OUR GOAL IS TO BE SAVED

(Trumpet Ministries,Inc. / Word of Righteousness)

OUR GOAL IS TO BE SAVED Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

We are in the midst of a reformation of Christian thinking, a reformation as needed, as sweeping, as unsettling as the change from the Law of Moses to faith in Jesus Christ; as the change from penance and indulgences to the abolition of these in favor of the concept that we cannot earn God’s favor by abusing our flesh.

In Paul’s day the problem was an emphasis on obedience to the statutes of Moses instead of obedience to the new covenant. In the days of the Protestant Reformers the problem was the payment of indulgences and the performance of penance instead of a full acceptance of the atonement. Today the problem is that of viewing salvation as a ticket to Heaven instead of a lifelong struggle to pass from the chains of sin to untroubled rest in the Father through Jesus Christ.

OUR GOAL IS TO BE SAVED

All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22—NIV)

We are in the midst of a reformation of Christian thinking, a reformation as needed, as sweeping, as unsettling as the change from the Law of Moses to faith in Jesus Christ; as the change from penance and indulgences to the abolition of these in favor of the concept that we cannot earn God’s favor by abusing our flesh.

In Paul’s day the problem was an emphasis on obedience to the statutes of Moses instead of obedience to the new covenant. In the days of the Protestant Reformers the problem was the payment of indulgences and the performance of penance instead of a full acceptance of the atonement. Today the problem is that of viewing salvation as a ticket to Heaven instead of a lifelong struggle to pass from the chains of sin to untroubled rest in the Father through Jesus Christ.

Consider the verse above. "He who stands firm to the end will be saved."

All I am going to say in this briefest of essays is embodied in this verse. If we are to be saved we must stand firm to the end. We must endure every kind of hardship. We must enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation.

In America today salvation (defined as going to Heaven when one dies, which is an unscriptural definition of salvation) is given to us as a gift when we "accept Christ," taking the "four steps of salvation." It is true that one could support this procedure by removing a few verses from their context, but the bulk of the New Testament does not confirm this viewpoint.

Salvation is not a ticket that one obtains by taking the correct theological position, although it remains absolutely true that the wickedest of people can come to the Lord Jesus Christ and instantly receive forgiveness of his or her sins. The problem in Christian thinking has to do with the next step after receiving forgiveness of sin. By the way, when forgiveness of sins was preached as described in the Book of Acts it was accompanied by an insistence on repentance, meaning the new believer was to demonstrate his receiving of Christ by turning away from his former manner of life. He was commanded to do works suitable for repentance.

We are teaching today that once an individual receives initial forgiveness he is qualified by this to enter Heaven when he dies. Although the teaching of "eternal security" may not be regarded as a cardinal doctrine of major Christian denominations, it appears that that few Christians really believe an individual can be "saved," as we use the term, and then be lost.

This, of course, is denied by numerous passages of the New Testament.

In addition, we view "being saved" as something that happens at a point in time, so we can say "I was saved three years ago." This is not at all a scriptural viewpoint. One cannot be saved yesterday. Salvation is a process.

I do not mean a person is saved, and then lost, and then saved, and then lost. The problem here is that when we raise this argument we are not using the term "saved" correctly.

Let me explain. The Lord Jesus stated that He is the Vine and we are the branches. It is God’s will that we bear fruit, that is, that the moral image of Christ come forth in our personality. Bearing the image of Christ in this manner is as true a definition of salvation as can be found in the New Testament.

Now, do you see how inappropriate it is to say we were saved three years ago? Would we mean we were bearing the image of Christ three years ago? It is not a question of being saved one day and then lost the next. Rather it is that the process of salvation is that of bearing the fruit of Christ’s image. This is a program of continual growth. If we bear fruit we are pruned that we may bear more fruit. If we do not bear fruit we are removed from the Vine, from Christ.

Salvation is not a ticket to Heaven. Salvation is the bringing forth of a new creation, a new creation in which old things have passed away and all things have become new. Such moral transformation cannot possibly take place at the moment of "accepting Christ." Accepting Christ is the entrance to the program of salvation.

