WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
2 CORRECT ANSWERS:
1. Nothing, because it was done for you by Jesus on the cross, once and for all.
2. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, or be pruned from the vine.
Two answers: each is valid. The first answer is taught by a church which doesn't understand there are two different salvations. The first salvation is to be SAVED FROM the death penalty which resulted from violating the Sinai commandments. That was accomplished on Jesus' cross; we couldn't help Him there. He, alone, was the unblemished sacrifice, the Vicarious Atonement which restored God's family to that status which they had before they signed onto that contract, which they later violated. It is by our faith/belief in this sacrificial offering that we are individually justified, being redeemed from the Old Covenant's death penalty.
The second salvation is to be SAVED TO heaven, a process of individual spiritual struggle and realization along the same path which God's family was walking prior to the Sinai Covenant. For you, this salvation is accomplished by you, on your own cross, to which Jesus calls you. "Take up your cross and follow Me." Jesus is the one pointing you to your own cross; He is not saying that He accomplished it for you and you need do nothing further. Because you have been washed white with sins forgiven, it is now possible for you to follow Jesus on your own cross. He restored your divine status so that you can once again seek the Father for yourself. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12)
Two crosses: one His and one yours. Two salvations: one His and one yours. First was the work of Jesus. Second is the work of yourself as an individual child of your Father who calls you out of this world unto Himself. Jesus showed the Way; you may follow if you wish. But, it's a tough Way; most who heard His requirements turned away from Him. Yes, it is so terribly difficult that even Jesus prayed that He might not have to drink of that cup of death. The Way out of this world (to Heaven) is no easier today; it is simply now possible for us because Jesus repaired the breach. Prior to Jesus, the Way was not possible for us because we had been sentenced to death.
The Christian church does a great disservice by teaching God's children that Jesus did obtain our tickets to Heaven; He did not! He simply made it possible for us to earn them for ourselves. God tells us that precious few will actually attempt it. Most will be pruned from the vine because they withered. They will make up the great masses of the fallen.
Why have Christian theologians and preachers failed to understand this? I guess I could list many reasons which partially excuse them, but those reasons won't do them any good. They did understand the Old Covenant, and they understood that Jesus' death satisfied that contract penalty. But, they didn't understand that for every member of the body of Christ the only path out of Satan's kingdom of World is also death, not just natural flesh-death, but resolute, deliberate, rejection of World unto death. They didn't understand that Jesus' cross, satisfying the Old Covenant breach, does not replace the cross of each member of His body who must still die to this World. Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow Me." Why they didn't understand it is inexplicable. The early Christian martyrs understood it as they went singing to their crosses, their pyres, and to wild animals in arenas. The millions of Christians killed by Roman Catholics in the inquisitions understood it as they went willingly to their torturous deaths and burning stakes. They knew they were following their Lord. It was REAL to them, whereas today's Christians are pampered and weak, contented with prosperity, and inured to the estrangement from reality which TV provides.
Perhaps a few words of historical review will help to put the situation into clearer perspective. It was God's own Israelite family who signed a contract at Mt. Sinai, promising to keep God's commandments or suffer the penalty of eternal death. Israelites then breached the contract. Only the death of a perfect, unblemished Israelite could repair that breach. Jesus was the sinless Lamb who was sacrificed so God's own offspring could be saved from eternal death. His death was accepted, done once and for all; no Israelite needed to do anything here because Jesus' death completed the old contract, along with securing a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8) which appointed no penalty for sins at all. Thus did God grant His children a new beginning, a new foundation rock upon which they could build a new ekklesia (gathering/corpus/church/body) from which they could forget any fears about sin penalties and instead, focus upon a new goal. Never again could sin condemn anyone! ALL Israelites, past and future, were saved from sin's death penalty. It wasn't that God's Law was being cancelled, but that the penalty for violating it was being removed. No more penalty for sin! They were suddenly free to hear the call of Jesus to devote their lives to a new task of being saved to Heaven.
