Going Deeper

Total Transformation

“Have this mind which was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). by Dr. Bill Ury

Self-reflection, especially at the beginning of a new year, is often helpful. It is profitable both personally and as a denomination. If we are not clear about who we are in Christ, then we cannot be of any real help to those around us. Every church has or will face the historical cycle which may be summarized as: woman or man—movement—monument. The past, which we often point to with deep appreciation, seems very distant. The place of our Army in the present cultural landscape is not as dynamic as it once was. We must choose what we will do with the heritage of which we are the creative custodians. We can become fossilized monuments or seek the Spirit for fresh in-filling and anointing (Matthew 22:29).

John Wesley had concerns that Methodism, which had been used of God to transform English life by offering scriptural holiness, would lose the Spirit’s fire and become a dead sect by the mid-1850s. So, William and Catherine Booth sought to be a new expression of holy love in that same culture. What came of that holistic view of salvation is our history. But we must honestly ask ourselves, “Is that Spirit-enabled movement still evident?” If not, we need a new touch from God, the Holy One. There is always hope when the supernatural and the natural are conjoined (Romans 6:22, 15:16).

We believe salvation is a total transformation made possible by a life outside our own. The purpose of the Cross of Christ is that resurrection life and Spirit-transforming grace can sanctify every believer (Hebrews 13:12).

An honest appraisal of the state of the Church encourages us to refrain from repeating the mistakes of the past: 

The Army must never move away from finding its absolute authority in the inspired Word of God. The Spirit has given us the Word which is unchanging. The interpretation of Scripture is not our basis of truth. The written Word is our source for hearing the Holy One. 

We will not place works before grace. Our salvation is only, ever by His gracious heart turned toward us in selfless, transformative love. Doing the most good is only a result of His goodness in responsive hearts. 

We will not diminish any person of the Trinity. We believe in the Trinity and each person of that source of love and life has one goal: to make us like God by imaging our Creator’s love in every way, in every place. Our Savior, Jesus, told us he had to go to Heaven in order to send us the Holy Spirit whose salvation-work is to entirely sanctify us (John 14:16-17, 16:12-15, 17:17; I Thessalonians 5:23-24). 

We will never separate the Cross from Pentecost. The salvation which The Salvation Army exists to witness to is holiness received and offered. This holy love is to be made known in every Salvationist, every corps, area, division and territory so that through us flows true, unbiased love to every person. That love shared is always holy, which means it is always consonant with the unchanging moral standards of the Word. We only truly love when we unapologetically offer a full salvation, that the Holy One is able to transform every person and this present world, no matter the issues faced, through the Holy Spirit which is poured out in Pentecostal power (Acts 2:33).

Lastly, we will never stop being aware of the eternal reality of every person we ever meet. Eternal life begins in all who are born from above (John 3:16). Separation from God means an eternity without Him. In an interview on his last visit to America, William Booth was asked why he constantly gave himself for the redemption of all persons. His answer was one word, “Hell.” We have a passion for every person to know the One who is eternal Life.

What is the salvation of The Salvation Army? I have been doing some soul-searching as we pivot to another year. As I think about my beloved corps, I have asked myself, “Why do we put on uniforms and go to worship each week?” It is not for us at all. We worship and exalt our risen Lord, the Son of the Father in the Spirit. Our places of worship, our clothing is emblazoned with insignias of a full salvation offered to us freely and continually. But all that symbolism is for naught if we miss our purpose—that we are to be incarnational witnesses to the holiness of God. Holiness is always turned outside itself. The holiness meeting is wonderful, but I am filled with the Spirit to point to Jesus. True, lived-out holiness is an attractive invitation to anyone seeking meaning. The Spirit’s work is to give us purity and power to be witnesses to Jesus, the Son of God. If we know his heart and mind, we will be turned toward the broken persons around us. Doing the most good and offering holy love means that Jesus is saving, not us. He is making things better wherever possible because we are made new.