It’s been a few days since I wrote my last Selah Message. This hasn’t been because I was too busy nor lacking inspiration. To the contrary, God has been casting light through His word at every turn. If anything I’ve been overwhelmed with the blessings of His Grace.
But during these past several days of silence, I have noticed one thing that I keep being reminded of and that is that we (you and I as believers in Christ’s redemptive sacrifice) are or should be winners. And not just in a small way but in a scale beyond imagination we are the victors.
The first thing we have to settle on is what perspective we are going to view our position from. There are conflicting perspectives, so if we are to make a reasonable evaluation we are going to need to resolve what perspective is to be used from where we will observe our success or failure.
Our perspective drives our criteria. Let’s take a look at some of the possible perspectives that we might be considering. Coupled with these perspectives we’ll provide examples of ‘criteria’ that is coupled to a particular perspective.
This is the default state of unredeemed humanity. The ‘carnal nature’ is certainly not a perspective that the Christian should be evaluating their success on. That isn’t to say that the great deceiver doesn’t attempt to allure us into a false consideration of this perspective. Also because we live in the world we necessarily have to deal with the criteria of the ‘Carnal Nature’, but at the same time we need to control it and not the other way around.
|Money isn’t the root of all evil. Love of money however is:
1 Timothy 6:10 (CSB)
But if we were to make money a criteria then amassing wealth would become a priority for the carnal nature.
|Very similar to gathering money to oneself is the gathering of material items and property. So this would be physical items as well as real-estate assets.
Luke 12:16-21 (CSB)
While Christians live in the world they are not of the world once their lives have been surrendered to Christ.
Here is what Jesus had to say about that:
Matthew 6:19-21 (CSB)
Doesn’t everyone want to be popular and well liked? Again this nature while it is perhaps admirable in its purest form really isn’t a worthwhile objective for the Christian either.
Galatians 1:10 (CSB)
For am I now trying to persuade people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
The approval of God is by far more critical for the true believer than our popularity with people.
|Friendship is a good thing so long as the relationship is nurturing, but that isn’t always the case. Never should friendship come ahead of our faith in Jesus.
John 15:12-15 (CSB)
Christ was all about befriending folks. The relationship between Him and a believer is often referred to as a friendship. Jesus even went as far as to declare that we are to ‘love’ our enemies.
Matthew 5:44-45 (CSB)
Not that we need to fellowship with evil, but this shows the extremes that the Gospel teaches us we are extend our compassion. This is especially true of our association with other believers.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (CSB)
|Stardom sometimes just happens as a result of what we do, but we really need to take care to remain humble and not seek to inflate our status. Needless to say, happening as a fluke of our natural behavior is fairly rare. But is it something that a follower of Christ should strive for?
The Biblical position on this is summed up In:
Philippians 2:3 (CSB)
The family ranks high in the order of priorities for the faithful but family doesn’t outrank our commitment to Jesus. This also would be a difficult measure to gauge from the standpoint of dialing into a fixed criteria. It really falls under the Christ like nature.
Christ Like Nature
Romans 12:2 (CSB)
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Our journey to be a true believer; a real Christian and not just adopting the name, involves a change of ‘nature’. Repentance is the demonstration of Faith in action. A change from the natural state of humanity in a world full of sin and death. A change to be more like the savior, more like Jesus. As Paul writes in Romans to be ‘transformed’.
With this transformation, our gauge of success is altered from what the world would consider success to what Jesus considers success. This is the nature by which you and I as brethren in Christ Jesus need to examine ourselves.
2 Corinthians 13:5 (CSB)
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test.
So what are some criteria we can use to gauge just how well we are doing?
|Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
In our natural state we can’t stand to wait for anything. But God has his own timeline and we only have to look as far as Sarah in the Old Testament to see how we can mess up things by being impatient and acting on our own.
