Press on to Maturity
by Ken Eckerty
Spiritual maturity should be the goal of every believer and no Christian should ever be content with remaining in the same place day after day. If you’ve been a believer for any length of time, you know that moving from one level of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18) is not easy. While no one would admit to being spiritually stagnant, it is a sad and a most unfortunate thing that many professing Christians today are still spiritual infants having only enough faith to believe that they are forgiven and will “go to heaven” when they die. Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man returns will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) This observation by Jesus of a faithless generation is as pertinent for us today as it was when Jesus first asked this question. Most Christians will live and die in a carnal and infant state, and the sad truth is that they either do not recognize their spiritual condition or they are completely satisfied with the milk of the Word, not pressing on to the higher calling in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:14) The organized church system with its legalism, divisive spirit, creeds, and professional clergy is incapable of bringing forth the “sons of God,” but instead produce fruit after its own kind, that being, spiritual babes incapable of understanding anything other than the elementary principles of the faith. (Heb. 6:1-2) Many Christians are so bound by the “system” that they will not listen to anything that does not line up with what their “pastor” or denomination believes, and as a result, God’s people are starving--surviving on a ration of bottled milk poisoned with church traditions and legalism. In order for God’s people to grow, they must permanently severe the umbilical cord that prevents them from attaining unto spiritual maturity—then, and only then, can they be free to grow in Christ and experience the true freedom that only He can bring.
Let us first look at the primary hindrance that keeps God’s people from growing and maturing in Christ.
The first reference to Babylon is in Genesis 10. In verse 9 we find out that Nimrod founded the kingdom of Babel and that he was a hunter of the beasts of the earth. His name literally means, “we shall rebel” or “rebellion.” Although we do not know if Nimrod was behind the great work of the tower spoken of in Genesis 11, many believe he was actually the commissioner of this fleshly project. The biblical account tells us that the people came together and desired to build a tower with their “own” hands to make a name for themselves. (Gen. 11:4) As a result, the Lord scattered the peoples of the earth and “confused” their language lest “nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do.” (v. 6) The word “Babel” or “Babylon” literally means “confusion.”
During the time of Judah's captivity, Babylon, referred to by Daniel as one of the four great earthly kingdoms (Dan. 7:4), was both the political and economic center of the world. Perhaps no other kingdom in history has ever been more associated with riches than literal Babylon. While both secular and biblical sources tell us that there was a literal Babylonian empire, the book of the Revelation speaks of a “mystic” Babylon that John calls, “Mystery Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.” (Rev. 17:5) Who is this “mother of harlots” in whom God’s people are told “Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins...?” (Rev. 18:3) In a mystic sense, Babylon has come to mean that great worldly system which is rich in materialism, powerful in structure, and absolutely full of itself. Just like literal Babylon, mystery Babylon devises her own way to reach God trying to make a name for herself by the works of her own hands. Is this not the religion of man that we see all around us? This worldly and independent spirit is unveiled to us all throughout the scriptures. It is the lie told by the serpent that caused Adam to believe that, in his own way, he could become “as God.” It is the self-righteousness of Cain who thought he could please God with the fruit of his own labor. It is the spirit found in Abraham who tried to bring about the promised seed in the flesh, the result being Ishmael. It is the deception of Jacob who stole the blessing from Esau. It is the might and strength of Saul who sought to preserve his rule for the sake of his own glory. It is the spirit of Nebuchadnezzar who asked, “Is this not great Babylon, that I have built...by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30) It is the pride of Diotrephes who “loves to have the preeminence....” (3 Jn. 1:9) And it is the spirit of the “man of sin” “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (2 Thes. 2:3-4).
One need not look very far to see that our current organized church structure has committed spiritual adultery with the spirit of the world--thus the command of God, “Come out of her....” Just as Babylon means “confusion,” the thousands of denominational divisions we see in the Church today CONFUSE the separation between the world and the spirit of Christ. Today’s modern church has become a powerful ORGANIZATION. It is run very much like a business. It has a tax-exempt status. It has a board of directors, leadership council, or some other governing body to rule its affairs. It conducts business meetings with voting procedures. It involves itself in building funds with various committees designed to make decisions for the congregation. It has constitutions, by-laws, and a doctrinal statement very much like big corporations today. It raises money—and lots of it. Pastors and church employees earn salaries (some very lavish) much like a corporation. Much of the money collected from the offerings go to pay salaries, mortgages (or rent), and other business-type expenses (janitorial, lawn maintenance, secretarial, etc.).
The preeminent spirit of Church leadership is very much the same spirit of Nebuchadnezzar--building his own kingdom, with his own hands, to make a name for himself. Leaders are taking the preeminence from Christ and manifesting the spirit of the Nicolaitans by ruling OVER the sheep instead of taking the LEAD OF the sheep. (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:3; Rev. 2:6) From the lavish attire of beautifully made priestly robes and expensive three-piece suits to luxurious cars, homes, and crystal cathedrals, one sees very little of Jesus Christ but very much of the world. And to add insult to injury, much of what is taught from her pulpits is nothing more than the traditions of men mingled with some truth. The organized church has become fixed on the commandments, “Do this, don’t do that!”--legalism mixed with grace--a deadly mixture that voids the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:14), and leaves God’s people frustrated with empty promises of health, wealth, and prosperity.
This is the environment that most of God’s people find themselves in. Is it any wonder that most Christians are spiritually bankrupt? No one can thrive under such spiritual conditions. It reminds me of the poor African children we see on television with their frail little bodies, diseased, malnourished, and living in an environment of their own filth. It is a grievous sight, but is this not what we see in the Church today? Christians committing adultery with the world in their own churches, and being too blind not to even see the condition they are in. To the little child living his whole life in poverty, he adapts and even resigns himself to the only life he has ever known; and so, too, the Church has accepted the current organized system as the true way to spiritual wealth and is content to continue in it. Before a believer can press on to this high calling we have in Christ, the shackles of spiritual Babylon must be broken. We must see this organizational structure for what it is: worldly and whorish seeking only to seduce us into a state of apathy and blindness.
