Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Can great men and women of God be absolutely sure they will go to heaven one day?

The apostle Paul likened the Christian life to a race. In order to win the race, athletes (believers) must endure and exercise self-control and discipline.

Just as contenders in the Olympics need to be watchful about diet, rest, training and abide by the rules (no illegal drugs such as anabolic steroids), believers too have to learn how to control their fleshly desires and passions. They have to subdue their carnal inclinations so that they can finish the race well.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27).

One of the strongest indications that even famous Christian leaders can miss out on heaven is found in 1 Corinthians 9:27: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Paul compared himself to a contender (runner) and a herald (preacher) of the race. Though he was perhaps the most faithful and impactful apostle in Christendom, past or present, he was afraid that he might not finish well.  

The Greek word from which ‘disqualified’ is derived is ‘adokimos’, which can also mean the following: failing to pass the test, unapproved, castaway, rejected, reprobate. It is a very serious term that cannot be trifled with. Apparently, ‘adokimos’ refers to bad metals which fail to pass the test; thus they are rejected or cast away.

Put simply, Paul was afraid that he might be disapproved, rejected, cast away, deemed unfit to enter heaven. If he had allowed himself to be overcome by his inherently corrupt nature, he would not finish well and might even lose his salvation.

Two questions logically follow when we consider this verse, 1 Corinthians 9:27. Firstly, is Paul’s fear positive or negative? It is definitely positive for it keeps him from making the greatest mistake in life—to be lost and damned for all eternity. Secondly, if super apostle Paul feared that he might not make the grade in eternity, how much more ordinary heaven-bound citizens should live their days on earth with godly fear!

Come to think of it, if Paul entertained the thought he could possibly be disqualified from heaven, how much more “spiritual plebeians” like us should be cautious that we might not reach our intended final destination if we fail to fulfil certain conditions (Matthew 7:13,14, Luke 13:24).

Not everyone will agree with this interpretation of 1 Corinthians 9:27, but let me explain why this verse is not just a red herring. Using a single verse to build a doctrine or premise is not a sound principle. So here are some references that reinforce this particular verse:

Even famous prophets and miracle workers who profess faith in Christ can miss out on heaven:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
(Matthew 7: 21-23)

Any believer, leader or otherwise, who continues to willfully live in sin will miss out on heaven, if he fails to repent. God is impartial. He is no respecter of persons.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
(1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

Past faithfulness cannot nullify present sinfulness:
“When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
(Ezekiel 18: 26, 32)

If a believer, leader or otherwise, fails to endure, he or she may lose the chance of entering heaven:
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”
(Hebrews 10:36,39)

False teachers who propagate destructive heresies will be destroyed. Their fate will be worse than that of pre-believers because they were once enlightened but later chose to fall away.
False prophets arose among the people, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
(2 Peter 2:1, 20)

Complacency and failure to abide may rob a believer, leader or otherwise, of eternal life. And it is not about getting smaller or lesser rewards but totally missing out on heaven.
  • “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
          (Revelation 3:15-16)
  • “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
          (John 15:6)
Why Leaders Face Increased Risks

Actually, many factors can potentially work against leaders, leading to their downfall:
  • Leaders are in the frontline engaged in spiritual battle. Satan predominantly targets them because they are a greater threat to the kingdom of darkness.

  • Leaders may think they are God’s favoured ones as they have achieved so much for His glory. They may have brought many to Christ or built a big church or organisation. So, with these feathers in their cap, it would seem that God would logically not reject them on judgment day.

  • What truly matters in the end is not necessarily how many followers we have, the size of our church or how stupendous our ability to bring about miracles but how faithful we have been in discharging our God-given calling and utilising our talents.

  • Overfamiliarity with scriptures may breed complacency. Head knowledge may substitute a vibrant and intimate relationship with Christ.

  • Popularity and power, which are worn like medals, may breed pride. An inner circle of believers may feed their egos and tell them they can do no wrong: God’s “anointed ones” cannot be touched.

  • Performance culture and busyness may mean that some leaders are so preoccupied that their devotional life falters. While cultivating the vineyards of others, they may be neglecting their own. Burnout may lead to sexual temptations and moral failures.

Even a powerful man of God like Balaam can miss out on heaven. As a prophet, he was privy to God’s secrets as he was His mouthpiece. But he fell because of his love for money.

Nothing is pre-determined or “automatic” in the Christian life. We have to be faithful and endure till the end. We have to really examine ourselves to see whether our lives are befitting of our status as His chosen ones.

That’s why Paul was jubilant when he ended the race well: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8).

And it is not that we strive by our own strength to keep ourselves in God’s love. It is by seeking God, and being empowered by the Holy Spirit, that we are able to walk the narrow and difficult way, a path strewn with trials and temptations.

As the passage in Philippians 2:12-13 puts it, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

The fact that a man has a very successful ministry is no guarantee that he will eventually be saved. Some people get converted through the ministry of teachers who themselves are deceived. They may preach some truth which God may choose to bless, resulting in the saving of souls.

Even Paul, for all the ministry success to his credit, was afraid that he might eventually be disqualified and cast away. Hence, there is no absolute guarantee that a successful minister will definitely go to heaven.

