Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow”(James 1:17). The Bible says that God is forever faithful. I believe that. However, I will also be the first to admit that simply because I believe something to be true does not mean I always act like it. Like you, I face a daily bombardment of uncertainties, challenges, and circumstances that are inherent in a fallen world. Sometimes these uncertainties, challenges, and circumstances catch me off-guard. Sometimes they turn my world upside down. Sometimes they leave me with more questions than answers. It is during times like these we must endeavor to turn our attention to and meditate upon what I believe to be the greatest truth about God’s eternal character—His faithfulness. The Bible is crystal clear on this point and leaves no room for debate. God always has been, and forever will be, faithful.
James, writing about the God who gives perfect gifts to His children, says this about Him: “There is no variation or shifting shadow.” The use of the words variation and shifting is interesting. In using these words, James is probably referring to the sun, which because of the Earth’s rotation, “varies” its position in the sky throughout the day. This variation in position results in shifting shadows on earth. It’s a great illustration because we have all seen shadows and we have all witnessed the shifting of shadows brought about by the varying position of the sun throughout the day. But James reminds us it is not like this with God. God is the “Father of lights,” meaning He is the Creator of the sun and stars—the heavenly bodies that give off light. And unlike these heavenly bodies that are constantly changing or appearing to change, the “Father of lights” does not change. He is faithful and with Him, “there is no variation or shifting shadow.” This is in perfect agreement with Malachi 3:6, which says, “For I, the Lord, do not change.” Because God does not change, we can count on Him to be faithful—always! The same thought is captured in Psalm 100:5, “For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations.” This basically means His truth endures. Because His truth endures, because He is faithful and forever will be, the Bible says, “And without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). Because God always has been, and forever will be, faithful, we can believe Him. Abraham did, and the Bible says, “It was credited to Him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). Sarah believed because, “she considered Him faithful who had promised” (Heb. 11:11). This is the Word of the Lord!
I do not know what is transpiring in your life right now. I only know what is going on in my own. But this much I do know—God always has been, and forever will be, faithful! When God told Joshua to meditate upon His Word (Joshua 1:8), He was basically charging Joshua to meditate upon His faithfulness. Joshua was about to embark on the greatest challenge of His life—leading the children of Israel into the Promise Land. He needed to be assured of God’s faithfulness. The Psalmist wrote, “Oh how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97). Only those who love the Word of God and endeavor to meditate upon and obey it will believe God. And only those who meditate upon God’s faithfulness can face the uncertainties, challenges, and circumstances that life throws our way. Remember, no matter what happens in this life, God is faithful—He always has been, and He forever will be, faithful! No changes on this earth can cast a shadow on the unchanging Father of lights. “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us” (Heb. 6:17-20).
“But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23). Sanctification is one of those big theological words often misunderstood by new and old believers alike. It is the Greek word hagiasmos, meaning holiness. It is understood to include past, present, and future holiness. In reference to past holiness, it speaks of position. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “You were sanctified” (1 Cor. 6:11). In a sense, it is a position without reference to sin. In other words, as a believer I may sin from time to time but that does not change my position of holiness before the Lord. In reference to future holiness, it speaks to that time when Christ returns and I see Him face to face. This is often referred to as glorification. Romans 8:30 describes in past tense this future event wherein all believers will be glorified. This event will occur at the Rapture of the Church and will be an instantaneous conformity to the image of Christ—“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Finally, there is present holiness. This is the moment-by-moment, day-by-day process of sanctification whereby I choose obedience to God over the sinful desires of the flesh. It is made possible only by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and my choice to submit to Him. This is not always an easy choice and is yet another reason Paul wrote, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim. 6:12).