It must be noted that I am not saying that spiritual growth cannot take place within this worldly system established by the organized church. God is using the denominational system to teach His children many things. What I am saying, however, is that higher spiritual development cannot take place as long as one submits to this system. As an unborn child's growth is stunted in the womb of a mother who abuses her body with alcohol or drugs, so too, a Christian’s growth will be stunted as long as he remains in an intimate relationship with this whorish system. Deeper truths of God’s word (the application of which produces lasting fruit) will not be embraced because they do not line up with denominational creeds or the position of one man (“the pastor”).
While it is critical to see the church system for what it is, it will be impossible to discern between the true and the false church UNTIL we see that this same spirit, that has come to represent spiritual Babylon, dwells in our own flesh. (Rom. 7:23) The entire evangelical church is looking for the manifestation of some future literal antichrist instead of looking for the spirit of antichrist that all of us have inbred in our very souls from the time of our birth. This stamp (or mark) of antichrist, that all men have on imprinted on their hands and foreheads (representing our own works and our carnal mind), must be recognized before we will have the discernment to behold the harlotry that is taking place in the worldly church. The beast, as spoken in Revelation, is nothing more than the passions in men that seek to devour us. (Eccl. 3:18) It is this mark of the beast that we must “overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony!” The veil must be lifted concerning our own sin before we will be able to see the truth concerning the Lordship of Christ in the true Assembly--that corporate ORGANISM that is not made with man’s own hands, but made a spiritual temple built up with living stones on the foundation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 2:5)
While much of what we see in the organized church system is not spiritual, but carnal, let us be clear on this one point—leaving the church system doesn’t mean that things will necessarily be any different. I have been a part of “home churches” that have had some of the same trappings of Babylon found in denominational churches--men taking the preeminence, stipulating a certain FORM of worship, instituting a doctrinal creed of some sort, etc., but the whole time being nothing more than a scaled back version of the larger institutional system. One of the most important things we can learn is that leaving Babylon does not necessarily mean that Babylon has left us. Once our eyes have been opened to this “evil law” dwelling in our members (Rom. 7:20) that continually fights against the authority of Christ, we will begin to see the truth concerning the organized church system. We will begin to see that denominations are nothing more than hurtful divisions that exalt the doctrines of men rather than the true and living God. Whether you leave or not is something you must ask God. I know many dear saints who have been delivered from the spirit of Babylon but still feel led to remain in their particular denomination. However, the more God begins to strip you of religion through the work of the Cross, the more your heart will want to leave this false system. It is possible that God can call one to stay “in” Babylon while not being “of” it. There will always be the Daniels who, though living in the midst of Babylon, will not defile themselves with the delicacies of the king (Dan. 1:8). We can not only be salt and light to the world, but also to the Church. However, if you feel that you are called to be a Daniel in the Babylonish church system, you must be prepared to take a stand for what is right and not compromise--even if it means persecution from your own brethren. (Is. 66:5)
Note: There are many who are hungering after Christ and are beginning to see the truth on the identity of spiritual Babylon. Understand, though, that all of us have a part of Babylon in us, whether we physically leave the system or not. For myself, even after being out of the organized church system for almost four years, I continually find that I need to be purged from many of the doctrines and traditions of men that I have digested for over twenty years. There will be many new doctrines that you will be introduced to that will be contrary to what you have been previously taught. Not everything we received in the past is wrong, nor will everything outside of the organized church system be true. We must use spiritual discernment and “test the spirits.” Any doctrine that fails to give Christ total preeminence must be avoided. This process of unlearning and re-learning takes time. When the time is right, God will open our eyes and help us discern what is true and what is false. We must not force an answer from God, even if it means walking in ignorance for many years. I would rather seek and wait on God for true revelation rather than forcing a quick answer through bible study methods. He always knows the right timing for everything in our lives. See http://www.savior-of-all.com/faith.html
Before we discuss the three levels of maturity, we must first understand that God calls many to receive salvation in this age, but very few are actually chosen to receive the ultimate prize which is the right and privilege to rule and reign with Christ. (Rev. 3:21)
For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matt. 22:14)
The “orthodox” church teaches that many are called to salvation (unbelievers), but only few (believers) are actually chosen. However, in reality, Jesus was teaching that many would be “called” (believers), but only few (overcomers) would be “chosen.” The meaning of Matt. 22:14 is both obvious (“letter”) and hidden (“Spirit”). In context, Jesus had just told the Pharisees that the “kingdom of God would be taken from them and be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matt. 21:43) So the obvious meaning is that Israel was “called,” but would be rejected in favor of the Gentiles who would be the “chosen” of God. This is the identical meaning to the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The Rich Man (Israel) would lose the kingdom, and the Gentiles (Lazarus) would be “grafted” into the promises of Abraham (Abraham’s Bosom). It must noted that most theologians can see the obvious contextual truth in Matt. 22:14, but cannot see it in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Most evangelicals abuse the parable in that, through it, they teach the doctrine of “eternal” torment. The parable has nothing to do with future punishment, but has everything to do with a transition from one kingdom (Israel) to another (Gentiles). But in both of these passages, there is an obvious and a hidden spiritual meaning to be understood by those who have “ears to hear.” The apostle Paul says to the saints at Corinth, “Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, CALLED saints. This is the same Greek word (kletos) that Jesus used when referring to Israel. However, the word Jesus used for “chosen” is the Greek word eklektos which means the “elect.” It literally means “called out of (ek) the called.” So just as Israel was “called” but not “chosen,” so will many saints be called, but few chosen. All Christians, are “called” saints, but not all are in the “elect.” It is interesting to note that Paul never used the word “elect” in referring to the Corinthians. The obvious reason is that the Corinthians were having trouble manifesting the works of a “saint,” let alone the overcoming work of the “elect” (which is why Paul could only give them milk – 1 Cor. 3:1-3).
