Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). No one can possibly fail to see the lawlessness that pervades our society today. On Tuesday, the nation watched as FBI Director James Comey laid out the case against Hillary Clinton for her total disregard for Federal Law and common sense over her handling of classified information. I don’t know about you but I sat in stunned disbelief as he announced there would be no recommendation for an indictment. As one who holds a TOP SECRET National Security Clearance, I am sure I would already be in jail had I been found to have mishandled only a fraction of the classified information Mrs. Clinton and her staff mishandled. One thing is for sure, there is no longer such a thing as the rule of law. Lawlessness is now firmly entrenched in our society and world.
Jesus foretold this lawlessness in Matthew as one of the signs leading up to His return to this world. I do not believe He is referring to lawlessness in a purely civil sense. I am sure He has in mind lawlessness as it relates to God’s law, as well. Consider how far we have come as a society in just a few short years. That which the Bible clearly calls evil society now calls good. Religious freedom, something not necessarily promised to us in Scripture, is now a thing of the past. Anyone who disagrees or takes a stand on purely religious conviction is shunned, ostracized, and destroyed. To me, it is like a giant whirlpool sucking everything and everyone towards the center of the vortex. I witnessed one such whirlpool as I sailed from Alaska to Washington a few years ago. As the outgoing tide increased in velocity it caused the waters of the intercostal waterway to begin to rotate until it looked something like the picture above. I am thankful the ferryboat captain chose to steer clear of this whirling vortex rather than sail through it. Such a picture is an excellent illustration of how lawlessness works. Society moves further and further away from God and morality at a faster and ever tightening pace.
Lawlessness, according to Scripture, will abound in the last days. Lawlessness, properly understood, is a life of disobedience to the law of God—a deliberate trampling upon His law. It is mankind’s contempt for God and his decision to do as he pleases. The Psalmist writes, “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!’” (Psalm 2:2-3). Such is the irony of man’s rebellion—devising, conspiring, and scheming against God and His ways. The Bible, however, reveals God’s response to such foolishness. “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain” (Psalm 2:4-6).
I can almost hear the Lord saying, “Scorn My law all you want to but there is a payday coming and it is coming very soon for My Son will soon return and establish His Kingdom which He will rule with a rod of iron and destroy all those who do evil.” Perhaps this is why the Psalmist writes a few verses later, “Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 2:12) I do not know about you but as the tide of lawlessness rolls over the world and the rotating vortex of destruction sucks in anything and everything it can, I am taking refuge in Jesus. I would encourage you to do the same. The world is on a collision course to meet the God of the universe face-to-face. It will not be pretty. John writes, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds… And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15). How will you fare when you meet God face-to-face? Will you perish in the way, as the Psalmist writes, or will you join Christ upon Zion—His holy mountain?
“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).
“See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many’” (Matthew 24:4). Deception is defined as acts to propagate beliefs that are not true, or not the whole truth (as in half-truths or omission). Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda, and sleight of hand, as well as distraction, camouflage, or concealment. There is also self-deception, as in bad faith. In the context of Scripture, bad faith is understood as taking a position that is either known to be false or is false but believed to be true. In either case, the one holding the position is self-deceived. It is interesting to me that Jesus, when speaking of the time period just prior to His return to this earth, said more about deception than He did anything else. In Matthew 24, He warns against being deceived three different times (Matt. 24:4-5, 11, 23-24). There are at least 25 instances in the New Testament where the biblical writers warn against being deceived. This is why it is crucial for us to understand not everyone who claims to speak for Christ actually does. In fact, I would venture to say no one speaks for Christ as He has already spoken for Himself in His Word given through His Prophets and Apostles. The warning is clear: Don’t be misled.
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.
“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?
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11). I read an article recently in which the author reminisced about the little Baptist church he attended as a child. It was not a very spiritual article. In fact, it was less about spiritual matters and more about fashion – who had it and who did not – at the little Baptist church.
