BECOME IMMORTAL THROUGH REPENTANCE, BAPTISM, AND CONVERSION
The gift that God the Father offers to those he calls to salvation in this age is not just eternal life; it is much more. The angels have eternal life and they are sustained by God's life-giving power, yet they can be destroyed if they disobey him. The life God offers to the Elect is immortal life, which can never be destroyed.
The quality of life promised by the Father is comparable to that which he himself has. God is a spirit-being who inherently possesses the highest form of lifeimmortality on the divine plane of existence. Immortality springs forth from itself; and it is not dependent on any other source to sustain it because it is self-sustaining:
"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changedin a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will become true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory" (1.Cor.15:51-54 NIV). See also Rom.2:7; 2.Tim.1:9-10; 1.Pet.4:6; Rev.20:6.
It is abundantly clear from studying the Bible that God the Father intends to share immortality with those he calls to repentance, baptism, and conversion. The acquisition of immortality allows a person to pass beyond this physical existence into the Family of God.
Although immortality represents the highest reward that is granted for faithfulness to God, there is much more. The reward for being righteous is not to float around heaven playing harp music for eternity. God the Father and Jesus Christ have something far more spectacular in store for those who are accounted worthy to take part in the first resurrection. Some of the enormous rewards that the Father promises to those he calls to salvation are as follows:
An Awesome Opportunity
The magnitude of the opportunity and reward that God the Father offers to those called to salvation through repentance, baptism, and conversion is almost beyond the ability of human beings to comprehend; nevertheless, what God offers can be obtained by those who are willing to repent and become obedient to his way of life:
"But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. But God has revealed them to us by his spirit: for his spirit searches all things, yes the deep things of God" (1.Cor.2:9-10 KJV).
HOW TO OBTAIN SALVATION
It is one thing to understand what salvation is; however, obtaining salvation is an entirely different matter. Obtaining salvation is a process which involves the following seven steps:
1. Being called to salvation by God the Father.
2. Proving that God does exist and that the Bible is his word.
3. Believing in Jesus Christ and his perfect sacrifice.
4. Repenting of violating God's law and way of life.
5. Asking for forgiveness of sin and being baptized.
6. Receiving God's spirit that transforms a person into a son of God.
7. Growing in the grace and knowledge of God's truth, while overcoming the temptations of the flesh.
THE CALL TO SALVATION
The call to salvation and immortality during this age (just prior to the return of Christ) is a truly unique and awesome opportunity. This opportunity is not pure chance, but has been carefully planned and directed by God the Father for a very special purpose:
"For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:39 KJV). See also Rom.8:29-30, 1.Cor.1:9,23-28; Eph.1:5-9; 1.Thes.5:23-24; 2.Tim.1:8-9; Heb.9:14-15.
Only God the Father has the prerogative to call a person to salvation and he gives everyone he calls the opportunity either to accept or reject this call. There is no neutral response to the call of God, either a person becomes a son of God or they do not!
Jesus himself confirms that the call to salvation is only made by God the Father:
"No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me, draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn.6:44 KJV).
"And he said, Therefore said I to you, that no man can come to me, except it were given to him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him" (Jn.6:65-66 KJV).
Paul also adds to the understanding of the uniqueness of the Father's call:
"Then do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me, his prisoner. But suffer hardship with the gospel, according to the power of God, he having saved us and having called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace given to us in Jesus Christ before eternal times" (2.Tim.1:8-9 KJV Para.).
Paul was inspired to record that it is not because of a person's effort that the Father extends the call to sonship; it is because God the Father has a purpose for the one called. Also, notice that the Father made the decision to offer this opportunity to these specific individuals before they were born. See our study paper concerning the subject of predestination for more details.
It is God the Father who opens a person's conscious mind, and begins to direct their thought process toward the physical and spiritual knowledge that will bring them into an awareness of him and the opportunity they are being offered:
"No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: . . ." (Jn.6:44 KJV). See also Jn.6:65.
"Or despise you the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God that leads you to repentance" (Rom.2:4 KJV).