Are you beginning to see the difference between viewing the Christian salvation as a ticket to Heaven, and viewing the Christian salvation as a program of change from a sinful nature to the moral image of Christ?

Once you see this and ponder its ramifications you no doubt will feel as intensely as I do concerning the need for a reformation of Christian thinking. We simply are as far off base as were the Judaizers of Paul’s day or the Catholics of the days of the Reformers.

Now I would like to discuss with you the topic of this essay, which is that our goal is to be saved. We have to endure to the end to be saved, as our Lord said. Let us now look at several passages from the New Testament, interpreted by us in terms of their context, and think carefully about their implications.

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (I Timothy 4:11-16—NIV)

One can see at a glance how foreign this passage is to the way salvation currently is presented. Remember, our thesis is that salvation is a prize toward which one struggles rather than a ticket one holds, waiting to die to go to Heaven.

When we say salvation is a prize toward which one struggles we do not mean we earn salvation by our works. We do not mean this at all. Christ once and for all paid the full price as an atonement for our sins. Rather we are speaking of pressing through the numerous obstacles that seek to prevent our laying hold on the prize.

We do not work for our salvation. Rather, we work it out.

The gift of salvation is like the gift of a piano. Someone can give us a grand piano, a piano we never could afford perhaps. Let us say that the piano is given to us without any charge whatever, is brought to our house, and set up in one of the rooms. Included with the piano are collections of the finest compositions. We do not do one thing to earn this piano or the accompanying volumes of music masterpieces.

Resident in this piano is Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Bach. There is the most marvelous music we would love to hear and would enjoy playing so others might hear.

There is only one problem. We are facing many years of diligent effort under the supervision of capable teachers if we are to bring forth the desired music.

In order to master the piano we have to set aside many other pursuits in order to gain the time and energy to patiently learn to read the music and skillfully perform it on the keyboard. To really master the works of the classic composers we have to set aside at least two or three hours a day (or much longer) for many years.

We have been given a piano. Our goal is to learn to play it. We begin with confidence. Then there arise obstacles that must be overcome. The obstacles may be in the form of lack of money, or physical weakness and sickness, or the objection of people who desire to hear other kinds of music, or the lack of a qualified teacher, or family concerns, or sheer boredom or discouragement, or war. Many hurdles may be placed in front of us as we fight toward the goal.

When you hear an accomplished pianist play Beethoven or Chopin you know the individual has pressed through many problems and obstacles, countless hours of drudgery, in order to easily and flawlessly perform some difficult passage.

Can you see now the difference between working to earn salvation and working out your salvation while moving toward the final goal of eternal life? The gift of a piano is not the gift of a ticket that enables you to play difficult compositions. It is rather the gift of an opportunity to learn to play difficult compositions, provided you follow the rules that control the mastery of the piano.

Now let us think carefully about the above passage.

First of all, "command and teach these things." If we are to properly approach the Christian salvation we must accept the fact that the New Testament is a book of commandments, and these commandments are to be obeyed. "Command and teach these things." If we do not obey the commands given by the Lord Jesus and His Apostles we are not going to reach the goal; we are not going to win the prize; we are not going to be saved.

Forget what is commonly being taught today about Divine grace being an eternal amnesty. Such teaching is error, being based on several verses, such as Romans 10:9,10, taken out of the context of the epistle in which they are contained.

"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." "Command and teach these things." As part of being saved we are to set an example for the other believers, in speech, life, love, faith, and purity. These are not just nice things we might consider doing, they are the means by which we save ourselves.

"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." We might apply this exhortation to ourselves. We are to present our body a living sacrifice to God that we might prove His will for our life. Having found His will we are to pursue it day and night if we intend to be saved.

All that the Apostle Paul commanded Timothy can be performed by any believer who is willing to pray, study the Scriptures, and otherwise live as a true disciple of the Lord. The commandments found in the New Testament are possible to obey as we lay hold on the grace of God in Christ.

"Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you." Many of us may not have opportunity to be prophesied over by an anointed ministry. But we can find out our role in the Body of Christ by seeking the Lord diligently. Then we are not to neglect our gift but to use it diligently. If we choose to bury our talent we will not be saved, our talent will be removed from us and we will be sent to the outer darkness. This is what Jesus said.

"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so everyone may see your progress." There are so many distractions in America, and so much opportunity to sin, that only the most dedicated believers will be diligent in the things of the Kingdom. These are the ones who will gain the prize of salvation. The other believers are facing punishment in the Day of the Lord.

But aren’t we saved by "grace"? Yes, we are. The grace of God has been given to us who believe in Jesus that we might be able to come out from the present sinful age and serve the Lord. God has given us grace to do this, but in order to avail ourselves of Divine grace we must do exactly as Paul has instructed Timothy.

"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." If we would be saved we must endure to the end. To attain the goal of salvation requires a lifelong struggle against various enemies and obstacles. It is only by obeying what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that we can save ourselves and those who follow us.

Christ did not appear to save us apart from any effort on our part. Christ came to make it possible for us to save ourselves. This we do by looking to Him constantly for wisdom, strength, and virtue.

Obviously it is time for a reformation of Christian thinking.

And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"  (I Peter 4:18—NIV)

What does the above verse mean? The context, the fourth chapter of First Peter, tells us we are saved by fiery suffering and trials. The righteous person experiences severe chastening. Only by praying and meditating continually in God’s Word can a righteous person maintain faith in God and thus be saved. The ungodly and the sinner will face the Divine Fire at a later time.

If you are going through a severe test right now, do not despair. Keep looking to Jesus. Keep looking to Jesus. Never, never quit. Christ will make a way for you to go through successfully but you must keep your eyes steadfastly on Him!

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12—NIV)

In order to be saved we have to fight. Against whom or what do we fight? We fight against the world spirit, against the lusts and passions of our flesh, against our personal ambition and desires for achievement and success, against Satan, and sometimes against other Christians.

What are we trying to accomplish that we have such enemies? We are trying to take hold of the eternal life to which we have been called. It is the fight of faith—faith that God is all-powerful, that He cares about us, that He is bringing us to certain joy, that no power in the heavens or on the earth can harm us when we are living in God’s will.

Why are Satan and his followers seeking to prevent us from gaining eternal life? Jealousy and spite. The wicked are not able to enjoy eternal life and they do not want us to enjoy eternal life. So they fight against us twenty-four hours of every day throughout our lifetime on the earth.

We have been called to inherit eternal life. But in order to receive our inheritance we have to fight for it.

Eternal death and eternal life are always fighting for dominance in the Christian personality. The only way we can give eternal life the upper hand is by doing all that Christ and His Apostles have commanded. The moment we become careless or neglect our salvation we begin to move in the wrong direction. The currents against which we are struggling are swift and strong.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (II Timothy 4:7—NIV)

I cannot think of anything more worthwhile than to come to the end of one’s life and be able to say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Can you imagine how you would feel if you are able to say this when you know you are about to die? Can you imagine how pleasing it would be to the Lord Jesus to welcome home a believer with this testimony?

But to come to such an end we have to fight the good fight; we have to run the good race. Fighting and running are among the most strenuous of all exercises. They cannot be engaged in by people who have been sedentary for a period of time. Prolonged fighting and running are painful as the heart and lungs strive to provide the oxygen necessary for the burning of cells. Running a race and fighting each requires two or more adversaries. The idea is to win. We are running and fighting that we may win salvation.

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8—NIV)

"That I may gain Christ!" What does that statement mean, coming as it did toward the end of Paul’s life, while he was confined in the barracks of the Praetorian Guard? Was the Apostle still trying to gain Christ or is this just a nice saying?

It is time for a reformation of Christian thinking concerning how we are saved.

Do you not know in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (I Corinthians 9:24-27—NIV)

"Do you not know in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?" I do not believe many American Christians realize we must run a race in order to be saved. Paul does not mean only one person will be saved. He is emphasizing that we must run to win.

