The Relational Model of Salvation
Based on “Blessed Assurance” by Lee Venden
Lee Venden taught a class known as “Getting to Know Jesus” that he taught for nine years. On the first day of the class he gave an anonymous quiz. 4th and 5th-generation Adventist student seniors over 10 years of classes answered in this way. No focus on Christian relationship, big focus on behavior, no assurance of salvation
1. What is a Christian? 95% plus answered “did their best to stay out of trouble and try to do what is right”
2. What do you have to do in order to go to heaven? 95% plus answered “you have to do a good job at #1”
3. Would you want children of your own someday to have a spiritual life similar to yours presently? 95% plus “No, My spiritual life is miserable.”
4. If you were to be killed later today in a car accident, would you be resurrected with the righteous? 95% plus answered “No – because I’m not doing a good enough job keeping the lid on the dynamite and it is getting more and more difficult”
5. Do you have any special time alone with Jesus day by day for the purpose of getting to know Him better through his Word and through prayer?
95% plus answered “No, I had no idea that we could even have that kind of relationship with Him.”
The Adventist church in North America has around 1 million members, only half that attend church even once a month. If we kept only 80% our own kids in the church and no one ever joined the church, church membership would be 7 million.
A large majority of senior Adventists at the end of their lives are worried that they will not be going to heaven.
One major problem is a misunderstanding of this key text:
1 John 3:4: Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
Jesus, Paul, John state strongly that “Love God, love man is fulfilling the law”
Matthew 22:37-40 (NKJV) 37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Romans 13:10 (NKJV) Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
1 John 4:8 (NKJV) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
Law = Love = God
Then God = Law, all three of these are perfectly equal.
A strict cruel God is not loving and therefore cannot be God.
A strict cruel law does not represent love or God and therefore is false
Lawlessness = Godlessness
At it’s heart the core issue is living life apart from God. God is the single and only source of life so separating from Him causes love to dry up and causes lawlessness.
A scuba diver air tank is a source of life. If you disconnect from it, that tank did not kill you.
The wall outlet is the source of energy for a lamp. If the lamp is unplugged, the light will go out and the wall outlet is not punishing the lamp.
The tree of life that we must eat once a month shows us that even in eternity we will always go to God as the source of life and forever be with the Lord.
The ONLY solution to the sin problem is to spend time with God in prayer and in His word. We are the lamp that can only shine righteousness with the connection intact. If the connection is broken no amount of energy will be sufficient.
Some of us have more energy and backbone and can keep the outside of the cup looking better with stubbornness and willpower to stay out of trouble. If they’re honest even they know that the inside of the cup is still dirty because the Bible says we cannot cleanse the heart.
If we EVER focus on performance or behavior then we will always know failure and have absolutely no assurance of salvation. Badness held in check is hard work.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.
We can’t even have faith or trust in God. It has to be given as a gift to us.
The devil comes to us and says:
“Don’t you want to be like Jesus?”
“Good, then I think you should work on having a Christlike character. I noticed that Jesus does not lose his temper but you do, so work on your temper”
We then decide that we want to be like Jesus so we try to fix our character since it is the only thing that we take to heaven, so we struggle to control and work on the temper.
The devil is laughing up his sleeve because on the pretense of becoming like Jesus we stay away from Jesus, the only way to get a Christlike character, until we work our way to salvation and get a Christlike character before approaching Jesus.
We omit the only solution to the sin problem, time in Bible study and prayer spent connecting to Jesus.
2 Corinthians 3:18
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
1. Focus on our own problems. Behold our own problems. By focusing on our temper to try to get rid of it we simply bottle it up and have a stronger and worse temper. By doing this the devil has got us.
2. Focus on Jesus, focus on something away from ourselves and by doing so we are changed with absolutely no effort on our part, other than the effort needed to maintain our focus.
The Bible must be kept in context. David committed adultery and murder and he also was a man after God’s own heart. It can easily be said with this limited context that God is in favor of murder and adultery.
Returning to this text:
1 John 3:4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
Whoever commits sin (committing the sin is past tense)
ALSO commits lawlessness (two different things)
Greek experts have stated that in the original language the message is: Whoever lives apart from God (This is what sin is) ALSO commits acts of lawlessness because living apart from God (sin) RESULTS IN (is) acts of lawlessness.
The actions of doing bad things aren’t the sin, the sin is the relational choice of living apart from Jesus.
Example: Someone has measles, red dots on their arm
If the doctor took sandpaper and rubbed at the red dots to cure your measles until your arm was dark red and pronounced you cured because the symptoms disappeared from hard work, you know that they were a quack.
Trying to solve the sin problem (living apart from God) by suppressing our actions (acts of sin) is like trying to remove red dots one at a time while remaining outside in a blizzard with measles. The internal problem will only get worse.
Misbehavior is a symptom that we are living life away from Jesus.
“You’re soft on obedience” = like telling a doctor that he is soft on dots. The doctor wants to cure the dots and stop the dots from occurring as quickly as possible but the best solution is to treat the disease instead of treating the symptoms or behaviors.
Two completely fundamental models of reality
1. The real relational model of Christianity and sin unlocks the Scriptures. (Real-time, real prayer, real study to connect to Jesus)
2. The behavior model of Christianity and sin makes God look like a tyrant and punisher. (Sin is bad behavior)
Romans 6:23 (NKJV)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
*** Relationship explanation: The result of living apart from God is death, but God will give us a gift of eternal life.
*** Behavioral explanation: The result of bad behavior (sinning) is that God will kill you, but if you do not commit acts of bad behavior then God will give you eternal life.