A Special Calling
Many are called to salvation, but only a comparative few of thosepast and presentare chosen to participate in the first resurrection when Jesus returns as King of kings. Those called before Christ's return have been selected for a special purpose. On the surface this may seem unfair, but it is not. The God Family has a plan for all of humanity, which is extremely fair and logical in its execution. See our study paper concerning the resurrections.
If God the Father and Jesus Christ have been trying to save all of humanity from the time of Adam to this present age, the scriptures concerning the requirements for salvation cannot be reconciled with the facts of history or the rest of the Bible. This is not a very popular teaching, but it is true nonetheless; today is not the only day of salvation, it is 'a' day of salvation. God was not calling all of humanity to salvation in the past, and he is not calling all of humanity to salvation today. It is only the day of salvation for those called in this age for a special purpose. See our studies concerning the various resurrections.
God the Father personally calls each person to salvation, and then leads them to repentance. This process may take years or a very short time and it requires that enough knowledge and understanding of God's truth be given to a person to enable them to understand the following:
Called and Chosen
"So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen" (Matt.20:16; 22:14 KJV).
Jesus says that those who are chosen to have their minds opened and are called to repentance, baptism, and conversion during this age have not been called by chance; each person has been called for a special reason.
One reason a person is called to salvation during this age is to fulfill a position or function within the church. See 1.Cor.12:18,27-28; 2.Cor.5:20.
Another reason for this calling, is to prepare a people for future responsibilities in God's kingdom as kings and priests who will rule and teach God's truth. Those called to the first resurrection are to be the role-models, leaders, and teachers for those who have never had an opportunity for salvation. See Rev.2:26; 3:21; 5:10; 20:4-6.
GOD AND THE BIBLE
The vast majority of those who profess to believe in God have not taken the time nor spent the effort to prove that God actually exists. Most have just taken the word of someone in whom they have confidence, or they just have a feeling that God exists. But, is it logical to take the word of someone else or trust your feelings on such an important question?
It is the responsibility of each individual who is called by God to sort out these questions for themselves and prove, to their own satisfaction, the existence of God and the validity of his Word:
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb.11:6 KJV).
The faith that the writer to the Hebrews speaks of is not blind belief, it is belief that is based on knowledge. Once a person has proven that God does indeed exist, they must prove that the Bible is his inspired word to mankind and a book to be followed by those who desire to obey the Creator's instructions and way of life.
King David says, "The fool has said in his heart, There is no God" (Psa.53:1). Jesus says, "It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Lk.4:4).
BELIEVE IN CHRIST
In the account of Paul and Silas being released from prison by an angel (Acts 16), the jailer asks, "What must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house" (Acts 16:30-33 KJV).
History clearly shows that Jesus was neither a myth nor a legend; he did exist; he was a real human being. However, there is more to gaining salvation than just believing that Christ existed. Even Satan and the demons believe in God (Jms.2:19).
Many people believe that Jesus Christ existed, and many people also acknowledge that he is the Savior of humanity and they may even accept him as their personal Savior. However, there are very few who believe to the point that they are willing to follow his teachings and examples as a way of life. To those of shallow belief, Christ says,
"And why call you me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Lk.6:46 KJV).
Believing is more than just an acknowledgment that Jesus existed and was the Son of God. Belief in Jesus Christ is manifested in one's life through a deep commitment to God, and it is evidenced by the righteous fruit of that belief.
DOING AND BELIEVING
After a person is called to salvation (Jn.6:44,65; Acts 2:47), there are some very specific things they must do in order to be converted and enter into the Family of God.
A person is justified (made righteous) by what they do as well as by what they believe. It is very important to understand that it takes physical effort and a right attitude to maintain one's righteousness before God. See Jms.2:11-24.
To worship God as we should takes physical effort. One must study God's word, communicate with the Father, fellowship with those of like mind, and make righteous decisions. In short, it takes faith and works in order to truly follow God. It is through these good works that we show God our faith in him and his son.
