As I steamroll down the track toward the half century mark in my life I am discovering that even now I am constantly having my belief system (worldview) overhauled. So much of what I believe to be true about God, life, salvation and heaven are as much the result of cultural songs and casual cliches more so than faithful, diligent study of God’s Word. I am teaching through the Book of Ephesians to our church on each Lord’s Day, and I must confess that I am being challenged and transformed more through preparing to teach than I expect anyone to ever be from hearing me teach.
This morning as I looked at Ephesians 4:1 I was struck once again by how the Bible never presents our Christian faith and identity as being about a future, heavenly existence as I have been taught growing up in a church culture. The Christian message has been “the world is a bad place and God will destroy it. Also you are a sinner who will die and go to hell unless you invite Jesus into your heart in order that you might go to heaven when you die!” This is not the biblical message of what it means to belong to the family of God.
The message which is predominately being shared in many modern church settings has become a message about death rather than the good news about life! Yes, of course I understand that death must be dealt with, but it has been dealt with through Christ’s death on the cross. Now what? As unintentional as it may be, from the very first evangelistic encounter with a potential convert we communicate that salvation is all about what happens when a person dies. How many times have we used this gem of a phrase, “If you were to die today, do you know that you would go to heaven?” We should be asking, “What happens if you live another 50 years? Will you continue to live as an enemy of God who lives for your own glory or will you repent and believe Christ to bring your life under His eternal rule?”
Modern salvation theology focuses on death and the life that follows (even this teaching is less than biblically sound). Biblical theology focuses on the story of the Giver of life and how our daily lives can be transformed by His power as we are adopted into His family to participate with Him in his eternal work of causing creation to flourish for His own glory.
In Ephesians, Paul certainly affirms the believer’s hope of a glorious eternal inheritance but NEVER at the expense of discarding our present call to walk as though eternity had already begun. Paul in Ephesians presents salvation as a present vocation deeply embedded in a creational purpose. Ephesians is about here and now, not there and then!
We have divorced the Christian message from the present and we wonder why teenagers graduate high school and leave the church in droves? We scratch our heads over the decline of the traditional church, which many of us cut our teeth in and we fail to understand why so many people who once professed faith in Christ seemingly live now with no regard for Christ or His church. Our church culture is simply reaping the rotten fruit of decades of poor theology. When we make salvation all about life after death we should not be surprised when people live as though God is only important in the life after death.
As Paul exhorted the Ephesians so I “implore you to walk in a manner (TODAY) worthy of the calling through which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1). If that is to happen “the eyes of your heart must be enlightened” so that you understand the great mission to which you have been called to participate. Apart from such knowledge you will drift through life with a dead hope based on unbiblical presuppositions about eternity which will inevitably lead you to believe that this life is all about you and you will live accordingly. Instead, I remind you that “God has made us what we are. God has created us in King Jesus for good works that he prepared ahead of time as the road we must travel” (Eph. 2:10, The Kingdom New Testament).