The Missing Ingredient
I'm sitting here this morning sadly reflecting how little most of us have really lived the promises of God as believers. This book we have before us, this most cherished book we call the Bible and the Word of God, how few have really experienced the marvelous truths our God has promised to those who obey Him? For example, when this very same word promises God's people perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3, Philippians 4:6, 7), freedom from fear (2 Timothy 1:7)(Hebrews 2:14, 15; 13:5, 6)(1 John 4:4), joy (John 15:11)(Romans 14:17)(Philippians 4:4)(1 Thessalonians 5:16), guidance (Proverbs 3:6; 20:24), answered prayer (Psalms 55:16-19)(John 14:13, 14)(1 John 5:14, 15), a victorious life (2 Corinthians 2:14)(1 Corinthians 15:57, 58)(1 John 5:4) and even every spiritual blessing in Christ to include the adoption as sons, forgiveness and the permanant deposit of the Holy Spirit within us (Ephesians 1:13, 14), how many of us as believers are actually enjoying the fruit of these blessings? Are you?
There can be a variety of reasons for our failure to enter into all that God has promised us through our spiritual union with Jesus Christ. Even though all Christians in one sense possess all of the above things now, "all things belong to you" (1 Corinthians 3:21-23) we still fail to appropriate most of that which we have been given. Here are a few reasons why we fail to enter in:
1) We misunderstand or misapply a promise of God.
2) We fail to appropriate a promise of God.
3) We fail to meet the requirements of entering into what God has promised.
WE MISAPPLY A PROMISE OF GOD
"…and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land" [2 Chronicles 7:14]
How many times have we heard the verse above quoted by professing Christians in an attempt to make these verses applicable to our day and circumstances. Despite the context (verses 11-15) obviously referring to God's willingness to allow the Israelites to use Solomon's newly built temple as a house for sacrifice, there were certain conditions that had to be fulfilled by those Israelites. The promise above, despite how much "Christians" in America attempt to make it apply to themselves, has no relevance to that country whatsoever. The above promise like all of God's promises are for a particular people, for a particular time and for a particular purpose. God's promises do not coincide and apply to whoever or whatever certain individuals attempt to make them relevant to. This promise was given to Israel alone and cannot and does not apply to any other people, nation or situation. If in the unlikely event that "Christians" in America do temporarily humble themselves and turn from their sin, that in no manner guarantees that God will continue to allow those people to selfishly pursue the "American dream."
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you" [Matthew 6:33]
Once again here is a reassuring promise for our benefit. Despite how many people would attempt to use this promise to obligate God to grant them whatever they desire, the context obviously refers to daily food and clothing. "All things" is certainly not wealth or any other selfish desire.
WE FAIL TO APPROPRIATE A PROMISE OF GOD
Appropriation is a fancy word for taking possession or setting apart something for one's personal use or purpose- my definition. For example, let's take a promise of God such as John 14;13, 14;
"Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me in My name, I will do it.
Here is an awesome promise of God, one that leads men to ask for all kinds of things, many of which have little or nothing to do with God's will or glory. These are not promises to be taken lightly and are often connected with other promises and even other conditions. See: (James 4:3)(1 John 5:14, 15) and one of my favorites (Matthew 11:12). There is something to be said about motives as well as perseverance and God's will, none of which make the promise any less valid.
In 1 Corinthians 1:10 we find this request of Paul which was to be expected among this and every local ekklesia;
"Now I exhort you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and same judgment"
Now, in light of what we see all around us these days, do we find what Paul exhorted these believers to live true amongst us today? Although there are likely a few rare occasions, the majority of believers could only dream of living in such unity. How can this be?
What Paul expected was not and could not be based upon the Corinthians merely attempting to get along. He was certainly not hoping or encouraging them to agree to disagree. His confidence that this ought to be a reality was based upon what God had done in them spiritually verses what men do practically and have done. Note the words in verse 15, "baptised in my name." The divisions and quarrels that existed derived from individuals forming allegiances with those who had baptised them instead of recognizing the fact that they had all been spiritually baptised into Christ (into His name alone) – the origin of their present unity. It was their failure to recognize this accomplished fact and appropriate this truth that led to the discord among them.
Wherever a lack of practical unity amongst believer's exists, that disunity ultimately stems from a failure to appropriate what God has done and a temporal focus upon what we're trying to do in the flesh to create unity.
What about this verse in Romans 6:11;
"Even so consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus"
Dead to sin? How can that possibly be you say? The verse doesn't say we are literally dead to sin, meaning we no longer sin. We are dead to sin, freed from sin and literally cut off from sin through our union with Jesus Christ. Despite what we "see" about ourselves and our struggles, the verse says to consider (count as true) or appropriate this great fact, we are dead to sin. This is not a suggestion but a command of God.
This or any promise of God can be appropriated as it is united by faith through song, speech, writing, teaching, preaching, prophesizing or memorization. To claim what God promises by faith is not fantasy provided the promise itself is directed toward me as an individual and applicable to the time in which I live. The more we appropriate the Biblical facts (truths) the more they will practically manifest in our daily lives.
WE FAIL TO MEET THE REQUIREMENTS OF WHAT GOD HAS PROMISED
"The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You" [Isaiah 26:3]
Quite an awesome promise is it not? Nonetheless, unless one is determined to keep one's eyes upon their Lord continually, he or she is not likely to be either at peace or remain in a state of continual peace. The promise is conditional and only realized as the condition is met.
