Right at the outset of part 2 of this controversy, I need to make clear that the principles brought up in this series of articles are not meant to throw anyone for a loop in their Christian walk.  To repeat an earlier statement, and will probably be repeated again, nothing is being stated here that says we “earn” our way to heaven, nor can we, or should we even try to earn our salvation.  It cannot be done and this needs to be clear.  The principles being brought up are also not intended to intimidate anyone or cause fear.  I am however hoping to help us realize that we have not “arrived” at the point when we have received “salvation” at our approach to the Master for the forgiveness of our sins.  Scripture contains hundreds, if not thousands of passages encouraging us to do well.  We are told to examine ourselves, judge ourselves, take on the attitude of Christ, forcefully remove all things from our lives that are a hindrance to our Christian walk or to our intimate fellowship with Christ.

First and foremost, we need to remember that God has an enormous love for us—a love beyond our human capacity to understand.  Jeremiah 31:3 says, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” (KJV)

God’s Word makes it abundantly clear that this very short life of ours on this earth is meant for much more than just to get us saved, get our name entered into the Lamb’s Book of Life, and then pull our life’s gearshift back into neutral; take our hands off the wheel, and coast in whatever direction the road before us happens to throw us into.  This is a recipe for a life without direction; in fact, quite often unnecessary, painful, traumatic crash and burns.  We come out of these damaged and often scarred, but God had nothing to do with their happening.  It was our own doing.  The Bible gives us examples of some who had shipwrecked their faith.  None of us need to be one of these!  God has provided us a much better way.

When Jesus was approached by a man who asked how he could inherit eternal life in Luke 10:25-27, Jesus asked him what was written in the law.  He then either answered by reading the law directly, or he quoted it from memory.  This man was a lawyer or he could very well have been a scribe, many of whom were lawyers.  Here is how Luke, the doctor, recorded this interchange:

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  He said unto him, What is written in the law?  How readest thou?  And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.”(KJV)

Let’s take a quick look at the four items quoted in this passage.  The question itself appears not to have been a very honest question, as it appears, like the Pharisees, this man was looking for something to use against Jesus, but we’ll leave that issue be at this time.  The question itself, other than having an evil design, was a good one, for that day, as well as for today.  What good can we do to inherit life?  Speaking the “religious” talk is certainly not enough.  We all know the quip, “talk is cheap.”  That pertains to spiritual things maybe even more than in the secular world.  The four things quoted by this man give us an excellent four part answer to his question—and ours today.

All of our heart:  Having already accepted Jesus as our Savior, we also must be convinced that He is the best, the perfect, the absolute total answer to everything in our temporal life and our eternity.  We also realize that He has earned our greatest affection, our decision to serve Him, and our worship throughout our mortal and soon coming immortal existence.

All of our soul:  We need to love Him with a complete love.  It’s not by a feeling but rather a decision.  Love for God becomes a very real thing when we pursue our relationship with Him.  Our personal traits, personalities, and everything that makes each of us especially unique as human beings must be put totally at His disposal.  This is making Him LORD.  No human being deserves this from us, but our loving Creator does.  He is the only One that can fulfill us.  If He were not “Who” He is, this would be the height of stupidity, but He is GOD—the only “Almighty”, and only He was able pay the impossible price necessary to save  us—literally from eternal destruction and doom.

All of our strength:  Paul the Apostle put it well.  In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, using the Message version of the New Testament, it reads like this: “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race.  Everyone runs; one wins.  Run to WIN!  All good athletes train hard.  They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades.  You’re after one that’s gold eternally.  I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line.  I’m giving it everything I’ve got.  No sloppy living for me!  I’m staying alert and in top condition.  I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” If Jesus is not Who He has said He is, He is either the greatest liar in the history of mankind, or He is an absolute lunatic!  If He is neither of these, then He is the Eternal GOD, the all powerful, all knowing, ever present Creator of everything.  We need to be decisive and follow through on our allegiance in a way that is befitting the only true GOD, the beginning and last word on everything.  How are you using your strength?

