“If you wonder if you are ready to take up your cross, consider these questions:
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?”
This is an excerpt from a response on the gotquestions.org site in reference to this very question. I have to say, even as imperfect as I am, that I am appalled by the notion that many who claim Christ as Lord see salvation as a “one and done” proposition! And I was saddened by the idea that these people will get to the judgement throne and be shocked to hear Jesus say he never knew them.
The above questions infer the highest level of commitment is what is required for salvation (Matthew 10:38,39). Asking Jesus “into your heart” and begging His forgiveness one time at church camp and then going back to the same old life is not how salvation works! Turning to God is an all or nothing enterprise. There are no half measures (Revelation 3:16). All of us, myself included, need to evaluate our commitment to God against this criteria. This is why, “…the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
It is not enough to just believe, “…The demons also believe — and they shudder” . Yes, that is the prerequisite, the turning point, the place at which salvation can begin, but belief is not the end-all of it. It is the narrow gate. Belief requires action or else it is simply an empty understanding, lifeless, dead; “faith [belief] without works is dead”. Believing brings us to a spiritual crossroad where we find two gates.
One gate is broad, garishly adorned and the path beyond it is wide, well trodden and gently sloping downward; an inviting easy, often traveled path. The path is in perfect alignment with the direction already being traveled. From the vantage of the gate’s entrance the rewards along it can easily be seen gleaming enticingly in regular intervals along its route. The gaudy sign above it’s portal frames this advertisement, “Do you believe truth is in the eye of the beholder? Tired of living by others rules and wish you had everything your way, right away? If so then our kingdom of Build-Your-Own-Kingdom is perfect for you. We’re open to all so don’t miss out!”
Now, the second gate is small, functional and modestly adorned. The path beyond looks ruggedly beautiful but narrow and arduous, barely showing through the grass. This path veers off in an entirely different direction from the other. No quick rewards can be seen garnishing it’s winding pathways and the sign above the entrance simply states, “Come as you are but leave your kingdom at the gate. Walk here in love, enduring until the end when you will receive your abundant reward, ‘a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over.’“
Belief only brings you to this crossroad. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that belief allows you to see that there is another road. Salvation ultimately requires three things. First, the awareness brought about by faith that there is a choice to be made. Second, deciding where or in whom one places their trust, which is the essence of hope and third, taking continued action based upon what was chosen and it is this “doing” that reveals our heart. “Now these three remain…“, at its most distilled salvation is the perfect union of faith, hope and love.
To have the guarantee of salvation you have to enter the narrow gate and embark on a life-long journey of transformation (Matthew 5:3-12) in the single-minded pursuit of knowing and enjoying the presence of a most Holy God.
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:13.
The great commission is born out of this pursuit. Out of the abundant joy of communing with the Creator of the Universe (Psalm 16:11) will burst forth praise (Psalm 71:23) and the intense desire to invite everyone to come, see and taste how good the Lord is (Psalm 34:8; Psalm 19:7-11)!
A word of caution. Here is where many easily veer away into a works-based religion. Many new believers in their enthusiasm confuse our admonishment to be self-controlled or disciplined as a call to repair ourselves and they get snared and disheartened by trying to change their behaviors in their own power before God has even healed that part of their heart. We seek God because only He can change our heart, healing it from the cancerous spread of sin within it. As this healing takes place our desires become more in sync with the Father and from out of this new Godly desire come new Godly behaviors and choices. Only through this progressive healing of our heart by God do our behaviors begin to change, not in our own strength but as an natural out-flowing of the inward change. This is why Jesus said His yoke was easy and His burden was light (Matthew 11:28-30) because now, simplistically, all you have to do as a believer is to continue to seek God, share Him in and through your life and persevere until we are called home to His side and this is what it means to make Jesus the Lord of your life.
Even so, this life and its turmoils can be daunting, and believe me, when I look at the storm of life I must sail through I am daunted quite often. However, every time I return my gaze to fix upon the glorious face of my redeemer the power of the storm is lost in the presence of such immense hope and unfailing love. Take heart and be of good cheer for our salvation is assured and our hope is secured in the life, death and resurrection of our Messiah!
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I pray today, if you are reading this and you feel lukewarm in your pursuit of our King and Holy Groom that you will be refreshed and encouraged to continue seeking Him. Let His grace cover you, let His spirit empower you, and let His love sustain you. And to He who is the Highest of all pursuits and the Holiest of all pleasures, I give boundless thanks and endless adoration.
“You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”