SERVING THE LORD (EXCERPT OF THE THEOLOGY OF ROBERT B. THOMPSON)
Copyright © 2013 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
(“Serving the Lord” is taken from The Theology of Robert B. Thompson, copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson)
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Some passages of Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Serving the Lord
Table of Contents
Remaining in Christ
Deliverance From Sinful Behavior
Fighting the Good Fight, or Just Believing?
Being a Disciple
Being an Elder
Serving the Lord
The current Christian teaching does not follow the New Testament. I think it has been deeply penetrated by the philosophy of Humanism and the religion of Gnosticism.
The philosophy of Humanism places the welfare of man above all else and denies supernatural influences. The religion of Gnosticism places specialized knowledge above all else and views the physical world as evil.
We see the philosophy of Humanism in the prevailing view of the Apostle Paul’s teaching of “grace” as being the Divine covering of the sinful behavior of people. We see the religion of Gnosticism in the idea that confessing Christ and believing God raised Him from the dead removes the need for the new creation of righteous behavior.
Think about these two concepts, the idea that God wants to cover our sinful behavior, and is not especially interested that the believer in Christ become a new creation of righteous behavior.
Then compare them with the following verse:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1—NASB)
The great cloud of witnesses is described in the preceding chapter of the Book of Hebrews. These all are heroes of faith. They suffered every kind of rejection and privation as they strove to attain to a better resurrection.
Can you imagine a believer of today dying and passing into the spirit world, standing in the heavenly Jerusalem among the saints described in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, many of whom were tortured and martyred, and telling them how he escaped all suffering because he was saved by grace?
Our silly doctrines of today that teach us we will be “raptured” into Heaven before we possibly could suffer any inconvenience simply are not from the God of the Christian martyrs. The truth is, we have been deceived.
The way things are shaping up in the world the believers of today well may have opportunity to stand and proclaim Christ in the midst of the flames of persecution, and thus join the ranks of God’s witnesses.
What can we do about our feeble spiritual condition?
“Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
Does the above verse sound as though God sees us through Christ and so we no longer have to be concerned about our behavior? “Lay aside.” That sounds to me like something we are to do.
Lay aside what? “Every encumbrance.” An encumbrance is something that weighs us down, attempting to prevent our attaining to our objective. What is our objective? It is to serve the Lord faithfully every day. What encumbrances weigh us down? The attractions of the world, particularly of the American culture.
Do the electronic gadgets of our day weigh us down? They certainly do. We have been commanded to redeem the time; to make the best possible use of the time God has given us during our lifetime on the earth. We are busy at our school and work. We need to set aside time every day to pray and read our Bible.
Our fun with iPhones, iPads, and electronic instruments and games use up time. They do not build us up in the Kingdom. We are going to have to answer for wasting what God has given us. Our inheritance will be given to another and we will be sent into the Land of Darkness when the Lord appears.
Attempting to attain to our high calling in Christ while amusing ourselves with the electronic gadgets is like running a race with iron shoes.
“Lay aside the sin which so easily entangles us.” Where does “grace” enter in here? God’s grace authorizes us to turn aside from the Law of Moses and seek the Lord Jesus. As we cooperate with the Spirit of God, He points out the sin that is binding us. Then God’s grace, his power, enables us to lay aside the sin that has been pointed out to us by the Spirit.
“Run with endurance.” Running is hard work. Running spiritually is hard work. Running is painful. Running spiritually is painful at times. We have to endure hardness, the Bible says, as good soldiers. How does this line up with today’s doctrine of easy “grace”?
“The race that is set before us.” “What race,” today’s coddled believer may ask, “I thought all I had to do was say I accept Christ and I will go to Heaven when I die and live in a mansion on a golden street!”
The “race” is that of pressing forward against the many encumbrances, the many problems, the many doubts, the many lusts and passions of our flesh and spirit, the many criticisms and mockings, the barrage of garbage bombarding us continually from the media. All of these strive mightily to persuade us to live in the swamp of fleshly thrills.
“A little slumber, a little folding of the hands”—thus we Americans sleep on as the forces that hate America gather their resources and plot our annihilation.
I am not certain we can save our country. But each of us as an individual can flee in our heart from the current preaching that is telling us how much God loves us and will never permit us to be harmed.
How soon disaster and chaos will strike, I am not certain. But when it does, only those who are obeying Hebrews 12:1 will stand victoriously in our Lord Jesus Christ and assist their loved ones and friends.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Remaining in Christ
I do not believe enough attention is being paid to the development of Christ in us, and then the abiding of the Father and Christ in that which is developed in us. It is true that when the New Testament speaks of our gaining eternal life it is referring to immortality in the body. Nevertheless, the gaining of immortality in the body depends on the forming and dwelling of Christ in us.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. (John 15:4—NASB)
It is of the utmost importance in the present hour that we remain in Christ; that we learn to live by the Life of Christ. We are facing chaotic days in America. The light commitment of so many churchgoers will not survive the dark pressures of the future. Satan is being released, it appears, and many Americans are showing murderous hatred toward each other.
