Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
"Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off" (Proverbs 23:18). It's hard to believe 2016 is nearing an end. A little over a week from now a new year will dawn. As 2016 draws to a close and 2017 looms on the horizon I wonder how many of us will take the time to reflect back over this past year and consider our accomplishments and our shortcomings.
What about all those New Year's Resolutions we set for 2016? If you're like me, you probably resolved to do a thing or two only to come up short! But it need not be this way. A new year provides us with the opportunity to make a fresh start. I think that is one reason God gives us a new year every January 1st.
God is, after all, in the new business. The Bible reminds us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). John wrote, "And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new'" (Revelation 21:5).
As we prepare for the New Year we ought to pause and think about where we are spiritually and where we want to go. The Old Testament prophet Haggai wrote, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Consider your ways'" (Haggai 1:7). As 2016 draws to a close and 2017 looms before you, will you stop and consider your ways? Will you think about where you are spiritually and where you need to go? How will you seek to become more like Jesus in 2017?
Paul prayed, "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light" (Colossians 1:9-12).
Several things are mentioned in Paul's prayer to God for us. I list them here for your consideration:
1. A prayer for knowledge, spiritual wisdom, and understanding. Our faith is not a blind faith. It is based upon the knowledge of Christ and His Word.
2. A prayer for a Christ honoring and God glorifying life. This is the result of the knowledge, spiritual wisdom, and understanding Paul initially mentions in his prayer.
3. A prayer for a life pleasing to God.
4. A prayer for a life that bears fruit through good works that honor and point others to Christ.
5. A prayer for increasing knowledge. Again, our faith is based on what (who) we know--Jesus.
6. A prayer for Godly strength.
7. A prayer for patient endurance. Life is not easy and, as believers, we are called to patiently endure life's trials.
8. A prayer for joyful thanksgiving. One of the many reasons we have joy and are to give thanks is because of what God has done for us in Christ--He has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints.
As you prepare to begin a new year, take time to think about Paul's prayer for you. Although written nearly 2000 years ago, the prayer still rings true today. God is still hearing and answering this prayer. Furthermore, consider what you can do in 2017 to grow in your relationship to Jesus Christ.
In his book, Developing Healthy Spiritual Growth, Joel Beeke offers a list of sixteen spiritual disciplines that God uses as means of grace to make us more like Jesus. He writes, "Think of the list of sixteen disciplines as a catalog of books you receive from a great book publisher. You can't buy everything in the catalog (sadly!), but you can buy two or three books. So you flip through the catalog and circle the books that most appeal to you... In your mind (or in your notes), circle the ones that you need to work on most, then invest yourself in getting a grip on them." Remember, private time devoted to communion with God is central to growth. Here are the sixteen disciplines:
Disciplines of Personal Devotion:
1. Read the Scriptures. (See my post on Regular Bible Reading)
2. Meditate on the Bible.
3. Pray and work.
4. Keep a journal.
1. Regular family worship and catechizing.
2. Make your home the center of hospitality and fellowship for others.
3. Discipline your children in love.
4. Counsel your children in major decisions.
1. Hearing the preached Word.
2. Make diligent use of the sacraments.
3. Participate in the fellowship in the church.
4. Sanctify the Lord's Day.
1. Evangelize sinners with the gospel.
2. Serve people with your time and money.
3. Have compassion on people but flee worldliness.
4. Intercede for the world.
Dr. Beeke concludes, "Let us seek wisdom from God, and the Spirit's grace, in order to turn knowledge into practice, for we do not truly know anything until it is translated into action... It is challenging to grow in Christ's pattern and in pleaseing God. That's why we need the spiritual disciplines. Thanks be to God, He has given us many ways to apply the Word and prayer to our lives, not just in private disciplines but also in the family, church, and neighborly relationships."
So, in which two or three spiritual disciplines do you want to make the most progress during 2017? What will you do about it? Also, in what ways would you like to see 2017 different from 2016? What will you do about it? Finally, consider what one thing you can do to improve your prayer life in 2017.
The New Year provides an excellent opportunity to consider where we are spiritually and where we want to go. I hope you will take the time to consider these important matters, and by God's grace, set about to see spiritual transformation in your walk with Christ during 2017. May God bless you as you endeavor to become more like Jesus, who has "rescued us from the domain of darkness" (Colossians 1:13a).
