Psalm 139 "where can I flee from you spirit?"
Begin the class with these demonstrations:
1. God the purifier (with blood)
2. God as the hammer
3. God as the accountant
These are two traditional ideas about the meaning of "salvation" that have some obvious problems. Demonstrate them in front of the kids.
God as the Purifier … God cleans/washes us with purifying blood from a sacrifice. “The blood of Jesus.” Sin as a stain, Blood as the symbolic purifier. Blood comes from something ‘clean’ that has been sacrificed to God. This concept comes from the Old Testament.
God is a big hammer ready to smash (condemn to hell) all those who are sinners (all of us represented by a glass on the table) except at the last minute (as I raise the hammer dramatically) Jesus steps in and takes the "punishment" for us (I quickly bring out a pan lid to receive my hammer blow). God didn't punish Jesus (himself).
God is an accountant and everytime someone does something bad it takes away something from God which must be repaid. We owe God a debt and when it comes time to repay God for our debts, Jesus steps in with a wad of cash.
Suffice to say that the Bible/Christians have MANY different metaphors to describe Jesus' saving event on the cross. Some make more sense than others to the modern ear. God seems to like the rich imagery.
Salvation is the big word we Christians use to talk about the fact that God saves us from death and let's us live eternally in Heaven. It means God doesn't let us stay dead. Why? Because God loves each of us more than we can possibly imagine.
Salvation is not what we do, it is what God does. It is not about who we are and how good we are. Salvation is something God does because of how good God is.
When God "saves" we call him the "Savior."
Another way to say it is "SAVER" ...God is the one who saves us from death.
Do we need saved? I suppose our lives could just end, but the whole point is that God wants to keep on loving us, and spiritually growing us. He does this by providing life after death. Without God's plan for life after death, our own lives would be hopeless and meaningless.
Some Christians ask the question "are you saved?"
They say you have to tell God you want to be saved and he will save you. Some Christians believe we are already saved by God's love for us, and the only thing left to do is to recognize this gift of salvation, and start letting it change your life.
Here's an interesting question:
Did Lazarus ask to be resurrected (saved from death)? Or did Jesus do it because he loved Lazarus?
There is a debate, -a disagreement among good Christians about WHO is saved.
Does God save some and not others? There are Bible verses that say that. They say God will separate the good from the bad, the believers from the non-believers and send some to heaven, and the others to hell. One scripture tells us, however, that even hell is not off limits to God's saving power.
Psalm 139:7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol (the place of the dead), you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night," 12 even the darkness is not dark to you...."
For older children and youth:
We also know that God came to us in Jesus of Nazareth to correct a lot of religious ideas. Jesus often commented on Bible verses that people were mis-interpreting or didn't understand. He even took some of the old ideas about God found in the Old Testament and re-invented them. Jesus would say, "you have heard it said this in the scriptures, but now I tell you something different...." In his sermon on the mount, Matthew chapter 6, Jesus said "You have heard it said 'an eye for an eye' (which is what the Old Testament law of justice said) -but now I tell you to love your neighbors and pray for those who persecute you." Jesus showed us a more loving and forgiving God than many thought possible.
Some people think God will save only those who believe in Jesus.
Other people think God will work with everyone so that they CAN learn to believe in Jesus. What is the difference between these two ideas?
(The first requires our action, the second is all about the action of God.)
As Presbyterians, we believe each person is allowed to have their own opinion. Salvation is a big and sometimes confusing subject! And there are lots of Bible verses which say different things. The good news is that even when we die, even if we've been wrong about many things, God gives us the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and salvation. This idea is call the "Judgement Day." God wants us to ask him to be our Savior. God wants us to live with him forever. God wants us to become something more special than we already are. God has a plan for us, and death cannot defeat God's plan. You can refuse God's plan of salvation. You can "take the wings of the morning and settle in the farthest places of the sea." But God will still search you out. His love is that patient and powerful.
3 skits about Salvation from Neil MacQueen
Kids discuss the notes on Salvation (above) and then are assigned one or more of these to discuss, then prepare as a skit. The teacher acts as prompter and "explainer." These can be "interactive dramas" in that as they happening the teacher can be asking questions of God on his boat, or the boats at the bottom of the sea.
1. Salvation is something God does to rescue us
Another way to remember the word "salvation" is to remember another form of the word: salvage.
God salvages us. We are like boats lying on the bottom beneath the waves. What happened to the boat? How did it go down? In a storm? What are the storms that can send "our" boat down? (The Bible tells us that our sins "bring us down" and death is the result.)
Can a boat save itself? What does God do with the boat when he brings it up? Does it stay the same? Does God leave the other boats at the bottom and only save a few boats? Or does God love all the boats? Are some of the boats stubborn?
Can you refuse God?...for how long? ...how does God convince you that you need to be salvaged?
How long will God work on you to "bring you up" ?
2. Salvation is a gift God gives
Salvation is like a gift given to you and everyone. The only question is will you open it up? Will you receive it and take possession of it? People can refuse gifts. Why would they?
Can the gift change you life now? ..or is it only something you open up with you die?
You can ignore the gift, but it is still yours. Why is God trying to give it to you? How does he try to give it to you? When you ignore the gift, what does God do? Does he start ignoring you? How long does God try to give you this gift? What are some of the ways God tries to show you what the gift is? When you open the gift and truly know what it means, it changes your life. It changes the way you feel about God. It tells you how to treat others -knowing that God loves them too and has given them the gift of salvation too. How can you help them open it?
3. Salvation means finding your name in the "Book of Life"
The Book of Life and Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates is an old image about receiving your Salvation. The idea is that when you get to heaven there is a gate and gatekeeper. You stand at the "pearly gates" and Saint Peter will be there with a book. You hope your name is in it!
How do you get your name in the book?
Who puts your name in that book?
Can your name be added to the book?
What happens if your name isn't in that book? What will Saint Peter tell you now?
Can you refuse to enter? What does God do about you who are outside the gates of heaven and unworthy to enter? What does the Bible say about how God will work with the outcasts and sinner?