Practical Soteriology (Theology of Salvation)
What do you believe in? Where do you put your trust? Reflect on the sources of joy, comfort and hope in your life. BAM! You are doing theological work!
Many of us fall short when we are honest about practical faith. It is true, God created us in unique and wonderful ways. However, we often distort the divine intent of our lives. The longings of our souls are gifts from God.
Consider, again, what fills you up. Is it solitude? Recognition of values or hard work? Perhaps you feel alive when things are happening. Maybe the call of your heart is in upbeat, stimulating interactions with others or the world around you. Some find a comfortable room and the presence of friends and family to be an ideal setting.
The reality is that happiness and joy are not things we obtain by chasing them. To seek after joy means to strive for that which brings us to life. Any athlete knows that the pain of defeat far outweighs the thrill of victory. A key loss can haunt one for weeks while a sweet victory lasts only until the next practice. Contentment is fleeting even when we seek after things that are sources of joy, comfort and hope.
Our theological answer to this reality comes in the form of sin. A definition for sin is action or inaction that leads one to break relationship with God, others or self. Scripture tells us that all have sinned and therefore we fall short of the promise God created us with. God desires to restore this original goodness in our lives. God created us to love and to be loved and when our love fails, God’s love never fails. In fact, God proves divine love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
Do we then seek God to destroy our filthy nature? I like the words of Isaiah 64. The prophet speaks of his desire for God to “rend the heavens and come down.”
We see the angst here that 1 Peter 1:10-12 speaks of saying:
“(10) Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. (12) It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”
Isaiah didn’t get to experience the coming of the righteousness and redeeming Incarnation. Isaiah speaks of human righteousness as menstrual rags in 64:6. Our salvation comes by means of human suffering. The miracle of Christ is that God chooses to participate in the human story through the victorious life of Christ.
No, we do not hate this human existence. Instead, we long for the renewal that God offers through Christ. Thomas Aquinas, a Medieval Theologian, said, “Grace does not destroy nature but rather fulfills it.” In other words, we believe that God began a good work in creation and that God will bring it all to its completion. We have a choice regarding how we will participate in that work of regeneration.
Methodists, along with many other branches of the Christian faith, have chosen to emphasize God’s love. We see God’s love and care so strongly present in the world that it is easy to think that we are inviting God into our story instead of the other way around. Let us return to the opening questions. Where is it that we are finding fulfillment? If you are a person of faith, what is your source of assurance?
If the answer to those questions begins with “I” there is a good chance that you are living in the righteousness described in Isaiah 64:6. Our reality is in Isaiah 64:1. God split the heavens open and came to us, Shepherds witnessed it. Our assurance and comfort cannot be material or brain driven.
True faith is not an academic practice just as true security is not a fiscal matter. Remember, God has created you in a dynamic way to live with your trust in divine goodness best revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. We are saved by grace through faith, the gift of God.
This week: pray and spend most of that time listening, read scripture and books about God’s love, spend time with people who seek to know Jesus, and tell someone you love them.