Despite my present undesirable girth, I have really come to love cycling. I try to get out three times a week. The peace, tranquility, inspiration, sights and sounds of riding is just so pleasing. I stand in awe of God's hand all around me as I ride. I have said more than once as a pastor, "We don't go to heaven on a bus, but rather a bicycle." The meaning behind that extremely deep theological statement (tongue in cheek) is we can't grab onto the coattails of our parents, siblings, or friends of faith. Salvation is an individual thing.
We read in John 14:6 - Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Notice the words, "no one." Sounds like an individual thing doesn't it? Or what about Eph. 2:8-9 - For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast. I does not read "we have been saved," but instead, "You have been saved."
Why do I share this? Maybe so you can be aware that not all people believe this. There are some, even nice church folk, who do not believe this. There are even politicians at the highest level of government who think otherwise. They have come to embrace a "new term" being tossed around called "community salvation." The theory here is to move away from any strange notion that salvation is an individual thing. Instead, we will, as communities, nations, families, and races all be able to be saved, merely by being a part of that group. Scary stuff, huh?
At a recent college graduation, a well-placed politician (who will for the sake of this article will remain unnamed) encouraged the graduates to, "look past material gains and work for the “collective salvation” of the United States." Unusual rhetoric. But is it new? Not at all. Hear these words: "Now is the time for all these old church or church-related signs to come down; a new form should emerge. The church era focuses on individual salvation; however, it is time to rise from the individual level of salvation to the family level, because the family is the cornerstone or basic unit for building a nation." The author? Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
Does such language make me angry or quiver? Not really. Doubt I will be calling a radio talk-show and waiting two hours to get 30 seconds of air-time. Am I increasingly disturbed that when good people of faith hear such things that they will nod their head in affirmation without critically discerning what is really being said? Absolutely.
Politicians, national religious leaders, denominations, and yes, even local pastors must be very careful when they step into their "pulpit" and speak. As pastors we must recognize that because of our "office" people will often follow blindly what we say. Therefore, we MUST seek the only authority that should matter, and that's God's Word. And as we speak and seek to interpret it, we better be very cautious that our words do not grieve the Holy Spirit and lead people astray.
So be careful friends. If anyone wants to sell you a ticket for the bus that's headed to eternity, simply say to them with a smile, "No thanks, I'll be headed there on my bike."