Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

     This article is the last in this series. I realized that when I started it I would only skim the surface as to the holy character, the righteous ways, the immutable nature, and faithful, abiding presence of God. Even though as believers, we can know Him, His ways are higher than our ways, proving at times that His ways can be mysterious, while His pure thoughts reach far beyond our corrupt, earthly understanding, and His eternal nature constantly reminds us that we can’t fully comprehend Him in our earthly state (Isaiah 55:8-9). We may catch glimpses of Him, but we will only understand in part and see an outline, a shadow of Him through the dark mirror of our fleshly tabernacle (1 Corinthians 13:9, 12).

      It is for this reason that, as believers, we need to understand that the essence of the Christian life is to pursue after, discover, and experience the reality of God. There is no sustaining substance in any other reality, and no pure, lasting truth in anything other than the heavenly inspired revelation of God. There is no light in any other source but Jesus, nor is there any real hope outside of God. If He is not the ultimate reality in each of us, a reality that must be based on His Word, upheld by His Spirit, and confirmed by those who have walked the walk and run the course before us, then we need to know we are not standing on the immovable Rock of heaven but on the shifting sands of this present world (Matthew 7:24-27). Eventually when all is shaken or being shaken, any life that is being established on “sand” will collapse into a ruinous heap (Hebrew 12:26-27).

      As I prayed about how to end this series, I was recently reminded of how ill-informed some Christians are about God. Instead of confirming their reality of God with His Word, they have opted to cling to the image of God they have erected to their own liking. They have allowed their fickle sentiments to define His love so that they can embrace the profane in their Christian walk with logical excuses. It has allowed them to maintain their silly notions about Him with their prideful attitudes of self-importance, and their fleshly doctrines as a means to dispel any fear of the Lord they might have. Meanwhile, they hide their sin behind a cheap grace that speaks more of the worldly hype of tolerance than of the righteousness of God.

      As you contend with these Christians, you sometimes have to ask yourself, “Are they even born again of the Spirit?” The Bible is clear in 1 John 3:6,9-10, “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him…Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loved not his brother.”

      I realize the above statement can cause confusion for some Christians. So let me paraphrase it a bit. Whoever abides in God does so by following Jesus, walking in the Spirit, and obeying His Word. Such individuals will clearly avoid displeasing Him, and whoever is truly born of the Spirit cannot, without conviction, continue to walk in sin because it will be contrary to the new life that is now present within them.

      Now this is not to say as Christians we won’t fall into sin at different times, fail to do right at other times, and prove to be clueless about the seductive, enticing traps of the enemy; but, what it does reveal is that if a person is truly saved because he or she has been born again with the life of Christ, the holy Son of God, he or she will have a battle in his or her soul over sin. The conscience at this point will nag at the individual about his or her practices and the person’s spirit will begin to feel leanness since he or she can’t feel the presence of God in his or her life. Eventually desperation will bring such a person back to his or her faithful, High Priest, Jesus, and into agreement with God as sin is confessed and forgiveness sought, knowing that the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice will cleanse from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9).

      The truth is until sin is taken care of, the person will find self in a battle with the Spirit as He tries to bring the individual to true repentance so a right relationship can be once again restored with God. However, the more a person resists the Spirit’s overtures of conviction and logically justifies away any sin, the more his or her conscience can become seared and his or her heart hardened against conviction. His or her ears will develop a dullness towards the truth, and the individual’s eyes will become closed to the light (Matthew 13:13-16; 1 Timothy 4:1-3).

      Before the debate starts, I am not advocating for or against “eternal security.” What I am doing is referring to the Word’s various warnings to those who believe that some type of Christian’s association alone gives them the license (or fire insurance) to sin without risking breaking fellowship with God; all the while resisting the Spirit, becoming hard-hearted and stiff-necked, quickly offended when presented with the truth, while trying to hide from the penetrating light.

      It is important to point out that Jesus did not come to save us in our sin but to deliver us from the deadly consequences of it, the profane influence of it on our minds, the deceitful workings of it in our hearts, and its various tempting activities that constantly challenge our walk in this present age. He did not die so we could run back to the old way; rather, He died, was buried, and rose again so that we could become identified with a complete, new life (Romans 6:1-13).

