That title is the abiding legacy of Dr. Widen, a great saint who led the building campaign for the 1955 building where most of our Sunday School classes and church offices are. I visited him in the hospital about 16 years ago as he was dying. He looked up at me from his bed with a smile, and said, "Pastor John, the greatest thing in the world is to be saved."
Do you feel this? If not, you probably never really felt very lost and desperate before the judgment of God, or threatened by an eternity of conscious torment in hell. O, how we love being saved after we have just come close to being killed. Perhaps by a powerful ocean undertow. Or getting a finger caught in the drain at the bottom of a swimming pool (yes, filled with water!). Or almost walking out in front of a car which you did not see that speeds by just three feet from you at 40 miles-an-hour, but your wife's voice caught you in the split second before stepping into death. Or a remission from a long battle with cancer. Or release from a prison camp in the Gulag after 16 years of expecting death. Or after surviving a plane crash inexplicably when others perished.
O how we love life at those moments, and cleave to everything precious. So it is when you taste the preciousness of being saved from sin. Not just the words. Not just a fact learned from the Bible, but really feeling that you are justly damned and hopelessly lost and cut off from God and life and joy. Then to learn that God has made a way. That he will forgive you. That he will accept you and love you and work all things for your good. That ALL your sins can be forgiven and cast into the deepest sea and never brought up against you any more. O, the preciousness of being saved from sin and judgment and hell!
But is it biblical to say that the greatest thing in the word is to be saved? Well, of course, the greatest thing in the world is GOD. But Dr. Widen did not mean to compare our experience with God. He meant to compare it to all other experiences. The reason being saved is the greatest experience in the world is because GOD is the greatest Person in the world, and being saved means being rescued from sin and damnation to know and enjoy God forever. If GOD were not the greatest Reality in the universe, being saved to be with him would not be the greatest thing in the universe.
Yes, yes, but is it biblical to say this? Well, here is the text that I have in my mind as I say it. Jesus said to the seventy disciples in Luke 10:20, "Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." In other words, you have just had great ministerial success. Demons have fallen before you. People have been delivered. This is great. This is wonderful. This is what you have been sent to do. Praise God for this triumph.
BUT, let not this be your first joy, or your root joy, or your indispensable joy. Rather "rejoice in this, that your names are written in heaven." That is, rejoice that you are enrolled in the redeemed. Rejoice that you will go to heaven when you die. Rejoice that God has written you among the elect. Rejoice that you are saved. This is the greatest thing. Not ministry. But knowing God, seeing God, enjoying God. The greatest thing in the world is to be saved. Because it is being saved for GOD.
Saved and rejoicing with you as Good Friday and Easter approach,