“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

4.0 Walking in the Way

(Taking Up Your Cross Daily)

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me,
he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
– Luke 9:23

Taking Up Your Cross Daily. Again, I say welcome new brother or sister in Christ! You have been “born again” (“born of the Spirit”), and Christ now “abides in you,” and you “in Him.” You have been “redeemed” from death to life, “buried with Him through baptism” and “raised with Christ” to “new life”; your sins have been forgiven “as far as the east is from the west” through the blood of Christ on the cross. Amen!

But fully understand that your ultimate goal is not simply to be born again – it is eternal life with God and His Christ Jesus in heaven! You are just now starting your Christian journey, which will continue for the rest of your lifetime. This section of the book prepares you for that pilgrimage, so you do not “come short of” eternal life:

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. – Hebrews 4:1

Much of the material in this chapter has been covered already, but it is summarized again here so you have it in one place. Like The Path to Eternal Life chapter provided a high-level map for the New Testament plan of salvation, this chapter provides a similar map for your Christian pilgrimage.

SALVATION IS A PROCESS, NOT A ONE-TIME EVENT

I first want to review the nature of salvation more fully to set a solid foundation on which to proceed. Eternal salvation doesn’t occur in an instant, nor is it a one-time event or prayer; it is a continually progressive process (called sanctification) that starts at the moment you are born again (initial salvation, forgiveness of sins) but continues throughout the life of a Christian as they walk with the Lord, and doesn’t complete until one receives their “crown of life” (final salvation) – which is awarded to you on the great Day of Judgment by Jesus. The term sanctified means to be set apart for the Lord, being made to conform more and more to the image of Christ. God is still “at work in you” and will be for the rest of your life. True Christianity is a way of life until death.

Being “born again” is just the first, but by far the most important, step on the road to eternal (final) salvation; said differently, being born again is a necessary but not sufficient requirement for eternal salvation. Scripture is clear that “obedience,” action (i.e., “good works,” “bearing fruit” for the Lord), and “persevering” in faith are all required to obtain eternal salvation. Eternal salvation consists of all of these elements:

  1. Being “born [again] of the Spirit”: you have already taken this step,
  2. Submission to the will of God through “obedience” to the “commandments” of Christ as given in the New Testament (not the Old Testament Mosaic Law): this is also called “dying to self” and “taking up your cross daily,” for it is no longer you that lives, but Christ in you. You are now seeking God’s “will be done,” not your own will,
  3. “Abounding in the work of the Lord” (“bearing fruit”): For if you do not act on your faith, it will neither justify you before God nor save you to eternal life. Genuine saving faith will naturally result in “good works” for the Lord. Those who only profess faith have what the Bible calls a “dead” faith, for “faith without works is dead,” and
  4. “Finishing the race”: “persevering” in faith unto death (remaining faithful)

You cannot omit any of those components and meet the Bible’s criteria for being saved to eternal life. Please know that this list isn’t something I made up – it is the truth of what is expressly stated in Scripture. Each of the above topics is covered in more detail in subsequent chapters.

Now you will hear many say they are “saved.” However, recognize that people mean different things when they say that. Some mean that they said the “sinner’s prayer” once and believe they are saved “by faith alone/only” (all the way to eternal life) regardless of how they live the rest of their life – in obedience to Christ or not. I have explained that both are false teachings. Wayne Jackson explains how the words “saved” and “salvation” are used in Scripture: [1]

The verb “saved” is a perfect tense, suggesting the idea of a past act that results in a present state. Salvation from past sins occurs at the point of one’s conversion, and that state abides as long as the child of God walks “in the light” (1 Jn. 1:7).

And further on the nature of salvation: [2]

When many people hear the term “salvation,” they immediately think of something that occurred in their past. Many Protestants believe that salvation was received the instant they expressed a genuine faith in Christ as their personal Savior, and that it never can be forfeited. As we shall notice, these ideas are not accurate.

Let us consider several passages that speak of salvation — from varying “time” vantage points.

Future Salvation

In the Great Commission, according to Mark’s record, Jesus said: “He who believes and is immersed shall be saved…” (Mark 16:16). This passage speaks of the sinner who has never known Christ, but who learns of the Lord, believes his gospel, and, based upon penitent faith, is immersed in water.