      We need to quit fitting God’s Word into our worldly lifestyles and pet doctrines and begin to line our lives and doctrines up to the examples, teachings, and principles that God has established as the truth in His Scripture. The Bible is clear that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). We are also told that what is not of faith is sin; therefore, we need to approach the Word to believe it and walk it out for ourselves regardless of whether a matter fits nicely into our religious concepts (Romans 14:23). We need to learn to hear what the Spirit is saying to us in all matters pertaining to life and godliness to ensure we become partakers of His promises (2 Peter 1:3-4). We need to keep in mind that if we know to do right in a matter and fail to do so, it is also a form of sin (James 4:17)

      This brings me to another aspect of the reality of God. It is easy to erect an idol in our hearts and minds because we really do not understand who God is and develop erroneous concepts about Him to maintain our idol. If we are not humanizing God, we are discarding His authority and showing disdain toward His Word, while hiding behind some of His other attributes. It is clear that since the holy light of God will ultimately expose our motives, agendas, and points of priorities, we need to cast off the fig leaves of fleshly excuses, throw off any heavy robe of self-righteousness, and exchange the dirty rags of personal works with the life of Jesus. We need to be reflecting His goodness, and not our personal best.

      This brings me to the challenge of the Christian life. We need to quit making everything about what we want to see happen as far as our spiritual lives are concerned, what we think needs to happen in the lives of others, and what we feel strongly about as to our priorities and activities, religious or not, and make it about Jesus, doing His will and fulfilling His plan for our lives. In essence, we need to get serious about becoming His disciples and quit just tacking Him on to our worldly lifestyles, fitting Him into our fleshly pursuits, and assuming He will bless our religious activities. We need to quit conning ourselves and begin the habit of daily denying ourselves of any right to a personal life outside of Christ, and pick up our cross that will cause us to become dead to the influences of the world so that we can follow Jesus into a life of worshipful service (Luke 9:23-25). But, before we can do that, we might have to allow Jesus to turn on the light to expose any erroneous attitudes we may have towards Him and be ready to cast aside all foolish, idolatrous notions we have about Him and the Christian walk in true repentance. Remember, David asked the Lord to put a searchlight on his heart and expose any wicked way (Psalm 139:23-24).

      This means we can no longer hide behind certain attributes of God, while we avoid becoming His followers. For instance, some Christians hide their objectionable practices behind the fanciful notion that God wants them happy; therefore, He will give them a pass, even if their actions are immoral and profane. The Bible is clear that fleshly, worldly happiness is not part of the promises of God; rather, true, lasting happiness is the actual fruit that comes out of having an upright relationship with God (Psalm 144:15; 146:5-6). Godly happiness is not a temporary euphoria; rather, it manifests itself in a satisfying, fulfilling life. When you do a study on what ensures such happiness in the Christian life, it is holiness.

      It is not unusual for Christians, who still look to the world for happiness and purpose, to fling off moral responsibility to once again justify tasting of the deadly fruits of the lusts of the flesh. Some see it as a source of happiness, but if they are truly born again, their actions will eventually cause them to find themselves in a wrestling match with God.

      The Lord does not call us to happiness, but holiness (2 Corinthians 7:2; Hebrews 12:14). Holiness means that we have been set apart from the world to serve as walking epistles, living records, and miniature reflectors of something that is not of this world. We are to bring an opposite contrast from the world and a clear distinction from fleshly ways, ever confirming and pointing to a lasting hope that can’t be found in this age.

      There are those who hide their unholy agreements and Scriptural disobedience behind God’s love. They claim since God is love and since He loves them, He will certainly show tolerance towards any half-hearted ways and compromises. It is true God is love, but all of His attributes will uphold His holiness. What people fail to realize is that God’s love does not save us. It is true that out of love God provided a way for people to be saved, but He did so because He is holy.

      God had to provide salvation in such a way that His holiness would be upheld. Because He is love, He could do nothing less than to provide the way in which man could be restored back into a relationship with Him. His love proved to be sacrificial and selfless in commitment, genuine in action, and effective in its ability to prove His intentions. He made that love available to everyone who will come to the place of the cross and receive His provision of eternal life. However, such godly love was to inspire like love in the believer and was never meant to be used as a pass for Christians to pursue worldly ways and fleshly desires (1 John 4:19).

      The question is does God’s love overlook man in his rebellion when he shows utter contempt for His Word? Love is a two-way street. You can love someone, but if that individual does not love you back in like manner, it will prove to be a form of rejection. The Bible is clear that godly love must be shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit (Romans 5:5). In other words, it comes from above and not from the world or from within.

      Such godly love will not rejoice in iniquity and act as if wicked practices are proper and acceptable, especially when a soul could be on the line (1 Corinthians 13:6).  James said it best, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). It is clear in the last Scripture that only true conversion to the ways of righteousness is what will ultimately hide a multitude of sins. Jude 21-23 also states that we need to keep ourselves in this love, referring to how we are to show compassion to some who are struggling, but for others we might have to pull them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. It is for this reason the Bible clearly sets up church discipline when it comes to dealing with sin in the camp. (See Matthew 18:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 5.)