It is the process of maturity which God desires to bring to a completion in all the saints, that takes us from the position of a “called” saint to the position of the “chosen” elect.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished [my] course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto them also that love His appearing. (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. I therefore run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air. (1 Cor. 9:24, 26)
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:14)
Anyone who has ever studied Paul’s writings can see that he was striving for a prize. Writing to the Corinthians, he uses temporal examples of a runner and a fighter in order to show us the discipline and dedication we must have in order to obtain the prize of Christ. In fact, the Greek word Paul uses in 1 Cor. 9:25 exhorting us to “strive” for the mastery is agonizomai, where we get our English word “agonize.” It is one thing to receive the free gift of salvation which all saints possess, but it is quite another to work and agonize in order to obtain the prize only given to a few. But just what is this high calling in Christ Jesus? Paul tells us in verse 11:
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (KJV)
Many have been confused by the way Paul writes this verse. It’s almost as if he was not sure whether he would be able to attain the resurrection. However, just like the improper interpretation of Matt. 22:14, the same mistake is made when reading Phil. 3:11. Reading this verse in the King James Version, we do not get the full meaning of what Paul is trying to say. The common word used throughout the New Testament for “resurrection” is the Greek word anastasis. However, in verse 11, Paul uses the word exanastasis which is used only once in the New Testament. The prefix ex used here gives the idea of preeminence or being first. Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible accurately translates verse 11 this way:
If by any means I may advance to the EARLIER (“ex”) resurrection (“anastasis”).
No, Paul was not doubting his salvation. He knew exactly who he was in Christ. What Paul is talking about is the high calling of the first resurrection. Rev. 20:4, 5 speaks of this same resurrection.
4: And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given
I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God,
and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon
their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5: But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years
finished. This is
the first resurrection.
Now if you’re the type of person who believes the entire book of Revelation should be taken literally, then you can stop reading this article. John received the words of this Revelation from God, “and He gave the Revelation by SIGNS....” (Rev. 1:1) IT WAS GIVEN IN SIGNS! The book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is a spiritual book and should be interpreted by the Spirit. It is not to be read and interpreted literally. (See the article titled “Faith is the Key.”) The ones whom John speaks of--those who are beheaded, refused to worship the beast, nor received his mark--are overcomers! These are all the saints that have overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil--and it could include you and I! The mark of the beast as spoken of in Rev. 13 is not some computerized tattoo that will be placed under the literal skin. The mark is nothing more than allegiance to the spirit of antichrist manifesting itself through the carnal nature of man and the Babylonian church system--yes, the mother of all harlots! Millions of Christians today are members of a denomination, and in order for them to participate (“buying and selling”) in their church, they must vow an allegiance to the creed of that particular church. How many people have you heard say, “We, Baptists” or “We, Charismatics?” Those individuals are bound by the spirit of the beast and have taken its mark. It is important to remember that one does not need to sign a statement of commitment to a particular denomination to be bound by the spirit of Babylon. Remember, just because you have left Babylon doesn't mean Babylon has left you.
You may try to argue that the book of the Revelation is a future book and it is yet to be fulfilled. However, John wrote these things that must “shortly come to pass,” and Jesus says over and over again in this last book that “He is, was, and is to come.” Therefore, Christ, who is the Word, will be revealed in the past (was), in the present (is), and in the future (is to come). Dearly beloved, the book of the Revelation is not a book written to reveal future events; it is a book to reveal the Lord Jesus Christ--past, present, and future! It is as relevant for us today as it was in John’s day, and as it will be for those in coming generations. Only those who have given their lives for Christ, and have not worshipped the beast, nor taken the mark of his image will be worthy to rule and reign with Christ for a thousand years. Remember, “many are called, but few are chosen.” This first resurrection spoken of in Revelation 20 is the same one Paul refers to in Phil. 3:11. This is the high calling in Jesus Christ!
In understanding just exactly what this high calling in Christ is, let us never forget that the object of our faith must never be a thing or some event. Our goal is, and always must be, Christ Himself! Christ is the resurrection and the life and so our pursuit of Him will always lead to newness of life. The first resurrection is a manifestation of the glory of Christ as is the second. Strive for the greater glory of Christ as represented by the first resurrection. The Father's ultimate work in the life of His children is to bring many sons to glory, conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. (Heb. 2:10; Rom. 8:28) If we will seek Him with all our heart, we will find Him, and in finding Him, we will obtain the high calling of sitting on the throne with Christ during His rule over the nations.
NOTE: The Revelation, chapters 2 & 3, give seven promises to those who overcome. Most Christians (the called) will not be chosen as overcomers in this age. This does not mean they are not saved. They simply will miss the glorious privilege to rule with Christ in the kingdom age. They (both the just and the unjust) will be raised in the general resurrection as spoken of in Jn. 5:28, 29.
All of us started out as newborn babes in Christ the moment we were justified in Christ, and God has ordained a specific path of growth for His people to follow. However, all of us attain maturity at different times and at different levels. It is clear from the scriptures that very few Christians will ever reach the highest level of maturity. A dear brother said that “spiritual growth is not the accumulation of knowledge or measured by the type of ministry one has. True spiritual growth, he says, is that ‘I must decrease, He must increase.’” (Jn. 3:30) I like that definition and we shall see that as a Christian progresses through each of these steps or levels of maturity, we become less and less and Christ becomes more and more.
Babes in Christ
For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2)
I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto
even as unto
babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. (1 Cor. 3:1-2)
The first stage that begins the Christian life is the infant stage. All of us start here. Peter tells us that “as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that you may grow.” (1 Pet. 2:2) Milk is necessary for the growth of an infant, however, as children grow into adults, so we must also grow spiritually. There must come a time when we should wean ourselves from the bottle and progress to strong meat. The problem with the saints at Corinth was that they were still on the bottle and were not able to handle the meat of the Word.
The main characteristic that identifies the spiritual infant in Christ is found in 1 Cor. 2:2. The Corinthians were not able to handle meat so the apostle Paul could bring them nothing but “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” The Corinthians certainly understood the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, for Paul called them saints. However, they had not moved past the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. How many times have I sat through a church service thinking, “When are we going to get to some meat? When am I going to hear something more than Jesus died for my sins?” If you doubt what I say is true, listen to the majority of our contemporary Christian music. The majority of it speaks only about what Christ has done FOR US. Please don't misunderstand me. I don't mean to in any way make light of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. Without this great work, none of us would have any hope for life beyond the grave. What I am saying is that there is more to spiritual growth than just what Jesus did for us. Yes, we are forgiven. Yes, we are reconciled to the Father by His blood. Yes, we no longer have to fear death and the grave. Glory to God! But is that all? Is that what the Christian life is all about? The Corinthians had not moved past the physical death of Christ which was evidenced by the all divisions and carnality that Paul addresses in the letter.