Our present government seems bent on leaving the old ways of America. While the old ways were far from perfect, there was an attempt to at least show respect toward the moral standards set forth in the Bible. The recent hostility toward Christians in America is true also in England at the present time, we may notice.
There are alien gods seeking to influence our country, gods our fathers would never have accepted. Actually there appear to be two Americas at the present time: one America that is longing for the old, familiar folkways; another newer America that is espousing moral standards that are repugnant to many of us.
Although the media do not seem to recognize this, the division no longer is between conservative and liberal thought, it increasingly is between those who are holding to previous moral standards and those who reflect global, secular values.
The pressure in the coming days will be too much for the average American churchgoer to resist. He may wonder what the country is coming to, and fret about the changes in thinking and behavior. But there will be little he can do about it except voice his indignation. The truth is, the conflict is between Christ and his adversaries, and human efforts to effect change are not sufficiently powerful or wise.
Because of our inability to successfully combat this new level of evil, Christ is urging all today who will obey Him to lay aside all their former methods and plans and seek to remain in him, to live by his Life. Religious efforts that may have borne fruit in time past no longer will avail.
How, then, do we remain in Christ? We remain in Christ by seeking Him every moment of every day and the part of every night in which we are awake. We pray without ceasing, as the Apostle Paul admonished us. We keep looking to Jesus at every point of decision, talking to him, asking his guidance and help, giving thanks for each answer to prayer.
You may notice the proliferation of electronic devices, the various cell phones, tablets, and so forth. These increasingly fascinating devices serve to keep us from looking to Jesus. In America we have numerous distractions, including the television and the Internet. The various manufacturers of electronic communication instruments and games are laboring day and night to gain our attention so they might make more money. You may notice also the ever increasing emphasis on sexual activity, particularly involving nakedness.
We are in the closing days of the Church Age and the tares are coming to maturity. It also is time for the wheat, the Lord’s righteous people, to come to maturity. Our maturity is the fullness of Christ in us. This maturity will completely overcome the tares of wickedness; but mere human efforts will not survive the conflict.
The Lord Jesus has given us a period of time in which to learn to remain in him. There is unrest and rebellion in some parts of the world, and a bit of this in America in the present hour. We are not accustomed to see such displays of rage. But rebellion against authority is being exercised at this time.
We absolutely must learn to walk with Jesus in every part of our daily life, not just during Sunday worship or other religious observances.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:2—NASB)
Not only are we in danger from the forces of spiritual darkness that are increasing, but God has warned us that if we do not bear the fruit He is looking for, we will be removed from Christ, from the Vine. The fruit is the moral image of Christ in ourselves and in those whom we influence. The only way in which we can bear the moral image of Christ is by remaining in his Presence and will at all times.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. (John 15:4—NASB)
All of our religious efforts will come to nothing if we are not remaining in Christ.
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5—NASB)
A tree does not have to strain to bear fruit, but it must remain in the ground in order to do so. Neither do we have to strain to bring forth the image of Christ in ourselves and in others. But we do have to remain in Christ.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10—NASB)
The massive error of our times is that of emphasizing believing in Christ when we should be emphasizing obeying Christ. The current message is that by grace we are relieved from obeying the commands of Christ and his Apostles. “We are saved by grace rather than by works,” it is maintained vigorously.
We understand that Paul meant we are not saved by the works of the Law of Moses. However, numerous Christians are not at all clear about this. To interpret Paul’s exhortation to mean we are not saved by obeying the commands of Christ and his Apostles is the worst possible error. The emphasis on grace rather than on obedience to Christ has destroyed the testimony of God in the United States.
If we keep the commands of Christ we will remain in his love. If we do not keep the commands of Christ, and those He gave through His Apostles, we will not remain in his love. We will not bear fruit. We will be cut out of the Vine.
This idea that grace excuses us from having to obey God and Christ is firmly entrenched in fundamentalist Christian thinking. But it is false and destructive. The effect of this widespread error is directly responsible for the weakening of our country.
The grace error is based on the fact that we cannot possibly keep the commandments of God and Christ. It is true that we cannot keep God’s commandments in our own strength and wisdom. But there is wisdom and power under the new covenant to deliver us from Satan and to enable us to obey Christ.
Is it a new thought to us that the Lord Jesus Christ has the authority and power to enable us to obey him, his Apostles, and his Father? He kept his Father’s commandments. We are to keep his commandments. What could be plainer than this?
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10—NASB)
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love.
Now I am yelling at you. Could we be so bold as to venture that if we do not keep the commands of Christ we will not remain in his love—in fact, we will be cut out of the Vine?
When I first was brought to Christ while in the Marine Corps, I was taught that we must believe the Bible is God’s Word. I believe the Bible is God’s Word. Do you?
Who do you believe is the source of the concept that grace takes the place of keeping the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you have any idea? I do, and it isn’t God!
So we have a tremendous lie, a new gospel that is taking the place of denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following our Lord at all times.
Certainly the Lord said that if we do not remain in Him we will not bear fruit and will be cut out of the Vine. Certainly the Lord said that we remain in his love provided we keep His commands.