REPENTANCE, BAPTISM, AND CONVERSION
To those who desire to become a son of God, repentance, baptism, and conversion are three extremely important steps in the process of obtaining salvation, because they are the steps that lead to a covenant relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Before the beginning of Christ's ministry, John the Baptist preached that people should repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins:
"As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before your face, which shall prepare your way before you. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mk.1:2-4 KJV). See also Matt.3:1-7; Lk.3:3.
"Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel" (Mk.1:14-15).
On the first festival of Pentecost, after the death and resurrection of Christ, the apostle Peter spoke to a great assembly of people after the holy spirit had been given to the first Christians. This was a truly unique time in history because it was the beginning of the gospel age of salvation.
Acts 2:37-39 KJV
"Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the holy spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." See also Rom.11:27-29.
There are four very important things to learn from these verses:
1. After Peter had finished telling of the prophecies that foretold the coming of the holy spirit and the murder of Jesus Christ, he exhorted these people to repent of their evil ways.
2. Through the preaching of Peter, God the Father revealed the prophetic significance of the Passover, which had just been observed, and the events that were happening at that moment in time.
There can be little doubt that some of those whom Peter addressed understood that they had participated in the murder of their Messiah and Savior, just as the prophesies had foretold. In great fear and shame, they ask Peter, "What shall we do?"
3. Peter gave them a method by which they could have their sins forgiven and be transformed into sons of God:
4. Peter explains that this call to repent, be baptized, and receive the holy spirit is made by God the Father to those he specifically calls and chooses to present with the opportunity of salvation.
On this festival, through Peter, God revealed the New Covenant method by which a person could be saved and obtain eternal life and immortality. In order to understand this method, it is necessary to review each of its steps in detail.
Terms and Conditions
A person cannot earn salvation or eternal life because it is a gift (Rom.6:23); however, God the Father has set forth a number of terms and conditions that must be complied with before he will bestow the gift of salvation and eternal life.
Many times, people give gifts to others that have terms and conditions, which must be fulfilled before the person actually receives the gift. An example of a gift with terms and conditions is a will or a trust which is made prior to the death of an individual. One of the prerequisites in order to obtain the gift of eternal life is repentance.
REPENTANCE AND CONVERSION
"Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19 KJV).
What Peter was inspired to preach about repentance on the festival of Pentecost was nothing new, because God has always required repentance of sin in order for a person to be in harmony with him.
While Jesus was speaking to a group of people, he used examples from their time to admonish them to repent and obey God:
"About this time he was informed that Pilate had butchered some Jews from Galilee as they were sacrificing at the Temple in Jerusalem. "Do you think they were worse sinners than other men from Galilee?" he asked. "Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And don't you realize that you will also perish unless you leave your evil ways and turn to God? "And what about the eighteen men who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? Not at all! And you, too, will perish unless you repent" (Lk.13:1-5 LBP).
There is no doubt that repentance is necessary in order for a person to be converted; however, there are many different ideas and beliefs as to what repentance means, what repentance is, and how one goes about the process of repentance.
Many feel that to repent means to feel sorry for being a sinner and to ask God to forgive one's sins. Others feel repentance is just a matter of going through the ritual of baptism. Still others feel that it is a matter of the heart and they believe one must just give one's heart to the Lord. However, to truly repent, be baptized, and converted comprises far more than just being sorry you have sinned, feeling remorseful, saying a few words, and participating in a ritual.
True repentance is extremely important, because it is the first step in the process of receiving salvation. If a person is not truly repentant, they will not receive God's spirit and will not be saved.
The Word Repent
The English word 'repent' that is used in Acts 2:38 comes from the Greek word 'metanoia', which is a very complex word because it deals with the mind and thought process. In the context of Acts 2:38, the word 'metanoia' clearly refers to changing from that which is evil to that which is good.
The repentance that Peter speaks of is not the 'metanoia ametameletos' (repentance) that Paul speaks of in 2.Cor.7:8 KJV, which means 'regret' or 'sorrow'. Although a person should regret violating God's laws and ways of life, to truly repent means to do much more than just feel sorry.
True repentance requires a total change in a person's life, a change that leads away from all aspects of evil and leads toward that which is of God. True repentance also requires a total commitment and an unconditional surrender to the rule and authority of God.
Repent of What?
