(Continued from FAQ Page...)
The potential for “success”, as God defines success, does NOT begin until one is first born again. Being born again is not only THE prerequisite (John 3: 3, 7) for eternal residency in Heaven, it is the starting point for the post salvation spiritual life, here on Earth. It would do a soul no good to have been a great "success" here on Earth, and even in the "religious" realm, only to find him/herself in what the Bible refers to as the lake of fire.
Divine good is not what we do for God, but what God does through believers!
A spiritually dead man can do no more in the spiritual realm than a naturally dead man can do in the natural realm. In fact, even the ability for a human soul to understand a presentation of Gospel is a part of the pre-salvation work of God the Holy Spirit. The building and application of one's edified soul structure is also involve the work of God the Holy Spirit. The selection of and the exercising of one's spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12n) is the Work of God the Holy Spirit.
This is what John 15:5 means when it says that apart from God, we with human means, can do NOTHING (of eternal value). In addition to identifying the one true God, this principle of it being what God has done, God is doing, and what God will do is what separates true Christianity from Christian "religion". It is what separates true Christianity from all the pagan religions of the devils's world. What so called "Christian Relgion" and ALL the pagan religions have in common is that they all promote the concept that salvation is obtained by human effort and activity to please God and/or the gods of the pagan religions. True Christianity teaches that we, apart from the involvement of God, can do nothing (John 15: 5).
The production of post salvation divine good is a post (after) salvation activity.
The human part for born again believers in the production of divine good is to be available and useful for God to produce divine good by having learned and applied the relevant doctrines of the faith. One cannot be used of God, in this manner, until and unless the individual believer has first reached the level of spiritual maturity required for him/her to minister to others in any given situation.
The road that leads to spiritual maturity does not begin until the soul is first born again. Spiritual maturity is the END result of having at least learned (and in many cases have applied) the necessary the doctrines of the faith to his/her own situation. Speaking from a position of knowledge is good, but speaking with knowledge coupled with personal experience can be even greater. This is why, after learning any given doctrine, God will send or allow circumstances for the advancing disciple to learn to apply it.
Some of this training is not what the advancing disciple wants to go through, but it what prepares him/her to be used of God where and when He chooses. The common mistake that many spiritually immature Christians make is that they choose and area of ministry that they feel comfortable with , and then expect God to bless it, only to discover that what the plan of God is calling for is quite different.
As Christ's ambassador, the human part in the production of divine good takes place when the believer communicates the principles of the Gospel to unbelievers and/or appropriate and accurate doctrine to fellow believers. There are times when God arranges for our interaction to be immediate, but in most cases, the day to day unspoken testimony of our daily lives is what God will use to draw attention to and set the stage for a divinely ordered encounter for either sharing the Gospel with an unbeliever, or sharing post salvation doctrine with a fellow believer. When it is divine good in view, God has already prepared (usually through circumstances) the intended recipient to be in a mental state of mind in which he/she is willing to hear and to choose to either respond to or to reject the information the disciple offers. Never-the-less, the final choice to accept and to apply or to reject the information remains to be a choice that the recipient must make.
Until recently, I held and promoted the concept that one must be Spirit-filled (willingly submitted to the control of God in one's thoughts and actions) in order for God to use him/her for the production of divine good. God has demonstrated to me that the TRUTH is the TRUTH, no matter who is speaking it.
There is a major difference between accurate facts and the truth. To qualify as the truth, ALL of relevant facts must be made known and not is a way that deliberately deceives. One could say, that IN FACT, the Bible and say that "....there is no god (Psalms 14: 1 )", "...All (life) is vanity (meaningless) (Eccl. 1: 2), and that one should (live it up) "...eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." IN TRUTH, what the Bible is actually saying in the passages involved, is that one is a FOOL who thinks such things. The devil was (Gen. 3/2 Cor.. 4: 4/Matt. 24: 24) and is a master at putting a totally different spin on Scripture. A communicator can do the same, making the Bible appear to say just about anything one chooses.
God has revealed to me via observation and personal times of meditation, that God can use what we do or say to communicate spiritual principles to others, even when we are going through periods of broken fellowship with God because of ongoing sin that has not either been confessed (1 John 1: 9) or forsaken (John 8: 11) in our own walk with the Lord.
There are clear cut reasons (Heb. 12: 6/1 Peter 5: 8) why an advancing disciple would want to remain Spirit-filled and in fellowship with God. It is in the best individual interests to remain in fellowship in order to maintain an intimate daily walk with the Lord, as opposed to "checking in" for an hour or so once a week as MANY "religious" persons do and then go about with little regard for God and/or the things of God for the other 167 hrs. that gives to each one of us a week to glorify Him. In addition to the benefits that a walk with the Lord will bring to our individual walk, being in fellowship with God will cause us to be in the best position of "availability" to be used of God to produce divine good as we minister to others.