What is the result? He “shall be saved.” The verb is a future tense form, the salvation being contingent upon the obedience specified. It is regrettable that so many repudiate this very clear declaration.

First, the text negates the false notion of “universalism,” i.e., the idea that all people will be saved ultimately. Second, it refutes the Calvinistic theory that “election” is “unconditional.” Third, as noted already, it contradicts the erroneous idea that salvation is by “faith alone”; rather, “works” [obedience] also are involved in salvation (see James 2:24). [Note: J.H. Thayer described the “works” in James 2 as having to do with “the conduct of men, measured by the standard of religion and righteousness” (Clark, p. 248). [3]]

Past Salvation

Writing from a different time perspective, Paul reminded Titus that as a result of his kindness and mercy, God saved us, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5).

The verb here is a past tense form. It refers back to the salvation received when one submitted to the “washing” (baptism – cf. Acts 22:16) of “regeneration,” (the new birth – John 3:3-5). This was a result of the “renewing” instruction of the Holy Spirit, operating through the gospel message (Ephesians 6:17). At the point of our baptism, all our past sins were pardoned forever.

Present Salvation

Contrary to the belief of many, the salvation process does not end with our conversion to Christ. One’s redemption is not a “done deal” that never can be forfeited. That is the dogma of Calvin, not Christ.

In a letter to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote: “Now I make known unto you, brothers, the gospel which I preached unto you … by which also you are saved (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). The Greek verb rendered “are saved” is a present tense form; literally, “are being saved” (see also 1:18, ASV footnote.). Salvation is a continuous process as we faithfully live the Christian life.

Future Final

Paul once stated that: “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). Later, he would tell Timothy, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18). The apostle Peter would speak of Christians “receiving the end [goal] of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).

Furthermore, we don’t (can’t) reach a state of perfect salvation while still in our earthly, fleshly bodies. Wayne Jackson writes: [4]

We are in the kingdom now (Col. 1:13), but there is a more glorious phase to yet be entered (2 Pet. 1:11). We enjoy salvation presently (Mk. 16:16), but there is a greater dimension, a heavenly salvation, to be received at death (2 Tim. 4:18). There is a sense in which we are with Christ now (Mt 18:20; 26:29; 28:20), but there is a more exalted state in which we will be with him ultimately (Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8).

PRESS ON TO MATURITY

As a new believer, you are an “infant in Christ,” a new baby Christian if you will, immature in the faith. You must continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and “press on to maturity” “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,” for you can still be “tricked” out of your “crown of life” by the “wolves,” “vipers,” and modern-day “Pharisees” who want to steal your crown by turning you out of the “straight and narrow path” to eternal life.

They will attempt to do so by deceiving you into following the “spirit of error” and the seemingly endless false teachings of man (yes, even after you are born again). And even further, beware that Scripture calls them “ravenous wolves” and false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,” meaning they APPEAR to be true Christians and true Christian churches (they are all dressed up, if you will, to look like Christians, and even use the name of Jesus or Jesus Christ in their church names), but, in fact, they are not adhering to New Testament Scripture, and many even deny the deity of Christ if you look at their statement of faith. They mix some Bible verses together into something that sounds very “biblical” on the surface, but it is not what Scripture teaches.

Also, know that these “wolves” will try every trick “under the sun” to try to turn you away from the truth of Scripture and towards “another gospel which is not another” (i.e., their false teachings). This is why you see false teachings identified all the way throughout this book, from start to finish, and there is an entire section of the book called Beware the Wolves that lists some of the false teachings that are absolutely rampant today and believed by the vast majority of American Christendom. Amazing!

I am trying to warn you about the “snares” (and “doctrines of demons”) that you will almost surely encounter. When starting out, a newly born-again Christian is extremely vulnerable to the forces of evil led by Satan and to the deceptions of man. I have explained that these false teachings are “snares” (traps, pitfalls) that are set up to try to stop you at each step along the way to eternal life, and they don’t stop even after you are born again. These “snares” are laid out in front of and all around you like a minefield or a maze that you have to navigate; their goal is to try to cause you to stumble and fall, to turn you out of the “straight and narrow” path to eternal life, or to cause you to quit the faith altogether and turn back to this world and its sinful fleshly ways. I’m trying to help you from “falling away” from Christ and back towards the world or be “tricked” out of your “crown of life”:

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. – 1 Timothy 4:1

Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. – 2 Peter 3:14-18

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:15-20

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” – Acts 20:28-30

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all time handed down to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into indecent behavior and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. – Jude 1:3-4

To not be “deceived,” you must “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all time handed down to the saints,” and to do that, you must know the sum of the truth of Scripture. I strongly recommend reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan as soon as you can right after this book. It portrays the walk (pilgrimage) of “Christian” from the “City of Destruction” (this world) to that which is to come, the “Heavenly City” (The New Jerusalem, eternal life in heaven). While written as an allegory, the book is chock full of rock-solid biblical truth, and it is also free from the many false teachings that are common today. In particular, you will also note that the “once saved always saved” false teaching, which is of epidemic proportions today, had not infected Christian doctrine, teaching, and publications when the book was written. The book gives great insight into the “way” or “path” or “walk” of a Christian’s life. “Christian,” the main character in the book, runs across all manner of people (helpful and not so helpful), demons, worldly lures (snares), and false teachings by the “wolves” which try to trip him up, stop him from proceeding, turn him from the “straight and narrow” path to life or get him to quit and turn back towards things of the world. Scripture warns us to take great care “so that no one will take your crown [of life]”; yes, the Bible is clear that others will want to see you stumble and fall again!

You will also see that the esteemed writer of that day aligns with what I’m writing in this book also (or actually vice versa, given that I come after him), perhaps giving you some confidence that what I’m saying herein (on this matter, as well as others) is indeed truth and in accordance with Scripture. Below is a small snippet from The Pilgrim’s Progress which describes where Christian finally arrives at the gates of the heavenly city itself, New Jerusalem, which is our eternal destination (heavenly, not earthly), and he sees that “that there was a way to hell, even from the gate of heaven”: [5]

Now, just as the gates [of the heavenly city] were opened to let in the men [Christian and Faithful at the end of their pilgrimage to the Holy City], I looked in after them, and behold the city shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold; and in them walked many men, with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps, to sing praises withal.

There were also of them that had wings, and they answered one another without intermission, saying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.

And after that they shut up the gates; which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.

Now, while I was gazing upon all these things, I turned my head to look back, and saw Ignorance come up to the river side; but he soon got over, and that without half the difficulty which the other two men met with. For it happened that there was then in that place one Vain-Hope, a ferryman, that with his boat helped him over; so he, as the other I saw, did ascend the hill, to come up to the gate; only he came alone, neither did any man meet him with the least encouragement. When he was come up to the gate, he looked up to the writing that was above, and then began to knock, supposing that entrance should have been quickly administered to him; but he was asked by the men that looked over the top of the gate, Whence come you? and what would you have? He answered, I have ate and drank in the presence of the King, and he has taught in our streets.

Then they asked him for his certificate, that they might go in and show it to the King: so he fumbled in his bosom for one, and found none. Then said they, Have you none? but the man answered never a word. So they told the King, but he would not come down to see him, but commanded the two shining ones, that conducted Christian and Hopeful to the city, to go out and take Ignorance, and bind him hand and foot, and have him away. Then they took him up, and carried him through the air to the door that I saw in the side of the hill, and put him in there. Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gate of heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction.

Yes, a Christian can lose his or her “crown of life” simply through ignorance of the Word of God and sheer neglect. If you fail to “press on to maturity,” you are at great risk of “falling away,” backsliding, going apostate, or quitting the faith – I know, for I fell away once. I was the “thorny soil,” where the Word was choked out by the cares and concerns of this world, and because I had not pressed on into maturity of faith, I didn’t even know that it was possible to “fall away” or realize that was happening to me at the time. That I am again walking with Christ now is only due to the unbelievable lovingkindness, mercy, grace, and patience of the Lord, who pursued me and drew me back again. I still don’t quite know why He did that, but I’ve learned my lesson. Perhaps it was so I could help others by having gone through the experience of falling away after having once started out, or maybe it was so I could have the opportunity to write this book to help others avoid the same mistakes I made. Regardless, I’m eternally grateful!

