Friday, 19 August 2016

SPIRITUAL PITFALLS

The dangers of complacency and spiritual somnolence

Some Christians think that once we have uttered the sinner’s prayer and become God’s chosen ones, our eternal destiny is safe and secure. Simplistic notions, such as Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS), may lead to complacency. We may have failed to consider other factors that determine whether we end up in heaven or hell such as our will (volition), sinful nature and the interplay of the world, flesh and devil in our lives.

Even those who are supposed to be strong and mature (leaders) can be enticed by fame, fortune, power and glory as well as fall prey to deception, the most dangerous weapon among satan’s armamentarium in these perilous end times. http://bit.ly/2b7zEWX

While it is true that, at the point of conversion, a believer is justified in Christ, he can fall into sin, harden his heart, deny God and, thus, lose God’s favour (Romans 11:22). His righteousness is not necessarily permanent but dependent on his will, and susceptibility to deception and temptation.

If justification brings about an unassailable position of permanent righteousness for a believer, why is there a need to overcome temptation and deception? Why are there warnings against falling away and apostasy (Hebrews 6: 4-6)? Where do we get the notion that the Christian life is passive and that victory comes easy (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)? Did not Paul proclaim he was glad he fought the good fight of faith and kept the faith till the end of his life (2 Timothy 4:7-8)?

                                                               
Jesus warns of end time sorrows when persecution, deception and lawlessness will be pervasive (Matthew 24:9-12). And then He makes a very startling remark: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). The implication is that if we deny God because of persecution, fail to overcome deception or fall into the cesspool of lawlessness, we will not be saved.

A righteous man who fails to be faithful till the end may come under eternal condemnation. Unless the righteous man who willfully sins repents, he will face judgment (Luke 13:5).

“But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die” (Ezekiel 18: 24-25).

“Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved” (Hebrews 10:36, 39).


On judgment day, there will be much grief and disappointment when many fail to make it to heaven:
Someone asked Jesus, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He replied, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil’
(Luke 13: 23-27)



Furthermore, many leaders and big names who think they will be honoured as heroes in eternity will face this chilling reality—heaven’s door being shut on them. Humble, faithful believers, quietly working behind the scenes, may be taking the front seats in heaven. In other words, there are going to be major upsets in eternity.

“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for you will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you will be thrown out. And people will come from all over the world—from east and west, north and south—to take their places in the Kingdom of God. And note this: Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who are the greatest now will be least important then.”
(Luke 13:28-30)


                                                          
That is why it is important to be on our toes, spiritually speaking. We need to be like the wise virgins, not the foolish ones, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. http://bit.ly/1MA1h8F

Complacency may result when we are lulled into spiritual somnolence by the Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS) lullaby. http://bit.ly/273Ru5t

The fact is OSAS is not consistent with huge swathes of scripture such as:
  • Work out your faith with fear and trembling: Philippians 2:12-13

  • Keep striving: Philippians 3:12-14

  • Run the race with discipline so we won’t be disqualified: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

  • Bear fruits that befit repentance, don’t rest on your spiritual laurels: Luke 3:8

  • Narrow and difficult is the way that leads to life: Matthew 7: 13-14

  • Holiness requires effort; confirm your election: 2 Peter 1: 5-8, 10

People can change. Spiritual fervour can wane. If this is not so, why are there chosen ones such as Judas and Balaam, who when enticed by money, gave up their allegiance to God?

That is why harping on being chosen by God and basking in positional righteousness based on Christ's work at the cross alone can be so dangerous if godly fear, obedience and fruit-bearing are absent. 

Such complacency will lead many believers astray, when on judgment day they find to their chagrin the door shut on them and hear these ominous words, "I never knew you" (Matthew 7: 21-23, Matthew 25: 1-13, John 15:6).

The antidote for complacency is to be watchful and vigilant, to continue praying, abiding, bearing fruit and doing His will before Christ’s return:

Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”
(Luke 21: 34-36)

The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies.
(1 Peter 4:7,10-11)

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
(John 15:5, 8, 10)

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
(Ephesians 5: 15-17)

RELATED POSTS

RELAX OR PRESS ON?
Which is a more accurate representation of a believer’s journey in life? Sit back and relax till we attain eternal bliss OR press on and persevere till the end?

PROGRESSIVE SANCTIFICATION
Though a believer cannot possibly attain sinless perfection this side of eternity, he can be comforted by the fact he can make significant progress if he yields to the work of the Word and Spirit in his life (Philippians 3: 13-14, Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Galatians 5:16, Ephesians 4: 22-24).

LOSS OF REWARDS VS LOSS OF SALVATION
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?

BRACING FOR TOUGH TIMES
Will there be a time when many believers lose faith in God?

