“All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32) is a very comforting thought.
Are any of you reading this surprised to see me cite Joel? Were you perhaps thinking this is from Acts 2:21 or, maybe, it’s in Romans 10:13? You are correct: we do find this verse in each of those letters, but the writer was quoting Joel. In fact, there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant- it is all, every single word, based entirely on what is found in the Tanakh.
And when Joel said this, just like when Shaul (Paul) repeated it centuries later, the meaning was not that calling on the Lord is all you have to do, but that calling on the Lord is only the start of what you have to do, and continue to do for the rest of your life.
What is “calling on the Lord?” Is is asking for forgiveness? Yes. Is it asking to be rescued from a dangerous situation? Yes. Is it asking to be saved from your sinful lifestyle and the consequences that come from it? Yes, of course it does. But does it mean call on Him once and that’s it? You don’t need to do anything else?
Not a chance!
The Lord is wiling and able, and even more than that, desiring to forgive you. He wants to forgive you, He loves to see a lost soul return to the flock. In Ezekiel 18:23 he tells us:
Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
Being forgiven is something that comes easily because the One who forgives wants to do so. It wasn’t so easy for Yeshua (Jesus) to provide the pathway to salvation, but it is easy for us to get on that road. There is no toll booth, no “Exact Change Required”, and no traffic.
However, it is a rough road to travel.
As we go along our way, we need to stop in to the churches and synagogues that are along the road to get refreshed, and we need to avoid the “tourist traps” that have billboards all along the road. They want you to get off the road and travel to their hotel, or inn, or restaurant. They offer free drinks, free food and free accommodations. They are enticing and very hard to resist when you have been travelling a bumpy and dusty road.
What I am talking about is the “world”- everyone else who has chosen to take the smooth, paved highway to hell, with all it’s earthly pleasures. They want you to join them on their road as badly as God wants you to stay on His road. He knows it’s a hard road to travel, He knows that our very nature is to get on that smooth surface and glide through life, and He knows that what He is asking is hard for us. Not impossible, just hard. It’s designed that way, because the only way to prove we are serious and honest about our call to Him is to have us go “through the fire.”
And this isn’t to prove to Him how serious we are- God sees the heart, He knows our desires and our inner-most truths. The reason we have to go through hell-on-earth to avoid going to hell-for-eternity is to prove to each one of us that we are serious. We are the ones that need to know what is truly in our hearts because, as humans, we lie to ourselves. If we lie to ourselves, then when we tell others the same lie it isn’t really a lie, right? After all, we believe it to be the truth, so when we tell someone else it isn’t lying, right?
Wrong. It is a lie, but it is not a lie of volition, it is a lie of omission. We omit the truth about something by pretending and convincing ourselves that it doesn’t exist or that what we are being told is not the truth.
For instance, if you thought that the quote at the start of this message was original to the New Covenant, that is a lie, but a lie that you were taught is the truth by someone who also was taught it was the truth. The lie is not where the verse originated as much as the lie that it is a Christian “thing.” Many Christian teachings are designed to ignore the Old Covenant because that is for Jews, and not for “us”. They are saved by their Torah but we have the Blood of Christ!
That is also a lie. Christians aren’t the only ones who have the Blood of Christ because Jews have the blood of Christ, too. Muslims have the Blood of Christ, as well. Buddhists, Hindi’s, Atheists, Skin-heads, Nazi’s, everyone has the Blood of Christ to save them! He didn’t die just for Christians- He died for everyone. His blood doesn’t care who you are or what you believed in- when you call to the Lord for salvation, it is there for you. I, you, we are saved by the Blood of the Messiah, no matter what we did before we called on His name.
And when we call on His name, that is just the start.
Once you have been given salvation, it is not set in stone. No one can take it away, that’s true, but we can easily (as many do) throw it away. God gives you a ticket to get into the Garden of Eden, but you have to get there yourself. He provides the divine GPS, the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to lead us and help keep us on the pathway, but there are all those billboards. Come in for free drinks; children eat free; get a free night’s stay for every night you sleep here (Hotel California); take this short cut to the same destination because our road is smooth, and the gas is free!
The signs are enticing, they are overwhelming, and they are constantly in our faces. But they do not lead us to the place we want to go. That is why salvation is easy to get, and hard to keep, because the world we have to live in is cursed and sinful and it wants us to join it as badly as God wants us to be separated from it.
That is why almost every prayer we have starts with:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu, Melech Ha Olam, asher kidshanu, b’mitzvotav, vitzivanu… which means: Blessed are you, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments….
To be sanctified, to be made holy, means to be separated. And what we need to be, and remain separated from, is sin. Sin is all around us, not to mention living inside of us. It is our nature to sin, and that is why the road is so bumpy and difficult to travel: we have to overcome our own desires, and it is so much harder to do that when all we see, every mile, at every exit ramp, is the sinful world calling out and beckoning to us with rich and pleasurable rewards if we would only return to it.
Don’t be fooled. Stay the course, keep running the good race, and keep your eyes on the prize. Please believe me, or better yet, believe God when He tells you that the rewards at the end of your trek will be more than worth the effort it takes to get there.