You don’t want to find yourself many years into your Christian walk and yet still need to be reminded of the very basics of the faith:

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. – 1 Corinthians 3:1-3a

Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. – Hebrews 5:11-14

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away… – Hebrews 6:1-6a

If you don’t press on studying and learning Scripture each and every day, you won’t know what Christ expects from those who call on His name, and you won’t be able to spot a false teaching when you encounter one. And further, if you don’t know what Scripture says about what Christ has commanded, how can you be obedient? If you don’t know His commandments, how can you do them? And so on…

We must not be ignorant of the complete plan of salvation as given to us by God in Scripture. The Bible does not condone ignorance (see Acts 17:22-32, Romans 4:15, Leviticus 5:17-18, 2 Peter 3:18, 2 Timothy 2:15). The chapters in this section of the book are, therefore, just as important as the prior chapters were on accepting Christ (i.e., being born again). We read:

Therefore My people go into exile [destruction] for their lack of knowledge;
And their honorable men are famished,
And their multitude is parched with thirst.
Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure. – Isaiah 5:13-14a

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. – Hosea 4:6

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge [i.e., having the correct knowledge and understanding of what is stated in Scripture for salvation]. – Romans 10:1-2

I implore you, brother or sister in Christ, please do not be ignorant of the complete plan of salvation that Scripture actually teaches. We must approach God on His terms, not ours. We must seek and do His will, not ours. And we must “fight the good fight of faith” and “finish the [race] course”! The modern and liberal so-called “Christian” churches of today are not training up their members, or even their pastors, teachers, and elders, to know the complete plan of salvation. It seems to me that the Christian evangelical world spends 99% of its time, money, and effort in preaching on how one is to be born again and almost nothing thereafter on how to train you up properly in the way of a Christian. Wayne Jackson writes: [6]

Christianity: A Religion of Learning

Christianity is a religion of instruction. Where there is no solid biblical instruction, the Christian system can neither commence nor continue.

One of the basic differences between the Mosaic regime (into which one was born physically) and the church of Jesus Christ, is the fact that knowledge is prerequisite to identifying with the faith of the gospel (Jer. 31:31-34). Jesus declared that favor with God must involve instruction, reception, comprehension, and commitment (Jn. 6:45).

Anyone with a smattering of Bible knowledge, and any experience at all within our brotherhood, is aware of the fact that the church of today is facing a time of great crisis.

We have those among us who have a pathetically low regard for the concept of Bible inspiration and authority. Not a few have made serious compromises with the dogma of evolution in an effort to mesh with society.

Many of our people are very fuzzy on what constitutes a Christian. They think the church of Christ is but another denomination. A number of prominent personalities contend that there are few guidelines for regulating worship, and so the church must jazz-up its services to appeal to an entertainment-oriented culture. Basic truth has been thrown to the wind.

Why are things in such a state of chaos? One of the reasons is ignorance. There probably has not been a time in this century when Bible knowledge among the Lord’s people has sunk to such a base level. Let us be more specific.

A Crisis of Spiritual Ignorance

We are suffering a leadership crisis. Where are the godly elders who know the Bible from cover to cover? Where are the bishops who can, and will, stand and exhort in sound doctrine and convict the gainsayers (Tit. 1:9).

There are still some great elders, but far too many who are serving in this capacity have been given the job because they were successful businessmen, had wealth, or possessed other traits that were wholly unrelated to tending the flock of God.

The church has on its hands a new generation of preachers who have matriculated through some of our schools (or denominational seminaries), but who do not understand the most elementary matters about the role of the gospel preacher. They are experts in everything except the Word of God.

These new princes are theological clones who can scarcely frame a sentence that the common man can understand. They know nothing, teach nothing, and stand for nothing—but, unfortunately, numerous people love it this way.

It is no longer the case that the average person in the pew is a good Bible student. Everyone has probably heard the old story about the judge who couldn’t find a Bible in his courtroom with which to swear in a witness. So he simply called for a Christian man and had the witness place his hand upon the brother’s head.

The days are gone when God’s people were known as a “Bible-toting, Bible-quoting, Bible-living” people. Many members of the church never carry a Bible to worship, and they could not cite scriptural references on the most basic doctrinal issues.

Most of our schools are not the solid training centers they used to be. The time was when the presidents and faculty-members of our colleges were great gospel preachers and teachers who knew how to powerfully proclaim the truth and win souls. They were rich in Bible knowledge. Many of our current administrators have arrived in their positions because they are adept at fund-raising.