WHY BELIEVERS NEED TO OVERCOME
Only overcomers receive the prize

HANG IN THERE, DON'T GIVE UP
Why perseverance is needed

EXTERNAL LINK

TO SPIRITUALLY FLOAT IS TO DANGEROUSLY DRIFT
John Piper warns: Christians who decide to “float” will find themselves drifting off course.
If we opine that, since we’ve bought our ticket to heaven, we can afford to sit back and relax, and we’ll surely get to heaven as God does the rest, we may drift away and fail to arrive at our intended destination.

Monday, 8 August 2016

TRIUMPHING OVER TRIALS

Seven principles to help us face life's challenges

We cannot control the curve balls life throws at us. They may take the form of accident-related disability, cancer, retrenchment, financial loss, divorce or death of loved ones.


                                                       
When trials come our way, we should view it positively as an opportunity to grow spiritually. We should not be fearful or dismayed because God’s presence is always with us. He will empower us and give us the wisdom to overcome the crisis. Once we commit the matter to God in prayer and, give thanks in advance, He will set our minds at peace. And, when it is all over, we would have a great testimony to share concerning His goodness and mercy.

Let us now delve into the subject of facing trials in greater detail, developing on the points raised above.

James tells believers that when we face trials, we should have a positive attitude. Notice that it is not if we will face trials but when. That means, sooner or later, we all will have to face trials in life. But that does not mean we should grit out teeth and pretend to enjoy the experience. When trials strike, we should view it as an opportunity for personal growth.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

As we mature in our ability to overcome trials, we will develop perseverance and steadfastness. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

                                                                    
Secondly, when circumstances provoke anxiety in us, we must remember that God’s presence is always with believers (Hebrews 13:5). Long ago, God’s people were challenged to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, which was in ruins. The former glory of Solomon’s Temple was a distant memory. Overwhelmed by the gargantuan task of reconstruction, they were encouraged by the prophetic word from Haggai. 

“Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not” (Haggai 2:4-5).

Both Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the priest, the key people involved in galvanising the people into action, were singled out in the prophecy. With God’s affirmation, Go ahead, I am firmly behind your project, the temple reconstruction team had the heart to work.

Thirdly, when we face trials, we must have faith in God that He will deliver us. We must also depend on His wisdom and strength to overcome it. “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion” (Psalm 84:5).

When Judah was threatened by invading armies, King Jehoshaphat stood before his people and cried out to God: “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Thereafter, God’s message of deliverance came through the prophet Jahaziel: "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's”’ (2 Chronicles 20:15).

King Jehoshaphat then told the nation: “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20b).

Next, the king appointed a worship team to declare God’s faithfulness: “Praise God for His mercy endures forever.” He made these worshippers move ahead of the army, a most unconventional way of going into battle. As they worshipped, God caused their enemies to fight and kill one another. Thus God gave King Jehoshaphat victory over his enemies without him having to go into battle.

                                                                          
Fourthly, the mind is the battleground whenever trials assail us—anxiety, fear and worry often cloud our thinking. Negative thoughts incessantly replay in our minds like a broken record. But we need to remind ourselves that, as we prayerfully commit the situation into God’s hands, and thank Him in advance for delivering us, His peace will comfort us.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).



If we believe in the greatness of God’s love and power, even formidable “giants” can be vanquished and mighty “mountains” can be removed.

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:18, 20).

“Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him” (Mark 11:23).

How trials distract us from eternal goals

Amid our struggles in life, it is easy to forget eternal goals. We can get so carried away by the cares and worries of this life that we miss out on preparing for the things that really matter. We can get so distracted by trials, and how to overcome them, that we fail to prepare ourselves for judgment when Christ returns (1 Peter 4: 17-18).

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).

To conclude, here are the seven principles for overcoming trials:

  • Be positive about trials as they serve to "enlarge" us and build our character.


  • Don’t be anxious or fearful because God’s presence is with us.


  • Have faith in God and He will give us the strength and wisdom to overcome trials.


  • Worship God as if victory has already been secured.


  • Affirm that the battle is God’s, not ours.


  • Prayerfully commit our anxieties to God, thanking Him in advance for answering us.


  • Believe that God loves us immeasurably and He can do far more than what we ask or think.

When we put into practice all the above points, we will experience His faithfulness and will be able to testify to His goodness and mercy.

After all, God promises to deliver those who know Him and depend on Him:

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
    I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble;
    I will rescue him and honour him.”
(Psalm 91:14-15)

RELATED POSTS

HOW TO OVERCOME WORRY
When we worry, we expend a lot of nervous energy which is better channeled to serving God and advancing His kingdom. Satan is most delighted when the army of God is weak—weighed down and distracted by the cares of the world.

OVERCOMING CRISIS
Who or what do we turn to when crisis strikes? Where do we place our hope and trust?

QUIET CONFIDENCE
How to find inner strength to face life’s challenges

FAITH, FEELINGS, CIRCUMSTANCES
The greater our faith, the more we are freed from the tyranny of our feelings and external circumstances.