Oh yes, the Lord said those things. But we know better. We know that Paul told us we are not saved by works, and so Paul knows better than Christ. Do you believe this? Neither do I.
What did Paul mean when he said we are not righteous by works? He meant that we no longer are found righteous by observing the works of the Law of Moses. How come everyone doesn’t understand this? It is no wonder I yell. People, we are supposed to go by the Bible, not by the traditions of Bible teachers!
There are many unscriptural teachings brought forth every Sunday in the United States of America. But beyond all doubt, the most horribly destructive is the idea that Paul taught we do not have to keep the commands of Christ. What doctrine possibly could be more against the will, ways, and purposes of God? It is a false witness of God! Maybe this is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans mentioned in the Book of Revelation. It certainly has conquered the people!
I don’t claim that it really is that doctrine. But if anything it may be worse!
I am too old to be carrying on like this. But I do hope to see a giant turn around before I die, in which God’s people are walking with the Lord Jesus and obeying his commands. Wouldn’t that be the most wonderful thing that could happen!
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (John 15:6—NASB)
Deliverance From Sinful Behavior
I believe the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans may be either the most greatly misunderstood or the most largely ignored of all the passages of the Bible. If our Christian leaders had preached this passage as it stands, we would not be in the current disaster in which Divine grace is portrayed as an alternative to godly personality and behavior, on the part of the believers.
The very first verse of the sixth chapter shows that the current teaching of sovereign “grace” is a destructive error.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1—NASB)
The Apostle Paul understood that his emphasis on righteousness apart from the works of the Law of Moses would be interpreted to mean righteousness apart from godly behavior. Actually, sin is the breaking of the eternal law of God, of which the Law of Moses is an abridged form. The power of sin is the Law!
Therefore, the Apostle issued a disclaimer: “I am not saying that as we turn from the Law of Moses and place our faith in Jesus Christ we now are free to sin. It is only as we put to death the deeds of our body through the wisdom and power of the Spirit of God that we lay hold on eternal life.
“You do not understand God at all if you think for one moment that He has issued a new covenant that permits sin. Rather, the new covenant is the writing of God’s eternal moral law in our minds and hearts, not the abandoning of God’s law. God’s law is what He is, and He cannot have fellowship with those who reject his Person, way, and will.”
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:2—NASB)
The key to understanding this chapter is the expression: “who have died to sin.” Exactly what does this mean? Are we saying we can’t sin? Of course not. If we claim that we do not sin, the Apostle John would refer to us as a liar.
“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase,” Paul asks.
Are we saying it does not matter if we sin? This position would go against many passages of the New Testament.
No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. (I John 3:6—NASB)
Does the expression “we who died to sin” mean, as so many are saying today, that when we sin God sees us through Christ so it is just as though we did not sin?
Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God I speak this to your shame. (I Corinthians 15:34—NASB)
If God does not see our sinning because of Christ, then what sense does the above verse make?
Well then, what does the expression “who have died to sin” mean? How have we died to sin? We have counted that we have been crucified with Christ. Because of this we are free from the Law of Moses. But we never are free from the way of righteousness. We are to take the position by faith that we have been crucified with Christ. Now we have died to sin. Now we are free to turn from Moses and place our faith in Christ.
Christ has given us the Spirit of God, whose task it is to lead us in putting to death the actions of our sinful nature. When we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit, it is as though we had kept the Law of Moses perfectly, even if we have never read the Law of Moses. The righteousness of the One who kept the Law perfectly and completely is imputed to us.
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 8:4—NASB)
If we are to receive the ascribed righteousness promised to those who turn from Moses to Christ, we must be cooperating with the Spirit of God as He leads us in putting to death the actions of our sinful nature.
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? (Romans 6:3—NASB)
The above verse is the attitude we must take throughout our entire Christian discipleship. When we are baptized in water we are dramatizing the fact that we are being baptized into Jesus’ death on the cross.
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4—NASB)
After we have been baptized in water we are to hold firmly throughout our lifetime to the fact that we have been baptized into the death of Christ so we may live a new life, which actually is his life. We keep on being brought down to weakness and futility and keep on being raised by eternal resurrection life.
Since we are living in resurrection life along with Christ, it is expected that we do not keep sinning; and when we do sin, and confess that sin, there is authority to forgive the sin and power to give us victory over that compulsion in the future. Meanwhile, we continually count that we are dead and alive in Christ.
For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, (Romans 6:5—NASB)
Our hope (and I cannot emphasize this too strongly!) of being raised from the dead when Christ next appears depends on our living today in union with his death and resurrection. We are working out our resurrection today, although the manifestation of what we are maintaining by faith will not occur until the Lord appears.
(As I reflect on what I am writing at this point I realize it may be “over the heads” of the majority of the Christian people in America; not because they are stupid but because they have not been taught. But perhaps there may be one or two in each assembly of Christians, a remnant, who will hear and obey what is declared in the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans.)
Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; (Romans 6:6—NASB)
Our “old self” refers to our original adamic personality. The “body ruled by sin” is speaking of our sinful nature. In order that sin may be removed from us, so that we no longer are slaves to it. our entire first personality, the adamic personality, the good and the bad of it, must be crucified. It is only as we are willing to participate in the sufferings of Christ that the Spirit of God can get at the sinful nature that dwells in our flesh, and destroy it.
