The Christian Church today has developed huge organizations, but falls short in [life changing] spiritual reality. There are many doctrines, denominations and approaches being taught and practiced in the world today, but very little evidence of the unction of the Spirit or the manifestation of the power of God. As an ordinary believer, how can you and I make a difference? There is a growing sense of big change coming, so how do we prepare for it? There are things that we can and must do in preparation. They are found throughout God's word. They come in two forms, promises and requirements. Modern Christianity places great emphasis on promises, what God will do for us; but very little mention is made of our responsibilities; what we must do to obtain those promises.
First of all, know that the difference you can make is immeasurable, both in your own personal growth as well as the impact you will have on the world. Remember that the key to the Gospel of Christ; is it's simplicity. It does not require anything more from believers than that which they can find in their own hearts. 1Cor.1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. It pleased God to use something as simple as preaching, hearing and believing to be the avenue by which we come to know God. God made the way; it is up to us to decide to walk in it.
The only way to get prepared is to press into an intimate, personal relationship with our Lord. Other people cannot prepare you. There are no classes you can attend; no easy seven step program to take. Each one of us must count the cost, and then determine whether we are willing to pay it or not. Ultimately each one of us decides what we will and will not accept as truth. Each one of us will be tested and tried, to see if we will serve God or not. Who will we believe? God or man?
Our focus should consist not only of the promises given us, but must also include the responsibilities we must meet. Here are a few of the promises:
Isaiah 64:4 For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.
We can believe that God loves us; we can believe that God has prepared a place for us; but even these promises hold conditions. We must love God. We must wait for God. Waiting for God involves learning patience; being willing to wait till God is ready to move. Too often we are impatient and try to run ahead of God, placing all of our efforts outside of God's timing. When we act prematurely we are operating from our strength and our understanding, and the results evidence that God is not in our efforts. The world is not in need of more people with good intentions. The world is in need of the body of Christ functioning under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit. When God moves, things happen. When we learn to move in perfect step with the Spirit, we will see lasting results. Believing is more than being in agreement and acceptance with the Word at one time in our lives. Loving God goes beyond feeling an emotion. We must love God more than our family, more than our self, more than anything in this world. We cannot allow anything to take preeminence over our relationship with God. Jesus told us in John 14:26,27 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. This is a comparison of how we feel about Jesus, compared to everyone and everything in this world. When we put God First; when we get our perspectives in their proper order; when we are willing to take up our cross and do the job that God gives us, [following in Jesus footsteps and walking after His example], then we can call ourselves His disciples.
Let's look at some of the things we can do to prepare ourselves that we might be able to receive of God's promises.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Our being approved of God requires effort on our part. Yes, God loves us, but there is more to be sought from our relationship; our hearts desire should include seeking His approval. It is no different than our own children. We love them whether they are successful or not, yet we can only be proud of them when they apply the extra effort required to do their very best. (It is not a matter of doing better than everyone else, but of trying to the best of their ability.) In this verse, the believer is challenged to seek God's approval; by gaining wisdom and discernment concerning the word of truth. We are all workmen: we all will give an accounting of what we have done with the truth we receive in this lifetime. None of us want to stand before the throne of God and be ashamed and full of regrets because we failed to put forth the necessary effort to succeed in our Christian walk.
Romans 12:1,2 I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.
When you read the writings of Paul and the other Apostle's in the New Testament, one cannot help but see that they had a far different perception of walking with God than we hold today. It made perfect sense to them that we must die to our flesh, and live by the Spirit: that our emphasis must be on pleasing God rather than pleasing people. They did not think it strange to be persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and maligned for the stand they took for Christ. They knew that it was not enough to intellectually believe on Jesus; they actually practiced what they preached. We should ever be striving to prove, both to ourselves as well as others, just exactly what the perfect will of God is.
Ephesians 4:22-24 Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; and be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh spiritual and mental attitude], And put on the new nature [the regenerate self] created in God's image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness.
We see from the above passages that once we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we can no longer live in the same way we did prior to our conversion. Our minds must be renewed; our thinking, our understanding, our perceptions, our beliefs all becomes new. This change is progressive; we will continually learn and grow; as we daily walk with God; as we learn to hear and respond to the promptings of the Spirit within. It is far easier to believe that we can never be perfect, so why try? That is the way of the world, and sadly today that is the attitude of many in the church.