Fellowship with God goes hand in hand with the level of success in the POST salvation spiritual life. God does not reject as His child because of ANY post salvation sin we commit, but He can not abide (be in intimate fellowship) with us (Habakkuk 3: 11), nor can we abide in Him (), as long as we choose to live in or with a sin that has not been confessed (1 John 1:9), and/or when necessary forsaken (John 8: 11). Much like a married couple who are having a "spat", they are never the less still married, but there is no meaningful communication or interaction until whatever causes the "spat" is resolved. In our relationship with the Lord, we do not lose our salvation because of an ongoing or a past sin that as not been addressed, but like strangers on a bus, we are headed in the same direction, but with little or no interaction. Without intimate fellowship, there will be great limitations on the quantity and the quality of the divine good that God can produce through a believer who is out of fellowship with God. Even when such a believer does communicate Biblical truths, the devil will use the unresolved issues between the believer and God to discredit much of what the believer has to say.
All Church Age believers have God the Holy Spirit living within their mortal bodies (1 Cor. 3: 16), but a believer is NOT Spirit-filled (submitted to the control of God the Holy Spirit) when due to sin, he/she out of fellowship with God. When living in or with a sin that has not been confessed (1 John 1: 9) and/or forsaken (John 8: 11), the believer grieves the Holy Spirit of God (Eph. 4: 30), resulting in the loss of fellowship. When out of fellowship (2 Cor. 13: 14), the believer's usefulness and availability for service to God is greatly compromised, and his/her usefulness in the hands of the devil is greatly increased. The daily lives of every one of us is used by God or the devil to encourage others to follow suit.
All born again believers are Spirit indwelt, being the earthly temple of God (1 Cor. 3: 16). However, a;; born again believers are NOT always Spirit-filled. In fact most of are in and out of fellowship all day long. Being Spirit FILLED means to have one's thoughts and actions submitted to the control of God the Holy Spirit. When we CHOOSE to sin, we CHOOSE to submit to the influential voice and control of the fallen sin nature within us (Romans 7).
One cannot sin (something that we all do every day ) without first casting off the restraining yoke of God the Holy Spirit. Once "out from under" the restraints of a Spirit-filled life, we can (and usually do) whatever the fallen nature within us prompts us to do. This whole process, casting off the yoke of the Spirit of God and engaging in sin can happen so quickly that we sin by how what we say or do without giving it much aforethought. Other times, we can feel the pressure of the sin nature within us building up, headed for an explosion if it not addressed.
As part of my thirty year law enforcement career, there was a period of time in which I was involved with the in-service training of police personnel. As anyone who is involved with training personnel that engage in high intensity situations can tell you, such personnel are most likely to respond in way(s) that they were trained. The same principle applies to advancing disciples in the realm of DAILY spiritual combat. Sudden and unexpected attacks is when combatants are in the greatest danger of being overcome. or failure. Learning to discern an oncoming attack, coupled with the ability to quickly recover and/or maintain the required presence of mind to function appropriately are key elements in the realm of spiritual combat.
As far as producing divine good is concerned, the devil and Eph. 6: 12 forces are denied much ammunition in the realm of spiritual combat by the believer who strives to remain Spirit-filled 24-7, and who is quick to address any moments of personal failure ( sin) through the 1 John 1: 9 process and to make any adjustments required to remain in fellowship once it is restored.
What I recently became aware of is that the truth is the truth, no matter who is communicating it or in what circumstances it is being communicated. The difference between communicating truth in the capacity of a Spirit-filled believer, as opposed to communicating the SAME truth in the capacity of a back-sliding believer, is the all important consistency of one's "walk" with one's "talk". "Christians" who talk the talk, but do not walk the walk will have a VERY limited record of success when it comes to the production of divine good. In fact, their talking the talk, but not walking the walk may prove to be counter-productive as the devil takes full advantage using such inconsistencies to discredit whatever TRUTH may be communicated.
This does not mean that one much reach some stage of spiritual maturity before he/she can be used of God, but for the advancing disciple, he/she desires to be in the best possible position of usability and availability for God and the things of God.
The need to identify eliminate (1 Cor. 3: 15) sin and evil (false doctrine/practices) is something that baby Christians (should) learn in Spiritual Kindergarten. But understand WHAT the need is for (the execution of the true post salvation spiritual life) may not be learned until the baby Christian begins to grow in God's grace and knowledge. Advanced discipleship involves developing the ability to discern not only what is right from wrong, but what is best over what is better. Baby Christians (Heb. 5: 13) think that addressing post salvation sin is for the purpose of retaining salvation, whereas advanced disciples know that the issue of addressing POST (after) salvation sin is for the purpose of moving forward in one's post salvation spiritual life. BOTH camps agree that ALL sin should be addressed, but the former has yet to truly understand the true Gospel Message.
The devil can do nothing about the truth we speak, but can do much to discredit the effectiveness of our communication if a potential recipient can be made to see that the communicator does not apply the same principles to his/her own life. Advancing disciples know that no matter what the circumstances had been, choosing to entertain the SIN of refusing to forgive others is NOT worth the damage (Mark 11: 26) that it can cause to one's own post salvation spiritual life. Forgiveness is a key element to achieve maximum success in the true post salvation spiritual life.
Never lost sight of the fact that although we may think that the sins we have committed are not as serious or as many as others, it still took the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross to atone for it and open the door of salvation for YOU to enter. It is often the ones that have come to acknowledge the enormity (as God see it - Hab. 1: 13) of our own sin debt, and the inability (of out own) to EVER pay it off, that will find it in their wicked hearts to forgive others.
