"See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you." (Jn. 5:14). "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more" (Jn. 8:11). "Awake to righteousness, and do not sin" (1 Cor. 15:34).
This is the goal - that for which I strive. Will I make it? Yes, but not on this side of eternity, and not without remaining on the "narrow path" (cf. Mt. 7:13), not turning to the left or to the right to serve the god of self or of others.
"Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil" (Prov. 4:27).
If I lower my standard with the understanding that "God's knows my heart" or that "God will forgive me, nobody is perfect" then I shall be in danger of falling away altogether.
"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Rom. 5:19-6:2).
"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. 10:26-29).
"Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression" (Ps. 19:13).
I figured I would remind my brethren who are in Christ as I remind myself of this high and noble calling, this high and narrow road we are traveling as pilgrims through this pilgrim land...oh, yeah...let's not forget what Peter said: "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" (1 Pet. 2:11).
Do not sin. That is the goal. That is where our focus should be. Let's take a peek at a letter that John wrote to those who he considered his children in the faith:"My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 Jn. 2:1).
Let the soldiers of Christ arise, taking up the whole armor of God to withstand in the evil day (cf. Eph. 6:10ff) - being diligent to be found by Him in peace without spot and blameless (2 Pet. 3:14).
"Then He called out in my hearing with a loud voice, saying, ‘Let those who have charge over the city draw near, each with a deadly weapon in his hand.’ And suddenly six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his battle-ax in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen and had a writer's inkhorn at his side. They went in and stood beside the bronze altar. Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer's inkhorn at his side; ‘Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.’ To the others He said in my hearing, ‘Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.’ So they began with the elders who were before the temple” (Ezek. 9:1-6).
What you just read is a passage that depicts a scene of judgment. It is one of many the Old Testament contains regarding the children of Israel. The children of Israel, who were the covenant people of God, had gotten away from God to the point that they were committing what the Lord calls “abominations.” Ezekiel is shown by the Lord that all the people, including the elders (who were supposed to be the leaders, the shepherds, of the people) were committing great sin, worshipping the creation and various idols – behind closed doors so as not to be seen. Further, they were doing such things in the temple of God which was at Jerusalem.
Something that is critical to understand is that everything that was written in the covenant between God and man in the days of old was written for our learning: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” One thing we must learn is that those things contained in the Old Testament are shadows of the things to come. Speaking of the state and duration of the Old Testament, Paul says “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ (Col. 2:16-17),” later speaking of it in this manner: “the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ.”
In a back alley there lies a man who was overtaken by rival gang members. As a child he longed for the love of a father; the loving embrace of a mother. He tried to prove to them that he was worth their attention through his dedication to their desires. He endured their ridicule, punishment and neglect – all in hopes that they may one day love him as he wanted them to. As time went on, father fell further and further into drugs, alcohol and his own life, forgetting his son. Mother was left to care for the boy and instead of that, she turned to a life of drug dealing and the party life, allowing the less that upright to enter in and influence the life of a young man who only desired love. Left to his own, he fell into the snare of the gang mentality; for his desire was for companionship; he longed to feel as though he belonged. He was looking for direction, something to place his faith in – something to believe in.
In a remote hotel room there lays a girl, forsaken by her lovers. She called out for a father that was not there, she groaned for a mother who had long ago given up on her. When she was a girl she looked for a strong hand of direction from her father – a father who had instead given her an example of conditional love – based upon sexual expression. She looked for guidance from a mother, seeking to fill a void she felt in her life. She saw her dad in a light that should never exist between a father and daughter. Her mother failed to care enough to look just outside her eyes and see the atrocity that was being perpetrated upon her own daughter, her flesh and blood. Instead the young woman was left to figure life out on her own – something that should never happen. As she walked through the corridor of time, she filled the emptiness of soul with the affections of her lovers, however brief the encounter, for it made her feel as though she had value. Faced with being forsaken time and time again, she grew only to know the void that was left within her soul – and she was looking for a sign, a hint of guidance, longing to know what is right, what she ought to believe – and she cried out day and night for a God who she did not know, for she desired to place her faith in something stable, a rock that she could stand on – she longed for something to believe in.
