Also See Life or Death... The Choice is Yours. The Bible very clearly tells us that we all have a choice to make in this life - the most important choice we will ever make. And, if the Bible is indeed the word of God, the consequences for the individual who chooses to ignore, or counter the evidence with clever arguments, will be fatal. In view of which, If Christianity even has a one in a hundred chance of being true, perhaps we should not be demanding greater evidence, but wake up to the fact that a far more sensible way to look at it is... the more severe the consequences, the less we should take risks. What is truly interesting is that most people seem to be prejudiced against the Bible, but well disposed towards other 'scriptures'. This is a rather illogical situation, because there is far more evidence in favor of the Bible being true, than there is for any of the other 'holy books'. This includes scientific, historical and archaeological corroboration and the many fulfilled prophecies.
Introduction... Trite, Shallow, Abbreviated and Highly Inaccurate Salvation Messages
According to polls, more than 80 percent of all Americans call themselves Christian, but far too many people do so on the basis that they believe in God, have made a one time profession of faith or said the sinner's prayer, regularly attend church/read the Bible or are generally 'good' people who haven't actually murdered anyone. As Tozer once said
We have simplified until Christianity amounts to this: God is love; Jesus died for you; believe, accept, be jolly, have fun and tell others. And away we go--that is the Christianity of our day. I would not give a plug nickel for the whole business of it. Once in a while God has a poor bleeding sheep that manages to live on that kind of thing and we wonder how. 
When it comes to telling someone else how they can be saved, a large percentage of the modern church conveys the impression that receiving salvation is a simple matter. They tend to reduce the Gospel message to trite and shallow phrases that defy understanding and strip the message of any real meaning. For example, in his book The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren, says this...
"If you learn to love and trust God's Son, Jesus, you will be invited to spend the rest of eternity with him.... Real life begins by committing yourself to Jesus Christ. If you are not sure you have done this, all you need to do is receive and believe.. The Bible promises, "To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. Will you accept God's offer?" Pgs. 37, 58. Publisher: Zondervan; 1st edition (October 8, 2002)
Let's see! If I were a non-believer and unfamiliar with the Bible, the questions that would spring to mind would be "what does it mean to love and trust Jesus and who exactly is he anyway?". "Spend eternity with him.. where and why would I want to?". "Receive and believe what?". "What does it mean to become a child of God?" and so on and so forth. But then again, PDL has so much going against it, including deliberate and blatant twisting of Biblical text taken to a whole new level. DETAILS
Others convey the impression that receiving salvation is a simple matter - that a person's eternal future hinges on a one time profession of faith. In fact two common catch phrases, "accept Jesus as your personal Savior" and "invite Jesus into your heart" are so entrenched in evangelical Christianity that few stop to consider whether they are Biblical.
They are not.
Not only are these instructions conspicuous by their absence in the Bible, but they are very confusing, even quite misleading. Please note that it is certainly possible to convey Biblical truth without strictly using words found in the Bible. However, in view of the fact that the person's decision is, quite literally, a matter of life or death, it is hugely important that our words accurately convey Biblical concepts.
"Invite Jesus Into Your Heart" Although the expression is common enough, even after well over twenty years of being a Christian, I am still unsure of what it is supposed to mean. If I am still puzzled by this cliché, I can only imagine what a non believer must think when exhorted to ask Jesus into their hearts. I am sure most have the good sense to realize it is symbolic, not literal nor some kind of metaphysical/ supernatural experience. However, I doubt a good clarification of this phrase actually exists. Lets face it. "Invite Jesus into your heart" is a completely meaningless phrase that communicates nothing comprehensible. Moreover, it is not found anywhere in the Scriptures. See Why NOT To Ask Jesus Into Your Heart
"Accept Jesus as Your Personal Savior" In spite of the fact that the book of Revelation paints a very alarming picture of the Lamb of God who carries the title "King Of Kings, and Lord Of Lords" (19:11-16) at whose word this very earth will be destroyed, we, to paraphrase something Tozer once said, think Jesus is standing outside on the steps, hat-in-hand, like some poor timid fellow looking for a job. He is shifting from one foot to another wondering whether He will be 'accepted'. We look Him over, then read a few more devotional verses, and ask: 'What do you think, Mabel? Do you think we ought to accept Him?
Telling someone to 'accept Christ' is not inaccurate but, if not carefully explained, makes it appear that Christ is waiting on our pleasure. In itself, the phrase conveys the idea that, to be saved, all you have to do is say "sure, I'll let Jesus be my Savior", after which there is nothing else to be done except hold fast to the belief that He is. Your passive acceptance is both easy and unconditional, with no further demands made of you. Nothing could be further from the truth. (See Merely Acknowledging Jesus as Savior is Insufficient)
Other well meaning Christians urge the sinner to pray some version of the "Sinner's Prayer".
"The Sinner's Prayer" I would challenge you to find among the cases of conversion in the book of Acts a single case of someone being instructed to pray for their salvation. Much to the contrary sinners were admonished to 'repent and be baptized'. See Is The Sinner's Prayer Effective?
Lastly, and perhaps most commonly, people are told to ...
"Believe in Jesus Christ" Although the words come from the Bible, by themselves these instructions are horribly abbreviated. They neither tell you what you are saved from, nor what you gain by being "saved". They certainly do not convey all that is involved. And yes, I know that Paul and Silas told the jailor that if he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, he would be saved, but they didn't stop there. The very next verse (Acts 16:31-32) tells us that Paul and Silas then instructed him and all that were in his house, which obviously means that they went into much greater detail.
If you happen to be one of those people who are trusting in the fact that in the past you prayed a prayer, raised your hand, walked an aisle, or signed a card, your faith is misplaced. Nor will God welcome you into His kingdom based on your efforts to live a good life, keep the Ten Commandments, do good and help others (If being saved was simply a matter of pulling up our socks, Calvary was unnecessary). None of these things will save you from the arrow that He has already drawn in His bow - the arrow that is tenuously aimed at every sinner... at you.