"Run in such a way as to get the prize." A champion athlete has an inner fire that other competitors lack. He is a "killer," so to speak. It is not that he desires to hurt someone, it is rather that there is a determination to win that permits no interference. His entire personality is concentrated on pushing, pushing, pushing until everything gives way before him. He is driving his body way past ordinary endurance. He will fight, and fight, and run, and run, and push, and push, blinded to everything else. When no energy is left he calls up more and still keeps pushing. He is going to win and will accept no other outcome of his terrific struggle.

God has people like that and they blaze a trail that others may follow. Not all believers have this kind of fire, but all have to exert themselves—strenuously at times—in order to gain the prize of salvation.

"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training." Paul is referring to the athletic competitions of his day. As is true of our time, those who compete in the Olympics do not live an ordinary life. They spend many hours each day training, training, training. Their diet is carefully controlled. They have expert instructors. Their whole life revolves around the desire to win in the games.

Do we view the plan of salvation in this manner? If we do not we are unscriptural.

I think we in America are facing war or some other type of prolonged catastrophe. If this takes place, we shall see many believers who today are living careless lives turn and run the race as they are supposed to be doing. They will understand if they do not apply themselves with all their might they are going to fall by the wayside.

Christian, prepare yourself today. There is not going to be a pre-tribulation rapture to remove you from the conflict.

"They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." The champion athlete spends many years driving himself to the top of his sport. He wants the gold medal or the trophy so he can show to the world the proof of his magnificent effort.

However, we as Christians are pursuing a "crown that will last forever." The eternal crown goes to the believer who has given all that he is and has in order to win the race.

The attitude today is that every lukewarm churchgoer will be given the eternal crown. What do you think Paul would say to the churches of America at the present time?

"He who endures to the end shall be saved." If I am correct we are facing both great trouble and great revival in America. If this proves to be true (I have been stating this for twenty-five years) we are going to have to learn how to endure.

A friend of mine was preaching in another country. After preaching all one day he was so unwise as to drink the water. The next morning he awoke with dysentery.

He thought, "I cannot go out and preach today. I am too sick!"

The Lord said to him, "You American baby!"

In that particular country, when young people want to become Christians they are asked, "Are you ready to die for Jesus?"

In America we gush all over people, making the demands on them so minimal that they can continue their worldly life and still be "saved."

We have lost sight of God, and our doctrine comes far short of the Scriptures. If we are to survive the horrors facing us we had better get back in training. The race may become grueling in the days ahead.

"Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air." Paul had a clear goal. His goal was to attain the resurrection from the dead. We of today do not even realize there is such a goal or that the first resurrection, the resurrection unto eternal life, must be attained.

We have made going to Heaven after we die our goal. On what Scripture is our goal based? There is no passage of the Bible that points to Heaven as our goal.

When Paul, in the third chapter of the Book of Philippians, spoke of his goal, his mark, he said nothing about Heaven. He wrote about his supreme effort to gain Christ, requiring that he lay everything aside and count all his achievements as garbage.

Why? So he could attain the resurrection. We of America do not even understand we determine the kind of resurrection we shall have by the manner in which we serve the Lord today.

We have been thoroughly deceived by the unscriptural philosophy of Dispensationalism. We are emphasizing a flight from danger by means of a "rapture." Yet nowhere in the Bible does it say God will catch us up to Heaven that we may escape danger. We are way off the track, and so the believers are remaining spiritual babies.

How can we run with all our might when we have no clear goal? How can we fight intelligently and effectively when we do not understand the warfare? And so we drift along with our Christian traditions, having no idea why it is so utterly important to keep the commandments of Christ and His apostles.

In spite of the clear passages of the Scriptures, we are not even aware we have to run and fight throughout our discipleship in order to gain Christ! In fact, we do not even understand that all Christians are disciples and must bring their lives under the daily discipline of Christ! We are worshiping in a man-made religion, mistaking this for the Christian salvation.

Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9 62—NIV)

Plowing is a hard business, especially if the soil is rocky, or there are a lot of roots, or the ground has a high clay content. One can easily become discouraged and give up, figuring the land is not suitable for farming.

