To Not Be Following Jesus Is To Be Forfeiting Salvation
September 18, 2015
“To inherit Heaven, is it necessary to actually follow Jesus?” This is the question we should ask ourselves and those to whom we present the Gospel. Some people are saying, either directly or indirectly, that it is unnecessary and that all one must do in order to be eternally saved is to pray, in faith and contrition, the sinner’s prayer. Since God’s Word is our Authority, let’s see what it says concerning this.
In Luke 9:23-25 we see Jesus telling us what is involved in following Him. –That each person must deny themselves by taking up one’s cross daily, and, that doing this, or by not doing this, a person is choosing the salvation, or the forfeiture, of one’s life and soul.
Can this really be right? It is, for in that passage, as well as in Mt. 10:32-39 and 16:24-27 and Mark 8:34-38, we see Jesus definitely teaching this Truth when He speaks about those choices, affections, and actions that entail giving up all, including one’s life for His sake and the Gospel’s sake in order to gain salvation. We see Him speaking about acquiring eternal salvation versus the forfeiture of it due to what we do.
In John 12:25 Jesus says, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Certainly we should be able to see that Christ is teaching that Eternal Life is acquired by giving ourselves to Him 24/7. Indeed, Scripture repeatedly makes this requirement clear. (Rom. 6:6,7 // 2 Cor. 5:15,17 // Gal. 2:20 & 5:24 & 6:14,15 // etc.) Furthermore, in such verses as Mt. 19:17, Rom. 8:9, and 1 John 3:24 it is revealed that unless we live in obedience to the Lord’s Commands and Spirit, we do not possess Him nor belong to Him.
John 15:10 and 1 John 2:3-6 teach us the same thing. –That obedience to Christ is necessary for remaining in His Love and Truth and that this happens when we conduct ourselves as Christ did. And how did Jesus conduct Himself? He walked in perfect submission and obedience to the Father. (John 12:49,50 & 14:31) So must we. (Mt. 5:48 & 28:19,20)
Really? Is it absolutely necessary for salvation that we obey Jesus? We see that the answer is “Yes.” Would this, then, equate to serving Him? Of course it would. If we are in submission to Christ, He will give us tasks to do. He will not be pleased with those who sit around idle or who treat His commands with apathy. We are to serve in careful obedience. We are to do and say just what He commands of us. Otherwise we are in rebellion against our Leader, and all rebels, unless they genuinely and completely repent and begin obeying Christ, will be ousted from His Love and Presence forever. (Luke 13:3 // John 15:6,10 // 2 Thes. 1:8,9 // 1 John 2:5) Jesus has made it clear that He will accept or condemn people based on what they have loved, said, thought, and done. (Mt. 5:22,28-30 & 12:36,37,50 // John 5:29 // Rev. 22:12-16)
So if we must obey the Lord from the heart and serve Him eagerly, does this equate to following Him? Of course. Those who say they love Jesus, but who do not obey, serve, and follow Him, are deceiving themselves and are headed for eternal destruction. (Mt. 7:19-27) Without question, all who keep sinning will be thrown “into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (13:42; see also Heb. 10:26-31 and Rev. 20:11-15 & 21:7,8) Wrong, then, are those who pretend that following Jesus is not a requirement for walking the Road of Eternal Life. There is no other Way. (Mt. 7:13,14 & 19:17 // John 14:6)
Let’s go back to John 12:25 where Jesus says, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” In the very next verse, verse 26, Jesus says, “Whoever serves Me must follow Me.” Should that not answer it for us? To love Jesus, we must obey His commands. (John 14:15) To obey Him, we must serve Him. To serve Him, we must follow Him. And what does Jesus say in the rest of John 12:26? He says, “…and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me.” Therefore, we see that loving, obeying, serving, and following Jesus is a must for being in His Presence. Moreover, the serving, which comes from the actions of following, are what inherit for a person honor and reward from God versus condemnation and punishment under His wrath. (v. 26 // Mt. ch. 25 // Mark 8:34-38 // Eph. 5:6)
Now we have just seen that Scripture teaches that in order to inherit Eternal Life a person must be loving Jesus and obeying His Word, Commands, and Spirit by following Him and serving Him. Would such a person be called “a disciple” of Christ? Of course. So is being a disciple of Christ necessary for eternal salvation? Absolutely.
Let’s look, then, at what Jesus says about the requirements of being one of His disciples. In Luke 14:33, He states that “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.” Jesus is clear about what this entails. –That it is to die to all which our own will, desires, and affections would choose to follow after, and that this does include giving up our family members (v. 25-27 & 9:57-62 // Mt. 10:34-39), though in light of Mt. 15:3-9, 1 Tim. 5:8, and the Scriptures as a whole, this would mean if they be a hindrance to our obedience to Christ.
Can a disciple turn back from following Jesus? Of course (1 Tim. 6:20,21 // 2 Tim. 2:12,17,18 // Heb. 3:6-19 & 4:11 & 6:4-12 & 12:14-17), for our freedom to choose does not end when we pledge ourselves to Christ. In John 6:66 we read that after Jesus’ hard-to-accept teaching (v. 60), “…many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” We read in Luke 8:13,14 of those who receive the Word with joy and believe for while –until testing comes whereby they become stunted and fall away. Such plants, by not remaining in Christ, His words, and His commands, are unable to stay cleansed, and they thus become defiled and withered, and are thrown to the fire. (Luke 3:7-14 // John 6:53-63 & 15:1-10 // 1 Cor. 3:16,17 // 1 Peter 1:15,22,23 // 2 Peter 3:14,17 // 1 John 1:5-2:6) Just as that servant who, after pleading with the King, received pardon, but against whom the King later reinstated the debt and the punishment (Mt. 18:32-34), so a follower of Christ who turns back to rebellion will be worse off at the end than had he not shared in Christ at all. (Mt. 11:20-24 // Luke 12:47,48 // Heb. 10:26-31 // 2 Peter 2:20-22)
Many Bible teachers seem to like to talk about being eternal safe in Christ’s hand once someone has “accepted Jesus”. They say that such a person becomes His sheep and thereafter cannot be snatched out of Christ hand, nor ever perish. They often base this teaching of theirs on John 10:9,24-30. However, if we read Jesus’ plain words there, we see that He is saying that those who truly believe Him to be the Messiah (God in bodily form) and become His sheep, will listen to Him, will know Him (intimately), and will follow Him. (v. 27,28) It is precisely the continuous listening, knowing, and following which keep the sheep safely surrounded by Christ’s hand, His Love, His Presence, and on His Narrow Road! So, confirming what we have already learned above, those who listen to, know, and follow Jesus are the only sheep who truly love, obey, and serve the Lord and who are thus inheriting Eternal Life.
Whose doctrine should we believe and adhere to? Men who pretend to rightly interpret God’s Word for us? Or, should we read the Word for ourselves wherein we can see what Jesus and the writers have plainly stated?
Concerning the subject of following Jesus, it is a matter of choosing salvation.
Or of forfeiting it.