You might ask the reasonable question, that since all were forgiven, washed clean, and viewed by the Father as Righteous, why then must we die at all, on a cross or any other way. If Jesus' work did all that, why aren't we suddenly in Heaven? Answer: because it is only as clean, white, sinless, and unblemished lambs that our own deaths can finally be accepted as compensation for a problem far more ancient than the Mt. Sinai Covenant of Law and Death, namely, that we, as God's own offspring, yielded, many thousands of years ago, to Satan's temptation to turn against our Father in order to be gods, ourselves, in the Kingdom of World. We fell from Heaven, and it is up to us now to leave the Pig-Pen of World and, as repentant prodigals, climb our way back home. Jesus saved us from the penalty of eternal death, making it then possible for us to save our selves by working our way back home. It is this process to which Jesus calls us. Some will follow; most will not. "Many are called but few are chosen." Perhaps this is an appropriate analogy: of the thousands who apply to be part of the elite Special Forces in the Military, only a very few finally make it. For us who really do want to follow our Lord, we will be put through many trials and temptations, often feeling defeated; if it wasn't for the angelic forces which our Father commands to our assistance, none of us would ever make it. It is at those moments when one feels completely defeated, down and out, at almost the last breath, that one is likely to give up, but he, who determinedly clings to God's promise, will rise again stronger and more resolute than he was before. Remember that it was after Jesus had cried to God from the cross that He felt forsaken, that He then committed His Spirit to that same God. It is only at such "death" experiences that we can yield so completely to the Spirit of God which empowers us, thereby passing through that little death experience to stand up again and walk another few steps along our path. I would suggest to any truly spiritual seeker, to go to bed each night practicing such complete yielding that you happily welcome a release from this life; falling asleep in the arms of our loving Father. A petite mort. This is the WAY which Jesus demonstrated, and which offers us the Hope which we need anew each morning, to confront a new day.
I realize that it is a radically new concept to think that Jesus didn't secure Heaven for us, but that we must work out our own salvations. When you read Jesus' words in the Gospels again, you might watch for passages in which He requires a follower to do some thing in order to be accepted as His disciple. When you watch for such demands, it will seem that they are the primary focus of His message, just as though He came to tell us exactly what we must do to be "saved."
Here are some select some passages from the Gospels of Matthew and John; statements of Jesus which require one to DO something in order to earn his salvation. You will see that these are not iffy, but essential.
Matthew 5:20 Your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, or you cannot enter Heaven. Such righteousness is the practice of one's life, actually one's works. Our righteous works were not acceptable to God prior to Jesus' sacrifice because we were under the death-penalty. Jesus' cross redeemed us from that, making it possible, like it had been prior to the Sinai Covenant, for our righteous works to count toward our climb toward our Father once again.
Matthew 6:1 You must do your charities not for recognition or acclaim, or else you will have no reward in Heaven.
Matthew 6:5 Don't pray in public, but in private, forgiving others their trespasses, or you won't be forgiven for yours.
Matthew 6:31 You must not worry about tomorrow, what to eat, drink, or wear; but seek first the Kingdom of God. Live each moment with confidence of resting in His hands, and accept whatever the day brings as an important lesson from Him.
Matthew 7:1 You must not judge others. Self-righteous church-goers get satisfaction from judging others, not realizing that God expresses Himself through His individual children in mysterious ways. A most spiritually inspired man was Francis Thompson (1859-1907), who wrote such unparalleled poems as Hound of Heaven and Little Jesus in London, when he was a derelict, street bum, addicted to narcotics. Sometimes the ground which God tills, fertilizes, and prepares does not hint at the beautiful flower which might spring from it. I, personally, have found more sincere, non-hypocritical, spiritually intense seekers of Truth in bars than in churches.
Matthew 7:7 You must Ask, Seek, and Knock in your spiritual Quest, which is a desperate life-or-death search. It is not enough to listen to your preacher once or twice a week and assume that because you believe in Jesus your place in Heaven is guaranteed.
Matthew 7:12 You must do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is the sum of the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:13 You must walk the narrow path, because narrow is the gate and difficult the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it! This is a most serious and difficult Quest which requires intense focus of your mind, heart, and soul, or you will fail.
Matthew 7:15 You must beware of false teachers. You must judge their fruits rather than their superficial presentation. Remember that Satan entices us with wondrous offerings. It is always up to each individual to make objective judgments about the actual fruits of those who call you to follow them or to believe them.
Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who believes in Jesus will be saved to Heaven. Jesus says that many who claim to have worked in His name will hear Him reply to them, "Depart from Me, I never knew you." A couple verses later, Jesus is saying, "everyone who hears My sayings and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand . . . and great was its fall." Obviously, one must DO more than just claim the name of Jesus to be assured of Heaven.
Matthew 8:19 You must follow a Lord who says He has nowhere to lay His head in this world. Other creatures have dens and nests, but God's children are strangers in this world; it is not our task to build fine homes and occupy high positions. Rather, He calls us to follow Him in poverty of worldly things in order that our reward might be in Heaven.
