I continue to think about and be bothered by our modern evangelical methods. So many of us have grown up steeped in church culture and tradition, and we neglect our responsibility to test the things we are taught. I believe this has placed many Christians in great peril, in that many who believe they are “saved” are indeed not. We have glossed over one of the most frightening statements of Jesus when He said that He will turn away from many who call Him Lord because they truly didn’t know Him (Matthew 7:21-23). We teach that by simply believing in Jesus and saying a magic prayer that this guarantees our place in Heaven. There is no scriptural basis for this, yet the teaching has perpetuated through the Western church for the last couple of hundred years or so. We need to wake up to the realization that it takes more than a onetime prayer to truly know Jesus and to gain entrance into His kingdom.
To be a follower of Jesus first and foremost requires that we believe in Him, that He is who He claimed to be, the Son of the only God, the Creator of the Universe. We must accept the fact that we could never gain access to God save for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross where His blood covered all of our sins. We can do nothing to earn our place in the Kingdom; it is only through the grace of God providing a way for us to enter in, that we gain the privilege of eternity with Him. His grace is available to everyone free of charge, but as with all gifts, this grace must be accepted. We accept this gift by allowing Him to glorify Himself through our lives. This is the purpose for which we were created. He glorifies Himself through us by the actions we take that reflect His character and fulfill His mission.
As we have discussed many times, we glorify God by doing the things Jesus commanded us to do: feed the hungry, provide water to the thirsty, give shelter to the homeless, clothe the poor, take care of the sick, visit those in prison and without hope (Matthew 25:31-46). We glorify God by providing for the needs of the orphans and the widows, and keeping ourselves from the temptations of the world around us (James 1:27). If we truly believe in the person and mission of Jesus Christ, we will glorify Him by working tirelessly for justice, opposing wickedness, and setting free all who are oppressed and enslaved (Isaiah 58:6). Finally, we glorify God by demonstrating our devotion to His son, regardless of the price. We must serve Jesus even if it costs us our home, our families, our possessions and even our own life. (Luke 9:57-62; Luke 18:18-23; Luke 9:23-27). This is a hard road to travel, but it is the only path that leads to the Kingdom of God.
The first step to true salvation is to believe in Jesus and that His death provides the forgiveness of our sins, without which we could never approach the Holy and perfect God. The next and equally important step is to accept His gift of grace by allowing God to glorify Himself through us. This is an ongoing active acceptance, not a onetime act. There are no free rides into Heaven. Jesus loves us beyond measure, but His perfect purity demands total devotion of our hearts toward Him. We demonstrate that devotion by our obedience to His commands and by continuing His mission on earth. If you have bought into the teaching that your place in Heaven is secured by simply reciting the “sinner’s prayer”, I urge you to prayerfully examine the Scriptures and seek out what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus. The time for this is now, we must not hesitate. Believe in Jesus and allow Him to show His glory through your life. Devote yourself to following His instructions and living out His mission. This is the only way to salvation. Don’t miss it and don’t be deceived. Determine today that you will grow to intimately know Jesus, so that you will never hear Jesus say the most chilling words ever spoken, “Depart from me, I never knew you”.