Locating Salvation

I get lots of questions via Facebook. I can’t answer them all. That’s just the way it is. But here’s one I’d like to address. The question goes like this…

Pastor Brian,
What is the one thing that motivates you everyday to live a radical life for Jesus? Is it the hope of glory? An experience you’ve had? The realization of your identity in Christ? The reason I ask is because it’s not always easy to be radical for the Lord. It’s easy when you get to surf the wave, but when you are paddling out to sea, it’s rough… it’s easy when you get the pools of breakthroughs and miracles… but what do you do when you’re in a desert? what is it that keeps you pressing hard?

Dear E.M.,

“Boredom is the root of all evil.” Soren Kierkegaard said that and I understand what he means; I understand and concur. Boredom is a leprosy of the soul, a numbness of being. And even as leprosy is nothing more than nerve damage leading to numbness so that the wounds suffered by the leper are self-inflicted, so the bored and numb soul can, at times, resort to self-destructive means in a desperate bid to feel something. We must be able to find passion in life. Though Christian convention and conviction may restrain us from some of the more egregiously self-destructive practices, we are, nevertheless, desperate to find a passion that transcends the suffocating boredom that is too often the human condition. This is part of what your question is about.

What I’m saying is that your question is, in reality, not a uniquely Christian question, though you have framed it in this manner. Everyone wants to “surf the wave” whether or not they give a rip about Jesus. You are asking a question that is common to humanity and not unique to followers of Jesus.

You suspect that Jesus is somehow the answer for a fulfilling life and your suspicion is correct. But I’m afraid your pursuit of living “a radical life for Jesus” may turn out to be a heavier yoke than you bargained for. Dislocated from larger reality, trying to stay “on fire”, “radical”, “passionate” for Jesus, in and of itself, eventually leads to one of two equally disastrous ends: Religious burnout or religious fanaticism. The former causes you to lower your expectations of Christianity (so you scale back to Christmas and Easter Christianity…or nothing at all); the latter causes you to relocate Christianity in an artificial environment (so you wig out on Never Ending Campmeeting Christianity). Neither are true to the New Testament vision of the Christian life.

Salvation needs to be located in its natural habitat:
Real life.
Human existence.
This present world.

What I’m about to say next may sound a bit shocking, but think it through. I’m not passionate for Jesus in and of itself. To have passion for Jesus for the sake of having passion for Jesus is a vain pursuit that the Bible does not call us to. Jesus is always presented in context, and the context is real (not religious!) life. To follow Jesus as though he were leading us into an ethereal realm of conceptual ideas completely disconnected and irrelevant to this world and this life is a Platonic idea that has no foundation in Jewish or Christian Scripture. In other words, my passion for Jesus is not based on merely imagining Jesus in my mind and trying to work up a certain feeling as I gaze inward upon this imagined Jesus.

I realize that some of the monastics presented the Christian life in this fashion (Bernard of Clairvaux and Brother Lawrence come to mind), but that just emphasizes some of the wrong thinking that can occur when you try to locate salvation in an artificial environment instead of its natural habitat. Jesus didn’t come to bring salvation to monasteries and convents, he came to bring salvation to the world! The cross of Christ was not located in a cathedral, but at the crossroads of a cosmopolitan city, where soldiers gambled and common people cursed.

The reason I am able to maintain a passion for Jesus Christ is largely due to the fact that in my life I have liberated Christ from religious confines. I’m passionate for Jesus Christ because, first of all, I am passionate about life. My own existence is a staggering phenomenon. I exist. How amazing is that?! I’m not obligated to be. The world would turn around without me. The sun would rise and set, the tides would ebb and flow, the seasons would continue their cycles without my appreciation of them. But I do exist. I am aware. And I am aware that I am aware. I belong to the only race of animate beings in this world who can look upon the mountains and know that they are beautiful. I am aware of my own existence and the possibilities it affords. I am passionate about life.

I am also aware that the human race is profoundly screwed up. Our greatest legacy is war. Our bane is selfishness. Our common experience is alienation. We know this is true. What could be a wonderful, beautiful existence, we seem to excel in making an exercise in brutality, suffering and loneliness. I could elaborate further, but no one disagrees with this, so I will move on.

Here is where Christianity comes in: I BELIEVE JESUS CHRIST IS THE SOLUTION FOR A WORLD GONE WRONG. I really do. For many, many reasons (and the reasons continue to grow). But first and foremost, I believe JESUS IS THE SOLUTION because it was revealed to me by God. This statement cannot be proved or disproved, but I believe it. And I think you believe it too…because it’s been revealed to you as well. What lucky people we are to have this revealed to us. I use the word lucky because it sounds so provocatively non-religious, but I mean it as the experience of a not fully understood grace.

When I think this way, I don’t have to work to keep my “fire for Jesus” alive in an artificial environment that has barely enough oxygen to sustain the flame. In my real life — the phenomenon of my own existence that I share with my fellow humans — I believe Jesus is the way, the truth the life. Not in a Sunday School way, but in a real life way.

Why do I want to be a Christian?

So that I can saddle myself with the burden of staying on fire for Jesus?


I want to be a Christian because…
1. I want truth.
2. I need grace.

And I believe that grace and truth are found in Jesus Christ. (John 1:14)

In this manner, passion takes care of itself.

Walk the streets of your city. Take it all in. The good, the beautiful, the bad, the ugly — and realize that it is this world that Jesus has entered and it is this world Jesus wants to salvage.

What is salvation for?

Salvation is for the restoration of all creation to God’s original goodness. (Acts 3:21)

Jesus is that salvation.

Walk with this risen Christ and your heart will burn within you.


Pastor Brian


The picture is “The Poet” by Marc Chagall