I like to simplify things. I don't like to overly simplify things. Much error has occurred in the world in that way. But still, in my opinion, simple is usually better.
I especially like to try to simplify spiritual concepts. It is a wonderful thing for the preacher to see the light of, "Oh, yeah, I get that," come on in the eyes of his parishioners. When people understand at a higher level, it means they have the option to respond to God at a higher level. It doesn't mean they will, but at least they have the opportunity. And I want everyone to have the best possible opportunity to know Christ at the very highest levels of relationship. There is no greater possibility afforded to us in this life.
So, here is my latest attempt at simplification: In the American culture, on a day to day basis, we essentially only deal with two approaches to the salvation of the soul. These two basic proposals for how God saves the human soul go under a lot of different "brand names;" but there are essentially just two "pitches."
The first redemptive plan is simply one that emphasizes Forgiveness. Tell you what, let's call this one "The Forgiveness Plan." Pretty catchy don't you think - and so descriptive.
Now, under the Forgiveness Plan - well - that's pretty much it. We as the "redemptees" just simply allow God to forgive us, because Christ died on the Cross for our sins. How could you beat a deal like that, right. Kinda' makes you wonder why we even need a second plan.
Anyway, to sign on to this plan, you simply acknowledge Christ as the Savior of the world and as your savior, personally; and that about takes care of your part. God then takes care of everything else from the day you make that acknowledgment until Judgment Day.
So, from the day we sign on, according to the Forgiveness Plan, He not only forgives our sins, but pretty much ignores our bad choices, our base behavior, our off color thought life, our misshapen character, our bad habits, our broken value system, our hit and miss conscience, our insensitivity's to His will, our "too busy for you, God" schedule, our "life on my own terms" attitude, etc., etc., etc. And He can do all of that, simply because Jesus died on the Cross to bring about our forgiveness.
Obviously, this redemptive plan is a really good deal for humanity, and a really bad deal for God. Under the Forgiveness Plan, after a quick statement of faith in the Savior, we don't really have to do anything if we don't want to, and God is left to put up with the daily anxiety, stress, and contradiction of our self determined lifestyle. So, God bites his lip all day, while we just kind of "express" ourselves upon His world in our own way.
I don't know about you, but I'm taking that deal while it's on the table. Forget that other plan. Who needs another plan, when you've got one this good? How could it get any better than this. Just give me the Cross, and "keep the change..."
OK. God called. He's not happy with that deal. Wouldn't you know it.
I wondered who was pushing that second deal. Turns out - it was Him. Come to find out, He has no intention of quietly standing by and "biting His lip," or His tongue, while we "express" ourselves upon His world as just more of the same brokenness.
I know! I told Him. But He insists that His intention was never just to forgive us, but to begin fixing us, and right away. Guys, I'm just gonna' tell you, He was not a "happy Camper" in this conversation. His words, "Do you think I'm a fool! Is that the best you think I could do when it comes to redeeming humanity! Would you take that deal if you were in my place?!
"You better wise up, young man! And you better spread the word of the real "deal;" or there will be a lot more than words when next I talk to you."
Shoo, No wonder they call Him the Heavenly "Father." He sounded a lot like my earthly father sounded on more than one occasion.
Anyway. We better look at the "second deal," 'cause I don't think the first one is gonna' "fly" with God. So, here goes...
The second, OK, yeah, the "authentic," redemptive plan emphasizes, not just forgiveness, but also renewal for the believer. So, to satisfy our love for catchy and descriptive titles, let's call this plan the "Forgiveness and Renewal Plan." Kinda' sounds like car insurance, doesn't it.
Anyway, The Forgiveness and Renewal Plan certainly includes the forgiveness that the Cross affords, but this plan doesn't stop there. This true plan of redemption has a requirement and a mechanism to fix us. It's called... wait for it... wait for it... OK, you already guessed it - The Resurrection Of Christ.
It works like this: After Jesus died on the cross, He came back to life on the 3rd day, making Him the Living Savior. That part, the living part, is very important. As the living Savior, Jesus then did something that no one had any idea He was going to do, before He did it. It is this mysterious move which makes the New Testament, well, New, and which brings the possibility of our personal renewal to life. ( Colossians1:24-27 )
Jesus dispatched the Holy Spirit, the God Essence in spirit form, with a very specific mission. That mission was to bring to us, as believers, the essence of this now living Jesus. (John 14:15-24) In other words, the Holy Spirit becomes the Conduit that literally connects us to the very life essence of the Savior, whose divine energy then begins to empower a personal newness within us. (John 15:4-5)
So again, here is how the dots connect. Jesus is alive! As a living Savior, He is able, by the Holy Spirit, to transfer His essential self into the believer. It is a spiritual merger that connects us to His divine nature. (2 Peter 1:2-4) As a result of this literal merger with Christ, the believer is energized by the divine energy to experience a profound newness. (Romans 8:2-6)
The primary expression of this newness occurs in our character. As you might expect, our character starts to become patterned after that of Christ. We start to develop the traits of His character in our's.(Galatians 5:19-25) In this way, we are transformed into, as the Bible puts it, a new creature in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Thus, under the Forgiveness and Renewal Plan of Redemption, it becomes imperative that we get beyond just the forgiveness of the Cross, and experience this personal spiritual merger with the living Christ which initiates God's rebuilding process within us. (Romans 8:8-14)
And I can tell you, God is definitely expecting newness as the end result of His salvation effort. (Galatians 5:15 / Matthew 3: 10-12) If I were you, I wouldn't plan to show up on that last day as the same old you - only forgiven. (Rev. 20: 11-12) That would not be good for your future.
What would be much better and safer is to carefully and diligently seek your own personal spiritual baptism into Christ, so that He can enable a new and godly character in you. (Luke 11:5-13) That is the place of true safety of soul. (Ephesians 5:5-10) This stand alone event in the redemptive process is not only personally confirming, but absolutely essential to the newness in Christ which God requires under the authentic redemptive plan. (Romans 8:14-17)
I know. I know. I told Him, "Lord, this is a whole lot harder than that first deal." But, He was completely unsympathetic. He said, "You're right. It requires more investment from you, more energy; but I'm supplying most of it anyway. All you have to do is cooperate. It's called "faith," son.
I said, "Lord, can't you just fix me all at once when I get to Heaven?" And He said, "I could, but your broken now; and you're spewing that brokenness all over the place. It's hurting you, and those around you, and frankly, it's hurting Me. Why wait. I can make you new right now. Everything we need is available in Jesus - right now."
Then I said, "Lor.." But He interrupted without apology. "Enough talk!" He said. "If you cannot sense the wonder and value of what I am offering, then perhaps I should simply leave you to the consequences of your own choices."
At that moment, I realized - the choices really are very few and very simple - but the choosing. Now there is the real weight of the matter.