Have you ever heard Jesus? Have you been taught by Him? And if being a Christian were against the law, would there be enough evidence to convict you in a court of law of this “crime”?
If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus.” (Ephesians 4:21)
Many of us these days live as if the Bible is nothing. Even those of us who occasionally read it frequently fail to grasp its full significance. It really is an unrecognized, yet exceedingly precious treasure.
Why is this? It is because the gospel [the message] of Christ “…is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16) Within the covers of that incredible Book is the only way for us to become saved from our sins! Yet the way to salvation has been frequently misunderstood.
The gospel of Christ certainly is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, but not everyone will be saved. Apart from those who will die in their sins because they refuse to even consider its message, I am convinced that there are many who are sympathetic to the gospel, but who are not saved, because they do not really want to be.
Being saved from your sins involves a past, present, and future component. We are forgiven the past, live increasingly holier lives in obedience to Christ in the present, and will eventually live eternity in an existence untainted by any sin at all. The problem is that while most people want forgiveness for past sins, and some even look forward to a perfect future, changing how they live now seems too hard for many.
This is why the rich young ruler who came to Christ became very sorrowful: he was not prepared to really follow Christ. King Agrippa, before whom Paul testified admitted, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28), but he too, was not prepared to change his life to follow Christ.
In the past, people understood that following Christ involved a sacrifice–a giving up of our lives. Jesus said, “…whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross [pick up the job God has assigned you] and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34) Conversion that results in action on our part is the only way Jesus’ parables make sense. It is, in fact, the only way the entire Bible makes sense.
Consider what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” While Jesus does not refuse any who genuinely repent, merely mouthing words will save none. Jesus said, “He who does the will of My Father in heaven” shall enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Take a look at another verse, again from our Savior. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) Jesus specifically says that the way which leads to life is difficult, and that few find it. Difficult involves sacrifice; it involves effort; it involves self-denial.
The gospel is indeed “the power of God to salvation,” but we must not twist it into what it is not. We do not save ourselves; “it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8b-9) yet we must “work out…[our] own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phillipians 2:12b)
So…have you heard Jesus? Have you really been taught by Him? And if following Christ became a crime, would there actually be enough evidence to convict you? Remember, “difficult is the way which leads to eternal life, and there are few that find it.” May you be one of the few!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help the word “Lord” not be something meaningless which rolls off our tongues, but a real indicator of who You are to us. Help us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Help us do the will of Your Father in heaven in our daily lives. Help us attain the salvation you died on the cross to provide for us, and not turn away because it is too difficult. Amen.