One of the reasons that God allows some of His children to go through horrific experiences is to become living examples of how those who claim to be Christians are to apply the principles of forgiveness. Teaching (without experience) on the subject of forgiveness has its purpose and value, but speaking of forgiveness after being put in a position to forgive what human viewpoint would consider unforgivable (Luke 23: 34), are two very different things.
Living in the sin of refusing to forgive others can take one just as far out of fellowship with God as ANY other sin (James 2: 10), and be used of the devil to diminish one's availability and capacity to be used of God to produce divine good.
It is this difference (being in or out of fellowship) that determines to what extent any given believer can be used of God (and/or the devil) to promote either the divine or diabolical agenda, and to what extent one's post salvation spiritual life will be one dominated by success or failure.
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Satan, preying on the arrogance of the fallen nature in Man will lead us to believe that it is what we do for God that makes and keeps one "right" with God. This FALSE concept, as well as the numerous other alternatives based on religious rituals, humanitarian acts, and relatively good moral behavior appeal to the fallen nature in Man. Such things appear to afford Man the much desired need to be able to do something to address his own spiritual needs. The fallen nature in Man rejects the idea that Man must submit to some outside power to provide his greatest need.
One is “born again” IF and when one is presented with the Gospel Message at a time when the pre-salvation ministry of God the Holy Spirit is making it understandable. The fallen nature in Man is not capable of understanding God and the things of God (Romans 8:7). The fallen nature in Man is actually hostile (Romans 8:7) toward God and things of God. This hostility is usually kept at bay until the soul is presented with a spiritual truth that he/she doesn't want to hear or accept. Only when an unbeliever chooses to listen to Gospel via the pre-salvation ministry of God the Holy Spirit can the Gospel be understood. Likewise, only when a born again believer chooses to submit to the post-salvation ministry of God the Holy Spirit can he/she be spiritually edified.
This pre-salvation ministry of God the Holy Spirit is what Scripture is referring to when it says that, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you… (John 15: 16 NASB)”. Scripture (Heb. 3: 15) warns an unbeliever of the consequences (Rev. 20: 13, 15) of having passed on the last opportunity to be saved and warns believers of the consequences (1 Cor. 3: 15) of not pursuing the true post salvation spiritual life (1 Cor. 3: 12-15) before leaving this planet.
The devil promotes an alternative definition of success that appeals and makes sense to the fallen nature in all of us. Satan has a warehouse full of supplies to aid one's pursuit of such "success". Keep in mind that it was the stated (Isa. 14: 13, 14) devil to establish a productive kingdom independent of God in which he (the devil) would receive the worship of his subjects. This plot failed within the angelic realm, but he has been trying to re-establish such a kingdom here on Earth via human involvement during whatever time he (the devil) has left.
There are many other forms of success that can be produced by human beings with human effort and ability. Such deeds and those who produce it are held in high esteem by Man, but are of no significance once one departs from this world.
“For what does is profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit (what God 's plan had in store for) his soul (Mark 8: 36 NASB/italics mine)?”
The answer, and the pont that this verse makes, is that it will profit a man nothing once he/she leaves this world at the moment of physical death of the body. The issue with Man is that we are naturally prone to be focused on the here and now and not on life after we leave these bodies behind. At the risk of temporal consequences, there is much to be gained by doing things the devil's way, here on Earth in the devil's world.
Our soul was/is the part of us that was created in God’s ever lasting likeness (Gen. 1: 26). Man is unlike God in that God never had a beginning, but is like God in that once created, the soul-life of Man will never come to an end. Every human soul that has ever been or ever will be created will be just as much alive throughout all of eternity as he/she was at the second that God (John 3: 6) created each soul and placed it in the body that the human parents produced to receive it. Upon departing the body, every soul continues to live on forever in one of two general environments. Accordingly, it is not the eternal life given to ALL believers (John 3: 16) that is "forfeited" Mark 8: 36, but the eternal rewards that the plan of God had in store for it (John 3: 16/1 Cor. 3: 12-15). This is a prime example of how doctrines must take into account ALL the related passages of Scripture, as taking passages out of context or only selecting the ones that support one's preconceived position can easily make the Bible appear to say just about anything a clever communicator desires.
1 Cor. 3: 15 teach that there will be a percentage of born again believers who, like their rewarded counterparts that will experience Heaven for all of eternity, but after forfeiting ALL of the rewards that they would have otherwise received (1 Cor. 3: 15). If Matt. 7: 13, 14 speaks of the way of discipleship as well as the way of salvation ( I believe it does), this percentage will be larger than the percentage of believers who will receive rewards.
A partial forfeiture that a believer can experience involves born again believers who choose not to identify, pursue, and remain in the true post (after) salvation spiritual life. The end result of this degree of forfeiture is the loss of rewards (1 Cor. 3: 12-15) that the same believer would have otherwise received in addition to the gift of eternal life that all believers will experience for all of eternity.
All the other forms of success that one achieves while here on Earth can do NOTHING to change the eternal consequences of disbelieving the Gospel (John 3: 18). All of the human good (symbolized as wood, hay, straw (1 Cor. 3: 12) that even born again believers produce will not result in receiving ANY eternal reward. Only the deeds of divine good (symbolized as silver gold, and precious stones (1 Cor. 3: 12) that God produces (John 15: 5) through them will receive reward.
