June 1, 2015

The Life of Faith

My heart sank as I read the survey: When Adventist young adults (Millennials) were asked, “If Jesus came back today, would you be saved?” 38.7 percent answered “Yes,” 42 percent “Maybe,” 14.7 percent “I don’t think so,” and 4.6 percent “No” (Adventist Review, April 2015).

I snapped shut the magazine, resolving to give the same survey to my 30-plus students in Life and Teachings of Jesus. Surely more of them would answer yes. We had talked many, many times about our assurance of salvation in Christ.

Salvation is all about Christ. If you desire to live forever with Christ, then you will.

When I tallied the student answers, I felt shell-shocked. Only 32 percent said “yes.”

I talked with them awhile, these students I like so much. A few of them offered explanations. Maybe answering “yes” seemed arrogant. Maybe they didn’t feel as if they were good enough.

I cracked a smile. “I thought we covered that!” I said. “None of us are good enough, even on our best day. The only question that matters is: Is He good enough? Is He worthy?”

We discussed the difference between salvation and the abundant life. The abundant life has everything to do with our lifestyle choices. But salvation is all about Christ. If you desire to live forever with Christ, then you will. It’s impossible to desire Christ without having the Spirit of Christ. And if you have the Spirit of Christ, then you have salvation. You are “marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13, 14).

I drove to lunch, still a little discouraged. Was I doing something wrong? I later gave the survey to my two public speaking classes; the results were somewhat better: 42 percent.

I tabulated another question from the survey: “Who influences you spiritually?” The students answered: mother (95 percent), friends (75 percent), father (65 percent), teacher (60 percent), grandparent (50 percent), family friend (37 percent), sibling (33 percent), youth pastor (32 percent), pastor (23 percent), Sabbath school teacher (10 percent).

When I cross-tabulated these influences with the student answers about assurance of salvation, the most “assuring” influences were (in order): church pastor, grandparent, family friend, teacher, friend, youth pastor, sibling, Sabbath school teacher, father, mother.

The student responses were revealing. Parents were major influences, but this didn’t often translate to the assurance of salvation. Church pastors were a lesser influence, but a positive one.

Out of curiosity I asked a fellow professor to survey his Hebrew II students: 18 theology and religion majors—our future pastors. To our delight, 16 of them (89 percent) answered “yes,” they had the assurance of salvation. Was this because they think they’re perfect? I doubt it. It’s because they know He is.