What teachings of the scriptures encapsulate the requirements for eternal life? We're going to look at some scriptures, and some instructions in those scriptures for how to receive eternal life, live it out on Earth, and how to be found as a faithful servant when we meet Jesus in heaven.
This could be said to be the most important topic imaginable because it deals directly with how we are to come to receive eternal life, and an eternal inheritance.
What is the equation in the scriptures that shows us how to inherit eternal life in the new City of God? Let's take a look at some of these aspects. We won't be defaulting back to any established theological framework, instead we're just going to look directly to the scriptures, emphasizing the New Testament, which is our current covenant, while also understanding that the scriptures are a consummate reflection of a saga played out in the context of the Old Testament. Let's start.
Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
There is only one way that we can receive forgiveness for all our past sins. There is only one way we can be reborn. There is only one way we can receive the Holy Spirit who lives in us. There is only one way that we can live a holy life, and receive forgiveness for future sins, as they come along. And all of those only statements are answered by one person: Jesus Christ.
We must receive Christ. We must trust in Christ. We must declare our complete allegiance to Christ. We must give everything to Christ. We must confess our sins and ask Christ for forgiveness. And when we trust in Christ, and trust in His perfect life, death, and resurrection, and believe that Jesus died in our place on the cross, to remove our sins, and to give us His righteousness, then we are truly saved.
And if we died a moment after believing these truths, like the thief on the cross who declared that he was a sinner and Christ was a pure savior, then we would go to heaven and be with Christ in paradise. And that leads us into our next area.
Repentance Toward God
2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
We must repent of all sin and repent in the ideas in our minds. The thief on the cross repented in that he acknowledged his own sinfulness and he acknowledged the blameless nature of Jesus Christ. He said,"We are judged justly. But this man is innocent. Remember me Jesus when you go into your kingdom." And Jesus replied,"Truly I tell you on this day you will be with me in paradise." And Jesus spoke the truth. That is repentance of mind, to admit our sinfulness and Christ's perfection.
But to repent also means to lay aside our sins, and to embrace a new lifestyle. Because most of us won't die instantly after meeting Jesus.
Living in the Spirit
Galatians 5:16-18 ESV But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The question could quickly be: How can I live a life of freedom from sin, when I'm so addicted to sin and so powerless over sin?
The answer to that question is life in the Spirit. When we live the Spirit life, we deny the flesh, and take up our cross and follow Jesus. When we live in the Spirit we surrender all to the Spirit of God, and He leads us into all righteousness. When we live in the Spirit, we crucify the flesh, and recognize over time, often months and years, that we are dead, and our lives are no longer our own. If we continue to yield to sin, the Spirit will convict us, that to continue in sin will lead us out of the arms of Christ, and into the depths of hell. In the fear of the Lord, then we repent truly, yield ourselves to the Spirit and we find our shackles have been broken and the Spirit is at last reigning in us. Access all of these blessings through constant desperate prayer. God will answer, in time. Keep appealing.
Abiding in Christ
John 15:1-10 ESV "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love."
Just as John 15 says, we must abide (or remain) in Christ. To abide in Christ means that we choose freely to love God above ourselves. It means we love with true love. And what is true biblical love? It's not a wishy washy worldly love. Love in a biblical sense is to keep the commandments of God, the ten commandments, which are summed up by Jesus to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love others as yourself.
Repentance From All Sin
Ezekiel 18:21-23 ESV "But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?"
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Don't let anyone deceive you with words: To sin means to fail God. We must trust in Jesus, and trust in the grace of Christ to free us from all sin. If we continue in sin, we can't expect to have any inheritance with Christ. But if we cry out to God, and ask for freedom from sin, He is just and righteous to free us from all sin.
Antinomianism is absolutely rampant in the churches of today. Antinomianism is the idea that we receive salvation in Christ, and then we continue sinning and don't live differently than we used to. To have Christ as savior must be married with full repentance from sin. If it's not, then it's not a legitimate salvation. It's a dead salvation. To sin daily is to be lost, plain and simple. This isn't a popular teaching, but it's the truth.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 ESV For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God"
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Sanctification is a process that we go through from the moment we receive justification, and new birth; it continues until we receive glorification in heaven after our death. Glorification is when we are fully redeemed, with a new spiritual body that is not prone to sin. But in this life we are being sanctified over a lifetime process, from initial sanctification which occurs when we are justified in Christ, and then the next milestone which is called "entire sanctification." This is what Wesleyan's call the "second blessing."
In Wesley's mind, a great preacher of holiness theology, the second blessing of entire sanctification was a work done by God, in which perfect love entered the heart of the Christian, allowing the believer to have the mind of Christ, to live as Christ lived, and to love with the same love that Christ loved with.
