Are you saved? If you die today, would you go to heaven? Many of us who attended evangelical churches in the seventies and eighties know these altar call questions well–so well, in fact, that we typically consider this issue resolved and rarely, if ever, revisit it. Yet truth be told, if you actually did die today, would you–do you really know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you would–spend eternity with Christ?
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
We love sound bites. From politicians to ad slogans, our culture tends to latch onto a phrase and run with it, yet where our eternal security is concerned, this we cannot do. “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31) is certainly from the inspired Word of God, yet if one verse were sufficient to convey total knowledge about salvation and our eternal destiny, God would not have provided us with sixty-six books of the Bible. As it stands, in addition to the many wonderful verses frequently quoted to assure us of our salvation, there are also others that might give us pause, were we to spend any time actually contemplating them. So what did Jesus teach? And does it conflict with what the remainder of the New Testament teaches?
What Jesus taught certainly does not contradict any of Scripture, although there are things He said that bear closer examination, and today’s verse is one such case. What did He mean that many are called but few are chosen? Why did He further tell us, “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” and “…narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”? (Matthew 7:13, 14)
Everything God has allowed to be recorded and preserved for us in His Word is important, and Jesus’ Words are no exception. They are not superfluous; they are there because they convey essential truth, and if you spend any time reading the Gospels, you cannot help but conclude that there is a lot more to salvation than just a quick mental acknowledgment that you believe in Jesus:
“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. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 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. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:13-27)
This section is frequently subdivided into headings such as “The Narrow Way,” “You Will Know Them by Their Fruits,” “I Never Knew You,” and “Build on the Rock,” but it is really an extended explanation of saving faith. We may have previously been oblivious of its true meaning, but it is difficult to insist verbal assent without a depth of faith that generates subsequent obedience is sufficient for salvation, in light of Jesus’ convicting words, “…I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:23) So what is required for genuine salvation?
Jesus came to save us from our sins–from the penalty of past sins, the power of current sins, and the presence of sin in eternity. Past sins are forgiven when we repent–turn away from them:
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him [that we are right with Him], and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light [do not practice sin as an ongoing way of life] 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.” (I John 1:5-7)
The reason many refuse Christ is because they cling to their idols–they don’t want to stop certain sins. They may genuinely believe the veracity of the Gospel message, but if they will not repent–turn away from them–there is no forgiveness and no salvation from their sins, because of course, they are still smack dab in the middle of them. And while this does not mean that we will have a sinless track record subsequent to coming to Christ–we still live in the presence of sin and may occasionally succumb to its power (and keeping in mind that it is not the temptation that is a sin, but giving in to it)–as a genuine follower of Christ we will not live in sin:
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure…And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin [in an ongoing, way of life manner]. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” (I John 3:2, 3, 5-10)
Sometimes restitution will be necessary. Many times people will, after a genuine conversion, go back to those they have wronged and apologize, openly acknowledging their past sins, and even try to make it right when this is possible. Although previously living a fraudulent lifestyle, after his encounter with Christ Zacchaeus said, “…’Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house…'” (Luke 19:8-10)
So if, and when, you really sit down to consider whether you are Christ’s–whether you are completely and truly covered by the blood of Christ or simply deceiving yourself–examine your lifestyle. Are you practicing lawlessness (of any kind), or are you rightly submitted under the authority of God in Christ? Are you walking on sin, or are you purifying yourself, just a Christ is pure? Are you walking in the dark, or are you in the light as He is in the light? Remember, “Whoever had been born of God does not sin [as an ongoing habitual way of life], for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest [obvious, known]: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”
Help us, “…walk in the light as…[You are ] in the light…[that we may] have fellowship with one another, and [that] the blood of Jesus Christ…[Your] Son [may] cleanse…us from all sin. (I John 1:7) Amen!