IRON, FIRE, AND STERN OBEDIENCE
IRON, FIRE, AND STERN OBEDIENCE Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Iron righteousness, fiery holiness, stern obedience to the Father—these are the three aspects of character required of all who would be part of the royal priesthood. As we long for these attributes of character they become a passion in us. We seek a strong, iron righteousness of behavior. We embrace ever more intense fires of holiness. We delight to do God's will, His law having been engraved in our heart.
Table of Contents
IRON, FIRE, AND STERN OBEDIENCE
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, Because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. (Romans 4:17,18—NIV)
Righteousness concerns our relationship with people.
Holiness concerns our relationship with God.
Stern obedience also concerns our relationship with God and is the central issue of the new creation that Christ is making us, the central issue of salvation. As long as we are disobeying God we are not "saved" in any but the most superficial sense of the word.
I want to talk first about righteousness, not imputed righteousness but righteous behavior. It is obvious from the above verse that the righteousness of the Kingdom of God is the behavior with which we serve Christ, unless we wish to believe the only righteousness, peace, and joy we have is that which is imputed to us.
The term righteousness is found 306 times in the King James edition. Righteousness is a major topic of both testaments.
The righteousness that is credited to the account of the believer is the righteousness of Christ. The effect of the imputation is that we are as righteous as though we had kept the Law of Moses blamelessly. We possess the righteousness of the Law of Moses provided we "do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." This proviso is often omitted in today's preaching.
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4—NIV)
However, the majority of New Testament passages dealing with righteousness are directed toward righteous behavior, not righteousness credited to our account because of faith in Christ. The omission of this fact in Christian preaching has absolutely ruined the testimony of godly behavior that God desires of His churches.
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, To slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. (Titus 3:1,2—NIV)
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10—NIV)
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. (Romans 12:9-17—NIV)
There are numerous such commandments in the New Testament. It is being preached today that while we ought to do such things, we still are "saved" even though we do not do them.
In this we reveal that we do not understand Christ or His Apostles.
It is absolutely true that we cannot ignore the blood atonement and attempt to please God by behaving righteously.
It is equally true that after we have received forgiveness through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ we are to turn from our sinful nature and begin to obey Christ and His Apostles. Freedom from condemnation depends on our willingness to turn from our sinful nature and follow the Spirit of God. When we need help living righteously we have access through the blood of Jesus into the Holy of Holies in Heaven where we will receive grace to help in our struggle against sin.
Please note that the "believer" who is grossly negligent concerning the commandments of Christ and His Apostles, preferring to be "saved" by a naked grace, is deceived. If he does not judge himself, God will judge and chastise him. If he still does not repent he may become ill, or die prematurely, or be broken off from Christ altogether. This is what the Scripture states.
God will have no children who continue to behave unrighteously, paying little heed to the commandments of His Son, Jesus Christ, His Apostles, and His inspired Word.
Do we have to keep these commandments? Absolutely!
We know we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (I John 2:3-6—NIV)
Scholars believe the Apostle John was reacting against Gnosticism, an ancient philosophy. The philosophy of Gnosticism teaches that we are saved by our mental adoption of certain principles and our behavior in the body is irrelevant.
After more than fifty years as an Christian I have become convinced that the doctrines of today are largely Gnostic and not Christian at all.
One time a stewardess on an airplane asked me what I was writing about on my notebook computer. I told her the subject was righteousness.
She said she was a Christian and hated that word.
I am telling you the truth. This incident actually took place some years ago.
Do you know why this young Christian said she hated the word righteousness?
Because she had been taught, as so many are being taught today, that any attempt to live a godly life in Christ is legalism. Jesus has "done it all" and whenever we try to behave ourselves we are attempting to improve on our imputed righteousness.
This is the sorry state of Christian doctrine in our day.
I believe God is grieved with this tremendous departure from His intention to make, through the new covenant, people who keep His eternal moral laws of righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God.
Can you get a sense of how grieved Christ is to see His people ignoring His commandments and those of His Apostles?
We are so utterly inconsistent! During the last decade several ministers have fallen either through sexual lust or the dishonest handling of money.
The churches rise up in dismay and remove the sinning minister from his place of responsibility. Then the same churches preach that we are saved by a sovereign grace and covered with the righteousness of Christ independently of our behavior. Can you make sense out of this?
The Holy Spirit is putting a burden of repentance on the churches of America. To repent is to turn from what we are doing and begin to obey the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. If this is not repentance, then what is?
Christians are repenting. But if our doctrine were true, and God sees us only through Jesus Christ, of what are we repenting? Our imputed righteousness?
