This is part 11 in a 14 part series entitled Don’t Panic – Survival Guide to the Apocalypse. Full PDF Download available free here: Don’t Panic – Survival Guide
Why Wasn’t I Taken?
Oh, my dear friend. Say that all this isn’t new to you – you believe in God. You’ve attended church. You may call yourself, and believe you are, a “Christian”. The last chapter on how to be saved is something you have heard many times before. Listen, friend. You are probably starting to realize that something is really, really wrong. If you have been “left behind” on the earth, if you were not “counted worthy to escape all these things”, I can only imagine the thoughts and feelings that are racing through your mind.
If the “rapture of the church” (its’ sudden whisking away into heaven) has occurred and you recognize this event for what it is, you are probably one of the most distraught people on earth at this moment. Perhaps there is a gnawing reminder that you knew, you were warned, and you didn’t take heed. In the pit of your stomach you recognize that “they were right”, and are in great anguish.
Or perhaps, you may believe whatever the media and governments are saying about those who have disappeared. Perhaps you never have, and still don’t, believe in the “rapture of the church”. You are still here, because you expected to be here. You might be glad you weren’t “taken”.
Listen – I am one of the “taken”.
Whether you believe my story or not, does not affect me in any way – I am not here! It does affect YOU, though.
I have been actively watching and waiting for Jesus to come and take me away, from what I clearly see coming. I do not believe that there will be a “partial rapture”, in that only those believers who are actively watching for it and believing in it will be taken. However, I do know others who believe that will be the case. Whether you were not truly saved, or whether you were saved but not watching and ready, I cannot say. *Only* Jesus knows your heart as it pertains to salvation.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
I would like to discuss two main errors that lead people astray, and will ask you to examine your own heart to see if you can figure out where you went wrong. For a detailed explanation of the true saving gospel, I would encourage you to read through the preceding chapter on salvation entitled “Choose a Side”. Pay particular attention to any parts where you have thought differently in the past.
The Road Is Narrow
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)
Narrow is the way that leads to life, and few find it. The size of Jesus’ flock is described as “little”. In contrast, the ditches on either side of this narrow road are broad. They both lead to destruction.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-10)
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)
Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray… And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. (Matthew 24:4-5,11)
There is only one gospel which saves. There is only one Christ who saves. There are many false gospels and false Christs. It is likely that people who follow a false gospel or a false Christ are not aware they are following the wrong path and person! Therefore, I greatly urge you to reconsider all that you have been taught. If you were following the right gospel and the right Christ, you would not still be here!!! Start anew and read the Bible with fresh eyes.
First, I would like to share with you a statement of faith, which reveals the true gospel and the true Christ. Once we have found the “right Jesus”, I will review the two main errors found in Christian church teachings. The first error is one of incomplete surrender to Jesus Christ. This is common in inclusive beliefs – being in the world and also of it. The second error is one of adding human works to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is common in many religions – rules, traditions, ceremonies and the like. Those in both ditches may look, act, and feel deeply “religious” or “spiritual”. But, my friend, neither are truly saved.
Statement of Faith
Jesus warned that there would be much false teaching towards the end of this age. For this reason, let’s go through a brief review of what the Bible says.
I believe that the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments (66 books), is supernaturally inspired and inerrant in the original manuscripts. I believe it has been preserved in meaning by God throughout translation, and is both sufficient and authoritative in our lives! The Bible is our “daily bread” – the Word of God. It is the main way God speaks to us! We can only identify the false if we know the true. Thus, I would greatly encourage you to find one and read it as much as possible!
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
I would encourage you not to read or trust any other religious works, such as the Book of Mormon, the New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witnesses), the apocrypha, etc.
I believe in one God who eternally exists and reveals Himself in three persons – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – each having the same nature, attributes and perfections.
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… (Matthew 28:19)
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
GOD THE FATHER
God is our Creator and Sustainer – life exists by Him and through Him. The purpose of this life is knowing God. God is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinite, and unchanging.
To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)
To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him. (Deuteronomy 4:35)
There is so much more that could be said about the Father; however, most error is found within the teachings on the Son and the Spirit.