Christianity is rooted in and inseparable from the Scriptures. Everything a Christian knows about God, everything he believes and practices, is based not on human knowledge, insight, or experience, but rests solely on God's word to man, recorded in the Scriptures. And it is these Scriptures that tell us that a person's salvation depends on several essential factors. Since the Bible has so very much to say about this supremely important topic, please note that when space does not permit me to go into detail, I have included links to more comprehensive articles.
If you are looking for a short and easy answer, you are in the wrong place. And, may I add that if you think you have already found the short and easy answer, you are hopelessly deluded.
Lets start with one basic fact...
Christianity alone offers the unbeliever something they cannot get anywhere else.
All too many people picking out a random phrase or two, think 'love' was Jesus' core message. Unfortunately, they are terribly wrong... In fact, Jesus never stopped talking about the "kingdom of God", which phrase was used over 50 times in the four Gospels alone. He even said that the proclamation of the Kingdom was the reason He was sent to earth (Luke 4:43).
But what and where is this kingdom? Here is what is really paradoxical ... the Bible's description of this kingdom of God, also called heaven is no pie in the sky ethereal place 'somewhere out there', but matches, in every respect, the world most men and women would choose to live in. a place of peace and safety, where there is no crime, hunger and disease, war and above all... no death. Far from being outdated, out of touch, and largely irrelevant to modern society, Christianity promises exactly the utopian world most men and women can only dream of. Unless, of course, your idea of paradise is "an ineffable transcendental state" (whatever that means). ../html/message_of_the_bible.html
In the final analysis, virtually all humans have two things in common.
1) Almost everyone is searching for a 'better life', if not a perfect one, Most people are constantly striving to make their living happier, healthier, and less difficult. We grasp at every shred of happiness we can find, but frequently find that it slips from our grasp, often through no fault of our own.
2) No one wants to die. Through the centuries men have tried to penetrate the veil of death and find out what, if anything, lies beyond. Simply because our spirit rebels at the thought that no matter what we have accomplished in our seventy odd years here on earth, we are eventually going to become worm food. Fighting the inevitable, most humans will cling to the last shreds of life.... even if that life has been far from perfect.
The Gospel tells us how we can have both.... A perfect life minus the fear of ever dying. Christianity does not offer only eternal life, but eternal life in the utopia everyone else only dreams of. Eternal life in a sin/crime/disease/disaster free world is NOT an offer you will find anywhere else. (In order to fully understand this, see The Message of The Bible)
Therefore, I cannot stress enough how important it is to clearly and accurately understand why we need to be saved, what it is we need to be saved from, and how this is accomplished.
ON THIS PAGE
What Exactly is It That We Need Saving From?
The Wrath and Judgment of God
God's Wrath Is His Response to Sin
God Hates Sin, But what Is Sin?
A Death Sentence Has Been Pronounced On Every Sinner... In Other Words, The Penalty For Sin Is The Shedding Of Blood... Yours
The Coming Resurrection and Judgment
The Love of God
The Substitute Sacrifice... Jesus' Blood Instead of Yours
The Kingdom Doesn't Come Cheap
Counting The Cost
The Consequences of Falling Away
Repentance And Faith
Repentance: Presented As An Absolute Requirement For Forgiveness in The Bible
Faith: Biblical "Belief" Means Obedience to God's commandments. The Two Are Inseparable
Does Obedience Mean Rigid Adherence To Rules And Procedures, All Rigorously Enforced On A Daily Basis... Will There Be Any Pleasure Or Enjoyment Left In Life?
Being Born Again
Scripture warns over and over again that salvation is not a done deal.
PART II: Acknowledging Jesus Merely as Savior is Insufficient
Why Do We Need Salvation, or What Exactly is It That We Need Saving From?
Diametrically opposed to most modern methods of preaching the Gospel, the message should begin with the wrath of God. The bad news has to come before the good news. Telling someone that they can be saved is completely ridiculous if they neither know they are lost, nor what it is they need to be saved from. Telling someone that there is a pardon available is an absolute waste of time, if the person does not know they are already condemned.
So, what do we need to be saved from?
The short answer is that we need saving from the wrath of the Father Himself.
The Wrath and Judgment of God
In the modern western church we have lost our fear of God. Today's bumper sticker theology that says, "Smile, God Loves You!" is one of the largest deceptions ever foisted on the human race. Since He has not yet opened fire on His enemies people, both in the church and without, confuse His patience with His approval. They delude themselves that they are "not that bad" and that because that benevolent grandfather in the sky loves them, He will overlook their ‘small’ mistakes. But, as said by David Servant...
"there is not a single case in the book of Acts where anyone preaching the gospel told an unsaved audience that God loved them. Rather, the Biblical preachers warned their audiences that God did not approve of them, that they were in danger, and that they needed to make dramatic changes in their lives" (2).
Yet, today's powerless, sickly sweet, sentimental, Christianity has chosen to babble on and on about the goodness and love of God, but totally ignore (to our peril) His wrath and judgment. Titus warned “they profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed”. (Titus 1:16 NASB)
In both Old and New Testaments, the Bible labors the point that God is good to those who trust, follow, and obey Him and is terrible to those who do not. Both Testaments emphasize the reality and terror of God's wrath.
God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day. If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready (Psalm 7:11-12).
It is sad to find so many professing Christians who (perhaps because it makes them uneasy), either completely ignore everything the Scriptures says about the wrath of God, wish there were no such thing, or treat it as something for which they need to make an apology. Their preferred view of God is to see Him strictly as a God of love, always bestowing wonderful things upon us, and never causing any grief whatsoever.
God's Wrath Is His Response to Sin
Unfortunately the English words "anger" or "wrath" can imply vindictive personal feeling. However the anger of God is none of these things.. His wrath is strictly His response to our sin. (See The Wrath of God)
From cover to cover, the Bible makes it clear that God hates sin and evil. Unless we are extremely foolish, we would do well to pay close attention to those verses in the Old Testament that tell us that God said that not only would He withdraw from people who practiced evil, and not love them anymore, but He would actually hate them, and would neither pity, nor feel sorry for them. Note that in all cases, the reason given for the Lord's reaction is the evil deeds, or the sins, of the person, or people, involved.
