Editors Note: This concludes Jeremy Sanders 3 part article series on the salvation. The entire monster article will run on Sunday as a special article.
Point 4: The Reason behind Seeking Salvation
(Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17,21-22, Luke 14:26-27, 18:18, John 15:14, Acts 8:19, 1 Cor 7:22-23, Galatians 3:24)
Point 4.a: The “Why” behind seeking Christ
Part of examining oneself entails looking at our motives. Why are you a Christian? What do you expect from the lifestyle? Do you believe in Christ merely to gain eternal life? Do you view Christ as the figurative “fire-escape?”
Some might say, “well, I have asked God for eternal life. I have prayed that He takes me to heaven. I have even admitted that I have done some bad things in my life. Surely, Christ must grant me eternal life. I am coming to Him begging Him for eternal life. God is full of love; He will surely not reject me!” Will He?
The answer can be found in Matthew chapter nineteen. We will read a story found in two other Gospels. Since it is described by three of the Gospel writers, it is obviously important to our understanding of salvation.
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” Matthew 19:16-22.
This is the story of the rich young ruler. We see he is young in verse 20; in verse 22 we see he is rich. Luke 18:18 says he is a ruler, and from the verbiage and context, he is a ruler in the synagogue. So, he is a religious leader in the Jewish community. He knows Scripture, and in today’s society, he could be compared to a bright, young pastor of a megachurch.
The first thing we see is that he recognizes Jesus’s innate goodness. This implies that the young man knows he does not possess the same amount of goodness, although we see later on, he still possesses a great deal of pride. He calls Jesus “Master”, which in this context means he saw Jesus as a teacher of divine truth, although not necessarily as the Savior and Lord of the Universe.
Next, we see the young man is desperate. Although he is rich, influential, and a respected leader, he still comes to Christ, even risking the scorn of other religious leaders by doing so. In fact, we see that in Mark 10:17 “there came one running, and kneeled to him”. The young man ran to Jesus and knelt at His feet. This is a man who is desperate, so desperate that he doesn’t care about the public spectacle of running through a crowd and kneeling at Jesus’ feet. Such an act demonstrates that there is nothing sinister or underhanded about the young ruler. He is genuine in his actions.
Now we will examine his intent. He asks in Matthew 19:16 what he must do to have eternal life. He is in a sense, asking what good thing He must do to earn eternal life. We see the crowd ask Jesus a similar question in John 6:28. In today’s vernacular, we would call him an easy convert. Some people have to be shown that they cannot receive eternal life on their own merits, or for that matter, that they are even in need of such a blessing. However, this man knew that he needed eternal life.
So, the young man is desperate, he is eager, and he is willing to receive eternal life. His “why” is seeking eternal life. Surely, Jesus must now lead him through the sinner’s prayer? No need for the organist to play Just as I Am to encourage him to walk down the aisle! No, he was ready.
But what does Jesus do? Instead of what the modern church would certainly do, Jesus actively discourages the man. Why? Read Matthew 19:17-21 again. Jesus asks why the man calls him good because only God is good. By doing so, Jesus is displaying His divinity. If only God is good, and Jesus is good, Jesus must therefore be God. Likewise, the man then must be evil, the opposite of good, for the young man is not God. This statement answers the next question. Jesus tells the man that to have eternal life, one must keep the commandments. Unfortunately, no one can keep all the commandments, because no one other than Jesus, is good! Therefore no one can earn eternal life.
What Jesus just did is erect a wall in front of the young man. Jesus would have failed any modern-day evangelism class. Instead, of leading the man through the sinner’s prayer, Jesus forces the ruler to recognize his failures. He takes the focus off the man’s need for eternal life and puts the focus squarely on God. Salvation is meant to bring God glory; too often we make it about ourselves.
Compare this attitude to Paul’s words. After listing all his religious accomplishments, all his religious associations, he says in Philippians 3:8, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,” Paul was the most religious person of his day. Yet, his religious position, his worship congregation, his denomination, he counts them as manure. Why? Because he values Christ above all else.You can know you are redeemed if you desire Christ above all else. That is the mark of a true Christian.