GOD THE SON
Jesus is our Lord and Savior! Jesus was not created and has no beginning and no end. Jesus *is* God. If you have previously believed that He is “a god” or separate from the Father, that is untrue. By Him and through Him all things were created and are sustained.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:18)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)
I and the Father are one. (John 10:30)
…yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily… (Colossians 2:9)
Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, therefore being fully God and fully man. He lived a sinless life under the Law. He taught and performed many wonders and signs exactly as revealed in the four gospels. By His sovereign choice He came into the world to save those of humanity who would receive Him.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. (1 John 4:14)
Jesus willingly laid down His life, was crucified, and died to pay the penalty for our sins. He raised Himself from the dead on the third day. Forty days later He ascended to the Father’s right hand where He has remained ever since, interceding for his followers as our heavenly High Priest. From there He will come again personally, bodily and visibly to this earth to set up His millennial kingdom.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures… (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:14-15)
GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
I believe that the Holy Spirit is a member of the Holy Trinity, possessing all the divine attributes. He convicts of sin, regenerates, and indwells all believers at the moment of their salvation, with the goal of conforming them to the image of Christ. He teaches, comforts, gives understanding, and power according to our willingness to yield to Him.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? (1 Corinthians 6:19)
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7-11)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:15-17,26)
The Spirit gives spiritual gifts to each believer for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. I respectfully acknowledge that there can be some difference of opinion surrounding the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We see the Holy Spirit working in signs and wonders where the gospel of Jesus Christ is actively being preached, to give testimony to the truth of the gospel (as in Acts). God is not the author of confusion or chaos and believers must always be on guard and test the spirits. (John 16:13-15; 1 John 4:1; 1 Corinthians 12).
It seems probable that the “sealing” ministry of the Holy Spirit ceases at the “rapture” of the church. Therefore, believers would seem to be able to “lose” salvation and must actively persist in the faith until the end (the second coming of Christ).
Humanity was created in the image and likeness of God.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
Through the sin of Adam, the human race has inherited a sin nature and is alienated from God. We remain “dead in our sins” unless we are “born again”. We are enslaved to sin and the god of this world unless we receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Humans are morally corrupt and completely unable to save themselves by any amount of effort. Our works to try to earn or maintain salvation are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Each human ever created will consciously exist in either glory or torment for eternity.
Salvation is a free gift of God that cannot be earned in any way. Salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The Bible makes it clear that every sin has to be punished by death and paid by the penalty of innocent blood. Jesus lived a perfect life on Earth – though He lived as a man under God’s Law, He never broke the Law. This qualified Him to take our sins upon Himself to become a perfect sacrifice. Jesus died on the cross to take our punishment for us. His blood paid the price required by God for our sins. On the third day, Jesus was raised to life, to a new eternal body. When we join God’s spiritual family, we, too, will get a new eternal body someday.
Jesus didn’t just pay PART of our debt, or even MOST of it, leaving some on the tab for us. He paid our ENTIRE debt.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12, 17-21)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
Jesus’ sacrificial death was sufficient to save every human, but many will reject it. God, existing apart from time, has known since before creation (foreknowledge) what each human will choose. Saving faith is demonstrated by actions – faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26) Actions do not necessarily indicate saving faith – salvation is a heart matter.
We are saved when we believe what God says about us – we are sinners desperately in need of saving – and what God says about Jesus – He is God Himself and a Savior, who paid the price for our sins. This change of mind about ourselves and Christ is called repentance.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
It is possible to reject salvation, despite a knowledge of the truth. This is why it is right and good to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
The body of Christ, or the true Church, is composed of all those who have saving faith in Jesus Christ. It exists apart from any building or denomination or tradition. We are united together in one body, under the headship/Lordship of Jesus. We are to gather together for worship, prayer, accountability, fellowship, teaching, good works, spreading the gospel, and exercising spiritual gifts.
And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23)
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-28)
It will likely be very difficult and dangerous to gather together with other believers during this time period.
Total immersion water baptism is an act of obedience to Christ following salvation. It is an outward manifestation of an inward reality, and represents identification with Christ’s death and resurrection. It is a symbol of the “new birth”. Baptism itself does not save and is not required for salvation. However, if you are able to find a way to be baptized, it would seem advisable to do so.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
Baptism can be performed by any true believer and should be done in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
As believers, we are commanded to observe the Lord’s Supper, or communion, in remembrance of the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins. We are not saved through communion, but perform it to fellowship with Christ. The bread and wine are not actually the body and blood of Christ; they are symbols of a spiritual reality. Often crackers and grape juice are used in place of bread and wine – substitute and participate as you are able!
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Corinthians 11:23-29)
We are to examine our hearts before taking part and are not to take it lightly. Each time we participate in communion we look forward to being with the Lamb of God forever!
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
Once saved, we are called to abide in Christ and grow in holiness. We are to lay aside the world with its’ passions and walk in newness of life. We still sin, but the Holy Spirit will convict us when we do. It is our job to listen to Him and follow His lead. If we “grieve” or “quench” Him, we may be disciplined by God.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:16-25)
But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ( Ephesians 4:20-24)
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15)
We are called to a life of service and good works – we are meant to bear fruit. These things don’t save us or maintain our salvation, but are the result of saving faith.
