The basics regarding this blessing
Although you may have heard that once a person enters into a personal relationship with Jesus that he or she has secured his or her salvation from God forever, but there is no quick and easy way to do this. A quick offering of the “prayer of faith”, which involves one’s words of repentance from a life time of sin and a declaration that one “believes” in Jesus is not a quick fix for a person’s condition as a sinful rebel against God.
Such a prayer is too superficial to be effective. Jesus gave a basic teaching about this matter in his parable about “a sower” to a crowd of people that included his “disciples” (See Luke 8:4-15). In this teaching Jesus explains that the “seed” that fell on a “rock” “withered away, because it had no moisture” (8:6). He explained this point to his “disciples” when they asked him for the meaning of his parable by stating that “the seed is the word of God” (8:11) that is “heard” by various people and “the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away” (8:13). Other hearers of God’s “word” choke its influence out of their lives by giving their attention to “the cares and riches and pleasures of life” so that the possible “fruit” that should come from God’s “word” in their lives “does not mature” (8:14). The “good soil” for the “seed” of God’s “word” is those hearers who “hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (8:15).
The experience of living in a fruitful relationship with Jesus that is eternally secured does not come through a quick infatuation and an easy honeymoon of immediate joys from his “word”. Such an experience with Jesus comes through one’s daily humble surrender to the indwelling influence of his Spirit by faithfully trusting in God’s wise and holy will to enable the hearer of God’s “word” to produce spiritual “fruit” (See Luke 8:14 & 15). Paul indicates that “those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit”, which is a different focus for one’s faith than “those who set their minds on the things of the flesh” (See Romans 8:6). And the “things of the flesh” often include building a resume of a long list of “good” works while avoiding having to list too many bad “sins” or poor choices.
Challenging words from Jesus
Although Jesus attracted “great crowds” (Luke 14:25) of hearers by his authoritative words of teaching and miracles, he challenged them with these words regarding “the cost” of coming to him and seeking to follow him as one of his disciples: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). The “Cross” was not an easy burden for Jesus to “bear”, and just trying to apply its blessings to one’s life by a quick superficial prayer of loving words will not either please him or his Father who sent him into the world to die for rebellious sinners. In order to “please” (Romans 8:9) Jesus and God, one must take up and bear his or her own “cross” and humbly submit to its own pain and shame by daily trusting the indwelling Spirit of Jesus to give one victory over the deadly forces of the “flesh” and the pride of self-glorifying works.
Examples of such trusting faith and submission
According to the inspired biblical statements of Moses, Paul who was the great apostle and teacher of Christian doctrine, and James the brother of Jesus, Abraham (or Abram) was the great model of saving “faith” in the Bible. According to Moses, when Abram heard the LORD God tell him that “a member of his household” (Genesis 15:3) would not be his “heir” but that his “very own son shall be your heir” (15:4) and that his “offspring” (15:5) would be a numerous as “the stars” (15:5), “he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Paul in his basic teaching regarding the importance of faith in a Christian’s life indicates that “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). Further along in his teaching on this matter, Paul indicates that Abraham was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (4:21), which is “why his faith was counted to him as righteousness” (4:22). But James in his commentary regarding Abraham the “father” of his Jewish and Christian “brothers” (See James 1:2, 2:1 & 14) makes the point that “faith apart from works in useless” (James 2:20) when he asks this question: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?” (James 2:21 referring to his willingness to sacrifice his son who was his divinely given “heir” (See Genesis 15:4) as reported in Genesis 22:1-10). From this James concludes 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’” (James 2:22-23).