In the New Testament there are many promises given to individual believers and also promises that relate to the corporate body of Christ. Salvation for instance is a promise extended to individuals and requires an individual response of faith and a turning away from sin. It is extended to individuals and can only be received by those same individuals. There is a cost associated with salvation that affects me as an individual, a cost Jesus Himself asked men to consider as He walked among them upon this earth;
To His own called disciples:
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" [Luke 9:23-26]
And also to the unregenerate multitudes;
They must renounce their pride:
"When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this man' and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place…for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" [Luke 14:7-11]
They must renounce favoritism and earthly rewards:
"When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous" [Luke 14:12-14]
They must renounce family over the divisiveness of Jesus:
"Do you suppose that I came to grant peace upon earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three…." [Luke 12;51-53]
Jesus relates another parable in which one could calculate the cost of building a tower before the building process would begin. This would be to insure the builder would have enough resources to build it or have to abandon the project in shame and failure. He compares this to a professed disciple who fails to give up the right to all the possessions he has acquired for himself. [Luke 14:28-33]
They must repent verses comparing themselves to others:
"I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all of the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" [Luke 13:1-5]
What is the point Jesus is stressing over and over again in these passages and the ones that follow about the lost sheep (Matthew 15:3-7), the lost coin (8-10) and the lost son (11-32)?
A PRICE MUST BE PAID
Day after day, year after year we find, hear and read literature that tells and promotes God's salvation as being free. This is echoed in passages such as Romans 6:23 where it states;
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" …and in Ephesians 2:8, 9;
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast"
Is salvation free? Yes. But before we go out and tell the whole world about God's free salvation, we might want to consider why it's free. For unless we understand this, we will be found presenting a salvation to others that is not consistent with the salvation God Himself offers. We will find ourselves promising things to others that God Himself has never offered nor will He honor. This includes the absurdity of calling oneself a Calvanist or attempting to convince other people to become one. This is no more than sectarian jargon. Regardless of whether you think God chose or not (He obviously chose the 12 apostles), you may want to consider both the promise and warning in Peter below and get busy practicing it. Those who are saved MUST practice daily righteousness just as the unregenerate above MUST COUNT THE COST. God does not do either for men; they each must choose to obey.
God's salvation is free for two reasons. First, it is free because it cannot be earned. God's standard is perfection and sinful human beings cannot meet that standard. Secondly, salvation is free so no man can boast as if they attained God's standard. In this, God retains His glory in being the author of salvation.
Yes, salvation is free and praise God that it is! It is truly a marvel beyond words. That said and recognized, if we go on presenting a salvation to sinners that is exempt from cost that is not only contrary to what the Scriptures teach. it is the ultimate misrepresentation of God's truth and a false witness before men. We do well to communicate to others that our works do not save us, we also do well in being all the more diligent to make certain His calling and choosing us through a practice of righteousness (2 Peter 1:5-11). As can be seen through this verse, a practice of diligence, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love through faith guarantee an abundant entrance into Christ's eternal kingdom.
THE COST OF SALVATION
All true Christians are familiar with what it cost Jesus to bring us back into a harmonious relationship with God the Father. It is spoken of here in 1 Peter 3:18;
"For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just (Him) for the unjust (us), so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit…"
"We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world" [1 John 4:14]
"And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood their is no forgiveness" [Hebrews 9:22]
"For even the Son of Man didn't come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many" [Mark 10:45]
It was without question Jesus' entire willingness to obey His Father that enabled Him to become the perfect sacrificial lamb of God. "For what the Law could not do (make men acceptable before God) , weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" [Romans 8:3, 4]
THE REASON FOR MAN'S SALVATION
For far too long religious leaders have overemphasized the value of men at the expense of God Himself as if God was somehow lacking or needful of us humans. This is an entire reversal of the reality for which Jesus came. Yes it is true, God has showed His love toward humanity in and through His Son's sacrificial death, but not as a means for individuals to continue in their selfish rebellion against Him. Rather in His mercy, God has extended a most gracious opportunity for individual men and women to align themselves with His intentions by following in the footsteps of His Son in denying themselves and embracing a daily cross. In doing so, we renounce our sin, are true to God's Word and intentions and live as such before God and before men. 2 Corinthians 4:1, 2 says as much;
"Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God"
Even in our evangelism our primary reason is not for the benefit that sinners might derive but primarily on behalf of Christ Himself:
"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God," [2 Corinthians 5:20]
May I ask, "When is the last time you heard this type of gospel presentation? Instead, we're far too busy touting the benefits of becoming a "Christian" are we not?
Our individual witness as well as our corporate testimony of Christ suffers greatly because of our failure to present to both the sinners and the saints what God actually requires., In addition to this, it suffers further from most individual believer's refusal to suffer the consequences of attempting to put what God commands into practice.
In Matthew 22:7-13 we find a passage concerning the yearly Passover which was observed by the Israelites on a very specific day of the year. Of course we know today that this day would become the very day Jesus Himself would become the living sacrifice for the sins of the people we discussed earlier. Note several things about the passage above:
1) The Passover lamb had to be sacrificed (verse 7)
2) Jesus commanded His disciples to prepare it (verse 8)
3) They asked for His instructions in doing so (verse 9)
4) They were very specifically directed in how to go about doing so (verses 10-12)
5) They discovered everything He explained to them to be true as a result of their obeying His instructions (verse 13a)
6) As a result, they were able to prepare it properly (verse 13b)
My friends, "Do you see here what Jesus has made so plain here?" Nothing less than a simple blueprint for the Christian life! Yes, it's really that simple, that is, if you're willing to be sacrificed for the sake of all men.
God's conditional promises are setting the stage for the fulfillment of future promises He intends to fulfill provided we obey Him. This question remains: Are we willing to count the cost of what it takes to receive them? Are you?