Andrew Jukes, in “The Law of the Offerings” wrote:
are satisfied to see nothing of this: the sprinkled blood in
enough for them. And this,
indeed, secures salvation: but, oh! how much lies beyond! Knowing only the blood in Egypt will
never teach us our priestly office, nor the value and use of the offerings of the Lord, nor the will of
the Lord respecting us. The blood, indeed, wherever seen, bespeaks our safety, and it is blessed even
in Egypt to know God’s claim is met; but ought we not also, as His redeemed and loved ones, to desire
to know more also of His will and our portion?
Beloved, spiritual growth is more than what Jesus did for us. Yes, it’s the foundation and the place we must start, but if we cannot get past the physical aspect of Christ's death and move to the spiritual application of it, we will never achieve the ultimate goal of attaining to the high calling of Christ Jesus. Paul said, “...yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now HENCEFORTH KNOW WE HIM NO MORE (after the flesh).” We no longer see Christ as a baby in a manger; we no longer see Him as Joseph's son; we no longer see Him in Galilee working miracles; we no longer see Him physically on the Cross. Christ has transcended the physical. He has been raised to newness of life and has ascended into the heavenlies, the very realm where Paul tells us we are now seated. (Eph. 2:6) We are forgiven by His blood and it is now time we press toward a higher level of maturity.
Note: The recent hysteria by the Church over the Mel Gibson movie “The Passion of the Christ” is an example of Christians “needing” to see a physical Christ being physically crucified. I’ve even had believers tell me that I needed to see the movie because “it’s one thing to read it in the Bible, but it’s another thing to see it in real life.” One sister I know said that after seeing the movie she “wanted to be a better Christian.” Now please don’t misunderstand me, I am not necessarily against the movie nor do I question the motives of Mr. Gibson. I have heard some testimonies of individuals who have been moved to pursue spiritual things as a result of the movie. Praise the Lord! God will use all things for His glory. However, Thomas needed to see and touch Jesus before he would believe, but Jesus said, “…Blessed are those who believe yet HAVE NOT SEEN.” Does a believer, pressing on to maturity, really need to see a hollywood interpretation of the crucifiction in order to understand what Jesus had to go through in dying for their sins? Should we not be moving onward in faith rather than having to “see and touch” Jesus in the flesh? Again, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. The death of Christ FOR our sins is where we must all start, and without it, there is no life--we must never forget His great sacrifice! But there is a real danger of becoming just like the Corinithians in that they could only receive the milk of the Word, and as a result, they remained in their carnal condition producing division, strife, and all sorts of fleshly sins against one another. Paul says that “all things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial.” (1 Cor. 10:23) We are no longer under the law in that we can enjoy all things, including Mel Gibson’s film. However, let us move beyond the physical and what we can see with our eyes, and start walking in the heavenlies with the eyes of faith.
The Young Adult Stage
am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ
me: and the life
which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself
for me. (Gal. 2:20)
bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life
be made manifest in our body. (2 Cor. 4:10)
This next stage, which I call the young adult stage, is a higher level of understanding and application of God’s purposes for the believer. We start out by seeing that Christ died FOR us, now we must start walking in the truth that we must die WITH Him. The common misconception among Christians today is that Christ came to save us “FROM” death, but the biblical truth is that Christ came to save us “THROUGH” death—and there is a great difference between the two. Hebrews 5:7 in the King James Version says, “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death....” However, this is an inaccurate rendering, and the force of the original Greek should always be translated by or out of death. God’s purpose for Christ, as well as for us, is to save us THROUGH or BY death. Christ "learned obedience by the things He suffered" (Heb. 5:8) and was MADE perfect (5:9) through this process of death (Heb. 2:14; Heb. 5:7). Is it such a hard thing, then, to see that if Christ was saved “out of” or “through” death, then we, too, must go through this same process of death in order to grow from newborn babes to mature sons and daughters? Did not Jesus say that there would be no fruit unless the seed was broken and die? (John 12:24) Did not Paul follow the same example when he told us that “I die daily” and that he “bore in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life of Jesus should be made manifest?” (1 Cor. 15:31; 2 Cor. 4:8-12)
Many Christians teach that Christ died to give us a multitude of blessings and that if we are going through difficult trials and tribulations, we must not have enough faith. Some even go as far as to suggest that there is unrepentant sin that has caused the difficulties. A good example of this is Job. God declared Job righteous and even boasted of it to Satan, however, Job's friends tried to suggest that Job had done something wrong to deserve all his troubles. While it is certainly true that the one who “sows to the flesh will reap corruption,” it is wrong to assume that a person’s troubles are always a result of personal sin. Job did nothing wrong to deserve the pain and suffering he experienced. Yes, it was Satan who was the instrument of Job's torment, but it was God Himself who took credit for afflicting Job. (Job 2:3) The obvious question is “Why would God afflict His own servant?” We need to look no further than to hear Job's own words:
have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth
thee. Wherefore I abhor
myself , and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:5,6)
The result of God’s chastisement on Job resulted in bringing him to a place of absolute ruin, that is, a place where Job saw the absolute futility of the flesh, and the absolute supremecy of God. After Job's confession, the scriptures tell us that Job was blessed “twice as much” as he had before. (Job. 42:10) However, this level of glory did not come first. Glory never comes first. It is suffering that must come before blessing; the cross before the glory; death before life.
Another good example of this path to glory was Joseph--sold into slavery, imprisoned, and seemingly forsaken by God. Of course, all of this was for a purpose. Joseph (who is a type of Christ and of the overcomer), in due season, was exalted to a position of preeminence--but first he had to endure the pain and suffering of being forsaken by his own brethren. Christ followed this same path of suffering first, then exaltation. And so it is with us.
