Fear is a state of mind triggered by some form of immediate or future threat, real or imagined, to the well-being of one's physical, spiritual, environmental, or personal circumstances.
Fear can have a motivational, restraining, and/or debilitating impact on one's thought processes. In the spirit realm, what one is in his/her thinking, is what he/she is (Proverbs 23: 7). Virtually all of the daily spiritual combat takes place between the ears! Refusing to listen, or listening to the wrong voices is Satan's counterplan to God's plan of building of an edified soul structure.
This where the spiritual gift and function of a BIBLICALLY quaified pastor-teacher takes center stage. A believer should spend time alone with the Lord studying (not just reading) the Word of God on a daily basis, but if we want God's best, we must learn to do things God's way. GOd's way, in this case, is to submit oneself to the teaching authority of the pastor teacher that God has in mind for you at any point of time or period in one's post salvation spiritual life.
In the spiritual realm, we are as we think (Proverbs 23: 7). This underscores the need to have a Biblically-edified soul structure (Matt. 7: 24-27).
Some of us can do a pretty good job of concealing the sins of the mind from other people, but nothing gets by the omniscience of God.
There is no need to fear making a confession to God. When we confess our sins to God (1John 1: 9), we are not telling Him anything that He doesn't already know.
Edified believers know what God's response (forgiveness - 1John 1: 9) is going to be, but the same cannot be said of all people. Forgiveness from God does not eliminate one's accountability to the state or to other persons in positions of authority.
It is one's thought processes that inevitably determines one speech and behavior(s), often times revealing what one is really like when the his soul is under pressure.
Fear can motivate the most passive of creatures to generate great courage, yet it can cause the most brave among us to momentarily freeze or even run away like a coward.
On the positive side, fear (or perhaps better understood as respect) can be our friend when it motivates us to avoid things that place us or our interests in harm's way, or on the wrong side of some form of authority, be it divine, human, or governmental.
Avoidance, however, is not always the will of God. The true post salvation spiritual life is one of ongoing and ever increasing c-o-n-f-l-i-c-t (Matt. 10: 34) as the spiritual warrior treads deeper in enemy held territory. There is only one acceptable direction for an advancing disciple on the spiritual battlefield, and that is forward.
Accordingly, suffering is an inherent part of the life of true discipleship. IF one is not interested in suffering, he/she is not interested in pursuing the true post salvation spiritual life of a disciple.
"For to you (the advancing disciple) it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him (and reap the blessings), but also to suffer for His name's sake (Phil. 1: 29 NASB italics mine)."
Are you a spiritual warrior or a spiritual worrier? One is fearless, the other is fearful.
Believers who choose to develop (Matt. 7: 24-27) and apply (2Tim. 3: 12) a Biblically edified soul structure to their daily lives will be persecuted by those who do not.
Any advancing disciple that is worth his salt has been, is being, and will be persecuted.
If one is not suffering persecution in one form or another, he/she is NOT producing much fruit in his/her post salvation spiritual life. When the that is the case, the devil is quite content to leave that believer alone.
Persecution will involve rejection, isolation, ridicule, derision, and loss of some type.
One would naturally expect this type of response from those who live like the devil in the devil's world, but when the persecution comes from within one' s own family and household (Matt. 10: 36), the Luke 14: 26 "people test" of discipleship can be a major hurdle to overcome.
Advancing disciples know better than to expect any support or encouragement from the "religous" crowd.
Most unbelievers or back-sliding believers will not get in the face of an advancing disciple unless the subject matter hits a personal nerve when confronted with the TRUTH of the Gospel or an edifying principle of doctine (Matt. 7: 6).
The "religous" crowd, on the other had, will consider the persecution and the destruction of an advancing disciple to be their spiritual obligation (John 16: 2).
Not being "worth the bullet" does not speak well of the personal testimony of any given believer. You will not draw any fire if you are not advancing into enemy held territory. If you, as a believer, are not engaged in the true post salvation spiritual life, you pose no threat to enemy held territory and can be of great value to the devil right where you are.
Enemy held territory in the spiritual realm is any area of doctrine or practice, inside or outside of the Christian Communiity, that is contrary to what can be Biblically substantiated. Again, we see the need of a Biblically-edified soul structure.