Well, I did not learn too much about fashion at that little Baptist church I attended as a child. Most folks who know me now would argue I have never learned too much about fashion! I guess one of the things I learned at that little Baptist church was there are some things in life more important than clothes. After all, it was Jesus who said, “Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). I learned there are some things in life more excellent than fashion.
A few more things I learned at that little Baptist church are life does not always turn out as expected, people are not always what they appear to be, God can save anybody, and when it comes down to it, Jesus is all that matters. Life does not always turn out the way we expect it will. Twenty years ago, if you told me I would be married, a chaplain in the Air Force, and have thirteen children, all of whom would be at home with the Lord, I would have never believed it. After all, I had my plans, and although these plans included marriage and children, they did not include the chaplaincy, the Air Force and they certainly did not include the tremendous pain, suffering and loss that my wife and I have experienced. I guess when it comes down to it, Jesus is all that matters, not houses, not cars, and especially not fashion.
I also learned, and this took me awhile, that people are not always what they appear to be. In other words, someone can present themselves as one of the most godly, committed Christians in the church, and yet be pure evil. Maybe that is what Jesus meant when He said that when He appears, He will “separate the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32). It is a true statement. The church is full of some godly people. But it also contains some who might “have a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). He went on to say, “Avoid such men as these.” I guess when it comes down to it, Jesus is all that matters, not personalities.
One of the greatest things I learned at that little Baptist church is God can save anybody. He saved me. But how hard is it to save an eleven year old kid? I do not know the answer to that question. All I know is God saved me. I have seen him save a lot of people. I have even been used of God to communicate the Gospel with many of those I have seen Him save. But the greatest memory of all that I have from that little Baptist church, concerning salvation, is the last night of one of our annual revivals when I saw God move in the heart and life of an uncle of mine who I was convinced was beyond salvation (and he is probably reading this now—I love you Uncle Rusty!). He learned something that night, as did the rest of us, at that little Baptist church. When it comes down to it, Jesus is all that matters.
When it comes down to it, that is, when all is said and done; when this life is over and I stand before God—He will not be interested in fashion—He could care less how much money I made, the people I knew, the things I accomplished. When it comes down to it—in that moment—the question will be, did I, “approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ?” In that moment, Jesus will be all that matters.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it”(Matthew 7:13-14). Why is the Gospel so hard to believe? There are probably a myriad of answers to that question. However, the truth of the matter is, it is probably human pride and spiritual blindness that prevent most people from believing the true Gospel. Jesus said it plainly: “The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction. The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life.” His point was that when it comes down to believing the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, far more people will reject it than believe and far more people will believe they have believed it when in reality they have not. They have been spoon fed the devil’s disinformation which leads to false assurance, and unless they truly believe, will one day lead to empty words.
Disinformation: it is the deliberate dissemination of false information in order to mislead. False assurance: it is believing you have something when in reality you do not. Empty words: they are just that, empty words. So the question is do you want to be forgiven of your sins, given the gift of eternal life, and have the settled and sure hope of glory when you die? Do you want to be freed from the power of sin and blessed with every spiritual blessing Christ has to offer? Most people would answer yes! However, know this: Many people who say yes will never realize salvation. Jesus made this clear. You can want all the blessings salvation offers and never receive a single one. How so? It’s simple, really. Most have believed a lie, which has led to false assurance and will one day result in empty words…unless they fix it this side of eternity.
I have absolutely no use for the so called “seeker-sensitive movement” that seems to be sweeping the land these days. There are several reasons why, but two are always at the forefront. First of all, the Bible is clear that there is only one seeker and His name is Jesus. He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear no one seeks after God: “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11). Secondly, the seeker-sensitive movement is nothing but a watered down, let’s all get happy and feel good about ourselves, version of the Gospel, which is really no Gospel at all. For the most part, I believe it is the devil’s disinformation program. It sounds good. It looks good. But it’s not good! It’s no wonder, when speaking of salvation, Jesus said, “There are few who find it.” This movement, I believe, has given false assurance to hundreds of thousands of people. They think they are on their way to heaven, when in reality; they are traveling fast down the wide and broad way that leads to destruction. And one day, they will utter empty words, the words, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” (Matthew 7:22). Tragedy of tragedies, Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).
