God WILL Show Us Salvation
This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, February 17, 2013.
Today is the first Sunday of Lent—a season in which the Church sets aside time to prepare for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning. This year, our theme for Lent is “ashamed no more.” Through the love of God found in Jesus Christ, old patters of disgrace and shame are broken. We often feel shame when we fail to live up to the expectations of others. We feel shame when we fail to live up to our own expectations. As we prepare for Easter, I hope you’ll here Jesus calling, “Do not be ashamed, I am with you. I have called you each by name.” There’s no need to be ashamed, because all those past mistakes that keep you from living the life God is calling you toward have been forgiven through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Lectionary—assigned church—readings will be our guide this Lenten season. I just want to remind you that daily scripture readings based upon the lectionary readings for Sunday are found in the bulletin along with other prayers and activities to keep you thinking about the themes brought up in worship. There are also family devotional books based on this series. If you would like a heads up what will be talked about on Sunday morning and find additional activities to do in your home, then I’d encourage you to grab one—they’re FREE—in the back of the sanctuary.
Today’s theme: God will show you salvation.
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear, that together we might learn and be inspired to live your Word in the world starting today. Amen.
“If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, Common English Bible). This passage of scripture is one that most Christians, particularly protestant Christians, know. It is seen as a prescription for salvation: a simple verse that tells us how to get our butts out of the fires of hell and into the clouds of heaven.
“Confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead (and) you will be saved.” Salvation is that simple. One sample tract says this exactly: “Believe on Jesus Today! “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (KJV) It goes on to explain, “To believe on Jesus Christ as Savior means to have faith that He died for you, paid the price for your sin, and is the only way to heaven. You can express your belief on Jesus through prayer.” Then the required prayer is offered and the person is saved for eternal life. (See www.gospeltractstore.com/going-somewhere-road-stack.) That’s the end. But is it? Is it the end, or is it the beginning?
As United Methodists we do hold to the sentiment of Paul in Romans 10:9. The Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith are the primary doctrinal statements of The United Methodist Church. Article IX of the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church states:
We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith, only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.
It is absolutely true that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But, there is more. After confessing Jesus as Lord and believing in our heart that God raised him from the dead, we must go forth and live changed lives recognizing God’s presence at work in our lives and the world.
Salvation isn’t just about “where you’re going when you die.” Salvation is about recognizing and welcoming the presence of the living God into your life now. Salvation isn’t about saying the right prayers or even doing the right things so that some time in the future we might receive eternal bliss. Salvation is about living your life now in the very presence of God now.
It’s about a life, writes the Psalmist, lived
in the Most High’s shelter,
camping in the Almighty’s shade,
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my refuge, my stronghold!
You are my God—the one I trust!”
It’s about a life of gratitude for God’s abiding presence.
One day little Johnny was walking up a hill pulling his favorite red wagon behind him. It was heavy, and with every strained step little Johnny would curse.
The local preacher hears Johnny’s foul mouth and walks up to him and says, “You shouldn’t swear like that, Johnny. God is all around us.”
Is he in the sky?” asks Johnny.
Yes,” says the preacher.
Is he in that bush over there?” asks Johnny.
“Yes,” says the preacher.
“Is he in my wagon?” asks Johnny.
“Yes,” says the preacher.
“Then tell him to get his big butt out of my wagon and help me push!” Johnny replied.
God is ever-present with us. And, God love us. He will, in the words of the Psalmist, rescue us, protect us, comfort us in troubling times, save and glorify us, but that does not mean we should test God’s pledge.
When the devil tempted Jesus to jump off the highest part of the temple, he was most likely quoting Psalm 91. “Don’t worry, Jesus. Jump and God ‘will order his messengers to help you, to protect you wherever you go’ (Psalm 91:11, CEB).” Of course Jesus refused the temptation. He didn’t jump; instead, he quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 (a), “Don’t test the LORD your God…” “It was Jesus’ way of saying, ‘You do not play lightly with God. You do not treat God willy-nilly, just because God pledges a sheltering providence for your life.”
You don’t have to test God. God will show you salvation. It is, writes Paul, right in front of you: “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (Romans 10:8b, CEB).
As we confess with our lips and believe in our heart, we’ll begin to see God’s presence with us and the world God so loved and came to save. God will show us salvation as we confess with our lips, believe in our heart, and begin to recognize God’s eternal presence with us.
Lent is a time we set aside as a church
to pour energy into increasing our awareness of God’s presence with us, no matter what the circumstances of our lives. Our prayer during Lent could be to ask God to let divine love open our hearts and increase our awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
… We need to learn to listen for God’s voice as our relationships with God unfold. We need to seek and expect God’s presence, guidance, and protection, while being continually grateful for the work of God in our lives. We need to be vulnerable to God and God’s action in our lives.
Our response to God’s continual invitation to relationship is really our lifetime spiritual journey. We can focus on new ways to trust God’s promises to us. We can experience God as a living, active, loving presence in our daily lives. We can center our lives on what it means to be in love with God. Here are some practical ways to use the Lenten season to deepen our relationship with God:
- read, meditate and study the Bible (use the Upper Room, Taking Faith Home, or the Ashamed No More devotionals…or find one of the many smart phone apps, websites, and email listservs that will send them to you electronically)
- fasting(more than chocolate, cheese, or beer…give up something that truly helps you realize that “man does not live by bread alone”)
- regularly attending worship (we have several extra worship experiences throughout Lent) and participate in the sacraments at every possible opportunity
- live a healthy life—don’t eat processed foods, eat whole foods and exercise. Live as if your body really is a temple to the living God (and, it is! see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
This Lent, I’d like to encourage you to actively search out the presence of God in your life. I encourage you to add a spiritual exercise that will open you up to God’s presence in your life. Read your Bible. Fast. Pray. Attend worship and participate in the sacraments as often as you can. Care for your body as if it were a temple to the living God. Learn to recognize God’s abiding presence with you and you will not only see, but experience salvation: a life lived with God. Amen.
 “Article IX—Of the Justification of Man” of The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church. UMC.org. <http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?ptid=1&mid=1650> Accessed February 15, 2013.
 c.f. 1 Peter 3:18.
 Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16, Homiletical Perspective” by Peter W. Marty. Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol. 2 (Lent through Eastertide) (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 35-37.
 Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16, Pastoral Perspective” by Katherine E. Amos. Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol. 2 (Lent through Eastertide) (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 34-36.