There is a theological teaching going around Christendom that says it is possible for one to accept Jesus as Savior without also recognizing Him and accepting Him as Lord; that it is possible to believe in Jesus without repenting of sin and yielding to His authority. To be sure, many of those who teach such a message do so out of a passion to keep the grace of God free of human effort and human works. But in reacting to one false teaching, I believe they have ridden the pendulum from one extreme to embrace another. As a result, they have abandoned such concepts of repentance and obedience and submission from the message of the gospel.

Two Extremes

Salvation without Works


Salvation accompanied by Works


Salvation on the Basis of Works

Faith becomes a mere intellectual exercise. Instead of people being called to repentance, they are called only to assent to certain historical facts about Jesus. Discipleship becomes optional.

1. The Nature of Saving Faith.

Faith involves more than just mere assent to certain historical facts. Even the devil has that kind of faith. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:19-20). Faith that saves is a faith that works. If it doesnít work in your life, then it doesnít work in your salvation, either.

Does that mean you work your way into Godís good graces or that you someone earn or merit salvation? Not at all. It is God who saves.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Your salvation comes through faith. It does not come as a result of your works. No one will ever be able to boast about their contribution to the work of their salvation. But that verse goes on to point out that your salvation is not an end unto itself. You were not saved BY good works, but you were saved FOR good works.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

You are Godís workmanship. He has does the work of creating in you a new life. The result of being saved is that you will walk in those good works for which you were created.

2. The Nature of Discipleship.

It has become customary in certain Christian circles to speak of discipleship as something that, while good and desirable, is not necessary to Christianity. This teaching is one that says sanctification is optional to the Christian life and that there are some who live their entire lives as "carnal Christians" and who never exhibit any of the fruit of the Spirit or any growth in Christ, yet nevertheless are saved.

The teaching of the Scriptures is completely antithetical to this view. The Scriptures use the term "disciple" as an exact equivalent of the term "Christian." This is seen in Act 11:26 where the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

What is a disciple? The term is translated from the Greek word mathetes, a "learner" and comes from the word manthano, "to learn." But the idea here is not merely rote learning of fact. As we shall see in this passage, the discipleship to which Jesus calls men and women involves a life commitment.

Discipleship involves more than a mere academic knowledge of certain facts. It involves a commitment to following Jesus.

Now great multitudes were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:25-27).

This is a hard passage. If you read this and it does not bother you, you havenít read it. For Jesus to say these words would be blasphemy if He were not God. He demands to be the center of attention and the object of complete loyalty.

Does Jesus really and truly call us to hate our family? No. To the contrary, the Scriptures are quite explicit when they tell husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25); mothers to love their children (Titus 2:4); and for children to honor father and mother (Ephesians 6:2). Indeed, we are even taught to love our enemies and those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).

So then what does Jesus mean when he says that those who wish to be He disciple must hate father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters?

This is a figure of speech. Jesus is calling for a commitment that is so great that anything by comparison will be deemed as hatred. This is in contrast to the parable in the previous verses where one of the invited guests declined the invitation because he had recently married a wife (14:20).

The story is told of a kamikaze pilot who wished a commendation for having flown 17 missions. The truth was that he lost his focus. We do the same thing when we let other things become more important to us than Jesus.

Do you want to be a disciple of Jesus? You must give Him preeminence. You must recognize His sovereignty and His Lordship. You must give Him your devotion and your love.

There is an old saying that goes: "Anything that is free is worth what was paid for it." This even applies to our salvation. While it is freely given to us, it was the most expensive gift ever given. It cost God the death of His Son. In a similar vein, there is a cost to discipleship.

When we hear the reference to a cross, we are perhaps inclined to think in stained glass terms. There was no religious significance as yet attached to the cross when Jesus spoke these words. Any reference to a cross would point to death. Putting these words into todayís language would contain references to seating yourself in your own electric chair or tying your own hangmanís noose. Here is the point. When Jesus calls a man, He calls Him to give his entire life.

The issue is one of loyalty and commitment. Jesus is really saying the same thing that He introduced back in verse 26.

Follow Jesus



Over family members (14:26)

Over your own life (14:26)

Jesus calls for a level of commitment and loyalty that surpasses any you have for your family and even that which you have for your own life.

First Illustration

Second Illustration

A man building a tower

A King going to war

Before he lays the foundation, he considers whether he has the resources to complete the project

Before he encounters the enemy, he considers whether his forces will be able to outnumber the enemy

Jesus has just made a very strong statement that discipleship involves a willingness to come and die. This is a great cost. Jesus goes on to picture this willingness with two illustrations.

Both the building and the king are in danger of committing themselves to a course of action without having first counting the cost.

The question they both face is whether or not they have the resources to complete what they have started. If they fail to finish what they have started, the result will be humiliation and shame.

The point of these two illustrations is the same. It is that you are called to count the cost of discipleship and to make a determination as to whether you will see it through to the end.

This is quite different than the easy-believism invitation that suggests that you "give Jesus a try" in much the same way that you test-drive a sports car. Jesus says, "Only come if you are going to come for keeps."

Evangelists often come across as a used car salesman: "Donít read the fine print; weíll get to that later." But Jesus tells unbelievers to count the cost before coming to Him.

