The Way to Salvation is Difficult
Reading from Matthew 22:17-21: “Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny (not a penny as we think of one; this was a coin worth significantly more). 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Man was made by God in His image for God’s service and God’s purposes. When this is carefully considered and comprehended, even a tiny bit in line with a Biblical understanding of the extent of man’s obligations towards His Creator, this is one of the most awesome and terrifying statements ever uttered!
Revelation 4:11: “ Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
And then Acts 17:24-28 says: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 Neither is worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”
Along these lines, God warned a man in the Bible through His servant Daniel of his imminent judgment for worshiping idols compatible with the pursuit of his own pleasure and glory.
Daniel 5:23b and 5:27b: “And the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified;”- and would Daniel would go on to tell him “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”
Not even the understanding of what it means to properly worship and glorify the true God is enough until that understanding is truly submitted to.
Mark 12:28-34a: “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (And by the way, this is why it is our duty to protect unborn babies from their potentially murderous mothers and those who would aid them in their murder) 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”
Modifications don’t cut it. Conflict of interests must be decided in favor of the truth of the God of the Bible so that the interests which create the conflict are crucified and put down (as much as they oppose the truth of God). Neither will man’s innovations substitute for true submission to the God of the Bible in order to worship Him according to His own terms in spirit and in truth. Cain learned this lesson in a hard way early on in Scripture; and God’s rebuke to him to drive this lesson home is the instance where man’s anger is first recorded in the Bible. Man’s own ideas to get around submission to God, and man’s offering of the leftovers of his life to Him, thinking God He will be pleased with such, provoke Him to anger.
Malachi 1:8: “ And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts.”
Proverbs 15:8-11: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight. The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness. Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die. Hell and destruction are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?”
1 Samuel 15:22b-23a: “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”
The way of the world is to take care of yourself first, to put first the things you need (or think you need) and the things you highly value- and then maybe offer to God something from there, if you acknowledge Him at all. Or maybe even more convenient, just sculpt your understanding of God so that pursuing him and pursuing your own interests first are pretty much compatible already. Yet Jesus said that to serve God acceptably you must worship and serve Him according to how He has revealed Himself, according to His terms, with one’s natural interests not taking precedence over submitting to God and doing what is righteous before Him.
Jesus’ use of hyperbole to express this only drives the point home deeper that you can’t cut corners in this nor allow it to take a backseat.
Matthew 6:24-34: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment (clothing)? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
It’s obvious that multitudes will go to hell for not abandoning that which is obviously wicked and immoral in God’s sight. I could quote dozens of Bible verses about how fornicators (all who are sexually immoral in any way), liars, idolaters, murderers, thieves, those who hate and dishonor their parents, those who practice witchcraft and all sorcery, etc will surely have their part in the eternal lake of fire. That is certainly true! Yet it still doesn’t in itself express the depth of submission to worship and serve the true God acceptably that must be in an individual’s heart in order for them to inherit salvation There must be an unwavering intent to truly love God and do what is pleasing in His sight. Only these will inherit His kingdom. It must stem from a proper recognition of His authority, power, character, and His sovereign right to us. That recognition must be applied by a living faith that obeys Jesus Christ and holds on to Him as if one’s only hope is truly in being properly related to Him. He is indeed the one and only Lord and Savior.
Luke 18:10-14: “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican (tax collectors employed by the Romans who had a reputation for greed and dishonesty). I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
This man that exalted himself didn’t break before God through a recognition of his deep obligation to Him and his deeply deserved condemnation for his sins. He rested in the fact that he looked better than men who did not seem so moral outwardly and who were not as religiously scrupulous as himself. Yet someone who glories like this inevitably comes short of worshiping God in spirit and truth (like Christ rejecting Jews have always been; and like many professing Christians too). He is thus no better off before God than the openly immoral. And when a person, whether they had been openly immoral or not, gets the message and repents of their treason towards the Lord and every expression of that, so that they worship and glorify Him from the heart like the shallow religious man failed to do- and follows through with works in keeping with repentance, there will be forgiveness, justification, and life since God is merciful and gracious in a way which the world in general does not esteem, and the religious world especially does not embrace, but rather is offended by. No flesh will glory in God’s presence. And those who retain their natural pride and any and all concepts which oppose the true God and the Lordship of Christ will not be ready to stand before God.
(Continuing in) Luke 18:15-27: “And they brought unto him also infants (i.e. very little children), that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”
This man looked good. This man was indeed better than most. This man had a great spiritual hunger and a strong intent on getting right with God. He had nothing openly immoral nor obviously wrong to repent of. Yet he was not detached from every hindrance to walking before God in truth and righteousness. To be a disciple of Christ who could indeed be taught in that, as children can be molded by instruction due to the qualities which they generally possess, was something this ruler lacked. In his case, by selling everything that he had his false security in money, along with his good name and prestige in the eyes of society, would be dealt a death blow which would free him to live to please God and be molded by truth. His pomp and natural pride would thus be broken. These are things which children generally don’t really have; and they are things the poorest of this world typically don’t have as much of. This has to do with why they have an advantage to laying hold of salvation in Christ compared to others. Yet man’s flesh is so evil and deceitful that there can even be a pride in poverty which prevents him from being a true disciple of Christ who is submitted to His Word and an heir of God’s kingdom. Building one’s life on the solid rock of Jesus Christ’s authority is a great work of the heart no person can come to true faith in Him apart from. Many come short of this because they don’t thirst for righteousness and life from God. They also do not value being just in His sight like they ought to in recognition of His eternal power and the inherently eternal consequences of our response to Him in this life. Many do however come to a shallow faith in Christ which leaves them bound by sin and bound in the pursuit of righteousness. This will not profit a man on Judgment Day.