We must have a good foundation to build upon:
1 Corinthians 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:20 And are build upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
1 Timothy 6:19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life.
2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
Jesus is our Foundation. Jesus is our refuge from the storm. It is not enough to just know about Jesus; the Bible tells us that the devils know all about Jesus and tremble. We must possess personal, experiential knowledge of our Lord. And even more importantly, He must know us. It will not be enough if our knowledge is second hand. It will not be enough if we have all knowledge about the tenets and doctrines of our denomination, but we do not know the Lord personally. As we have already established, we must believe, we must die to our flesh, we must allow our minds to be renewed. There are many great and precious promises to us as believers, which we can cling to and hold in our hearts. But the greatest joy will be found as we press into a relationship with our Lord. It is far better to love as an adult than as a child. As we mature spiritually, our love exchange with Jesus so far exceeds that which we first experienced as a newborn convert, it's like comparing day and night. As we press into a relationship, we discover new depths and heights in every aspect of our lives, all because we are no longer living according to the dictates of our flesh, but by the Holy Spirit within. Jesus said in Mark 9:23 If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. Our walk demonstrates the level of our belief. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. We must have faith. Faith and belief are intertwined. One cannot possess one without the other. We must diligently seek God.
There is no place in the Christian walk for a casual, on again off again attitude toward God. Jesus told the Churches in Revelation that He would spew the lukewarm out of His mouth. If we are complacent about our relationship, then we are lukewarm. There is an unconscious attitude that is held by many today, that they don't have to do anything in this life beyond accepting the salvation message, and their throne in heaven is guaranteed. Those in leadership positions are going to be held accountable for the teaching they present to the people. It might be more accurately put to say the Lack of Instruction that is offered today from pulpits across this country. Over the past several decades there have been floods of teachings that have catered more to man's flesh than his spirit. Name it and claim it doctrines, subtle twisting of scripture to get what you want from God. Many religious groups today have much more in common with social clubs than with the early church. Men have minimized and explained away faith, belief and obedience, as if they were no longer important to a Christians walk, substituting activities that are conducive to the building up of their own religious empires. Whose name is being exalted? Whose life is being emulated? Is the name of Jesus being used as a piece of merchandise?
We must take the entire Bible, not just pet verses that can be used to support doctrines that appeal to our flesh. We must believe, obey, and grow in a reverential fear of the Lord. Our God is an awesome God. The state that the church is in has not gone unnoticed by Him. From Genesis to Revelation the plan of God for man is laid out. The prophets of old foretold the coming of the Messiah. They longed to see the things that came long after they were gone. Today we are living in the final chapter. Gross darkness covers the land and the peoples. Spiritual darkness has never been greater. Yet there is a remnant, that has not been snared by the false teachings and doctrines that are so prevalent today.
The enemy knows that his time is short, and has been working overtime to try and prevent the coming manifestation of the Sons of God. The work that is about to begin will be a quick work. God is going to reveal Himself, first to his own and then to the world through His Body. His Body is comprised of every believer that is willing to die to his own flesh; take up his own cross; and follow the dictates of the Holy Spirit within. Do not place your trust in confidence in any man or organization. Place it solely in your relationship with Christ Jesus. We can be more than overcomers, through Him. Our carnal reasoning and human intellect will never figure out the solutions to the problems that surround us in the world today. But God already knows the answers to the questions we face. Only as we walk in communion with Him will we be made aware of the solutions. Now is the time to prepare, there is a monumental job to be done, and we are not ready.
Our preparation does not consist of stockpiling supplies and building bomb shelters. We cannot prepare by reacting out of fear of what the future holds. All of our preparation must be focused on pressing into our relationship with God. There is no other place of safety.
Determine within your own heart that you will not settle for any less than ALL that God desires to bring you into.
Keep your eye on the prize before you. Do not allow yourself to stray from the path in order to please or appease others.
All of the promises of God can be ours, if we will walk in obedience to the spirit. There is nothing in this world that can separate us from the love of God, and there is nothing that the enemy can throw at you that you cannot overcome if you are walking in close fellowship with God. May we all determine to press in; may we all obtain the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; may we all prepare our hearts now accordingly.