How does your story end?
Your story in this world will end and you will stand before God. Would you rather be a member of the main cast, one of the heroes whose stories will go on forever, or be relegated to the obscurity of the extras, those background characters whose stories no longer matter? Where they come from, nobody knows, and where they go to, nobody cares (I’m speaking metaphorically of the extras in the background of a given scene). But there is One who does care, who takes the ones ignored, rejected, and shunned by the world and gives them the opportunity to matter, to be central figures in the greater Story of God. Yes, there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun, but salvation means so much more than just evading the coming wrath of God. The author of salvation invites you to enter into a relationship with him because he cares about your story, how it develops, how it ends in this life, if it continues, and who you become.
How is one saved?
God sent His One and Only Begotten Son, Whom men call Jesus (the Christ), to Earth to live that we might know how to live, to die that we might have life, and to be raised from the dead that we might have hope. God sends His emissaries, ambassadors of peace, to those dwelling under the oppression of this world, bound in chains of habit and ignorance and of wrong doing and wickedness, suffering under what is false, and offers them an invitation to freedom. They who were lost are sent to seek the lost; they who were forgotten are called to remember the forgotten; they who were alone, to befriend the lonely; they who were cast out, to invite the outcasts; they who were broken, to mend the afflicted; and those who sinned without hope, to bring hope to sinners. The God of heaven and earth takes them, cleanses them from the stains of this world, and calls them saints, priests and kings, even the Children of God. And, working through His children, He takes the lonely, places them in families, in His family. He remembers the forgotten. He accepts the outcast. He fixes that which was broken and makes it whole.
If you hear Him calling you today,
Open to Him without delay.
You who answer His invitation may then enter into the Good, True, and Faithful Way. The one who refuses and remains steadfast in refusal cannot be saved. The one who turns aside takes a consequence upon himself for doing so. The one who follows, knows. The one who answers, receives. The one who seeks, finds. It is not rocket science, though it is also available and open to those who study rocket science. It is not an earning of salvation, but an earning of rewards. It is not a striving to perform, but a striving to please. In Him we become living sacrifices, offering our flesh by the Spirit in submission to His Will for His good purposes. We are called to be True Disciples of God and to make True Disciples of other human beings.
But what does all that mean? How does one actually go about being saved? How does one enter into this family of God? Hear, believe, confess, then accept, trust, submit, endure.
Hear: Hear that God sent His only Son into the world to lay his perfect life down as a sacrifice on behalf of all our imperfect, broken, and/or rebellious lives. The natural consequence of a broken relationship with God is death, but God in His mercy and love satisfied the requirement of death Himself. Because He is God and was without sin, laying His life down in submission to God the Father, Jesus (God the Son) had full power to take up His life again. He was raised on the third day and, after being seen and heard by many witnesses,returned to the Father where He is seated in power and glory as a great high priest for the Children of God, wherever they are. To all who will accept it, He freely invites human beings into a close relationship with the God of all that is, purchased for Himself by His own sacrificial offering on the cross.
Believe: Know in your heart that the Son of God, called “Jesus” by many even though “Joshua” is a more direct English translation of His Hebrew name, came into the world to save the perishing, to free the captives, to give sight to the blind, and to make the lame go and do. If you are able to, know that when He did this, of His own free will He paid the penalty for all of your guilt before God and Man—though this will not satisfy the laws of Man, yet it does satisfy the Law of God. Know that it is not because of who you are or what you’ve done that He chooses to invite you, but because He is generous, good, kind, patient, and loving.
Confess: Whether you know it or not, your words have very real power. You must speak the Truth you now know in your heart into the universe, and you must speak it to others—to those who believe and those who do not. It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, but it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. The mouth is connected to the heart, for it is from the overflow of the heart that we speak, to life or death, to light or darkness, and so on. If you find you are having a problem with your words, look to your heart. God knows. God can fix it. Ask Him to do so, and trust that He will. Guard your heart well, and your mouth will be easier to manage.