Being fearless does not mean that one is not to be aware of who his spiritual enemies are (1 Peter 5: 8/ Eph. 6) and by what means they will attack.
Unlike God, the devil does not have the attribute of omnipresence (being everywhere and anywhere at the same time).
Accordingly, the devil relies much on his Eph. 6: 12/1 Cor. 11: 14 agents and the people in each generation that he has deceived (John 8: 44) to knowingly or unwitingly fulfill much of his objectives in the realm of spiritual combat, here in the Church Age. Only on a few occasions (Gen. 3/Matt. 4/Luke 22: 3) did the devil see fit to personally take the task in hand.
Everyone who stands behind a pulpit (2 Cor. 11: 14/John 8: 44) or otherwise comes to the door of your soul toting a Bible, is not always a messenger from God. The Bible can be made to appear to say just about anything that a clever speaker wants it to say by selecting the passages that appear to support thier position, while disregarding others that address the same subject.
Putting a different spin on what God has or had not said is a scheme of the devil that has proven to be very effective since the Garden of Eden.
The only defense for a lie is knowing the truth BEFORE the lie is presented to you (Matt. 7: 24-27).
Those who deal with currency are not trained by being able to spot the ongoing and never-ending versions and supply of counterfeits, but by being able to immediately confirm the real thing.
Believers with a Biblically-edified soul structure will likewise develop the ability to spot the devil's alternatives when false doctrines or concepts are being presented to them, regardless of who presents it.
Most clery would not knowingly promote false doctrine, but a bullet fired in igornance can be just as lethal as one that is fired with malicous intent. I say most, because there are some who privately support some of the official positions that their chosen denomination promote, but for sake of retaining good standing with the religious authority over them, go along with the program they were ordained to promote.
Many clergy are shamefully more concerned with how much cash is going into the offering baskets that how much doctrine is going into the souls of those attending.
The more truth (accurate Bible Doctrine) an individual believer possesses, the less he has to fear that he is being influenced by a false teacher, especially in this apostate (1Tim. 4: 1) stage of the Church Age.
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Many people reject, but many others live in great fear of unseen spiritual beings, both good (Heb. 1: 14 ) and evil (Eph. 6: 12) that Scripture teach DO exist and function (Gal. 3: 1/1 Tim. 4: 1) all around us on a daily basis. While having the ability (when authorized) to appear in their supernatural form (Luke 2: 9, 13), they also have the ability to take on the appearance of natural human form, as well (Heb. 13: 2).
Even when it is an angel that appears, the initial human reaction is fear (Luke 2: 9).
One can choose to believe or disbelieve anything he wants, but an advancing disciple can not afford to pick and choose what part(s) of the Bible he/she is going to believe and part(s) he is going to reject. ANY area of thinking that is contrary to the "mind of Christ 1Cor. 2: 16)" provides the devil with an opportunity that the devil can use to his own advantage.
In the realm of spiritual combat, God takes direct action (Acts 5), but also makes use of angels (Heb. 1: 14) and Spirit-filled believers (John 15: 5) to fulfill His objectives, here in the Church Age.
Likewise, the devil (to the extent that God allows-Book of Job) can take direct action, but also make use of His Eph. 6:12 forces of evil and human beings (John 8: 44) that he has deceived to fulfill his objectives.
Identification and knowledge of the method of operation of the enemy is a critical area of any kind of combat.
The Lord Jesus Christ did not have many heated conflicts with the sinners He encountered, but had many with the "religous" crowd of His day. The same experience will be the experience of His TRUE disciples.
The human race was created to glorify God in the midst of an ongoing spiritual conflict between God, His forces, and the devil and his forces (Eph. 6: 12).
The more spiritually mature one becomes, the more sensitive he/she will become to perceiving the spiritual issue(s) behind the choices we make on a daily basis, bringing glory or dishonor to God in the process.
As in any conflict, there will be casualties.
Believers whose heart is controlled by the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2: 16), having built an edified soul structure (Matt. 7: 24-27) will make godly choices and pay the price for having done so (2 Tim. 3: 12). As the old saying goes, no good deed will go unpunished!
