Our journey toward salvation
The journey Jesus faced was far from easy.
Since he was a child, Jesus understood he had a mission in life. Taking up his work as a traveling teacher meant leaving family, friends, and livelihood. He walked perhaps 20 miles a day in all kinds of weather. Some people rejected his message, even family and lifelong friends. Others pursued him relentlessly, in hopes of being healed or seeing a miracle. His ragtag band of disciples left everything behind as well. None of them had a place to call his own.
How much harder, then, that Jesus knew his destiny! He had studied the prophet Isaiah’s words about a suffering servant and a lamb led to slaughter. He understood he was the one Isaiah was talking about.
But Jesus also knew his destiny was more than an agonizing death to save people from their sin. He knew the Jewish scripture also promised God would not allow his Servant to molder in the grave. Jesus boldly predicted he would rise from the dead. He knew that every step of his journey brought him that much closer to his destination. His death would conquer death for all humanity. The power of God would bring new life to his bloodied corpse – and countless caterpillars held captive in their cocoons would be transformed.
Because God kept his promise to Jesus and raised him from the dead, a world full of oppressed souls can experience new life and set out on their own journey toward shalom. By learning to live the way God created them to live, they can walk in God’s paths and experience the joy, harmony, and well-being we all are meant to enjoy.
The journey is easier for us than it was for Jesus, and his journey shows us how to make our own. We also must value our Kingdom mission over family, friends, and livelihood. The self-seeking enemies of God hated Jesus, and his followers can expect to be hated as well. There is an easier path, Jesus said – a broad road traveled by many souls – but it leads to destruction. The only road into God’s kingdom is a narrow way. Because that journey is so hard, very few travel that road.
Those who take Jesus up on his invitation – “Follow me!” – discover a completely different way of living. God’s power begins a process of setting us free from captivities and oppressions. Wise advice – from the Bible and mature Christians – teaches us how to live an abundant life. Everything changes: what we do with our time, how we relate to others, the way we provide for ourselves and others, how we handle the talent and resources God has given us.
Walking in God’s paths does not come naturally, but as new creatures learn, we are progressively transformed. Jesus’ disciples learned as they walked with him on the journey. Jesus told them no student is greater than his teacher, but he also promised that every student who works hard will be like his teacher when the journey is over.
When I was a child, I thought of salvation as simply a one-time experience. Christians I knew always talked about salvation in the past tense: “I was saved when I was 6 years old, during a revival service at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.”
As I read more of the Bible for myself, I began to see the journey of salvation is more than that first step. A missionary-teacher showed me the Bible talks about salvation in four ways: as a completed action, a state of being, a future consummation, and a continuing process. The first step must be taken to begin the journey, but the journey is far more than the first step. If you want to make the journey, you must keep walking until you reach your destination.
It helps to think of Jesus and his students on their journey. They walked from town to town, announcing the good news, healing the sick, and setting people free from the evil that afflicted them. As they traveled, Jesus taught them. He used the sights and experiences of the journey as illustrations: a farmer sowing seed, a shepherd protecting his flock, a gardener digging out a tree that was not bearing fruit. Some of the roads they walked were dangerous. Bandits might wait in ambush. Wild animals were on the prowl. The path itself might be treacherous, and a fellow could easily stumble and fall. If your friends weren’t there to help, you could be badly injured or even killed.
But along the way they learned – how to walk on a dangerous road and how to live life the way God intended in the beginning. They learned that all the rules and regulations God had given the children of Abraham came down to love: loving God with every fiber of your being, and loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself.
They learned that true greatness in God’s Kingdom is about humility and servanthood, putting the needs of others above your own self-interest. They learned that God’s deepest desire and ultimate goal is to set captives free and restore shalom peace and justice to his creation.
And they saw just how far Jesus was willing to go to see justice done for people who could not help themselves.
Think about it
On your journey toward salvation, how has God’s power set you free from captivities and oppressions?
What wise advice – from the Bible and mature Christians – has taught you a different way of living?
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Next chapter: Jesus calls us to whatever it takes