Salvation Isn’t Easy

by Dan Barnes on May 14, 2013 · 36 comments

I have been a life long Southern Baptist, and have heard my whole life about how simple and easy Salvation is. A decision, a quick prayer and the deed is done. You get dunked later on and you get to eat the cracker and drink grape juice from a little thimble looking cup. It’s easy and simple, yet as I look at the words of Jesus, I see some things that scare me, some things that make me think we are doing things the wrong way.

In Luke 9, Jesus shares the cost of being a follower, He said that “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (vs 62). Jesus told us the road to Salvation is narrow, few find it. That only 1 in 4 seeds bear fruit. In Luke 9:23-25 Jesus tells us to be a disciple, we must take up our cross and follow, losing life to gain it. This seems like it’s not as easy as we have tried to pretend it is.  Jesus shared with His disciples that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. We live in one of the richest nations on earth. Jesus tells us that Salvation isn’t easy.

We have also seemed to miss the requirement of the word we use so frequently. We say “make Jesus your Lord”, but we don’t tell people to make Him Lord. We say “confess Him as Lord”, and act like it means if we just say “oh ya, He’s Lord” but don’t make Him Lord it’s ok. Lord means boss, chief, master, ruler, guy in charge. It means we give up anything, everything, we change our lives, our actions. Sure, it happens gradually as sanctification happens, but it happens. We don’t see it happening in scripture someday or eventually. Fishermen left nets, tax collectors came out of trees and gave stuff away, Gentiles spoke in tongues and lives demonstrated the power of God’s transformation. It didn’t take months and years, transformation started immediately.

Now of course there are plenty who figure out how to fake it for a while. Many said the right words, but Jesus was never Lord. 1 John 2:19 talks about those who were with us but not of us because the walked away. They walked away to show who they really were.  How many of our weekend prayer reciters walk away? I will admit that I have led many in prayer and never saw them again. Maybe they moved or found another church, or maybe they went out to show who they are.

It gets even more complicated because Jesus said that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” gets into Heaven. If they said Lord, isn’t that confessing Jesus as Lord? Isn’t that our prerequisite? Jesus said that saying it doesn’t equate to doing it. Even worse, these people did some stuff after confessing. The preached (prophesied) and did ministry (cast out demons) in the name of Christ. They talked to people about God and stood up in front of people and did ministry, these were not Sunday-go-to-meeting people, these were leaders. They are pastors, elders, deacons and they will spend eternity in hell. Why?  Because they don’t know Jesus as Lord, they only know Him as guy they do stuff for. Sure, they can get excited and yell and scream, but so can a Muslim. They blow themselves up for their God, doesn’t mean it’s true.

Jesus tells us it’s hard, the road is hard, the gate is narrow, few find it. The soil is often hard or rocky or full of thorns, and it’s really hard for rich people to get too. On top of that, if you won’t give up everything, don’t even bother. If you are gonna look back, just stay home.  This doesn’t sound like what I hear on a Sunday Morning.  Jesus said if you are gonna be a disciple, you should count the cost. Shouldn’t we be honest with people, tell them the cost, or are we trying to sell them a used car? Just a thought.

1 Christiane May 14, 2013 at 6:52 pm

“It’s easy and simple, yet as I look at the words of Jesus, I see some things that scare me”

which words?

2 Dan Barnes May 15, 2013 at 8:12 am

let’s not get hung up on the hook in the introduction. I was making a point that our methodology doesn’t always match our theology, let’s not focus on the word “scared” but on the phrase “we’re doing things the wrong way”. I quoted Jesus enough the article should answer the question.

3 Christiane May 17, 2013 at 6:48 am

DAN, I found something relevant to your post . . .
you might be interested in this:
http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/sharing-the-gospel

come and join in the conversation

4 Max May 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm

“Scare” may not be the right word, but Jesus’ words in Matthew 7: 21-23 are sobering:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

5 Scott Shaver May 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Wonder if that includes theology professors, pastors, denominational entity heads as well your average “joe-in-the-pew”?

6 Max May 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1)

7 volfan007 May 15, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Max,

Both of those passages of Scripture that you mention above are some of the scariest verses in the Bible.

David

8 Andrew May 14, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Great Thoughts! I have thought the exact same things about salvation and have been criticized because of my stand. Luke 9 also says that a person who follows after Christ takes up there cross and follows after him. Dying to self is something I seldom see but is a must.

9 Adam G. in NC May 15, 2013 at 10:20 am

I know what you mean, brother. Talk like this cost me friends and a church. I would have to say, it was worth it!!

10 Bob Cleveland May 14, 2013 at 8:48 pm

All of which points to consistent failure of SBC churches in 2 areas: Expectations and Discipleship. Folks come in without really expecting anything to be required of them, and churches (in my experience) fail, on an ongoing bases, to assure themselves that people are actually disciples and not merely “believers”.

In fact, the term “believers” says a lot, in itself.