If a person does not first know and understand exactly of what to repent, how can they accomplish repentance? Obviously they cannot. Repentance involves knowledge and understanding. A person must know of what to repent and then understand why they should repent.
Does God the Father call a person to salvation, lead them to repentance, and ask them to repent without revealing of what they are to repent in order to gain salvation? Absolutely not! This would not make any sense and is totally illogical. God does not leave a person he calls to salvation in ignorance as to what he expects of them.
Repent of Sin
God inspired the prophet Isaiah to encourage the people of Israel to repent of their sins so he could bless them:
"Wash yourselves, purify yourselves, put away the evil of your doings from my sight, stop doing evil. Learn to do good; seek justice; reprove the oppressor; judge the orphan; strive for the widow. Come and let us reason together, says the Lord: Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing to hear, you shall eat the good of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken" (Isa.1:16-20 KJV Para.).
Notice what Jesus says to those who were offended by his association with certain people:
"And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said to his disciples, How is it that he eats and drinks with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he said to them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mk.2:16-17 KJV).
James speaks very bluntly to Israel about the cause of their current problems:
"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts you double minded" (Jms.4:8 KJV). Please read verses 1 through 11 for background information concerning this admonition from James. See also Matt.9:10-13; Jn.8:1-11.
All of the above references refer to repenting of sin in order to become right with God. However, before a person can repent of sin, they must know exactly what sin is.
WHAT IS SIN?
In past centuries there has been much debate and confusion as to what sin is and is not. Notice how sin is defined in the Bible:
"Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1.Jn.3:4 KJV).
"All unrighteousness is sin" (1.Jn.5:17 Para.).
"Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Blessed is the one not condemning himself in what he approves. But the one doubting, if he eats, he has been condemned, because it is not of faith, all that is not of faith is sin" (Rom.14:22-23 KJV Para.).
"Therefore, to anyone knowing to do good, and not doing it, it is sin to him" (Jms.4:17 KJV Para.).
Sin is the violation of the physical and spiritual law of God; sin is lawlessness. Sin is any deviation from God's righteous laws, precepts, and principals, which define how a person should live their life and worship God. It is this deviation from the law of God for which a person must ask forgiveness.
A person cannot be a true child of God by the biblical definition unless they are in obedience to God's ten commandments and other laws. A person cannot pick and choose which of God's laws they will or will not obey; all of the law must be obeyed:
"For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom.2:13 KJV). See also Psa.119:172; 2.Jn.5-6.
Keep the Commandments
Just as the question of eternal life is on the minds of people today, it was on the minds of people during Jesus' day:
"And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt.19:16-17 KJV).
Why did Jesus tell this young man to keep the Commandments? The answer is simplethe young man had a choice. He could either obey God's law and gain eternal life or he could disobey and pay the penalty for disobedience (Rom.6:23).
"And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Rev.22:12-14 KJV).
Before a person can repent there must be a realization that they are a sinner and have been living in violation of God's law and way of life. A person must also realize that there is a need for a change from the old sinful self to a new righteous person.
Before repentance, baptism, and conversion, all people are living in disobedience to God's law and are under a death sentence for this violation. Only those who live in obedience to the law are just before God. Everyone else is living in sin and is not pleasing him with their lives. Everyone needs to change from the condition of sin to the righteous condition of sinlessness.
Everyone needs to come into conformity with the law of God. A fundamental teaching of both the Old and the New Testaments is that a person must be in obedience to God's laws, precepts, and principles before they will be granted salvation.
How to Repent
The Father leads a person to repentance but he will not force a person to repent. It is each individual's personal responsibility to make the decision for total change in their life.
A Personal Evaluation
A major part of the repentance process concerns doing a serious and honest evaluation of one's attitude, state of mind, and lifestyle, which is extremely important in order to understand one's current relationship and condition before God. Listed below are a few things that are necessary for a person to consider and understand before asking God's forgiveness:
A Change of Heart
For a person to truly repent, there must be an intense desire and an effort to have a change of heart. This change of heart is a change in one's attitudes, state of mind, priorities, and lifestyle; a change which will lead away from the things that are against God and toward the things that are of God.