All of our mind:  We need to learn to get hold of our thought life and bring it under subjection to what is befitting a true follower of the eternal KING of Kings and LORD of Lords.  We need to think this through very carefully.  Why are there so many warnings in the Word of God about “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life?”  Is it because God doesn’t allow any freedom of living or freedom of thought?  Hardly!  He does however tell us plainly what will rob us of our incalculatably costly intimacy with Him.  Is it for His benefit?  God is doing quite well without us but He has committed Himself to bring us through to Himself as His beloved family!  God was willing to bankrupt heaven itself for our freedom.  No higher price could have been paid in place of Jesus, our Creator, integral part of the eternal Godhead, being willing to come down into our blood-soaked, sin-infested world, and let His own creation nearly beat Him to death, then hang Him on a cross built from one of the very trees He Himself created!  Why?  For you—and for me.  He died for us, the very least we can do is live for Him.

I’m sure that some will immediately protest the appeal above and say, “I don’t want to be a spiritual clone like so many I’ve seen in my lifetime!  I want to be my own person, have my own mind, my own desires, my own dreams, and be able to think for MYSELF!  All I’ve seen in religion is a bunch of backward, mentally challenged, religious idiots that behind the scenes are no better than I am, if not worse!  Why would I want that??  Besides, look at history, more mass killings have happened throughout mankind’s history because of religion than for any other reason!  Why would I go there?

Good question!  Here’s a thought.  If all “religion” were the same, why did Jesus tell his disciple Peter to put away his sword when he whacked off the high priest’s servant’s ear (while aiming at his head!), when the Roman soldiers were led to Jesus so that they could take Him into custody?  Jesus told Peter to put away his sword and that he didn’t know what “spirit” he was of.  Strange statement, don’t you think?  Peter was ready to die for his Master but had not grasped the enormity of what has happening.  By the way, I believe God hates “religion.”  Jesus didn’t come to create “religion”, this was manmade and didn’t serve the Kingdom of God as history has sadly shown.

The point is this:  We are in a deadly struggle for sure and it is with an evil we can’t even comprehend; Jesus warned that believing in Him as Messiah would bring a “sword” that would turn friends against friends and family members against each other.  Yet, the battle between God and the fallen Lucifer, good and evil, is not fought with physical weapons.  It is fought in the spirit instead.

So, what is the bottom line?  There is a way to life eternal but the road is pock-marked with pot holes, sand traps, spiritual roadside bombs, and unexpected sinkholes, and the road is a very narrow one.  The gate at the end of the road is also a small gate that requires one to have one’s face to the ground to get through, but it leads to life eternal.  A person will only successfully traverse this road by the supernatural guidance of the Spirit of God and it requires genuine humility to do so.  God has promised to get us through and we can do it well, but not apart from Him.  He must be our GPS.  Nothing else will get us there.  Why would you want to go it on your own?  It is a guaranteed eternal disaster.

If one of the many roads Oprah says there are to heaven appeals to you, you need to know that it will lead to disaster.  There is only one road.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  We’ve already covered the identity of Jesus.  There is good, well-documented reason to accept Him just exactly for what and Who He said He was, and is.  All other roads were paved by man’s creation—some possibly even with good intentions, yet there is only ONE legitimate Messiah and He is GOD.  None other could pay the necessary required price for our freedom.  This is why Jesus came.  He was and is the God-Man promised in the Garden of Eden at the fall of man and it was promised, not only in Adam and Eve’s presence, but also to the fallen Lucifer, as well as echoing throughout the entire God-created universe for all to hear and record.  This is because it was not just a “threat”, but a sovereign proclamation—one that hell could not hope to defeat, no matter how many log jams thrown in the way of the almighty flow of God’s will; no matter how many diversions thrown into history; or how many godly prophets were murdered.  God’s Word is final and will come to pass.  It always has and always will!

This essentially leaves it all up to you and I.  Elijah stood in the face of Israel’s most evil king and before 850 pagan false prophets, as well as before only God knows how many confused, double minded Israelites who were trying to serve Jehovah God, as well as the despicable “god” from hell, Baal.  Elijah’s call was simple: “Choose you this day whom you will serve, Jehovah God, or Baal!” It’s one or the other, and that call has echoed through history to this very day.  We must choose.  God proved His sovereign power before the eyes of all on Mount Carmel that day, and God still proves Himself today.

This choice is intricate to this whole subject of “Faith and Works”.  It also separates God’s Grace from manmade “cheap grace.”  If He is GOD, then we need to really serve Him, and with every fiber of our being.  We can’t afford to just give Him lip-service while being envious of those who do well, or sneer at other’s perceived failures.

