Christianity is a paradox, isn’t it? On the one hand, Jesus saved us when he died and rose again. Our sins are washed away, and we don’t have to live under a cloud of fear, anxiety, or guilt any more. But on the other hand, even a quick look at our lives shows us that a lot of “saving” still remains for him to do. After all, none of us is perfect!
Thank God that Jesus is committed to saving us more and more each day! Thank God he wants to keep pouring out his grace so that we can gradually be changed “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18)!
This is one of the most encouraging elements of the gospel. Jesus is constantly at work rescuing us from our old ways of thinking and acting so that we can enjoy his love more and more each day. So let’s look at some of the ways that Jesus is still saving us—from sin, from selfishness, even from ourselves.
The Transforming Power of Love. Anyone who has been married for any length of time will tell you that marriage is work. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s incredibly rewarding. But it’s also demanding. In a marriage, two people come together—with all of their individual likes and dislikes, their habits and quirks, their dreams and expectations—and create a family. Usually, this means that both the husband and the wife must give up some of their own individuality. It also means that they have to give up some of their free time in order to serve each other. They can’t just be two individuals living under the same roof. As Scripture says, the two have to become one—and we all know how challenging that can be!
So what compels people to make such sacrifices? Love. It’s their love for each other that moves a husband and wife to submit to one another. It’s love that reshapes their personalities and changes their priorities. And when one or the other of them falls into selfishness or isolation, it’s love that rescues them and strengthens the relationship.
A Love That Saves. This is how Jesus works in our hearts as well. Jesus is constantly sending us messages of his love. He whispers it in our hearts. He reveals it in the beauty of creation. He breathes it in the words of our friends. He feeds us with it in the form of bread and wine. Over and over, in countless ways, Jesus is always telling us how much he loves us. He is always telling us how precious we are and how important we are to him.
This is the love that saves. Not in a magical way by taking away our problems and silencing every voice of temptation. No, he saves us by sending us insights and thoughts and even feelings of love. It’s these communications from heaven that inspire us and move us to change our ways. It’s the love that “impelled” St. Paul and his companions (2 Corinthians 5:14). It’s the love that burned in Jeremiah’s heart until he couldn’t help but proclaim the word of the Lord (Jeremiah 20:9). It’s the love that laid bare the rich young man’s emptiness and invited him to embrace a whole new life (Mark 10:21).
No matter who we are or what we have done, Jesus loves us. No matter what the state of our heart is at any moment of the day, Jesus is still pouring his love into us, offering us a taste of his hopes and his dreams for us. This taste of divine love, this experience of Someone who accepts us unconditionally and affirms everything that is good and noble in us, is powerful enough to melt our hearts and move us to change—if only we turn and embrace it.
Altered Attitudes. So how do we find these messages from the Lord? How do we, who already reflect his glory, come to shine even more brightly? The simple answer is to just open our hearts to Jesus’ love and let that love melt us and reshape us. But we all know how vague and “mystical” this can sound. Here is one practical step we can take to make sure that we are receiving Jesus’ love and letting it save us more and more.
Think for a moment about your inner thoughts and attitudes. Think about the forces and motivations that have shaped you and that lead you to the choices you make. For instance, think about how your attitudes about various issues—like spirituality, education, work, marriage and family, or finances, for instance—govern the way you think or relate to the people around you. Now think about the Holy Spirit, who lives in you. Imagine him as being always at work in your heart, trying to take what comes from Jesus and give it to you (John 14:26). When you are in school, at work, in church, at home—even when you are asleep—he is at work fortifying what is good in you and pointing out areas that are not so good.
Do you think the Spirit is angry with you because of these darker areas? Do you think he is condemning you or judging you harshly because you still don’t fully reflect the glory of the Lord? Far from it! Rather, in all of these aspects of your life, he is offering you a taste of his love and wisdom. Like Jesus, he is with you not to condemn but to save (John 3:17). He wants to ingrain heavenly instincts in you so that you can begin to think and act just as Jesus would in each situation. And he does this bit by bit, in every circumstance of your life, so that you can reflect his glory a little bit more each time.
Every day, millions of thoughts run through our minds. Thousands of decisions face us every day. How generous the Spirit is to offer us insights into how we can become more loving and more Christlike in every one of these thoughts and decisions! How gracious of him to take advantage of so many opportunities to shower us with his grace and show us the way to act!
“Feed My Sheep.” God wants us to pay attention to what goes on in our hearts and minds. He wants to help us identify those areas of sin that the Holy Spirit wants to help us overcome. But the last thing he wants is for us to spend all our time dwelling on them. Because of our fallen nature, we already tend to be self-absorbed. We don’t need any more opportunities to turn our gaze inward.
Think about the apostle Peter. At Jesus’ arrest, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus. Imagine how guilty Peter must have felt afterward! Imagine him weeping bitterly and condemning himself for being so weak. But what did Jesus do when he saw Peter after the resurrection? He didn’t go over Peter’s sins. He didn’t confirm Peter’s fears or echo his words of condemnation. No, he told him, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).
This was the way of salvation for Peter: not in focusing on where he needed to improve but in giving himself to other people. Jesus knew that as Peter spent his energy building up the Church and not trying to save himself, the Holy Spirit would have plenty of “live” opportunities to help him overcome his selfishness and weakness!
And so Jesus urges us to feed his sheep. He knows that as we do, we’ll find the Holy Spirit working powerfully in our lives as well. Rather than looking at our responsibilities as burdens, we’ll begin to see them as privileges. We’ll begin to see the Lord hidden in every person we encounter, inviting us to become more like him. We’ll become more open to the Spirit’s voice, and we’ll find ourselves growing in our salvation far more than if we spent all of our time tending to our own needs.
A Wonderful Savior. Brothers and sisters, the Jesus who saved us on the cross is the same Jesus who is saving us more and more each day. Don’t you find it inspiring and encouraging to know that his commitment didn’t end the day he ascended into heaven? Even now, seated at his Father’s right hand, he is still working to bring his salvation deeper and deeper into our lives so that we might increasingly reflect his glory. By constantly sending us messages of love, he is saving us. By giving us his Holy Spirit to guide us and shape us, he is gradually transforming us into his image. By sending us out into the world to feed his sheep, he is making us more and more fit for heaven. What a wonderful Savior!