In this we are utterly inconsistent. It is no wonder the churches are being sued on the right hand and the left because of immoral conduct and lack of diligence in business.
No, God is not the god of the Gnostics. God is the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible will not have fellowship with darkness whether the darkness is that of a believer or an unbeliever.
I know someone will protest, "You are correct in what you say but I am still saved even though I do not act righteously, because I am saved by grace."
A Christian will move Heaven and earth to prove he can sin all over the place and still be saved. "Thou shalt not surely die."
I tell you, you are incorrect in this. If you do not bring forth the fruit of righteous behavior in your life you will be cut from Christ, from the Vine. If you are cut from Christ you are removed from salvation for there is no salvation outside of Christ! As Paul says in Romans, "If you live according to your sinful nature you will die."
Paul means the Christian will die spiritually if he or she lives according to the appetites and passions of his or her body.
The parable of the sower teaches us we can bear some fruit and then have the Life of Christ choked out of us.
Please don't wait until you face your Lord to find out if I am correct. Right now I could easily present twenty passages from the New Testament that state clearly in context that if you do not begin to bring forth a new righteous creation in your personality you are in clear danger of being rooted out of God's garden, one passage suggesting even the possibility of your being blotted from the Book of Life.
What is being taught today is a monumental lie, it is not the Christian salvation at all. Our common sense should tells us Christ demands a change in behavior from those He is saving.
In fact, the Christian saves himself by his righteous conduct.
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (I Timothy 4:16—NIV)
But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. (Hebrews 6:8—NIV)
In the verse above, the Apostle Paul is not speaking of real estate but of the believer who does not bring forth the change in behavior God expects from the Christian. Cursing and burning do not imply salvation.
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (I Peter 1:15,16—NIV)
Righteousness has to do with our relationship with other people.
Holiness has to do with our relationship with God.
The commandments of Christ and His Apostles set forth in the New Testament constitute the law that will go forth from Zion. They are binding on all who will live on the new earth, all who are saved. God will not permit rage, jealousy, bitterness, or slander in His new world, in His Kingdom. All such behaviors belong in the Lake of Fire and there they shall be confined.
Holiness is a different matter, although righteousness and holiness sometimes overlap in behavior. For example, adultery is an unrighteous practice and the spirit of adultery is unclean, that is, not holy.
Holiness, however, goes far beyond righteousness. The apostolic command that we present our body a living sacrifice to God is not a commandment to righteous behavior but to holy personality and behavior.
Holiness has to do with the priesthood. Holiness is by Divine calling.
If you think of concentric circles going out with God as the center, then the nearer to God the circle is the holier it is.
The Holy of Holies was more holy than the Holy Place, which was more holy than the courtyard, which was more holy than the places where Israel was camped outside the courtyard.
The High Priest was more holy than the rest of the priests, who were more holy than the Levites, who were more holy than the remainder of the Israelites.
The priests could minister in the Holy Place, but if a Levite even saw one of the five furnishings inside the door of the Tabernacle he was to be killed. The furnishings were too holy for him to see but not too holy for the priests to see.
Are you beginning to get a feel for holiness? Holiness is a state of being in the Presence of God.
Incidentally, Paul never, in his epistles, referred to the believers as Christians, but often as saints. The word saint means "holy one." This is because the believer is called to more holiness of personality and behavior than is true of the general population. Whether we like it or not, in God's sight we are holier than the rest of the world, not because we act any better but because of our calling as saints.
No member of Israel could choose to be a priest. Only God chooses the priesthood.
No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. (Hebrews 5:4—NIV)
Isn't it true that just anyone can choose to be a saint of God? Yes, in one sense. No, in another.
The Lord Jesus declared plainly that whoever comes to Him He will not cast out. But He said also that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him.
Jesus said we have not chosen Him but He has chosen us.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:16—NIV)
The seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John makes several statements that emphasize the saints are separate from the world and given eternal life. They originally belonged to God somehow, and God has given them to Jesus.
Jesus prays for these whom the Father has given Him, not for the world but for those called out from the world.
Many ideas found in the Scriptures, such as forgiveness through the blood atonement, are repugnant to contemporary society. But none would be more disgusting than the concept that some people are called to be priests of God.
I wonder why Satan fights so hard against the truth that the ranks, roles, and tasks of the Kingdom are by Divine appointment and all people do not have equal access to them.
It is clear the Jewish people often resent the idea they are specially chosen of God. Also, I think Christians are uncomfortable with the idea of a separate, holy priesthood. But I believe it is going to be important in the age of moral horrors we are entering that we realize our calling as a saint has enormous significance in the scheme of things.