This is how we are delivered from the sin that dwells in our body.
For he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:7—NASB)
When we count that we have been crucified with Christ, we are asserting that we have died. God regards this as a genuine death, and that is why judgment follows our profession of faith. When we die in Christ in this manner, we legally are free to leave Moses and be married to Christ.
Our past sins, then, are no longer remembered against us. So our remaining problem is to follow the Holy Spirit as He sets us free from the compulsions of sin. This He does, one at a time, as we follow Him diligently.
This is the program of redemption. It proceeds until finally, at the Lord’s return, physical death itself is overcome and we are removed from its authority and power. Such is a primary goal of the Christian warfare—immortality in the body.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, (Romans 6:8—NASB)
Remember, Paul in this chapter is telling us that by saying we attain to righteousness apart from the works of the Law of Moses, he does not mean we are free to sin. What Paul is teaching in Chapter Six of Romans is how we can be set free from sin. Not from the guilt of sin, because that was accomplished on the cross. But from the power of sin to keep us in slavery to it.
The solution to the problem of slavery to sin is to live with Christ. This means we continually, night and day, invite Christ into every aspect of our thinking, speaking, and acting. For us to live is to remain in Christ in all that we do. We have died with Him that we might live with him. This is what it means to abide in Christ. The fruit of our abiding is freedom from the power of sin, and transformation into Christ’s moral image.
Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. (Romans 6:9—NASB)
Physical death has no power over Christ. The program of redemption works in us until it will be true of us that physical death no longer has mastery over us. “The sting of death is sin.” As through Christ we gain victory over indwelling sin, we are gaining victory over the authority and power of physical death.
Mankind lost access to immortality, in the Garden of Eden, by being denied access to the Tree of Life. As we, through Christ, are able to gain victory over the compulsions of sin. we are permitted to eat from the Tree of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is how we attain to the resurrection unto eternal life and glory, the resurrection that was the goal of the Apostle Paul.
Through our Lord Jesus we thus are able to regain our lost inheritance—that of immortality. Such is the promise of John 3:16.
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. (Romans 6:10—NASB)
Our present sufferings will one day come to an end. Let us therefore live our life unto God, as did the patriarch, Enoch. We are not of this present world. We have been called out of the world that we may become a member of the Royal Priesthood. We must always keep this in mind so it will be revealed in our personality and behavior.
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11—NASB)
Let us consider that we have died to sin once. We have been freed for eternity from the guilt of sin, provided we follow the Holy Spirit until He completely destroys our sin nature. The Bible teaches that God intends to “put and end to sin” once and for all, and to “bring in everlasting righteousness”:
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. (Daniel 9:24—NASB)
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, (Romans 6:12—NASB)
For so long the Christian churches have taught that we cannot gain victory over sin! We must rely on “grace” as a substitute for growth in Christ. But this is a lie, and an exceedingly destructive one at that. The Spirit of God in the Apostle Paul commands us to not let sin govern our actions; to “not obey its evil desires.”
When we teach that it is no use trying to keep from sinning we are doing the devil’s business. (Such darkness reigns in the Christian churches!) Of course we cannot overcome sin by our own strength and wisdom! But through our Lord Jesus Christ we indeed can overcome any and all sinful actions, provided we carefully follow and obey the mighty Spirit of God.
Jesus Christ is stronger than Satan! Let all the saints of God say, “Amen!”
And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:13—NASB)
Here is a choice each one of us must make. We can offer ourselves to sin, or we can offer ourselves to God. If we are to gain victory over sin, we must live a consecrated Christian life. This means to set aside time to pray each day; to read our Bible each day; to attend the assembling of fervent believers consistently; to give of our means as the Lord directs; to seek the gifts of the Spirit so we can serve the Body of Christ; to look to Christ continually throughout the day and night.
We absolutely must present our body a living sacrifice so we may prove the will of God for our life. We must keep away from the activities of the world as much as possible, praying carefully about all we are doing. The Bible commands us to “redeem the time.” This means we have no time to spend on that which is worthless, such as on the ever growing array of electronic gadgets.
In all that we do, we must look to Jesus to see if we are spending our time wisely, using our talents and resources to help with the building of the Kingdom of God. Nothing less than what I have just written is an acceptable Christian life.
If we do not do these things, we will not lay hold on eternal life. We will not grow in the ability to resist sin. We will not be able to stand, or to help our loved ones to stand, during the moral chaos that America is entering, as God removes his Presence from us because of our sinning. Every part of our personality is to be an instrument of righteousness.
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14—NASB)
When we are seeking to live righteously by obeying the Law of Moses, sin masters us. The Law tells us what is sinful, but it does not provide us with the grace of God. The grace of God is the Lord Jesus Christ. He gives us victory over sin if we walk with Him at all times.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! (Romans 6:15—NASB)
Apparently there were people in Paul’s day, just as there are in our day, who taught that because we no longer are under the Law of Moses but under Divine grace, we now are free to sin. Thus we are wresting Paul’s teaching to our own destruction, just as they did so many centuries ago.