“So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for 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” (Romans 8:12-13). Beware of Satisfaction—that probably seems like an odd title to most. The position of some, after all, is to pursue satisfaction no matter the cost.
Let me just say up front, we should be—no, we must be—satisfied in Jesus alone. In other words, Jesus is enough. The Psalmist asks, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25-26).
The writer of Hebrews states very clearly Jesus is better than anyone or anything we could ever desire or imagine. We are to be satisfied in Jesus. Indeed, He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
So what do I mean by beware of satisfaction? John Owen mused, “Sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still.” Commenting on this, John MacArthur writes, “Satan is likely to attack when a believer is most satisfied with his spiritual life. That is when pride, the chief of sins, easily sneaks into our lives unnoticed and leads us to believe that contentment with ourselves is contentment with God.”
Are you satisfied with your spiritual life? If so, beware! And, I might add, beware of anyone who tells you God wants you to be satisfied in anyone or anything other than Jesus. And, as long as we’re on the subject, don’t fall into the trap of, “I was born this way.” Every time I hear that I want to say, “Tell me something I don’t know.” We were all born sinners. We were all born spiritually dead and with hearts hostile to the things of God. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5).
So what do I mean by beware of satisfaction? Simply this—don’t get too comfortable in your spiritual life. Sin has a way of creeping in and taking over. Instead, make it your aim to put to death the deeds of the body, or, as in the King’s Vernacular, “Mortify the deeds of the body.”
John Owen asked, “Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
In other words, don’t get too comfortable. Don’t get too satisfied in your spiritual walk. If you are satisfied, one of two things is true: Either you’re foolish or you don’t know Jesus, and it may very well be the latter. Why? Because putting to death the deeds of the body is a characteristic of God’s children.
John MacArthur notes, “The person who gives no evidence of the presence, power, and fruit of God’s Spirit in his life has no legitimate claim to Christ as Savior and Lord.” To put it another way, if you’re habitually in a lifestyle of sin with no concern for holy living, you’re not in Christ.
Are you satisfied with your spiritual life? If so, beware! “Be on alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
The writer of the book of Hebrews writes, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus..." (Heb. 12:1-2a). This passage is rich in theology and practical theology at that. By "practical" I mean the passage is easily broken down into easily understood principles for running the race known as the Christian life. The three principals here are (1) Focus on the Saints - "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us," (2) Focus on Self - "let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us," and (3) Focus on the Savior - "fixing our eyes on Jesus..." It is the second principle -- Focus on Self--that I want to consider in this blog entry. Primarily, I want to focus in on the part of the passage that tells us to deal with sin.
“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).
"And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death" (Revelation 12:11). As we near the end of the age, persecution and even martyrdom of Christians will increase dramatically. Those of us living in the United States won’t be exempt. In fact, we are already witnessing an increase in persecution. The time to prepare for this eventual reality is now. Make sure you are thoroughly grounded in the faith. Make sure you know what you believe and why you believe it. Make sure you are truly of the faith. Make sure you are an overcomer! Otherwise, when persecution comes—particularly persecution with the threat of death—you will run the risk of denying and bringing shame to the name of Christ. Such denial may indicate another reality—that you do not belong to Christ. Therefore, it is imperative that we understand what the Bible says about those who overcome. Revelation 12:11 give us three marks of an overcomer. All three are true in the life of one who has truly been saved by the grace of God through faith in the Son of God.