Postscript: The purpose of this article is to emphasise the fact that believers have to be on our toes, spiritually speaking, as even great men of God (like Paul) cannot claim that they will definitely go to heaven. Spiritual complacency is a disease to be avoided at all costs. The purpose of the article is not to judge any leader because no one is morally perfect and only God can claim to be the ultimate Judge.


A powerful prophet of God once enjoyed God’s favour but failed to make it to heaven. Being counted among God’s chosen ones is no guarantee that all will end well. Who is he?

If we are unaware of our enemy, how can we fight and defend ourselves? If we are unclear about our areas of weakness, how can we be victorious?

As leaders are the key people who make or break an organisation, they certainly deserve our respect and support. But we should not “idolise” them to the extent we think they can do no wrong even in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary. Like all men, they too are weak and fallible.

God’s love towards believers is immeasurable but can we take it for granted?

Some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT eventually they are saved. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, did the foolish virgins merely lose their rewards or much more?

Two different views—easy and difficult ways to heaven

As believers, what’s the point of having great miraculous power, riches, wisdom and unbridled pleasure at our disposal if we miss out on heaven?


For a quick overview: http://bit.ly/1ijiXHp 

Friday, 30 September 2016


What are the various crowns promised to faithful believers?

What makes us jump out of bed each day to face life’s challenges? What is it that makes us tick? What motivates us in life? It all depends on our worldview and values.

Some believers focus on the 'here and now', thinking that blessings such as prosperity and health are indicators of God’s favour. And, provided they do not go overboard, this kind of thinking is not entirely wrong (Proverbs 22:4).

But excessive preoccupation with temporal blessings without an upward focus is unbiblical: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

As a man thinks so is he. Thinking about heavenly rewards, instead of earthly treasures, helps us reorient our goals and aspirations in life. When we live in light of eternity and Christ’s return, we purify ourselves, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3).

Various crowns are promised to faithful believers who overcome. What are these imperishable heavenly rewards (1 Corinthians 15:58, Revelation 22:12)? 

Crown of victory

Champions in the ancient Olympics are honoured with perishable crowns—wreaths of olive leaves. But believers who are faithful in discharging our God-given calling and triumph over sin will be given imperishable crowns.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9: 24-25).

Now, is there a possibility of being disqualified after we have enrolled ourselves in the spiritual race? Yes. To finish well in the spiritual race, believers need endurance. Paul warns that, though he preaches to others, he might be disqualified if he fails to exercise self-control and discipline (1 Corinthians 9:27).

May we run with perseverance, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), so that we might receive the crown of victory.

Crown of righteousness 

While languishing in a musty prison cell, Paul writes with a triumphant note: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8).

Does this crown come easy? No. Nothing worthwhile in this life (or the next) is attained effortlessly. It is only for those who manage to overcome the world, flesh and devil. As we choose to abide in Christ, and seek God and His strength, we will receive this crown of righteousness at the end of life’s journey (Matthew 7:13-14, John 15:6).

Though we live in the world, we are not of the world. In fact, we are to distinguish ourselves from the world through the process of sanctification.

“Come out from among them. And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

Neither are we to be like the world nor allow it to squeeze us into its mould.

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Jesus was once asked, “Will few people be saved?” His reply is this: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). Unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).

No matter what “feel good” teaching might tell us otherwise to soothe our itching ears, the “passing mark” for entry to heaven is indeed high.

Crown of life

Though we do not look out for them, temptations will inevitably crop up. If it were not so, why would this line, Lead us not into temptation, be a part of the Lord’s prayer?

But temptation is not synonymous with sin. We are not held accountable when we are tempted but only when we fail to overcome it. Moreover, we can take heart in the fact that God gives us the strength to overcome temptation (Matthew 26:41, 1 Corinthians 10:13).

And, if we do not yield to temptation, we will be rewarded. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

This crown of life is also bestowed on those who remain faithful and steadfast under persecution, even to the point of death—not only to those who overcome temptation.
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

The fact that only overcomers receive the crown or prize is in line with Christ’s teaching on persecution during the end times. “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matthew 24: 9-13).

Crown of glory

Leaders often face challenges which can be overwhelming. But those who faithfully tend the flock can take comfort in future reward. “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).

Paul, who suffered a great deal for the faith, also encouraged believers to press on, pointing out that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

But, no matter how glorious our crowns might be, we will have to lay them down at heaven’s throne for it is God who truly deserves all glory, honour and power (Revelation 4:10-11).

In closing, let us be encouraged by the life of Moses, who turned his back on the world because he knew that the invisible God would eventually reward him for his enduring faith.

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).

What is our consuming passion and focus in life? Do we merely live for visible and tangible things? Don’t we look forward to receiving these everlasting crowns of unfading glory?


Why do believers need to be overcomers?

If we start well in our journey of faith, does it mean we will definitely end well?

The best awaits those who choose the unseen and intangible over the seen and tangible

Some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT, eventually, they are saved. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, did the foolish virgins merely lose their rewards or much more?http://bit.ly/1MA1h8F 


For a quick overview: http://bit.ly/1ijiXHp

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