By these three one enters upon the Way. If life ends here, you need know nothing more. But it often does not. Once entering upon the Way, one must continue upon it to reach the natural end thereof. How does one keep to the Way?
Accept: Accept that His sacrifice for your baggage (i.e., your guilt, brokenness, rebellion, mistakes, whatever) is enough. It was completed once for all. When you come to the cross in humble acceptance, you put all of that garbage aside. You lay it down at Christ’s feet, and you pick up your cross in its place. You will never be worthy enough, righteous enough, pure enough, good enough, or anything enough to repay the debt of your sin, so put all those ideas out of your head altogether. Accept the Lord’s sacrifice as the perfect atonement, accept that you are remade in Christ, and walk in newness of life.
Trust: Place all of your trust, all of your confidence, all of your hope, etc., in Him. This is the real meat of the ubiquitous John 3:16, that saving faith in Christ Jesus would be so much more than a mere assent to the oneness of God—that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one, to wit that the One in Whom trust is to be placed, this Jesus of Nazareth, is fully God and fully man. It is not just an assent of the mind, but a Way of life one either walks or does not. One either lives or does not.
Submit: The essence of all that bears enmity toward God is found in the will. All the philosophies of humanity rooted in waywardness and rebellion may be distilled, ultimately, to one thought—I, me, my, mine: I will, my will be done, I choose, I do. Only in perfect submission to Christ can one hope to take part in the Kingdom of Heaven. If we are purchased of Christ’s blood, to follow His Way, to live in accordance with His will, then we must learn the meaning of these statements:
“No servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained (perfected, made complete, restored) will be like his teacher.”
Likewise, pursue understanding, get wisdom, seek, in all things, to be like Christ, for this is the pinnacle of our perfection on earth. And how do we do so? Yield our will to His own. What do we learn of Christ’s own submission to the Father’s will? Not only is it the mark of His endurance through the great tests of His life (i.e., His trials in the wilderness, and His prayers in Gethsemane), it is also central to His power over sin, death, and all that opposes Him. To the Father in heaven, He said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” And also, when He taught us to pray, it is no coincidence that He placed these words close to each other, “Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The importance of this cannot be overstated, so much so that when we read Hebrews 5:7 we find that Jesus’ prayers were heard by the Father because of Jesus’ attitude in submission to the Father with proper respect. Therefore, we are told to submit ourselves to God, submit to the righteousness of God, submit to the authority of those over us, and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ; therefore, submit, not to any and every whim, desire, foolish person, or spirit, but to those Whom God calls us to submit in likeness of the One we follow. To fully understand requires guidance from the Holy Spirit, wisdom given by God, and an understanding of Scriptures (the Bible).
Endure: Now that you walk upon the Way, you must keep to it. For some of us, the road that leads to forever is short, and for some of us it is long. If you would reach the place on the map marked “Joy of the Lord” you must keep to it through all the tests and trials of this life. If you would arrive with something good to present to the one you claim to love, you must have endurance. God has given you something. He has entrusted you with something He intends for you to use profitably for the Kingdom. Our Lord waits at the entrance to the city of our God at the end of the journey and will inspect the work of our hands, hearts, lips, and minds when we get there. It will be tried in the fire. It will be tested most thoroughly. If you would bring Him praise at the gates of the city, you must have endurance. When Christ was a baby, all the drummer boy needed to present to Him was himself. Likewise, when He met you at the cross, all you needed to present to Him was your heart. But that day He entrusted you with something in return, and He looks forward expectantly to the time when you bring it back to Him. Will you bring it to Him and tell Him you kept it safe? Will you bring it to Him and tell Him you at least earned some interest with it? Will you bring it to Him and show Him all that was gained with it through proper stewardship? You must endure because if you do not, there is a penalty for laziness, selfishness, cowardice, and wickedness. There is a constant voice in the ear of the church whispering soothing nothings that keep many from pursuing all that God has for His people. See to it that no one takes your crown.