Jesus calls you to recognize Him as the Lord of your life. He wants it all. He refuses to be sectored off to a small portion of your life. He refuses to be a weekend God. And so, He calls for you to count the cost. If you are going to be a Christian, be a real one.

There is a familiar story told of Alexander the Great. After each battle, there would be a tribunal where he would sit in judgment to reward those who had done well and to punish those who had done poorly. One day a young man was brought before him who had shown fear in the face of the enemy.

For the first time that anyone could remember, Alexanderís face softened and he appeared to show compassion for the youth. Perhaps he thought of his own infant son as he looked upon the young man. In a gentle voice, he asked him, "What is your name?"

"Alexander," came the reply.

"What did you say?"


With a roar, the king jumped from his throne, took the shaken youth by his cloak and hurled him to the floor. "Either change your actions or change your name!"

When we come as disciples, we come to take the name of the King. We are called to count the cost of bearing that name.

There is an old hymn that says, "Jesus paid it all." There is a great truth to that. The debt of your sin was paid by Christ on the cross. The payment for that redemption price cost Him His very life. He gave up all for you. And He calls you to do the same thing. He calls you to give up everything you have and everything you are and to commit your very being to Him.

At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, "I want to follow Jesus but Iíve asked myself if I have the resources to see this through to the end and I donít know that I have what it takes." There is hope for you. The point is not that you are rich in spiritual resources. The point is that you give up what you have and He provides what you need. You give up that which is producing death in your life and He gives that which is life eternal. You give up that which wars against your soul and in its place He gives that which saves your soul.

The issue is not how spiritually strong you are. Rather the issue is whether you will realize and accept your spiritual bankruptcy and will determine to receive and rest solely upon the riches of Christ.

3. The Evidence of Salvation.

In their zeal to deny that good works are a requirement for salvation, some have gone to the extreme of also denying that good works are even a valid evidence for salvation. Some even maintain that a person can turn away from God, reject Christ and become an atheist and still be saved as long as they once believed.

1 John 2:19 speaks to this issue of those who turn away from the faith by indicating that "they went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us." One of the signs of a true believer is that he continues to believe and he continues in fellowship with God and His people.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7).

The evidence of regeneration seen, not only in what you SAY, but also in how you LIVE. When you say one thing and do another, the obvious conclusion is that you are lying in what you are saying.

Jesus said that the test of truth is in its fruit. The test of a true believer is found in how he lives.

"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 Not everyone who says to Me, ĎLord, Lord,í will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:16-21).

If you look at your life and see rotten fruit, then the natural conclusion is that it must stem from the corrupt tree. You cannot continue to see the fruit of an unsaved life and thereby assume that you are saved. The proof is in the fruit. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples (John 15:8).

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-- unless indeed you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Martin Luther once said that "faith alone justifies, but not the faith that is alone. Works are not taken into consideration when the question respects justification. But true faith will no more fail to produce them than the sun can cease to give light."

The difference between the Roman Catholic view of Faith and Works in Justification can be pictured like this:

Roman View of Justification

Faith + Works = Justification

Protestant View of Justification

Faith = Justification + Works

This is not to say that a Christian never struggles with sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). But the same author who wrote that verse also said that those who have been born of God do not continually sin, because God's seed abides in them; they cannot continually sin, because they have been born of God (1 John 3:9).

4. The Nature of our Relationship with Christ.

The Scriptures liken our new relationship in Christ to that which takes place in a marriage. The church is described as the bride of Christ.

Paula and I were married in 1973. When we stood before the minister and gave vows to one another, that ceremony culminated with his pronouncement that declared us to be husband and wife. At that point, we were legally husband and wife. We hadnít had to do anything to merit that relationship or earn it. We both said, "I do" and it was done.

But the implications of that relationship did not stop there. They only begun. That was only the first step in a life-long relationship. By the same token, we enter into a relationship with Christ through faith and that is the process of justification. It is analogous to being declared husband and wife -- we are declared to be righteous on the merits of the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed to us. But that relationship is only a part of the story of our salvation. The other part is known as sanctification.



Analogous to the proclamation that one is "husband and wife."

Analogous to living as husband and wife and growing together.

Here is the point. God does not justify whom He does not also sanctify. When God does one work, it is a guarantee that He shall also do the other.

  1. Repentance is a foundational part of the Gospel.

Luke's account of the Great Commission records Jesus telling the apostles that "repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations" (Luke 24:47). Peter followed this advice when he preached repentance at Pentecost (Acts 2:38). And Paul summarized his ministry by explaining that he declared to all people "that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance" (Acts 26:19-20).

Repentance is more than a changed mind about who Christ is. It includes a change in life-style, a turning from sin to God. John the Baptist made this clear when he said, "Bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance... every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 3:8-10). Repentance should not be confused with the fruit that it produces. The fruit is on the outside; repentance is on the inside. But what is on the inside will manifest itself on the outside. Where there is real repentance, there will eventually be real fruit.

The issue is not how much you do, but rather how much GOD does in salvation. The topic of salvation includes more than merely your justification. It includes more than just your right standing before God. It also includes your sanctification. It is a salvation that changes your life.


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