With all of the distractions that this world can muster, coupled with our natural tendency to be Earthly oriented, the loss of eternal rewards may not seem to be all that much of an issue here on Earth, but born again believers who experience the partial or full forfeiture spoken of in 1 Cor. 3: 12-15 will have a rude awakening, filled with regret, when all that this world has to offer is left behind and the 1 Cor. 3 12-15 takes place in Heaven.
Those who entertain the notion that "just gettiing in" (to Heaven) is good enough have no idea how the forfeiture of rewards will impact their Heavenly experience.
There are many believers who are in it (the religious world) for the Earthly and Heavenly blessings that such Man made institutions have established. The world is full of so-called evangelists and ministers who recruit and retain followers on the basis of all that God will give or do for them HERE ON EARTH, as well as in Heaven, if they financially support their ministries.
Being a disciple MAY involve an environment in which one MAY experience much Earthly prosperity, but may also cost disciples everything they have, including their very lives. Scripture is clear that , "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate (love less) his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life (in comparison to the love he/she is to have for God and/or the thongs of God), he cannot be My disciple (Luke 14: 26 NASB/italics mine)." Note that it is the rewards of discipleship and its rewards (and not salvation) that is at issue here.
In my observation of life, many of the ones who serve God to the maximum are the ones who have lost something that, at least at one time, was very dear and near to his/her heart. There is nothing more frustrating for the devil to experience than to have thrown his best punch, only to see the target of his attack get back up and continue to serve the Lord!
The advancing disciple does not do what he does in order to be compensated here on Earth or rewarded in Heaven. He is motivated by the love he has for God, after experiencing the love that God had for him and expressed it on the cross. The one who realizes the enormity (from God’s viewpoint) of one’s sinfulness and the inability to do anything about it, is the one who love’s God the most (Luke 7: 44-47). There are many definitions of what "love" is, but in any form, love is best illustrated by the extent to which one makes sacrifices for the object of the love he/she has.
There are three ways of interpreting the phrase, “the whole world”, referenced in Mark 8: 36.
One is literal. Several political individuals, nations, empires, and “religious” organizations have tried to establish a never ending global world kingdom here on Earth.
The second is to view it as hyperbole which the use of exaggerated wording in order to make a practical point.
The third is that it can be viewed symbolically; referring, in this case, to all the glory and prosperity that one’s personal circumstances may have to offer. For example, winning the World Series would mean gaining the whole world to baseball player.
In this case, I favor the symbolic interpretation.
EVERY walk of life, be it in the home or out in the devil’s world has its own definition and pinnacle of "success". Each one comes with a price tag attached to it. Success in the true post salvation spiritual life is no exception. The same Bible that teaches believers should consider the cost of discipleship (Luke 14: 28) before engaging in it, also teach of the negative consequences (1 Cor. 3: 12-15/Heb. 12: 6) for choosing not doing so .
Even if gaining the/one’s whole world were possible, it is secondary to receiving eternal life (John 3: 16); a regenerated spirit (Titus 3: 5) and the heavenly rewards (1 Cor. 3: 12-15) for having identified and executed the TRUE post salvation spiritual life.
"More than that, I count all things to be (worth being) lost in view
of the surpassing (better) value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,
for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but
rubbish in order that I might gain (what) Christ (has to offer... (Phil. 3:8 italics mine)."
What God is saying in Mark 8: 36 is for one not to allow the complete/partial forfeiture of one’s soul to be the price that one pays for ANY other form of “success”, here in the devil’s world.
It is normal to desire the most success that one can accomplish during his/her relatively short time we are given to be here on Earth. However, how God defines success and how human viewpoint defines success are quite different. In our Lord's greatest moment of accomplishing success during HIs Earthly mission, He was beaten, spit on, deserted, ridiculed, challenged, rejected, scourged, naked, and bleeding, nailed to a Roman cross. This would hardly be a picture of success, as the world defines success to be.
God is not opposed to Earthly prosperity (3 John 1: 2), nor is He impressed by vows or lifestyles of deprivation that are self-induced. Whatever legitimate prosperity that God sends or allows is for the recipient to enjoy and to sacrificially share (Heb. 13: 16/1 Timothy 6: 18/Isa. 58: 7) with others. Keep in mind that the Bible (Matt. 25: 40, 45) teaches whatever you do (or don't do for others, you do (or don't do) for Christ.
There are times when it is in the best interest of others to teach or advise them "how to fish", than it is to hand over a " fish" every time they come up short, while making no effort to improve their lot in life.
When one is capable and has the opportunity to provide for him/herself, but is not willing to do his/her part to improve his/her own lot in life, he/she is not worthy of benefiting from the labor of others (2 Thess. 3: 10). This is a form of tough love that can be just as hard on a generous heart to say "No." as it is to be the one who is forced to do what it takes to become self reliant.
The pursuit or retention of Earthly prosperity is not a spiritual issue p-r-o-v-i-d-i-n-g that the pursuit or the retention of it is not given a greater place of priority than what one gives to God and/or the things of God. One's true priorities become evident in whatever or whoever occupies most of our thought processes on any given day. Where God and the things of God are placed on one's list of daily priorities is a decision that we choose to make.
