From Sin to Wholeness
From Sin to Wholeness
Simon Chan in his book Spiritual Theology A Systematic Study of the Christian Life, helps us realize that the Christian life is not based solely on one historical event in our lives. If I may, I will use myself as a illustration. On a Monday morning in October 1963, my mom ‘led me to the Lord,’ after a rather heavy morning of conviction. I was six years old at the time. On the Sunday evening Pastor Cook had asked if anyone wanted to ‘be saved.’ Once the ‘altar call’ was given, my brother—having raised his hand to ‘accept Jesus’—walked up to the altar. After John left—my little heart was moved upon by the Spirit and I too wanted to respond. As I was only six years old I knew I needed to ask permission from mom. “Mom—I want to go too!” Mom decided peer pressure had grabbed my little heart, and not the Holy Spirit so she responded: “Not now, you want to go only because John has gone.” I complied and sat alone. However, the Spirit was not done with me. All the next morning at school my little heart was troubled by my lost condition. I knew I was a sinner. I knew I belonged in hell. I was very concerned. This led me to go home and ask my mom again: “Mom can I still get saved?” There in the kitchen of 21 Miller Avenue my mom helped me ‘find Jesus.’
Hallelujah! I’ve arrived. I’m saved. I’ve done it. I could sign the back of a Gideon’s New Testament with the appropriate date—October 1963. So my spiritual life is focused on a historical event—my conversion. I joined the ranks of the saved! I’ve crossed over. If, throughout the next season of my young life I was accosted with a fervent evangelist asking “Boy are you saved?” Bless God—got that! Done that! The pressure is off! Thank you Jesus! Then you need to top that historical decision off with water baptism—which I did at the age of 10 at a watch night service—and Spirit baptism at age 18—I’ve arrived. I have now three historical events which I can look back on. They are my seal of arrival, approval, and spiritual success. I don’t have to feel lost. I don’t have to worry about my eternal soul. I’ve arrived.
To quote an old hymn which uses a metaphor: ‘I’ve crossed over Jordan to Canaan’s fair land—and this is like heaven to me.’
Since that time a few things have bothered me. Take this for instance: 1Co 1:18* “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This troubles me because ‘being saved’ doesn’t match my historical events. It doesn’t match my crossing over. “Being saved” sounds like I am in the process of crossing over. This bothers me. Maybe Paul is wrong and the hymn is correct? (just kidding!)
Simon Chan offers us a solution. I’ve pictorialised this as follows:
Chan has taken the typical Reformed order of salvation (ordo salutis) and shown them not only as events, but as ongoing processes which the Spirit uses to bring us into wholesomeness. “Understanding salvation as progressive gives it a direction and a goal; understanding it as multifaceted gives it richness and depth. These understandings of salvation provide conditions for proper theology to develop.” (Simon Chan Spiritual Theology A Systematic Study of the Christian Life, (Downers Grover, IVP Academic, 1998), p. 85)
This has helped me understand:
- The ‘sin’ issue is not the only issue in my Christian life. God is very much interested in a total person make-over—bringing me into a realm of complete wholesomeness.
- The ultimate end of the gospel is glorification. The seed of glorification is already present in me. The longer I walk with Christ…the stronger and more dominant that glorification seed should be.
- Basing my Christian life on three events that took place in 1963, 1967, and 1975—when it is 2015—is not sufficient. I need saving today. I need sanctification today. I need glorification today.
- I have not arrived. I am in process.
Because I am in process—the advice of John Wesley is helpful. Wesley told his students that they must continually immerse themselves in these four things—in order to progress.
Enough about me—how are you doing?