Let’s begin our journey with Matthew 7:21-23. The Son of God states: “Not everyone who says to Me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven but those who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, remember that we prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name and did many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who work lawlessness.”
What appears to be clear in the above verses is that Jesus is unimpressed with their ability to do good deeds in His name. Also, that it’s possible to work for the Lord without actually walking with the Lord. In addition to that the pride of the unconverted heart causes a barrier between the people and Jesus. Pride, an exalted attitude that boasts ‘look at what I did’, does not just seek to influence our decisions, it seeks to contaminate and control our entire being. This may be why Psalm 138:6 says: the Lord “knows the proud from a distance.” The people who Jesus referred to in this case did not mention anything of their trust in His sacrifice nor did they express any gratitude for His mercy. They presented a bucket of receipts which served as proof that they were deserving of the divine reward because of their own sacrifices, deeds and actions.
Now, let’s compare this first group with another that is quite the opposite. In Matthew 25:31-40 (I will begin at verse thirty-seven): “Then the righteous will answer Him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You? Thirsty and give you something to drink? A stranger and took You in? Naked and clothed You?” Notice that the attitude of this group is one of such humility that they do not recall their good actions as grounds for any reward. In fact, they appear to have forgotten about ever doing any works in Jesus’ name that was worth boasting about. We see that the proud in heart are far from the lovely Saviour but the humble find comfort in His presence.
So far I have mentioned pride and humility and think it’s a good time to address the question, ‘what do we need to be saved from?’ In the Bible the word saved means to be rescued or delivered. Pride is the fruit of the seed of sin and sin, according to 1st John 3:4 is “lawlessness”. Lawlessness in the above verse does not mean that we are living without law but that we are living contrary to the divine law of God. Although Exodus 20 provides us with a list of ten laws, we are challenged to look beyond the behaviour and into the driving source which resides in our hearts. In Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus took it a step further when He connected the function of the law to the condition of our hearts. One example is: “You have heard it said ‘you should not commit adultery’ but I say to you whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart.” (verses twenty-seven to twenty-eight).
There is a carnal law, which rewards death and a divine law which rewards life. We are always functioning according to one of these two laws which means we are never apart from a law; sometimes we shift between the two. We were born into the deep and muddy waters of bondage to the carnal law. From our first breath we express interests in self and self alone. Which means death is our guaranteed inheritance except for the grace of God. By death, I do not simply mean the moment we take our last breath. Instead, I mean living apart from the Source that fills us with meaning, purpose and satisfaction. We are born with a mind that wants nothing to do with the divine law. Romans 8:7 states: “…the carnal mind is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” This mind is what we need to be saved, rescued and delivered from.
Now, let’s finish this journey by focusing on the solution to our problem and allow the Bible to answer our opening question. John 3:16 possibly one of the most taken for granted verses in the Bible, states: “For God so loved the world (please, read it with your name in place of the word ‘world’) that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes (trusts) in Him would not perish but receive eternal life.” Since pride is the fruit of sin the only way for us to forfeit trusting in our own selves for salvation is by receiving the gift of a new nature that would allow us to lay our egos in the dirt and humbly trust God to do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves. In chapter six verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine Jesus was asked by a crowd who wanted to do His works: “‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus responded, ‘The work God requires is this, to believe (trust) in the One He has sent.’”
To the question ‘am I saved?’ I do not think that God wants the answer to be a mystery to us. Some questions for us to consider for ourselves are:
• Do I trust Jesus’ sacrifice over my own efforts to gain God’s acceptance? John 3:17
• Has there been a change in my affections from a love of sin to a love of righteousness? Luke 19:1-10
• Am I experiencing conviction of sin and open to receiving God’s correction? Revelation 3:19
• Am I bearing the fruit of righteousness (humility, love, joy, temperance, etc.)? Galatians 5:15-26
• Do I desire God and Him above all else? Philippians 1:21
Heavenly Father, please help us to know You more personally and in a saving way. Amen.