'DO you consider yourself saved? Is salvation relevant in your life?'' When an acquaintance threw me these questions, I squirmed. His questions implied that I didn't understand salvation or why it matters. Like countless other people, I struggled with the need to understand what salvation through Christ had to do with my own life. It wasn't until many years later that I truly understood the deep significance of salvation.
In my search, I gained much insight from the Bible. I discovered that salvation includes liberation from the power and effects of sin, redemption through spiritual growth, and the regeneration that comes with an understanding of man's spiritual nature. In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Discover of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, includes an explanation of salvation that helped me understand what I was reading in the Bible. She writes: ''Salvation. Life, Truth, and Love understood and demonstrated as supreme over all; sin, sickness, and death destroyed'' (p. 593).
This made sense to me. Surely every individual is seeking freedom from sickness and sin. I knew I was. And I was encouraged by Mrs. Eddy's explanation of the way to salvation. She tells us in Science and Health: ''Our Master fully and finally demonstrated divine Science in his victory over death and the grave. Jesus' deed was for the enlightenment of men and for the salvation of the whole world from sin, sickness, and death'' (p. 45). Clearly Christ Jesus' mission was to show the way to true freedom from all the ills of mortal life. He both demonstrated and assured us that salvation is possible here and now. But we each have our part to fulfill. Regeneration is the outcome of heartfelt prayer, or communion with God. It may take persistent effort, even struggle, to purify our thought and actions.
Regeneration isn't always a comfortable process. In the midst of our striving it's reassuring to consider the experience of Paul, who--though he never knew Jesus personally--was saved by the truth Jesus taught. Paul was originally called Saul, and before his conversion he was known far and wide as a man who persecuted Christians. And yet, as the result of spiritual transformation, he came to understand the Christ, Truth. His life dramatically changed. During his wide-ranging ministry that followed, Paul wrote in a letter to the Philippians, ''Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure'' (2:12, 13). This is not to suggest that God creates man as a sinner who must struggle toward a distant state of grace; God's works glorify Him.
And Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, ''Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation'' (6:2). Right now the presence of the Christ is with us. Now we can each demonstrate in our daily lives the freedom, safety, and purity that God ordains for His beloved children. This is salvation indeed!
There was one period of several years during which I felt as though my life were besieged by sickness. I yearned to be saved from the pain that sometimes incapacitated me. I had always turned to God in prayer, acknowledging His allness and my oneness with Him as His perfect image--as I had learned to do through my study of Christian Science. During this experience it seemed much harder than usual to understand and prove this truth in my life.
At times I felt as though I were in a dark tunnel with no light in sight. But even during those darkest moments I knew I was in God's care. God was indeed working in me. I persisted in prayer over many months. Gradually the light of inspiration and understanding increased. During this time I gained great spiritual strength that continues to support and bless me. The salvation from pain came too, and I was completely healed.
I can say with confidence that salvation is truly relevant to me. It is ongoing and God-directed. Experiencing salvation means growing in the spiritual understanding that strengthens and heals. Jesus proved that salvation--freedom from sin, sickness, and death--is possible now. He promised both mental and physical regeneration as the inevitable result of spiritual growth. This is true salvation.