Salvation and Our Works

Descriptions of the Christian life often take one of two turns. The Christian life is either one of hard drudgery as we seek to either gain or retain salvation. In this model some being or entity is meticulously keeping track of our actions to immediately send us to hell if we die after committing a sin that we have not or could not erase through a prayer of repentance. The great desire of Christians who hold this model is to hope and pray that they will have the fortitude and strength to become, by God’s grace, worthy of eternal life.

The other model has us without any worry whatsoever for Christ has done it all. We will live better automatically by the slow progress of Christian life. One need not do anything but simply passively “rest” in Jesus. As we do less and less Christ will do more and more. Again the direction of this model of Christianity is the eternal life of the individual Christian. Here, because Christ has given us salvation, we need not work for it. And thus, presumably, believing in that will allow us to be changed people. Here the great desire is to remove from people the fear of loss of salvation and allow them to live in the certainty.

It seems as though we bounce back and forth between the two poles. We move from emphasizing Christian responsibility to assurance of salvation. When one side is emphasized, we seem to feel as though we are missing something, and we probably are, and then we go back to the other side. Bouncing back and forth between works and lack of works.

Is there a way out? I think that both models have within them the core driving force of “personal individual salvation.” We are meticulously trying to keep track of our sins due to that fear of losing salvation. Or we are constantly trying to affirm our personal individual salvation to get above that fear in model two.

Is this our only choice? Must We Choose Between Passivity and Legalism? Those who hold to model one are right, the Christian life does require effort. It does not come naturally to those of us who are born in sin. However, they are wrong in tying our salvation to that growth. Those who hold to model two are right in separating growth from our salvation. They are right in noting that growth comes from salvation and not the other way around. However, they are wrong in making growth a simple matter.

Both models err in making the ultimate purpose salvation of individuals. They ignore or limit the Great Controversy and the ultimate vindication of God’s plan as a part of the Christian life. Yes hard work is needed, but it is not to gain salvation. Salvation provides the tools to battle with Self on the great battleground. Salvation has been given to us as Christians and it is important to live in that belief.

However, if one is saved, one will work. One will even “labor to enter the rest.” There will be a struggle with self. There will be a struggle with sin. But this is not to gain salvation. This is to make sure that we do not, by our actions, make God look bad. It is to demonstrate our love for God.

It is not simply “love God and do as you please.” Your sinful nature will continue to clamor for the wrong things. We will have to deal with the old man and fight the old man until glorification removes that sinful nature from us. But we don’t do it to gain salvation. That is not our great desire. We don’t even do it to retain salvation. We do it for God and we do it for the world.

In the end, we need a change in look. We must get past the idea that the whole universe revolves around our salvation. God has given that to us. Now it is about showing an demonstrating our love for the one who has done so much for us. Even if it means working hard and doing what our flesh does not wish to do.

Adventist Television Reflections

I must admit that I haven’t looked at much Adventist television. It had been maybe 10 years ago since the last time I had looked at 3ABN and I hadn’t gone back. At that time it seemed to be a haven of poorly produced traditional preachers preaching about historic themes. It appears as though the programming has been divesified into more than just preaching and the quality of the programs look and feel a bit better. But I havne’t looked a lot at 3abn maybe I will…

Well recently I began looking at the Hope Channel. I always saw that Hope Channel as the official response to 3ABN. Less rough around the edges and more “mainstream.” So I looked at it and saw a number of programs.

There is a program where they simply talk to various singers in Adventism. It really reminds me of a “TBN Praise the Lord”-Like program with only the singing. Then Elder Don Schneider of the NAD comes with his program that seems to be the talking portion of the “TBN Praise the Lord-like” program. This seems to emphasize what particular Adventists are doing that affect the world. There is no studio audience like on “Praise the Lord.” Sometimes the studio audience feels contrived especially with the applauding every couple words, but it does at times provide a give and take that can be helpful. I do at times miss the genuine moments of spontaneous celebration of the Goodness of Jesus. But that’s not a big deal.

There is also a weekly Revelation Seminar-like program hosted by Jon Paulien and Graeme Bradford. They are looking at the big picture of the Book in what feels like it may be a “scaled down” seminary course. Paulien talks about the book from its big picture “Chaistic” structure that you can see in such books as the Daniel and Revelation Committee Series. I say it is “Revelation Seminar-like” but it really does feel like professors are teaching rather than evangelists. What I mean is that they are much more careful with their language than many preachers. They definitely present their conclusions in much the same way, but they are more guarded and precise in their language.

The Sabbath School presentations are also interesting. There is the small 4 person Sabbath School U that takes students from Andrews and its seminary and lets them discuss the weekly lesson. Added to that is the much larger Hope Sabbath School with Pastor Derek Morris. Morris class is in the traditional vein of a teacher in front of a group although he does make a strong effort to involve the group. It appears that there are around 20 in that group. These programs really are like the various Bible Study programs that you can find on Christian television. Although what is different about this is that you have a group rather than one individual.

Surprisingly I even saw a “Gaither Family-like” group singing. You know where Bill Gaither brings a large group of Christian singers together to sing songs. I gotta admit I love those programs. I love all kinds of Gospel music especially the country gospel that is usually emphasized in those Gaither programs. I must admit that I also really zero in when Whintley Phipps or T. Marshall Kelly sing on there. Well I was surprised to see a Gaither like singing with Adventist singers on the Hope Channel. The signing felt like there was a “damper” on it. There was a more somber tone throughout much of it. But be that as it may, I, being a life-long Adventist, couldn’t allow the novelty to pass without checking it out.

All in all I like Hope channel. I suspect that it was designed for folks like me. Because fo that, I do understand those who say that this is geared towards Adventists though. At best it is geared to those who like to watch Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) which I must admit I look at as well. Hey I even catch a sermon on the Word network from time to time. So while there are programs that may appeal to that community, there are other programs that are designed specifically for our community like the very good documentary program on Ellen White.

The picture of Adventism presented does feel “user friendly.” I think that it is solidly in line with the fundamental beliefs, so you may still hear such terms as “Babylon” or “remnant,” but these terms are carefully defined when they are used. I get the feeling that our “inside language” is limited as well.

There may be a bit for the unchurched like the Loma Linda Program that feels like it was produced for the “health channel” in a reality-show like atmosphere. But there is not really a ton for that group, but to be honest, such programming would probably have to be a totally different network. For example, I doubt many “unchurched” people are watching TBN or many other Christian Television programs. But that is just my thoughts and I could be wrong.

At any rate, there must be a moment when the church can give information to its members. This is a great vehicle for that. However, in the end, this is only part of our goal. We still have need for active work outside of our homes. If our televisions cause us to become more and more sequestered then it is a problem whether we are watching Hope, TBN, Word, or CNN.

In the end, Hope seems to be a vehicle to give information and entertainment to a segment of the Adventist population. A secondary goal may be to provide a humane picture of Adventists studying the Bible and singing songs and doing mission work to the outside world. It appears to do both of those jobs pretty well.