Sadly, like all of us, the young man had pride. This pride is why he asks which commandments to keep in Matthew 19:18. He knows he has lived a morally upright life and is seeking salvation through his works. He is hoping he has done enough to salve his troubled heart.
What is a sure tell that you are not saved? You desire the things God can give you instead of Christ. Your focus is on the blessings, the spiritual gifts, prosperity, angels, etc, instead of on knowing (γινωσκω= ginosko) Jesus. We see this in Acts 8:19, where Simon the sorcerer of Samaria offered Peter money, saying, “Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost” What was Peter’s response? “Thy money perish with thee.” Simon focused on how Christ could serve him, a true convert focuses on how he can serve Christ.
Point 4.b: The Cost of Christ
How does Jesus respond to the man’s desperate plea? Jesus tells the man to not murder, commit adultery, steal, lie; he must also honor his parents and love his neighbor as himself. Obviously, no one can do all these things perfectly. Yet, the young man claims to do so in Matthew 19:20, showing he still possesses pride. Salvation is for people who hate their sin and desire to submit to the rule of God. We must acknowledge our slavery to sin before we can become slaves to God. We see this in Romans, where Paul spends the first three chapters laying out the sinfulness of all mankind. He only starts discussing the path of salvation in chapter four. Law always precedes grace, it is the tutor that leads us to Christ, as we see in Galatians 3:24, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
Jesus uses the law to expose the ruler’s inner pride. He tells the young man to do the one thing the ruler cannot do. Go and sell all that he has. Why does Jesus tell him to do so? Is Jesus teaching a works salvation? Must every believer sell all their possessions to follow Christ? No. Titus 3:5 says “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us”, while 1st Timothy 6:17 gives guidance for those Christians that are blessed with earthly riches. This is not a social gospel that Jesus is preaching, regardless of what many modern left-wing scholars try to preach. What Jesus is doing is two-fold. First, he is demonstrating that the young man does not love his neighbor as himself, or otherwise, he could give up his possessions. Second, Jesus is demonstrating that for a Man to follow Christ, He must be willing to give up EVERYTHING for Christ’s sake.
The young man’s response in Mark 10:22 is telling. He went away sorrowful. He still desperately wanted eternal life. If Jesus had offered to lead the young man in a prayer, where the young man could ask for salvation, admit he was as least somewhat of a sinner, but not fully surrender His life to Christ as Lord, the young ruler would have jumped at the opportunity, as have many people in churches across America. Yet, Jesus loved the man too much to give him a false sense of assurance. But this is exactly what thousands of churches are preaching in services across America every Sunday. Millions of people who sit in church pews have never examined themselves, have made some sort of “commitment” to “accept Jesus”, or “believe”, or have generic “faith”, but are as lost as the rich young ruler.
Lest the reader believes the true Christian sits in judgment of this fact or views it with glee, we must look to Jesus’ response to the young man. It provides a beautiful picture of God’s heart and is the response every true Christian must display. Mark 10:21 says “Then Jesus beholding him loved him”. He loved the young man too much to feed him a false gospel. He loved him too much to tell him the easy lie. Indeed, this statement is one of the most beautiful, yet tragic verses in Scripture. Jesus beheld the young man, reading his inner-most thoughts and knowing the man would reject the Gospel. Yet, Christ still loved the young man. If Christ had permitted the young ruler to think he had eternal life, the man might never understand his error. But because Christ loved him enough to speak the truth, the young man went away sorrowful, under conviction of his error. We do not know the his fate, but perhaps one day when we get to heaven, we will meet a Jewish religious leader who finally let go of his pride and submitted to Christ, all because Jesus loved him too much to let him believe in error.
It was because of this love that Jesus then demands that the young man surrender everything. Continue reading Mark 10:21, “and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” Even before Jesus Crucifixion we see the cross. The cross meant suffering. The cross meant being totally rejected by society as an outcast. Only slaves and criminals could be crucified. The cross meant death. For the young man to follow Christ, he must become as a slave and die to himself. We see this truth in Luke 14:26-27, where Jesus says, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Again, you CANNOT be Christ’s disciple without bearing your cross, dying to yourself, and submitting everything to Christ.
