“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” – Matthew 16:24-26
We commonly see the “if you believe in Jesus and want to be saved raise your hand” message given in church. We see many hands go up but few lives changed. Why? Jesus never told anyone that they could be saved by a raised hand or even merely by what they said. In fact He often warned not to believe what people say outwardly professing to be sheep when inwardly they were actually wolves. So how did Jesus give an alter call?
Jesus’s alter calls when something like this: “if you want to follow Me, deny yourself, pick up your cross, follow Me and My example. If you are willing to give up everything in the life you have you will be saved. If not, then you won’t.”
If you have not died to self then you are not alive unto Christ. When the rich young ruler came asking Jesus to be counted among His own, Jesus pointed out to him the one thing that He knew he was not willing to give up attempting to show him that anything you are not willing to give up for Jesus is idolatry. For him it was his money, he was not in any open sin but because he loved his money more then God and when He asked him to lay it down he would not then Jesus did not accept him.
Salvation is a surrendered will in all things that will reflect in a transformed life. When Nicodemus asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved, Jesus told him that he had to be “born again”. In other words, you have to be changed into something totally new, you can’t hold on to anything of your life and be saved, not your sin, not your desires, not your plans, not your ideas, not your comfort zone, not your logic. Or else you will end up just like the Pharisees who rejected the salvation of the Lord while claiming to already walk in it and were called by Jesus, “vipers and children of hell”.
When Jesus offered salvation it was salvation from sin, from selfishness, from self service and self will, from idolatry, and because they were saved from these things they were by proxy saved from hell. If the person was not willing to be changed then they were not willing to be saved and Jesus never made them think that they were. He told them the truth for the sake of their soul. True salvation is a laying down, or surrender of your will for God’s. If this exchange of wills has not happened then you are not saved. As the old hymn says: “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.”
You see most people want Jesus to save them from hell, but not from themself, they want to be saved from punishment for sin but not from the sin that brings the punishment. The reality is that if you’re not saved from sin, you’re not saved from hell either. In fact the Bible says that if you choose to remain in your sin after that you have received the knowledge of the truth of Jesus’s sacrifice to liberate you from it and have been sanctified by His blood washing you of it, that not only does His sacrifice not continue to apply to you but hell will actually be worse for you because that you have by your actions (regardless of your profession) trampled His blood underfoot treating it as powerless, common, worthless, and unholy.
God’s warning to the believer that believes they can remain in their sin, self will, self centeredness, and idolatry and still be saved from hell:
“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” – Hebrews 10:26-31
God’s warning to the minister that teaches such things:
“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” – Matthew 23:13-15
God continually warning against the rise of these sinning self willed believers, their lack of fear of God, their willingness to speak against the pure things of God and the power of His Holy Spirit sent to overcome sin, and the devil’s purpose through them to filthy the bride of Christ with spots making her unfit for the Lord’s return:
“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government (God’s authority against the kingdom of hell and all its works). Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities (this who exercise God’s authority against the kingdom of hell and its works) . Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;” – 2 Peter 2:9-15