To me, this is a moment of surrender and submission. It's often tied to a crisis of some sort, a realization that I need to give all of myself to God, not just some, but all. So we yield completely to God almighty, giving all to Him, and we are filled with the perfect love of Christ, by the Spirit, who makes us to love as Christ loved, humbly, and beautifully. This does not mean we become perfect in our actions, or never struggle with sin, but it does mean that our fundamental desires have been changed, and we desire wholeheartedly to do the will of God always.
There are three parables in Matthew chapter twenty-five that I believe are absolutely essential for these last days. Open your Bible and spend some time carefully studying these parables. They communicate to us directly Christ's expectations for His children on Earth.
The Parable of the Oil and the Lamps (Matthew 25:1-13)
Meaning: True disciples of Jesus will remain watchful, and remain active in their faith. If we "fall asleep" in the Christian life, become inactive, they won't go to heaven.
The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
Meaning: Each disciple of Jesus is given gifts (like writing, speaking, artistic abilities, scientific skills, medical ability, serving ability) and if we don't use those gifts for God's glory, even a little bit, then we won't go to heaven.
The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:21-36)
Meaning: If we aren't active in serving the poor, feeding the hungry, giving clothing to those who need it, visiting prisoners, and providing shelter to the homeless, then we won't share in eternal life. We'll be rejected.
The Messages to the 7 Churches
Church 1 — Ephesus
Practice the simple first-love, true love of Christ, don't engage in legalism.
Church 2 — Smyrna
Do not fear the suffering you must endure for Christ, even imprisonment. Endure to the end.
Church 3 — Pergamum
Repent of sexual sin, evade idolatry, overcome sin by repenting.
Church 4 — Thyatira
Avoid Sexual Immorality, the Jezebel attitude, and the "deeper things" of Satan.
Church 5 — Sardis
Wake up! You think your alive, but your dead. Complete the works that you are called to.
Church 6 — Philadelphia
Hold fast to what you have! You have little strength, but keep persevering.
Church 7 — Laodicea
Lukewarm, if your lukewarm realize that you probably aren't even saved. You think your OK, but your actually poor (no riches being gathered for eternal life) blind (no discernment), and naked (not robed in the righteousness of Christ).
I believe the teachings to churches six and seven are vitally important for our day and age. For true Christians, church six, we're struggling in a world overflowing with sin, and we have little strength, so we need to keep persevering.
The seventh church is important because the church in Laodicea was very, very wealthy. But they looked a lot like the world, and they weren't really on fire for Jesus. They were lukewarm. This is exceedingly true of American and European Christianity. We need to wake up, encounter the true Christ, have our riches stored up in heaven, have our eyes opened to the spiritual realities of life, and robed with the perfect righteousness of Christ.
But all seven messages are vitally important: Think about how prominent sexual immorality is in our day and age (churches 3 and 4). Think of how some can become dry and legalistic (church 1), and think about how many Christians worldwide are suffering and in prison for their faith (church 2). Think about how many seem like they are dead in their faith? How many do have real faith, but they haven't really repented of active sins in their lives? Their work before God is incomplete (church 5).
We can see how these messages are relevant for all of us, at various points in our spiritual journey from justification all the way along the years of the pilgrims progress, all the way to our death, glorification, and eternal life. We see how these messages to the churches are relevant to us today.
Legalism — Unfortunately in the contemporary evangelical church, when anyone brings up repentance, or sin, or living out our faith, the instant charge is "legalism." But this isn't legalism. What is biblical legalism? Biblical legalism is the false idea that Christians today have to keep the old testament law of Moses with all of it's commands. That's not what I've done here. I've simply cited the scriptures, almost all of which are from the New Testament. These teachings are for us today, and don't constitute legalism, but honest biblical exegesis. Today I think we've become preachers of antinomianism in many circles, a free gift gospel, where we leave out repentance and freedom from sin. That is not a gospel at all, it's a lie.
Adding to Salvation — This is something that Christians will do, to try to paint you into a corner and say your trying to add something to what Jesus did. That's not true though. Jesus Christ has completed the work of atoning for our sins. But our part is to repent, and ask for forgiveness. The work of the Christian life is done by the power of the Holy Spirit. We simply cooperate with the Spirit in the process. But our response to Christ's free gift is to repent at our moment of salvation, and also to live a lifestyle of repentance.
Kinship Salvation — This is the idea that once Jesus saves us, we are given charge over our salvation and have to maintain it. That isn't what the idea is here. The idea is here that God preserves us in our salvation, but that we have to respond in continuous repentance and service to the needy, just as the scriptures instruct us to. Our salvation is preserved in the heavenly realm with Christ. But we can always fall away, into sin, and end up with shipwrecked faith.
The equation of Christianity isn't as simple as we'd like to make it out to be. But Christ alone is our salvation, and gives us forgiveness of sin. We must always remember that. What we do in response is simply to live out the Christian life, in holiness and freedom from sin. But we should strive to do that wisely. Heaven is real and hell is real. We must be holy as He is holy. God is good. He will help us. And we can do it, in Christ we can do all things. Trust in Him. Amen.