Saved or Not Saved: That is the Question (Lane)
Saved or Not Saved: That is the Question
by Lonnie Lane
“Whoever calls upon the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).
How many times have we heard of someone who says of a loved one, “Well, they prayed the prayer of salvation once years ago, so they’re saved. They’re just not walking with the Lord right now.” I have this concern. It’s a deep concern that not everyone who thinks they are “saved” is. As I prayed about this, I felt the Lord was saying, “Many believe they said the words once and accepted Me but they have not accepted My ways, or My truth, or My righteousness, nor have they continued to call upon Me. This is the life I intend dependence upon Me.”
I did a study one summer to see why God seemed to bless some and curse others, why some experienced His wrath and others His favor. I did a kind of cause-and-effect study. Here’s an example: Psalm 4:1: “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! Thou hast relieved me in my distress; be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” Though David is asking God here, by the end of his Psalms we know that to David it’s always as good as done. He’s sure God has heard him and he says so. His Psalms all pretty much resolve into trust and thankfulness for God’s faithfulness to him and to Israel. In this Psalm, as I personalized it, I saw that the “effect,” which would be the blessing or favor, is that my God relieves me of my distress and is gracious to me. The “cause” was my calling upon Him, whom I see as the God of my righteousness. Calling upon the Lord is what saves us, just as our opening verse says. But what does calling upon the Lord really mean?
When I looked at the patterns in my study, I found that it was all a matter of dependence (which brought blessings or favor) or independence (which resulted in wrath or disfavor). I learned that when I continually look to God, and remain dependent upon Him, He responds with blessings; when I choose to do it my own way apart from Him, simply said, I choose to exclude myself from His blessings, protection, provision, and wisdom, etc. It would seem that by extension, if we keep doing what we’re doing today, we will ultimately either reap the blessings and favor or the wrath and disfavor of God, even eternally. That’s really good news for some and hopefully sobering news for others, resulting in a change in their lives.
A person living independently of God most likely doesn’t consider the issue of righteousness before a holy God, or is self-satisfied with their own merit, or is just apathetic about it all. Whichever it might be, they don’t see their need for God or His graciousness. Me, I need God. I need His graciousness to me every minute. That study made it clear to me that my entire dependence upon God is pleasing to Him and how I should live my life. It has come to be my place of rest. I am aware of My constant need for Him but I am also more than equally aware of His ever-present watch over me. I suppose you could say this is what it means to be “poor in spirit” (Matt 5:5).
David as King of Israel exemplifies the trust and dependence Israel had upon the Lord when they were walking closely with Him. From earliest times when Abraham depended upon God, all the way through Israel’s history with God, when their complete dependence and trust was upon Him, they were blessed in every way. If there’s a single ‘One New Man’ quality that the church can learn from Israel, it is this matter of dependence. What God told Moses to have Aaron pray over the people of Israel, and what some wise pastors today pray over their congregations, is known as the Aaronic benediction and is an example of God’s commitment to be there for them as they looked to Him:
“Speak unto Aaron and say, ‘Thus shall you bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace (shalom)’. So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel and I then will bless them” (Numbers 6:23-27).
God’s name is linked with His blessings. As they continued to follow and obey the Lord He would bless them and keep them (safe, whole, protected, provided for, etc.) He would look upon them with favor and be gracious to them. As the goodness of His character and nature was imparted to them, shalom, which is well being in every way, spirit, soul, heart, mind and strength, would be theirs. Makes you just sigh with relief just to know this is possible, doesn’t it?
When you consider that Israel didn’t evolve or develop as a people on their own but were called and designed from the onset of one man’s (Abraham’s) faith in God, the whole premise of Israel is acknowledgment of and trust in God as Lord and Master, who alone can bring about all the goodness He has promised to them. This still holds true for Israel and for the true church today. As Abraham and Sarah and their entourage trekked around in the land, pitching their tents in one place after another, dealing with their personal issues with God and with each other and those in their lives, and learning to trust God, they had no idea that they were “Bible characters” whose every weakness and struggle would be known about them even thousands of years later all around the earth! Imagine it. Would you want everyone to know about you what we all know about them? Neither did they have any idea that their personal lives would impact the lives of millions in generations to come in the ways that they have.
Similarly, we have no idea what our lives will bring to the generations that follow us. Genealogic studies have proven that the succeeding generations of godly men (such as Jonathan Edwards’ family, one of the examples in the study) and women, have followed in their footsteps to serve the Lord. My son-in-law’s family has an old leather bound book in which every generation since they first came to America around the time of the Pilgrims is listed, one generation after another. The names of those they marry and their children are listed. Then the oldest son is in charge of the book to list his family members’ names and what their occupations were and pass it on to his oldest, usually the son. The book is an account of hundreds of years of pastors and God-servers, including my dear son-in-law and his parents. When I looked back into my own family tree on my (Levite) father’s side, there are generations and generations of orthodox rabbis. Studies also prove that ungodliness follows through the generations as well. But thankfully, we know that through the power of the name of Yeshua we can pray and break the generational curses and release blessings in their place. God does turn the curses into blessings! Hallelujah.
