Section 4 .. The Heart Of The Matter/Salvation

003white  Index To   The Heart of The Matter   ...  Salvation Part 4


Salvation - Part IV

To imagine that we can live our lives like the rest of the world, but still be welcome in God's presence, is little more than wishful thinking. The kingdom doesn't come cheap

      Carol Brooks

    001orange  Introduction and Index To All Four Sections


    Crucial Details About Salvation Every Christian Needs to Know

    The Kingdom Doesn't Come Cheap
    From the very outset Jesus made it clear that He did not want onlookers, casual followers, or even admirers

    Counting The Cost
    Being totally committed to making it all the way to the finish line.

    The Consequences of Falling Away
    As Jesus made very clear, falling away is worse than never having been a Christian at all.

    Being Born Again
    While we don't have to understand everything being 'born again' may involve a resetting of the behavior of some of our genes

     Summary and Conclusion
    The living God demands our loyalty in return for His Son's life on the cross.

    It's Your Decision
    But you may not have the time to indulge in very many 'tomorrows'.


    The Kingdom Doesn't Come Cheap
    To imagine that we can live our lives like the rest of the world but still be welcome in God's presence is, at best, little more than wishful thinking. At worst, sheer delusional.

    The minute we convert and are born again, we are adopted as sons and daughters of God and become citizens of His heavenly kingdom - strangers and pilgrims that stop here for a little while and then move on to our permanent home. However we cannot maintain a dual citizenship -  allegiance has to be to one or the other. If our standards are set by this godless, profane, and anything goes world, we have no inheritance in His Kingdom. Living by the standards of the coming kingdom involves everything that  we do, everything that we say, and everything that we think or imagine.

    True Discipleship
    Luke 14:25 says "large crowds" were following Jesus. Any modern church that attracts large crowds of people is seen as a very successful church. Any evangelistic campaign that has many people going forward to "pray the prayer" would be considered having achieved what it was set out to achieve.  See Seeker Friendly Failures in The Bible 

    There is no question that Jesus caused quite a stir - often drawing big crowds which by our standards would indicate He was doing very well.  But this certainly wasn't Jesus' mindset and perhaps we should take a leaf or two out of His book. He turned to the crowd and, instead of encouraging them proffered a very extraordinary and probably off-putting warning - the conditions of being one of His followers were very stringent - they had to put Him first. In the Savior's words ...

      If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple... Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-33)

    (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. To make His point Jesus, as He often did, used vivid hyperbole to make the point that being a disciple could be at the expense of even our closest relationships. Commitment to Him has to supersede all earthly ties.

    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)

    A new Christian may very well be rejected by their family and if just one partner converts, it could put a strain on the marriage relationship to say nothing of  causing numerous problems in regard to the children's religions instruction. In some cultures conversion to Christianity can mean ostracization or even death. In all cases, conversion probably means having to change how we spend our time, what we wear, who we associate with and who our friends are, what we watch on television. We need to learn how to control even our thoughts, temper, and imagination and scrupulously examine our motives.

    In other words, from the very outset Jesus made it clear that He was not interested in 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, we seem to be very reluctant to warn would-be believers about the demands of Christian discipleship either because

      1) we, lost in our make believe world of cheap and easy Christianity, are ourselves unaware of the costs involved.

      2) we are afraid we will scare 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 Him. We have to put Him first... ahead of possessions, family, and even our own lives. And why would this be surprising? He was willing to die so that He could offer us something that we, in our wildest dreams  could never imagine possessing.

      "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)

    Note that Jesus speaking of taking up ones cross is mentioned in three of the Gospels (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 14:27).

    All too often Christians mistake the common trials and tribulations of life as their crosses. Everything from chronic ill health and toothaches, to a tiresome spouse have all been interpreted as crosses the believer has to bear. However, this is a completely false notion. The non believer down the road also has difficult situations and people he has to deal with. And, as Tozer once said... even the Robin droops its wings in 104 degree weather, and the devil would have toothaches if he had teeth.

    Jesus said "take up" your cross, which means it does not apply to simply accepting a bad situation, but is something we do voluntarily.

    See Section Living The Faith

    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.'  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 14:28-33 NASB)

    Similarly, if would-be disciples do not realistically count the cost ahead of time, it is entirely possible that they will throw in the towel when they find themselves in the middle of a spiritual battle which they didn't anticipate and were not prepared for. In the parable of the sower (Luke 8), Jesus described people who fall away because they have no firm root - no strong foundation.

      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
    Please do not be fooled by those who claim that once you have 'accepted' Christ you can never ever fall away. No matter how 'respectable' they seem, how many letters they have after their names, how many books they have written and what institutions they have learned at, they are nothing but the wolves that the New Testament repeatedly caution us about. Anyone who tells you, or even implies, that your eternal future hinges on a one time profession of faith, is leading you away from salvation, not towards it.