John writes, "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb." In a previous article I pointed out the Greek word for overcame is the word nikao, meaning "to come off victorious." True Christians are, by nature, overcomers. But we don’t overcome in our own strength and energy. We overcome "because of the blood of the Lamb." Satan is our accuser. Yet, because of the blood of the Lamb, his accusations cannot stand. Paul wrote, "Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies" (Rom. 8:33). We are justified through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The blood emphasizes the death of Jesus. He died so that we might live. We are forgiven because of His shed blood. No accusation can stand against those whose sins have been forgiven! Because Christ was victorious, His victory is our victory. So the first defining mark of an overcomer is that they belong to Christ, having been washed by the blood of the Lamb. Secondly, John writes that we overcome the enemy, "because of the word of [our] testimony." My testimony is not walking a church aisle and praying to receive Christ. My testimony is the fact that I have been born again by grace through faith and that I continue to walk in newness of life. In other words, my testimony is a changed life! I no longer embrace my sin, but rather, I embrace Christ! Your testimony overcomes Satan’s deception. Paul could write, "I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day" (2 Tim. 1:12). The writer of Hebrews echoed that truth by writing, "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). The King James says it this way: "He is able also to save them to the uttermost." We are saved to the uttermost! This is the testimony of the believer and it is this testimony we share with others and is the living evidence of a changed life. I cannot emphasize this changed life enough! Finally, John says we overcome because, "[we do] not love [our] life even when faced with death." Overcomers are willing to make any sacrifice, including death. Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). Willingly dying for the cause of Christ is the ultimate in self-denial. Like Christ, we should all be willing to be "obedient to the point of death" (Phil. 2:8). However, self-denial begins with repenting of my sin and turning to Christ. It is an ongoing condition and lifestyle whereby I choose Christ over all else—especially self. Such a life is not easy but it is eternally rewarding. If we refuse to cling to our earthly lives, then there really is no threat Satan can bring against us. If the enemy kills you because of your faith in Christ, what else can they do (see Luke 12:4)?
To sum it all up, overcomers are first of all, saved. Secondly, they have a consistent testimony of a changed life. Finally, they would readily welcome death rather than to deny their Lord. So, the question is, are you an overcomer? Does your life give evidence of a changed life? Are you truly saved? If so, take hope in knowing that God will preserve you to the end—He is able and has saved you to the uttermost! If you are not saved, now is the time to give your life to Christ, receiving His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life. The Bible says, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Heb. 2:3) God has provided "so great a salvation," so that through Christ we can overcome Satan, the flesh, and the world system. But it begins by simple faith in the crucified, risen, ascended, and soon returning Lord. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12).
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God”(1 John 5:4-5). I believe the Bible is crystal clear that those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ—truly born again—will overcome the world. By world, I mean that organized system headed by Satan. It is an invisible spiritual system of evil which manifests as “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:15). One thing most people fail to realize about this satanic world system is that it is only temporary. In other words, it is passing away along with the passing pleasures of sin. All true believers—those who have been born again by grace through faith in Christ alone—will overcome the world. This is the witness of the New Testament and one way—perhaps the primary way—one can know for sure whether or not they have been born again and are on their way to eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
John wrote, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world” (1 Jn. 5:4). The word, overcomes, is the Greek word nikao, from which we get the English word, Nike. In the New Testament, it is used of God, Christ, and His followers. It is used to describe true saving faith and means to conquer, prevail, and get the victory. More often than not, it always appears in the present tense and active voice, meaning it is happening right now and it is continuous. Therefore, true saving faith is a continuous abiding faith that endures, and those who possess it overcome the world. For Christians, it means we hold fast our faith even unto death. It also means we renounce and forsake sin, no matter how difficult such may be. I can remember counseling and praying with a young man, years ago, who was struggling with a particular sin. This young man had supposedly become a Christian a year earlier. I can remember him asking, “Why does this have to be so hard?” The reason following Christ is oftentimes “so hard” is because life simply is not easy, nor is it fair. Paul wrote, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim. 6:12). Clearly, overcoming the world is war! This is why Peter wrote, “Abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11). I was saddened to learn, nearly twenty years later, that this young man has fully embraced that sin which he previously fought to renounce and forsake. It appears Satan is winning—perhaps has won—the war against my friend’s soul. But I continue to pray for him and others of like persuasion that God would open their blind eyes that they might “see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ [so as to be saved]” (2 Cor. 4:4). After all, the Bible warns us, “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9). It is crucial that we overcome the world. It is crucial because any moment now Jesus will return for His Church. If you are left behind, the chances of you coming to saving faith in Christ are slim and none. Therefore, you must overcome the world!
