The other day in church I was listening to yet another altar call. The preacher was telling us that Jesus saves. If we have problems with loneliness then we should come to the front because Jesus saves us from our loneliness. If we have problems with anger that is destroying our families then come to the front because Jesus saves. If we have problems with addictions then come to the front because Jesus saves.
As I was sitting there I started thinking about the concepts of Jesus and salvation. I had recently been studying the Christmas stories in the early chapters of Luke and Matthew. Jesus was born in interesting times. The Romans had control of the area and ruled through their patsy king Herod. Neither was particularly popular and the Jewish masses were hoping for a Messiah to come and save them from the situation.
The religious experts taught that their scriptures prophesised for a Messiah to come and lead their people to world domination. With the uniqueness of the Jewish people and the religious stubbornness these teaches were known throughout the Roman world. There a number of people who rose up and claimed to this Messiah. In Acts 5:35-37 Gamaliel speaks of Theudas and Judas the Galilean rising up, gathering men yet ultimately coming to nothing.
So when Jesus, the real Messiah came, many people didn’t get it. They were looking for a military leader to save them from their circumstances. What they got was a religious teacher who saved them from their sins. This made them so angry that the masses turned on Jesus and called from the Romans to kill him as a political agitator.
As I thought about the altar call, I wondered about the message being given. The message was Jesus saves but I’m not sure it was really about Jesus saves us from our sins. It seemed to be,’ Jesus will save you from your circumstances’. I’m not saying that churches shouldn’t be helping people overcome difficult circumstances. Churches should be in the business of loving people! But what is the message about Jesus that churches really give?
I reflected on a number of people I knew who had come and gone from different churches. What Jesus did they know? What Jesus did they want? Was he the saviour of their sins? Or did they rather want a saviour of their circumstances?