Salvation in Jesus is not just an event, it is a life. Praise God that at a certain time in your life you presented yourself before Jesus and, in faith, accepted him. And you have assurance that he has accepted you as well, through the death of Jesus. But when Jesus, your Lord, spoke about salvation, he was not talking about a one time event. Rather, he spoke about a way, a path that somebody walks on, not just a stand that someone makes. He spoke about abiding in his word, not just believing in it. He spoke about enduring to the end, not just dedicating oneself. Even so, if you are to gain salvation on the last day, your faith must be something that is lived out every day.
Jesus describes the daily living of faith in this way: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” What does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to take up the cross? Jesus spoke of seven things:
1. Be wholly, single-mindedly devoted to God alone.
No one can do slave-service to two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. No one can serve both God and wealth. Matthew 6:24
If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. Mark 9:47-48
Be rid of anything that distracts you away from God. This could be a pursuit of wealth, an abundance of possessions in your home, a certain standard of living, social obligations, friends or family that are trying to convince you to not fully commit yourself to God. It could be a drug habit, a sexual relationship, your CD collection, your television or your own pride or shame. Whatever it is, put it away from you and focus on following Jesus alone.
Actions of devotion:
Sell your possessions and give to the poor (Luke 12:33)
Separate yourself from family or friends that tempt you to fall away from the way of Jesus. (Luke 14:26-27)
Make a plan on how you can devote your whole life to God’s kingdom and righteousness with no distraction, take counsel with other believers, and DO IT! (Matthew 6:33)
2. Be obedient to God by doing what Jesus says.
Why do you call me, Lord, Lord and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46 Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21
It is not enough to give lip service to Jesus, we must also obey him. We cannot call him “Lord” if we do not do what he says. We must study the teachings of Jesus and obey him in all our ways.
Actions of obedience:
Study the teachings and life of Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42)
Recognize that insulting another, looking lustfully at another, divorce, breaking your promise, not submitting to authorities (even evil ones), and only doing good to those who do good to you are sins that will condemn you. (Matthew 5:20-48)
Watch what we say, for out of our heart comes all sin. (Matthew 12:33-36)
3. Confidently take action to rely on God’s promises.
All things are possible to him who has faith. Mark 9:23
If we want to gain the blessings of God, then we must actively believe what God said he would grant those who have faith in him. It is not enough to intellectually “believe” in God’s promise—we must act on them! If Jesus is Lord—we must obey him! If the meek shall inherit the earth—we must be meek! If those who trust in God will have their needs met—we must trust in God for everything! It is not enough to talk about what we believe, we need to show that God’s promises will happen if we confidently step out to rely on them.
Actions of faith:
Pray for people to be healed and cast demons out. (Luke 10)
Be poor, mourn, be meek, cry out for justice, be a peacemaker, do mercy, be pure in heart, allow yourself to be persecuted for the sake of Jesus. (Matthew 3:3-12)
Pray for justice, for the Holy Spirit and for God’s kingdom to come. And don’t stop until they come! (Luke 18:1-8; Luke 11:1-11)
Rather than taking on vengeance yourself, wait for God to do it, for he will vindicate the innocent.
4. Boldly assert the word of Jesus in your life and proclaim it to others.
What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Matthew 10:27
Jesus commands us to take his word and to give it to those who do not know it. This is an act of love, but it is also an act of sacrifice for we will often be rejected and even persecuted for announcing what Jesus says.
Actions of boldness:
Gently assert the words of Jesus to those who are acting in disobedience—whether non-Christian or Christian.
Radically re-shape your life into the image of the words of Jesus.
5. Sacrificially love everyone in need without exclusion.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35-36
Jesus commands us to love everyone, without exclusion, even those people who hate us, or whom we find to be unlovely. Love means to love practically—not just with our heart. If we see someone in need, then we need to do all we can to meet that need—no matter who we are.
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Luke 12:33
Our love is not just to be inclusive, but also sacrificial. Jesus gave of his whole self for our sakes and we are to do the same for those in need around us, especially for our brothers and sisters in Jesus
Actions of love:
Listen to people and find out their needs
Gently tell others when they are sinning before God.
Forgive everyone who repents of their sin.
Make available and give all that you have to those who are in greater need than you.
Do good to those who do evil to you—ask God to bless them, help them in times of need.
Feed the hungry, give clothes to those who don’t have enough, offer assistance to the needy—in what they need.
6. Humbly lower yourself under others.
Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Mark 10:43-45
Jesus lowered himself before everyone and did the task that no one wanted to do—to face the shame and agony of dying for the world. We are to do the same kinds of actions. Jesus tells us to lower ourselves and be servants of everyone in order to gain his kingdom.
For everyone who exalts themselves will be humbled, and those who humbles themselves will be exalted. Luke 14:11
The principle is the same for everyone. If you lower yourself—be downwardly mobile—then God will raise you up in due time. But if you try to lift yourself up, then God will crush you and send you to hell.
Actions of humility:
Do acts of service that others find distasteful.
Actively associate yourself with those who are socially unacceptable.
Put yourself in a lower position than is fit for your station in life.
7. Remain with the words of Jesus although you suffer for it.
Everyone who endures to the end will be saved. Mark 13:13
Again, it is not enough to commit ourselves to the way of Jesus. We have to live it. It is not enough to begin the life of Jesus, we have to endure with it and with him even though we suffer for it. Let us trust him enough that when we lose everything and everyone for his sake, we will keep with him through it all so we may have him eternally.
Actions of endurance:
Assert God’s promises although no one believes you.
Speak the words of Jesus although you are reviled for it.
Obey Jesus although people disdain you for it.