May 11, 2014.
Today we ask a hard question. It’s a question that I don’t like to ask, but one that I believe is necessary. Before we continue on, just know that today’s post is not for the casual reader who does not like conflict or questions that challenge his or her faith. If this is you, perhaps it is a past day’s post that you should dwell on. I am not discouraging you from reading, I’m just giving you fair warning. Do you want to be challenged and hopefully grow? Read on.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
So here’s the question of the day: Can you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, even follow him to some extent, and still be lost? This is not a question to be taken lightly, nor is it one to get upset about up front. We should be seeking for truth, and this is a valid question. When truth is found, it stands regardless of our feelings. And since this is such an important questions, I am going to let the bible do the teaching today, with just a running commentary. Remember, the bible is more important than anything I have to say.
So we start off with the story above, which is near the ending of what we know to be the sermon on the mount. This is often a scary passage for people, seeing how Jesus says that just because people call on The Lord, or even do works in his name, does not mean that their souls are saved. Notice the surprise that these people who are speaking to Jesus on the judgement day. They seem to have no idea that they were lost. This may seem troubling to you, or even confusing. How could someone believe in Jesus, do works in his name but not be in his kingdom? I believe the next parable sheds some light on this.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
The wise and the foolish builders. We know this parable as building your foundation upon the rock, and that rock being Jesus. While this is certainly a point to be taken from this parable, I think sometimes we miss what is perhaps the greater point. How do you build your foundation on Jesus? Notice the first words: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine, and does them…” I believe that is the key. Doing the will of Jesus. You might say, ‘well yeah, duh. How can you believe in Jesus and follow him without doing his will?’ That is a good question indeed, but honestly, is it that hard to believe that it is possible? In the opening passage, Jesus says many will say to me ‘Lord, Lord…’ This adjective is interesting to me. It tells me that there are probably more people who claim the name of Christ who are not in the kingdom than we would like to admit.
But wait a minute. Doesn’t John say that anyone who confesses Jesus is born of God? Sure he does:
“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.”
(1 John 4:13-17)
Well, there it is, right? It is easy to believe this passage, and I think that’s why it is pulled out of its context so much. What John says here is true indeed, however I don’t think John is making an end all statement that all that defines a Christian is his or her confession. In fact, lets read an earlier passage in the same book:
“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
(1 John 2:3-6)
John too recognizes that simple confession that Jesus is the son of God is not sufficient to abide in the kingdom. And here we get back to what Jesus said, in a slightly different way: if we keep his commandments. If we do his will. We see again that there is ample opportunity to claim to follow Jesus without actually following him. There is ample opportunity to fail to recognize that he or she is walking in error.
What about John 3:16? Why is it not as simple as just believing? Let’s hear what James has to say about that:
“But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
We can see a pattern emerging. “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works.” Belief is good, but if it is alone it propagates a dead faith. A dead faith does not keep us in the kingdom.
So, the question remains. Is it possible to believe in Jesus and not save your soul? I believe that the scriptures point to yes. Answering this question in the affirmative is not easy to swallow, nor does it feel good in the stomach. But if the bible says something we don’t like, are we to ignore it? Should we just throw it out? Should we label it hard to understand and then just stop thinking about it? I do not believe this is a wise choice.
So my brothers and sisters, let us seek truth. Let us seek it earnestly, and when we find it, let us change whatever we need to to align to it. It will not be easy, but Jesus didn’t promise an easy walk. He promised a glorious walk. Let us forever walk in his glory.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 7, James 2, I John 1-2.
Seek and find.