God’s purpose for suffering is to bring an end to our pride and to increase the Son of God in our lives. (Is. 2:11; Gal. 4:19) Remember, our measure of spiritual growth?—“I must decrease, He must increase.” God has called us to go with Him “outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” (Heb. 13:13)
Today in the church we hear much of the strength of the believer. It is preached that we must get stronger, accumulate more, and take back from the devil what is rightfully ours. Victory, it is said, is a process of binding and loosing, spiritual warfare, and taking authority as believers. However, spiritual growth is not becoming stronger and stronger, but weaker and weaker. “For God has chosen the weak and foolish things of this world to confound the wise.” It is only in becoming poor, that we become rich. It is only in weakness that we can know His strength. And it is only in death, that we live. How contrary this is to the gospel we see being preached in the Church today? Paul said,
lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the
revelations, there was
given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above
measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses
for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Cor. 12:7-10)
This is the calling of a son. This was Christ’s calling, “to learn obedience by the things He suffered”--and so it is ours. Life can only come forth when first there is death. There is no other way. Again, the apostle Paul,
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Phil. 3:10)
Christ set the example as our forerunner to show us the way we must go.
even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us,
an example that
you should follow in His footsteps. (1 Pet. 2:21)
The life of an overcomer is more than knowing that Jesus died for his sins. Only those who understand this principle of life coming forth out of death will be able to press on to the higher calling of God in Christ.
Maturity as Sons
now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind
afflictions of Christ
in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church. (Col. 1:24)
The final stage of spiritual development is the ultimate expression of God in those who shall be called His sons. The reason why God calls his sons to die is not just for their own benefit, but so that Christ’s life may be imparted to others. It is one thing to suffer for your own spiritual gain, but it is quite another to sacrifice and suffer so another may live. Paul said it this way: “So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” (2 Cor. 4:12) Paul was willing to fill up in his flesh, the afflictions of Christ, FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHURCH. Over and over again Paul says that his bonds and sufferings were for the sake of the body. Did his trials and sufferings bring forth fruit in the saints? Listen to what he says:
many of the brethren in the Lord, being confident in my bonds, more
dare to speak
the Word fearlessly. (Phil. 1:14)
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, welcoming the Word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Spirit. (1 Thes. 1:6)
And did not our dear Savior do the same thing?
you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich, He became
for your sake,
so that you might become rich by the poverty of that One. (2 Cor. 8:9)
Beloved this is the spiritual principle that is taught all throughout the scriptures, that life can only come forth out of death. This is why the health, wealth, and prosperity “gospel” is so wrong because it is rooted in selfishness with no denial of self and no submission to the work of death wrought by the cross. Jesus told us that we must take up our cross and the writer of Hebrews tells us we must bear His reproach. (Lk. 14:27; Heb. 13:13) Why must this be? Does God gets some sort of sadistic satisfaction through our suffering? No! Because God has ordained suffering to be the only way to glory, the only path to life, and the only way to bring forth a greater harvest.
Christ for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame.... (Heb. 12:2)
joy? It was to do the will of the Father so that as in Adam
even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:22)
to bring forth the fruit of many sons! (Heb. 2:10)
Those Christians who’ve moved beyond the infant stage of maturity will begin to see personal victory over sin in their life. The young adult stage, however, is still principally focused on self. Many Christians who reach this second stage still struggle with habitual sins, but as the principle of the Cross (death) is continually being worked out in their life, they become more victorious and thus more are able to enter into this final and ultimate phase of maturity whereby they are able to minister life to others by their own suffering and death. John said that “greater love has no man than this, than he lay down his life for a friend.” (1 Jn. 3:16) Dying in order to minister life is the highest form of maturity and as we grow in Christ we should be thinking less about ourselves and more and more about others. “I must decrease, He must increase” is the ultimate goal. It is the mark of a true son to become more and more like his father, and it is these very sons that God is calling to liberate the bondage of the entire creation. (Rom. 8:19-21)
As I’ve said throughout this essay, not all will attain to the high calling of being a son. This privilege comes with much loss. All those who live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution. (2 Tim. 3:12) A friend of mine once told me that rewards given to believers will not so much be what we DO for Christ, but what we LOSE for Christ. Jesus said:
If any man come after me, let him DENY himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Lk. 9:23)
answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath
or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or
for my sake, and the gospel,
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the age to come, age-abiding life. (Mk. 10:29-30)
Following Jesus Christ means loneliness. It means persecution even from our own brethren. It means suffering. It means loss. It means giving up the things of this world and depriving the flesh of what it desires. Most Christians are not willing to take the path that leads to the ultimate high calling in Christ--and most will die in a carnal, selfish state. Those people who continue to play the harlot with Babylon (worshipping its beastly nature and taking its mark) will not be able to experience the high calling that is ONLY found in Christ.
While there is no question as to the HISTORY of the first two kings of Israel, in these two men hide the MYSTERY of the two types of rule that have been manifested all throughout Church history. Saul and David are spiritual types of both the wordly and Godly rule that are both found manifest in the Church. Andrew Jukes has written an excellent treatise on this and can be found at http://www.savior-of-all.com/Mystery of the Kingdom.pdf
Saul represents the rule of man (pride and arrogance) that has found its way into the Church. It is that earthly rule which usurps the authority of Jesus Christ and exalts itself to a position of preeminence. David represents the rule of Christ (humility and death to self) found in the overcoming remnant. It is that spiritual rule that submits to Christ's authority and gives to Him all preeminence. Saul represents the strong arm of the flesh while David represents the strength of the Spirit. Saul represents the world while David represents the true “ekklesia.” Is it not clearly evident that the qualities of Saul (division, clergy/laity distinctions, creeds, etc.) have infected and corrupted the Church? (see http://www.savior-of-all.com/organized.html)
Saul, who reflected the choice of the people, was rejected by God just as man’s authority in the Church is also rejected. Saul's seed produced no lasting fruit just as the rule of man will produce nothing but the fruit of carnality. David, who reflected the choice of God, is a type of the overcomer. However, even though he was annointed by Samuel during the early years of Saul's reign, it would be years before he would actually take the throne. God’s purpose for David was to train him in the wilderness in order to teach and prepare him to be a leader of the people. It is very interesting to note that the tool God used to teach David was Saul himself. Saul hated David and persecuted him continually causing David great despair. Psalm 13:1, 2 gives us a small glimpse into the sorrow of David as he was hounded by Saul day and night.
long will you forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long will you hide your
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall
my enemy be exalted over me?