How does one overcome the world? How do we gain victory over a world that continually makes it so difficult? Notice what John says: “This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” First of all, we must understand who Jesus Christ is and who we are in Him. In other words, we must understand our position in Christ. The Bible says that everyone born of God overcomes the world and is therefore (and will be) victorious over sin. It may be a struggle. There may be times of failure. But in the end, we will always be victorious. And this victory comes by way of our faith. Faith is the vehicle by which we overcome the world. Faith is standing on the truth and promises of God’s Word and learning to think like God thinks. In other words, I must believe God, no matter what. “And without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). We must refuse to allow our struggles and particular inclinations to certain sins to defeat us. If God’s Word says some decision or lifestyle is a sin, we must believe God. I came to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord when I was eleven years old. I didn’t understand it all then (and barely do now). But as a young adult, I made a decision that I was going to believe and obey God no matter what. I think this is the attitude one must adopt in order to overcome the world. But it’s not the attitude that ensures victory. It is faith—believing God. It is a faith that looks forward to that which is not yet. In other words, this life is not all there is. Like Paul, we must “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12). The key to overcoming the world is believing God. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 Jn. 5:4).
"There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death"(Proverbs 14:12). A popular Country and Western song from the early 80’s, entitled, "How Can it Be Wrong When it Feels So Right," encapsulates the thinking of most today when it comes to truth. It seems most people are content to determine truth based on how they feel rather than on what God says. But such foolishness and short-sightedness is extremely dangerous, not only in this life, but the life to come. What we do on this earth—the decisions we make, the things we embrace, that which we treasure—has eternal consequences that will result in either reward or misery. Now don’t misunderstand. It is not the things we do that determine our eternal destiny. But they do demonstrate whether or not we belong to the King! Following Christ is not easy. In fact, it can be extremely difficult. This is why Paul writes, "Fight the good fight of faith" (2 Tim. 6:12). Salvation calls for knowledge of the truth, repentance, submission to Christ as Lord, and a willingness to obey His will and Word. We must choose wisely! As the writer of Proverbs says, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus concludes His "Sermon on the Mount" with a Gospel application—He presents two gates, two ways, two destinations, two groups of people, two kinds of trees, and two kinds of fruit; two groups at the judgment, and two kinds of builders, building on two kinds of foundations. John MacArthur, commenting on this says, "[Jesus] is drawing the line as clearly as possible between the way that leads to destruction and the way that leads to life." So the warning is pretty clear—some ways might appear to be a smooth, obstacle free, rose lined pathway—but in the end, it is the way of death! The way leading to destruction is not normally marked by a huge neon sign that identifies it as the way of death. That is why we need a standard by which to measure life and make wise choices. God has given us such a standard—the Bible. The Bible is truth. Every single word from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is truth. Not only that, but Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of truth. After all, He did claim to be "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Since the Bible has proven itself to be of Divine origin and true in every respect, there really is no debate when it comes to truth. There is however, a choice. One may be completely convinced that a certain thing is right. They may feel its "rightness" with all their heart. The tragedy lies in that "its end is the way of death." Death here means not just physical death which we all will one day experience, but spiritual death and separation from God and the joys of heaven. Its end is an eternal misery and suffering that the mind of man cannot even begin to fathom—"But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).
I was looking at a certain group’s website recently. I’m not going to lend credence to this group by naming them here. But I will say they claim to be a fellowship of believers although they deny the truth of God’s Word. On their website is an article entitled, "Reading the Bible with New Eyes." What it ought to be called is, "Reading the Bible with Blind Eyes." Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." Satan has been so successful in blinding many to the truth that they cannot see and understand that they have chosen the way of death—that they are right now, this very moment, perishing! And it all started in the beginning, when he asked the woman, "Has God said?" He followed that question up with a blatant lie, "You surely shall not die!" The stakes are indeed high. The consequences of our decisions in this life are infinitely eternal, and time is quickly running out. Which way will you choose? "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Prov. 14:12).
“And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:17-19). Life is full of choices. We are bombarded with them each and every day. Some choices are weightier than others. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual matters. I talk with people all the time who are struggling with sin. Some are believers, others are not. In either case it always comes down to the same choice—Jesus or Your Sin. When I say sin, I am not referring so much to the day-to-day struggle with sin—we all do that—but I am speaking of that sin which would be described as ongoing willful disobedience. For the unbeliever, this is a matter of urgency. Whether or not they recognize it, eternity is on the line. For the believer it is equally, if not more so, urgent. That is because if one claims to be a believer yet is involved in ongoing willful disobedience with no conviction whatsoever, their salvation is called into question. A believer is continually sensitive to the sin in their life and is in a continual state of confession and repentance (see 1 John 1:5-10).