11 Christiane May 14, 2013 at 9:03 pm

sadly, even satan ‘believes’ in God,
so ‘belief’, in and of itself, is not enough

it’s Our Lord’s ‘and follow Me’
that is vital for Christian people to hear and to obey

12 Max May 15, 2013 at 12:51 pm

The organized church has done a miserable job discipling believers. The 1st century church had a much better grip on this than the 21st century church. As time progressed, we appear to have gotten over Christ’s command to “go and make disciples.” Christianity Lite rules the roost today … nothing much expected after you get your ticket punched. We have churches full of spectators and Biblical illiterates … yep, even in SBC ranks.

13 Scott May 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Max,
Which 1st century church do you think had a great grip on discipleship that we should return to- Galatia, Corinth, or Laodicea? I ask that a bit in jest because I think that to say the 21 century church does a terrible job of making disciples is a sweeping generalization. There are churches that are going a great job of teaching and training their people. There are probably some that don’t, but painting with such a broad brush is not correct or helpful.

14 Dan Barnes May 15, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Antioch. Philadelphia. I am sure there are others.

15 Christiane May 15, 2013 at 7:23 pm

do you think that each one of those first century churches were separate entities ?
or were they ‘the Church’ at Laodicea, ‘the Church’ at Corinth ?

16 Dave Miller May 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm
17 Max May 16, 2013 at 10:09 am

Smyrna and Philadelphia appeared to be in good order. In the letters to the churches in Revelation, they received no reproof from Christ and no call to repent or else. Two out of seven ain’t bad!!

However, I accept your correction – my broad brush stoke re: 21st century church was not helpful. God knows there are pastors/teachers doing a good job equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry in many places on planet earth.

18 Jess Alford May 14, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Dan, that is some good preaching, brother. I didn’t think I would ever see a blog like this on SBC voices. I believe what you said, and if you believe it
you are in a minority among Baptist preachers. Keep up the good work.

19 Bruce H. May 14, 2013 at 8:49 pm

As a pastor, I would have monthly meetings with my teachers. I would teach them this very thing. This needs to be spoken in every class for every age. Then, preach it often. You cannot make anyone think to examine their faith, however, it needs to be in front of them constantly. Good post.

20 Tom Fillinger May 14, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Dan,

Many THANKS! I have been writing all day. My wife & I came back from a very enjoyable dinner at an Italian place in town. Your posts fits like a hand in a glove at the very point I was at in my writing – soteriology in the evangelical church. It is so helpful to have such copy form a Pastor with his ‘boots on the ground.’ Appreciate your post.

Tom Fillinger

21 Jess Alford May 14, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Tom,

Italian? That’s enough to make me throw up my turnip greens, hog jawl, pinto beans, and corn bread. You shouldn’t talk that way on a thread anywhere.

22 Jim Pemberton May 15, 2013 at 8:24 am

It was hard for Jesus too.

23 Bob Pederson May 15, 2013 at 9:26 am

Great post Dan. Leaves me to wonder when we decided to leave doctrines like regeneration and conversion by the wayside so they wouldn’t interfere with Finny’s methods. I guess getting a decision is much easier than depending in the Holy Spirit to convert someone. It also works much better for stadium events.

24 Greg Harvey May 15, 2013 at 10:36 am

Then there’s Matthew 11:28-30 (HCSB in this case):

28 “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I agree that Jesus gave warnings to those who were–in modern parlance–coming to game the system. The religious leaders of his days were masters of the game and the Bible mentions not just the Pharisees but Saducees, priests (as well as chief and high priests), scribes, and Zealots. Each had a game to play and many assumed they would catch Jesus up in their games. They were wrong.

Jesus demonstrated a deep compassion for what we–again the modern parlance–might call “everyday people”. He chided the religious leaders for making the lives of the everyday people more burdensome and for not lifting a finger to help them.

And then there is THIS passage (above). Perhaps the message is that you have to take the journey seriously, but once you are on it, he helps (unlike the religious leaders of his day.) And perhaps if we aren’t gaming the system, our journey is precisely knowable and certain even if today we don’t see that. And to some extent or another it very precisely is “guaranteed” and “warrantied”.

I am not going to say salvation is easy. But his yoke is easy. And his burden is light. It’s our discomfort with wearing it that makes it hard. And our impatience to complete the journey and “arrive”. Trust him…he’ll take you there in his good time.

25 Dave Miller May 15, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Salvation was tough – on Christ, of course.
Being saved is tough on me – that whole dying to self thing is a BEAR!

26 Kay Copas May 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm

There is a cost to being a Christian indeed, even as there is a day by day choice for us to trust in Jesus, to follow Him no matter what the outcome. It all boils down to relationship with Jesus. And even that is a work that transitions and grows throughout our lives through the work of precious Holy Spirit. After almost 40 years of walking with the Lord and coming to the place of knowing that my peace only comes when I surrender to the battles and yield and trust Jesus, I recall the words of James and know that my joy isn’t in the suffering itself. . it is knowing Him who takes me through it – always resulting in a higher degree of testimony to His faithfulness concerning me. It is the assurance of HIS STORY being written in us that gave Job the confidence to say . . though He slay me, yet will I serve Him.