I've often heard it said by the evangelical church that Saul represents Satan as he seeks to devour the Christian. I do not deny this comparison, however, I think it is incomplete. Satan works in the Church through the rule of man (spirit of Saul) to devour the man-child, which is a picture of both Christ and the overcomer. Saul is a type of the Babylonish church system, with Satan on her throne, who seeks to devour the overcomer. (Rev. 2:13; Rev. 12:4) The rule of man will always judge the rule of God which is exactly why church leaders are always so quick to condemn and cast out the overcomer. Jesus said:
Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matt. 5:11-12)
Who persecuted the prophets but none other than the Saul of Israel. Jesus told us that it would be the religious who would persecute the overcomers just as the prophets were also persecuted by their own brethren. The rule of man, whether it be found outside or inside the Church, is always in opposition to God’s rule—and so is it any wonder that God’s overcomer has been driven out into the wilderness to flee for his life?
the word of the LORD, you that tremble at his word; Your brothers that
you, that cast
you out for my name's sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and
they shall be ashamed. (Is. 66:5)
There have certainly been periods in Church history where the saints were persecuted by heathen nations, but the great majority of the hatred and persecution against the overcomer has all been done in the name of Christ. It was Saul, anointed king of Israel, who persecuted David. It was Jacob’s sons, not the Egyptians, who sold Joseph into slavery and left him to be forgotten. It was Israel, not the heathen nations who persecuted the prophets. And it was the religious rulers, not Rome, who plotted and carried out the death of our Lord.
The path of the overcomer, he who is chosen, is one of loneliness, suffering, wilderness, and death. Most in the Church willingly submit to the spirit of Saul who “loves to have the preeminence” and anyone who speaks out against this worldly rule is cast out and branded a troublemaker. The majority will choose the path of Saul for broad is the path that leads to destruction. It is to those who reject the rule of man, both from without and within, who will be “chosen” as an overcomer and will be raised in the “earlier” resurrection and be given the glorious ministry of rulership with Christ in the next age.
Note: David had two opportunities (1 Sam. 24:5, 6; 26:9) to take the life of Saul but refused to “touch the Lord’s annointed.” This is a sober warning for those who see the truth of Babylon to not get consumed with trying to destroy those who manifest the spirit of Saul. God allowed Saul to be king for a specific purpose, that being, to show Israel the futility and consequence of the flesh and to provide wilderness training to David in preparation for his kingly reign. Let us see the Babylonish system as God’s way of teaching us faith, humility, love, and forgiveness—all essential qualities of the overcomer. God will one day shatter the illusions of Babylon and He will use the overcomers to accomplish this.
Now that we understand the death process by which God brings us from spiritual infants to mature sons and daughters, how do we know that we have obtained the prize? In this section, prepare to have your paradigms challenged.
The common teaching is that the salvation of one’s soul is something that happens to an unbeliever the moment he places his trust in Christ, and after this happens the soul is forever secure. All evangelical exhortations concerning the salvation of the soul are exclusively directed to the non-Christian, while the state of the Christian's soul is assumed safe from falling. It is true that there is a large segment of the church that teaches that a believer can lose his or her salvation, though, according to this view, the loss of a Christian’s soul puts him in the same state as an unbeliever in danger of never ending punishment. This, like many other teachings found in the Babylonish church system, is filled with error. The truth of the matter is that a Christian CAN lose his soul WITHOUT losing his standing as God’s child.
The three parts of man are the spirit (God-consciousness), the soul (self-consciousness), and the body (sense-consciousness). The evangelical church has a tendency to use the terms spirit and soul synonymously, but this is wrong and the Bible makes a definite distinction between the two. It is critical for us to understand that a man is regenerated in his spirit, NOT his soul. Regeneration occurs in the spirit by the breath (pneuma) of the living God resulting in man's spirit being made alive in Christ. This is what Paul terms as “the new man.” At the time of this salvation, the soul and the body are still yet against God and in need of transformation. We certainly know this to be true of the body for it is filled with all sorts of lustful passions and susceptible to disease and eventual death. As to the soul, will any of us deny that our soul (mind, will, and emotions) more naturally inclines toward the earthly (or “natural”) realm, rather than the heavenly? In 1 Cor. 2:14 when Paul talks about the “natural” man being unable to receive the things of the Spirit, he is talking about the “soulish” realm in man, that is, the realm that has yet to be transformed by the power of the new man (spirit). This natural realm is in all of us, and it is the three part process of salvation that moves us from the earthly to the heavenly. Most Christians do not understand that the body and soul are in need of salvation and deliverance even after the initial salvation of our spirit. Understanding this difference will help us as we try to understand the salvation process that takes place in man.
scriptures teach that
salvation is in three separate works or stages: past (Eph. 2:8, 9),
Cor. 1:18), and future (Heb. 1:14). We could also call this
justification, sanctification, and glorification. The salvation
occurs first is the salvation of the spirit (pneuma); The
of salvation is the saving of the soul (psuche); The final stage
redemption of the body. All three parts of man (spirit, soul,
through this process of salvation, however, each occurs at different
times. When God first gave to us the faith to trust in Christ's
blood, we experienced the salvation of our spirit. This work of
is based on God’s grace alone and has nothing whatsoever to do with
works. Paul addresses this in Ephesians, chapter 2. It is
point that we are justified, forgiven, and sealed until the redemption
body (Eph.4:30). Once our spirit is made alive in Christ, we are
However, while our spirit is quickened (made alive) the moment we are justified in Christ, our soul is not immediately transformed (saved). There is a process that the soul must go through as we are conformed more and more to the image of Christ. The salvation of the spirit is immediate whereas the salvation of the soul is always a present, ongoing work in the life of a believer.
lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive
engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (Ja. 1:21)
Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see [him] not, yet believing, ye rejoice
with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, [even] the salvation
of [your] souls. (1 Pet. 1:8, 9)
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb. 10:39)
The above passages are exclusively written for Christians--those who’ve already experienced the past work of the salvation of their spirit. These exhortations concerning the salvation of the Christian’s soul, not only speak of this salvation as an ongoing work in the life of believers, but it also directly relates to the deeds done in the body. In other words, while the saving of our spirit is unconditional and has nothing to do with works, the saving of our souls is conditional and has everything to do with works. This is why the apostle James links works (laying apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness) with the saving of the soul. Understanding this difference would clear up the current confusion concerning whether a Christian can lose his or her salvation. Again, once a person is saved in spirit, he is forever secure; he is quickened by the Spirit and given a new nature (“Christ in you, the hope of glory”); no amount of works can ever add to what Christ has done for us. Yet, as the New Testament teaches, works have a definite place in the life of a believer and are tied directly to the loss or gain of one's soul.