There are a lot of things in this life we can get wrong, but not this. Either we get it right in this life or we miss out on the eternal blessings of eternal life with Christ. The alternative is eternal separation from God and everything that is good. The Bible further describes the alternative as eternal torment from which there is no escape. So there are no second chances after death. We get it right this side of eternity, or we do not get it right at all. The true Gospel is a call to self-denial. It is not a call to self-fulfillment or higher self-esteem. 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). That’s pretty clear cut. If you want to be a follower of Jesus and enter the kingdom of God—if you want to be a Christian—then you must face three commands: You must deny yourself, take up your cross daily (death to self), and follow Christ. This does not sound too seeker-sensitive to me. However, it is the truth that Jesus taught consistently and repeatedly.
So who then is saved? Who will spend eternity with Jesus in heaven? The answer is obvious: only those who have believed the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible gives us markers that help identify who these people are. First of all, check the list in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. If you are on it, you are not saved and will not be spending eternity with Jesus, unless you are willing to repent and believe the Gospel. A second marker that is used to identify those who are truly saved, is found in Matthew 7:21: “He who does the will of My Father in heaven,” will enter the kingdom. This is the Word of the Lord! Therefore, these are true words. But most will not believe. Perhaps it is because most people “loved the darkness rather than the Light” (John 3:19). Therefore, they readily grasp onto disinformation, they cling to false assurance, and will one day utter empty words.
“But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling. My steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked. When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight. Until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end” (Psalm 73:2-3, 16-17).
Why does God allow evil and suffering in the world? This is a question we are confronted with everyday. We turn on the news and see images of passenger jets slamming into buildings. We listen to the radio only to learn a sniper has taken yet another innocent life in and around our nation’s capital. We pick up the newspaper and learn of abuse allegations within the Church. We answer the telephone and receive news a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. We read and hear about the fact that in many parts of the world there are wars, famines, natural catastrophes, and epidemic diseases. It seems that everywhere we look, people are suffering. Furthermore, evil abounds and the evildoers seem to be getting away with the evil they perpetrate. It is no surprise that such evil and suffering and the supposed prosperity of the evildoer causes many to question how a good God can allow such evil and suffering. Such was the case with Asaph, the author of Psalm 73. He begins by saying, “But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling.” Why? Because he was “envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Like many believers today, Asaph almost lost his confidence in the Lord because he was envious of the prosperity of the wicked. Like most believers, Asaph struggled with why? Why does God seemingly allow the evildoer to prosper while the believer, who seeks to live righteously, suffers? To understand the answer to this question, we must look to eternity.
Our problem is that too often we view the purpose and promises of God in terms of our present personal happiness. However, we fail to realize that the purpose and promises of God are more about the coming of Christ’s kingdom than our individual enjoyment here and now. God’s focus is eternal. Therefore, as believers, we must focus on eternity. For us, life is more about eternity than it is about the here and now. For Asaph, the turning point for him came when he “came into the sanctuary of God.” It was there that his focus began to shift from now to eternity. He came to recognize that God would reward the righteous in eternity and destroy evil and the evildoer. Clearly, eternity makes all the difference. Paul says, “For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). This is the Word of the Lord!
I do not know what you are struggling with today. I do not know what losses you have experienced in life. I have no idea what evil you might have experienced. I can only testify to my own experiences. But this I do know, our citizenship is in heaven (1 Peter 1:1), and as believers, our questions will one day be answered. When? When we all get to heaven. Paul put it this way: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). I do not understand fully now. However, in eternity I will know fully.
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