I think Paul has present sanctification in mind in Romans 6:22. It is a present “sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). This is a pretty strong assertion but it is the gospel truth! Basically, this means one who is truly saved “by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8) will give evidence that he or she truly belongs to Christ. In other words, they will give evidence of a changed life. Matthew wrote, “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8). Obviously, the Bible isn’t referring to sinless perfection but it is referring to less sinning and greater holiness! This is why the writer of Hebrews wrote, “Pursue sanctification” (Heb 12:14), and Paul wrote, “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). In other words, I can’t walk the aisle of my church, pray the “sinner’s prayer,” follow that with baptism, then go out and live like the world only to fall back on “once saved always saved.” My life must give clear evidence of a change. This change is known as sanctification or holiness. Such moment-by-moment, day-by-day holiness is possible because I have “been freed from sin and enslaved to God.” The “benefit” of this freedom from sin and enslavement to God is present sanctification. And the outcome of present sanctification is eternal life! John describes this process of present sanctification as overcoming—“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). How can you know if your faith is real, that you’ve truly been saved by grace through faith, that you’ve been sanctified and will be sanctified? Ask yourself these questions: Are you fighting the good fight of faith? Are you pursuing sanctification? Paul wrote, “If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). Charles Spurgeon put it this way: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” I don’t know about you, but I want to live eternally with Christ! Therefore, I’m fighting the good fight and pursuing present sanctification right now.
When I was growing up we attended Silver City Baptist Church. Every so often we would have Sunday evening hymn sings where the congregation chose the songs. Without fail, Mama Nick always requested “Victory in Jesus,” only she called it “Victory of Jesus!” Because of the victory of Jesus, we can experience victory in Jesus. It troubles me deeply when I see folks who claim to belong to Christ but whose lives are anything but victorious. I’m not suggesting believers don’t struggle with temptation and sin. I know I do! But when someone continually chooses willful disobedience and sin as a lifestyle over what they know to be right, then it calls into question whether or not their faith is real. Real faith works itself out in present sanctification. This will always be the case because real faith overcomes the world! Is your faith real? Are you an overcomer? Are you experiencing present sanctification? “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form”(Colossians 2:8-9). I have written on numerous occasions regarding the fact that we live in an age of remarkable theological and biblical confusion. This should come as no surprise as Jesus said on the Mount of Olives that deception would be one of the primary signs we are living in the last days. He said this three times in Matthew 24. If He says something once, it’s important. But to say it three times means it is seriously important. “See to it that no one misleads you” (Matt. 24:4). “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many” (24:11). “For false Christs and false prophets will arise…” (24:24).
False theologies, religions, and other belief systems have been around since sin entered the world. Some of these belief systems are so well package that even some in the Church are deceived. A recent article appearing in USA Today drives this point home: “More U.S. Christians mix in 'Eastern,' New Age beliefs.” Did you know that many theologically conservative churches offer “Christian” Yoga classes to their membership? Or how about this—a Bible professor at a Christian university in Minnesota says there just might be “common ground” with Buddhism and Christianity when it comes to “meditation.” I doubt the kind of meditation he has in mind is that found in the Scriptures. Eastern religions with their practice of meditation and self-revelation are considered to be exemplary and valuable in today’s society. Yoga and other meditative practices are heralded for their “positive” physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. But what many believers fail to realize is you can’t take something pagan and dress it up in Christian lingo and make it “holy.” In other words, there is no such thing as Christian Yoga. There are several reasons I could offer in support of this, but suffice it to say, Yoga is thoroughly Hindu and cannot be divorced from it or its pagan gods. Yoga postures are designed to form one's body into the likeness of man, animals, birds, insects, snakes, fish, and many more--all of which are revered as gods in Hinduism. Therefore, the words of Christ and Paul serve as a strong warning to believers: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception.” Elsewhere, Paul writes, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God (your body) with idols?” (2 Cor. 6:14-16). These are all rhetorical questions, meaning the answer is obvious—NOTHING! Christianity has nothing in common with this garbage! Therefore, if you are thinking about doing “Christian” Yoga, don’t. If you are already involved with it, stop! Repent of your sin and ask for and receive God’s forgiveness. Run from “the elementary principles of the world,” and pursue a pure devotion to Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
Many Christians have been duped into thinking there is nothing wrong with Yoga and other Eastern meditative practices, all of which are designed to put the practitioner into an altered state of consciousness. According to one apologist, “believers who think they’re just exercising are being swept into a [false religious system].” Authentic Christians are to stand against such evil. We do this by running to the Word of God and resting in and believing His warnings and promises. Regardless of how physically, emotionally, and spiritually positive something might seem on the surface, if the Word of God says it’s evil, then it’s evil and is to be shunned and avoided. All pagan practices are inherently evil. “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them… Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:11, 15-16).
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