The believer whose heart is controlled by religion and other forms of human viewpoint will make religous and/or wordly decisions, and will pay the price for (Heb. 12: 6/Matt. 7: 27/1Cor. 3: 15) for having done so.
All of the blessings or consequences for which road (the wide and broad or then arrow and straight-Matt.7: 13,14) that we choose to trod may or may not be experienced during our time here on Earth.
Some rewards are reserved for Heaven (Heb. 11: 13), and thank God, most of us never receive all of the divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6) that we truly deserve. The glorification of God, and NOT rewards, is (should be) the reason we do what we do. Certainly, the one who continues on without receiving ANY reward (here on Earth) for the divine good being produced has a much greater testimony of personal faith that the believer who receives much!
Regardless of how many rewards one receives during his/her time here on Earth, divine justice has not had its final say until Judgment day for the unbelievers (Rev. 20: 13, 15) and evaluation day (Cor. 3: 12-15) for believers have taken place. All of tangible rewards received here on Earth are left behind and belong to someone else the moment we take our last breath, whereas all the rewards awaiting us in Heaven are eternally secure.
Comparing the time we have to enjoy the blessings or to endure the hardships to be experiend here on Earth with the blessings of Heaven or existence in the lake of fire for ALL of eternity, is like comparing a grain of sand to the Sahara Desert!
In fact, even that is not an accurate illustration, as the number of grains of sand that make up the Sahara Desert have a limit, whereas eternity will NEVER come to end!
"The fear of (respect for) the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalms 111:10 NASB italics mine)."
Note that it is b-e-g-i-n-n-i-n-g of wisdom, as ignorance of Scripture can generate fears concerning God and the things of God that He never intended for His children to experience.
The devil on the other hand, desires to generate as much fear as the permissive will of God allows.
Fear is the shackles that religion uses to retain its slaves, threatening non-conformists with the fires of Hell, expressing its (religion's) own ignorance as to what will actually cause anyone to go what the Bible calls the lake of fire.
The devil is well aware of the impact that negative forms of fear can have on the spiritual life of a believer.
Many believers live in diabilically induced fear(s) all thier lives (Heb. 2: 15). This, however, is a choice that such believers make for themselves. It is NOT the mindset (1Cor. 2: 16) called for in the plan of God for born again believers.
The devil will take advantage of every area of weakness that born again believers choose to leave unaddressed. Areas of weakness are breeding grounds for fear.
Areas of weakness are those areas in our lives that we either are ignorant of what God has to say, or have heard the truth, but choose to reject in theory or at the point of application, what God has to say.
Believers often refuse to apply what they (should) know to be the truth for fear of losing something or someone if they take a stand for God. It IS true, that discipleship will cost the advancing disciple something, often times something near and dear to his heart as God puts the born again believer through the breaking process and follow-up tests of commitment. Note that these tests are NOT for God to see how well we are or are not doing. God already knows that. These tests are for US to see where we are along the road to spiritual maturity.
Here again, the Luke 14: 26 "people test" and the struggle with our own will vs. the will of God takes center stage. Note that the English word "hate" in this verse means to love less in terms of setting priorities.
For the advancing disciple, it is better to have people upset with him/her here on Earth than contribute to them finding themselves in the lake of fire as an unbeliever, or in Heaven as a believer, but without all their full reward (1Cor. 3: 15). As far as our own will is concerned, the more spiritually mature one becomes, the less of an independent agenda one will have. The long term goal of a spiritually mature believer is to have NO other desires than to identify and fulfill the will of God.
One cannot be a "people pleaser" and serve the interests of God at the same time (Gal. 1: 10). Either one is self-centered, or one is Christ-centered.
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What would you think of someone who had the cure, but declined to share it with someone who was seriously ill or even dying?
Now, what do you think God thinks of a disciple who has the cure (The Gospel/Post salvation doctrine) for spiritual death and every form of spiritual illness, but never shares it with anyone? Who, but the devil, would be pleased with such a believer?
When (If) you really love someone, you want what is best for them, even if it means personal sacrifice on your part to provide it.
Giving to others on the basis of love (John 3: 16) was mindset that God had, when God the Son (The Lord Jesus Christ) had when He took on human form and became the ONE and ONLY sacrifice that God the Father would accept in atonement for the world's sin (1 John 2: 2). The gift of eternal life has ever been deserved or earned by anyone who receives it.
