Yesterday I kicked off a big sermon series for Lent on doctrine. Lent is a traditionally good time to do doctrine and then we can kick off the season after Easter with some life/church/personal relationship issues. I began the series with salvation from John 14:6. The key point of my sermon was the exclusively inclusive concept that anyone can follow Jesus (inclusive) but that Jesus is the only way (exclusive) to salvation.
Here are some addenda to yesterday’s sermon which everyone, whether you were there or not, might find interesting.
1. Several folks in church yesterday seemed a little put-off that Gandhi doesn’t make salvation according to the criteria set by John 14:6. What is interesting is that, to my knowledge, I NEVER MENTIONED GANDHI in my sermon (although I did mention the Dalai Lama and maybe Richard Gere). It seems Gandhi has somehow become the catch all for “good” people who ought to be included in the realm of saints even if they don’t believe. I have nothing against Gandhi but my topic yesterday was not heaven or hell. That is separate. I am talking about Heaven on March 3 and Hell on March 10. However I will briefly answer the question of how could God send Gandhi to hell by simply saying that I trust in God to take care of his own business, my job is to be responsible for the revelation I have been given.
2. One of my key points was that salvation is not just spiritual but it is also physical. I am saved from many problems because I follow Jesus. I also mentioned that we are saved into the church as a nurturing community that enriches our lives and the longer we persevere in the church, the more saved we become. The acts of worship and consecration form us into a saved being. C.S. Lewis wrote on this subject in Mere Christianity, but I didn’t have space to include it yesterday. Here is what Lewis wrote:
There are three things which spread the Christ life to us: baptism, belief, and that mysterious action which different Christians call by different names–Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper . . . I cannot myself see why these things should be the conductors of the new kind of life. But then, If one did not happen to know, I should never have seen any connection between a particular physical pleasure [of sex] and the appearance of a new human being in the world.
Participation in our community of faith is the matrices of being born again. Without it, salvation is impossible. Or as Cyprian said, “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” or “outside the church there is no salvation.”
3. The textbook I quoted from to open the sermon was Thinking About God by Fisher Humphreys. Humphreys was a professor of mine in a doctoral seminar at Beeson. I sat in his seminar every day for two weeks, four hours at a time yet every time I saw him thereafter he never remembered who I was. The last time I saw him was at my graduation and we were at some kind of reception or something or other and I told him about the very seminar I was in and he didn’t remember me at all but I shared with him the other people in the class and he remembered all of them. I obviously did not leave a memorable impression on him. However, let the record reflect, I scored the best grades of anyone else in his seminar that year. Not that he remembers, of course.