"I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).
I remember hearing that verse as a child. I was seated on wooden pews in a revival service. The preacher was urging the congregation to accept Jesus' offer of salvation. He then said what many preachers had said before him, "Some of you may leave here today and never have another chance to accept Christ as your Savior. The Bible says, 'Now is the time for salvation!'"
As I sat there, fear filled me. Maybe I wouldn't be the one to make it back. Maybe I would never have another opportunity to accept Christ as my Savior. The preacher had used guilt and a thinly veiled threat to "push" people into salvation.
Not only is using guilt and fear to get a person to say the Sinner's pray wrong, it NEVER works. Oh, there are some people who respond to that sort of thing. Filled with fear or guilt they move toward the altar and say the prayer, and sometimes it sticks. But at what price? This sort of guilt, pressure, abuse takes years to overcome.
The life that Jesus calls us to is not one that can be entered through guilt and fear. It must be entered will an understanding that we are being called to leave life as we know it to enter into an abundant land of freedom. The Old Testament understanding of the word "salvation" meant "to be lead into a spacious land." See Psalm 23. Salvation was a place where the person found rest from all the falseness of the world; escape from "the way things are."
Because Jesus was not the Messiah that many expected, they began to look to the future for their deliverance. The Jews believed that when the Messiah arrived He would free them from sin, punish the evil, and bring true peace and rest. Jesus came offering the Kingdom of God. He seemingly postponed the coming of The Day of the Lord. So some disciple began to look to a future day for their salvation.
Paul wanted them to know that Salvation, the spacious land of God, was available to them here and now; in this life. They didn't have to expect it only for the life hereafter, they could receive the power of the Holy Spirit and the transformation of their character here and now. Paul points them toward the heavenly home that they will inhabit someday, but tells them that salvation is available now.
Many in today's church are content to look to a future salvation; one that will let them escape this world. They look to a salvation that will let them escape the punishment of hell and enter into the glorious realm of heaven. But salvation offers that glorious realm here and now in this life. This does not mean that everything in a person's life will be peachy and go smoothly. In fact, the disciple's life is often harder in many ways. It also doesn't mean that our salvation is complete.
In the here and now we can have a foretaste of heaven, and yet so many people live defeated, anemic Christian lives. They buy into the lie, as I did for so long, that we have to continually suffer under the affliction of defeat at the hand of sin. We will fail, yes, but we will be more than conquerors. We are not perfect, but we can resist temptation. We will have moments of weakness and failure, but those are continual reminders our utter dependence upon the grace and leading of God. The life of holiness is not a place of arrogance and judgment of others; it is a place of the person humbly seeking all that God has to offer for their lives.
Unfortunately, many will assume they have "arrived" at a place of holiness and turn to judge everyone else as not being spiritual enough. Out of a good intention to help the church better itself, they will instead supply more evidence that this life is impossible
Or, some will turn up their nose at this post and say, "That is impossible!" They will have bought into the lie that says either "salvation is for the future life" or "that kind of life is impossible in this sinful life." In so doing they will ignore two thousand years of faithful Christian followers who have proven them wrong by their dedication to the pursuit of God.
We are not pursuing holiness. We are not pursuing an experience. We are not pursuing anything other than the fullness of the presence of God in our lives.