Behavioral motivation is based on fear. This entire system of sin equaling behavior is taught by the devil because God does not use fear.
Love is a relationship word. There is no other word that is more relational than love.
Adventists have the tendency to promote the Devils ideas: “Did you hear about Johnny, he went skiing on Sabbath and fell and broke his leg. Oh my, too bad he was skiing on Sabbath.” This is “you break my Sabbath, I’ll break your leg” theology. You CANNOT escape this picture of God if you say sin is a behavior. “The wages of sin is death” MUST mean that if you behave the way that you cannot stop yourself, then God will get you.
1 John 3:6 (NKJV)
Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
Sinning = must be defined as lacking the relationship. Because all of us, even Christians have occasional bad behavior, this verse does not make sense in a behavioral model.
Our life-support system is Jesus, we only live because we are connected to Him:
Acts 17:28 (NKJV)
28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’
All of the Old Testament prophets knew this and equate abandoning/forsaking the Lord with suffering the results of your own actions (bad behaviors of sin bringing their own punishment)
New King James Version (NKJV)
19 Your own wickedness will correct you,
And your backslidings will rebuke you.
Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing
That you have forsaken the LORD your God,
And the fear of Me is not in you,”
Says the Lord GOD of hosts.
If we separate from Jesus sooner or later we will behave badly and suffer because we have cut off the life-support system.
Sinning (living without a life support connection to Jesus) results in death because we cannot keep breathing after disconnecting the oxygen (Broken relationship with Jesus).
Why did Jesus come to earth to die? No more desperate attempt to restore our relationship with God could have been made. God transferred sin unto Jesus and disconnected from Jesus, and the result was that Jesus screamed out and died.
We are like scuba divers at the bottom of the ocean who choose to disconnect our oxygen tank. God weeps as we choke, sink to the bottom, drown, and die.
If someone is 100% trustworthy and you don’t know them, you can’t trust them. The more you get to know them is by getting to know the object of your trust.
Positive thinking, emotional experiences, self-assurance is not faith. These are only secular humanism falsely misrepresented as Christianity.
Faith = Trust
If He is trustworthy, the more you get to know them, the more truth you know about them, the more you will trust them. How can you trust someone without spending time with them, talking to them, listening to them?
Falsehoods about God and ignorance of God do the same thing, make it impossible to trust Him.
Anything you do on your own outside of trust that Jesus is sin because sin is living life without trust or a relationship with Jesus:
The Bible states that everything done in our own power is sin if it is not done with trust in God, because sin is separation from God:
Romans 14:23(NKJV) whatever is not from faith is sin.
If you are a good person and go to church on Sabbath and never think of doing anything evil, wicked, mean, bad, or nasty you are still living in sin anyway if you don’t have a connection with Jesus.
Our connection to God from this world is initially so weak, the only solution to the sin problem is to develop a deeper, closer, more fulfilling, tighter, richer relationship with Jesus and the only way to do this is to spend time with Him. This is the only solution to the problem.
**** 100% assurance of salvation = relationship with Jesus ***
1 John 5:12-13 (NKJV)
12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
YOU MAY KNOW THAT YOU HAVE ETERNAL LIFE = being in relationship
1. Take God’s word as rule and guide
2. Can you know that you are seeking to become better acquainted in His word?
3. Can you know that you are spending time with Him in prayer?
If you have these, then we have a relationship with the son, then we have eternal life.
Once saved = Always saved as long as you choose to remain saved
Once married = Always married as long as you choose to remain married
A marriage is dead if you abandon it, you must spend time at a relationship to keep it
Ellen White points out that the always saved under all conditions mentality is dangerous because we can drop the relationship with Jesus through abandonment, but we can know and can have assurance that we can know that we are saved.
Girl with a red Corvette gets married to a guy. The guy has the red Corvette as long as he chooses to stay married. He is the legal owner of the Corvette through his relationship to the girl. If he gets divorced, he loses the Corvette.
If you are searching to do His work and His will in your life you are 100% saved and are covered in His cloak of righteousness. YOUR FILTHY RAGS ARE STILL THERE. If you neglect Jesus, turn your back on Him, you return to your filthy rags and lose eternal life.
Romans 8:14-17 (NKJV)
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
How does bad behavior affect a child’s relationship in a home? Or even an adopted child in a home? Soiling diapers and spilling milk does not affect a child status in the home at all. The parent has paper towels, soap, and water. The parent attempts to train us out of these bad behaviors but is not shocked or mad at these bad behaviors even if they occur again and again and again.
You’re standing in this household (or with heaven) is not based on if you have bladder control or not.
God has heavenly detergents, heavenly diapers, and the changes of clothes and has committed to us over the long haul unless we choose to run away from home.
In a loving household this is how this works. Why can we not give God at least as much credit as that?
Elevator illustration: illustration with Jesus. If the elevator lurches and you fall to the floor you don’t stop going up. Jesus tells us to lean on Him to avoid falling but we want to be self-reliant and fall down in the elevator again and again. Even if we get off the elevator on the floor we can always get back on the elevator and continue where we left off.
He never says “get out of here until you learn bladder control”
The top floor of the elevator is the completion of the work that Jesus is doing in your life, and will be reached when Jesus comes again:
Philippians 1:6 (NKJV) being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
During the time of waiting, during the time in the elevator every spiritual gift is yours. We will not be perfect until the end but we will be counted perfect the entire time we are in the elevator:
1 Corinthians 1:7-8 (NKJV) so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 5:24 (NKJV) “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
Jesus does this for you, you don’t do this for Him.