Perhaps the most well known verse relating to the saving or the losing of the soul is found in Matt. 16:22-26. In verse 26 Jesus says,
what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his
soul? or what shall
a man give in exchange for his soul?
In context with verse 24, however, Jesus ties the saving or the loss of one’s soul to the denying of self, the taking up his cross, and the following of Himself--all works. These are the kinds of works that believers are to do, not those who are yet outside the faith. If there is any doubt to this, Jesus adds the finale in verse 27,
the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels;
and then he
reward every man according to his works.
There it is! With the Kingdom age in view (v. 28b), Christ ties the saving of the soul to works which directly affect one’s position (rewards) in the kingdom. It is also interesting to note that rewards and punishments given to the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 is based solely on the things both groups do--again, works. (Matt. 25:40, 45) Those who overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil will receive the end result of their faith which is the salvation of their soul. And as a reward for this salvation, God will raise up these overcomers in the first resurrection and allow them the privilege to rule and reign with Christ in the kingdom age (Rev. 3:21).
In the very beginning, God gave a glorious command to man:
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion OVER the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.’ (Gen. 1:28)
Understanding that the Word of God is more than a literal book, we see (with spiritual eyes) that the creation account not only represents the literal creation, but also the spiritual creation of the New Man. God commands us to subdue the flesh (earth), and all the passions and lusts of the flesh (the fish, the fowl, and the beasts). The New Testament exhorts us to renew our minds (Rom. 12:2), mortify the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13), and bring our bodies into subjection (1 Cor. 9:27). The key to the saving of one's soul is the submission of the soulish realm to the spiritual. An overcoming Christian allows the New Man (his regenerated spirit) to rule over the beastly nature and learns to submit both his soul and body to the authority of Christ. It is to the individual who allows his soul and body to usurp authority over the spirit that is in danger of the loss of his soul. These believers are saved, but they will miss out on the first resurrection and not obtain the high calling in Christ.
concluding this section, I
have shown that the salvation of the soul has nothing whatsoever to do
conversion of an unbeliever. The gospel we preach to the world is
directed to the spirit of a man, not his soul, for
apart from the
incorruptible seed of Christ planted in a man's spirit, he is dead and
incapable of conforming his soul and body to the will of God. The
salvation of the soul is nothing more than the new man (the spirit)
complete authority and victory over the will and emotions of the soul
passions of the body.
We briefly discussed the mark of the beast spoken of in Rev. 13. But there is another mark placed on the foreheads of the 144,000 spoken of in the very next chapter (Rev. 14). The mark of these 144,000 is not a literal mark any more than the mark of the beast is. Remember, the book of the Revelation was given in signs and so it is not correct to interpret this group as 12,000 literal Jews from 12 literal tribes. The 144,000 represent a spiritual people (not natural Israel) called out from every corner of the body of Christ. These people represent the saints of God that have been both “called” and “chosen.” See Who are the 144,000? by Mike Vinson.
These 144,000 are the company of overcomers--the David company, that bear the mark of God on their foreheads. The word “mark” is the Greek word charagma from which we get our English word “character.” It is the same word used in Heb. 1:3 that is translated express image. “Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image (‘mark’) of His Person.” Both the mark of the beast and the mark of God express something--that is, both express the character of the person from which it’s derived. The beastly mark expresses the deeds of the flesh; this is the expression or revealing of “the man of sin” coming forth out of the natural man. God’s mark, on the other hand, expresses the life of the Spirit; this is expression or the coming forth of Christ out of the spiritual man.
While there are many expressions coming forth from the new man, I will mention only three.
First of all, God’s overcomer is known by his faith. I’m not talking about the false subsitute (“name it and claim it”) that has been embraced by a good number in the Church. I'm also not talking about a faith that is boasted to have its origin in man. Most Christians, particularly those who believe that man can choose to be independent from God (“free will”), believe that faith is something which begins in man and must be exercised (apart from God) in order to be saved. However, the Scriptures clearly teach that Christ is the AUTHOR and FINISHER of faith and that any good gift, including faith, comes from God. (Heb. 12:2; Ja. 1:17; Rom. 12:3)
Unlike the false faith which has found itself a home in the organized religious system, Godly faith is not preoccupied with physical prosperity or physical healing. God’s faithful do not concern themselves with earthly goods, nor do they see the Promised Land as a place of materialistic blessings, but rather, they see the fullness of Christ as that Land--a heavenly sphere that is not of this world. Their heart is after Christ, not after things.
True faith sees God in every circumstance and rejoices in all things because it knows that “all things are of Him, through Him, and to Him.” (Rom. 11:36) This kind of faith can be illustrated in no better way than the Apostle Paul's own words:
But we have this
treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of
and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we
perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (2 Cor. 4:7-10)
does not seek to
escape trials but believes that God will reveal Himself IN THE MIDST of
them. As previously discussed, God’s ordained path to
maturity is through the process of death, and so it takes real faith to
that God has a purpose--even in the darkest of times--when every
seems to suggest that God has forsaken us. True faith does not
trial but sees beyond to the fruit that it will bear. God’s
overcomers have a vision larger than what their senses tell them is
possible. These believers know that God, through them, can do the
impossible. To them nothing--not the will of man, the schemes of
or even the grave--can stop God from bringing His entire creation into
harmony with His grand purpose.” (Acts 3:21; Col. 1:20) These
groan with all of creation for the manifestation of the sons of God and
the faith to believe that God’s liberty will one day come to all men.
8:19-21) They look forward to that final day when all shall be
unto the Father, and will rejoice that they were counted worthy to
in such a glorious and grand salvation.