A careful reading of Moses’ account of Abram’s (Abraham’s) life after “he believed the LORD” (as noted in Genesis 15:6) indicates that he and Sarai became impatient with God for the “heir” that he had promised to give them, so she instructed Abram “to go in to” (Genesis 16:2) Hagar, her servant, as his “wife” (16:3) and she “conceived” a son, Ishmael, for them (See Genesis 16:4-16). When God made a covenant with Abraham and gave him his promise to give him a “son” by Sarai and that he would “bless her” and “nations” and “kings of peoples shall come from her” (Genesis 17:16), he “laughed” (17:17) because he was “a hundred years old” (17:17). Later when three messengers from the LORD appeared to Abraham outside their tent and told him that within the next year that he and Sarah (his wife’s new name from God) would have a son, she “laughed” because she felt that she was “worn out” and her “lord” (Abraham) “is old” (Genesis 18:12). Apparently Abram’s initial experience of “belief” in God’s promise to give him his “very own son” to be his “heir” (Genesis 15:4) had to be tested when God made it clear to Abraham that Ishmael, his son by his wife’s servant, was not the “son” that God had promised to him and Sarah as his “heir”. The test came when God instructed Abraham to take his “only son Isaac” to the “land of Moriah” and “offer him there as a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2). As he prepared to perform the sacrifice to God, Isaac asked his father “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (22:7), Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (22:8) This statement of belief in God’s word and his physical readiness to sacrifice his prostrate son on the altar was the actual demonstration of his mature faithful surrender to God’s will in his life. And an “angel of the Lord” declared to Abraham that “because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply your offspring… and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:15-18).
Examples of the importance of mature fruitful service
In Matthew 25:1-13 Jesus tells a parable about “ten virgins” (25:1) who had been entrusted by “the bridegroom” (25:1) to light the way for him and his bride on their journey to “the marriage feast” (25:10). According to this teaching parable, five of these “virgins” were “wise” (25:2) enough to take “flasks of oil” (25:4) with them in addition to their “lamps” (25:4) so that they would be prepared for a possible long assignment. But five of these “virgins” were “foolish” (25:2) because they “took no oil with them” (25:3), so when “the bridegroom” arrived to begin his journey, they couldn’t trim their “lamps” (25:7) because they were “going out” (25:8). They left the route that they had been assigned to light to go and get more “oil” from the “dealers” (25:9); but, while they were gone, the “bridegroom came” and he and his bride and the five “wise” “virgins” who “were ready” went with him “to the marriage feast” (25:10). But when “the other virgins” (25:11) arrived at the place for the “feast”, they found that the door had been “shut” (25:10). Although they said “‘Lord, lord, open to us’” (25:11), “he” (the bridegroom 25:12) “answered” them saying, “‘I do not know you’” (25:12). Although these “virgins” had been given a divine assignment and they had some resources to use in its service, they were so “foolish” as to remain unprepared to complete it by securing more of the necessary resource (the “oil”) to provide the basic benefit of their assignment. This is a very challenging lesson regarding the importance of being prepared to serve and to be mature enough and wise enough to be fruitful in seeking to live in a personal relationship with Jesus that will glorify God.
In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells another parable about some “servants” (25:14) who had been entrusted with some “talents” (25:15) (money) by their “master” (25:19) that they were to invest for his benefit while he was gone. To one “servant” he gave “five talents”, to another he gave “two”, and to a third he gave “one” (25:15). Both of the “servants” who had received “five talents” and “two talents” invested their resources and were able to return twice the amount of their entrusted resources to their master when he returned, and he rewarded them for their “faithful” service (See Genesis 25: 20-23). But the “servant” who had received only “one talent” had not invested this resource in any way, but he had “hid” (25:25) it. Although he attempted to return the initial resource that he had received to his “master”, his “master” took it from him, gave it to the “servant” who had been most productive, and had the unfaithful non-productive “worthless servant” cast into “the outer darkness” (See Genesis 25:25-30). This is another challenging lesson regarding the importance of mature fruitful productive service in the life of any “disciple” of Jesus who would seek to follow him and to walk with him in an eternal relationship.
In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus tells another parable regarding what he expects from those who would “follow” him and serve with him to glorify God the “Father” (25:34) in the world. In this parable Jesus as “the Son of Man” (25:31, which was a title that he regularly applied to himself) or “the King” (See Matthew 25:34 & 40) describes one aspect of the final judgment that he will make from his “throne” (25:31) in the kingdom of God. In this parable he indicates that he will gather “all the nations” before him and that “he will separate people one from another” (25:32) according to how they responded to the needs of his “brothers” (25:40). To those “people” who responded to his “hungry” “brothers” by giving them “food”, or those who were “thirsty” by giving them something to “drink” (25:35), or those who were “naked” by giving them clothes (25:36), or those who were “sick” or “in prison” by visiting them (25:36) he placed “on his right” (25:33) and he indicated that he, as “the King” would say to them “‘Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (25:34) But to those “people” that he had placed “on his left”, he would say, “‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and angels’” (25:41) because they had not done anything to meet any of the specific personal needs of his “brothers” (See Matthew 25:42-43). Note that in this parable Jesus makes it clear that neither group of “people” were aware of the fact that the individuals that they were serving or not serving were considered by him to represent himself (See Matthew 25: 41 & 45). Those individuals who had refused to provide personal resources and service to those in need would be sent “away into eternal punishment”, but “the righteous” individuals who had provided such resources and services to those in need would be sent “into eternal life” (25:46).