Too, we have become so “degree” oriented that we have allowed the secular accrediting systems to structure our teaching programs according to their ideals. Many labor under the illusion that one cannot be an effective herald of the gospel unless he has at least a Master’s degree. Is it any wonder that some of our schools have become the Trojan horse by which corruption has wormed its way into the church?

MAKE OUR CALLING AND ELECTION SURE

Nexts, we are strongly and repeatedly exhorted not to take our eternal final salvation lightly or for granted:

  • “Make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10 KJV),
  • “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12),
  • “Be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you” (2 Peter 1:10),
  • “Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,” i.e., when you meet Christ – which happens either at our death or His return, whichever comes first (2 Peter 3:14),
  • “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5),
  • “Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14),
  • “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:12),
  • Make sure you “will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27),
  • “Finish the course…keep the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7), for
  • “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day [the Great Day of Judgment]” (2 Timothy 4:8)

These verses involve several different aspects, but the central theme is that we must do our utmost to be serious, attentive, and determined to make sure that we are always on the path to eternal salvation! The great Apostle Paul wrote on this very topic where he indicates that even he had not yet obtained it [final salvation, eternal life], despite all the things he had already done (including hearing the gospel directly from Jesus!):

Not that I have already obtained it [salvation] or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:12-14

Paul then further writes about not being “disqualified” (even after having started out):

Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. – 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

And if Paul could have been disqualified, how much more you and I! This is why Scripture warns us to:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. – Philippians 2:12-13

Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble. – 2 Peter 1:10

Matthew Henry writes on Philippians 2:12-13: [7]

I. He exhorts them to diligence and seriousness in the Christian course: Work out your own salvation. It is the salvation of our souls (1 Pet 1:9), and our eternal salvation (Heb 5:9), and contains deliverance from all the evils sin had brought upon us and exposed us to, and the possession of all good and whatsoever is necessary to our complete and final happiness. Observe, It concerns us above all things to secure the welfare of our souls: whatever becomes of other things, let us take care of our best interests. It is our own salvation, the salvation of our own souls. It is not for us to judge other people; we have enough to do to look to ourselves; and, though we must promote the common salvation (Jud 1:3) as much as we can, yet we must upon no account neglect our own.

We are required to work out our salvation, katergazesthe. The word signifies working thoroughly at a thing, and taking true pains. Observe, We must be diligent in the use of all the means which conduce to our salvation. We must not only work at our salvation, by doing something now and then about it; but we must work out our salvation, by doing all that is to be done, and persevering therein to the end. Salvation is the great thing we should mind, and set our hearts upon; and we cannot attain salvation without the utmost care and diligence. He adds, With fear and trembling, that is, with great care and circumspection: “Trembling for fear lest you miscarry and come short. Be careful to do every thing in religion in the best manner, and fear lest under all your advantages you should so much as seem to come short,” Heb 4:1. Fear is a great guard and preservative from evil.

II. He urges this from the consideration of their readiness always to obey the gospel: As you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence” Php 2:12. You have been always willing to comply with every discovery of the will of God; and that in my absence as well as presence. You make it to appear that regard to Christ, and care of your souls, sway more with you than any mode of showing respect whatsoever.” They were not merely awed by the apostle‘s presence, but did it even much more in his absence. ”And because it is God who worketh in you, do you work out your salvation. Work, for he worketh.” It should encourage us to do our utmost, because our labour shall not be in vain. God is ready to concur with his grace, and assist our faithful endeavours. Observe, Though we must use our utmost endeavours in working out our salvation, yet still we must go forth, and go on, in a dependence upon the grace of God.

His grace works in us in a way suitable to our natures, and in concurrence with our endeavours; and the operations of God‘s grace in us are so far from excusing, that they are intended to quicken and engage our endeavours. “And work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for he worketh in you.” All our working depends upon his working in us. “Do not trifle with God by neglects and delays, lest you provoke him to withdraw his help, and all your endeavours prove in vain. Work with fear, for he works of his good pleasure. To will and to do: he gives the whole ability. It is the grace of God which inclines the will to that which is good: and then enables us to perform it, and to act according to our principles. Thou hast wrought all our works in us, Isa 26:12. Of his good pleasure. As there is no strength in us, so there is no merit in us. As we cannot act without God‘s grace, so we cannot claim it, nor pretend to deserve it. God‘s good will to us is the cause of his good work in us; and he is under no engagements to his creatures, but those of his gracious promise.