We live in a world that is broken. And its brokenness affects me. It affects those I love. All I can do is depend on Jesus and share my hope in Him with others during the times of shadows and darkness. I’m not good with surrender, but that doesn’t change His faithfulness. He knows that I am dust. And I know that I can run to Him as my sanctuary when the load gets unbearable and give Him that weight I so often try to bear alone. And in the good times, the abundant times . . .I think it’s even harder because that’s when I have the greatest temptation to forget to bring Him into my circumstances, to ask for His direction, to actively fellowship with Him.

And then there is the relationship with others. Altar calls are no good at all if we just leave people there after perfunctory prayer. Discipleship goes so far beyond a program or a study, it is a commitment to invest in someone’s life over seasons . . .What’s that old adage??? No one really cares how much you know until they know how much you care. My interaction with my family in Jesus is at a whole different level than even with my physical family. There is depth that I can count on. Can I then justify failing to put my arms around someone who is struggling, someone who is looking for the real deal???

I desire to serve Jesus with all of my heart and all of my soul and all of my mind. I desire to carry the Father’s burden that none should perish. But the longer I walk with Him, the more intimately I get to know Him, the more I realize that to call Him Lord means to be willing to empty myself of me so that sweet regeneration process of Holy Spirit proceeds without hindrance. It means to genuinely humble myself before Him so that I can remain teachable. The older I get the hungrier I get for more of Him. To call Him Lord means to determine to trust Him regardless of the circumstances, to glean from the literal translation of His Word, to obey as Holy Spirit continuously brings new revelation and insight as to my remaining sinfulness. And it means that I am required to love . . . period . . . and to forgive. . .period To call Him Lord means that those things aren’t optional for me.

I love you Dan, I see God’s hand on you and I love the sharp mind He has given you, which is both a blessing and a curse I think for most. I know that it is in the times when I question God, when I wrestle with Him for my blessing, in the times of transition . . .that my faith has really become my faith! It’s all about Jesus. I’m so blessed to count your family as my family!! The cost we pay is so very small compared to the cost of the believers in the persecuted church. The Lord is strengthening us for His precise time and purpose.

Mama Kay :-)

27 Jess Alford May 15, 2013 at 8:33 pm

What do we do about where the Bible says, the way of the trangressor is hard. We are the blessed ones.

28 Dan Barnes May 16, 2013 at 9:34 am

we realize it’s hard on everyone. Bible says it’s hard for us, hard for them too.I think Ecclesiastes sums that up.

29 Greg Buchanan May 16, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Dan – Great Post!!!

In fact, I used it in speaking to the youth last night in this way:

I was speaking about Matt 5:21-26, that Jesus focus is NOT on our behavior, but the attitude of our hearts; the disposition of our souls. We live in a society full of rules and laws and one must “measure up” according to some yard stick or other.

We have these same things in “church life” and we can get lost in BEING a Christian rather than BEING a follower of Jesus. We spend too much effort (largely subconsciously) trying to behave according to His Word and not enough trying to BE according to His Word. If he has our heart, then our behavior will follow.

But that is the hard part: learning to let go of control our our lives and trusting God in everything.

30 Christiane May 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm

from Psalm 61:

“1 Hear my crying, O God
give ear unto my prayer.
2 From the ends of the earth will I call upon Thee
when my heart is in heaviness.

3 O set me up upon the rock that is higher than I
for Thou hast been my hope, and a strong tower for me against the enemy.

4 I will dwell in Thy tabernacle for ever
and my trust shall be under the covering of Thy wings.”

31 Jess Alford May 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Greg,

I agree the focus is not on our behavior, but our behavior is a pretty good incicator of what is in our hearts. I hope you said that to those young people.

32 Jess Alford May 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I’m sorry Greg, I just read the rest of what you said, good stuff!

33 Greg Buchanan May 16, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Thanks.

Every once in a while, I can hit a stand-up double :)

34 Greg Buchanan May 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I told them that “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” and that a corollary to that is that our acotions come from our heart as well, not just our speech.

We can fake anything for a while or periodically, but when push-comes-to-shove, we will act according to the will of our hearts. If Jesus is not sitting on the throne of your heart, or you push Him off and try to take control, then your actions will follow suite.

If you rest in His control, trust that He knows what is best (action, reaction, course of your life) then your behavior will reflect that faith and trust.

35 Christiane May 17, 2013 at 6:55 am

GREG
you wrote “If you rest in His control, trust that He knows what is best (action, reaction, course of your life) then your behavior will reflect that faith and trust.”

yes, everyone is called to live in Christ’s love

“”What a comfort it is, this way of love! You may stumble on it, you may fail to correspond with grace given, but always love knows how to make the best of everything;
whatever offends our Lord is burnt up in its fire, and nothing is left but a humble, absorbing peace deep down in the heart.” (-Therese)

36 Christiane May 18, 2013 at 1:29 am

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

(1 John 3:18)

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