The words still echo in my mind.
I wonder in the depths of my soul: is it really so easy to be saved? is it really so simple?
For our means of salvation was not in the least bit easy or simple for Jesus.
It was not with a word or with a look that Jesus accomplished the salvation of man. It was with pain, humiliation, and death.
Indeed, as our holy God voluntarily stretched out his arms and feet to be nailed to beams of wood, and as he hung there, voluntarily suffocating in his own lung fluid, I'm certain it never once felt easy or simple to him.
And as the eternal Son of God experienced his Father's complete withdrawal of affections and in their place appeared the full, horrifying wrath of the Holy One against sin, our spotless lamb accomplished the most complex and difficult thing imaginable: the work of atoning for his people's sins and bridging a chasm of infinite width between God and man.
No. Nothing on that day was simple. And nothing on that day was easy.
There was a cosmic battle that day waged between darkness and light, and the victory our Savior secured was not won without blood.
Yet today, he beckons us, "repent and believe and all that is mine will be yours!"
Today, anyone who simply calls upon the name of Jesus can receive the blood-bought gift of salvation.
For us it is made easy, because for him it was made hard.
This is grace.
And most of all, love.
It seems impossible and unlikely to our minds that such a thing could be offered to sinful humanity. Why? Because we now understand the weight of our fallenness and the beauty of his holiness. Though we were once blind, we can now see, and the sight before us is incredible.
We see Jesus for who he truly is: not a mere man, but our holy God.
In Jesus, we see the eternal Creator, who stooped down to put on the flesh of his created beings so that he could forever be joined to them - continually bringing his ransomed people before the Father, cleansed by his atoning blood.
We confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord.
But as simple as this confession is, it is not without consequence.
For if Jesus is Lord, then he must also be my Lord.
And if he is my Lord, then he has the authority and right to rule over every detail of my life. And if he is my Lord, then I will align myself with him in every way - even with his death.
This is the narrow gate that Jesus likened salvation to when he said, "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to eternal life, and those who find it are few." (Matt.7:13 & 14)
Those who wish to be transferred from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light, must learn to live by the King of light's rules, while yet trudging through the darkness of this fallen world. They must learn to obey their new Master, while the old one relentlessly entices them to give in to the passing and empty pleasures of this age. Though their means of salvation is easy (a simple confession of belief!), the life it will guarantee them on this earth will not be.
For they will be tempted and tried at every turn; they will be persecuted and even killed for their betrayal of the lord of darkness. All while holding on to the blessed, but invisible hope of their future reward.
And so, with each simple confession of belief in the Christ, there comes a graver, more complex decision - a decision to die to self and to this present world in order to live for Jesus and his coming Eden.
Though the gift of salvation must only be received, it does not come without strings, for it is tied to the nail-pierced hands of the Savior.
Yes, "the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life," but these strings that bind us to Jesus, dear sisters, they are pumping with the stuff of life.
We do not open the gate and walk along the way on our own, for we are eternally and irrevocably connected to the Holy One. It is only through his life-giving vines that we branches are able to bear the fruits of obedience and steadfastness in the face of every tribulation.
He is, all at once, the object of our worship and the means of our worship.
He is the humility behind our confession of his Lordship.
This is his grace.
And most of all, his love.
Holy God, how rich is your love! How compassionate is your rule! You know our weakness and you understand our brokenness. You did not come into this world to save us and then leave us on our own. No, you fully invested yourself in our lives and fully give of yourself for our good each and every day. Every moment, you lovingly walk with us through the trials and tribulations of this world. In grace, you've put your very Spirit within us to guide us, to uphold us, and compel us to live in obedience. We call you Lord, but confess that it is only through your Spirit that we are able to do so. It is only through your grace that we are able to bow in humble submission to your rule. And how blessed we are to experience life under that rule! For we know that there is only pain and misery and slavery in the darkness, but here in the light of your kingdom, we know life, love, and liberty in the truest sense.
Help us to see beyond our circumstances, Lord. Fill us with the faith needed to value the coming reward above the current temptations in our lives. Give us the will to obey when it seems impossible. Help us to call you Lord, when we find ourselves in the slops of self-worship. Precious Jesus, we desire to give you the praise you deserve, but we are so weak. Be glorified in our weakness as you fill us with your strength today.
In your loving and holy name I ask these things, Amen.