ASK FOR FORGIVENESS
Asking God the Father to forgive our sins is an extremely personal encounter with the very head and power of the Family of God. A person must be sincerely sorry that they have sinned when they ask for the Father's forgiveness. See Isa.66:2; 2.Cor.7:10.
God the Father promises that he will forgive our sins and remove our death sentence if we ask him:
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1.Jn.1:9 KJV). See also Isa.1:18; 1.Jn.5:13-15.
Each person must ask forgiveness for themselves in the name of Jesus Christ. Asking in Jesus' name is the same as asking by his authority as our High Priest, because Jesus alone has the authority to intercede on our behalf to God the Father for the forgiveness of our sins. See Acts 4:12; Jn.14:6.
Notice what Paul says about the intercessory authority of Jesus:
"Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them" (Heb.7:25 KJV).
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1.Tim.2:5 KJV).
EVIDENCE OF REPENTANCE
Before a person is baptized, God the Father and Jesus Christ require evidence of repentance. In speaking to a crowd of people who wanted to be baptized, John the Baptist says,
"Offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, and do not say within yourselves, We have Abraham as father. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham out of these stones" (Lk.3:7-8 KJV Para.).
True repentance is much more than an emotional feeling of sorrow or remorse. A person who is truly repentant must not only regret having sinned but also they must stop sinning. One who is seeking to please God should strive with all their being to obey God. True repentance requires a change of heart, mind, attitude, and behavior.
For a person to truly repent they must change the way they live and begin to follow a new way that leads to eternal life and immortality.
A Sincere Effort to Change
Can a person perfectly obey God before they have received his spirit? No, they cannot. However, if a person is truly sincere, they will make an honest effort to change and obey God. By making this effort, a person proves to God that they are sincere and are trying with all their might to obey everything that he has shown them. If a person is a thief, they should stop stealing; if they are committing adultery, they should stop; if they are a liar, they should stop; if they are breaking the Sabbath, they should start observing it.
God the Father and Jesus Christ understand that sin is difficult to overcome without their spirit; however, the Father does expect and require that an honest effort is made to stop breaking his law before one's baptism. If no effort is forthcoming, the Father will not give his spirit (See Acts 5:32):
"For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom.2:13 KJV).
Just saying one is sorry for violating God's laws and asking for forgiveness of one's sins is not enough. True repentance is not just a fleeting emotional experience; true repentance requires a real change in a person's attitude, thought process, and lifestyle. Yes, words are important; however, words must be backed up with action.
"Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophecy about you, saying, This people draws near to me with their mouth, and with their lips honor me; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the ordinances of men" (Matt.15:7-9 KJV Para.). See Isa.29:13; Ezk.33:31-32.
"What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life" (Rom.6:21-22 NIV).
The overall plan of God for salvation has not changed from the foundation of the world. Part of this plan is that humans must come into conformity with his laws of behavior. A fundamental teaching of both the Old and the New Testaments is that one must put forth a serious, heartfelt effort to change from disobedience to obedience before being granted salvation.
A CHANGE IN LIFESTYLE
Accepting Jesus Christ involves a change of heart, mind, attitude, and lifestyle; it involves a change in what we are and in the direction of our lives:
"Therefore also now, says the Lord, Turn you even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents him of the evil" (Joel 2:12-13 KJV).
This is what God is looking for in someone he calls and is leading to repentance. He wants that person to change from disobedience to obedience. This type of change requires a total commitment:
"For all those things has my hand made, and all those things have been, says the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word" (Isa.66:2 KJV).
Does this mean that God wants people to be terrified when they think of what he says? Does he get pleasure from people living in fear of him? The answer to both questions is No. God derives no pleasure from people living in fear of him. Having a contrite spirit means being truly humble before God.
God has patience and mercy towards those who understand that his words are goodness and life and to violate his instructions leads to death. Therefore, God is pleased with the person who has great reverence and respect for his words and seriously considers the consequences of violating his laws, precepts, and principles.