Putting the interests of others ahead of our own is the mindset (1 Cor. 2: 16) that God desires to see in EVERY born again believer towards the spiritual well-being of the souls the he/she interacts with each and every day. Do you have such a concern, or are you more interested in what they can do for you?
If an advancing diciple is going to be in a position to minister to people who hold to beliefs and practices that are contrary to Scripture, one must learn to give people time and space to come to thier own decisions, but NEVER be afraid to say what and why you believe what you do.
The freedom of choice regarding ANY spiritual issue, is a God-given right and responsibility for which each soul is accountable to God (Romans 14: 4), NOT to you!
God gave the task of INFORMING to the Church (Matt. 28: 19, 20), but the job of CONFORMING (Rom. 8: 29), He reserved for Himself (1Cor. 3: 6,7). The "Church" here on Earth consists of the collective body of souls who have been born again, with each and every one having a specific gift, place, and function (1Cor. 12: 15) in the fulfilling of the Great Commission on both the individual and corporate scales. Rather or not one is called to take part in the evangelization and edification of 5 or 5,000,000 souls is for God the Holy Spirit to determine.
Our individual responsibility is to be faithful is completing the divine good that God has in assigned to each one of us. Dr. Billy Graham, for example, was not put here on Earth to do the deeds God appointed to Pastor Doug Laird, and visa versa, but we (and all other believers) are on the same team. The assigned work of many believers is to work behind the scenes, rendering practical service and support to the one's whose position places them in the spotlight. Without such support, the quantity and the quality of the work assigned to ones in the spotlight would be diminished.
Scripture does NOT teach that we are to avoid interacting with unbelieving people who live ungodly lives. Such a scenario would make the fulfillment of the Great Commission impossible.
Never-the-less, what we are told to do, is not to associate with people who claim to be Christians and then choose to c-o-n-t-i-n-u-e to practice behaviors that the Bible labels as sin.
Knowing when and where to draw the line between being a light that shines in the darkness, and declining invitations (eliminating the possible chance to evangelize and/or edify a wandering soul) can be a difficult choice. Personally, I prefer tp error on the side of possible opportunity rather than passing judgment on when a person might have reached the point of no return. According to the Gospel of Matthew, after Judas betrayed him with a kiss on the cheek, the Lord Jesus Christ still addressed him , "Friend...(Matt. 26: 50 KJV/NASB)."
Once believer have been so-edified and express (verbally or via behavior) no intentions of addressing a clear cut spiritual issue, d-i-s-s-a-s-o-c-i-a-t-i-o-n with such persons is called for (1Cor. 5:11).
One again, the Luke 14: 26 "people test" takes center stage with the cloud of the fear (or cost) of rejection casting a dark shadow over the situation.
Being spiritually ignorant vs. being spiritually edified is a choice that born again believers make and reinforce EVERY day! Choosing to apply what we do know is another choice that we make every day. In this sense, The Bible is like a map that can tells us WHERE we are right now, WHERE we are headed, and the best route to arrive at the desired destination.
Having a map (The Bible) is one thing, but orientating oneself and being willing to apply the information are different matters altogether.
Many so called Christians are like the deceased parachutist that is found lying on the ground with a perfectly functional parachute with the rip cord in hand that was never pulled.
God cannot command born again believers, as He does (1 Pet. 3: 18), to grow in His knowledge and then not provide the means (Matt. 7: 24-27/John 15: 5/ Phil. 4: 13) for them to do so.
Like it or not, choosing rather or not to take a stand for Christ is not matter of can not, but of will not, with fear of the consequences being the issue at hand.
Peter is often the Biblical character that comes to mind when the subject of denying association with Christ surfaces, but how many times have each one of us failed to take a stand for Christ for fear of the immediate consequences?
No spiritual growth can take place until one is first born again (John 3: 5,7), having then received a regenerated (Titus 3: 5) spirit with ears that are receptive to divine viewpoint (Rom. 8: 7). Until then, just as a physically dead person can do NOTHING in the natural realm, a spiritually dead soul can do NOTHING in the spiritual realm.
In fact, with the pre-salvation ministry of God the Holy Spirit making a presentation of the Gospel understandable, fallen Man would not even be able to believe it (Rom. 8: 7). The same principle applies to post salvation doctrine, which is why our primary teacher and mentor is God the Holy Spirit.
AFTER being born again, one makes a DAILY decision to learn, reinforce, and apply the Word of God, or not to do so. In doing so, the believer prepares him/herself for the counterattacks of Satan and for dealing with the Matt. 7: 24-27 "storms of life" that ARE on the way. There is no need for the edified believer to fear the storms of life, but there is every reason for the unprepared believer to do so.
One of the reasons that many born again believers do NOT engage in the daily life of discipleship is because of the fear of what the challenges true discipleship will require of them and what the response of people will be.
The old saying, "Ignorance is bliss!", applies to the spiritual realm, but choosing ignorance has its price tag, as well. Romans 1: 18 - 20 teach that ignorance will be no defense in the Court of Heaven. Believers are not only accountable for what they do know, but what they could have known if they chose to pursue the life of post salvation discipleship.
Choosing NOT to c-o-n-t--n-u-e growing in one's knowledge of the Lord is a wilful act of disobedience (1 Peter 3: 15/2 Peter. 3: 18).
Choosing not to know does not make the truth any less significant.
Unlike ALL earthly matters that will ALL go away upon departing this Earth, the eternal consequences (Rev. 20: 15) of Judgment Day for unbelievers, and the blessings (1 Cor. 3: 14) or consequences (1Cor. 3: 15) of Evaluation of Deeds Day for believers will be there to stay!
For every thing that God establishes, the devil produces and promotes an alternative that appeals to the fallen nature in Man, but will profit him (Man) nothing in the spiritual realm.
The devil promotes his "alternatives" primarily in the name (authority) of religion that easily finds a home in the hearts of fallen Man. Human viewpoint agrees with and accepts the "logic" of human reasoning.
In the life of a unbeliever, the devil promotes human viewpoint, which by nature, is inherently hostile towards God and the things of God (Rom. 8:7). Promoters of "religion" contend that Man can partiicpate in the salvation process via the religous rituals that he (Man) manufactures. The ONLY part that Man can participate in is by choosing to believe in a presentation of the Gospel Message.
Religion is a producer of ungodly fear, whereas truth (accurate doctrine) frees the advancing disciple from such bondage and slavery (John 8: 32).
It is this freedom that causes much friction between the religous believer and the edified disciple WITHIN the Christian Community, with a lot of ungodly (Romans 14: 4) finger-pointing going on from both sides.
Believers ARE called to expose the sin (Phil. 2: 15), but NOT to judge the sinner.
"Who are you to judge the servant (fellow believer) of another (God). To his own master (God) he stands or falls, and stand (remain saved) he will, for the Lord is able to make Him stand (Romans 14:4 NASB italics mine)."
Even when the extreme measures of disassociation (1 Cor. 5: 11) and excommunication (1 Cor. 5: 13) are called for following attempts to edify the one's involved and all attempts to address a situation have been refused, such extremes are for the long term objectives of repentance and reconciliation, not condemnation.
Never lose sight of the fact that we all came into this world spiritually dead with fallen nature that is hostile (Romans 8: 7) towards God and largely ignorant of Bible doctrine. There is not ONE thing, outside of the Eccl. 3: 11 knowledge of eternity that God places in every heart He creates, that we did not have to learn from somone else at some point along the way.
All of us have picked up false information that has come from our own self-conceived notions, from "religous" people, and/or from doctrines taught by demons-1Tim. 4: 1, that needs to be identified and flushed from our soul structures from time to time (2 Cor. 13: 5).
If we were perfect, God the Holy Spirit could take a vacation and refer all spiritual inquiries to us! As ridiculous as this sounds, there ARE people out there who do believe they could handle the job.
For thier own good, God desires that His children have a healthy respect for Him.
At the same time, one can not experinece the intimate kind of relationship that God desires to have with His children if one feels insecure in the relationship or lives in fear of Him.
The phrase "fear not" is repeated 365 times in the Bible. That's enough for one serving a day year round!
On the negative side, fear is a very destructive and delibating tool when placed in the hand of the devil, or in the hands of well-intending, but misguided individuals whose own lives are dominated by fear.
I say "placed," as living under the bondage of diabolical fear instead of the freedom that true discipleship offers (John 8: 32) is a choice that a believer makes and reinforces every day.
The influence of evil and the influence of good are like two competing dogs within us. The one we feed the best and the most is going to be the one that comes out on top!
We choose to live in fear when we choose not to learn and/or apply what the Word of God has to say about any given issue.
"...and you (the advancing disciple) will know the truth (about certain issues) and (knowing) the truth shall make you free (John 8: 32 NASB italics mine)."
Wherever faith (accurate doctrine and/or its application) is lacking, the believer is most vulnerable to be deceived and to be receptive to one of the many alternatives that the devil promotes in the realm of either human viewpoint or Man-made religion.
The reason that so many so-called Christians live with so many fears is that they have never learned or refuse to apply the truths that are in the Word of God.
Placing one's faith in the true Gospel Message is what causes one to be born again (John 3: 5, 7). Accordingly, ALL born again believers trust in the existence of God and in the TRUTH of the Gospel Message as far as salvation is concerned, but many fail to come to know God as being one who is interested in the moment to moment events and circumstances of his/her daily life.
Scripture tells us that God is interested in every detail of our lives, symbolically referred to as having knowledge of the number of hairs on our head (Matt. 10: 30).
God desires to be in i-n-t-i-m-a-t-e fellowship (2Cor. 13: 14) with every one of HIs childern 24-7, no matter where we are or what we are otherwise doing.
Being outside of this intimate relationship is a choice that we make. We get outside
of this intimate fellowship (2Cor. 11: 13, 14) when we engage in post (after) salvation sin. Fellowship with God is restored as a result of the 1John 1: 9 process. How long a period of time we remain out of fellowship with God is a choice that we make. The period of time can be as brief as the few seconds it takes to confess a known sin, or for as long as the rest of one's post salvation spiritual life. There is no clergyman in the confessional that God designed for the Church Age. It is open for business 24-7.
One indicator that we are in intimate fellowship with God is our conscious awareness of His presence and knowledge.
Truly, many of us wouldn't say some of the things we say or do some of the things we do if we developed the spiritual maturity to be in constant awareness of the omnipresence and the omniscience of God.
One of the reasons that many believers do not entertain Biblical discipleshp is that they prefer to enjoy the false comfort that ignorance affords them for the time being.
A child can play with a live hand grenade and have no fear being ignorant of its destructive potential.
Once we have been informed of the truth (something that should be taking place on a regular basis in the life of a disciple), the believer has to make a choice to either accept and apply the truth, or suffer the inevitable consequences.
To avoid being placed in a position to have to make choices, many Christians would prefer just to leave things as they are. In this, the devil is well-pleased, as it means that they will progress no further along the road to spiritual maturity that pleases God.
Many rank in file believers really would like to have the faith, contentment, confidence, and courage that they see in the lives of more spiritually-advanced believers, but do not want to pay the accompanying price.
Other believers, write off the true post salvation spiritual life as being humanly impossible to accomplish and/or that they have gone too far for too long to ever be saved or to be useful to God. The repentent sinner on the cross next to our Lord, after making a confession of faith, was assured of being with the Lord in eternity. He had less than a few hours to remain on Earth, yet the conversation he had with the Lord has been the basis of many believers coming to God for generatations to come, revealing that there was NO need of any additional ritual for him to secure and retain eternal life beyond his faith.
Other than the sin of disbelief, there is NO sin that God will not forgive. We can not sink so low that God cannot reach us. There is no problem that God canot fix. There is no believer that God can use.
Scoffers are correct when they say that the post salvation spiritual life is humanly impossible to execute. It can only be accomplshed by God through the willing believer (John 15: 5).
Post salvation discipleship begins with the edification of one self, and eventually is passed on to others, but is ALL the work of God.
Contrary to what most of religion would have us believe, the true post salvation spiriual life is NOT about what we do for God with our human ability, but what He does through a spiritually maturing believer with His power (John 15: 5).
Spiritual ignorance or refusing to apply the spiritual information that we do possess is why the freedom of John 8: 32 and the (Phil. 4: 7) type of peace that surpasses all understaning is not and will not be the experience of many rank and file believers during thier time here on Earth.
It's not that such things are not available to ALL born again believers. The truth is that the majority of rank and file Christians do not want to pay the price.
The true post salvation spiritual life is a "death sentence," in that each and every day we are called to die (put way our desires) in order to live for Christ (1 Cor. 15: 31).
The advancing disciple learns that along with the John 8: 32 freedom, the Phil 4:7 peace, and the Phil.. 4: 11 contentment, comes persecution, rejection, isolation, ridicule, derision, and in some cases, beatings, torture, imprisonment, loss of property, and in some cases, the physical death of a martyr.
EVERY believer receives and forever retains eternal life. The believer didn't work to receive it, and doesn't work to retain it. Salvation is a irrevovable (Rom. 11: 29) gift from God that He gives to ALL who choose to believe in a presentation of the TRUE Gospel.
The identification and execution of the true post salvation spiritual life does not improve one's salvation, nor does the rejection of it diminish it.
Well then, human viewpoint asks, would anyone choose to embrace the true post salvation spiritual life if one is already saved, and all the hardships of true discipleship does not improve one's salvation?
Did not Paul concede that, "If we have hoped in Christ (for what is to be experienced) in this (earthly) life only, we (Christians) of all men are to be pitied (1Cor. 15: 19 NASB italics mine)."
The believers who are least likely to want to take on the spiritual combat of the true post salvation spiritual life are the one who have experienced some level of earthly prosperity, or are determined to do so through their own efforts. Earthly oriented believers will desire to have more and more of what the world has to offer and greatly fear more losing what they have already obtained.
The interest that advancing disciples have in the things of this world will become less and less, while GOd and this things of God take thier place on one's list of priorities. The advacing disciple does not fear losing anything, as he knows what matters most can never be lost.
Eternity oriented disciples can enjoy all the legitimate pleasures that life here on Earth have to offer, but can just as easily let them go if the plan of God calls for it. Any day could be the day that calls us home when all our earthly blessings and possessions become the property of someone else. This is fine with the advancing disciple, as an old Gospel song puts it, "and I don't feel at home in this world anymore."
The greatest fear that Earthly-oriented believers have is losing what they have, or never gaining what they desire to have here on Earth before thier time of departure comes. For them, the concept of Heaven is good to know but are in no rush to depart the devil's world. For the advancing disciple, death is not an end. It results in a change in environment and location, and is something (Psalms 116: 15) to look forward to when God says its time to go. Fear does not ener the picture.
Wealth,when kept in its proper place on one's list of priorities, can be a great blessing, but when it is not, the idea of losing it can be the cause of great fear. Wealth, for many, is the modern day "idol" for many who claim to be Christians.
"Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that are wrteched, and miserable and poor and blind and naked, (Rev. 3: 17 NASB)."
S-p-i-r-i-t-u-a-l prosperity will only be experienced by believers who develop the required level of spiritual maturity necessary to receive it. Spiritual prosperity has nothing to with one's earthly socio-economic status.
There is noting wrong with enjoying legitimately obtained earthly prosperity (3 John 1: 2), but I often pray that those who experience it have an equally great balance in the Bank of Heaven, into which they are making daily deposits (Matt. 6: 20) of 1 Cor. 3: 12 gold, silver, and precious stones.
The contents of a believer's bank accounts of Earth can be enjoyed while here on Earth, but keep in mind the balances are ALL left behind. A bank account in Heaven is there waiting for the disciple to receive the rewards (1Cor. 3: 12-15) to be enjoyed for all of Eternity.
Many Earthly-rich persons live in fear of a Stock Market crash, whereas spiritually minded believers are most concerned with experiencing a Matt. 7: 27 crash of a their soul structure.There believers who "go to Church" on a regular basis, but because of their choice of source of edification is failing to execute the internal mission that the Lord Jesus Christ gave to His Church, or because those attending are not taking in the infromation that (should be) coming from the pulpit, they are no further along the road to spiritual maturity than they were six days, six months, six years, or 60 years ago!
The internal missioin of the Church that God designed is to make disciples (students and appliers of the Word of God) out of those who are born again (Matt. 28: 20).