The Christian discipleship is like this. It is never an easy course, and sometimes it is so difficult as to appear impossible.

I have been a Christian for over fifty years. After considering myself and my fellow believers I have come to the conclusion that the most serious mistake we can make is to quit. Jesus said we ought always to pray and not to faint. Why did He say this? He said it because He understands that the way to eternal life is narrow and constricted.

We have to be proven worthy of the Kingdom of God. We have to be fit for the Kingdom. We prove our fitness by persevering in the face of difficulties. The righteous are saved with difficulty.

Do not be afraid or faint-hearted because of what I have written. You can make a success of the Christian life if you really are determined to do so.

Christ has all power in the heavens and on the earth. He is ready to help you in the smallest detail of life as well as when you are faced with gigantic, seemingly unsolvable problems.

What I am deploring in this essay is the current view of the Christian salvation as a ticket which one receives by taking a particular theological stance. Salvation is not a ticket. It is a fight to the finish, a race that requires our sternest efforts.

Paul advised us to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and not to entangle ourselves with the present world.

As I said, the days ahead in America may be rough indeed. This is not a reason for fainting with fear. But it is a reason for arming ourselves to stand in the evil day. As long as we perceive the Christian salvation for what it truly is, the opportunity through the grace of Jesus Christ to recover the fellowship with God that was lost in the Garden of Eden, we will overcome all obstacles and finally stand in victory before the Lord Jesus.

But if we view the Christian salvation as a ticket we hold while we drift aimlessly along in the powerful currents of the American culture, we will never be able to stand against the forces of Antichrist.

Here they come at two o’clock in the morning. They grab us and drag us into the bathroom. There they keep plunging our head into the toilet. When our lungs are bursting they yank our head back and ask us if we will go along with their system. If we will not, they say, we will never see our children again.

We have been awakened from a sound sleep to experience this, just as has happened to Christians in other parts of the world. We are terrified. The hordes of Hell are depressing our spirit. All we have to do is to go along with them and not resist their program.

How many Christians are ready for this? How many are ready to drown in the toilet? How many are ready to trust Jesus when their children are taken away?

"I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God." (Luke 12:8,9—NIV)

A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:9-11—NIV)

Picture another situation in which you are suddenly faced with extreme suffering. Let us say in the middle of the night you are dragged from your home, thrown into a police car, not permitted to say good-bye to anyone of your family, taken to the county jail, and shoved into a cell with rapists and sexual perverts.

In the morning you are brought before a judge and told that if you will go along with the ways of the government, not take a stand against the sins that are being legalized, you can return home safely to your family.

But if you refuse you will never see any member of your family again.

How would you or your Christian friends respond to a situation like this? Such an experience is not unheard of. Similar attacks are being made against Christians in other countries. If you will think carefully about the response of the average Christian believer in America you will understand why Satan has brought the super-grace, flight to Heaven doctrines into the churches. It is so we Christians will not be able to bear witness of Christ during the darkness that is close at hand. We will be so terrified at the thought of losing our comfortable existence we will compromise our faith.

We must—we absolutely must—prepare ourselves now. There is not a moment to lose. We indeed are American babies, just as the Lord said. But our fellow members of the Body of Christ in Sudan, China, Peru, Egypt, and other places are not living such a soft, comfortable life where the chief Christian concern is who is going to win the Super Bowl.

Jabotinsky, a brilliant Russian Jew with a prophetic gift, for several years warned the Jews in Europe of the coming Holocaust, going from city to city. They would not heed the warning. Relatively few responded.

Today the Christian prophets are warning us that difficult times are ahead for us in America. We had better listen and do what Christ and His Apostles commanded in the New Testament. We can stand in the evil day, but only if we put on the whole armor of God; only if we fight the fight and run the race.

The days of the silly, sloppy, Hollywood, Disneyland American gospel are soon to be brought to an end by the fires of Divine judgment. For America, the handwriting is on the wall. It is time to return to the Bible. It is time for a reformation of Christian thinking.