    Over and over again, the Scripture warn that salvation is not a done deal and that perseverance in righteous living is necessary for salvation. Jesus Himself said...

      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)

    This was echoed by the early apostles

      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]

    And, as Jesus 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)

      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 NASB)

    We are doing people a grave disservice if we promise or give them the impression, that the ride to eternity will be safe and uneventful. It will not not. Fortitude, strength, and endurance will all be necessary, as will keeping an unbelievable prize in minds.

    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.

    Being Born Again
    But isn't this all this very difficult?

    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)

    The Greek word translated "born again" could equally well be translated "born from above" which most Christians interpret strictly as a spiritual transformation. - 

    However, I don't completely agree. While there is no question of there being a spiritual change, being born again of God involves very literal physical changes that lead to a total transformation of the person. Interestingly, recent science that has provided evidence that epigenetic changes that come about by the choices we make or the situations we find ourselves in can be biologically passed not only to our children, but can reverberate far into the future, affecting future generations.

    So, why would it be so hard to believe that Paul was right on target when, in Romans 5, he implied that something happened to all humanity because of Adam's sin. And if Adam and Eve's epigenome underwent some drastic changes, why wouldn't true Biblical repentance and a conscious decision to follow Christ result in God 'resetting' the altered epigenome which, in essence, would be a new birth from above. While we certainly inherit faulty gene function from our parents, it is only God who can reset the expression (behavior) of those genes after we make a conscious decision to turn back to Him. (See Original Sin or Epigenetics)

    However, what Jesus told Nicodemus was "You don't understand everything about the wind, but you see its effects. That is just how it is with the birth of the Spirit." In other words, he didn't have to understand everything about the new birth before he experienced it. Ditto for us.

    Summary and Conclusion
    The bumper sticker that says, "Smile, God Loves You!" encourages sinners to smile. It speaks volumes about modern theology and the extent of a very popular delusion.... it is these very sinners whom God abhors and who are slated for destruction. The truth is

      He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination. (Proverbs 28:9 NASB)

    Even worse, the various versions of the Gospel message heard from the mouths of many Christians are not only inadequate but, for the most part, aren't even found anywhere in the Scriptures. Although the word 'accept' is Biblical, receiving Jesus Christ as Savior is not a passive 'acceptance' that makes a door-to-door salesman of the Savior. It has to be accompanied by the realization that,

    We desperately need what He proffers - He does not meekly stand by waiting to know whether we will patronize Him or not.

    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!"

    It is quite amazing to what extent Revelation 3:20 ("Behold I stand at the door and knock") has been misused and misinterpreted. We think something along the lines of "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?" In reality, our Lord is NOT knocking on the door of the unsaved, but on the door of the church in Laodicea (See Revelation 3:14). While it is absolutely appalling that Jesus has to stand outside of His own church, knocking for them to let Him in, the real tragedy is how often this situation is being repeated across this land.

    Too many of us 'believing Christians' refuse to accept the terms of true discipleship, the willingness to turn our backs on everything worldly. 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".

    Biblical believing results in a changed lifestyle which doesn't mean that you merely engage in formal religious practices, but that everything that you do, everything that you say, and everything that you think, is done with the Savior in mind.

    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, but 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.

    However, when all is said and done ...

    It Is Your Decision
    In the opening lines of this article, I made quite an erroneous statement, i.e. everyone is going to die and stay dead. That is actually not quite right. Every single personís physical body will die and decay but their spirits live on (albeit in very different places) and will be resurrected one day. However, the timing is different for believers and non-believers.

      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. This is the event the church calls The Rapture, although it largely has the "when and why' wrong. See The Earth Shaking Seventh Trumpet and  Why the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is Wishful Thinking.

       After God has completely removed sinners and the non-penitent, they will return to this earth to begin the Millennium which is the long-awaited thousand years of peace and rest foretold by Scriptures. Satan will be constrained and Christ will rule from Jerusalem.

      Unbelievers, confined to Sheol/Hades will have that same 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.

    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), 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. It is no wonder that the Bible warns

      Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts...." (Hebrews 3:15).

    Even assuming you manage not to be hit by a bus this weekend, you simply may not have the time to indulge in very many 'tomorrows'. Because, whether you know it or not, we are in the very final minutes of the countdown to His coming which will be preceded by a shaking of this planet, the likes of which no man has never seen before. The world you know is soon to come to a very violent end.

    While the infinite God is still waiting to see what you are going to do, the end of the age is almost upon us and the doors will soon be closed. When they do...

    Which Side Will You Be On?

    Salvation Part III