      Godly love is considered a perpetual debt we can only pay back to God by loving others in an honorable way (Romans 13:8-10). In fact, possessing this love for others is the only true confirmation that we are disciples of Jesus (John 13:34-35). It is for this reason that Jesus rebuked the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7 for leaving its first love and in John 14:15, He stated that if you love Him, you will obey Him.

      Another of God’s attributes that many Christians hide behind is His grace. Those in rebellion present God’s grace as a safety net that will catch them no matter how reckless and flippant they are concerning their relationship with the Lord. Once again, does God’s grace give us a pass to sin, ignore our Scriptural responsibilities, tout worldly ways, and justify fleshly practices?

      The Apostle Paul clearly addressed such a foolish attitude in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” God’s grace does not give us a pass to sin. In fact, sin cheapens the work of grace, and fleshly works attempt to frustrate it. The Apostle Paul clearly points out in Romans 5:21 that sin reigns unto death, but grace reigns through righteousness.

      What does it mean for God’s grace to reign through righteousness? It is simple, righteousness is accounted to those who operate in faith and walk according to faith (Romans 4:2-3). Faith believes God, responds to God in child-like confidence, and is prepared to receive from God in a proper attitude. Active faith recognizes that all comes from God and is a matter of His goodness. It is this understanding that allows grace to flow downward in blessings and flow throughout a person’s life as he or she begins to realize and experience the promises of God.

      There are many who do not believe God and what He says in His Word about sin and how His grace works. For example, there are those who arrogantly think they are actually deserving of God’s blessings. These individuals never recognize any aspect of His grace for they think they have no need of it. There are those who think they can earn God’s consideration by their works. These people will frustrate the real purpose of grace in their life and risk missing the real gifts of God that are bestowed on a person at the point of his or her faith, such as eternal life (Galatians 2:21).  There are those who assume and treat God’s grace like a fire insurance that will cover the damages left behind by their reckless living, but grace can only abound where sin once abounded (Romans 5:20). In other words, sin in the case of grace abounding in one’s life, is a matter of the past and not an activity of the present.

      This brings us to a very important point. The Bible talks about finding grace in Hebrews 4:16. Is grace hidden from us? As you consider the above attitudes towards grace, we can conclude that it is hidden from some people. The question is how do we find grace? We are told in the same Scripture that the only way we can find grace is to first obtain mercy from God.

      According to the Strong’s Concordance, the word “obtain” in Hebrews 4:16 means to take, get hold of, to seize, and to receive. The initial approach to God is to seek God’s mercy when it comes to sins (offenses against God), transgressions (breaking of the law and covenant), and iniquity (moral deviation in character). The concept of obtaining this mercy is that one actually gets a hold of mercy’s claims to deal with sin, seize its promise of remitting sins, and receive forgiveness from sin. God’s mercy is offered to all, but only those who are seeking to be upright before God will lay hold of it. Those who refuse to see that their particular sin (or sins) are an affront to God, see no need to seek His mercy. Since mercy is a form of grace that holds back judgment on a deserving sinner, the person will never find the grace that serves as a river that flows through a believer’s life, carrying spiritual blessings, allowing him or her to taste aspects of God’s promises and see glimpses of the heavenly.

      It is for this reason we are reminded that we have been saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). Although God bestows blessings on all of us when it comes to different aspects of life, only those who receive the promises of God through faith understand the real working of God’s grace. As blood-bought saints, we need to realize that we do not deserve God’s kindness causing a healthy fear and child-like awe in us.  We must recognize the need to be sober in our understanding and vigilant about that which is affecting us, ever recognizing that we are in a battle for souls, minds, and hearts. As believers, we must always keep in mind that it is God’s work and His battle, and we are mere instruments in His hand, but we must through humility become soft putty in His hands so He can shape and fashion us according to His will.

      We are living in precarious times. The Bible has warned us of these times so the events would not catch us off-guard, and that we would be spiritually ready to stand in the great darkness of insanity that is now engulfing the world. However, we must ever strive to come higher in our knowledge, life, and relationship with God to ensure that we do not become part of the great darkness, lost in its wickedness, seduced by its insanity, and taken away by its strong wave of delusion (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). We must line all up we do to the penetrating light of His holiness, discern the intents of our hearts with His Spirit, choose to love Him over all worldly idols of this age, and seek His mercy in our weakness and failures, knowing that we will find His grace. This means choosing God over all other realities, preferring to love His truth over our own reality, choosing to follow Him away from the present world towards the glory of the next, and ever assimilating His life as a means to subdue the influence of the “old man” in us.

      In coming to a close in this series, I want to leave this parting thought. It is time to take God at His Word about who He is and what it means to accept our high calling as Christians. The reality of God is always going to call His followers forward in faith and upward in their calling, continually preparing their eyes to focus on the great promise that the believer’s redemption is ever drawing near (Luke 21:28).