Point 4.c: We are to Slaves to Christ
Submitting everythingto Christ is not an easy task. Too often we have a skewed view of our relationship with Jesus. It is common in the church to refer to Jesus as our Friend. And yes, Jesus is the best friend a person can have. Yet, what is the prerequisite for this friendship? John 15:14“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”For you to be Jesus’ friend, you must first obey his commands. He is the Lord and Master; we are His slaves. Only if you submit to be Christ’s slave can you have eternal life. There is no alternative. Especially in today’s culture, the idea of slavery is abhorrent, and rightly so, for slavery has caused great suffering throughout history. Slavery is not confined to America, indeed it has existed for millennia and continues to exist in parts of Africa and Asia, along with vile human trafficking industry sprawling across the globe.
Yet, the fact that we find it vile does not change the fact that we are called to be Christ’s slaves. You are not Christ’s servant, a servant gives service, a slave belongs to someone. This is not a pleasant idea. In fact, many of you will have Bible translations that say “Servant” in places where the Greek word is δουλος (doulos). δουλος can only mean slave, translating it as “servant” is to change Scripture.
Unfortunately, due to the connotations that the word “slave” brings, many try to soften the word. However, its meaning is clear. Scripture repeatedly places Christians in the latter category. Matthew 6:24 “No man can serve two masters” is literally means “no man can be a δουλευω (douleuo or a slave) to two masters. The Greek word for master is κυριος (kurios) which is the Greek word for Lord and implies ownership. It is a synonym with the Greek word despotes where we get the English word “Despot.” Jesus is King and Lord, we are the slave and must never forget this relationship, even as he elevates us to the level of a friend.
The word δουλος is not confined to the Gospels, Paul also makes use of the word. FirstCorinthians 7:22-23, “likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant (Doulos or slave!). Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants (δουλος or slaves) of men.” Properly translated, we are Christ’s slaves. A master does not buy servants, he buys slaves. We as slaves to sin were completely unable to purchase our freedom. Only the benevolent, loving Master, the Lord Jesus, could purchase us from the slave market of sin to make us His slaves and thus free. That is the great paradigm of our faith. We are already slaves to sin, yet to be truly free, we must become slaves to the benevolent Master. And the price He paid was the ultimate price, that price was His blood sacrificed on the cross!
Too often today, people in the church are self-deceived into believing they are saved, when they have never submitted their will to Christ. Remember, you are Christ’s friends IF you do whatsoever He commands you. A good tree brings forth good fruit! Too many churchgoers pray some prayer because they want a better life, or want eternal life and are scared of hell, but do not submit to Christ’s Lordship. And sadly, there are people in this very church, who likely have never submitted to the Lordship of Christ and are thus still slaves to sin.
Point 5: Salvation is simple, but it is hard
(John 10:30-59, Romans 6:6-8, 21-22 James 2:19)
Salvation is truly a simple proposition. All it requires is total submission to God. You don’t have to worry about making the right choices, God has already provided us a road map. It is called Scripture. Yet, it is also hard, because the natural man does not desire to submit to God. We remember that Paul described this fact in Romans 7:15-20. Yet, praise God, we have seen Christ’s grace, which permeates every passage we have read. If we are willing to make Jesus our Lord and Master, to submit ourselves as His slaves, doing His will; if we take up the cross and die to ourselves, we can be saved!
Romans 6:6-8 says “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him”. If you are willing to make Jesus the Lord of your life, die to yourself, believe that He died for your sins on the cross and rose from the dead, you will live with Him. And by examining your life, you will see the good fruit that is the natural output of abiding in Christ. The evil fruit will be replaced with good.
It is not just belief. Even the demons believe that Jesus is the Christ. James 2:19 says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” It is not just a matter of believing in God and knowing he has the power to judge. Demons tremble because they know God’s power. Nor is human belief enough. John 10:30-59 describes Jesus preaching to the Jews. In verse 30, we are told that “many believed on him” but then throughout the next twenty-nine verses, these same people question Christ until finally attempting to stone him in verse 59 after he declares that he is “I am” meaning coequal with the Father.