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. (Psalms 5:4-6 NASB)
Their deeds will not allow them To return to their God. For a spirit of harlotry is within them, And they do not know the Lord. Moreover, the pride of Israel testifies against him, And Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also has stumbled with them. They will go with their flocks and herds To seek the Lord, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn from them. (Hosea 5:4-6 NASB)
All their evil is at Gilgal; Indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels. (Hosea 9:15 NASB)
"I, the Lord, have spoken; it is coming and I will act. I will not relent, and I will not pity and I will not be sorry; according to your ways and according to your deeds I will judge you," declares the Lord God.'" (Ezekiel 24:14 NASB)
Here are just a handful of examples telling us that there is a day looming on the horizon when mankind's iniquity exhaust the patience of God Himself, at which point in time He will pour out His wrath, or retributive justice, on the earth, punishing transgressors, and ending all the injustice and suffering in this world.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous And His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, To cut off the memory of them from the earth. (Psalms 34:15-16 NASB) Note this part of Psalm 34 was quoted by the apostle Peter (1 Peter 3:12) many centuries later.
Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold and mankind than the gold of Ophir. (Isaiah 13:11-12 NASB)
For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. (Matthew 16:27 NASB)
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: (Romans 2:5-6 NASB)
There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:9-11 NASB)
For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:5-6 NASB)
But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8 NASB)
Jesus even made the point that being maimed is preferable to continuing in sin, which will result in incurring the Father's wrath.
"Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell" (Matthew 18:7-9).
See The Day of The Lord www.inplainsite.org/html/end_of_age1_day_of_the_lord.html
Yet, for the most part, the so called "Christian" world today seems to have lost sight of what God thinks of sin. Consequently there is little hatred of it, and little preaching against it.
God Hates Sin, But what Is Sin?
For a huge number of people, the concept of "sin" seems rather quaint... remnants of the days of simplistic, and rather naive, religious beliefs. Many of those that do hold to the concept of a higher power, do not believe that there is an absolute moral law. And if there happens to be a God against whom we sin, He is too "loving" to actually hold our 'mistakes' against us, much less punish us for them.
If pressed, possibly the majority of people in the western world would place themselves in the 'not perfect' category, but a far cry from 'sinners', usually defined as the serial killers, rapists and child molesters of the world. Others believe that, when we die, our good deeds and our bad deeds will be weighed on a pair of divine scales to determine whether we will spend eternity balancing on a white fluffy cloud strumming a harp, or in a blistering cauldron being constantly poked by a guy in a red suit and horns.
(According to this almost universal 'Santa Claus' mentality of rewards for those who's good deeds outweigh the bad, and punishment for those for whom the opposite is true, God must be very occupied with His task of keeping everyone's record up to date, carefully making tick marks in either the credit or debit column of everyone's ledger of life).
The problem is that none of these views come anywhere near agreeing with the Biblical definition of sin, judgment, or even heaven and hell. This is simply because few know, or understand how the Bible defines sin.
The Hebrew word (chatâ'âh) that the Bible uses, far more than any other, to define sin literally means to miss the mark... to fall short of the perfection God requires. And the standard of perfection that God has set is Himself, or absolutely holiness. In other words being completely sinless is an impossible standard for us to meet. It is little wonder then that the Bible says... (Emphasis Added)
The Consequences of Sin is Death.
And, if merely falling short of some mark does not sound very serious to some, then pay close attention to God's words after the nation of Israel made, then proceeded to worship, a golden calf. (Emphasis Added)
And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned (châtâ) a great sin (chatâ'âh): and now I will go up unto Jehovah; peradventure I shall make atonement for your sin (chattâ'âh). And Moses returned unto Jehovah, and said, Oh, this people have sinned (châtâ) a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin (chattâ'âh); and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned (châtâ ) against me, him will I blot out of my book. (Exodus 32:30-33)
The people who 'missed the mark' did not merely suffer having a tick made in the debit side of their ledger, but were cut out of the book altogether. The book of Romans doesn't mince words. It says if you sin... you die!
In other words, a death sentence has been pronounced on every sinner. The penalty for sin is the shedding of blood... yours.
But doesn't every one, sinner and saint alike, die? Of course they do. However, if dying once seems bad enough .. try doing it twice. Because should we not accept God's gift of eternal life, the Bible teaches that this is exactly what will happen...
The Coming Resurrection and Judgment
No one ceases to exist at the death we are all so reluctant to face, because every single person who lives, and has ever lived will, one day, be resurrected. Believers who have already died will be bodily raised at the Seventh Trumpet and, along with living believers, will be temporarily taken off this earth - what we call The Rapture
Unbelievers, confined to Sheol/Hades will have a thousand years to regret the decisions they made in this life. After which, they will be raised to face God’s judgment and sentenced to a second death.
Note: If you think the Bible seems too harsh when it says that all sin merits hell and even tiny infractions deserves death, You need for a few moments to envision a world without sin, which is God's plan for the world... also called Heaven. (See Footnote 1)
The Love of God
The Substitute Sacrifice
What we don't seem to understand is that man was originally created to live forever, not just to spend seventy odd years on this planet and then fade away... However, although we managed to royally mess it up God, in His infinite love and mercy, has given us another chance.
Please Note that the word usually translated love in the New Testament (Agape in the Greek) has little to do with feelings of affection, fondness, or mushy sentimentality that never says a harsh word. In fact, it has little or nothing to do with feelings at all, and it certainly has nothing to do with unconditional love.
Agape is the love that is shown another person whether or not you approve of them, or even like them.
For example, most people would throw a life jacket to a drowning man, even if the person in the water was someone they could not stand, or even a really bad character. Similarly the Bible's instructions for us to love our neighbour, does not mean we are always going to like our neighbour, which would be impossible. Loving our neighbour can mean feeding them if they are hungry, clothing them if they are cold, or, very importantly, telling them the glad news of the Gospel if they are unbelievers. It often entails putting another's needs before our own.