Materialism is a common distraction if not a full blown idol in the godless society that has evolved here in America. Such believers who make prosperity their idol will make great sacrifices of their time and money to further increase and/or retain the things of the this world while having a "good enough" attitude towards promoting the things of God. Once a soul begins learn enough of the truth, he/she will have the genuine desire to support the source of the truth for the continuation of his/herr own spiritual edification and for the edification of others. The more spiritual questions you find answers to, the more new questions surface. An advancing disciple looks forward to the next serving of the Word of God like a thirsty man in the natural realm looks forward to a drink of water.
God does not want either time or money that one does not have to give (Matt. 15: 5/1 Timothy 5: 8). God knows the financial reality that many can face when trying to make ends meet, even after they have put the Kingdom of God first (Matt. 6: 33) on their list of priorities, and after they have done all they can to legitimately improve their lot in life. At the same time, there is something wrong when we spend more time and/or money that we DO have on the unnecessary things that only pertain to this world while contributing little or nothing for the promotion of God's agenda.
If one is not c-o-n-t-i-n-u-a-l-l-y GROWING in the KNOWLEDGE of God (2 Pet. 3: 18), he/she is NOT pursuing the TRUE post salvation spiritual life. There will NEVER come a time this side of Heaven when one has learned and mastered all the wisdom that the Word of God has to offer, but there may come a time when the opportunity to do so diminishes due to to age, illness, or circumstances associated with the widespread state of apostasy WITHIN the Christian Community that has been prophesied to take place in the End Times.
God does not fault us for circumstances that are beyond our control, but we ARE accountable Romans 14: 12 for what we could have done when we DID have the means and opportunity to have done so. In more cases than not, we seem to find the time to do the things we desire to do, but seem to have little time or energy left for God or the things of God. In this, the devil is well-pleased.
[This is not a "plug" for financial support of the Biblical Answers To Man's Questions minirty. I do not solicit
or receive ANY financial support for the this ministry. The Biblical Answers To Man's Questions is financially
\ self- supporting.
The financial independence that the Internet method of operation provides allows me to tell it like it is without
undue concern for how the Biblical truths being promoted are going to be received. As in the case of all ordained
pastor teachers, my calling as an ordained pastor-teachers to study and teach the Word of God, and let the pieces
Compromising on doctrine in the interests of job security and/or the amount of money that a ministry is
taking in is a major contributing factor to the widespread apostasy here in the End Times.
Pastor-teacher Doug Laird
The devil's world is designed to absorb as much of one's time and resources as it can, knowing that the financial concerns of the local assembly are usually given the last bite of the apple and being the first to go when financial hardships come our way. God does NOT want what we do not have to give, but where and on what a believer spends what money and time that he/she DOES have reveals where his/her true heart really is (Luke 12: 34).
Generally speaking, when the ancient Hebrew people were blessed with national and/or individual Earthly prosperity, it was perceived to be an indication that their walk with God was on track. But, as in the case of Job, there were times when God also took Earthly prosperity away (Job 1: 21) from those who were living godly lives (Job 2: 3), in order to accomplish divine objectives.
God continues to likewise interact with His people through the giving and taking (Job 1: 21) of Earthly prosperity here in the Church Age dispensation in which we are presently living. In the capacity of an advancing disciple, we may be the recipients of great earthly prosperity (1 John 3: 22) as many evangelists promote, bu we might also have it all taken away (Heb. 11: 37).
There will definitely be times when God will test each one of us to reveal to us where our prioroties truly are when it comes to finances. Why? Because God knows that wherever are treasures are, so are our hearts. This is true of money and assets that we do have, or with ones that we would like to obtain.
God does NOT test us in order for Him to learn anything. There is nothing that He don't already know. The tests are for US to be made aware of where we stand on different issues. Peter thought he had it all together and must have been shocked to learn that he was about to publicly deny that he even knew who Jesus was (Matt. 26: 34). Peter's test results were merely an affirmation of what the Lord already knew was going to be.
Never assume that prosperity that any one person has in this world has necessarily come from God. Nor should it be assumed that the loss of prosperity that any one person suffers is divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6). Assuming that the losses Job suffered was divine discipline was the great error made by the "friends" of Job who came to console him.
The point being is that the acquisition or the loss of Earthly prosperity is NOT to be automatically assumed to be an indication that one is or is not necessarily living a godly or an ungodly life. "Success" in the spiritual realm is to be measured by the fruit (divine good) that God has produced in and through an given individual believer. Such success can be produced in the midst of great prosperity, for instance, when popular celebrities publicly speak of their faith before millions of fans. At the same time, it is in the midst of great calamity, in which one can bring even greater glory to God. Anyone can speak favorably of God and the things of God when everything is going his/her way, but how many can maintain the type of faith that Job did under similar circumstances?
It was Satan who took the position that Job lived for God because of all the prosperity that he enjoyed, but that Job would curse God to His face if enough adversity would be placed upon him. The devil was proven wrong in the case of Job, but I am quite certain that most of those who claim to be Christians would not do as well.
If a believer is the recipient of great prosperity, he is accountable for how it is used (Luke 12: 48). How one handles either the gain or the loss of prosperity reveals much about the true character of the person involved.
While one might think that Earthly prosperity would be the launching pad for future success, it is often when Man is blessed the most here on Earth that he is more likely to forget God and go astray (Rev. 3: 17).
Both God and the devil (to the extent that God permits) are capable of granting or taking away one's Earthly prosperity. Both God and the devil have their own objectives for doing either one. The fallen nature in Man has ONE objective for pursuing Earthly prosperity, and that is to hoard and to enjoy it him/herself. Advancing disciples can also desire and enjoy prosperity, but apply the stewardship principles of sharing with others and participating in giving towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
It’s no secret that one can gain much more Earthly prosperity and gain it a lot sooner by being willing to dance to the devil’s tune(s), rather than living according to the TRUE post salvation doctrine. What one does when he THINKS no one is looking reveals much about one's character. I say "thinks" because NOTHING gets by the eyes of God, and there are many times when we are under the observation of unseen angels to see if we choose to glorify God.
The devil hated the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, yet offered as much future Earthly glory and prosperity (Luke 4: 6), as did part of the plan of God (Rev. 21: 26), providing He was willing to set aside the divine plan and purpose for His time here on Earth.
"And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of
the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him,
"I will will give you all this domain and its glory' For it has
been handed to me. and I give it to whom I wish ("Luke 4: 5, 6 NASB)."
To “sweeten the deal”, the devil’s offer did not require the humiliating and painful death on a cross! The glory of God and salvation of all mankind hung in the balance!
If you are a child of God, the devil and his Eph. 6: 12 forces of evil hate you just as much (Matt. 10: 22), but are equally willing to grant oir take away as much Earthly prosperity as God will allow, with the long term objective of you rejecting the divine plan that God has in mind for you.
The most “successful” life in a human body here on Earth involved one who engaged in manual labor (most likely in an “already established” carpentry business); never got married; did not receive an advanced secular education; did not qualify for the clergy of His day; lived with His mother, half-brothers and half-sisters, never having a home or place of His own. He was betrayed, denied, and abandoned by even His closest associates.
He was eventually labelled a liar, and a fraud bymany of His former followers. He was subjected to experiencing a horrible process of death that was reserved for those determined to have been guilty of the more serious crimes against the secular government. His life on Earth was over before His 35th birthday.
According to human standards, His life would hardly be considered “successful”.
Yet, according to divine viewpoint, the Earthly life of the Lord Jesus Christ was a complete success, having totally fulfilled the divine purpose for which He came.
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In the Church Age, God evaluates and will reward (in Heaven - 1 Cor. 3: 12-15) the level of success one has here on Earth in accordance with the divine good that He produces through the believers of the Church Age.
God and the devil will both make use of human good, regardless if it is the work of a believer or an unbeliever, but such deeds never-the-less remains to be ones of human good. God uses human deeds to provide logistical services to many people, and the devil will take all the help he can get to establish a productive kingdom "independent" from God. Cleaning up the devil's world is byproduct of the human good that is produced every day by believers and unbelievers alike, but making the devil's world a better place to live is NOT the number one priority of an advancing disciple.
Many of our Lord's followers had issues with Him when He chose not to be distracted by getting involved in the social, racial, and political issues of His day.
Human good has its own reward(s) and compensation here on Earth, but it merits NO consideration for eternal reward at the 1 Cor. 3: 12-15 event that is to take place in Heaven. Most of the earthly "progress' that is achieved in the social, racial, and political realms are relatively over stated and short-lived, as even the greatest of earthly nations sooner or later seem to the take the downhill course of moral decline to their own destruction. The spiritual needs of Man has not changed since the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden.
Success, from divine viewpoint, is based on the production of divine good. What constitutes divine good differs from one dispensation to another. For the most part, the production of divine good here in the dispensation of the Church Age involves the development of discipleship of born again believers with the long term objective of participating in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Divine good glorifies God, whereas most human good puts the spotlight on the human being(s) producing it. As great as some forms of human good may be, it is usually performed with the motivation of having its producer being glorified and/or compensated for it HERE on Earth.
Divine good is accomplished by divine power (John 15: 5), whereas human good is accomplished through human ability and effort.
The simple rule of thumb to discern when it is divine good and when it is human good that is in view is to take note of whom (God vs. Man) is being glorified, and through what power source (human vs. divine) is the deed being accomplished. God will use human involvement, but only He can produce divine good (John 15: 5).
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he (the believer) who
abides in Me, and I in him (walking in fellowship) will produce
much fruit (divine good); for (but) apart from Me you can do NOTHING."
- John 15: 5 NASB/italics mine.
Man, without God, can only produce human good! Atheists. non-Christians, and Christians who do not engage in post salvation discipleship, are generally not involved or interested in the fulfillment of the Great Commission that was given to the Church.
Granted, some forms of human good can be of great value here on Earth to the one who produces it, and to the ones who benefit by it. Some of the greater deeds of human good consist of the work of talented surgeons, and military or public safety personnel. Such deeds, however, remain in the human good category, as such deeds can be accomplished by BOTH believers and unbelievers, “independently” of God.
I place quotation marks around “independently” as in truth; nothing can take place without first passing through the filters of God’s direct, permissive, or over-ruling will. By independent, I am referring to the good deeds that believers and unbelievers alike produce with their human ability apart from God.
Atheists and non-Christians can be “good” fathers and mothers (by human standards), be successful in careers, be financially prosperous, raise relatively moral, productive, and obedient children, contribute to society, engage in humanitarian projects, and yet not produce ANY divine good in the process.
As such verses as John 15: 5 teach, divine good requires the enabling power and involvement of God. Without it, NOTHING that is done can qualify as divine good. The production of human good has its own rewards here on Earth, but has nothing to do with divine good or the type of "success" that glorifies God and generates heavenly reward for the believers who are involved in it.
All believers are “indwelt” by God (1 Cor. 2: 16), being the Earthly temple of God, as of the moment of salvation (Titus 3: 5). But being Spirit “indwelt", as ALL believers are, and being Spirit “filled”, submitted to the His control at any given time are two very different statuses.
Believers retain their salvation, but lose their “filled” status and fellowship with God as a result of engaging in post salvation sin. Fellowship is restored via the 1 John 1: 9 process. As noted earlier in this presentation, God (and or the devil) can use our words and actions to promote their opposing agendas. If a believer wants to be an advancing disciple and in a position to be used greatly by God (and not by the devil) he/she must abide and be in fellowship (2 Cor. 13: 14) with God.
Some of us are not even out of bed in the morning and have already engaged in some mental attitude sins, taking themselves out of fellowship with God.
The good news is that time spent out of fellowship can be as brief as the time it takes to confess a known sin. THe bad news is that it can last for the rest of one’s post salvation spiritual life if the known sin is not confessed. Time out of fellowship with God greatly diminishes our usefulness by God and increases our usefulness in the hands of Satan.
Confessing, but then forsaking (John 8: 11) the same sin that took us out of fellowship will result in the believer returning to the out of fellowship status. When ANY sin becomes a lifestyle, it is easy to see how one’s level of “success”, as God defines success, becomes greatly compromised.
Time out of fellowship with God reduces the level of success that the same believer could have attained. Worse than that, it is in such periods that we become powerful tools in the hands of the devil. Instead of making deposits in one's eternal bank account, one is contributing to the forfeiture of some of the rewards he/she could have avoided. Instead of divine blessing, one opens the door for divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6).
Many individuals can (and often do) sit, stand, kneel, read, sing, pray and listen to homilies or sermons, going through the same overt motions and rituals during a worship service. When it is finished, it is likely that only the ones who is were in fellowship with God were there to worship God and/or celebrated the Lord's Supper (Communion) as He desires. This is evidence by that fact that some in attendance leave with a sense of having paid his/her obligations for the day/week, whereas others leave with having shared time devoted to the corporate worship of God and with a more edified soul structure. Accordingly, some accomplished much with John 15: 5 power of God, whereas others accomplished little or NOTHING!
Meaningful worship of God is among the John 15:5 things that cannot be accomplished apart from abiding (being in close fellowship) with Him. If one is NOT being "successful" in or through one's means of worship, it is not likely that he/she is achieving much "success", as God defines success to be, out in the devil's world either.
For a variety of voluntary or compulsive reasons, anyone can choose to engage in human good, be relatively moral in conduct, and engage in humanitarian projects. Many such things can produce favorable environments and advantages. While such things may generate the praise of Man, they will not be acknowledged or rewarded by God at the 1 Cor. 3: 12-15 event if they were not deeds of divine good. Just as shocking as the rejection of an unbeliever's deeds of human good concerning salvation (Rev. 20: 13, 15), will be the rejection of all the deeds of human good of believers for consideration concerning eternal reward (1 Cor. 3: 12-15).
For years I thought that the human good I produced during the thirty years of my law enforcement career was going to be the basis for at least some of my reward in Heaven, but this is not so. There are just as many atheists, non-Christian, and fellow Christians who engage in this (and many other) forms of great human good, but do not function as either a disciple or as an ambassador of Christ. Although compensated with the means to secure logistical necessities, and in some case great earthly prosperity, human good of ANY kind does NOT generate eternal life for an unbeliever, nor does it entitles those who produce it with heavenly reward.
The ONLY spiritual connection between one's secular career, profession, domestic function, or area of labor is that is where a born again believer is called to serve as God's ambassador, and in THAT capacity, be involved in the production of divine good.
Just as 1 Cor. 3: 15 clearly reveals, there will be many Christians who will enter the eternal state empty-handed (without reward), with a zero balance in their eternal bank account (Matt. 6: 19 - 21), into which NO further deposits can ever be made. Such believers will never lose their salvation and will enjoy the general environment of Heaven, but will NEVER have the rewards and accompanying privileges that the advancing disciples will receive for having been involved in the production of much (John 15: 5) fruit (divine good) here on Earth. Many believers who did not think it was worth the time, investment, effort, or sacrifice here on Earth will have all of eternity to ponder what might have been!
The environment in Heaven will NOT be a place of equality with everyone having the same experience. There will be believers who have little or NO reward and accompanying privileges, and there will be those whose reward and accompanying privileges will be great. The ONLY equality that everyone has in the spiritual realm is HERE on Earth, with each one of us having the equal opportunity to learn of and to execute the part (1Cor. 12: 18) that God has in mind for each one of us in His master plan for the human race.
"But now (the plan of) God has placed the members (of the Church) , each one of them,
in the body (Church at large) just as He desired (1 Cor. 12: 18 NASB)."
"Do NOT be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man
sows (or fails to sow), that shall he also (or fail to) reap (Gal. 6: 7 NASB italics mine."
