|Photo by Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness Bureau of Land Management 2012|
Saturday, August 6, 2016
Which Way Are You Going?
In this life, we are either going forward or going backward, but we never stay in the same place. Some processes, like time, move us relentlessly in a single direction Apart from science fiction, no one can go back in time and rewrite history, and no one gets any younger.
Progress, or regress, but don’t think you can coast and remain where you are. The influence of this world is like a river, continually pulling us downstream. As we can see just by glancing at a newspaper, downstream in this world is neither a safe nor a pleasant place to be.
Engaging in the Christian walk (Romans 8:1,4; Galatians 5:16), running the race Christ has set before us (Hebrews 12:1), and fighting the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7) is like paddling upstream. Every moment of every day is a battle (Ephesians 6:12) in which we must crucify the flesh (Romans 8:13), resist the devil (James 4:7), and separate ourselves from the world that wants to conform us to its image (Romans 12:2).
Only in this way can we advance, not through our own power, but through the Holy Spirit Who lives within every believer from the moment we are saved (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13). In our own strength we can do nothing (John 15:5), but His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and with Him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
Once Christians are born again (John 3:3-8) by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we are assured of eternal life (John 3:16). We can never lose this most precious gift, for we have done nothing to earn it (Ephesians 2:8-9), and it is the shed blood of Christ that has paid in full for all our sins, past, present and future (Romans 3:25).
In thanksgiving and joy over what He has done, we should want to devote our life to serving Him (James 2:14-26) and following His perfect plan for our life (Jeremiah 29:11-13; 33:3), which is the best blessing we could ever receive. We become a new creation at the moment of salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17), and when Christ returns for His children at the Rapture, we will receive a glorified body that will never age, sin, die, or experience pain or sorrow (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). In that blissful and perfect state we will live with Him and with our loved ones in Christ forever.
In the meantime, during that all too brief period between salvation and Rapture or going home to be forever with Him, is our Christian walk. Ideally, this is a time of progressive sanctification in which we become continually molded into the image of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:10; Isaiah 64:8). God accomplishes that, if we allow Him to, through trials that strengthen our faith in and closeness to Him; through prayer in which we ask the Spirit to reveal His will; and through instruction and meditation in God’s Word.
Yet so many times we see Christians who, once being saved, rejoice briefly in their salvation, yet are then content to drift along the river of life. The problem is that drifting does not allow us to hold our ground, as Charles Stanley said in a sermon on this topic. It can be so pleasant to float in a raft on a mountain stream, enjoying the scenery and the warm sun. But if we are not careful to chart our course and to pay attention to warning signs, we may soon find ourselves in whitewater or even about to tumble down steep falls to our sure death.
Drifting begins slowly – perhaps a casual glance at something we should not be admiring, “social” drinking, or going somewhere we shouldn’t go because we don’t want to seem too prudish to our “friends” (Proverbs 1:10-19). Once we give place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27), he can establish a stronghold (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) in our life, and we may start backsliding into sin and away from God (Proverbs 14:14; Jeremiah 2:19).
Before we realize what has happened, we can get caught up in the undercurrent pulling us inexorably to where dangerous rocks threaten the safety of our raft. The temptations of today’s world are pervasive, ubiquitous, and addictive, whether they involve pornography, gambling, alcoholism or other substance abuse.
If we keep our wits about us while in the raft, we may become aware of the warning signs that we are headed for destruction – drifting into unfamiliar, choppy waters; increase in speed headed the wrong way; and even the constantly increasing roar of the falls nearby. But if we’re not careful, it will be too late, and we will plunge over the edge, losing not only our self-control and our blessings, but our life itself.
As Christians who have asked Jesus to be Lord of our life, we cannot lose our eternal life (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35-39). But if we continue to drift away from Him and ignore the Holy Spirit’s warnings (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30) to get back on course, we may lose privileges including our testimony, ministries, material blessings, health, and family. All these corrections, which God allows as part of His chastening process (Hebrews 12:6), can be the direct consequences of sin. We can even lose the joy of our salvation (Psalm 35:9; 51:12) and the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Ultimately, if we continue to rebel, even if passively by allowing the world to draw us under, God may allow Satan to end our earthly life, destroying our flesh before we dishonor Him any further (1 Corinthians 5:5). A Christian in that situation will still go to Heaven, but will suffer the loss of rewards he could have had by following God’s perfect plan for His life (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). As our former (late) pastor used to say, sometimes God gets more glory from a Christian’s death than He does from His life.
What a sad commentary and what a waste of the awesome privileges we have been given! Once we are saved, we are not only God’s children, but we are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) and fellow workers (1 Corinthians 3:9) with Christ! May we not through our own carelessness be relegated to the shelf or be a castaway (1 Corinthians 9:27), separated from opportunities for service. May we daily yield to the Holy Spirit’s direction, listen for His still small voice (1 Kings 19:12), pray, study His Word, and diligently paddle upstream, against the wicked undercurrent of this world to heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6) with Him!
© 2016 Laurie Collett