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Romans 6:16—NASB)
If we want to we can choose to be the slave of sin. This will lead us to spiritual death, even though at one time we received Christ and were baptized in water.
Or we can choose to be the slave of Christ and obey him. This choice will lead us to righteousness in God’s sight, and eternal life.
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, (Romans 6:17—NASB)
“You used to be slaves to sin.” Does that sound to you like we are compelled to keep on sinning while we are in this world? If we are willing to obey from our heart Christ and His Apostles, we will free ourselves from slavery to sin. We will save ourselves. We will lay hold on eternal life.
Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. (I Timothy 4:16—NASB)
And having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:18—NASB)
One of the great areas of misunderstanding of our day has to do with the difference between the guilt of sin and the power of sin. When the above verse speaks of being set free from sin. the preceding verses show us beyond all doubt that Paul is not speaking here of the guilt of sin but of the power of sin to control our behavior.
I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. (Romans 6:19—NASB)
I do not see what could be clearer. Think of the preaching about “grace” today, and then see how different it is from the idea that we must offer ourselves as “slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.”
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. (Romans 6:20—NIV)
This is an interesting thought, isn’t it? It appears we Christians are controlled either by sin or by righteousness. This does not leave anyone in the middle, I guess.
Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. (Romans 6:21—NASB)
Remember, this chapter is addressed to Christians who have been baptized in water. If we choose to be the slave of sin, we will die spiritually. This means when the Lord appears, we will not be raised from the dead and ascend to meet Him in the air.
I have never heard a minister preach this. It appears that the majority of Christian pastor and evangelists tell us we ought to try to do good, but if we fail it does not matter because we are going to go to Heaven by “grace.”
The prevailing error in Christian thinking is that Christ came to bring us to Heaven. There is no basis in the New Testament for this idea. The issue is life, not Heaven, especially immortality in the body. Christ is our Redeemer. He came to enable us to regain what we lost through Satan’s trickery.
What we lost was not residence in Heaven, it was access to the Tree of Life so we would not die physically. Isn’t that what John 3:16 says? The term “perish” is used in the Gospels to mean the loss of physical life.
I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3—NASB)
Notice, in the following two verses, how the term “perish” is employed in the context of the resurrection. “The last enemy to be destroyed is physical death.” Therefore the “perishable,” in verse 53, refers to the death of the physical body. God so loved the world that the physical body of the believer in Christ would not perish but through the enveloping of the Holy Spirit in the Day of Christ would attain to immortality.
This was the goal of the Apostle Paul. The true goal of redemption has been lost as Christian thinking has concerned itself primarily with spiritual death and spiritual life.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (I Corinthians 15:26—NIV)
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (I Corinthians 15:53—NIV)
Sometimes I wonder how all of this is going to work out. It seems as though most Christian people of today are not presenting their body a living sacrifice. Rather they are waiting to go to a mansion in Heaven, being carried there in a “rapture.” This is so unscriptural it is ludicrous.
I do not believe they all are going to Hell or the Lake of Fire, unless they are wicked. I think if the sixth chapter of Romans were carefully explained to them, numerous believers would come to Christ that they might gain victory over sin.
There is no way that anyone is going to be raised from the dead and ascend to Christ until first that individual has appeared before the Judgment Seat of Christ and has confessed and renounced his or her sins and stubborn disobedience.
There is doctrinal chaos today, no two ways about it.
But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. (Romans 6:22—NIV)
Please remember that in context, “set free from sin” is not speaking of being set free from the guilt of sin but set free from the power of sin to control us.
The Divine gift of eternal life, including immortality in the body, results from holiness of personality and behavior. Holiness of personality and behavior results from our choosing to be slaves of God and of righteousness, rather than slaves of sin.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23—NASB)
Perhaps you will think I am exaggerating, but Romans 6:23 actually is being preached today to the unsaved rather than to Christians, to whom it is written. The current idea was presented on a sign outside a church. The sign said, “Come inside and find out about a free trip to Heaven.” “A free trip to Heaven!” How unscriptural can you get?
I have heard it said that If someone handed you a fifty-dollar bill you would take it. Why won’t you accept the gift of eternal life?
I suspect that many true Christians have come to Christ and eternal life in this manner. But if they did, they had to at some point turn away from slavery to sin and embrace slavery to God and righteousness.
The gift is that of the opportunity to gain bodily immortality, that which was lost in the beginning. Our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, enables us to escape the clutches of Satan and embrace God and his righteousness. Christ has redeemed us, that is, He has paid for us with his blood on the cross.
As we day by day turn away from sin and seek to live righteously, we grow in holiness. The result of growing in holiness is growth in resurrection life, in bodily immortality. Immortality will be given to us when the final trumpet blows and Christ appears.
I think it is time for God’s people to take a careful look at the sixth chapter of Romans. It appears that at some point we have gotten off the Gospel track.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1—NIV)
Fighting the Good Fight, or Just Believing?
About forty years ago I was at a low place emotionally. The psychiatrist at the University of Rochester diagnosed the depression as “graduate anxiety.” I was working toward the degree Doctor of Education.
