Sermon: Personal Transformation +

Transformation by Owen Moore

Transformation by Owen Moore

Sermon Text: Acts 16:25-34

Sermon Excerpt

Are you saved?

Maybe that is a question you have not heard in a long time.  Maybe it is one you have heard far too often.

Are you saved?

Earlier this week when a group gathered for a Topical Tuesday conversation about salvation we had more stories to tell than time allowed.  One participant remembered a time when as a young mother she had allowed a stranger into her home simply because she craved interaction and conversation with another adult only to learn the guest was there for her salvation.  Her guest was so focused on that goal that just getting her out of the house was a real challenge!

Are you saved?

Perhaps you have seen the signs.  They are everywhere.  They come in friendly forms like the John 3:16 signs at sporting events.  They come in comic book form like the tracts some folks like to hand out to everyone they encounter.  They come in more aggressive forms on vehicles and billboards telling all who read that the end is near, repentance is required, and that only Jesus can save.

Are you saved?

By now some of you are tiring of the question.  At least a few of you are ready to explode if I ask it just a few more times.  Others of you, are all too familiar with a method of evangelism created by the long-time Florida minister D. James Kennedy called Evangelism Explosion.  This technique calls upon practitioners to strike up a conversation with others and to then guide that conversation so that they can ask two very specific questions.  The first question is “Have you come to the place in your spiritual life where you can say you know for certain that if you were to die today you would go to heaven?”

Are you saved? /  Has anyone ever tried to scare the hell out of you?

There is a very frightening approach to doing just that.  Hell Houses have popped up all around the country in recent years as so-called Christian alternatives to Haunted Houses.  The trend started after the original Hell House in Dallas, Texas boasted of its great successes with fear based evangelism.  Unfortunately, I have been to that Hell House and my experience was so disturbing and disgusting that I cannot repeat the gory details within the context of a Christian worship service.  For now, let me simply say groups travel from scene to more graphic scene until they reach the final scene and are encouraged to commit to Christ in order to be saved from hell.

Are you saved? / Have you purchased your fire insurance?

While none of these approaches actually uses that language, the idea is clear.  You need to be saved so that when this life ends you do not end up burning in the lake of fire called hell, but instead can enjoy eternity in heaven.  The focus of salvation as found in the examples I have shared seems to be exclusively about what happens after this life ends.

Are you saved? /  Have you taken time to read the Bible?

It turns out that the word “salvation” and similar words like “saved” appear around 500 times in our English translation of the Bible.  And, “salvation in the Bible is seldom about an afterlife.”

Roughly two-thirds of the uses of the word are in the First Testament, addressed to a people who did not even believe in an afterlife. The word appears more in the book of Psalms than in any other book of the Bible.

So when these people heard of salvation they were clearly thinking of the one and only life they knew about: this life.

Salvation in the First Testament – the Hebrew Scriptures – has many meanings, including

  • liberation from bondage,
  • return from exile, and
  • rescue  . . . (read manuscript or watch video)

So What?

Salvation is one of those words that people tend to hear in what Marcus Borg calls a “heaven and hell” framework.  Within such a view salvation is about gaining admission to the afterlife.

Biblically, however, salvation is something much different and much more powerful: it is primarily about this life.  It is about personal transformation + the transformation of the world.

  • How do you define “salvation?”
  • In your congregation / local community of faith, is being “saved” / “salvation” typically presented as being about this life or an after life?

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