[b]"Who then can be saved?"[/b]
When the rich young ruler had gone away from the Lord, because he was unwilling to give up his riches, Jesus told His disciples that it was as difficult for a rich person to enter God's kingdom as it was for a camel to go through a needle's eye. The disciples then asked the Lord who could then be saved. The Lord's reply was that it was impossible for man to save himself. God alone could save man (Mk.10:24-27).
A rich person is not just one who has plenty of money. One can be rich in many ways - in talents, in Bible-knowledge, in one's opinion of one's own spirituality and in many other ways.
The kingdom of God is very, very large. But the gate into it is as narrow as a needle's eye. It is impossible for a camel to go through it. But what is impossible for a camel is the easiest thing in the world for an amoeba (the smallest of creatures). It is all a question of size.
It is pride that makes a man rich and hinders him from entering the kingdom of God. And pride is such a subtle, evil thing that it is impossible for man to save himself from it. We may repent of many sins, and even get victory over anger, the lust of the eyes and the love of money and many other sins. But at the bottom of it all, it is still possible to be proud of our salvation and our victory. Deep down in our spirit it is possible to have an attitude that says, "I thank God that I am not like other men or even like Christians in other denominations." (See Luke 18:11).
It is impossible for us to save ourselves from the evil of pride. Only God can save us. We must recognise this andhumbly submit to God and ask Him to save us. Or else at the end of our lives, we will discover that despite all our experience of "victory" and of "being in the Body of Christ", we were just first-rate Pharisees.
So we ask with the disciples, "Who then can be saved?" And the Lord answers us as He answered them, "With men it is impossible, but not with God" (Mark 10:26,27).
Salvation as described in the New Testament has three tenses - past, present and future. If we are born again, we have already been saved from the PENALTY of sin. We are now to be saved from the POWER of sin. And one day, when our Lord returns in glory, we will be saved from the very PRESENCE of sin.
And each one of these aspects of salvation is the work of God.
God's Word tells us very clearly: "By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works that no one should boast" (Eph.2:8,9)
Jonah was delivered from the fish's belly only when he finally acknowledged that "salvation can come only from the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). The next verse states, "THEN the Lord commanded the fish to vomit Jonah out on dry land". God waited until Jonah acknowledged that he could not save himself. And He waits on high until we too acknowledge that we cannot save ourselves from any sin or any difficult situation. Then He commands deliverance for us as He did for Jonah.
When we find ourselves in a "tight" situation, like Jonah was in, instead of complaining and murmuring, if we would only learn to give thanks to he Lord and to confess that salvation comes from the Lord alone, we will find deliverance coming sooner.
Salvation is not a self-improvement program. That can only change us on the outside. The work of God changes us on the inside.
God works in such a way that man can never glory in anything. If we are to experience a thorough salvation from sin, then we must be saved from glorying in anything that the Lord has done for us - including the victory He has given us over sin.
The smaller we are (in our own eyes), the easier it is for us to get "an abundant entrance into God's kingdom" (through the needle's eye (2 Pet.1:11). And one proof that we are really small in your own eyes will be that we never despise another human being - whatever his religion or his denomination, or his lack of light (on the truths that we have understood) may be. Even when we look at the worst of human beings, we will say to ourselves: "There go I but for the grace of God".
Jesus always referred to himself as "the son of man" - or in other words "an ordinary man". This is what we must recognise ourselves to be too, at all times. If we have been saved from the penalty of sin, it is God's mercy alone that gave us that salvation. If we are now being saved from the power of sin, that too is the result of God's mercy and grace given to us freely. So what do we have to glory in? Nothing.