According to Jesus, faith is nothing less than a complete exchange of all we are for all he is. His declaration, recorded in John 12:25, intriguing and concerning me. “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.” Does that mean we should loathe the life we presumably have as a gift from him? I don’t think so. Other scripture defining “world” this way, “…the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does… but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:16,17
At another point Jesus insisted, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his (own personal life and preferences) will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel (or exchanges his will for God’s), will save it.” He then further explaining the futility of gaining the whole world but forfeiting one’s soul (Mark 8:34-37), there being nothing to be gained in this world to compare to the things, “…God has prepared for those who love him.” Which, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived…” here on earth. 1 Corinthians 2:9
Two parables stress the point of the immeasurable value of heaven. The first compares heaven to a treasure hidden in a field, upon finding it, the man of the parable – representing us – joyfully sold all he possessed to buy the field and its treasure. (Matthew 13:44) The other characterizes heaven as a pearl of great value, which – when discovered by a merchant – was bought by him even as it cost him everything he had. (Mat.13:45,46)
A third parable sets a more somber tone, likening heaven to a net cast out to catch a variety of fish, which when collected were sorted and separated. The “good” set aside for saving, the “bad” thrown out. (Matthew 13:47-50) Not a call to works salvation but an expectation of the genuinely saved being “righteous” by God’s grace – through faith – answering the call of Christ to follow him in right-living through word and deed.
Must we, then, sell all we have and live in poverty to serve Christ? No – Maybe. Must we personally rid our lives of sin to receive God’s grace? No – we can’t. (Romans 6:23) But a truly saved individual seeks to retain no “privileges,” makes no demands of its Savior, safeguards no persistent, willful sin. (Romans 2:5-8) John MacArthur writing, “Faith begets a heart that longs to surrender unconditionally to whatever the Lord demands.”1 But Jesus doesn’t require that, does he? Loving us so much that he forgives anything and everything, whether we repent or not; acknowledging him as uppermost in our lives or not, obeying him by seeking out his will for our lives – or not?
Even Paul, the great expositor of righteousness through faith, salvation by grace, works-free sanctification; preached an, “…obedience that comes from faith.” Romans 1:5 That obedience stemming from Jesus’ “command” that we love each other – family, friends and foes alike. That love identifying us as Christians and defining what it means to be a follower of Christ. (See John 13:34,35; 14:15; 15:12 & 1 John 3:23) The sum of the Law and Prophets – the Old and New Testaments – expressed in love of God first and foremost, our ability to love others unconditionally flowing from that. (See Matthew 22:37-40 & Mark 12:30,31)
Let me hasten to say again, salvation is absolutely freely given, not earned in any way. “But that doesn’t mean there is no cost in terms of salvation’s impact on the sinner’s life.”2 Christ’s love “compelling” us to a new life (2 Corinthians 5:14) of obedience to him instead of following sin’s evil desires. (Rom. 6:11-13See also Romans 6:5-7) We all being created anew in Christ our Savior, the old way of life being replaced by a new one. ( 2 Corinthians 5:17) Martin Luther speaking to the paradox of the Christian thusly: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.” But he is at the same time, “…a perfectly dutiful servant, subject to all.”3
Paul explaining that, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 And while a new believer won’t grasp all the nuances and ramifications of Jesus saving Lordship immediately at conversion, he or she will – or should – develop the desire to submit to that Lordship. Genuine faith expressed in humility and a desire to discover God’s will. Theologian Geerhardus Vos writing, “Jesus requires of his disciples the renunciation of all earthly bonds and possessions which would dispute God His supreme sway over their life.”4 (Citing Matthew 10:39 & 16:25 See also Jesus’ caution for us to count the cost of discipleship in Luke 14:28-33)
As spiritual understanding increases, the desire to obey likewise becomes greater, not just for obedience sake but to please – not ourselves – but God. This willingness to surrender to divine authority being the inevitable expression of a new nature. Paul’s struggles, enumerated in Romans 7:15-25, prove this to be a difficult task at times; but he is also a unique example of someone literally giving his all by living in, through, and for Christ.
Paul insisting that, “…whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus. 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 and be found in him,…” Philippians 3:7-9 Losing to gain. A fundamental principle of the nature of faith.
1John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, Zondervan Publishing
3 The Freedom of the Christian
4 The Kingdom of God and the Church
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