Go ahead and read Matthew 7:13-27. I’d ask that you pray before reading on, asking God to open your eyes, your heart, and your mind.
First, and foremost, I firmly believe that you cannot lose your salvation without totally renouncing and rejecting your faith. Once truly saved, always saved.
But what does it take to be truly saved? I think in this passage of Scripture, and in the Bible as a whole, God makes it clear that an oral confession is not enough. Scripture says that if you “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”–Romans 10:9-10
So, what then, should our response be? Obedience. Striving, daily, to be more and more like Jesus, while realizing that our source of salvation and righteousness comes from Christ alone. That’s hard to think about. While there is nothing we can do to make ourselves holier, we strive to be holy, like Jesus. Why? Because out of our love for the Lord, we want to be more like Him, not for our own glory, but so we may better glorify Him.
Our attempts at righteousness will not get us into heaven. They will not make us a “good” person, or a “good” Christian. As I’ve said before, there is no such thing. We rest in Christ’s perfection and in His work on the cross only. Yet, because God desires us to be more like Him, we allow Him to sanctify us and we daily take up our cross and follow Him. We are called to be set apart and to live like Jesus. We will never be perfect, but we are to rid ourselves of anything that hinders us from our relationship with God.
Listen to Jesus in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
That is a powerful statement, to say the least. Jesus does not expect us to be perfect, but He expects us to, with all that we have, strive to do God’s will. We cannot simply say to others “Oh, yeah, I believe in God,” and expect that to be enough.
It’s easy to follow Jesus on Facebook and MySpace. It’s not hard, especially here in the Bible belt, to walk down the aisle, or to raise your hand, or to make an emotional oral confession of Christ.
It’s hard to follow Jesus when the storms come, when all else fails, and when temptation comes your way. When these times come, we must ask ourselves, “What will I do with Jesus?”
What will you do with the Savior? Christ came, giving up glory in heaven, and was born of a virgin. He lived a perfect, sinless life, thus fulfilling the law that we could not, and cannot, uphold. He performed miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead, walked on water, and proclaimed a message from God Himself. He died on the cross, bearing the wrath of God, to take away our sin and to offer, to those who believe, restoration and union with the Father. He rose, on the third day, to give us hope in eternal life. He did all of this to show the mighty power and name of God Almighty. Scripture says that apart from Christ, there is no hope. There is no way to heaven outside of Him. None.
So, I ask again…what will you do with Jesus?
Will we, as Christians, daily strive to follow Him in obedience? If we have no desire to obey all that He has commanded us, there’s a very good chance that an initial saving faith in Him is absent. To put that more bluntly….if you do not seek to follow Christ in all that you do, you are, according to Scripture, not a believer.
For several years after I came to Christ, at the age of 8, I loved church, and I loved learning about the Lord. But, I didn’t really understand who He is. I never really matured, and when I got into middle school and high school, I fell into sin, and sought after worldly pleasures. Thank goodness God never let me go. After a period of about six years, He humbled me, and showed me that I must, once again, confess Jesus as Lord. And while I’m still not perfect, and I still certainly struggle, I daily make war against sin, and am truly repentant in those times where I do fail. All of these things are a result of God’s grace, and not my own works or merits. I can feel God continuing to strengthen me and sanctify me, and I know in my heart that He will continue to make me into the man He has called me to be.
Moving on to another point….I wonder what would happen if all those who call themselves Christians in the world lost all that they had. Their homes, their jobs, their families, their church buildings. What if we lost our Bible? Would we still have enough? Would we still worship Jesus?
What would we do with Jesus if we had nothing else? Meditate on that question for a few minutes.
God is starting to show me that everything else in this world can, and usually does, fail. Over the past few months, at times, it does feel like I’m losing everything, although I’m not. But what I’m finding is that Jesus is enough. When there is nothing left to do, nothing left to be said, when I feel like I’m at the end of my rope…spending time with the Lord and praising Him for the salvation I have in Jesus is enough. And it gets me through the day.
I would say it’s even easy for me to sit here and follow Jesus on this blog. I can talk all I want about Him, yet if my daily life does not glorify God, I’m failing, and I’m a hypocrite. To be honest….that scares me. To be even more honest….that happens more often than I would like it too. I know that I may look great on the outside, but on the inside, I’m just a sinner, saved by grace, doing my best at following Jesus.
I’m learning along the way that I must remain humble and teachable, and God continues to show me the areas He would have me improve on, and shows me the fruit that I have produced through my obedience to Him.
Is that worth it to us as believers? Is the work of God in our lives worth everything? Let’s look at another part of that passage, Matthew 7:24-27.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
When the floods come, who do you trust in? Do you trust in your hands? Do you trust the company that built your house? Or do you trust that, no matter what, God is still God, and you will yet praise Him?
To be totally obedient to God, we must first be totally dependent on God.
I’ll ask a question that a lot of people have probably heard before. If heaven had everything else but Christ….would we still go? If you could go to heaven, and spend eternity with no pain, no sickness, and no sin, and you could see all of your family and friends and loved ones, and never leave them again, would you go, even if God wasn’t there?
The first thing I’d point out is rather obvious….we won’t have those things, and don’t have those things, without God, so a “heaven,” in the truest sense of the word, wouldn’t exist without Him. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say it could. So the next question is, do we desire the gifts of God over God Himself?
I think so many times, people come to Christianity because they want heaven and to avoid hell. That’s not a totally bad thing, for I want heaven as much as anyone else, and certainly do not want to go to hell. But do we want heaven more than we want God? I believe, as we disciple and teach the new generations about God, that we should lead them to Christ, not because they want just to go to heaven, but because they realize how much God loves them, and because they want to live a life that glorifies His name, because they want a relationship with God on high.