Matthew 16:24 Jesus said, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and let him take up his cross and follow Me. Clearly, your cross is different from that of Jesus. You can claim His cross as justification for your right to offer righteousness to your Father again, and to climb toward Him, but you cannot claim His cross as your ticket into Heaven. You have your own cross to bear, your own path to walk, your own struggles against the world, your own righteousness to achieve. Your teacher tells you that you can only do that by denying your self in this world in order to find your true self with Him whom you follow. Your cross is not easy, either!
Matthew 16:27 You will be rewarded according to your works at His second coming. Jesus states it clearly. You must earn your reward.
Matthew 19:17 Jesus says, If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments. This doesn't quite agree with a church which says one need only believe in Jesus name.
Matthew 22:14 Many are called but few are chosen. All members of the Israelite family are called, but so very few will dedicate themselves to the spiritual Quest, giving up this life in exchange for life eternal.
And some verses from the Gospel of John:
John 3:3 You must be born from above. That means you must have been born with the Spirit of God already dwelling within you, from conception. Of course, Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus and thought He was saying one must be born again. Jesus corrected him, explaining that those born of flesh are flesh and those born of Spirit are Spirit, and that no can ascend to Heaven except one who came from there.
John 4:23 You must worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, not on high places or in temples/churches; "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth." Keep in mind that Jesus never suggested ANY religious practices; He said He would destroy the existing Temple in Jerusalem, and did not suggest any replacement. Here we can see why. Spiritual worship is very different, actually contrary, from ritualistic worship in churches. Religionists promote religion as a ritualistic practice, but rarely will any preacher suggest the private, secret, mystical, spiritual inner experience of worship.
John 5:24 You must hear Jesus' word and believe in Him who sent Him. This is most difficult. Since the time of the Fall, we have believed in Satan's lie, thereby creating for ourselves the Kingdom of World. We cannot continue to believe in the great lie and also claim that we believe Jesus' word and believe in the Father. We must abandon and reject the lie of material reality if we would know the Truth and believe in the Father.
John 5:29 You must do good in order to have resurrection of Life. Those who have done evil will get resurrection of condemnation. So, we can clearly see that even though Jesus' cross provided us a clean slate and a new chance, only those who do good will get the final reward.
John 6:27 You must not labor for food which perishes, but for that which endures to everlasting Life. Our childhood lessons teach us that we must work hard toward successful careers in order to have worldly happiness, or just to have food to eat. When we read Jesus' words that we must not labor for food, it is easy to respond with, "well, I have a family to feed and I don't know of any other way to do it." Well, I, Roger Hathaway, can tell you from personal experience that there is another way to do it, perhaps a different way for each individual person who dares follow our mighty Lord. I cannot tell you your path, but I can assure you that you will never be abandoned, no matter how many times you are down to your last breath. I've worked jobs very few years of my life, and have never depended on government welfare, nor have I cheated or exploited anyone, yet I have been blessed beyond words. I can't explain right now how it happened, but it did.
John 6:29 You must believe in Him whom the Father sent. BELIEF is the very WORK OF GOD! Knowing what such "belief" really means is the pinnacle of Truth. Hebrews 11:1 says that "belief is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Belief is the very SUBSTANCE of the reality which we perceive in the world before us. To BELIEVE in Jesus as the Head of the Christ, of which body we are the members, is an activity which is the very essence of reality. God's pageant is a mind-play, in which God's offspring get to design the set moment by moment. To believe in His Name is something far beyond a simple agreement that Jesus is Lord.
John 6:53 You must eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood. I think Jesus is saying to the members of the body of Christ, or to the branches of the vine, that unless you partake of my very Life, you have no part of Me. The Son of Man is the offspring of the Father, through whom the Father lives, moves, experiences life, and expresses Himself. If you are not a participant in the flesh of this "body," then you are not one of His offspring. Man is God's ideal, a design in His mind, which can achieve perfection by willingly yielding to the Father's will and through whom the Father can express Himself. Flesh and blood are ideas in the mind of God, appearing to have substance in the World delusion, but in essence a design in God's mind. It is the body of Christ, namely the race of Israel, which is God's offspring Son. If you are not part of that body, life eternal is not a possibility for you at all.
John 6:51 You must yield up your flesh existence in order to have eternal life; for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of Heaven!
There, in those passages, you get the idea that your salvation is up to you, that it is a difficult task, and that unless you dedicate your life to it, unto death, you will not get the reward.
Two crosses: Jesus' cross which satisfied the breach of contract, and your cross, upon which you yield up this earthly life in order to obtain Life in Heaven.