This is exactly the kind of love that God has demonstrated. He does not want us to perish and in His Grace (unmerited favor), has given you and me a way for us to be saved from the consequences of sin. But He has given us only a limited time to respond, and when that time is done He will descend once more onto the earth... sword in hand. He will destroy and then rebuild. (See The Day of The Lord) At that time, we will not be able to ask Him why He didn't give us any warning or a way out. He has, but few have heeded the call.
What God offers goes far beyond anything we can hope for. He offers salvation, which is forgiveness for sin and eternal life. Wrap your head around that for a moment... Eternal Life! With never any fear of disease, tragedy and death. No getting old with all it's accompanying problems. No running out of time.
But how is this salvation accomplished?
All sin carries the death penalty. Since life, both symbolically and physically, is in the blood, the penalty for sin is the shedding of blood... yours. As Hebrews 9:22 says
"..all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."
Blood, in the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, was a vivid reminder that God demanded death as a punishment for every wrongdoing (Leviticus 17:11). The animal functioned as a substitute for the offender, and bore the punishment of the person who had sinned. In the Old Testament, the annual Jewish feast of Yom Kippur, or The Day of Atonement, was the day the High Priest made an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people, which brought reconciliation between God and the people. It was the most solemn and important holy day on the Jewish calendar.
"On this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the Lord" (Leviticus 16:30).
Also See The Seven Feasts of Israel)
However, since "it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4), the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were but a temporary measure put in place in anticipation of a future event. That future event was the coming of the Messiah "the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). (Note that the Old Testament is replete with "types" or representations by one thing of another. (See Typology)
In a one-time event (a perfect sacrifice that did not need to be repeated every year), Jesus Christ saved us from the death penalty by offering Himself in our place. Sent by the Father, Jesus came to offer all those who choose to put their trust in, and follow Him, safety from the wrath of the Father Himself. If that sounds a little odd to you, look at it this way.
God Himself said the penalty of sin is death.
Perfect judgment means He doesn't break His own laws.
Infinite love means He has given us the opportunity to escape the death penalty by sending His own Son to die in our place. He offers us the gift of eternal life. And, in one of the best known, and best loved, verses in the Bible, He has told us how to avail of that gift.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NASB)
Also note.... Jesus is not one of many ways to heaven; He is the ONLY way. As He said in John 14:6... "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". See Section All Paths One Destination
Nonetheless, it is crucial to understand that while this is a free gift, one we could never have earned or been "good" enough to deserve, it does not come without a price.
The Kingdom Doesn't Come Cheap
From the very outset Jesus made it clear that He did not want on-lookers, casual followers, or even admirers. He wanted dedicated disciples, who were aware that discipleship came at a very high price. He did not want anyone to commit themselves to a course they would never complete.
Yet, either we are reluctant to present the demands of Christian discipleship to would-be believers because we, lost in our make believe world of cheap and easy Christianity, are ourselves unaware of the costs involved, or are afraid doing so will drive people away. However, it is crucial to realize that Jesus made it very clear that a Christian's highest priority has to be their relationship with the Savior. We have to put Him first... ahead of possessions, family, and even our own lives. In the Gospel of Luke, when a "great multitude" was said to be following Jesus, the first thing He did was to tell this large crowd that they would have to completely rearrange their priorities.
"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26 NASB)
Since the Bible often speaks about loving our neighbor and honoring our parents, we have to understand that the word "hate" is not to be interpreted literally. Jesus' even stronger words in chapter 10 of the gospel of Matthew, goes a long way towards shedding some light on what He meant. After giving His twelve disciples authority over unclean spirits, and empowering them to heal disease and sickness, Jesus warned them to expect persecution, then added...
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. "For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. "He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39 NASB)
Although Jesus was using vivid hyperbole to make the point, we cannot skirt the fact that He said commitment to Him has to supersede all earthly ties. For new Christians this could mean rejection by parents and/or other family members, which in some cultures could even mean complete ostracization, or even death. If one's spouse is not a Christian, one's marriage could become strained, especially when it comes to the children's religious instruction. Non-believing friends can, and often do, find a person who seems to have suddenly "got religion", not as much 'fun' as they once were, and not wish to have a damper put on their 'good times'. In short a convert's relationships can change dramatically, but it doesn't stop there. The very next verse in Luke goes even further
What does it mean to take up one's cross? People seem to believe that every misfortune that happens to them is part of the cross of Christ. This is far from the truth, since misfortunes and tragedies happen to saints and sinners alike. A cross is something you take up voluntarily.... It is obedience to Christ. It is doing what the Lord commands you to do and suffering whatever consequences come with it. But more about that in a bit.
Counting The Cost
In Luke 14, immediately after speaking about the cost of discipleship, Jesus gave us two illustrations to show how important it is to count the cost before embarking on the difficult road of Christian discipleship, because the consequences of not doing so are far more serious than we realize.
"For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? "Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' (Luke 14:28-30 NASB)
"Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? "Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:31-33 NASB)
The person who wishes to build a tower first has to estimate the total cost of the project to see if he has the resources to complete it. The king going to war against another nation must first objectively analyze whether his troops are sufficient in number to defeat the other.
Jesus is telling those who would listen that they should not step on the path unless they are totally committed to making it all the way to the finish line. Unless people realistically count the cost of being a disciple of Christ from the very beginning, it is more than likely that when they find themselves in the middle of a spiritual battle which they didn't anticipate, and were not prepared for, the danger of them giving up is enormous. In the parable of the sower (Luke 8), Jesus described people who fall away when confronted with various situations, illustrating how easily this can happen,
"Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. (8:13-14)
The Consequences of Falling Away
And, as both Jesus and the author of Hebrews made very clear, falling away is worse than never having been a Christian at all. Immediately after the parables of the man building the tower and the king going to war (above), Jesus went on to tell us that a believer who loses his or her saltiness cannot be made salty again, and is fit only to be thrown out.
"Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? "It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Luke 14:34-35 NASB)
The book of Hebrews was nothing, if not more blunt.
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6 NASB)
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26-27 NASB)
We are doing people a grave disservice if we promise, or even give them the impression, that the ride to eternity will be safe and uneventful, because it will not not. We need to warn them that they will face battles, and will have to be willing to give up everything in order to gain the kingdom, just like the man who finds a rare and precious treasure.
"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46 NASB)
To use a modern day expression... you get what you pay for. And the kingdom doesn't come cheap. We will have to have fortitude, strength, and endurance, remembering always that the prize at the end is something that, in our wildest dreams, we could never have imagined possessing.
Therefore if you have counted the cost and decided that eternal life in God's kingdom is worth striving for, what you need to do now is accept the gift of an Almighty Savior to stand between you and a holy God. You need to 'repent and believe' which are, literally, two sides of the same coin.
Repentance And Faith
Repentance: An Absolute Requirement For Forgiveness in The Bible
The message heard from way too many pulpits has been watered down to just "believe" and you'll be saved, pastors rarely calling for their congregations to sorrow over sin. Yet repentance, defined as a radical change in one's attitude toward sin and God, is presented as an absolute requirement for forgiveness in the Old Testament as well as the New. It was continually emphasized in the inspired preaching of the Gospel, and in the book of Acts.
The early apostles did not preach the "easy Christianity" so commonly heard today. Telling someone that God loves them, and all they have to do to attain salvation is to "accept Christ as Savior", gives the impression that God thinks favorably of them, and they are not really in any danger. This messages fills churches, but doesn't save sinners from God's wrath. While it is true that Jesus died for for ungodly sinners, not "good people".....
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:6-9 NASB)
... He came to call us to repentance (Luke 5:32). While the message of the Cross is good news for the penitent, it carries an overtone of warning to those who ignore it's warning. Jesus did not mince words about the fate of those who did not turn do so.
"I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3-5 NASB)
'Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. (Revelation 2:16 NASB)
The pictures of Jesus as a rather ascetic, gentle, and may I say it ... even soppy looking individual cradling a lamb, have so influenced our perspective of Him, that we apparently cannot see His other side. Yes, He is gentle with His flock, but the book of Revelation paints a very alarming picture of the Lamb of God at who's word this very earth will be destroyed.
In the final moments of this era Jesus will ride down on a white horse, followed by the armies of Heaven, clothed in fine linen. He will be clothed in a robe dipped in blood, His eyes will be a flame of fire, and He will carry a sharp sword to strike down the nations and treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God. On His robe is written, "King Of Kings, and Lord Of Lords" (Revelation 19:11-16)
It is crucially important we understand that while repentance is not something we do to earn salvation, without repentance there is no salvation. Repentance and faith as NOT the same thing, but literally two sides of the same coin. You can't believe without truly repenting, and you can not experience "Godly sorrow" without believing. The Bible presents them as connected, but separate..
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).
repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:14-15).
(See Repentance ...The Missing Message)
Belief! What Does It Mean To Believe, or Have Faith, In Jesus?
The Bible tells us that
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe (Gk. pisteuo) in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes (Gk. pisteuo) , resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9-10 NASB)
(It would be well to note at this point that the word universally translated belief in most Bible versions is often translated believing in Young's Literal Translation... In other words the grammar tells us that it is not a one time event but a continual state of believing).
Unfortunately, much of the modern church, that has become so tragically focused on the whole idea of just believing, that it has completely lost sight of the Biblical meaning of the word "faith".
We are usually inclined to interpret the word believe as that something we think is true, however this is not how the Bible uses the word. Anyone who reads reliable historical records believes that figures of the past, be it Alexander the Great, Albert Einstein, or Attila the Hun, once walked the earth. However, just as believing that Adolph Hitler once drew breath does not make you a Nazi, simply believing that Jesus once lived, doesn't make you a Christian. Demons, and the devil himself, believe in Jesus, but they certainly are not saved. Remember what James, the brother of Christ and the head of the first century church in Jerusalem said
Which tells us that there is a little more to it than just believing certain things.
The Bible nowhere supports the idea that a mental assent to Jesus having lived, died, and been resurrected is enough to save a person. The Scriptures never state, nor even imply, that agreement with the statement that Jesus died on the cross for our sins is sufficient to give us eternal life. See The Myth of Faith Alone )
On the contrary, the Bible states, in very unambiguous terms, that a person's faith is measured by their actions.
While John 1:12 tells us that those who receive Him, or believe in Him, are given the right to become children of God (John 1:12), two chapters later, John reiterates what he said before, but also adds a warning
"He who believes (Gk. pisteuo) in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36 NASB)
We need to pay close attention to the fact that, in the statement above, the opposite of belief is disobedience. In other words, a person who believes... obeys the commands of our Lord. If they do not obey, they do not really believe, much as they might think they do. In fact, in his first epistle, John went as far as to say that anyone who claims to know the Savior is a liar, if he does not obey the Lord's commandments
That we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; (1 John 2:3-4 NASB)
In summary... Biblical "belief" means obedience to God's commandments. We will be eventually judged according to what our deeds because what we do is clear evidence of what we really believe.
The Emphasis On Obedience Is Found Throughout The Old Testament
Obedience to God's commandments has been stressed from the time of Abraham.
When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar, Abraham did not argue that God had promised that he (Abraham) would be the father of many nations, and that his seed would be as numerous as the stars, none of which would be possible if he killed his son. Pay very close to attention to God's words after the ram was found, and sacrificed. (All Emphasis Added)
"... By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore. And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Genesis 22:16-18)
Has anyone ever noticed that not once do the Scriptures record Abraham as saying that he believed, or trusted God, but only records his actions as evidence of his faith. Thousands of years later, we know how great his faith was because of what he did, not what he said, what he felt, or even what he believed. In fact, the theme of obedience is repeated many, many times, starting with the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28.
