WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE SAVED? 

A Sermon Presented by Ed Meelhuysen

Scripture Reading: Matt. 19:16-26.

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

"Which ones?" the man inquired.

Jesus replied,

"`Do not murder,
do not commit adultery,
do not steal,
do not give false testimony,
honor your father and mother,' and
`love your neighbor as yourself.' "

"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Sermon:

It had been a long day, Jesus had been ministering to many people. He had gone over the Jordan into Judea, and many crowds had followed Him. Those pesky Pharisees were still after Him, asking questions that they really weren't seeking answers for.

Some mothers had come to Jesus to have Him bless their children, but the disciples in seeing the little ones, decided that Jesus shouldn't really be bothered. "Go away," they said, "the teacher is busy." Jesus noticing the heartache and tears in the mothers' eyes, beckoned to the disciples, ""Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

The disciples turned away as the children happily ran to Jesus. He held them on his lap and blessed each one.

The disciples noticed a well dressed young man approaching them. "Aha! Finally, someone of worth wants to meet with Jesus. Just the kind we are looking for!"

As soon as the children are gone, they usher him in to see Jesus. "Jesus, this man would like to speak to you."

Jesus notices the fine clothing of his visitor and smiles at him.

The young man steps forward. "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

The disciples' ears perk up and they press in a little closer. "Eternal life, the goal of every man, immortality!"

"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

"Which ones?" the man inquired.

Jesus replied,

"`Do not murder,
do not commit adultery,
do not steal,
do not give false testimony,
honor your father and mother,' and
`love your neighbor as yourself.' "

"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

What does it take to be saved? As we approach the end of this world's history, this becomes a very important question.

Isaiah 24, the beginning of the apocalyptic section of Isaiah, presses home the point that only a very small portion, a remnant will be saved on the great day of the Lord.

Isa. 24:1 See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants--

Isa. 24:5, 6 The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth's inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left. (this obviously implies a remnant)

Isa. 24:13 So will it be on the earth and among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, or as when gleanings are left after the grape harvest. (again this implies a small remnant)

It has been prophesied that not one in twenty of the names that are on the books of our church at the time of the end will be ready to meet Jesus Christ when He returns in the clouds of glory. Not one in twenty! And we are supposed to be part of the remnant church!

When I learned of that recently, I was torn up. My wife and I cried. Why and how could this happen? When God has given us so much light, why are so few to be saved?

I believe it is because we have forgotten, are ignorant of or choose to ignore the true essence of salvation. We do not know what it takes to be saved or we choose to ignore the information provided in God's Word.

We are not going to be judged by what our pastor, neighbor or friend tells us. We will be judged by our relationships with God and our fellowman and our obedience to the truth as portrayed in God's Word.

Since January of 1991, I have been doing a lot of Bible study, especially the apocalyptic sequence of the last days. What I found there has enormous relevance to God's remnant people.

I have also been compiling Scripture on various topics of the Bible. I compile every verse in the Bible on a given topic, using a computer program.

As I prepared the material for the compilation on Repentance, Forgiveness, and Salvation, I was struck by some of the verses there, especially what Jesus said about salvation and eternal life. We often hear what Paul says about salvation, but most people seem to ignore what Jesus says, and I consider Jesus to be the foremost authority. Would it make sense to you that Paul must be interpreted through the filter that Jesus provides and not vice versa?

Let's look again at what Jesus told the rich young man when he asked "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Jesus said, "Keep the commandments."

Yet the young man realized that that was not sufficient; that something was still lacking.

Jesus said, "What you lack is a relationship with me. Give up what stands between you and me, and come follow me."

At that point, the rich young man was at a crossroads;   He had to make a decision. Would he give up what hindered him, what kept him from heaven? Or would he keep those hindrances?

Sadly, he walked away, never to return.

2Pet. 1:10, 11 says "Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

1Pet. 1:14-16 says "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

God has called us to a life of obedience, of unselfishness, of freedom from sin.

At the beginning of the apocalyptic sequence of events in Revelation is the choosing, or sealing of the 144,000. These are very literal people, called to do a special task. Let's look at their characteristics.

Rev. 14:1 Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. (They have consciously chosen God)

2 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. (They are unique among those saved)

4These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. (they have not absorbed any false doctrines) They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. (They reflect Jesus' character fully) They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. (They are the cream of the crop, the first fruits)

5No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. (they have perfected their characters, they are perfect, blameless.)

Those who are to be saved through the time of the end will share the characteristics of the 144,000!  Let's keep this in mind as we continue.

The essence of salvation consists of two components.

• First is the repentance and forgiveness of sins which leads to a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is exemplified by Christ's grace as He forgives us.

• The second is the consequence of that relationship. Genuine repentance leads to obedience to the commandments of God, because of love. We respond to God's love.