Prayer is another “mark” of the overcoming elect. The life of Christ was marked by total and utter dependence, and it was this dependence on the Father that gave Christ the power to overcome the world. The self-sufficient and the proud cannot overcome, but instead will be devoured by the serpent who will prey on the weaknesses of the flesh (dust of the earth – Gen. 3:14). Bowing before the Lord in the lowliness of prayer will bring us to an eventual position of elevation, for the Lord said that “he who exalts himself will be abased, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12) Just like faith, the church has offered a false version of what true prayer is. Prayer is not a moment in time, a period of devotions, or a prayer meeting, but true prayer is a continuous state of dependency and devotion to God. True prayer waits on God and strives to pray only according to the will of God. God’s overcomers hear the voice of the Shepherd and respond to the burdens that He lays on their heart. It is only in hearing from God that we can begin to speak and move in the will of God through prayer.
But of all the characterisics that the sons of God will manifest, I can think of no greater mark of the expression of God in Christ than love. God’s overcomers will be known by their love and humility for both God and men. No striving for preeminence. No desire to cut down those who disagree with them. No establishment of man-made denominations excluding those who refuse to take its mark. Christ will express Himself fully through these believers and the greatest of this expression will be love.
The end of all things is love--it fulfills God’s law totally and completely. The whole purpose of the process of death is to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ and so as God is love (1 Jn. 4:8), and as we submit to the work of the Cross (which is the perfect demonstration of love), we become just like the Father and His Christ. There is no higher law or calling than love. It is the very essence of God and so everything He does, including His judgments, reflects His love.
The beast nature in all of us hates God and will do everything it can to resist the love of God. This is why the doctrine of “eternal” torment has so dominated the history of the Church--not because it is truth, but because it is a reflection of the hatred that is in us--that spirit of antichrist that thinks it knows how to deal with sinners better than God. It is only the work of the Cross that slays this dragon that frees us to truly love as He loves.
It is very easy for those who understand some of the deeper things of God to become smug and content in their knowledge and assume that this knowledge automatically assures them a right to rule and reign with Christ, but the gospel is not in word only, but “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1 Cor. 2:4) While we must strive for spiritual knowledge, knowledge in and of itself does not guarantee spiritual maturity. The scriptures are clear that knowledge, by itself, “puffs up” and that without love, we are nothing! The knowledge we receive by revelation must be demonstrated lest we be found guilty of spiritual hypocrisy. Both the writer of Hebrews and Paul give us strict admonitions:
us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his
of you should
seem to come short of it. (Heb. 4:1)
For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. (Rom. 11:21)
The apostle Paul, the man with an abundance of revelations from the Lord, was striving to attain unto the “earlier resurrection.” Paul had not attained to it for he says,
as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I
after, if that I may
apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12)
If Paul, the great apostle and chosen vessel to the Gentile nations was unsure he would be found worthy of the high calling of the first resurrection, then we, also, should not be content until we have “finished the course and fought the good fight of faith.” Let us not be guilty of the same sin as the evil servant who hid away his talent instead of prudently investing it.
What made Paul great? Was it the words that he spoke? The truth that he held? Here is what he said:
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. (1 Thes. 1:5)
It was the manner in which Paul lived! And what was this manner that made his words so convincing and powerful?
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. (1 Thes. 2:7, 8)
Paul’s life and example gave credibility to the message he was proclaiming. He had reached the ultimate level of maturity, and would have done anything for the saints including the giving of his own soul. He says the very same thing concerning his fellow Israelites:
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: (Rom. 9:3)
Paul was willing to set aside his own reward (the salvation of his soul) in order to see salvation come to Israel! Incredible! Paul was demonstrating the ultimate expression of the gospel--the laying down of his own life to save another. “So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” (2 Cor. 4:12)
Beloved, knowing truth is only half the picture; we must demonstrate the truth. We must be as Paul said,
You are our letter, having been written in our hearts, being known and being read by all men: It having been made plain that you are Christ's letter, served by us, written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. (2 Cor. 3:2, 3)
It is this sincerity of the truth that makes the gospel a living document as opposed to the dead letter.
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (2 Cor. 3:6)
Andrew Jukes once said that “the most dangerous thing in the Church is truth held carnally.” There is much to be said by this. Doctrine means nothing if it takes preeminence over Christ. I’ve seen so many people (including myself) take a certain gem of truth and become obsessed with it to the point that they give it undue preeminence. The organized churches are extremely guilty of this: taking a certain truth (or untruth) and building a carnal denomination on it. Doctrine, no matter how true, will only bring death unless it is laid on the foundation of gold, silver, or the precious stone of Jesus Christ.
One additional word: If any man “thinks he stands, beware, lest he falls,” (1 Cor. 10:12) and “I say…to every man that is among you not to think [of himself] more highly than he ought to think….” (Rom. 12:3) There is nothing wrong with desiring to be an overcomer, however, assuming one has already won the prize before the race is over is not only presumptious, but also arrogance and leads to an exclusive “holier than thou” attitude. The Pharisees thought they were the epitomy of righteousness, but Jesus said that “unless your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:20) A sobering warning and one that we would do well to heed.
the eager outlook of creation, ardently awaiteth the revealing of the
unto vanity, hath creation been made subject—not by choice, but by reason of him that made it
subject, in hope that, the creation itself also, shall be freed—from the bondage of the decay into
the freedom of the glory of the sons of God; (Rom. 8:19-21)
What a glorious plan that “God is working out according to the counsel of His own will!” He is calling “many sons to glory” for the great purpose of reconciling all things to Himself. (Heb. 2:10; Col. 1:20)
is God’s work for
“He works in us both to will and do His good pleasure,” (Phil. 2:13)
and yet at
the same time we are to “work out our own salvation with fear and
(Phil. 2:12) It is this working out of the Cross in us (through
and suffering) that will fully form the Son of God and bring forth
of an overcomer. (Gal. 4:19; 1 Thes. 2:12). It is only
us” that can destroy the man of sin and bring us to attain “the perfect
unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13)
For the overcomer, wilderness training doesn’t last forever, but is a necessary part of the maturing process in order to ready the David company to overcome all things so that they may rule with their King in the next age. For those still bound by the spirit of Babylon, ask God to slay the dragon that has found a home in you. Submit to the work of the Cross as it purposes to destroy that man of sin who desires to oppose and resist Christ. Strive for the higher calling found only in Christ Jesus. Pray and ask God to do whatever it takes to make you an overcomer.
Desire it! Pray for it! Pursue it!