I was reminded of this recently by someone who informed me they were happy in their sin. I know this is a false statement for two reasons. First of all, the Bible is clear no one is ever happy in sin. Sin robs us of our joy! I’m a living testimony of that. Secondly, if they weren’t under conviction they wouldn’t have brought it up. But rather than deal with the conviction by repenting and turning from their sin, in willful ignorance they continue to embrace it. It is amazing the price people are willing to pay in order to embrace their sin over Christ. Jesus asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). We could paraphrase that question by saying, “What will it profit a man if he embraces his sin over Jesus?” The answer is simple—it won’t profit him anything and the end result will be the forfeiture of his soul for all eternity. The stakes are enormous. Yet most folks don’t stop to think about this one truth—life is indeed short. Regardless of how long a person lives on this earth, they live forever somewhere—either in the presence of Christ and everything that is good with joys unspeakable or separated from Him, in hell and torment, for all eternity. James tells us, “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
We have every reason to believe the Bible is true. One of the most powerful and compelling reasons for believing this is that of fulfilled prophecy. Did you know that Bible prophecy is 100 percent accurate, 100 percent of the time? Because Bible prophecy is so specific and accurately fulfilled down to the very letter, the Bible has “WRITTEN BY GOD” stamped all over it. This is why Peter said, “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:18). His point is this: Through fulfilled prophecy, God has declared once and for all that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to salvation (see Acts 4:12). Therefore, you have a choice to make. Will you embrace forgiveness through Jesus Christ or continue to cling to your sin? Remember, the stakes are enormous.
So what is required? Faith that leads to repentance. Peter said, “Therefore, repent and return so that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19). He’s not speaking about head knowledge here. Many people claim to believe in Jesus yet they are still lost. He is speaking of a heart knowledge—the kind of knowledge that brings about a change. When one exercises this kind of faith, they willfully turn from their sin and embrace Christ. In fact, they throw the sum total of their hope onto Christ. We call this conversion. It is not walking forward at the end of a church service and praying the so called “sinner’s prayer.” It is a total change that takes place on the inside and works its way outward. Paul put it this way: “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:8-10). Notice he tied Jesus as Lord and faith together. When one truly believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, they not only believe He is the one and only way to salvation. They also submit their life to Him in obedience. They choose Christ over their sin. Jesus or your sin—which do you choose?
"Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you" (2 Peter 1:10-11). Are you sure of your salvation? This is an important question. All throughout the New Testament we are warned not to assume we are on our way to heaven. The teachings of the apostles are clear—make certain about His calling and choosing you. But how do we do this? Many wrongly assume they are on their way to eternity with Christ because they are members of a certain church or denomination, regularly attend church, walked an aisle, prayed the "sinner’s prayer", signed a card, raised their hand, were baptized, "had a special revelation from the Holy Spirit" known as a "burning in the bosom", or had a charismatic spiritual experience. But none of those things are valid proofs for affirming your salvation. The New Testament teaches two ways we can be sure. These are sound doctrine and holy living.
If one is going to be sure of his or her salvation, then sound doctrine is essential. Doctrine, of course, means teaching. We must be sure our understanding of the Bible’s teaching particularly that of who Christ is and how salvation is obtained, is sound. In other words, theology matters. John wrote, "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9). Paul wrote, "He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard" (Col. 1:22-23). I can remember a couple friends from my first year of college who attended a church that taught in order to be saved one had to have the words "In Jesus name" said over them at their baptism followed by the experience of speaking in tongues. Obviously, such teaching goes against the very heart of the gospel—that salvation is by grace through faith (see Eph. 2:8-10). Quoting Romans 10:13, the pastor of this church insisted that, "Calling on the name of the Lord will not get you saved. It is a good step but it will not get you saved." Basically she called God a liar for it is He who said through the Apostle Paul, "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom. 10:13). My point in all this is that this church clearly had a misunderstanding of the Doctrines of Christ and Salvation. As a sad result, they proclaimed and believed "another gospel" (see Gal. 1:6-9).
