Creator so loved the creation project that rather than to let evil have that last word, he implemented good news for the poor, the sick, and the victimized through the ministry of the kingdom as taught and demonstrated by Jesus the Messiah.  In death, Jesus substituted his life in the place of fallen humanity to endure the full wrath of both personal and systemic evil, and in resurrection he disarmed the powers.  Thus, every human is invited into salvation becoming part of the new creation by following the Victorious Christ within a discipleship community.  The church’s calling is to join with God in mission to “gather up all things” in anticipation of the full expression of justice: “a new heaven and a new earth.”

I would love to hear your thoughts on this idea of salvation.  How has your view changed and how do you often hear it characterized?

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  • Mbowers24

    I very much agree with your statement, “For me, salvation needs to be placed in a narrative framework that is broader than only an individualistic understanding”.

    It seems that (espically in Western Christianity) we have done a great job of making salvation about “me”. I think Scot McKnight did an excellent job of continuing that 
    dialogue in his book King Jesus Gospel. The hairs on the back of my neck literally stood up when I read “…..and God gets to be with me”. Yikes.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @6f5f833dca9d2d96e3ba9e89484f3e92:disqus … yes, Scot’s book is great! Although… he was a bit soft on the anti-empire stuff. Otherwise, yes… More Christians need scholars like Scot and Wright!

  • Anonymous

    Dallas Willard transformed my thinking on the nature of salvation. That salvation apart from discipleship isn’t salvation at all. So in a sense it’s “all about me” but only to a point. Once we decide to become disciples we are in a constant process of setting aside me and allowing more of  Him. And for what reason? For the world. I’d say that salvation starts with me but we are the starting point only. It is always more of Him and less of me.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @Mary1912:disqus … Willard = incredible!

  • Leo

    Do a search on YouTube for “Scott McKnight” and “Did Jesus Preach the Gospel” for a very clear perspective on this same subject. You won’t regret it…

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @aeea503c475341aca21d589ff75a3714:disqus … I thnk I’ve seen that… is it connected to King Jesus Gospel? If so, I know what to expect and I like it :-)

  • David Todd

    Too often we’ve heard what we are saved from, the flesh, the natural, the former self and of course the fires of hell and too little we’ve heard what we are saved into, kingdom, purpose, relationship and freedom.

    I like your statement Kurt, apart from “the full wrath of both personal and systemic evil”, I understand what you are saying and I think why, but it’s God’s wrath, perhaps yes, against evil, but  it’s God’s wrath that was undone and so the power of death and sin was disarmed.

  • http://twitter.com/PuritanHedonist David Westfall

    I like your phrase, “gather up all things” as a description of the Christian mission in the world. Is that a rendering of Ephesians 1:10, that God’s purpose was to “sum up all things in the Messiah – everything in heaven and earth”? Either way, great way of putting it… it keeps us focused on the meaning everything in our world has centrally ‘in Christ’ and how he is to be king over all of it. Overall, I think my view has moved very much in the same direction as yours. Without (I hope) discarding the personal dimensions of salvation, I think that I’ve gradually been more and more mesmerized by how cosmic in scope the gospel’s reach really is, and how – perhaps somewhat contrary to what this fellow was saying at the coffee shop – it is so much about Jesus and not me. (My impression of much American Christianity is that we’ve got this reversed.) The majesty of the triumphant Messiah is primary, is antecedent to my benefit from it – which is where God’s grace is truly astounding, that he saw fit not only to conquer the powers and principalities, sin, death, and the grave, but to rescue me from them in so doing. Praise God!

    • http://twitter.com/PuritanHedonist David Westfall

      And, if you’re interested in comparing your summary with something similar I did, here’s an old post of mine:

      “Getting the Big Picture Straight” http://bearwithfoolishness.blogspot.com/2011/06/getting-big-picture-straight.html

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @twitter-283187133:disqus … Great thoughts! and yes, “gather up all things” is Eph 1.10. Check out the NRSV.  Gets the full thrust of the Greek from what I can tell, in that this is a process that was kickstarted by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    Not only is it not “all about me,” it’s not even all about salvation.  Salvation is a means to God’s end, not the end itself.  As I said at the time, throughout Jesus’ ministry, ” the healing, the repentance, the salvation of people from whatever mess
    they were in, was always and only a beginning. What really mattered
    wasn’t the key that got them in the door, it was the life they were
    called to live on the other side of that door.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/markjaffrey Mark Jaffrey

    Thanks Kurt for posting these thoughts. I preached on this very issue a couple of weeks ago and your blog has been helpful in aiding me to clarify my own thoughts on the matter. For the sermon I came up with an equation to help people think it through: Conversion (for some – not everyone has a conversion experience) +Justification+Sanctification+Glorification=Salvation. Now you could throw some other things in there if you like; election (for the Calvinists!), adoption, redemption etc.  But the point I was trying to make was that we need to see salvation as a holisitic process of drawing near to God the Father, by following our King, Jesus and accepting his transformational work in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. And that our salvation is ongoing, and will only be completed when That Day comes :-)

    I like the quote from Catholic theologian James Akin: “I have been saved, I am being saved and I will be saved.”

    • Leo

      Hi Mark – Question for you… Did Jesus preach the Gospel?

      • http://www.facebook.com/markjaffrey Mark Jaffrey

        Jesus IS the Gospel.

        • Leo

          Agreed.

          However, I was curious to find out if you thought Jesus preached the Gospel?

  • JenG

    Could you point me to somewhere on your blog where you talk more about what you mean by “fallen powers” and “systemic evil”? I am very interested in your summary here but just an unsure what those terms are alluding to! Thanks!

  • http://kungfureligion.com Terrisa Coobs

    One thing I find myself stumbling over: why does it have to be MOSTLY about Jesus and a little about individuals/culture/creation project or FIRST about individuals/culture/creation project and secondarily about the majesty of Jesus? Why isn’t salvation equally about both?

  • Anonymous

    This is a good challenge for me, since I’m supposed to write my Christology in 6-8 pages for school this week. My view of salvation has to surround the idea that our nature is to be broken from God. Through various ways we have reached to God, but have never been able to read God fully. Instead, God comes down into our world as one of us, dies, and brings all of humanity back with him into communion with God. While our world is not fixed, we are able to begin the process of redeeming this world that one day will be finalized when Jesus comes back and turns this world into the restored kingdom that it was intended to be from the start.

  • http://www.2ndmanunited.com Michael Fleming

    “How does salvation function from a biblical perspective?”I think this question is a good follow-up to “What was God after that motivated Him to create?”  I’m blogging through the book xxxxx  “From Eternity to Here”   right now and it answers this question and in turn, the question above.  His desire is about something “from Him, through Him and to Him.” (Rom 11:36)  It describes what that something is.


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