As I have stressed, Christianity is a way of life unto death; it is not simply a one-time event or prayer that happens in an instant (i.e., the “sinner’s prayer”) and it’s all done with and over with for the rest of your life, regardless of what you choose to do or not do thereafter. I have explained to you that salvation (present tense verb in the Bible) means all of these: you have been saved, you are being saved, and you will be saved (in the future). Salvation is an ongoing activity throughout the life of a Christian. The life of a Christian involves all of these:

  1. Continued faithfulness,
  2. Continued repentance (and avoidance of deliberate, willful sin),
  3. Continued obedience (to the Word of God, and specifically to the commands of Christ),
  4. Continual service (“good works”),
  5. Continual reading and studying (eating) of the Word of God so that we “grow in the grace and knowledge” of the Lord,
  6. Continual prayer,
  7. Continual worship, and
  8. Continual thanksgiving

The Bible refers to this as walking in “The Way” of Jesus, for Christ is “the way, and the truth and the life.” You now live in (“abide in”) Christ, and He lives in (“abides in”) you. The way of a Christian only begins when one is born again, and the Christian is then called to “deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

I also recommend reading The Heavenly Footman by John Bunyan, so you can get another author’s perspective on the need to be extremely diligent about ensuring our eternal salvation – for we are not to casually stroll towards it, but run towards it with all attention and seriousness, for our eternal life is at stake. It must be noted that the Lord Jesus even condemned those who had just “lukewarm” faith:

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.’” – Revelation 3:14-19

OBEDIENCE (AND FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD)

Additionally, Scripture is abundantly clear that it is not simply enough to profess Christ; you must also live for Him in obedience. Since many of the “commandments” of Christ involve taking action, you can’t be an obedient “child of God” without also doing “good works” (“bearing fruit”) for the Lord – “prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves,” for “faith without works is dead.” Works are evidence of your faith, and your actions (works) serve to prove your faith genuine – both before man and before God. Even further to the point, we are admonished to be found busy (not idle), always “abounding in the work of the Lord” until we die or He returns (whichever comes first).

Christianity is as much about action as it is about the profession of faith. For if you do not act on your faith, your faith will neither justify nor save you to eternal life; it will be what the Bible calls a “dead” faith – and how can a “dead” faith save you to “eternal life”? There are true believers, and there are “make believers” (the “hypocrites,”  who profess and do not do). But “God is not mocked”; He will sort those out on the Day of Judgment. We are called to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” It is prudent here to recall the words of Jesus on this subject:

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” – John 14:15

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” – Matthew 7:21-27

And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”… “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” – Matthew 13:3-9,18-23

Only you can determine whether you are “rocky,” “thorny,” or “good” soil! Only you can determine if you will “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” and be able to say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” We must always strive to hear “well done, good and faithful servant.” To be a servant means to be obedient (to the commands of Christ) and to be an active worker in the “Kingdom of the Lord” (the vineyard). We are not called to idleness or negligence in attending to (keeping, or more accurately, not losing) our salvation.

FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH

And finally, we must also “persevere” in our faith (remain faithful) until death. Scripture contains repeated warnings that one must “persevere” in faith until death and that one can “fall away” from, “depart” from, turn back, go “apostate,” “backslide,” or simply quit the faith, even after having once started out (i.e., being born again). Contrary to the extremely widespread and popular false dogma today that a Christian is “once saved always saved” no matter what (see the Beware the Wolves chapter, a.k.a. Calvinism “Perseverance of the Saints”), Scripture is abundantly clear that many will not persevere in faith but will instead “fall-away from the faith.” The “once saved always saved” false teaching is in clear contradiction with what is written in Scripture.

Scripture does inform us that the way of a Christian is not always easy. You may be severely tested at times; sadly, many of the saints that have come before us had to seal their faith and testimony in Christ with their own deaths in martyrdom for Christ. Jesus warns us about this:

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” – John 15:18-19

“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” – Matthew 24:9-13

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” – Luke 9:23-26

In fact, the way of a Christian (take up his [your] cross and follow Me [Jesus]) has been one of extreme peril down throughout the centuries. Even today, in many parts of the world, a Christian’s life is marked by trial, tribulation, and even persecution unto death. Even in the more “enlightened” parts of the world, a Christian can still face mocking, scorn, ridicule, discrimination, and economic sanctions. If you want to get a fuller appreciation of the atrocities committed against Christians over the years, I recommend reading The Church History by Eusebius and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (The Actes and Monuments) and The Church History by Eusebius. Doing so will give you a much greater understanding of the persecution that the Christians who have gone before us have endured. Living as a Christian in a fallen world takes courage, strength of character, endurance, and above all, complete trust in the Lord in all things at all times.

