I was reading an account of one of those 19th century Methodist circuit riders – those tough, gritty, determined, persistent, traveling evangelists who took the Gospel to the American frontier. They slept in hollow logs and barns, and every once in a while someone’s guest room; they endured flash floods, blizzards, drought, starvation, horrendous heat, and unfriendly Indians. They were often run out of town by the local Pharisees because when they preached signs and wonders showed up and unsavory people got saved and wanted to come to church.
Where is that breed of Christian today?
When they led someone to the Lord they did something that was known as “praying through”. Knees to hard floor (no carpet or a/c), they assaulted heaven until the new convert had thoroughly repented and got victory over old habits, bondages, and torments. They prayed the sin, and the want-to-sin, right out of them. Those salvations were famous, or infamous depending on your perspective, for changing lives. Drunkards went down on their knees and stood up, often hours later, clean and sober. With that kind of praying nobody needed decades in a twelve step program. Adulterers and wife beaters went down, reformed men stood up.
Whatever happened to salvations marked by addictions broken, trash mouths made clean, sour dispositions turned sweet, violent men transformed to gentleness, broken bodies healed?
As I pondered these questions I recognized that something vital has been lost. “Come on down and say a quick prayer, folks, and everything will be all right” doesn’t seem to be cutting it. “Just raise your hand, no one looking around, just raise that hand and God will see you” hasn’t done much to cure drug abuse, adultery, fornication, gossip, judgmentalism, and bitterness in our churches.
Following this line of thought I came to the obvious conclusion: a great number of people in the western church have no idea about salvation. When they consider it at all, they equate Christian conversion with a mumbled prayer, a pat on the back, and if they are lucky a free paperback bible.
I wondered how to explain the deepest mystery of the universe, the only sure solution to every painful issue, the transformation from death and darkness to life and light, the result of the greatest sacrifice ever willingly and joyfully endured. How do you explain the only thing that really truly matters to a generation raised on microwave pocket pitas and the Kardashians?
And then I knew the answer. Salvation is like a smart phone.
Salvation is (sort of) like getting the newest, biggest, smartest phone on the market. Just like that phone before you pay for a plan, prior to accepting Jesus your line is dead. There is no communication going on, no life to be found…just empty dead space out there. You are isolated, cut off from life and the abundance of good things and the wisdom that comes from having access to the truth. The phone might be good for taking a few pictures, just like your life is good for some basic activities, but nothing big or deep or very exciting is happening.
Then a payment is made and that phone comes alive. The connection is completed, the line is no longer silent. This changes everything! For you to receive salvation, a payment must be made as well. It’s more than anyone, even Bill Gates, can afford. It’s a payment in blood. Not everyone can get a fully functional smart phone free…but you can have life, forever, at no cost because Jesus paid your fee.
Salvation is like a smart phone in other ways. Assume you are holding the most recently released super duper genius phone. For a short while you are pleased just to be able to call and text. But soon you want more. So you learn how to do some other stuff. You take pictures, make videos. You use the clock, the calculator, the compass. You program it for appointments, surf the Internet, download your music, read your email.
It’s good for so many things, and enhances your life so dramatically, you can’t help but just be thankful. It seems as if it offers you everything you always wanted. For a period of time you walk around full of gratitude, content with your product.
Then everything becomes mundane. You get used to a level of comfort and connection you never could have imagined just a short time earlier. You begin to wonder if this is all there is. Won’t this phone do anything else?
Just about the time you get comfortable with your device, and think you understand all the bells and whistles, and you are settling in with it like an old familiar friend…you discover the App Store!
You realize you can get apps, hundreds of thousands of options and capabilities at your fingertips…things you never imagined would be at your disposal if only you are willing to learn how to use them. Some are more costly than others…the cost reflecting the rarity and level of complexity. You understand that it will take a lifetime…no, more than a lifetime, to discover and learn what this vast, immeasurable, endless list of options will mean to you and for you. Your ability to do things, to know stuff, to touch and impact people’s lives, is multiplied a million-fold.
Salvation is like that. Only it lasts forever, not just until the battery goes bad.
(Note: For all the literalists out there…I understand that salvation is so much more than a communication device that it’s almost heresy to mention them in the same breath. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting analogy I wanted to explore.)
(photo courtesy of gfktechtalk.com)