Just as important as sound doctrine is holy living. In fact, holy living is the key to being sure you possess salvation. Jesus said, "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit" (Matt. 7:18). His point is if you see consistent and habitual corrupt fruit in your life, it is safe to assume you are a corrupt tree. In other words, true salvation produces holy living which in turn produces good fruit—the fruit of righteousness. This is Peter’s point in 2 Peter 1:1-11. The reality of our salvation leads to responsibility. The reality is that salvation is a gift of God’s abundant grace received through faith (1:1-2). He has given us everything we need to live a life of holiness (1:3-4). Because of this, it is our responsibility, not to earn our salvation, but to be sure we possess it. Notice he says we are to do so diligently: "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love" (1:5-7). Verse 8 is the key: "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." That means those things should be not only present but increasing in a believer’s life. The absence of such qualities is cause for alarm. This is why Peter said, "Therefore brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble" (1:10).
If those things Peter mentioned in verses 5-7 are a reality in your life then you have cause for assurance. But if they are lacking, verse 8 is clear; you become indistinguishable from one who is unsaved, robbing you of your assurance, and implying a sobering reality—you do not belong to God. So, are you sure of your salvation? There are a lot of things we can get wrong in this life—but not this. "Test yourselves to see if you are of the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless you fail the test?" (2 Cor. 13:5).
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Romans 5:15; 14:7-9). What is the primary motive for Christian obedience? I posed this question to everyone who receives Thoughts to Ponder. Several responded. The answers given were interesting. However, none were surprising. The reasons given included fear, blessings, self-preservation, answered prayer, avoiding guilt, and gratitude. In fact, in one way or another, almost everyone reported gratitude to God for all He had done for them, as the primary motive for obedience.
This is interesting. It is interesting because the Bible says very little, if anything, about gratitude being the primary motive for obedience. Consider the Hebrew children in the Old Testament. More often than not, they disobeyed God, despite all the good things God had done for them. However, the Bible never cites ingratitude as the reason for their disobedience. It was always their lack of faith. In Numbers 14:11, God asks, “How long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs I have performed in their midst?” So then, if gratitude is not the primary motive for obedience, what is? Did you notice the interweaving of faith and grace in the passages from Romans at the beginning of this article? I believe the primary motive for Christian obedience, as taught in the Scriptures, is that of faith. In other words, I obey God because I believe God. Such thinking can be summed up this way: Do I really and truly believe God is who He says He is and that He will do what He has said He will do? If the answer is yes, then by His grace, I will obey. If it is anything other than yes, then I will begin to struggle with my obedience and run the risk of disobedience.
No matter how grateful I am for those things God has done for me in the past, if I do not believe Him for the future, then obedience is unlikely. The writer of Hebrews says, “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” (11:6). Paul wrote that our introduction into grace was by faith with the result that we would hope in God. What is this hope? I believe it is faith in God for the fulfillment of His promises to us in His word. It is faith in God for the future, since the life we live will be lived in the future. All this can be wrapped up in the word hope. It is the essential role of hope that sustains us in our obedience to God, particularly when obedience to God might require me to go into some very dangerous situation and ultimately lay down my life.
I was working with the chapel youth group recently and posed a scenario where one might find himself or herself looking down the barrel of a gun, with a terrorist on the other end who says, “Reject Christ and live or profess Him and die.” My question was what would motivate you to profess Christ in that moment, knowing that doing so would probably result in your death? I was absolutely blown away by one young girl, who is only 14, spoke up and said, “Faith.” It was as simple as that. Not gratitude, not fear, not self-preservation, not guilt, but faith. Only one who really and truly believes that God is who He says He is and will do what He has said He will do, will be motivated by faith. Certainly there is a place for gratitude. But that gratitude should motivate us, not to obey, but to believe that the God who has shown us His grace in the past, will continue to show us His grace in the future. And that belief (faith) should motivate us to obey.
Click on the image to learn more
You are welcome to leave comments and you don't have to necessarily agree with me. However, I expect a civil tone and charitable spirit. We can disagree with one another without being disagreeable. "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt." (Colossians 4:6)
Click on the image to learn more
Striving to glorify God by becoming more like Jesus.
Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.