When you come to Christ, you are giving Him your life to do with as He pleases; you are now a “bondservant” of Christ, for He bought and paid for you with His blood, having “redeemed” (purchased) you from slavery to sin. Do you think it worthy of sacrificing everything of this world, even your own life, for your eternal soul? Many Christians have had to sacrifice everything, including fame, jobs, power, possessions, friends, family, fortunes, and even their lives for their faith. The apostle Paul writes:

For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, “The will of the Lord be done!” – Acts 21:13b-14

For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. – Romans 14:7-8

Paul further writes that he had not yet obtained his Crown of Life, that he still presses on towards it, “counting all things to be loss” compared to what is found in Christ:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3:7-11

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Timothy 6:12-14

Yes, make no mistake, the way of a Christian is often filled with trials and tribulations here in this fallen world, for “through many tribulations we must enter the [future heavenly realm] kingdom of God,” and Jesus directly warns us that “you will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” If our Lord Jesus was hated, you will also be hated by this world because of Him. But you must “stand firm” in your faith, persevering until death. While it is exceedingly and abundantly clear that Christ will never (ever) “fail you or forsake you,” it is equally clear from Scripture that you can decide to quit the faith and quit Him. Scripture tells us to “put on the full armor” of God, so you can fend off the attacks of the enemy (Satan and his forces of evil, including the men who choose to follow him) and also “stand firm” in the faith; this subject is covered more in the upcoming chapters on Persevering in Faith and The Armor of God. You will notice that many of the verses used in this chapter apply to those chapters as well.

But also know that you will be able to persevere in faith through trials and tribulations by the power and strength of Christ “living [abiding] in you.” You are not living on your own “will power” and strength any longer; you now “do all things through Him who strengthens me”:

“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” – Zechariah 4:6

 So, therefore, let us now “press on to maturity,” “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” “be diligent” about ensuring our final eternal salvation, “be obedient” to the commands of Christ, “always abounding in the work of the Lord,” “fight the good fight of faith,” and “finish the race”!

FALSE TEACHING(S) YOU WILL ENCOUNTER:

RELATED SCRIPTURE:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers. – Psalm 1:1-3

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15

We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. – Colossians 1:28-29

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 11:3

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” – John 14:15 [Note: This verse is often distorted by those who falsely claim we are still under the Ten Commandments of the Mosaic Law because the word “commandments” is used here. The word commandments here refers to the commands of Christ as given in the New Testament.]

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. – James 2:14-17

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. – Colossians 2:6-8

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— or we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. – 2 Corinthians 5:6-8

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. – James 1:12

“‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’” – Revelation 2:10-11

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. – 1 Peter 5:8-9

Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24

“I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” – Revelation 3:11

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. – Psalm 103:11

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. – Psalm 5:3

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. – Psalm 23:1-3

“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” – John 12:25-26

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. – Ephesians 6:10-13

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” – Matthew 25:23 (ESV)

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6

[1] Jackson, Wayne. “Does the Grace in Ephesians 2:8-9 Exclude Baptism?” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: November 8, 2018. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1483-does-the-grace-in-ephesians-2-8-9-exclude-baptism

[2] Jackson, Wayne. “The Word-tenses of Salvation.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: November 8, 2018. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1344-word-tenses-of-salvation-the

[3] Thayer, J.J., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1958

[4] Jackson, Wayne. “What Is the Morning Star of Revelation 2:28?” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: November 8, 2018. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1105-what-is-the-morning-star-of-revelation-2-28

[5] Bunyan, John. (1678/2018), The Pilgrim’s Progress, (London/Holy Spirit Prints).

[6] Jackson, Wayne. “My People Are Destroyed for a Lack of Knowledge.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: June 1, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/771-my-people-are-destroyed-for-a-lack-of-knowledge

[7] Henry, Matthew. Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, London. 1706-1710/1721.

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