The Joy of Salvation

SOME months ago I started using a new computer system. On it, the method of keeping an electronic copy of a document is to press a key appropriately marked "Save. Whenever I do this, the computer tells me that the document--giving its name--has been saved. So, for instance, if I were writing a letter to Jane Smith and called the document by that name, the computer would tell me, "Jane Smith saved.One day this statement caught my attention in a different context. I'd been thinking about Christ Jesus' efforts to save mankind, to show us our true spiritual nature and our relationship to God. As I wrote my letter to "Tom Jones and was told by the computer that "Tom Jones was "saved, I wondered for a moment if salvation could be that simple! Is it really possible to give up sin? Most of sin's appeal, of course, is that it seems to promise the gratification of some desire. But because sin's allure is based on materiality--which is always subject to chance, decay, and loss--it can't really give us happiness. Matter is destructible, so sooner or later we will need to start our quest for love, joy, and hope all over again. By that standard, salvation seems pretty far off. Yet when John the Baptist began to preach about the salvation Jesus would bring, Matthew's Gospel records that his message was simple: "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. To repent is often interpreted as meaning "turn again or "turn back. In other words, to turn around and go in a new direction. John was telling the people to cease looking for hope and health in material living or in physicality. He was saying that true salvation lay in the more spiritual sense of living that was soon to be fully articulated in Christ Jesus' ministry. Jesus knew that man's relationship to God is central. For him, the kingdom of heaven wasn't just nearby. He taught that it was actually within each one of us, and that we needed to perceive that fact and live in accord with it. His promise was that if we did this, we would be rewarded beyond measure with health, joy, peace, satisfaction. He understood that the God he loved and wanted others to know was perfect, good. That God loves each of His children. To Jesus, salvation was an illustration of Go d's love and was something each of us could experience. But he also knew we had to accept the good we are meant to have from God. This is where repentance comes in. To turn to God and to the real spiritual nature He has bestowed on us is to turn away from the material view of things, which is unsatisfactory and limited. When we are willing to do this, even a little, we begin to see how much influence the Christ, Truth, has on our thoughts and expectations. If thought is based on the Christly desire to be spiritual--to be less limited, purer, and closer to God--it will lead us to increased happiness. If, on the other hand, th ought is based on materiality, the accumulation of material goods or power, we may well end up feeling afraid and lost. The Bible makes it very clear that we really do have the freedom to choose the good and spiritual, in spite of the temptations of evil. And Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, articulates this point in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes: "If you believe in and practise wrong knowingly, you can at once change your course and do right. Matter can make no opposition to right endeavors against sin or sickness, for matter is inert, mindless. We don't need to wait for circumstances to change before we begin to adjust our thoughts and expectations. Right now, each of us can begin to experience liberation from whatever sin it is that tempts us or seems to have a hold on us. The first step is the intention of changing our course. Having seen the wrong we are doing, we can pray, we can ask God to help us know more of our true, spiritual nature. This spiritual knowledge may come gradually--like a sunrise--or it may come as a flash of light tha t illumines our lives. In either case, having prayed to know God better, we are more open to a spiritual sense of happiness. The next step is actually to change our course. We do this by endeavoring to live a better life. This would include loving more and putting our affections on a more spiritual, less sensual or selfish, basis. It would also require us to be more honest, more intelligent, more pure in our dealings with others. As we begin to make these changes, we will find that our lives are deepening and becoming more peaceful. We learn that the joy and satisfaction we once looked for in material things are actually spiritual. And we will know--as Christ Jesus' life so amply showed--that God's will is for each of us to know His saving love. In this way, we will all come to know the joy of salvation.

BIBLE VERSE Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice . . . . I Peter 1:3-6

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