These tales are told time and time again throughout our land. These are real lives experiencing the torturous, painful, reality of a life without a mother or a father, devoid of direction and guidance. This is the world we live in. A world dominated by the forces of evil, ruining the lives of millions. It is the playground of the one who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet.5:8), and is the environment in which many millions find themselves prey. They are lost. They have no direction. The devil has had success in the lives of such persons “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Cor. 4:4), leaving them desolate and without hope and aimless - or so they are told, or so they think.
If you were to ask this young man or this young woman, what do you really want? I mean: what do you really want? I would venture to say there answer wouldn’t be money, fame, glory, or position – no, it would be that someone loved them, really loved them. They are looking for an identity. They want to belong. Some, in an attempt to fulfill the gaping void, reach out to the numbing affects of alcohol. Some reach out to one night stands - some to drugs, to gangs, to education, to anything that will give them a sense of worth, belonging and identity. Outwardly they may possess the look of stone. They may be hardened by the atrocities that have been their lot, but inwardly they cry out “DOESN’T ANYONE CARE?! WON’T SOMEONE HELP ME?!”
Enter the God of the Bible – the Creator of all things made, including this young man; this young woman. In His mercy, He has given to mankind the highest extension of Grace that can be extended – His Son; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:16-17). He has given the path to eternal life in Jesus Christ. He desires to give you heavenly citizenship, to adopt you into His family. He cares for you (cf. 1 Pet. 5:7).
This is masked in life by the actions of man, who, in his rebellion, has sinned against God (Gen. 3:1-6; Rom. 5:12), bringing upon himself grief, sorrow, pain, selfishness, rebellion, hardness of heart, etc. In this state men have perpetrated the evils that befell this young man and this young woman, and countless more like them. It does not have to be this way. God provides hope of escape (cf. 2 Pet. 2:20) through His Gospel (cf. Rom. 1:16-17; Col. 1:23).
This is my question to the one reading this today, if you are seeking, trying to find that which is missing: What do you really want? If it is love, peace, joy, gladness, the hope of eternal life where “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people” where “God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3), and where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” where “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain” because “the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4), then won’t you come to the only one who is able to save you from this present age, full of pain, suffering, tears, sorrow and death?
Today is the day of salvation, won’t you reach out in obedience “while it is still called today” (Heb. 3:7-15) to the Gospel of Grace? If you are reading this today and you think you are worthless, abandoned, devalued, and without hope, please reach out to me. My phone number is 828-424-6044. I am here to help you. God does not want you to be left out in the cold, lost and without direction. He does not want you to be in despair. His desire is for you, for “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). He has sent His Son “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10) – and that includes you.
God really wants you to be saved, to experience joys unspeakable. What do you really want?
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:7).
"All men have clay feet.” This is a phrase I came across while reading a biographical sketch of the life of James Winfred Clark, a gospel preacher of days gone by. What this man was saying is that we all have weaknesses and imperfections. No one can say they do not err as is common to man, as Paul clearly states when he says “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13) on the heals of the admonition “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). This is why the Gospel exhorts us to see ourselves as we are – men and women who are flawed, needing the help that only God can give.
So what are we to do, knowing we live with imperfections, regarding the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are we to leave it alone, as some might say, else we be charged with being judgmental? Should we keep that which is able to save souls under wraps? The answer must be no, and I thank God that the man who baptized me into Christ did not take that option. If I may, please allow me to briefly show what the Scripture exhorts us to do when handling the Gospel of our Lord.