Two salvations: Jesus' saved you from the death penalty, and you must work out your salvation To Heaven with your life.
While I listed some passages above, describing things one must DO to earn salvation, it would be a most profitable exercise for you to go through all the Gospels to make a complete list of that which your Lord calls you to do. St. Paul realized the seriousness of this when he said, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" in Philippians 2:12. This is a teaching which is radically different from the preachers' admonitions against sinning. The New Covenant (Hebrews 8) makes clear that sin is no longer a problem because God sees you as white, pure, clean, and righteous (because of Jesus' blood). Your new status renews your right to have your righteous works count toward your reward of eternal life.
Keep in mind that this entire matter is possible ONLY for those who are born from above, namely God's own family of Israelite offspring, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells and works. It is only possible for your works to be credited to your account if you do them in relationship with the Holy Spirit which dwells within you. If you reject the indwelling Spirit of God, then you have committed a fatal error for which no repair is possible. You will be permanently separated from God, with no appeal. Actually, you could not even desire with sincerity any return to the Father because only the Holy Spirit can prompt that, and He will be absent. So, if you anguish about your relationship with your Father, and if you pray from your heart and soul, you can be assured that you are not yet estranged from Him, and that the path is still open for you as a prodigal to return Home - regardless of all the guilts which you might insist on carrying. Hopefully, at some point, you can accept the New Covenant, which Jesus secured, as a contract for you personally, and thereby release the anchors of guilts which prevent you from standing tall, nearly floating in ecstasy, as one of His princes and an heir to the kingdom which He has prepared for you.
Your cross and your salvation are at hand. Shall you not drink of the cup prepared for you by your loving Father who beckons you to leave this worldly life and return to your Heavenly Home?
Addendum to the above is an excerpt from a writing found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945. Some of the writings are so wonderfully and completely in harmony with the true message of Jesus, that I am convinced they are genuine writings of His disciples. One is the Gospel of Thomas. Another is The Book of Thomas the Contender. The excerpt below is from The Apocryphon of James. James was one of Jesus' four brothers, and became the leader of the Jerusalem branch of early Christians after Jesus had ascended. I think you will be uplifted and impressed with this. James is speaking:
But I answered and said to him, "Lord, we can obey you if you wish, for we have forsaken our fathers and our mothers and our villages and followed you. Grant us, therefore, not to be tempted by the devil, the evil one."
The Lord answered and said, "What is your merit if you do the will of the Father and it is not given to you from Him as a gift while you are tempted by Satan? But if you are oppressed by Satan and persecuted and you do His (i.e. the Father's) will, I say that He will love you, and make you equal with Me, and reckon you to have become beloved through His providence by your own choice. So will you not cease loving the flesh and being afraid of sufferings? Or do you not know that you have yet to be abused and to be accused unjustly; and have yet to be shut up in prison, and condemned unlawfully, and crucified without reason, and buried shamefully, as was I myself, by the evil one? Do you dare to spare the flesh, you for whom the Spirit is an encircling wall? If you consider how long the world existed before you, and how long it will exist after you, you will find that your life is one single day and your sufferings one single hour. For the good will not enter into the world. Scorn death, therefore, and take thought for Life! Remember my cross and my death and you will Live!"
But I answered and said to him, "Lord, do not mention to us the cross and death, for they are far from you."
The Lord answered and said, "Verily I say unto you, none will be saved unless they believe in my cross. But those who have believed in my cross, theirs is the kingdom of God. Therefore, become seekers for death, like the dead who seek for life; for that which they seek is revealed to them. And what is there to trouble them? As for you, when you examine death, it will teach you election. Verily I say unto you, none of those who fear death will be saved; for the kingdom of God belongs to those who put themselves to death. Become better than I; make yourselves like the son of the Holy Spirit!"
A few of the Nag Hammadi writings are available on this website, at http://divinepageant.com/gnostic_gospels.htm. The early Roman Catholic Church either destroyed or hid large numbers of early Christian writings which did not support the organization of their priesthood and the Paganism which had been the universal religion at that time, and which was being adopted as their mother-goddess religion of lamentations. Some Gnostic Christians in Egypt buried a large collection of writings which remained safe from Roman Catholic destruction until they were discovered in 1945. Here we can see clearly the hand of God protecting knowledge which was told secretly to select disciples and was not intended for the masses until the end time period when it has now become available and can not be destroyed. You might find these to be beneficial to you in your spiritual Quest. May God be with you.
by Roger Hathaway, August 4, 2009
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