As we can see, there is great reward in calling upon the name of the Lord throughout one’s life, not only for us, but for our families and for those who’s lives we touch, because we all affect others in some way, for benefit or not. We want to be people who leave a legacy of faithfulness to the Lord, whether it is to our descendents or to those who have known us. I want to make a difference, don’t you? Happily, we all can, by God’s grace.
But what does all this say about the people who have recited a prayer, or even prayed it earnestly at one time, who are not looking to God’s grace for the betterment of their lives nor walking with the Lord today? My questions to them would be, What do you see the Lord as being like? Who do you see Him as? Who is He to you? How accountable or not do you see yourself as needing to be to Him? Unbelief of any kind must be, by its nature, due to a misperception of who the Lord is! No one who would see Him in Spirit and in Truth for who He really is, as King of the Universe, the All Powerful One, and Lord of love, yet also the Holy One in whose presence no unholy being can stand, would ever turn from Him once they gain even a glimpse of Who He truly is and the profound salvation He offers us.
In looking at our verse it says, “Whoever calls upon the NAME of the Lord….” The Lord is first of all Lord of Israel to whom He revealed His intimate name, Yahweh. He has lots of secondary or descriptive names attached to His name Yahweh, which is incorrectly translated as Jehovah. Yahweh is used 6,823 times in the Old Testament alone but never to or by anyone not walking closely with Him. He is Yahweh Tzidkenu, the Lord our Righteousness; Yahweh Rapha, the Lord our healer; Yahweh Shalom, the Lord our peace; Yahweh Yireh, the Lord our provider; Yahweh Nissi, the Lord our banner (which has to do with God being the standard or banner on the battle ground to look to, the one that glistens when all looks dark in the battle); and Yahweh M’kedesh, our sanctifier. (Kadesh sounds like kadosh which means holy; we are sanctified or set apart by and unto the Holy One.) And my favorite, Yahweh Shamma, the Lord who is there, which connects with the promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me (1 Kings 8:57, Hebrews 13:5). He is also known by the name of El Shaddai, God Almighty or the all sufficient one (used 48 times in Old Testament). These are not all of the names of Yahweh (sometimes referred to as Yah) but enough to see that His name is indicative of His character and His nature.
It is the name of the Lord in whatever aspect of His name(s) we are in need of at any given time that we can call upon for help. The term “Lord” is our English translation of Adonai and is found in the Old Testament 300 times. Interestingly, Adonai is always a plural noun and means Master when speaking about God. When the same word for master is used for a person, it is in the singular: adon. This would seem to correspond with God saying, “Let US make man in OUR image” (Gen 2:26) or “Who will go for US?” (Isaiah 6:8) and the distinct characteristics of God as manifested as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For those of us who are walking with God daily, though we may not be thinking about the Lord’s literal names in Hebrew, still those qualities of our relationship with Him remain in tact as we continually look to Him for them. The person who is not looking to God isn’t seeing Him as the God who is all these things to us. Now, please don’t get upset if you think you’re not conscious of these qualities in God on a daily basis. This is about relationship. If you are in communication with God daily and looking to Him as a normal part of your life, you may only call him Jesus, or Yeshua or Lord, and never think in terms of all those names, but your heart looks to Him for all that His name implies, especially for your righteousness. It’s your heart He’s ‘reading’ about you. “Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). You aren’t the one I’m concerned about. Good chance if you’re reading this, and you’re viewing this website, you have a desire to know and to please God. It’s the people who mistakenly think that, because they once said the words that have come to be accepted as automatic membership into the church, regardless of what their life looks like since, their passage into heaven is assured. Not so, my friends.
We have addressed that calling upon Him not just once but continually is what a relationship with Yeshua is based upon, not just the saying of a prayer from which no relationship between God and that person developed nor fruit that bears evidence of “increasing in knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). We have talked about the name of the Lord being the many facets of God’s Personhood that we can rely upon. But there is also the part of our verse that says, “be saved.” Be saved from what? To seek to be saved we must first be aware that there is that from which we need to be saved. We who walk with the Lord find ever increasing ways to marvel at Who He is! The more sanctified I (hopefully by His grace) become, line upon line, from glory to glory, the holier He seems to me and the further from that I myself seem. My trust, therefore, is in no way in my own righteousness, but I am entirely dependent (again) upon His grace and mercy and loving-kindness toward me as I look to Him for it. I am continually being saved from the consequences of my sin nature which would condemn me to hell and separation from God for eternity. Not something I want for anyone.