Inversely, displaying patience and allowing God time to work His will in our lives results in a healthy benefits; refresh of our strength and endurance. Not to mention the solution to what it is we are waiting upon.
|This goes hand in hand with patients. Trusting in the Lord’s guidance in His time, will provide us a level of guidance and direction that is beyond common reasoning. Of course it is beyond common reasoning; it is God’s reasoning.
Psalm 119:105 (CSB)
|Isaiah 41:10 (CSB)
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.
When we are living in the will of the almighty there is nothing to be afraid of, not even death. Yes this is courage but what is that courage driven by? Trust!
|Proverbs 3:5-6 (CSB)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.
Placing your faith in Christ’s power to redeem us from our fallen state is just the beginning of trust.
For most Christians (myself included) there is a constant struggle between fully surrendering to the Lord’s will; placing our full trust in him to sustain us and allowing the flesh to inject itself into our faithfulness to His Word. Self is the single most threatening ‘anti-Christ’ out there. Nothing as easily or relentlessly will provoke a separation between us and God. Seeking to drive a wedge pry us apart from the Savior’s Love and direction.
When we exhibit a lack of trust in God’s providence and plan for our lives, we need to immediately look at what element of ‘self’ is injecting itself into our relationship with the Lord.
|1 Corinthians 13:13 (CSB)
Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love—but the greatest of these is love.
I lump these three together because they are what remain when all the noise and clutter has settled. Faith, Hope and Love.
Faith – When we put into action our belief and trust in God. Faith is where these are put into action.
Hope – Reflecting back again on trust being the core component and how that battle of flesh is waged day in day out. We have hope in the promises of the Lord and look forward to the day when that Hope is fully realized.
Love – Considered by Paul to be the greatest of these. Jesus taught us to Love our neighbor as ourselves; to love our enemies; and to love our fellow brethren in Christ. God is pure love and it is befitting that one of the criteria we strive for is love as Jesus Loves us; without hesitation and completely.
Romans 8:35-39 (CSB)
Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
Because of you we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is where we were headed; ‘winning’ is a foolish concept to attempt to quantify. Why? Simply because this battle has been won on our behalf already. Won by ‘Lord of All’, who tells us:
John 14:15 (CSB)
“If you love me, you will keep my commands”.
What this writing does serve to do is to underscore where the enemy can and does attempt to dampen our effectiveness and fellowship with Jesus Christ. Knowing and being cognizant of these traps, as well as, being aware of the criteria we can focus on to combat the enemy and become more effective in our walk with the Lord.
The important victory is won for the Christian. Both sin and death have been vanquished. While we are present here in this world our missions are much smaller skirmishes. Important battles to be certain. Battles to fight back the anti-Christ of ‘self’, that would do everything it its power to drive a wedge between us and our savior. Putting down pride and hate. Crushing the oppressive spirits of fear and doubt.
1 Peter 5:8 (CSB)
Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.
We know that having given our lives to Christ we have surrendered to His will. How then can we take back authority, direction, and purpose from Him? We simply can’t if we are intent of following Him.
Matthew 16:24 (CSB)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
‘We are more than conquerors’ because we are emissaries of the King.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (CSB)
Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love—but the greatest of these is love.
Repeating this verse because within these are the essence of victory in our walk with the Lord.
Faith – In order to have faith, we must trust in what has been promised. To allow fear and doubt to cloud that diminishes our fellowship with the Lord.
Hope – A divine hope. A hope that endures and sustains us. Our hope IS Jesus Christ; what he has done, what he is doing in us and for us, and what he has planned for us.
Love – Which Paul noted, so appropriately, is the greatest. Greatest because it was for love that we were created. It was for love that God sought a means to redeem us. It was for love that Jesus choose to be born a man, live, teach, and die to purchase that redemption. It was for love that he destroyed sin and death for us. It was for love that he rose from the grave to bring us life eternal with Him and the Father. It was for love that he ascended to heaven to prepare a place for us to be with him forever. And lastly, it is for love that he comes again for us His bride, so we can live with Him and sing his praises beyond the ages.