The greatest gift God ever gave the world was not us. It was not creation. It was not our mortal lives. It was not our friends, our families, our loved ones, or our jobs. The greatest gift God ever gave this world was Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ. Without Him, we have nothing. Without Christ, all is meaningless, and our lives mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. Without Christ, even the most tear-jerking heartfelt story of families persevering through hard times, or a man impacting the community around him for the better good, means nothing. If Christ is not at the heart of everything we do, then we have wasted it. A friend once told me that if “God isn’t about it, we don’t want to be about it.” May we have that same attitude as it applies to our daily lives.
The truth is, there are people in this world that literally have nothing. No clothes, no shoes, no family, no friends, no job….nothing. And yet they are far richer than we will ever be, because they realize that all we need is God.
When it comes down to it, when we surround ourselves with stuff, we diminish the importance of God in our lives. And we set ourselves up for traps that will have us disobeying God, and obeying our fleshly impulses. Obedience is required in the life of a true believer. Why? Because Christ is required in the life of a true believer.
When we come to that point where we realize that all we need is Christ, our whole lives will change. We will no longer just put a nice little saying on our Facebook religious views, or go to church on Sunday. Our love for Him, and our dependence on Him will transform us by the power of the Holy Spirit into obedient sons and daughters of the Almighty Creator.
Look again with me at God’s Word. Matthew 7:17-20.
“So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
While this passage speaks directly to false prophets, this whole passage of Scripture as a whole is Jesus teaching believers what is required of them. The fire that Jesus speaks of above is hell. If we do not have a saving faith in Christ that produces obedience and fruit, we are condemned to hell.
So what do we do? We obey Christ’s command to live holy, and to make God’s name known among the nations. Missions is a biblical command, not an option. It isn’t glamorous, in any way, shape, or form. Serving at a beautiful camp in Virginia may seem nice, but it wasn’t a vacation. I heard stories from kids younger than myself that would bring tears to any war veteran’s eyes, about hurt and pain in their past. I worked hard, sweated, and put all of myself into it. It was worth it, though, to be able to share with those kids the great love of Christ. The work was worth it, to see it pay off, when 24 boys gave their lives to Christ for the first time.
Does that even excite us any more? Do we get more excited about the latest Christian rock band than we do someone accepting Christ? Do we look forward to our patriotic program more than we do every Sunday? Do we applaud more when the church decides to build a bigger sanctuary than when someone who just got out of prison gives their life to Christ?
We must emphasize, as the universal church, as a global body of believers, that evangelism is not enough. We must disciple those who come to Christ, both here at home and abroad. I’ve seen firsthand the dangers in neglecting discipleship. We must develop a love and a vision for God’s people that exceeds a love for ourselves.
As citizens of the United States, we must not just celebrate our freedom. We must use it for the glory of God. We get upset when the government won’t allow prayer in schools. But are you upset that there are over 130 people groups in India, each of which number over 1 million people, who are unreached? Do you get upset when you hear that God’s people are being murdered by the thousands in the Middle East, or are you too concerned with your safe, comfortable life here?
I mean for these questions to be convicting, and pray they are. Not because I’m great or special or perfect, but because God has laid it on my heart. They convict me as well. Too often, I go about my day and forget that part of obeying Christ is reaching my world, both at home and across the world, for the gospel. I lack a specific vision for outreach each and every day, because I don’t take time to think about it in my free time. This must change, both in my life, and in the lives of our churches and believers across the world.
What will we, as the global church, do with Jesus as it pertains to missions?
Obedience. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ calls for obedience of the heart. Again, it’s easy to follow Jesus on the outside, and look good, but where is your heart, and where are your eyes, when temptation comes? Do we only seek to obey outwardly so that we get the glory, or do we truly try to keep our hearts focused on Him?
I, for one, am tired of just going through the motions on the outside. I want every single fiber of my soul to praise God in my love for Him and my obedience to Christ’s commands. We are not saved by our works, but we are saved from work to work, as David Platt would say. Look at the words of Christ. Look at Paul in Romans. Look at James. The Bible, from start to finish, calls us to live out our faith, both inward and outward, and if we aren’t doing that and teaching that, something is terribly wrong.
May our lives continue to be changed for the sake of the gospel. Not for our glory, but for His. It will be worth it one day to hear God say “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Look, one more time, at Scripture with me. Matthew 7:13-14 says “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
If anyone has ever told you that life after your acceptance of Christ is easy, go back and tell them they’re a false prophet. Seriously. Jesus states that life will most likely be harder. We will be treated like Jesus. In case you didn’t know….that’s not necessarily a good thing. The world will hate us as it did Him. The world may kill us, as they did Him. Our own family and friends may turn on us. But it is worth it, because we serve the Creator of the universe. It is worth it, because His love for us, and the hope we have in our Savior can never be taken away by anything this world can throw our way. It will, again, be worth it to hear God say “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Our work, and our lives here on earth, take on an eternal purpose once we surrender it all to Him. And that should be worth it, to each and every one who believes.
May we choose the narrow gate. May we choose to follow Christ no matter what hand He deals us, and allow God to use our lives for His eternal purpose of bringing glory to His great name. May we, as the global body of believers, give it all up to Him, the maker of all things. May we obey Him, and tell people of the wonderful love of Jesus.
May we have a heart filled with love and obedience to the one who was obedient to the Father, even to the point of death on a cross. For you. For me. For all those who would believe. May we seek Him in all that we do.
Maybe you’re reading this, and you’re wondering what all this is about. Maybe you’ve never trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior before. If you’re reading this, and want to talk about the Christian faith and how to be saved, please feel free to comment or email me. I believe my email is on here somewhere. If not, comment, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I possibly can.
May all these words that I have said be to the glory of God the Father and Christ our Savior, for whose return we anxiously await.