Lesson 5: The Plan for Salvation – Are You Saved?

The second unit looks at four characteristics of modern Christian lifestyles that are deficient and even perverted. The first is “The Plan for Salvation” usually presented in four simple steps: 1) God loves you. 2) Sin separates you from God, 3) Make a “decision for Christ” by believing in God’s promise to overcome your sin, and 4) Confess your desire for a personal relationship with Christ in a spoken “Jesus Prayer”.

You can examine different versions of the basic plan at the Websites for Campus Crusade for Christ and Richard Roberts Ministries. Many regard it as the essential “one and only” Way. Although there are some real benefits in speaking of a personal relationship with Christ, it is important to acknowledge what has been lost in many of its presentations.

1) The Church becomes an evangelism movement rather than a pastoral ministry. A Baptist pastor once told me, “Fritz, the essential difference between our churches is mine is missionary and yours is sacramental. My job is to bring people to Christ, knowing full well a large percentage will soon leave; yours is to provide a pastoral ministry that supports a stable community”.

2) Some traditional elements of the Church are ignored. For instance, it is easy to see that Baptism has been omitted from the classic formula of “Repent, believe in the Gospel, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit”. The Bible always associates being “born again” with Baptism and Baptism with becoming a part of an interactive community which cares for one another.

3) When the plan proclaims God loves you, the emphasis is focused almost exclusively on individual persons, ignoring his love for other people and his whole creation. No longer are we blessed in order to bless others and the world. It accepts the radical individualism all around us and dismisses the need for Christian community. You can accept Jesus alone in your room and never relate to a traditional congregation at all.

4) This often leads to a lifestyle that makes a big deal out of those who are saved and those who are not. When attending ecumenical projects, my Lutheran youth were constantly told they were going to hell, because they had never made a public decision for Christ in this particular fashion. This creates an unnecessary exclusiveness and division at the very time when we need unity in relating with other religions in a global society.

5) The lifestyle is based on survival rather than redemption. The plan saves us from hell, the tribulation and even hard times. Too often, “Are you saved?” is asked using scare tactics based on paranoia. A good example is Jim Bakker who is making a comeback from his PTL debacle by claiming God has told him bad times are ahead and offering survival kits that include water purifiers and food that will get you through. Interestingly, he declares the only way you can be saved is to stay away from other people.

6) The lifestyle is based on techniques that are mechanical and automatic. After saying the “Jesus Prayer” people are assured they are now born again. There is little content, little preparation, and far too little follow up. I once helped Billy Bright, before he was famous with Campus Crusade, lead a campus-wide evangelism campaign. He declared almost 1,000 people saved. When we invited these by personal invitation to a follow up meeting a week later, only 3 showed up.

My son and I see this as one more reaction to the science and technology that have changed fundamental ways of thinking about our faith. a) People want their religion to offer the same certainty their science does. So they reduce religion like science to that which can be measured and controlled. However, religion by definition deals with the whole and the ultimate and therefore is distorted by this reductionist effort. One result has been an obsessive search for certainty which loses faith’s power to grant courage for action in an uncertain world. b) Modern Christianity is always modifying itself to meet the demands of electronic media. Everything must be done in extremely short sound bites or compressed text messages. Elements which take more explanation are simply ignored.

I hope you recognize how new “The Plan” and the next 3 lifestyles are. None of them can be found in the classics listed in our first unit. A great deal of this is because many modern movements, Pentecostal, Evangelical, and Mormon, describe themselves as restorative rather than reformation churches. They believe they return to the powers and offices of the Jesus’ church. Others are false churches based on the corruption of tradition that took place in the first century. This enables them to offer a totally new kind of Christianity with no roots in history.
I hope your comments will include some of your own experiences, good and bad, with “The Plan for Salvation”. Remember our goal is to draw up an appropriate lifestyle in unit 3.

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