Now back to the subject—

I ran across excerpts from a letter written by a prisoner who was a friend of another pastor and happened to be included in one of the books I am using for study.  He spoke of being an “overcomer”.  For most of us, maybe the thought of being an overcomer is an unfamiliar concept but hopefully not so after seeing what Scripture says about it.  It doesn’t matter how far we’ve fallen or what we’ve done in the past.  God’s forgiveness is complete because the Blood of Jesus is more than sufficient to set us all free.  Here is what he wrote:

“I feel like an overcomer when I choose the difficult over the easy.  It might beloving someone unlovely (and there are many here that qualify) or it might be accomplishing the goals I’ve penned in my daily planner.  My accomplishments here have been miniscule.  I’ve written no books, have no substantial savings, etc.  But somehow I think God sees me as an overcomer.  And how He perceives me is all that truly matters anyway…I’m very thankful for prison and for my hardships, because they have clothed me with humility.”

Once again, one principle I feel needs to be understood well is the fact that the rewards that the Lord has promised in His Word for His faithful followers has nothing whatsoever to do with salvation.  These rewards are for faithful service on this earth before we pass into our eternal state.  It is also not a competition with others.  Competition is a carnal drive which can be used effectively in sports, but has no place in Kingdom work.  The faithfulness we express in our lives is an entirely personal thing between us and our God.  I think of so many “no-name” people I’ve met throughout the years that will hear Jesus say, “Well done good and faithful servant”, and will likely receive rewards that may match those of some of well known leaders we recognize today.  The Bible says that the last shall be first and the first shall be last.  I suspect this is more than just reaping what we sow here in this life.  It will likely be even more evident in the coming millennial Kingdom.  Positions of authority, fame, wealth, books written, or numbers of people reached for Christ is not necessarily the criteria God will use.  What He will be looking at is, have we done the best with what He gave us to work with and in the station He has put us into?

Some of the questions that we might want to ask ourselves are these:  Why are we here?  Where are we going?  What do we have to do to get there?  A lot of people have no direction in their lives, sadly including way too many Christians.  Our society is addicted to materialism and entertainment.  Folks too often live to be entertained rather than doing anything themselves.  This is one of the reasons it is so difficult to get kids to read a “real” book these days.  It’s too easy to turn on the TV and watch a movie.  Video games waste even more precious hours.  Texting is replacing too many face to face conversations—(especially when we want to say something but don’t want to do it to someone’s face).  I could go on, but the point is made.

Before someone gets upset and thinks I am condemning any of these things, I am not.  We just need to make sure that our priorities are set and these things don’t begin to control our time, and in turn control us.  There is another danger.  We get used to leaving things on before our eyes that we should not allow.  This world has fallen, and is continuing its downhill spiral.  We dare not let ourselves get caught in its whirlpool and get sucked down with it.  Even if it does not cost us an eternity in hell, it will cost us the effectiveness which God has laid out for us before we were ever even born.

The world around us makes it real easy for us to waste what little time we have allotted to us in this life because we don’t see God’s sovereignty involved in who we are and the slot in life we have been given.  We fail to see the strategy God is using in how He causes our lives to intersect and become interwoven with those around us.  It’s not by chance or fate.  We have the opportunity to live our lives for God’s purposes.  It doesn’t matter if the task seems large or small.  It’s all part of His plan.  Our lives really are much like a jigsaw puzzle.  There are big pieces as well as small, but they are all needed.

We are just asked to be faithful.  Proverbs 13:12 says, “The hope that is deferred is the fainting of the heart, but when desire cometh, it is a tree of life” (Geneva Bible).  Everything begins to make sense to us once we realize the real reason we’ve been called.  The Bible comes alive and our lives begin to have purpose.  It is a bit like investing money.  The process, at least when an economy is working, will cause the investment we’ve made to add up.  It then begins to multiply itself into a good return.  It works the same way with our lives.  If we invest ourselves into a genuine intimate walk with God, using His Word as our roadmap and source of real truth; combine that with real prayer time so that our walk with God grows from day to day, we will experience His Divine direction and guidance through the maze of our lives and give us the power to fulfill His desires for each and every day to boot.  That will take care of everything in our future, no matter what the circumstance is we are in or ever find ourselves in.  Our effectiveness as Christ-followers will then not only add “profit” to the Kingdom of God, but will be multiplied beyond our ability to ever even see this side of eternity.  This is why the parable of the talents is so important for us to understand…

To be continued in Part 3 (we will now begin to examine some of Jesus’ parables, and see if we can decipher some things that we may have not seen in the past)

Keep Looking Up!

Jake

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