Once we are called as a saint, all other callings we think we may have vanish into oblivion. To be a saint is the highest possible calling that can be placed on any human being.
To be a holy one of God means we are not free to behave like the world. God tells us to come out of the world, to not touch the uncleannesses in the world, and He then will receive us.
We are in the world but not of the world. What a tremendous challenge this doctrine presents!
The spirit of democracy, that all are equal, that all can aspire to any position they desire, is not of the Father but of the world. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. The Kingdom of God is an authoritarian structure created by the God of Heaven. God has established the Lord Jesus Christ as King of the Kingdom. Our primary relationship to Christ is that of slave to master except as He chooses to call us higher.
The idea that we believers are slaves of Jesus Christ, while it assuredly is scriptural, is distasteful and disgusting to Americans. We are exceedingly proud. The spirit of the Revolution is in us and we reject the idea of being anyone's slave, of having a stern king telling us what we can do and cannot do.
Perhaps it is that very spirit of the Revolution that causes Americans to be willing to receive Jesus as Savior but not as absolute Lord of their lives. Do you suppose this could be the case?
Well, in this matter we are absolute fools! Jesus Christ is powerful enough to inhale the entire firmament and then blow it out again refreshed and renewed. Do you see we make fools of ourselves when we tell Him what we will do and will not do?
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalms 2:12—NIV)
Don't let the gentleness of Jesus fool you. He can afford to be gentle. He can crush nations if He chooses.
We Christians are called to be holy ones. This means we are closer to God than those who are not called to be holy ones. We are called to present our bodies a living sacrifice to the Father. We are called to come out of the world, to continually lift holy hands in praise to God.
We are a holy firstfruits to God and to the Lamb, a firstfruits of the nations of the earth. We are the Seed through whom the nations will be blessed.
God is a Fire. He is a consuming Fire. We have been called to live in that Fire with the Lord Jesus.
As you ask the Lord for holiness of personality and behavior He will draw you into the Consuming Fire. Then you will begin to have created in you a passion for holiness. The closer you get to the Divine Fire the more it draws you into Itself. Soon all you want is to dwell in the Center of the Consuming Fire of Israel.
There is a beauty that goes along with holiness. It is the beauty of God Himself. When you are around truly holy people you will, from time to time, be able to witness the beauty of holiness. There is nothing more beautiful than a man or woman, boy or girl, who is filled with the holiness of God.
The world pictures holy people as sour, bitter cranks with faces of pickles soaked in vinegar. These are people with a religious spirit, not those who are truly holy with the holiness of Jesus Christ.
At one time there was no beauty in the Son of God because He was brought down into the mud for our sakes. But now He is in His holy temple. He is the fairest of ten thousand. His Bride is being filled with His Holy Nature and clothed with the holy raiments that proceed from Him. When she has been purified of all sin and rebellion she will be lovelier than the loveliest. The awe-inspiring beauty and majesty of the Lord, and of His Bride because of her nearness to Him, is purer, more splendid than can be imagined. It is a breathtaking beauty, graceful in motion, spectacular in appearance. It is the beauty of holiness. The Lamb and His Bride are God's poem. There is nothing else as glorious.
Get a passion for holiness. Crave holiness. Ask God to keep drawing you into the Fire until everything not of Him will be consumed. He will do this, you know.
How utterly wonderful to live in the holy Fire. This is to be with Jesus where He always is. Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing compares with such Divine glory.
"I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart." (Psalms 40:8—NIV)
The new covenant is the writing of the eternal law of God in our mind, so we will understand what it is we are supposed to do, and in our heart, so we will have the motivation and will to do it.
It all boils down to sternly obeying the Father. We employ the adverb "sternly" because the pressures on us require sternness of character if we are to overcome all forces that seek to induce us to disobey God.
When I first became a Christian I was told the world was waiting to see someone who would obey God fully. At that time and yet today I find such talk to be foolishness. Of course we obey God! God is our Father. It would be unthinkable not to obey Him in every detail.
In spite of this, it appears most Christians are afraid of God. They would not dare to say they would obey God no matter what He told them to do. I find this absolutely incomprehensible.
Very few people would say they would obey Satan no matter what he told them to do. This is understandable. But God? Of course we obey God. To disobey God is rebellion.
The rebellion began in Heaven around the Throne of God. From there it spread to the earth. Now rebellion is so rooted in the hearts of people that after the thousand years of the Kingdom Age have come to an end, Satan will still be able to deceive the nations of the earth into rebelling against God. Inconceivable!
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison And will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. (Revelation 20:7,8—NIV)
What do people use for brains? Can't they consider the six thousand years of the howling insanity of the earth and see the product of rebelling against God and serving Satan?