"You shall therefore love the Lord your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments. (Deuteronomy 11:1 NASB)
"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. (Joshua 1:8 NASB)
Samuel said, "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22 NASB)
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NASB)
"If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; "But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword." Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:19-20 NASB)
"Those who are far off will come and build the temple of the LORD." Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place if you completely obey the Lord your God. (Zechariah 6:15 NASB)
The New Testament Inseparably Links Faith and Obedience
Lets turn to the words of the Savior Himself, who said obedience is the evidence of faith and our love for Him...
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. (Matthew 7:21 NASB)
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20 NASB)
"Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? "Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: (Luke 6:46-47 NASB)
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments... He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him... "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." (John 14:15, 21, 23. 15:10 NASB)
Paul talked about the "obedience of faith"
through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, (Romans 1:5 NASB)
but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; (Romans 16:26 NASB)
And the author of Hebrews said eternal salvation was only available to those who obeyed
And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, (Hebrews 5:9 NASB)
See The Myth of Faith Alone and Holiness
Disobedience Often Brought Devastating Consequences in The Old Testament:
For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, that is, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord, to whom the Lord had sworn that He would not let them see the land which the LORD had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. (Joshua 5:6 NASB)
Now the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.' But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done? "Therefore I also said, 'I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.'" (Judges 2:1-3 NASB)
"You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, And You gave them water for their thirst. "Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell. "But they became disobedient and rebelled against You, And cast Your law behind their backs And killed Your prophets who had admonished them So that they might return to You, And they committed great blasphemies. "Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them, But when they cried to You in the time of their distress, You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion You gave them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors. (Nehemiah 9:20-21. 26-27 NASB)
The ninth chapter of the book of Nehemiah is a tremendous read. As Adam Clarke wrote, in Nehemiah 9, the Levites confess their sins and the sins of their fathers (Vs. 1-3). They give an account of God's kindness and forbearance and acknowledge His mercy and judgment (Vs. 4-37), and make a covenant with Him. (Vs. 9:38).
And Absolutely Nothing Changed In The New ...
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. (Romans 2:5-8 NASB)
Obedience! But What Are These Commands We Are Supposed to Obey?
Obedience is when a person complies with instructions or orders from an authority figure.
So what instructions have we received from the supreme authority? What demands does our Lord make from us? Is His some kind of intolerable military regime, or does His kingdom resemble one of the more disciplined boarding schools with their rigid adherence to rules and procedures, all rigorously enforced on a daily basis.
In other words, will there be any pleasure or enjoyment left in life?
Be assured that God is not a celestial version of the consummate killjoy.
In the Old Testament, God's laws given to man, were not that easy to follow. Not only were all the intricacies of the law a burden no man could carry, but the sect called the Pharisees, who were the most rigid defenders of Jewish traditions, felt it necessary to take further steps to ensure that the law was not broken. Therefore they introduced hundreds of rules and prohibitions of their own which were, ostensibly, the interpretation of God's law but were, in reality, an enormous and oppressive addition to it. To add to which, they did a great job at keeping the letter of the Law, but ignored the spirit of it.
Jesus Himself opposed the mental and physical hardship that the Pharisees placed on the people. (The Greek words translated "burden" or "burdensome" literally mean something oppressive and heavy that causes hardship, anxiety, or grief).
therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. "They tie up heavy (barus) burdens (phortion) and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. "But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. (Matthew 23:3-5 NASB)
But He said, "Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens (phortion) hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens (phortion) with one of your fingers. (Luke 11:46 NASB)
While Peter's words to the apostles and the elders, who believed that the Gentiles had to be circumcised and observe the Law of Moses, were
"Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? (Acts 15:10 NASB)
My Burden is Light
The Scriptures tell us that His commandments are not "burdensome", while Jesus told us to come to Him, for His burden was light
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome (barus). (1 John 5:3 NASB)
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. "For My yoke is easy and My burden (phortion) is light." (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB)
The New Testament often uses the word "joy", telling us that
"... the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:52 NASB)
"These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (John 15:11 NASB)
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, (Jude 1:24 NASB)
Aside from loving the brethren, about the only command that is repeated over and over again, in different words in the NT is to stay away from sin. For example.. "abstain from wickedness." (2 Timothy 2:19), and from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Dwell on whatever is right, pure, and praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:8). In other words to be holy. Paul stressed that belief resulted in righteousness
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9-10 NASB)
The author of the book of Hebrews warned us that without holiness... "no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14 KJV)
In other words, we have come a full circle to the beginning of this article. God hates sin and evil... and will destroy ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7)
But does any of this mean that it is easy to avoid sin and pursue holiness?
No! it does not.
In fact, staying the course to the very end requires great effort and endurance. Like Jesus who "... for the joy set before Him endured the cross", and in the end "sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2), we are urged to be steadfast and immovable, knowing that our toil is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58 NASB)
Luckily He did not leave us without help.
Being Born Again
Scripture is replete with warnings about watching, being careful and not dropping your guard... Perseverance in living a righteous life is necessary for salvation.
All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22).
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13)
To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations (Revelation 2:26)
But isn't this very difficult to do? Yes! It can be. But God gave us help traversing this difficult path.. He gave us the gift of His Spirit and said we have to be born again. (Emphasis Added)
"He came to that which was His own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent or a husband's will, but born of God". (John 1:11-13)
"... unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)
Being "born again" is a spiritual transformation. A person who is a creation of God becomes a child of God only when he or she is born by a special privilege or grant of the Almighty. It is not the turning over of a new leaf, or a "self-improvement" program in which you "add Jesus" to your life in order to become a better, more successful person. When Christ saves someone, He does not grant that person a fresh start - He gives that person a new life... His! This unfailingly results in a new purpose, a new direction, and a new meaning to life. (See Born Again)
Note: Being Born Again of God is commonly believed to be in a figurative rather than a literal sense. But what if it is not? What if this being Born Again of God, or being fathered by God, involves very literal physical changes, which leads to a total transformation of the person. (See Original Sin and Epigenetics)
If one accepts the popular view that salvation has been determined once and for all at the time of confession of faith, righteousness and obedience are ignored. After all, why one have one's cake and eat it too? The problem with this is the Scripture repeatedly warn that salvation is not a done deal. Jesus Himself said...