First we must clearly understand our position before God. What can mankind say about himself? We must recognize all men have the same need. John says of the condition of man “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 Jn. 5:19). All mankind has a need for the Gospel because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and the wages of that sin, unless the atoning blood of Christ is applied, is death. The blood of Christ is available to all because “when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). Remember that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Second, because we once were under this condemnation, and knowing that all men without Christ are condemned to die, we must approach our fellow man in humility, teaching the truth in love. Because we have clay feet we must realize that we are no better than any other man – for the only difference between those who are saved and those who are not is the applied blood of Christ. Being this as it may, we must still take the Gospel to those who are in need. Some people may not like it because they feel as though we are being judgmental. They may not be able to see that we are merely trying to give them what we have – eternal life through Jesus Christ, “having shod [our] feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (cf. Eph. 6:15).
Let us approach our fellow man with the great Gospel of Jesus Christ so that they may also take part in the eternal life that God has to offer those who obey Him. When we do, let us help them understand that, although no one has a complete, exhaustive understanding of the living Word, which is the sword of the Spirit, we can know what God expects us to know by proper study and a thorough examination of His Word. Through an honest heart, and proper study of His Word we will find His gracious expectation for our lives.
Why do we spend so much time focusing on salvation and its implications regarding our eternal destiny? Because it is the most important question we must answer, for this life is only a short time of trials and tribulations meant to prepare us for eternity.
With that said, before we can discuss the question at hand, we must know what it means (Scripturally) to be a saved person: For a person to be saved, that person must obey the Gospel (cf. 2 Thess. 1:1-8; 1 Pet. 4:17-19). Each of the elements needed for salvation have been built into God’s plan for our salvation – and in the beauty of His Word, he has provided it as simple and logical as possible.
___________ at this point one is added to the Lord’s church ______________
Let’s look at what the Bible says about what God requires of a person who has obeyed the Gospel and put Christ on in baptism (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:1-6; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 3:18-22) – being added to the Lord’s church BY THE LORD HIMSELF.
Here we have a saved person – one who has believed what was heard or read regarding the Scriptures, repented (changing their mind, forsaking their sin), confessed publically Jesus Christ as their savior, and has been baptized for the remission of their past sins. The question that comes into focus here is one of whether a person must live faithfully until death in order to receive the promise of eternal life – a journey they have entered into through obedience to the Gospel.
In order for a person to remain saved, they must remain faithful to the Gospel to which they first obeyed. It is absurd to think that once a person has become saved, freed from their past sins through baptism, that they may then decide to live in a way that is not in line with the will and the Word of God, and still gain the rewards of walking with Christ in white eternally.
In First John we are told that “if we say that we have fellowship with Him [God; BRS], and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But, if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin….He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him….he who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 Jn. 1:6-7; 2:4, 6). Our manner of life clearly impacts the resulting eternal destination. Man can, in his attempt to explain away the clear teaching of Scripture, use deception (cf. 2 Pet. 2:1-2), conveniently redefining words to meet their doctrine – and they have. The Scripture is replete with passages that speak to false teachers and those who will come in speaking lies, drawing men away from the pure, unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ – consider what Jesus and Paul, respectively, had to say regarding this subject:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves…,.Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Mt. 7:13-15, 21-23).
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29-30).
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-8).
According to Jesus and Paul, there are those who want you to believe something other than the Gospel Truth regarding salvation – both entering into salvation, and maintaining salvation. A careful study of the Scriptures (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15) will reveal their false position, and will eternally save those who obey what is presented in the pages of New Testament Scriptures. The idea of “once saved, always saved” as is meant by those who propose the doctrine (i.e. nothing you can do will ever separate you from God, thus you can never lose your salvation), is totally false. Carefully study the passage they base their doctrine upon (Rom. 8:31-39) and you will see that that passage does not teach the doctrine they falsely attempt to make it teach (cf. the love of God is considered – not salvation; notice it does not speak to the damage that sin does to the relationship between man and God).
To further our study on the importance of living faithfully in order to receive the promised crown of eternal life, consider the following passages: