Philippians 2:12,13 "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
We can go through the scriptures and from Genesis through Revelation we will see two themes repeated in varying ways again and again. The two themes being: Belief and Obedience.
Everything in our relationship to God hinges on these two things: where we stand in our beliefs, what we hold as truth and how we obey those things that God has revealed to us through His Word and by personal revelation. Our worst enemy in this walk of life is not the devil. The devil can only go so far as God allows him to. We have a far more insidious and deceitful enemy we must wage war against. One that resides within our very being, an enemy of God that must be placed on the cross and crucified daily. That enemy is our own reasoning mind. It is the power exerted through reason that prevents man from seeing through the veil and understanding the deep and secret things of God.
Whenever anyone approaches you with what is presented as new revelation or deeper truths, reason will be listening very closely. There is a very good reason for such attentiveness. Our natural, reasoning mind does not want to die or become subservient to the Spirit of God. He will never go quietly, so any opening or avenue that is presented that would give our reasoning mind an opportunity to stay in control, it will immediately embrace and tenaciously cling to. By now you may be wondering where I am going with this line of thought? The Spirit, and only the Spirit, will lead you into Truth. We are called to walk by the power of the Spirit, not the flesh. Living according to the Spirit of God within our hearts is done by faith and believing. The things that God tells us to do will not always make sense because we only see and know in part. Walking by faith in the unseen will cause great turmoil to our sense of reason.
Like all fallen creatures, one of our most basic, fundamental reflexes is self-preservation. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we begin an entirely new journey. We are still in these mortal bodies we were born with, but we are no longer sole owners of this body. We now belong to God. We have been bought with a great price. We have freely accepted (chosen) to lay down our own life, and to learn to be led by the Spirit. As we begin this walk, we are babes in Christ, and as such we have Grace extended to us. There are requirements we will have to meet if we are going to grow up in Christ and become full stature Sons of God. God goes to great lengths and demonstrates great patience with us as babes. But there is a price for reaching maturity. The price is minimal and insignificant when compared with the rewards to be reaped. Rest assured, we will never reach spiritual maturity and Sonship without paying the price. What price you ask? The cost is our life, our self-life, our carnal, natural reasoning. We must bring into submission our natural likes and dislikes, even our basic response to self-preservation in any form. We have many unconscious responses that we aren't even aware of; they are simply automatic. These natural responses must be brought under the control of the Spirit. Our automatic reactions will usually be in conflict with and against the response of the Spirit. To continue to rely on and walk according to our own thoughts and understanding, not to mention our desires, will hinder our ability to walk in the Spirit. The greatest battle we face is overcoming self.
We are much more comfortable directing our focus outwardly, while harboring the enemy within. Most Christians focus is directed at the devil. There are great ministries whose entire vision is fighting the devil, casting out demons, waging spiritual warfare. Inadvertently, many of these sincere souls are paying more attention to and giving more credence to the devil than they are giving to God. There is a time and place to wage warfare, but we do not pick and choose it, God does. We are admonished to walk in the Spirit, and to be obedient to Christ in all things, even our zeal to defeat the enemy. There are many things Christians are involved in, thinking they are doing God great service, when in reality, what they are doing is not what God requires of them.
"How will we know what to do?"
By spending (focusing) our time and attention where it belongs, sitting at the feet of Jesus, learning of Him. As mature Sons, we are called to walk just as Jesus walked. We see throughout the Gospels that Jesus said and did only what he heard and saw the Father do. He was led by the Spirit. We must be led by the same Spirit. Being led of the Spirit is not something that is going to fall out of heaven on babes in Christ one day and transform them into Sons. Spiritual maturity is something we must seek after and pursue with ardent zeal.
There is a growing up process in the spiritual just as in the natural. We are called to pay a price in this life, just as Peter and Paul and all those who have gone before us did. The Word plainly tells us that "all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." We here in America have no real concept of what it means to suffer persecution for believing in Christ. If we aren't popular we think we are suffering persecution. Try reading Fox's Book of Martyr's and then see how your suffering compares. We have the Word of God. How much do we read it for ourselves, and how much are we content to let someone else read it and then tell us what it means? We have a responsibility to seek to know the truth for ourselves. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." If our hearts desire is to reach perfection, to be fully equipped for whatever the Lord may call upon us to do, this is the only way to achieve it. The world today has hundreds if not thousands of doctrines, all reached by interpreting the Word of God with the reasoning mind. If we want to know what doctrine Paul followed, and the Apostle's, we have to read every recorded Word of Jesus and learn His Doctrine.
We spend most of our time dwelling on the blessings and promises in the Word. If we want to grow up in Christ, we need to spend an equal amount of time learning about reproof. We need to be consciously aware of what offenses other's have committed that merited the rod of correction, so that we can avoid making the same mistakes. Why should the correction of the Lord be important to us? "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons."
How we receive correction will determine our growth and relationship with God.
We need to know the Word for instruction in righteousness. Without the Word we are at a loss to know what it means to be righteous (in right standing with God). What could possibly be more important to us than being in right standing with God? One of the most difficult things for people to do is to be different than those around them, to break away from the crowd. Yet that is exactly what we are called to do. We are called to be a peculiar people. "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity (lawlessness, wickedness), and purify (cleanse) unto himself a peculiar (special) people, zealous of good works". To live by the Spirit of God, not walking in the ways of the world will definitely give the appearance of a peculiar people. "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am Holy." For centuries man has attempted to make himself appear holy. Of ourselves we have no idea how to go about being holy. The carnal mind will put all of the focus and emphasis on the outward appearance. A pious countenance with all the trappings and paraphernalia we can imagine does not even come close to fulfilling this requirement. To be in-Christed is to be holy. To live by the Spirit is to be holy. To become a vessel through which God can have His perfect way is to be holy. To become a servant of the Most High God is the first requirement to becoming holy.
The primary way that people come under attack and are led astray is first in their thoughts. "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
Attacks come first in our mind. We hear things that sound good to the natural man with his limited understanding and we think this must be truth. We embrace teachings and doctrines of devils thinking that we are embracing God. Our thought realm is where the battle is waged. Many are deceived because of a failure to read the Word of God for themselves, because they have never diligently pressed in and sought to know the truth. Never forget that only the Holy Spirit can reveal God's truth to our hearts.
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come." Our relationship with God reflects the amount of truth we actually possess. Jesus told the people, "You do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." When Jesus walked this earth the general population did not have the Bible at their disposal to read whenever they chose. The people had to go to the synagogue to hear the scribes read them the writings of the Old Testament. What is our excuse going to be? It is with our natural mind that we determine and choose our beliefs. When we are confronted with something in God's Word that our flesh (reason) doesn't like or finds difficult to accept we can very easily 'reason' it away. "Oh, God wouldn't do that, that can't be right." We make these choices all throughout our Christian walk here on earth.
We see in Paul's letter to the church in Thessalonia, "And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
And to the Corinthians, "But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." The battle for the minds and hearts of man has been going on since the very beginning. It is waged and won or lost within our minds and hearts. We choose what we will believe. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make the right choices, without that guidance we can be deceived. This was already happening immediately following the resurrection of Christ.
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." There are many today who profess to be apostles of Christ, but are really self-appointed pretenders, disguising themselves and deceiving many. There are many stern warnings in the Bible regarding false prophets.
"Then the Lord said to me, The false prophets prophesy lies in My name. I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, nor have I spoken to them. They prophecy to you a false or pretended vision, a worthless divination, conjuring or practicing magic, trying to call forth the responses supposed to be given by idols, and the deceit of their own minds. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the false prophets who prophecy in My name - although I did not send them - and who say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land: by sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword; and they shall have none to bury them; them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their wickedness upon them, and not on their false teachers only, for the people could not have been deceived except by their own consent." [Amplified]
This should give us all pause, to consider the sobering ramifications of listening to any voice other than God's. We are challenged in Romans not to think more highly of ourselves than we should.
"Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded (arrogant), but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and the serverity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shall be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again." This is a very clear warning.
We must guard our hearts with all diligence, for we are always in danger of falling. Our mind loves to embrace God's love and forgiveness, but has a much harder time embracing God's severity with equal enthusiasm. Both goodness and severity are from one and the same God. We are also charged, "And be not conformed (fashion self according to) to this world: but be ye transformed (changed) by the renewing renovation) of your mind (thinking, intellect), that ye may prove (test) what is that good (beneficial) and acceptable (agreeable, well pleasing) and perfect (complete) will (determination, choice) of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly (to esteem himself overmuch) than he ought to think (to entertain a sentiment or opinion); but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
God gives us the ability and strength to become the sons of God, but it is up to us to walk in it. We each have our allotted time here on earth to "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." All along the way we will make choices, consciously or unconsciously. We will choose to obey, even when it goes contrary to our flesh and our reasoning mind, or we will find ways to try and justify our disobedience. Just because we have accepted the Salvation message does not mean that we have taken some kind of quantum leap and now have the mind of Christ. Many believers think that God has somehow automatically already approved whatever they think of.
"There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him." It is not enough to hear and believe at one time, we must daily walk in what we hear and believe. The Spirit, not the intellect, accomplishes the renewing of our minds. How could we let the things we have learned slip?
By reasoning away what we don't want to accept. By exercising our reasoning mind and being led by our natural thinking. Growing up in Christ requires that we learn to listen to that still, small voice within our Spirit, over and above the clamoring voice of reason. We are challenged to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." This requires our full attention and dedication. It is only during this lifetime, in these mortal bodies, that we have the opportunity to decide and confirm where and how we shall spend eternity. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us." If at any point in our walk, we take our eyes off Christ ... we can fall. If we accept any doctrine, regardless of how pleasing it is to our natural understanding, that is contrary to the Gospel of Christ, we will fall. It makes no difference how old we are, physically or spiritually, or how much we may have endured in the past. That is why the danger of listening to reason rather than the Spirit is so dangerous to our Christian walk at every stage.
This is plainly set forth in Ezekial 33: 11-20 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his wicked way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression (revolt, rebellion, sin): as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth. When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness (justice, virtue), and commit iniquity (evil, perverseness, unrighteousness), all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it. Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live. Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal. When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby. But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby. Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal (fair). O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways.
God is Just and Fair. With our limited knowledge and understanding, will we attempt to tell God what to do? Will we refuse to accept His judgments and follow His rules? Do we "think" we know better how to distribute justice?
Compared to many other countries, we here in America know nothing about persecution. We have the freedom to believe and pursue whatever we want. This very freedom, has allowed people to come under attack of a more subtle and insidious nature. People in this country are not in prisons with walls that are visible physically. The prison walls that hold people are in their minds. The beliefs that they have allowed in and accepted have made them prisoners. They cannot see or hear the truth because of the walls they have built up around themselves. They are victims of their own choices. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." No true believer would knowingly and willingly accept a doctrine of devils if it were presented as such. These doctrines are set forth in a deceptive manner, presented as truths and deeper revelations. Devils know the Word of God. They know how to masquerade as angels of light. Part of the walls built by those who embrace these doctrines consists in believing that they are clinging to "truth." If other Christians refuse their "truth," they console themselves that those refusing this "truth" are not yet far enough along or haven't had their eyes opened yet to recognize this "truth." When one has accepted such a doctrine, they are imprisoned within it's confines. They cannot receive from any but those who share the same doctrine. Their fellowship with other believers is severed if the other believers come against the "truth" they have found. There are many such doctrine's of devils disguised as "deeper truths of God," which have infiltrated the body of Christ in these last days. Multitudes have fallen victim to such doctrines without even being aware they were being victimized.
The result of accepting such doctrines is that no further progress can be made in their walk with God. No unclean thing can come into God's presence. If we have accepted any doctrine, teaching or belief that is contrary to the Gospel of Christ, we are in a very dangerous place. All the rationalizing and justifying we can come up with will not change our situation. Until we come to the point of being willing to let go of the doctrine we are clinging to, we are prodigal children. We are feeding on the husks, and not meat. We are wallowing in the mire and cut off from God's presence. Jesus said, "It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." We cannot take part of God's Word, and mix it with reason. We must accept all of God's Word, and we must believe God over our reasoning mind. "Be ye not unequally yoked together (to associate discordantly) with unbelievers: for what fellowship (participation, intercourse) hath righteousness (Christian justification) with unrighteousness (wickedness)? And what communion hath light (to shine or make manifest) with darkness (shadiness, obscurity)? And what concord (harmony, agreement) hath Christ with Belial (an epithet of Satan)? Or what part (participation) hath he that believeth (faithful, sure, true) with an infidel (disbelieving, faithless)?"
Liberal thinking is prevalent in the world today. There has never been a time in the history of man when there was such emphasis placed on promoting self. This self-promotion and self-exaltation is in direct opposition to the Gospel of Christ. Some people think that by accepting everyone they are fulfilling scripture; they are doing what the Lord wants them to do. There is no attempt to be led by the Spirit or to grow in spiritual discernment, when the believer thinks they already know how they should respond to a given situation. When there is no request for help there is no opportunity to give guidance. We were never commanded to use our own judgment, and try to put God's stamp of approval on our actions.
Jesus, who is our example, did not accept nor embrace everyone. "Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; which devour widow's houses, and for a show make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation. Ye are of your father the devil, and the same lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." In our own strength and understanding there is no way that we can know the heart of another. While God sees every thought we think, and knows the deepest intents of every heart. To know what to do we must be walking in close proximity to our Lord; we must live by the Spirit. We should be able to see how deception can creep in. We should also be able to see why we must be ever vigilant.
We need to be aware that not all attacks are easily recognized. The enemy doesn't always wear a communist uniform and carry a gun; nor does he have horns, a red suit, with forked tail and a pitchfork. Sometimes... he appears as an angel of light and draws us with promises of deeper truths and revelations. That is why it is so critical that we have a firm foundation in the Word; that we learn to be led by the Spirit and not by reason; that we be engaged in a living, personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us not be frivolous and lighthearted concerning the Gospel. Let us not be overly accepting of every idea that comes our way. Get into the Word of God for yourself and learn firsthand what your responsibilities as a child of God are; find out what God requires of you personally. Even the devils believe. "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"
We must guard our hearts with all diligence, making our election and calling sure. When we stumble and fall, quickly repent and get back on the path. We may soon be very surprised by the things that we see coming to pass, even here in this country. Now is the time to prepare. When the bridegroom comes, we won't have time to run to the store for oil. Start filling our lamps now, while we still have time. Work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Our Lord asked the question, "...Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" What we believe is irrevocably intertwined with our faith. If we do not believe, we cannot have faith. We are only deceiving ourselves if we say we have faith, but we do not believe all of the Gospel of Christ. We must guard our hearts, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." We must guard our thought life, "If any man think he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." We must be careful not to think ourselves farther along than we really are, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." There is only one that can see into our heart and read our thoughts, and that is God. We can deceive others, we can even deceive ourselves, but we can never deceive God. The enemies of the cross of Christ use the most effective tool readily at their disposal. That tool being appealing to man's reasoning mind and fleshly appetites. We play right into their hands, as believers, when we fail to live by the Spirit. When we operate from the realm of fallen man, we are operating from our own strength. It is not possible to operate from a fallen state and from the Spirit at the same time. We are either in one realm or the other. If our mind is ruling, we are not walking by faith. Gaining control of and putting down our thought life is critical. If we truly desire to walk as sons of the Most High, we have one course set before us; one path our feet must follow; the walk of faith, the life of believing every Word of God. A man of faith does not allow reason to deter him from the path he is called to follow. We can be overcomers. Let us come before His Throne of Grace and ask God to take our heart, our will, our mind and our thoughts. To purge us and transform us into his likeness, that at the Day of Judgment we can stand boldly before the throne, having accomplished our course and finished the race, God's way.