As we saw in James 1:22, it is not just belief. It is belief demonstrated with action. The action demonstrates the belief. Jesus makes the point to the Jewish crowd who “believed on him.” The next two verses literally demonstrate this principle in the words of Christ. John 8:31-32, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” If you believe that Jesus is Christ, confess with your mouth that He is Lord and thus has the ability to forgive your sin, you will be saved. Stating that Jesus is Lord demonstrates repentance, for it shows that only Christ rules your life. Your life is no longer your own, you are bought with Christ’s blood, and you are repenting from your sin by turning to Christ!
We see this point in Romans 6:21-22“What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.” The evil fruit of our old self. “But now being made free from sin, and become servants (δουλὁω = slave) to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” Christ has replaced the evil fruit with good. Once you abide in Him, you can have salvation. Yes, we still sin, but our lives are marked by good fruit. And we have the assurance that we shall not fall away; we have eternal security and the joy of bearing good fruit in our lives. Salvation is simple, but it is hard.
Conclusion: Let Your Light Shine!
After describing the issues plaguing the modern church, we have taken a deep look at the importance of good fruit to determine the spiritual conditions of those claiming to be Christian. This study has, in turn, demonstrated the lie of the “carnal Christian” or the unfruitful believer. Such a study shows the urgent need for Christians to examine themselves to determine the conditions of their own hearts. Such an examination must look at the reason we seek salvation. What is the “Why” behind seeking Christ? Are you willing to accept the cost of discipleship? Are you willing to become Christ’s slave? It is not a present reality from a worldly perspective, but it is an absolute necessity if one to is truly follow Christ. As we have seen, salvation is simple, but it is hard. It involves the complete and total surrender of our will to His.
We live in a culture where these truths are taught by far too many churches. Most denominations and congregations are content to view the church as a social club, not a life-altering event. Churches are too willing to forsake virtue and standards for the sake of ease. Instead of convicting the lost of their sin, the church is too willing to affirm a sinful lifestyle, exercising true “hate speech” by not warning the sinner of his need for repentance. As Christians, we are called to preach repentance; preaching is part of the Sanctification process, and part of what makes salvation hard. No-one wants to stand up for the truth, it is uncomfortable to tell the lost man that he needs to change his ways. Yet, that is exactly what we are called to do.
When we do stand for truth, the world will hate us for it. Indeed, this is the mark of a true Christian and one reason the modern church is not comprised of actual slaves to Christ. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19). It is not that the world hates Christians, it would not care if you lived, thought and acted according to their standards. The world only hates Christians because real Christians reflect Christ. And the world hates Christ because He exposes their sin. John 7:7 says, “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” We see a similar picture in John 3:19-20, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” The world hates the light because their wicked deeds are exposed and of necessity must be “reproved.”
As Christians, our lives are to demonstrate the light of Christ. Matthew 5:14-16 tells us, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Our light is a reflection of the glory of God. It places the focus on God and exposes the sins of the flesh. No wonder the world hates us, for man is a prideful creature. Anyone who takes the focus of the flesh, and exposes the wickedness of the old man will be hated by the world. And when the church fails to do so, when it adopts the ways of the world, it becomes worthless. As Matthew 5:13 describes “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Notice, that Christ casts out the worthless salt, which is then trampled by the world. How appropriate, that the very people who the modern “church” is trying to please, will trample it as soon as the church abandons its standards. A stark warning to us all, and one the modern American church has ignored as it hurtles over the cliffs of social justice, ecumenicism, and the rejection of God’s Word.
Yet, all is not lost. In an era where all manner of vice and depravity is on the rise, where truth is confused with falsehood, where wrong is now considered right, Christians must follow Christ’s commands and sow good fruit. By doing so, we may yet turn the tide of immorality sweeping across the land, and allow future generations to reap the harvest of our labor in the name of Christ. May God bless you as you go forth to let your light shine!
Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.