Advancing disciples do not serve God in order to be rewarded, but God is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Heb. 11: 6). He has clearly revealed that He intends to reward ( in Heaven - 1 Cor. 3: 12-15) those who choose to live for Him, here on Earth.
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Post salvation sin has to be addressed (1 John 1: 9/John 8: 11) here on Earth in order for a believer to be in the best position to have God produce divine good through him/her, but "religion" and feelings of guilt that spiritual immaturity (John 8: 32) can generate can have one so focused on sin that he/she forgets that Judgment Day for the faithful can be one of great reward!
Divine good brings glory to God. The primary role that a Spirit-filled believer plays is to be available (edified and in fellowship with God), thereby being the best possible position means through which God can communicates the Gospel or can use us to teach post salvation doctrine via word or example.
How many deeds of divine good that any one believer will be called to entertain is up to God. The repentant thief on the cross on the side of our Lord had only a few hours efore leaving this world and going to Paradise with the Lord, but the brief conversation he had with the Lord has been words of inspiration and clarification for multitudes.
Although we are called to accomplish our part through a variety of different functions, the objective (fulfilling the Great Commission) is the same. The Great Commission involves the sharing of the TRUE Gospel with unbelievers, and mutually edifying fellow believers with post salvation doctrine. It has got NOTHING to do with cleaning up or making the devil's world a better place to live.
For some, one' part may only involve sharing the Gospel and/or doctrine with a limited a few, whereas others will be called to evangelize or edify multitudes. We are accountable for the divine deeds that God gives to each one of us. There are some who claim to Christians who have never shared the Gospel or doctrine with hardly anyone. ONe can not share what one does not have. Such "believers" have clearly missed the boat of what the true post salvation spiritual life is all about. Failing to prepare (1 Pet. 3: 15) for and/or failing to act on opportunities, given, be they great or small in number, can impact how much of one's full reward will be received or forfeited at the 1 Cor. 3: 12-15 evaluation.
To whom much (opportunity/doctrine) is given, much (production) will be required (Luke 12: 48).
EVERY day is a day when we are given the opportunity to "prepare", and on many days we are (or should be) given opportunities to share the TRUE Gospel or an edifying passage of Scripture. If this is not your personal experience, perhaps a 2 Cor. 13:5 SELF examination might be in order to discover why this is so.
Being a supporter (by prayer, finances, time, or practical service) of a Biblically qualified evangelist, pastor teacher. or ministy will result in such supporters receiving a share of the reward(s) for the divine good that God produces through the supported evangelist or pastor (Matt. 10: 41).
Note however, that those who support denominations and/or ministries that promote false doctrine or practices, will also bear the burden of having been a partner is the evil activity he/she supported (2 John 1:11 ).
Every believer has the opportunity to produce divine good that glorifies God by choosing to learn new and/or refine (Matt. 7: 24-27) Bible doctrine that should be circulating in his /her soul structure. Just as important, we must also apply (James 1: 22) the doctrine to the moment to moment thoughts and actions of our daily life.
If we can (and usually do) find the daily time to do ANYTHING else, we have the time to be edified in order to grow in His grace and knowledge with the long term objective of serving God by ministering to others.
The concept that a believer is only accountable for himself and not for others is a far cry from the long term goal of Christian discipleship.
We are not responsible for what others choose to do with the information (Gospel/post salvation doctrine) that we provide, but we are accountable for having prepared (1 Pet. 3: 15/ Matt. 7: 24-27) ourselves, and for then sharing the doctrine circulating in our soul structure when the opportunity presents itself. The true post salvation spiritual life is NOT all about you!
“To whom much (doctrine) is given, much (sharing) will be required of him (Luke 12: 48 NASB).”
If we are obedient to the command (not an option) to be forever growing (an ongoing process) in the knowledge of God (1 Pet. 3: 15), so is the ever-increasing obligation to share it with others, as God gives us the opportunity. Instead of being something that we, as a weak believer, are shamefully (Romans 1: 16/Matt. 10: 33) embarrassed to speak about, sharing the Gospel and accurate Bible doctrine becomes the driving force of the post salvation spiritual life of an advancing disciple.
Even though sharing the Gospel and post salvation doctrine are fundamental parts of the true post salvation spiritual life, this would be a new experience for many who identify themselves as Christians, but have taken on the name (Christian) of (associated with) the Lord in vain. Claiming to be a "Christian" and then not following through on what it means to be one is the Church Age application of the Old Testament Commandment (Exodus 20: 7).
"You shall not take (on) the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not
leave him unpunished who takes (on) His name in vain (Ex.20: 7 NASB/italics mine"
Spiritual knowledge vs. spiritual ignorance is a daily choice that we make. Applying what we already do know is another daily choice that we make.
One of the reasons that the sin nature in us does NOT want to edified, is so that one does not have to face the inevitable challenges that such knowledge will present to him/her. Unless one is willing to continue in the Word, he/she can no longer grow in God's grace and knowledge. There will NEVER come a time when one has learned or applied all of the knowledge that the Word of God has to offer. One of the questions that we need to ask ourselves in the course of our 2 Cor. 13:5 SELF examinations is, "What do I know or have a better understand of now that I didn't know or have a better understand of six months ago about God or the things of God?". If the answer is nothing, there is something wrong that needs to be adjusted. Continued in Part Two....
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