"... I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven". [Matthew 5:20. Emphasis Added]
This was echoed by the early apostles
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. [Hebrews 10: 36].
yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. [Colossians 1:22-23]
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. [1 John 1:7]
Yet, a huge percentage of teachers of the Gospel, picking and choosing verses to fit into what they already believe about the Gospel insist that at the moment a person makes a decision for Jesus and professes faith in Him he is saved and receives eternal life which can not be lost... otherwise it would not be eternal (as the argument goes).
The Bible says
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe (Gk. pisteuo) in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes (Gk. pisteuo), resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9-10 NASB)
The Greek word pisteuo, twice translated "believe" in the verse above is defined by Strong's Greek Lexicon as ... to have faith in a person or thing, to entrust (especially one's spiritual well being), to believe, to put in trust in etc. In other words "believe" in the Bible means to actively trust that something or someone is able to do for you what they claim. And what is it that we trust Jesus to do for us? Sadly the almost universal belief in the church today is that we trust (or believe) that He died on Calvary for us, which does not make a huge amount of sense. It doesn't take much faith to believe in an event already passed.
However, if we really read Paul's words without interpreting them by what we have been told, Paul was saying something very different. Pay close attention (Emphasis Added)
For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12 NASB)
What "day" was Paul talking about?
In order to answer that question we have to look at some, seemingly, very contradictory verses in the New Testament, which sometimes says that salvation is an accomplished reality, and at other times says it is still in the future. For example... (All Emphasis Added)
Already saved: Ephesians 2:8-9 states that Christians have already been saved
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
Being Saved: Yet 1 Corinthians 1:18 says the process is ongoing
"For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Will Be Saved: While Matthew 10:22, Romans 13:11, and 1 Thessalonians 5:8 say it is still in the future. (The verse from Thessalonians speaks of the "hope" of salvation, which also puts salvation in the future
"You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. (Matthew 10:22 NASB)
Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. (Romans 13:11 NASB)
But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. (1 Thessalonians 5:8 NASB)
This seeming contradiction is not limited to salvation alone, but to other critical themes... justification, adoption etc.
I am not sure how many Christians are aware of these contradictory statements, but the few that I have come across try to somehow reconcile them with their belief that you are already completely saved. The result being, as is so often the case, much speaking is used to explain the unexplainable, usually resulting in a totally unconvincing, patch up job.
Let's get down to brass tacks... an event cannot be both past and future, so either the authors of the New Testament were talking through their collective hats, and we can drop the entire subject and go catch a movie, or what we believe does not entirely square with what the Bible says.
So what is the answer?
Can we be assured we have salvation now, or is it something we have to strive and hope for. Have we already been adopted as sons, or are we eagerly waiting for this adoption? Are we righteous now, or is it yet a distant hope? For those who are actually interested in what the Bible says on the subject... as opposed to what parents, pastors, friends, or denomination may have taught, the answer to all of the above questions is .. BOTH.
As we mentioned earlier the almost universal belief in the church today is that we trust (or believe) that Jesus died on Calvary for us. However it does much faith to believe in an event already passed, but it does take faith to actively trust that someone is able, in the future, to do for you what they claim. If you turn back to the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament if becomes quickly apparent that the ritual Aaron performed was a two step process ...
Just the shedding of the blood outside the tabernacle was not an end in itself ... it had to be brought to God and 'offered' as an atonement for sin, Christ's sacrifice on Calvary... the sacrifice itself, was but the first half of the process, with the second phase... the atonement, still in the future. Complete deliverance will not be realized until Christ puts away sin at the end of the ages, when He (Jesus) will appear "before the face of God for us". (Hebrews 9: 26).
Which answers the crucial question of what Paul meant when he said ".... I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12 NASB)
(For a more complete understanding of the atonement See The Two Phase Atonement
Also See The Earth Shattering Seventh Trumpet
It is the Seventh Trumpet that is, in a sense, the most consequential of all the judgments, since at this call significant and apparently rapid changes take place. This last Trumpet brings an end to the mystery of God... Jesus appears before the Face of God for us and the atonement complete, He reaps the earth (what we call the Rapture) and the doors to the Kingdom are closed forever.
And The Seven Feasts of Israel)
The confession of faith used in many churches is not only inadequate, but isn't found anywhere in Scripture. Too many of us 'believing Christians' refuse to accept the terms of true discipleship, the willingness to turn our backs on everything worldly for Jesus' sake... In many cases we have 'believed' ourselves into a blind alley. As Tozer once said ...
"We are not today producing saints. We are making converts to an effete type of Christianity that bears little resemblance to that of the New Testament. The average so-called Bible Christian in our times is but a wretched parody on true sainthood. Yet we put millions of dollars behind movements to perpetuate this degenerate form of religion and attack the man who dares to challenge the wisdom of it".
The true follower of Christ will not ask "If I embrace this truth what will it cost me?" Rather he will say, "This is truth. God help me to walk in it, come what may!" Receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior must be an aggressive act of the total personality and not a passive 'acceptance' that makes a door-to-door salesman of the Savior. He DOES NOT meekly stand by waiting to know whether we will patronize Him or not. Although we desperately need what He proffers, we sovereignly decide whether we will receive Him
Becoming a disciple of Christ does not mean that you merely engage in formal religious practices, but that everything that you do, everything that you say, and even everything that you think, is done in reference to the living and true God. Biblical believing results in a changed lifestyle...
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)
The living God demands our love and loyalty in return for His Son's life on the cross. The cross does not have any mysterious, magical powers to open the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the establishment of a relationship sealed in the blood of the Son of the Most High, not something He takes lightly.
Neither should you.