One night as I was lying in bed a spirit (or the Lord) came to me. He said to me, “I love to fight.” From that moment I began to recover. It took me about two years to recover completely from anxiety, but I finally did.
About ten years ago I was on my prayer walk. I said to the Lord, “Why don’t Christian people fight instead of complaining and feeling sorry for themselves?”
The Lord lifted the fighting spirit from me for a few moments. Then I realized that the willingness to fight is a gift from the Lord.
You know, a considerable part of the Old Testament has to do with war. Many of the Psalms, for example. The New Testament exhorts us to endure hardship as good soldiers of Christ. But I am not hearing much about fighting in the preaching of today. Are you? Rather, the emphasis is on how wonderful and pleasant everything will be if we will only “accept Christ.”
I have not found everything to be pleasant since I accepted Christ. Have you? Wonderful, but very challenging. Pleasant, no—especially when we are being sifted by Satan!
The Book of Revelation tells us that the rewards we normally associate with being a Christian are reserved for the “overcomers.” Like ruling with Christ, or walking in white as a member of the Royal Priesthood, for example.
The term “overcome” implies victory over some sort of opposition. The Book of Revelation was written to Christians, wasn’t it? So “to overcome” means more than “accepting Christ.”
Has it been true with you, as it has with me, that every day (I have been a Christian for 65 years) we are faced with the decision to resist our sinful nature, or with other sorts of challenges to our abiding in Christ; and we have to choose whether to do what is right or to do what is pleasing to us?
Often to do what is right or to do what is pleasing to us are not the same; and it is at this point that the godly remnant are distinguished from so many church-attenders.
Am I the only one with whom such a daily battle takes place? I don’t think so, after reading the testimony of other Christians.
So what does it mean “to overcome”? It means to be able to look up to the Lord Jesus at every moment of the day and night and know we have done and are doing what He is requiring of us.
I understand numerous Christians live under perpetual condemnation, having been taught that “no one is perfect.” If they dare consider their own actions they realize their behavior is questionable at best. But they ave been taught “grace,” “grace,” “grace.”
They throw off any questions they have about their actions and trust that the “grace teaching” is of God and they will go to Heaven and live forever in a mansion, even though their behavior has not been in accordance with the standard set by the New Testament.
They never have denied themselves, taken up their personal cross, and followed the Lord Jesus into the battle against the great lie the world system is.
Some while back a student at a Bible college told me that a lady had mentioned to the teacher that she felt guilty about a certain action. The teacher responded by saying that God saw her through Christ so she could not possibly be condemned or guilty. Where is this expression in the Bible?
In another instance, a student at a different Bible college told me that when in their study they came to Second Corinthians 5:10, about the Judgment Seat of Christ, the professor comforted them by saying they had no need to worry, this verse does not apply to them.
But it certainly applied to the Apostle Paul!
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. (II Corinthians 5:11—NIV)
The student recounting this incident to me said you could feel a wave of relief go through the class, all of whom were studying for the ministry. Imagine! All these believers studying for the ministry, and they felt a wave of relief when they were being taught error. This should warn us of how easy it is to be deceived!
These two incidents actually took place. The two Bible colleges are part of a large Pentecostal denomination.
Can you see how Satan has disarmed God’s potential warriors? They have no need to fight. There is no battle. Christ has done it all. We remain in Christ by doing nothing but believing we are remaining in Christ.
When I was younger, and this horrible travesty of the new covenant became clear to me, I was not pleasant to listen to. I yelled and ranted, thinking that my listeners were deliberately being blind to what the Bible said.
Actually they weren’t. They merely were believing what they had been taught.
The result of the disarming of the believers, due to the preaching of “easy believability,” is that much sin is being practiced in the United States. As long as our culture seemed to proceed relatively intact, the Christian people continued to live their comfortable life, listening to the late-night comedians utter their blasphemies. But now we in America have asked for Tash, and Tash has come, as Lewis said in The Last Battle.
Now we have a President and a Congress who appear to be moving our nation away from our traditional values. Slowly but surely the American people are awakening to the fact that our way of life is being threatened.
I am not certain there is enough grief over the major sin, which is abortion. The main concern has to do with our economic system and our “rights” to privacy and self-determination. These are not important to God. But abortion is important enough to remove the United States of America from its role as a major power down to the place of a third-rate nation, while the leadership of the world moves to the East.
If such destruction does not begin to occur within ten years I am quite mistaken.
The battle to preserve the American way of life cannot be won by political action, or even by civil war. It is a spiritual problem. It can be won only by a massive return to godly behavior on the part of the Christian people. Such a return will not take place as long as our Christian leaders maintain that we are saved by belief in forgiveness (grace) alone and our behavior is secondary, if not inconsequential, in importance.
Since I do not believe the leaders are going to change their message, I am pressing as close to Jesus as I can and am encouraging all who listen to me to do the same. I don’t think we can save our country, but we can save ourselves and our loved ones if we will seek Christ at all times, day and night.
Do you remember how God took care of Jeremiah when the people of Israel were being carried off to Babylon and their nation ruined? God can save an individual in the midst of chaos.
