The Narrow Gate
To realize that accepting Jesus as savior involves quite a bit more than just believing who he is.
Isa 1:10-20, Matt 21:28 - 31 , Matt 7:13-24, Acts 17:30 , John 15 , James 2:4 , Matt 13:3-23
Today most evangelical churches teach that salvation is assured on profession of faith in Christ. The question is asked prior to baptism, "Have you prayed to accept Jesus into your heart", or "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior? " An answer of yes is always taken to mean the person has done what is necessary to be saved. The person has made a profession of faith in Jesus. For all intents and purposes we would rejoice and assume they will be with us in paradise someday. However, there is a difficulty, Matt 13:21-26, the parable of the sower and the seed, and other references such as James 2:14-19 make clear a few other possibilities exist.
Here we see Jesus describing 4 possible outcomes to one hearing the gospel. See if you can identify them.
1 - the person who hears the gospel but does not understand it or believe it. He ultimately is lost.
2 - the person who hears the gospel and initially receives it with joy, but he lasts only a short time for he has no root. He falls away and also is lost.
3 - the person who hears the gospel and believes it, but his concern for his life and his worldly values make his life is unfruitful.
4 - the person not only hears and believes the gospel but he comes to understand it. He produces a crop many times what was sown.
In Matt 7:21, Jesus warns us that not everyone who calls the name of the Lord will be saved. He even points out that there will be some who cast out demons and prophesy in his name who are not his children.
In James 2:14-19 we find James challenging those who profess to be believers but have not demonstrated it in any way. He blasts them in verse 19 saying;
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder. James 2:19 (NIV)
So if the mere knowledge that Jesus was God's son is insufficient to guarantee salvation, what more is required. Lets go find out.
The Back Door:
What was going on here during the 8th century B.C? What was the problem God was complaining about in these verses? Well, to me it appears there was a lot of "apologizing" going on but not a much "changing". In the words of Isaiah, lots of (sin) offerings but no commitment to obedience. What was God's response? He cries out to the nation of Israel to "stop bringing meaningless offerings". He tells them point blank, "stop doing wrong and learn to do right". He also clearly warns them what will happen if they continue with "sorry" and don't change. He even addresses them as the "people of Sodom and Gomorra", those cities of evil that He had be long ago destroyed. But then in verses 18-20 He adds;
"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Isa 1:18-20 (NIV)
Key Message: In the days of Isaiah, the Lord offered to forgive sins if one decided to change, but warned of destruction if one continued in disobedience.
-> Now lets turn to the New Teastament. Read Matt 21:28-31.
Here we see Jesus telling a short story about two sons. When the sons were asked to work one said, "Sure, I'll go" but despite his verbal agreement, he never actually went to work.. The other said, "No, I don't want to go" but later changed his mind and actually went and worked. Jesus then asks those he was speaking to, which by the way happened to be the religious leaders of the day, who the father wanted? When the leaders answered "the one who actually went and worked", Jesus, agreeing with them, points out that the most obvious sinners were quicker to believe and repent than the learned men of Isreal. In verses 33-40 Jesus tells the leaders another story, one about a landowner. He emphasizes how the land owner felt when his son was killed by those who rented his land. In verse 43 he concludes his discussion with these religious leaders by saying ;
"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit."
Matt 21:43 (NIV)
Key Message: Following the Lord is a matter of commitment and action, not just a topic to be discussed. In Acts 17:30, we are told that God wants us to repent. The Greek word for repentance actually means "to put on new mind" or to "think differently". In scripture it is used to describe the process of changing our thinking with respect to who we are and how we live our lives. Repentance may include being sorry for our sinful ways but it also includes the concept of recognizing our sinful ways and choosing to start acting differently. To start being obedient to God.
Is salvation by faith? Yes! There is no basis for salvation outside of the belief that it was Christ's death that paid the penalty for our sin. Despite all the "changes" for the better, a man without this faith will still find himself lacking eternal life when his life ends. A thoughtful look at the account of Cain and Abel in Gen 4 makes clear that our best is not acceptable to God and yet the thief crucified with Christ (Luke 23:4-43) though having no good works or fruit was still credited with righteousness and found paradise
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8-9 (NIV)
But, salvation is also not based on the simple knowledge that God exists and that Jesus was Gods son who died on the cross. Those who come to the Lord must repent.
Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." 2 Tim 2:19 (NIV)
Well, what should our response be to all of this. Perhaps the following questions can help you form one.
1. Have my young children chosen to follow Christ or merely "said" what their parents and teachers have expected of them? When do I stop praying for their salvation?
I suggest we don't dare stop until we see the fruit of the Spirit.
2. How should I respond to one of my fellowship who shows no fruit, appears to be "of the world", or regularly is involved in sin?
Don't assume they are saved. Pray for their salvation and get involved to show them the truth. (James 5:19-20)
3. An lastly, How do I know if I am saved? .
Take the following 3 steps of becoming a "true believer"
- Confess your sins - Look honestly at yourself - realize that you are sinful and are not acceptable to God because of this. Repent of your sinful ways , decide to change and start obeying God.
- Believe in Jesus - Believe that Jesus Christ was God's one and only Son and He died on the cross to pay the debt for your sins. He died to make you acceptable to God.
- Accept Jesus Christ not only as your Savior, but also as your Lord. Don't just believe He exists, decide to follow him. Choose once and for all who you will serve, Jesus Christ, or something else.
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matt 7:13-14 (NIV)