God wants a person to have a humble attitude before him (a sincere desire to obey him). He does not want them to have a spirit of arrogance, pride, or rebellion. God wants someone he calls and is leading to repentance to change from disobedience to obedience:
"The Lord is near to them that are of a broken heart; and saves those who have a contrite spirit" (Psa.34:18 KJV para.).
True repentance and conversion is an event of monumental proportions. It is not just a philosophical change. It is not only a change in the attitude but also in what the person 'is' physically and spiritually.
COUNT THE COST
Some time before making the decision to commit one's life to God the Father and Jesus Christ, a person must count the cost of making such a decision. There is a price to be paid, because it does cost something to change one's life from living in rebellion to living in obedience to God's law.
Jesus cautions those who receive the call to repentance and salvation from God the Father to count the cost:
"And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said to them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (vs.25-26 KJV). See Matt.10:34-39.
Jesus says that, in order to follow him, a person must be willing to put him first above all else. Nothing else is to have a higher priority than obedience to God's way of life. The phrase 'hate not' is a powerful Greek expression, which means, 'Love not less by comparison'. Any person who considers anyone or anything, including their own physical life, more important than their commitment to God cannot be a son of God.
"And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (Lk.14:27 NIV).
This is not some ethereal or philosophical statement. Jesus explains that each person who follows him must be willing to fulfill the responsibilities that they will be given, because there are major responsibilities to be carried out by everyone who is called to become a son of God:
"For which of you desiring to build a tower does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has the things to finish; lest having laid a foundation, and not having strength to finish, all those seeing begin to mock him, saying this man began to build and did not have strength to finish" (Lk.14:28-30 KJV Para.).
"Or what king going to attack another king in war does not first sit down and take council whether he is able with ten thousands to meet those coming upon him with twenty thousands? But if not, he being still far off, sending a delegation he asks the things of peace. So then every one of you who does not abandon all his possessions is not able to be my disciple" (Lk.14:31-33 KJV Para.).
A person should very carefully consider the awesome opportunity that is being offered to them and the kind of life and performance that will be expected of them once they become a child of God.
A SERIOUS DECISION
Accepting the call of God the Father to sonship is the most important and serious decision a person will ever make in their entire life, because this decision will affect the rest of their life, now and in the future:
"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Lk.14:34-35 NIV).
"He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father. Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God. Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family. Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Lk.9:59-62 NIV).
Once a person understands that they have been called to repentance and have been given the opportunity to become a son of God, they need to seriously count the cost. God requires a total commitment; there can be no turning back once a person commits to becoming a part of the God family.
There are many stern warnings to those who after they have accepted the call of God to salvation decide to rebel and depart from the faith. Notice that their fate is the same as the incorrigible wicked:
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the holy spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to open shame. But that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is near to cursing; whose end is to be burned" (Heb.6:4-6;8 KJV). See also Heb.2:1-3; 2.Pet.2:20-21; Ezk.18:24,26.
"For if we willfully sin after receiving the full knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice concerning sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and zealous fire being brought about to consume the adversaries. Anyone not regarding the law of Moses dies without pity on the word of two or three witnesses: How much worse punishment do you think he will be thought worthy to receive having trampled on the Son of God, and having counted the blood of the covenant in which he was sanctified common, and having insulted the spirit of grace?" (Heb.10:26-29 KJV Para.)
A son of God who breaks their baptismal agreement and makes a practice of violating his laws, principles, and precepts, willfully refusing to obey him, will die an eternal death.
If there is no sustained effort to live according to God's ways, God will not grant eternal life; instead, he will destroy the wicked person with fire: "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom.6:23).
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb.10:31).
If God the Father is calling and leading you to repentance and salvation, you must seriously count the cost involved in accepting the call. Once you make the commitment to follow God and are placed within his spiritual family, there can be no turning back to your former life without a horrible penalty being paid.
Are you willing to forsake everyone and everything, including your own physical life, in order to accept the offer of salvation? Do you have what it takes to follow through with a commitment to place God first in your life? Only you can answer these questions.
If you have counted the cost and want to obtain salvation, the next step is to be baptized in order to have your sins forgiven and be transformed by the holy spirit into a son of God.
By B.L. Cocherell, file b6w1