How does the new covenant, the plan of salvation, actually work—that is, that which has taken the place of the Law of Moses?
Under the Law of Moses, the believer attained to righteousness by observing to do all that the Law stipulated. These observances were increased in number by the Jewish interpretations of the Law, such as the Talmud.
Then “grace and truth” appeared in the Lord Jesus Christ. But I fear the grace and the truth have been misunderstood and misapplied.
The widespread belief, at least in America, is that we now are free from the Law of Moses, and mercy and forgiveness have taken the place of the Law. Also, that the freely given righteousness ensures we will enter Heaven when we die and live forever in a mansion. There we will be praising God for eternity.
(This is an interesting concept, in that most believers have a problem praising God for ten minutes!)
So we now have an unscriptural plan of salvation and an unscriptural goal (eternal existence in a mansion in the spirit world).
Let me discuss these two elements: the plan, and then the result of the plan, the actual goal of salvation.
We know that presenting the plan as an eternal forgiveness that operates independently of our behavior is incorrect, because in several passages the Apostle Paul tells us that if we continue to obey our sinful nature we will not inherit the Kingdom of God. In the Day of Resurrection we will experience corruption. Also, the Lord Jesus told us plainly, in the last chapter of the Bible, that He is going to reward each of us according to our works.
Thus we have an unscriptural plan.
But what then is the covenant, the plan that replaces the Law of Moses. The plan is as follows:
I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:19-23—NIV)
Does the passage above sound like the current preaching?
What plan replaces the Law of Moses? The power of Divine grace that sets us free from the bondages of sin so we might become a slave of God and thus receive immortality.
We are forgiven through the blood atonement. Then the problem is our sinful nature. As the new birth develops in us, our old sinful nature is rendered powerless. Christ is formed in us. The Holy Spirit continually is renewing us in the Life of Christ. These Divine renewals were not available under the Law of Moses. It is a new covenant. This is transformation, not just forgiveness. It leads to “doing what is good.”
Our unscriptural goal is eternal existence in a mansion in the spirit world. What, then, is the scriptural goal?
There are two dimensions of the scriptural goal. The first dimension is our complete transformation into the image of God in personality and behavior, and then into the likeness of God in our appearance.
Change into the image of God means that we behave as God behaves. Change into the likeness of God means we look like God. The change in likeness depends on the change in image. The change in image begins now. But both will require ages to accomplish fully.
The second dimension of the scriptural goal is what the Book of Hebrews terms the “rest of God.” The rest of God is our eternal Sabbath. As we enter the rest of God we begin to think as God is thinking; speak as God is speaking; act as God is acting. We are at perfect rest in the very center of God’s Person. We always do his will by nature and delight in it, just as our Lord Jesus does.
I have no idea how long it will take for Christian thinking to change from the forgiveness-mansion mind set to the transformation-“rest of God” mind set. But until it does, the churches will continue to be filled with believers who are living in the sinful, adamic nature, pursuing their independent life according to their own plans and ambitions.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20—NASB)
Being a Disciple
From listening to believers I have come to the conclusion that Christian people in America regard being a disciple as something different from being just a Christian person. This concept reveals how low the standard is today as regards to what it means to be a true Christian.
A Christian is a disciple of Christ. A disciple of Christ is a Christian. The terms are absolutely synonymous. There is no basis whatever for viewing a disciple as some sort of superior Christian.
And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts11:26—NASB)
“The disciples were called Christians.” I seriously doubt that at that time there was another group of believers who were called Christians but who were not disciples. How do you feel about this?
If such is the case, then at what point in church history were there believers in Christ who were not disciples?
But let us think for a moment about what a disciple is.
And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:22-26—NIV)
We can insert the term “Christian” and be perfectly consistent with Bible usage.
“If anyone would be a Christian, he must deny himself.”
What does it mean to deny ourselves? It means to make the Lord Jesus the focus of our lives. When what Christ wants is pleasant for us, then we are to follow his leadership. When what Christ wants is very unpleasant for us, then we are to pray for wisdom and strength and obey Christ. Always! There is no exception to this for the individual who wants to be a Christian, a disciple.
“If anyone would be a Christian he must take up his cross daily and follow me.”
What is our cross? It is some aspect of our life that is not pleasing to us. It may be that what we want we cannot have without disobeying Christ. It may be that we are required to remain in a situation we detest, but we cannot leave without disobeying Christ.
For the true Christian, there is no exception to this. If he does step out of the Lord’s will, then Christ may, out of his love, bring much trouble on his disciple. If the disciple repents and returns to the discipline required of him, then the Lord will forgive him and he is to press forward in Christ.
The true Christian follows Christ daily. His whole life is centered on finding the Lord’s will for him each day, and praying for wisdom and strength so he can do it perfectly. This is the true Christian walk. There do not seem to be a great many church members who take up their cross and follow Christ each day; but these, and these alone, are the Christians. The rest are only church members. They are not “in Christ” and they will not die “in Christ,” and therefore will not be raised to meet Him in the air when He appears.