A much misused Scripture is Revelation 3:20, "Behold I stand at the door and knock". Aw, poor Jesus is out there is the cold, shivering, waiting for someone to let Him in. Wont you go ahead and let poor Jesus into your heart? First of all, this is a statement by the Lord is NOT to the unsaved, but to the church in Laodicea (See Revelation 3:14). The picture is truly pathetic... Jesus is standing outside of His own church, knocking for them to let Him in! They are outside of His Kingdom.
The bumper sticker that says, "Smile, God Loves You!" encourages sinners to smile - sinners whom God abhors and who are slated for destruction. It speaks volumes about modern theology and the extent of a very popular delusion. The truth is...
He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination. (Proverbs 28:9 NASB)
It's Your Decision
The Bible does say that God is patient, "not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9 NASB), but since none of can be sure we will even be here tomorrow, putting off the decision could be just as dangerous as saying "no". One millisecond after you die, your future will be irrevocably fixed, with no second chance, no second choice. The Bible says
"Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts...." (Hebrews 3:15).
Also, whether you know it or not, we are in the very final minutes of the countdown to His coming, preceded by a shaking of this planet, the likes of which no man has never seen before. The world you know is about to come to a very violent end.
Even assuming you are not hit by a bus this weekend, tou simply may not have the time to indulge in very many 'tomorrows'.
While the infinite God may now be waiting to see what you are going to do, we are almost at the end of the age, and the doors will soon be closed. When they do...
Which Side Will You Be On?
Sadly, men will continue to defy God to the very end, regardless of the cost
The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21 NASB)
Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory. (Revelation 16:9 NASB)
and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds. (Revelation 16:11 NASB)
Don't Be One of Them.
(1) A. W. Tozer. Rut, Rot, or Revival: The Condition of the Church (Paperback) Christian Publications (December 1992) Pgs. 172-173
(2) God's Love/Hate Relationship with the World. © Shepherd Serve 2013 – The Teaching Ministry of David Servant.
(3) Ray C. Stedman. The Answer to Death. http://www.raystedman.org/thematic-studies/christmas-and-easter/the-answer-to-death. © 2010 Ray Stedman Ministries
Continue On To Part II... Acknowledging Jesus Merely as Savior is Insufficient. CLICK HERE
Because He is far more than just Savior.
Jesus is Lord: One of the little known facts about the New Testament is that close to 60% of the New Testament books never even once mention Jesus as Savior. In fact, the numbers are astonishing. Jesus is referred to as "Lord" over six hundred times in the New Testament, but the Greek word soter, which means specifically a deliverer, or savior, is used a mere 24 times in the New Testament.
In other words, of the twenty seven books of the New Testament, sixteen books (60 percent) do not refer to Jesus as Savior even once. We do not make Jesus Christ Lord.... He is already Lord.
Jesus is King: Jesus' kingdom has already broken into this world and, in a short period of time, He will be Sovereign King and Lord of this earth... in all conceivable respects. He is not only King, but King for all eternity. So if you have not enthroned Christ as Lord, and do not defer to Him as King, you cannot possibly attain salvation. Simply because no one can live in his kingdom without acknowledging him as king. Why Jesus would want anyone in His kingdom when they show no allegiance to Him as King and do not bother to obey Him, which means they have, in effect, rejected His Sovereign authority.
The Biblical way to salvation is to see Jesus Christ as not only savior, but also as Lord. To pledge to obey Him as best you can the rest of your life. As the Bible says... Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. (Colossians 2:6-7 NASB)
What would it be like to never have to worry about the safety of our children, and never have to lock the doors to our homes or cars. A young woman could walk home in the late evening and know she would get there safely. Pornography would not exist. There would have been no Enron and no Watergate. What would it be like if politicians and used car salesmen told nothing but the truth? Children would be raised in the security of two parents who are committed to one another. While there is little doubt that some crimes arise out of need and desperation, the vast amounts of funds we would save on our police force, judiciary, armed forces, jails and related organizations would ensure that no one would be in want. Are we getting the picture yet?
Perhaps the Bible has a point after all.
Again perhaps the Bible seems too harsh when it says that all sin merits hell. After all how can a tiny infraction deserve death? Lets look at it this way… Where does one draw the line between a ‘big sin’ and a ‘small’ one? If I as a ‘friend’ of yours, walked away with a paper clip from your desk you probably would not consider it theft. You would probably conclude that I needed a paper clip for some reason and dismiss it. If I walked away with a ten-dollar bill you probably would consider it theft but may look the other way. However if I took $100 you would probably jump up and down. So where shall we draw the line between a paper clip and a hundred dollar bill? At a penny? A dime? A fiver? And how much are you willing to bet that, if asked, ten people would give ten different answers. And how much more would you be willing to bet that (sooner rather than later) some one would decide one of the thieves was ‘dysfunctional’ and should see a psychologist instead of paying for the crime... and, once more, we’d be back to square one. Cultures and people across the globe have different standards… So whose standard shall we judge by?
God made it simple. He set the standard... He said ‘No sin’. Think of it this way...
If you sinned just once a day, for 60 years (and I am not talking of rape and murder here, but the so called smaller sins... lust, envy,
lies etc.) the total number of sins, added up over your lifetime, would be 21,600. Do you seriously think any judge would let you off the hook with that kind of rap sheet. (PLACE IN TEXT)
Also Be Sure and Read
The Myth We Are Saved By Faith Alone
I strongly suspect that, if one were to ask the vast majority of Christians what one has to do to be saved, you would get a number of answers like "accept Jesus as your personal savior", "ask Jesus into your heart" etc. However, while the terminology may vary, the answers would almost all boil down to all you have to do is believe... all you have to do is have faith. In other words, at the very moment the sinner puts his, or her, faith in Jesus Christ and accepts Him as his/her savior, that person has entered into a covenant relationship with God, has received God's forgiveness of sins, and the gift of eternal life. It is certainly a fact that the Bible teaches that faith is an essential ingredient, without which it is impossible to please God, but it never ever teaches that faith is the only requirement for salvation. In fact the Scriptures point to a number of things by which a person is saved.