Summary regarding this matter of the eternal security of a “believer” in Jesus
The above three parables of Jesus that have been completely examined seem to clearly teach that God expects those who have received “gifts” and resources for living in relationships with him and Jesus and for serving in the kingdom to be “wise” (See Matthew 25:2) and dependable to do what he has called them to do during the time of their daily activities. And according to Jesus’ parable of a “sower” (See Luke 8:4-15), which we also completely examined, God and Jesus expects those who are “given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:9) that they would understand the importance of being diligent in their lives to allow the “seed” of God’s presence in the “soil” of their lives to “mature” to a level where they would “bear fruit” from their patiently holding “fast” to “the word” of God (See Luke 9:14-15). And it seems to be clear from our examination of Abram’s (Abraham’s) challenging experience of faith in his relationship with God as reported by Moses in Genesis 15:1-6, 16:1-16, 17:1-17, 18:1-12, and 22:1-18 that Abraham had to go through a process of challenges in his responses to God’s “word” in his life before he was actual able to produce a level of obedient and trusting service that would “please God” (See Romans 8:8).
Paul in his letter of teaching doctrine to the Romans has a very extensive and detailed statement about the “faith” (See Romans 4:1-25) of Abraham and how individuals can obtain justifying “access” to God’s “grace” (Romans 5:2) by a “faith” that enables them to “stand” and to “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (5:2) and to be sanctified by their “sufferings” because it “produces endurance” (5:3) that “produces character” that “produces hope” (5:4) in a process that will not put those who engage in it “to shame” (5:5) “because God’s love” will have been “poured into” their “hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to” them (5:5). In this statement Paul is teaching that believing “faith”, like that of Abraham, can secure the “hope” of living forever in “the glory of God” (5:2) when it is allowed to “mature” to its full productive potential through the enabling work of Jesus Christ who died that the faithful believers who “have now been justified by his blood” ( 5:9) “might be saved by him” through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and God’s “free gift of righteousness” (5:17) that can enable them to “be made righteous”(5:19) by his “grace” (5:20) so that they may receive “eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (5:21). In chapters 6-8 of this letter to the Romans Paul goes further in his teaching to explain how such faithful believers “might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4) so that they might “live with him” (6:8) by living as though they were “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11). Then in Romans 6:12-7:25 Paul describes the differences between living as “slaves of sin” (6:20) and “slaves of God” (6:22) and how in his “flesh” he serves “the law of sin” that is identified by the moral commandments of God (See Romans 7:1-20) rather than “the law of God” (7:21) or “the law” of his “mind” (7:23) And in Romans chapter 8 Paul concludes his basic teaching regarding how to faithfully live and to serve “in Christ Jesus” without any threat of “condemnation” ( 8:1) for being unfaithful or unproductive in one’s efforts to serve God and Jesus by living as those who “set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (8:5), because then “The Spirit himself bears witness with” their “spirit” that they “are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided” that they “suffer with him in order that” they “may be glorified with him” (8:16-17).
So if you want to have any confidence for your eternal security in your living relationship with Jesus, make sure that you “set your mind on the Spirit” (Romans 8:6) and patiently “suffer” (8:17) the weight of your “cross” (Luke 14:27) the thieving tactics of the devil to remove the “word” from your heart and mind (Luke 8:12) and the distracting “cares and riches and pleasures of life” (Luke 8:14) as you continue to trust God’s “word” and his indwelling “Spirit” to enable you to perform the service to which he has called you and hear the witness of God’s “Spirit” confirming to your spirit that you are a child “of God” and an “heir” “with Christ” to the glories of God’s eternal kingdom (Romans 8:17).
For additional statements of teaching regarding this matter of salvation see these statements on this website: http://www.christianityetc.org/faith.php, http://www.christianityetc.org/sin.php, and http://www.christianityetc.org/discipleship.php.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV Study Bible English Standard Version. (ESV®), copyright © 2008 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.