But some will quote Paul and say the commandments were nailed to the cross.  They were done away with.  Oh really?  Look at what Jesus says,

Matt. 5:17-20 "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. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks 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 practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Some people equate the phrase "to fulfill the Law" as abolishing, eliminating them. But Jesus' first sentence here tells you that he didn't come to abolish them!  Let's make sense here!  Jesus said, "I have come to fulfill them."  Others suggest that this means that Jesus came to, "fill the law full of meaning."

I would like to suggest that Jesus came as our representative, the forerunner of his followers. "I have not come to abolish the Law, but to show you how to keep it!"

He came to show us that the righteous requirements of the law could be met, that the law could be kept by men with fallen natures in concert with the power of God.

Hebr. 4:15, 16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are --yet was without sin. [Therefore] Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

When is our time of need? Isn't it when we are being tempted to sin, to break our relationship with God?

When we are tempted, we may boldly approach God.   "God grant me strength to overcome the devil's temptation. I claim your Biblical promise, 'Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).'   Thank-you that Jesus showed me the way, and for the power you give me.  In Jesus' name, Amen!" 

And then look at Jesus. See Him on the cross, see Him in the tomb, see Him resurrected. By beholding we become changed!

After working on the initial draft of this sermon, I had an opportunity to practice what I was going to preach. My wife was working one evening, and I was home with my two young boys, 2 years and 6 months. It was around 8 p.m. and both kids were tired and crying. At one point, Mark, the youngest, let out a particularly loud cry of angry frustration and frankly, I felt like wringing his little neck. At that moment, I thought about the above, and I prayed for strength to not sin, to follow Christ's example. I beheld Christ suffering on the cross for my sins. I saw Him lying cold in the tomb. I beheld him conquering the grave, for me that I might have life. By the time I had finished, the anger was gone. The peace of God had settled upon the room and both children had stopped crying. Satan was gone.

God said, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Christ has shown us the way, let us follow in His footsteps.

As I studied the process of growing in grace and works, I initially struggled with it. I prayed "Lord, but how do I distinguish grace and works from legalism?" As I prayed late one evening, He gave me a beautiful example.

Salvation is lot like marriage. It consists of two main components,

1) The public commitment or affirmation of one's love for one another, and

2) The actual consummation of the marriage relationship through the intimate act of marriage and the daily contact and communication that provides growth and maturity and oneness.

Gen. 2:24 says, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."

Obviously, as most of you married people can testify, there are additional components of a marriage. But for this analogy's sake, let us use these two.

The public affirmation of salvation occurs as one stands up and walks forward during a call for decisions. Alternatively, it may be in the quiet of one's car or home that one makes a decision for Christ. This decision is followed by baptism as the convert desires to affirm publicly his marriage to Jesus Christ. This is what I call the wedding phase.

Part 2 involves the consummation of that marriage by obedience to the Law of God, the commandments of Jesus Christ, out of love for Him. It involves prayer and Bible study time, communicating with the Source of strength.

David, who was called a man after God's own heart broke every rule in the book, but yet he loved God with a love that most of us can't fathom. In the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalms 119, David "oohs and aahs" over God's law, His statues, His commands.

I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees. (vs. 46-48)

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. (v. 97)

I hate double-minded men, but I love your law. (v. 113)

All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross; therefore I love your statutes. (v. 119)

Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path. Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. (vs. 127-129)

I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly. (v. 167)

David was married to God. And he loved God's character as revealed in His Law and statutes. God was proud to claim David as His own. David's law keeping, or attempt thereat, came as an outgrowth of his love for God.

Back to the marriage parallels. . .

Suppose a couple dates and decides to engage in sexual intercourse. Are they married? Of course not! In fact the Bible says that they are engaged in adultery. They are committing sin.

In a parallel sense, when someone attempts to keep God's law without a relationship, without first a cleansing of the soul through repentance and forgiveness, he or she forms an adulterous relationship with God's law and this we call "Legalism". The rich young man was going through the motions of keeping the law, but he was doing it outside of a marriage relationship. Jesus beckoned him, "Come, follow me." And the young man turned away. His efforts were of none effect and eternal life eluded him.

Similarly, the Scribes and Pharisees, attempted to keep the words of the law rigorously, at least externally, but failed at the relationship part. They too were as lost as the rebellious thief on the cross.

Let's look at the flip side. A couple I know enjoyed being together during their dating time and decided to get married. The wedding bells rang, the bridesmaids and groomsmen looked wonderful, the air was filled with the perfume of flowers. The preacher preached and the couple said their vows. They opened their presents and after changing into their going away outfits, waved goodbye to their guests. We considered them married. But were they?

