A GiftIf you are a Christian with a sphere of influence, then you have been commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to make disciples. This has been true for over 2000 years, but it has never been more important than it is today. Chaos and lawlessness are increasing at an accelerating pace. The days are swiftly approaching when the church will need a foundation in the truth that is deeper than the truth our teachers left with us.

In God’s providence, this chaos can actually be a good thing. America became a superpower after the chaos of WWII. Persecution dispersed Christians from Israel in the 1st Century, spreading the gospel to the entire known world. Persecution continues to be a catalyst for the gospel of the Kingdom in many parts of the world. By God’s mercy, the chaos of our day will turn many from their idols.  But to whom will they turn?

They will turn to the Christian Leaders that have armed themselves with the truth that will make men free – saving them from the deception of our day, to the way, truth and life of Jesus Christ. God has given us a way for this. Be encouraged to search it out… and share the whole truth with others.

Encouragement

God’s ways and thoughts are much higher than our own (Isaiah 55:9). However, His word proceeds from heaven like rain (v. 10) to accomplish what pleases Him (v. 11). These higher than ways and thoughts are the mysteries of God. As disciple makers, we are the instruments of righteousness in rightly dividing the word of God and delivering it to those in our spheres of influence.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search them out (Proverbs 25:2). The children of God have been given the ability to know the mysteries of the kingdom (Matthew 13:11). We are all called to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God (1Corinthians 4:1-2).

A good steward does not limit his understanding to a portion of the Master’s property. He seeks out what is good and profitable in it. In his faithfulness, he leverages what he finds – to the Master’s benefit. Therefore, God invites us outside the boundaries of the doctrines of man to explore the vast estate of His mysteries (aka, the doctrine of Christ; 2John 1:9).

Some fear to go there. They prefer to stay close to the safety of the house (their doctrines), for fear they will wander out of bounds and get lost in heresy. This fear of error has a purpose: To make sure our hearts are pure, so that we can explore safely with the Master’s guidance. But, He would not have that fear limit our exploration and discovery. As Christian Leaders, we are called to purity of heart; and called to disciple others in faithful stewardship of the mysteries of God.

For more on searching out the matter, see The Map Maker’s Map #2 – Searching Out the Matter.

The Gospel of the Kingdom

Before discussing the salvation God offers, it is important to understand the gospel Jesus came preaching. It is the gospel of the kingdom.

Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15

What gospel are we to believe? It is the gospel of the kingdom. This is the full gospel. It is more than the good news of Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Though it is of first importance, the good news that most have been taught is only a part of the good news of the kingdom; for the gospel of the kingdom is literally “the good news of God’s reign in the heart of man”.

Consequently, when Jesus preached, “Repent”, He meant that we were to turn from self-rule to His kingdom rule. We are commanded to move from rebellion to surrender. This was the major theme of His preaching in all of Galilee and throughout Israel (Matthew 4:23; Luke 4:42-43).

It is the gospel He would have us preach as God’s agents for salvation. You can search this out more completely in Map 9 – The Gospel of the Kingdom. I encourage you to do so before continuing on.

Salvation

Before I begin this section, let me ease your concerns about my position on works. The only works that mean anything in the kingdom of God are those that are His will (Matthew 7:21-23), and proceed out of faith (Romans 14:23). However, it is not my faith that saves me. It is by grace that we are saved; and even the faith we have is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). I suggest we are even less responsible for our salvation than most teach.

God is working in us to will and do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13); which is to give us His kingdom (Luke 12:32). He has taken responsibility for our willing and doing. That leaves us with very little responsibility: Choosing to surrender to His will (meaning, His reign) and the work He is doing.

Furthermore, the good work we are made to walk in (Ephesians 2:10) is God’s work. Note that the correct translation of this verse is “made to walk in”, not “made to do”. We are branches only, transporting the life of Christ that produces fruit (John 15:5). We can do nothing without Him; as He could do nothing without the Father (John 5:19).

This, of course, is a mystery; for Jesus closed the Sermon on the Mount by encouraging us to be doers of the works, lest our house fall mightily. Whatever falling mightily means, it can’t be good; so we should give it some attention. Faith without works is dead (James 2:20). What are these works? They are the works we are to walk in. Whose works are they? They must be the Father’s works if He is to get the glory for them (Matthew 5:16).

With that as a backdrop, let’s start our look at salvation with the most recognized verse in the Holy Bible.

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

Based on the verb tense of “believing”, we know that it is a continual and progressive action – believe and keep on believing (a process, not an event). Again, this is with faith that is given to us – a faith that grows (2Thessalonians 1:3). Growing is a process.