The spiritual forces are so great that not to obey God is automatically to serve Satan. There is no place in the middle. Either you serve God or you default to the will of Satan. Human beings are only dust being tossed around by the titans of the spirit world.
Our God is to be trusted and served in every possible way no matter what He requires. Faith is trust in God's faithfulness. God never gives us something to do without adding the grace to enable us to do it. Never! Never! Never!
The original problem in Eden was lack of trust in God's goodness and faithfulness. Satan persuaded the innocent Eve that God was not to be trusted.
After centuries had passed God tested the faithful Abraham as to his unqualified obedience. Abraham passed the test marvelously.
Again in Gethsemane, God tested the Lord Jesus as to His unqualified obedience and trust in God's faithfulness. Christ passed a test so terrible as to be incomprehensible to human beings.
Every would-be ruler, every member of the royal priesthood, must be tested to a degree corresponding to his appointed rank in the Kingdom of God. The higher the appointment the more severe the test. No ruler is excepted. God will not trust anyone with the keys of the Kingdom until He is satisfied there will be no disobedience under any provocation or temptation.
It appears redundant to stress the necessity for and the rewards associated with stern obedience to the Father. Of course we obey the Father! The Father is God, our Creator. Were He the most wicked of persons there still is nothing we could do about it. He can squash us like a bug any time He chooses. If we think we can resist God then we really are foolish!
Fortunately for us God is good, faithful, loving, merciful. If He were of the nature of Satan, coming into existence would be for us a terrifying fate, inconceivably horrible, disastrous, deadly, ugly, hideous beyond all imagination.
Seeing that God indeed is good, faithful, loving, merciful, entirely worthy of our complete trust, adoration, and total obedience, why do we allow the world, our lazy, cowardly flesh, and our rebellious personality to overcome our better judgment? Why do we continue to do this? Are we so beyond redemption that we deserve only to be chained in the darkness with all the other rebels?
Or are we forever doomed to hesitate between two opinions: should I obey God or not? Let me see—I think I will, I think I won't. How incredibly stupid! How utterly lacking in character and wisdom!
Let us have done with this nonsense, such as "the world is waiting to see someone who will obey God perfectly." Let us all obey God perfectly in any and all situations.
Let us make the following passage our eternal theme:
"I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart." (Psalms 40:8—NIV)
We delight to do God's will. We desire to do God's will. His eternal moral law is being written in our mind and heart.
The record of the heroes of faith of the Bible informs us God is to be absolutely trusted.
Our own experience through the years tells us God is to be absolutely trusted.
When God puts us in prison, withholding our most fervent desires, demanding that we remain in situations we abhor, then let us remain faithful to Him whose name is Faithful.
If we are to receive the crown of life we must remain faithful to the point of death. Nothing less is required of God's rulers, His sons.
Suffering burns the disobedience, the self-will, the rebellion from our personality. There is no other way. We learn obedience through the things we suffer if we, as Jesus did, remain faithful to God.
What is it we are unwilling to yield to God? In what area are we unwilling to trust the Faithful One?
What filthy rags of fleshly desire are we unwilling to exchange for the robes of the royal priesthood?
What ambition are we unwilling to exchange for the peace that always accompanies obedience to the Father?
What bag of money are we coveting that we would not exchange for the approval of God?
What little paradise of our own making stands between us and the prospect of hearing "Well done, good and faithful servant"?
Have we no sense at all? Are we such animals that we are ready to trade our inheritance as a son of God for an adulterous affair with a treacherous, unprincipled person, for a relationship that will cause us to destroy those who have trusted in us?
Now, in this present world, while we are beset round about with Satan and his demons who cackle with glee when a believer disobeys the Father, let us resolve with unwavering determination to DO GOD'S WILL no matter what it may be. We will discover His burden is easy, His yoke is light. Here we have been breaking our back, trying to create our own heaven and earth, when God before the foundation of the world outlined a destiny for us of eternal pleasure.
We have this one opportunity to demonstrate to God, as the Lord Jesus did, that no matter what others do, we are going to obey Him. No matter what He withholds from us, no matter how bleak our future may appear to be, we will, by His strength and grace, march straight forward in utter confidence that God exists and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
This present world is a boot camp, a probationary period. If we try to make our own heaven while we are here we will have to compromise our integrity. We will have to betray those who trust us.
We will have all eternity to reflect on the decisions we are making today.
Stern obedience to the Father.
Of these three the most important is stern obedience to the Father.
Until we learn to obey God in all He says to us we are not worthy to be called a son of God.