That night, as the groom waited expectantly, the bride came out of the bathroom and told him, "If you think I am going to be submissive and make love with you, you can forget about it."

Frankly, at this point, if I had been the groom, I would have said, "Forget it! This marriage is cancelled, unless you decide to change your decision."

However, the groom, being true to his vows, patiently tried to woo back the girl he thought he had married. Stubbornly, she refused his love and refused to consummate the relationship. Finally, after two and a half years, their marriage counselor told him that it was of no use. Things would not change.

At this point, he sadly filed for a marriage annulment which was granted on the basis of fraud. She had frauded him of his rights as a husband and marriage partner.

Our secular government even recognized that their relationship was not a marriage. Wedding or no wedding, it was not a marriage.

Similarly, many Christians claimed, "saved by grace, no works required." The wedding bells toll, the organ plays, the water swirls and they say, "I am married to Jesus. Praise the Lord."

But that night or sometime later, they say to Jesus, "Follow you? Submit to You? Obey You? Keep Your commandments? You got another thing coming!" They turn on the TV, forget their communication time, they desecrate the true Sabbath [see the compilation, "The Sabbath and the Lord's Day"], they hate their boss and covet their doctor's BMV. They break God's commandments and thus fraud Jesus of his husbandly rights. Softly and tenderly, Jesus tries to woo them back, but to no avail. Finally the angels cry, "Fraud!" and the Holy Spirit is withdrawn. Jesus sadly lifts His pierced hands and waves goodbye. The marriage is annulled.

Paul in his defense before King Agrippa testified to his past behavior,

Acts 26:19, 20  "So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds."

Grace is shown to all, the good and the wicked. Yet the wicked keep on doing evil and regard not what God wants of them. The righteous yearn, they long for God, walking in the way of God's laws. In the apocalyptic section of Isaiah, chapter 26 verses 8-10 it says:

"Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the LORD."

This two part aspect of salvation can be found throughout the New Testament. Paul writes again,

1Ths. 1:3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

And we find more in some of the strongest passages in Revelation.

Rev. 12:17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring --those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

And in the third angel's message to the world,

Rev. 14:12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.

Friends -- Christianity is at a crossroads! Are we willing to give up the things that hinder and keep us from eternal life, from a full and complete relationship with Jesus Christ? Are we willing to do our part in the process of sanctification, or do we expect to be cleansed when Jesus comes? One of my favorite Christian authors, Ellen White wrote something that I found enlightening. She wrote:

"We are preparing to meet [Jesus Christ] who, escorted by a retinue of holy angels, is to appear in the clouds of heaven to give the faithful and the just the finishing touches of immortality. When He comes He is not to cleanse us of our sins, to remove from us the defects in our characters, or to cure us of the infirmities of our tempers and dispositions. If wrought for us at all, this work will all be accomplished before that time. When the Lord comes, those who are holy will be holy still. Those who have preserved their bodies and spirit in holiness, in sanctification and honor, will then receive the finishing touch of immortality. But those who are unjust, unsanctified, and filthy will remain so forever. No work will then be done for them to remove their defects and give them holy characters. The Refiner does not then sit to pursue His refining process and remove their sins and their corruption. This is all to be done in these hours of probation. It is now that this work is to be accomplished for us."

Probation for the antediluvians did not close when the rains came. It ended days earlier when the door to the ark was closed.

Ezekiel 9 talks about the sealing or marking of God's people. In verse 4, God tells the man in linen to mark all of his people, "those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in God's temple." Verse 6 says that the marking began "with the elders who were in front of the temple."

1 Peter 4:17 says, "It is time for judgment to begin with the family of God."

Probation for God's people will close near the beginning of the events of Revelation.

Yes, Jesus Christ is coming soon, but more importantly, probation for God's people will soon close.

I am fully convinced that the events foretold in Revelation are about to begin. God is looking for a blameless, pure, undefiled people. Will you be one of them? Will you respond to God's calling.

Jesus calls to you with outstretched hands:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)

Will you respond? Will you reply, "Yes Jesus, I want to go all the way with you?" If so, will you say "I do"?

Will you again say, "Jesus, I want to go all the way with you. To love, honor and obey, COMPLETELY, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, in times of prosperity and poverty, in time of ease and in times of tribulation, from this day forward, until you come in the clouds of heaven"? If you do and you mean it, will you say "I do!"

Dear God of Heaven, Creator of heaven and earth, Our Redeemer and Savior.  Today we are committing or recommiting our lives into your hands. We want Jesus to be our husband. We will be submissive and obedient to your commands. Like Ruth said to Naomi, we say to you:

where you will lead us, we will go,
what you want us to be, we will be,
how you want us to live, we will live, and
whatever you have commanded, we will obey,
and may only death separate you and us until we meet in Your kingdom.

We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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