There, that’s my concern. This is not a trifling issue. I fear there are people we all know and love who believe they are “saved” because they once went forward for an altar call, or said the spiritually correct words at an appropriate time and think their salvation is secure, though their lives are not exhibiting a reverential fear of the Lord. They do not hate sin and may be participating in it (denying that there are consequences to it); they live lives without much thought about God on a daily basis; prayer is not part of their decision making process; and they have little or no concern for the souls or spiritual welfare of those around them. What have they in common with the Lord?
Solomon said, “The reproofs for discipline are the way of life” (Prov 6:23). That would indicate repentance. OK, so now we’re at another crucial issue of this discussion. People may say the prayer and even say, “Lord, forgive my sins,” but have not a clue what that really means. I’ve come across people who know they are sinners, because of what they’ve DONE. They know they’ve committed sins. But it’s not just acts we’ve done that God forgives us for when we repent, it’s our very nature it’s basically the independence from God of which we must repent. “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Whatever then is independent from God is equal to being sin. Why? Because it does not acknowledge that “in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). If it never occurs to us to “acknowledge Him in all our ways… [calling upon Him to] make our ways straight” (Prov 3:6), we will have no part in God’s presence and all His abounding blessings, including eternal salvation. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23) and spiritual death is separation from God. It may have taken Adam 900 years for his body to die, but he died spiritually and was cut off from God the day they disbelieved God’s word and ate of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:9, 17).
Let me add that it is possible to be keeping all the laws and be sure you’ve done a good job of it and still be acting out of your own strength or what you’ve been taught and not have had a personal encounter with God like we’re talking about. It’s about you and God in your heart, personally, in your most secret place just you and Him. That’s where He wants to meet with us all, as His bride-to-be, where He can cleanse us of all the fears and self-dependence and unrighteousness, and make Himself known to us. Let Him in! (See Rev 3:20.)
Sin, of course, is connected with unbelief. But what about “disbelief”? Yeshua said, “He who has believed and has been immersed (baptized) shall be saved, but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Unbelief is being without belief; it’s not knowing. But disbelief is choosing not to believe. There are some who have some knowledge of the Lord but choose to ignore it, even to take a position against what they have known to be true. Like dis-ease is a state of coming out of ease, so dis-belief is a state of coming out of belief. Unbelief and disbelief are not the same. Those who have prayed the prayer to “accept the Lord” though they are not walking with the Lord must have some measure of knowledge of Him or they wouldn’t have prayed it in the first place. Yeshua makes it clear (in Mark 16:16 above) what the fate is of those who have disbelieved, “because they did not have a love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thes 2:10).
Yeshua also said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matt 12:30; Luke 11:23). There appears to be no middle road. If you say, “I believe in the Lord,” but have not repented, then it is another gospel you are believing and it is not the true Jesus you believe in. You have not yet seen your sin or His magnificent sacrifice or His love in dying for you. If you call upon the name of Yeshua or Jesus but know nothing of the gift of ongoing repentance (yes, repentance is a great magnanimous gift from God to release us from the burden of sin), then you have not really called upon the Yeshua whose name means “Yah saves!”
He is the Holy One of Israel and Israel was about repentance, atonement and forgiveness and restoration. That’s the whole sacrificial system summed up. The church was birthed out of that same paradigm. Yeshua not only embodied all of that, but He became the culmination of it, the ultimate sacrifice so that He died once and for all persons who would accept His atonement, to bring down the divide between mankind and God that was due to sin. In the process, His atoning death also took down the divide between Jews and any Gentiles who would want to come to know Israel’s God through Yeshua as well. But repentance was the key to entrance. Repentance to a Hebrew didn’t mean he was sorry and feeling bad about his sin; that’s remorse, not repentance. Repentance is a turning away from the sin and going in a righteous direction.
As I was praying about this I also heard the Lord saying, “Repentance is also about a continual relationship with Me. It is a cry for cleansing in order to be found in righteousness. It is a desire to be one with Me. No one who is without repentance can know Me, for I am holy and to be one of My own there must a deep abiding longing to be holy as I am holy.” It is about an ongoing life of adjusting and being adjusted, “seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt 6:33). Contrary to one who wanders from the Lord, Yeshua declared that “the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved” (Mark 13:13; Matt 10:22).
I pray this message will rescue some who have been taking for granted a salvation that may not be theirs. And by it, some will be exhorted to bring the message of the true Gospel to those whom they know and love who have been misinformed and believe that what has been termed as “cheap grace” will save them. It won’t. However, by God’s great grace we have these precious promises:
“Although you were formally alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach, if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Gospel….” (Col 1:21-23)
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Yeshua Messiah, our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever, Amen” (Jude 24, 25).
Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2008.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.