Promise or Threat?

I once knew someone who saw the “If:Then” statement not as a conditional event, but as a threat. If you promised something good, that was always nice, but if the promise was conditional, then it was a threat. If I said I will do this if you do that, doing my side of the agreement was expected, but the idea that I would not do what I promised if the other side of the agreement was reneged on? What I heard was, “How dare you threaten me!”

God makes promises to us that are conditional. Even the promise of salvation is conditional: after all, don’t we have to ask for it? If we ask for it, He is good to grant it (all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved) but it takes more than that. Throughout the Manual we are told that it is by faith alone we are saved, but that also is conditional because Yacov (James) tells us that faith without works is dead. God’s promise of salvation is like a spiritual bank account: we don’t need to deposit a penny to open it up, we just need to ask for it, and whatever we put into it we are guaranteed to gain interest. When we appear before God at His Throne of Judgement, we turn in our bank book and receive what we are due: that’s when we receive God’s side of the promise. If our URA (Ultimate Retirement Account) has had many deposits placed into it, when we turn it back in to God we receive a tremendous return, just as He promised; however, if we have not made any deposits, it is no more valuable than what we originally paid into it: nothing! And that is exactly what we will receive. Make deposits, be told to enter into the joy; have an account with nothing in it, be turned away into the darkness where people wail and gnash their teeth.

That’s right- your salvation is guaranteed if, and only if, you meet your end of the promise, which is to produce good fruit, to make deposits, to have more to present back to God than what He gave you to start with.  In D’varim (Deuteronomy) 16, when we are told about how to appear before the Lord at the three festivals which are celebrated in Yerushalayim, we are told not to appear before the Lord empty handed. I believe this has a deeper meaning than just regarding the sacrifices: I believe that we are being told whenever we come before the Lord we should bring something with us to present to Him. And at the Last Days, the Final Judgement, when we come before the Lord, God expects us to present to Him our faithful fruit: the good works we have performed as a sign of our repentance and T’Shuvah. If we come empty handed, we will be turned away.

Face it, people: there is no free lunch, not even at God’s table! We are told by well-meaning religious leaders (probably because it sounds so attractive) only how salvation is a free and irrevocable gift. That’s true: when we confess our sins, ask for God’s forgiveness and accept Yeshua as our Messiah, we receive the gift of salvation from God. No one can take that from us- no one! But we can throw it away, and many do, I am sorry to say, without even realizing it. I think that’s because we understand “free” to mean unconditional, but that is wrong. We receive the gift, we are given a guaranteed place in heaven, but we still have to show up with our offering or we don’t get in. And that offering is the fruit of our salvation: our history of good works, the proof of our T’Shuvah. No fruit, no entry. He kept His promise but we reneged.

Instead of being told salvation is “free”, we really should be told salvation is “priceless”. We can’t buy it, we can’t earn it, we can only receive it by asking, but it isn’t “free” because we do have to do contribute into it for it to be redeemable.

Remember the parable about the Master who gives his three servants talents before he goes on a trip? The two returned more than he gave them and were welcomed into their Master’s joy, but the third did nothing with his talent, and returned only what he was given. He was thrown out into the darkness.

There’s also the parable about the fruit tree in the garden that was tended but gave no fruit. After a few years of fruitless existence, the owner of the garden said to uproot the tree and throw it out of the garden.

The parables Yeshua gave us about having to do something with the gift we receive are, to me, undeniable. Yes, salvation is free when we receive it, but unless we put something into it it will be worthless when we redeem it. And yes, it is irrevocable in that God gave it and no one can take it away, and God will not ask for us to return it, but He expects it to be returned to Him with interest. If we fail to water that tree and produce fruit, or we bury it and do nothing with it to make it worth more, we will reap what we have sown.

This is a hard word to hear, but it is the truth: salvation is free but it is conditional, and God’s promises are real and totally trustworthy but we have to live up to our side of the agreement to receive them.

The promise is eternal joy, and the condition is that we will be saved from our own sin if we (1) confess it, if we (2) accept Yeshua (Jesus) as our Messiah, and if we (3) do T’Shuvah (atonement) and live the rest of our lives producing fruit so we do not come empty handed before the Lord at the Final Judgement.

We are told that it is all just so easy- call on His name and be saved! Halleluya!! Well, that’s true, but that isn’t all of it: you need to change, you need to pay into your salvation, and God’s promise is worth exactly what you put into it, so when we keep our side he will keep His side. It’s that simple, it’s that plain, it’s that way.

The good news is that God always keeps His promises: the bad news is that we most often don’t.  I strongly urge all of us, me included, to make sure this is one time we don’t mess up.

Comments welcomed (just be nice)