As a side note: A Greek scholar once shared with me that the meaning of John 3:16 goes even deeper. After years of study and meditation (he’s 80 years old), he understands the verse to mean:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever is believing into Him should not perish but is having everlasting life.

Believing into Him… is having everlasting life. This is our progressive (and adventurous) life in Christ.

NOTE: “Belief” and “faith” are synonyms, translated from the Greek pistis. Recognizing that there are faith events, including the most important, initial belief in Christ Jesus, the Bible makes it clear that faith is a process.

With this in mind, it should be clear that salvation is also a process. It has a beginning – justification; and it has an end – glorification. Many understand the middle part to be sanctification. This is not entirely correct. Sanctification is one of the processes of salvation, but it is not the process of salvation. Salvation, as you might expect, is much more.

Salvation (sōtēria): deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation; deliverance from the molestation of enemies; in an ethical sense, that which concludes to the soul’s safety or salvation (of Messianic salvation); salvation as the present possession of all true Christians; future salvation, the sum of benefits and blessings which the Christians, redeemed from all earthly ills, will enjoy after the visible return of Christ from heaven in the consummated and eternal kingdom of God. Outline of Biblical Usage, BlueLetterBible.org

Save (sōzō): to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction; to save one from injury or peril; to save a suffering one from perishing (i.e., one suffering from disease); to make well, heal, restore to health; to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue; to save in the technical biblical sense; to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment; to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance. Outline of Biblical Usage, BlueLetterBible.org

As you can see, the definitions of salvation and save both describe a process – as do the verses below:

For by grace you have been saved (past tense) through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved (present tense) it is the power of God. 1Corinthians 1:18

For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved (present tense) and among those who are perishing. 2Corinthians 2:15

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified (aorist tense) by His blood, we shall be saved (future tense) from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved (future tense) by His life. Romans 5:8-10

But he who endures to the end shall be saved (future tense). Matthew 24:13

As followers of Jesus Christ, we “have been saved”, we “are being saved” and we “shall be saved”. The implications of this are profound. For example, how do you answer the question: “When were you saved?” It makes you think, doesn’t it? Congratulations! That’s exactly what the Lord is after – followers that will consider the whole truth.

Before moving on, we should praise God that salvation is a process – because it is a process where God is doing the greatest thing He has ever done for man; and not just in a moment, but in the full length and breadth of our lives. He is continuously and progressively saving us!!

Map 4 – The Adventures of Our Life in Christ contains more on God’s processes, including the processes of transformation and sanctification.

The Life That Saves Us

If you were to ask your Christian friends, “What did Jesus Christ do to save you?”, most will say, “He died on the cross.” Now, take another look at the Romans 5 passage above and ask yourself the same question, “What did Jesus Christ do to save you?”

There is no question that Christ’s death on the cross was required and effectual. It reconciled us to God. But, “much more, we shall be saved by His life“. Salvation is accomplished by His life, not by His death.

Furthermore, there is “much more” to the effectualness of His life. Let me say it a different way: As much as our Savior’s death accomplished, His life shall accomplish much more!

One of the greatest deceptions in the American church is that a Christian can live out of Christ’s death. We have allowed ourselves to settle for a ticket to heaven, bought by His death. The tragic and sobering truth is that His death will not get us there. Nothing less than His life will save us.

Why is this an important distinction? Because the soul that shall be saved by His life must have more than an easy belief in the truth of His death. That soul must exchange its life for His (Mark 8:35, Galatians 2:20); and this is the crux of the matter. The many that will seek to enter and not be able (Luke 13:22-28) are those that have not paid the full price. Sadly, many will be surprised on that fateful day, because they have not been taught the whole truth.

For more on this incredible truth, check out Map 21 – The Power of His Life.

Conclusion

As faithful stewards of the mysteries of God, we have been given the awesome privilege of participating in God eternal purpose and plan for His kingdom. We have been commissioned, and we have been empowered, for the adventure. He is worthy of our wholehearted surrender, attention and commitment. Will you be His instrument/weapon of righteousness in this chaotic world? Will you share the whole truth?

We must not shrink from sharing these truths with others because it might confuse them about their salvation “decision”. The mysteries of God are not simple. Keeping it simple does not make men free. The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are their teachers. They can be trusted for understanding. The word of God is alive and powerful. The truth will accomplish what the Father intends.

In most cases, the gospel of the kingdom and the way of salvation are replacements or corrections for what others believe. There is simply more – for all of us; and that equates to more of Him. He is the truth. Our searching out the matter is searching for Him. Encouraging and instructing others to search is like teaching someone to fish (rather than giving them fish soup) – it is much more profitable for the kingdom of God and His glory.

Humbly yours and His forever,