Like many other things, church has a language of its own. While we would never want it to be so, we acknowledge the alienation that can occur when someone walks into church for the very first time at Life Bridge. As they are greeted, make their way through the coffee line or find a seat, a visitor might hear words that they would never hear in the course of normal conversation. These words have the power to create a barrier; to make it seem as though you need the special password or secret handshake to really belong. At Life Bridge we strive to be the kind of community that reflects what the real kingdom of God looks like; imperfect people passionate about God’s Word and the journey of following Jesus. Forgive us on the (hopefully) rare occasions when it sounds like a club. Come join us on our imperfect journey.
Is it really that simple?
So here’s the thing with these “churchy” words … they’re words that might sound mysterious, but they’re really quite simple at their core. The more you study the life of Jesus, the more you learn that it’s “us” who have made things more complicated. It’s “us” who have thrown up barriers to meeting and knowing Him. So what are “we” going to do about it? At least for our little corner of the kingdom, we’d like to break down the barriers and suggest that it really is that simple when it comes to meeting and knowing Jesus. Over the next two weeks, we’ll take four words which are at the foundation of our Christian faith and peel back the “churchy” layers.
This week our two words are “salvation” and “baptism.” These two words are essential to our lives as believers and followers of Jesus, and they are words that you won’t often hear in the course of everyday conversation. We’ll start first with salvation and a small passage in the Bible that speaks the essence of it. As we navigate the two verses, we’ll encounter a few other critical words that we’ll also simplify with the objective of understanding salvation more clearly. Let’s start with the first few words of Romans 1:16-17:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel,
Okay, so here is where we stop first. The word “gospel” … what does that mean? Simply translated, the work gospel means “good news.” And this good news is? The good news of Jesus’ death & resurrection. See we are all sinners. When the first man and woman were created, they were without sin. But that didn’t last very long and they chose to disobey what God had asked them never to do. This one decision brought sin to the world and created in every person born after that, a “nature” that is opposed to God. As you read this, you might be a person who says, “Hey, I don’t have a problem with God; I like Him.” But see, the fact that you like God doesn’t change the fact that it’s in your nature to disobey Him. That disobedience doesn’t get cancelled out because you generally like God. Sin separates you from God, but the good news — the “gospel” — is that God made a way to pay the penalty for your sin; a way to reunite you with Him. He sent his son Jesus to die and take the punishment for your sin, and then instead of staying dead, Jesus rose from the dead to forever break the power of death as having the final say.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes
Okay, and there’s our word … salvation. So salvation is this big process and term with deep meaning, right? Actually, no. Salvation really just means. to save or rescue. When you truly believe that there’s a thing called sin and you are a sinner and in that good news that Jesus died and rose again for you, you get saved … or rescued. So let’s keep going…
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
Yeah … okay … so what’s one of those — a Gentile? Well, it’s really quite simple. A Gentile is anyone whose not Jewish. So in including Jews and Gentiles, that covers everyone — the gospel and salvation is for everyone.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel,because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—
Wow, so that’s a mouthful and that HAS to be a complicated word, right?! Nope. Righteousness simply means good, or right. So let’s finish this thing…
For I am not ashamed of the gospel,because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
This may be a word that is familiar to you, but there might be a chance you don’t really know what we believe faith to be. The way we would define faith is: A deep, life changing belief that Jesus is the Son of God, died and rose from the dead. A deep, life changing belief … Faith to us, is not a cross your fingers hope or cop-out to real proof as some might suggest. Faith does involve believing in something we didn’t observe first-hand, but it goes far beyond that. Faith says that we believe in the creation and fall of man (that first sin) and that God sent Jesus to take the punishment for us. We believe beyond the shadow of any doubt that Jesus came to earth, lived, died and then rose again. And as the verse states, we live our everyday lives from that place of faith. It affects everything we say and do, and motivates us to love others in the same way Jesus did.
So, that’s a lot to absorb; I certainly get it. But we’re also hoping that by breaking those barrier words down, it makes more sense and doesn’t create the alienation that it might have before. So now this word, Baptism. For sure this isn’t a word you’d hear in normal conversation. You might be familiar with it, or heard about someone who’s been “baptized,” but what is it really? We’ll use a similar approach to (hopefully) makes things more clear. This time we’ll consider Acts 2:38-39…
Peter replied, “Repent
So, that sounds a bit familiar, yet really “churchy.” Repent: Turn from your sins and turn to God. This is connected back with what we just considered … salvation. In order to be rescued, we need to realize there is something to be rescued from. And a really important truth of salvation is that it’s no casual thing. A true belief that we are in need of saving and that Jesus died and rose again requires a complete turning from the way we used to be, to a new way of being. We cannot simply speak some words and “feel” better and then go about living our lives as we did before. True belief changes your heart and it is critical that you literally turn. If you do not fully and truly believe, you will find yourself shuffling in a side step or perpetually looking over your shoulder. You’ll be one foot in your old world and old ways, and true belief means going “all in” — both feet.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
There’s our word … baptized. Literally speaking, it means to go under water; maybe you’ve seen something like that before. The very real practice illustrates emerging from your old life and rising to a new one. Sin had you before, but now you are God’s. You have gone from maybe being a fan, but still an enemy, to a very real child of God. You belong to Him, and everything is new!
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Okay, so here’s the truth that we’ve mentioned a few times already. In sin, you are separated from God. You may not have a problem with Him. You may even like Him, or like what Jesus stands for and taught, but absent a true belief, you are a million miles away from Him. All who are far off — that’s you! But as we just said, the moment of real belief — the moment of salvation — immediately draws you close to God. He is with you and you are his child!
We pray that today’s consideration of these two words has encouraged and strengthened those who believe and has broken down barriers for those who might feel that they’re outside of the club looking in. We desperately want Life Bridge to be a place where both those people feel completely welcome. We want you to come alongside us on our imperfect journey of loving and following Jesus.