From the mutterings and rumblings I have heard here and there, I think we are at the beginning of a period, at least in America, when true Christians realize that what goes on in numerous Christian churches has little to do with Christ, his Gospel, and the Kingdom of God. What we have are organizations that operate as a business. The goal is to acquire more money and more people. It often is true that there is not an emphasis on cross-carrying obedience to Jesus Christ.
I believe it is entirely possible that the true Christians will leave the traditional churches and develop forms of fellowship that emphasize a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Perhaps the destruction of our American way of life at the hands of wicked people will serve as a catalyst that will hasten the removal of the true disciples from the fleshly churches of our time.
“If any person wants to save his or her life, he or she will lose it.”
How is it that if a person seeks to save his life he will lose it? Christ has called us to turn away from our own life and to live according to his will for us. If we choose instead to follow our own path, we will lose our inheritance as a child of God and come to an unpleasant end. We sought to grasp what we desired, and in doing so we lost everything of eternal value.
“If any person loses his or her life for Christ, he or she will save it.”
If instead of following our own desires we live each day in the Lord’s will, then all that will bring righteousness, love, joy, and peace to us will be given to us. By turning away from our own path, we gain everything of value. This Adam and Eve did not do, and reaped misery.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24-25—NIV)
If we live in our own pleasures, we will live and die alone. If we lose our life in Christ we will have an inheritance of God and people.
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”
Most of us look to the world for our survival, security, and comfort. We may yield to the lusts and passions of our flesh and spirit. We may strive to be preeminent, to gain power and fame, or wealth. We may want to “be somebody.”
But what if in the pursuit of our own goals we lose our very personality, our soul, our uniqueness as an individual? This is what it may mean, you know. We lose our soul, that gift from God that makes it possible for us to be in his image. Then what are we?
And also forfeited our body. As Paul said, if we yield to our sinful nature we will reap corruption. By this Paul meant that in the Day of Resurrection our animated flesh and bones will not be clothed upon with a house from Heaven, a body of eternal life.
To lose our uniqueness as a personality indeed is a fearful prospect!
“If anyone is ashamed of Christ and his words, Christ will be ashamed of him when He comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
The day will come when Christ appears to this world. Then those who have served Him faithfully will rejoice exceedingly when they see Christ in the fullness of God’s Glory, accompanied by the mightiest angels of Heaven.
But we do not see Him as yet.
I have lived in America all my life. I never thought I would see the day when it was a shame to speak of Christ in our country. But it is true now. In fact, I think Christ is becoming ashamed of our country!
According to a report in the media, it is alleged that a man who had worked as a counselor for a number of years spoke comfort to a dying patient by saying, “Place your trust in God,” or something to that effect. It was reported that he was fired for saying this.
Perhaps we do not know the whole story, but it is well known that people, young and old, who profess Christ publicly, may face scorn or some form of punishment. And this in America! While growing up and serving in the United States Marine Corps, I would not have believed that I would live to see the day that to hold up the name of Christ in America would be considered a disgraceful act.
That day is here now. What does the Lord tell us? He tells us that if we are ashamed of Him and his Words, He will be ashamed of us when He returns in his glory. I don’t want Christ to be ashamed of me, and I am sure you do not want Him to be ashamed of you in that Day.
So we see that the standard of discipleship is the same standard that must be met by any person who desires to be a genuine Christian. Those who today are maintaining that a disciple is some sort of super-Christian are reflecting the abysmal depths to which our standards have fallen in America in the present century.
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23—NASB)
Being an Elder
As I drew near, the throne room seemed to me to be representative of an exceedingly larger area. I think the twenty-four elders, mentioned in the Book of Revelation, is a symbolic number referring to what probably is more like twenty-four hundred thousand elders worshiping before the throne. What we see in the Throne Room may be but a small fraction of those who are there but are not readily visible.
Notice in the Bible that the elders always are casting their crown before the Throne of God, and giving praise to him. This is symbolic of how we, if we intend to rule with Christ, must continually be doing. We must at all times and circumstances be surrendering to God our right to govern, meanwhile giving praise to him. “Not my will but Yours is to be done” must govern every aspect of our life.
In the beginning God gave to each person (and the angels, apparently) the ability to make his own decisions. Then He has let six thousand years go by, so that people, and the angels of Heaven also, could see for themselves the result when God’s creatures live their lives apart from him.
But God’s ultimate goal is that each creature choose do God’s will rather than his own. Throughout the history of mankind, God has found people who choose to do his will rather than their own. Abraham is the classic example. These are God’s elders, the persons who will govern the Kingdom of God.
When the predetermined number of elders have been identified, the Lord Jesus will return with his elders.
It is not all those who “accept Christ” who will return with Christ and govern the world to come, it is rather those who overcome the desire to do their own will rather than God’s will. These are God’s elders. They follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
Even when they are on missions throughout the universe, they always remain before the Throne of God, casting down their crowns, their governing authority, before the throne of God, and worshiping God.
They have loved not their own will, their own life, to the point of death. They have “died in the Lord.” Thus their works, which were wrought in Christ, have “followed them.”
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. (Revelation 4:4—NASB)
(“Serving the Lord”, 3238-1)