Many churches in these “latter days” are preaching a “watered-down gospel”. Their message is one of inclusion and love. Filled with feel-good messages designed to build its’ hearers up, it is lacking in the call to repentance. God is love, but that’s not all that God is. God is also holy.
In the statement of faith above, I want you to particularly pay attention to the section on “the Christian life”. Followers of Christ are called to devote themselves to Him wholeheartedly. We are to be in the world, but not of it. We are set apart for holiness!
Jesus often actively turned away those who did not desire to follow Him with all their hearts:
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:15-19)
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19)
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)
In my own journey to saving faith, God used several illustrations to reveal my half-hearted commitment to Him. The first illustration has to do with Jesus’ stern warning to the lukewarm church:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
I had heard Jesus knocking on the door of my heart. I had opened the outer door, and spoken with Him many times. But He revealed to me that I was talking through the “screen door” – I was keeping Him out on the porch!
Another illustration God brought to my mind was one of a four course meal. This illustration relates to the parable of the soils. I will not quote the entire parable here, but you can find it in Matthew chapter 13. This is Jesus’ explanation of its’ meaning:
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:18-23)
While you are possibly quite familiar with this parable, I will illustrate it for you in another way. The hard packed soil, is like one who is offered a new food to try, but refuses – spitting it out. The rocky soil is like someone who views following Jesus like an appetizer – something to try or snack on, little bits at a time. The weedy soil is like someone who views following Jesus as a side dish – He’s there, in their lives, but on the side. The good soil is someone to whom Jesus is their main course – their life revolves around Him.
If this is you, don’t hold back any longer! Choose to love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength.
The other grievous error that may have gotten you to this point is the belief that humans can and must somehow add to the finished work of Christ. Note how the ones Jesus doesn’t know are making their plea based on what they have done. My friend, trying to work to earn or maintain your salvation in any way, shape, or form is the equivalent of heaving dirty menstrual pads at the cross of Christ.
For we all have become like one who is [ceremonially] unclean [like a leper], And all our deeds of righteousness are like filthy rags; We all wither and decay like a leaf, And our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing], like the wind, takes us away [carrying us far from God’s favor, toward destruction]. (Isaiah 64:6 AMP)
You cannot be worthy of salvation. Nothing – NOTHING AT ALL – can make you worthy. Trying to do so is is commonly known as “legalism”. It is what the Pharisees were guilty of – missing the heart of the gospel.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:23-28)
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven… You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:17-20, 48)
There is only One who is good – Jesus (Luke 18:19). The only way we can be perfect, is by having Jesus’ perfection applied to us. We are utterly, and completely, helpless to do anything about our condition.
My personality type is very stringent – I like rules, lists, organization. I like to be in control and know what to expect! I did not personally struggle with believing the facts about the Bible or salvation. What I struggled with was getting my heart to surrender fully to what my head believed. This verse in particular terrified me:
“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.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
I knew I wanted to be saved – or, at least I knew I wanted to go to heaven. I tried to “be saved” by doing what saved people do… in order to prove to myself that I was saved. But, my friend, we can’t be saved by our own efforts, no matter how much we try! No matter how badly we want it, we can’t work hard enough to earn it or be worthy of it. There is only one way off this crazy wheel and that is to STOP.
Very clearly, Jesus tells you to STOP.
Stop striving, stop trying. Throw yourself at Jesus’ feet, acknowledging that you are wretched, poor, blind and naked. Release control. Surrender the process to God – “I can’t do anything, God! Please do it for me! It’s too big for me – I need YOU!”
My friend, it is finished.
Rest in the finished work of salvation. Only then will your works be “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18). You’ve been going about this your way – the wrong way – and you must choose to follow HIS way, with HIM in control.
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)
It’s exactly as Jesus said, we must become like little children. Salvation is described as being “born-again”. When we are born, we are babies. Helpless, dependent. Like little children, we have faith that our Father will take care of us (and this heavenly Father does so perfectly). He says what He means, He means what He says, and we choose to obey Him because we trust and love Him. Even if you don’t understand His rationale. Some day, you will understand!
At this point, it doesn’t matter where you went wrong. What matters is what you choose to do today, and from this day forth. When we see how far short we fall of God’s glory, when we realize our utter inability to do anything about it, when we desire to clothe ourselves with Jesus’ blood and righteousness, when we TURN from following ME to following HIM, we are saved. We don’t have to SAY or DO anything. It happens in our hearts – it doesn’t even have to be a prayer.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Memorize this verse. From now on, you will need to repeatedly examine yourself to see if you are in the faith – because it will be possible to lose your faith. God is offering you a second chance to pass the test! This time, you need to surrender your whole heart to Him and be willing to die for Him, just as He died for you.