Luke 6:46-49: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.”
Luke 13:23-24: “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”
There is no such thing as a sinful saint, no such thing as a half-hearted Christian who is on track to being saved, and the lukewarm will get spewed out of Jesus’ mouth as He said in Revelation chapter 3. There are many false teachers who promote many false jesuses. Transgressors are getting worse. Seducers who have a form of godliness, yet deny the power thereof, are getting worse and more subtle as well.
James 1:12-27: Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
And then as the Book of James continues it speaks about a key aspect of being a doer of the word, of visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and of keeping oneself unspotted from the world. And that is by not having the faith of Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. And that is truly one of the most difficult aspects of righteousness; and where multitudes fail and live in sin, even if there is much about Christianity otherwise which they appreciate and might be willing to walk in.
To not be tainted in our moral judgments and our choices related to worship is easier said than done. To not be tainted by our race, ethnic group, family, or some group we see as our own when evaluating actions related to such is a hard thing. When Moses did the right thing to defend the Hebrews from the oppression of the Egyptians, he not only fell from the grace of the Egyptians he had come to see himself as a part of, he was also not appreciated by the Hebrews and he got driven from them as well. The Apostles of Christ were Jews who, like the One they served, were rejected by the Jews. Yet many early Christians fell away from Christ to get back into the good grace of the larger Jewish community. Righteousness demands we be ready to face rejection from our own tribe, whether that is our immediate family, a larger natural affiliation, or some group which we have come to align ourselves with or hoped to be a part of. It often even involves leaving a church you were raised in; or maybe even harder, a church which you had joined thinking you were doing what was pleasing to God, but later upon receiving better understanding of God’s will in the Bible and/or better understanding of that group, there was a conflict.
The Bible says in Proverbs 17:15: “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.”
It was not to no purpose then that Jesus said:
Matthew 10:37-39: “ He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
And then closely related in Matthew 16:21-27: “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
Obviously following Jesus for anyone will mean a choice to value the things of God over the things which are of men. There will surely be much conflict in this! And choosing right will result in rejection from men and loss in this world. And you can be sure that such rejection and loss in relationship to being faithful to the Lord will happen with relationships you greatly valued and with things (including things like self-image and esteem from certain segments of society) which you greatly valued. Suffering in life is inevitable, but suffering for the Lord’s sake is not. The norm is to turn from the Lord and avoid the suffering for righteousness’ sake which comes with identifying with Him and His cross.
Micah 6:8: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
You cannot be obedient to this exhortation and (thus) be in the grace of God if respect of persons controls you in any way. Consider this exhortation practically in your decisions. What adjustments might you have to make to really do this? This is the true grace of God, since heeding this exhortation in truth is exercising a living faith in Christ whereby one obtains righteousness and life through His death atoning death and saving life. Someone who does will be careful with their eyes on the internet and all other times; careful to how they can use their money for the Gospel and to care for the poor and needy; careful that they don’t defraud their neighbor; careful to read the Bible daily to receive better understanding and instruction of God’s will; careful that they understand well so that they can in truth carefully uphold righteousness and have no part in wickedness. They will not be careful though to get fun and momentary gratification. They will be willing to let these go and only get them as they can have them in righteousness as they wholeheartedly pursue righteousness before God. They will be ready and willing to suffer for truth. And you can be sure that everyone who doesn’t obey this exhortation, including those who get deceived by false jesuses, false gospels, and seducing spirits which don’t line up with God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture did not value righteousness greatly and that they were indeed unwilling to suffer for truth in at least some shape or form.
A lot of sermons end up with soft music, altar calls, sinner’s prayers, and other such things. Yet I want to warn you that you could respond to a thousand such things and never really turn to God in your heart and never really settle the controversies there regarding His rightful reign and authority over you. You have to choose to embrace Jesus Christ so that He is preeminent in your heart, so that you are submitted to learning to observe all He has commanded, and so the truth of His Word is what all your decisions are filtered through. Just because some are so wicked that they filter the truth of His Word out of all their decisions, we should not think that God would accept anything less from us than the opposite! The risen Jesus whom the Apostle John saw in the Book of Revelation is the same Jesus that we will all stand before. Put that on your calendar. Besides the death which will lead to that, it is the only sure thing for us! All other plans should take a backseat to that and be scrapped if they need to be in preparation for that. They are by no means guaranteed to happen anyways.
James 4:13-17: “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. 17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
Revelation 1:10-18: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”
Note: Jesus told John not to fear because John was a righteous man before Him. Those who are not under His reign and submitted to His Word are His enemies. They should indeed fear! They should turn to Him with their whole hearts, fleeing from from the wrath to come by casting away the enmity and transgression against Him in their hearts, in order to prepare to stand before Him in His grace. When He returns, He will judge and make war against His enemies in righteousness, smiting them with the same two-edged sword which proceeds out of His mouth.
Revelation 19:11-16: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords.”
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