There is no need for anyone to live in fear of dying, death (Heb. 2: 15), or what eternity has in store for him/her, but
the John 8:32 freedom and the Phil 4 peace will only be experienced by believers who advance to the required level of spiritual maturity to do so.
Being saved (born again) takes a one time decision and is completely and instantaneosly accomplished, but developing and functioning as a spiritually mature disciple takes a lifetime.
The ONE and ONLY way to advance in the post salation spiritual life is by engaging in post salvation discipleship (the study and application of the Word of God).
The majority of "Christians" in the apostate times (1 Tim. 4: 1) in which we living choose not engage in or remain in discipleship.
Spiritually weak Christians practice a form of religion (2 Tim. 3: 5), by attending Church and going through the prescribed rituals in the denomination of their choosing, but never advance any further along the road to spiritual maturity.
This provides such practicioners with a sense of having fulfilled thier sense of obligation, but this leaves them spiritually bankrupt. This becomes evident when their lives are barely distinguishable from thier unbelieving counterparts, especially when the pressure is on in the realm of spiritual combat (Eph. 6).
While often attending worship services, weak believers sit there appearing to be as pious as the next guy, but for at least part of the remaining 167 hours a week they are, ".. lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malious gossips, without self control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2Tim. 3: 2-4 NASB)."
Scripture warns the advancing disicple to avoid such persons!
"...holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these (2Tim. 3: 5 NASB)."
Christian "religion", as opposed to Biblical Christanity, consists of all the false teachings and practices that the "religous" authorities, independent of God, have engineered throughout the course of the Church Age.
One of the fears that weak believers have and the devil promotes is what the challenges will be if they pursue the truth. Humans are generally resistant to change, and there are no deeper roots than what relgion can grow.
Religion contains things are held in highly esteem by Man, but are without Biblical substantiation. Some of these things only amount to filthy rags (Isa. 64: 6) and are detestable (Luke 16: 15) in the eyes of the One to whom we are going to give an account of ourselves (Romans 14: 12). Knowing of the spiritually void nature of such things, the devil is well-pleased and more than happy to promote them.
The bottom line is that Christian religion is based on all that Man, independent of God, does (or refrains from doing) in a futile attempt to secure the temporal and eternal blessings of God, and avoid God's wrath. Because it is a product of what Man has produced, it can easily find a home in soul structures that are not Biblically sound.
Genuine Christianity, on the other hand is based on accurate Bible Doctrine.
Contrary to what Christian religion has to say, genuine Christianity is not about what we do or don't do, but is centered around believing in what God has done, is doing, and will do.
Human beings have a great fear of placing themselves and their interests under the complete control of somone else, even when that Someone else is God. Never the less, this is exactly what the TRUE Gospel Message and the post salvation life of discipleship is all about.
Once saved, the post salvation spiritual life begins. It too, is NOT about what we do or don't do, but is about what God desires to do through the believer (John 15: 5) during his/her remaining time here on Earth.
Once a believer TRULY understands this, there is no fear of ultimate failure in the execution of the post salvation spiritual life, whereas the will always be room for fear of failure in the alternative religious life.
Fear and "religion" go hand in hand, where as fear and faith are opposites.
In the execution of the true post salvation spiritual life, one is either progressing or regressing at any given time. There are no rest areas along the road to spiritual maturity, but there are a lot of wrong turns and U-turns along the way that a born again believer may choose to take.
Fear of taking a wrong turn can be debilitating, but one can not progress without taking the next step. The problem is that God, the devil, and our own sin nature have different ideas about what the "next step" should be.
A pastor friend of mine, Pastor Rory Clark, once presented a sermon that has stuck in mind that hits the nail on the head when it comes to concern over taking a wrong turn along the road to spiritual maturity. He likened the ongoing ministry of God the Holy Spirit in the post salvation life of believer to be like a GPS unit we have in ours cars. The spiritually mature believer desires to have Heaven as his final "destination", having completed all the divine good that God had in mind along the way. The Gospel gets us started along the road. Post salvation doctrine gives us guidance along the way. When (not if) we make the wrong choices, along the way, God's GPS "re-calculates" and notifies us of an adjusted course that will best suit our return to the route that God has in mind.
For best results, just as one must update the data in his GPS unit in the car, one must also refine and fine tune the data (doctrine) in his soul structure.
As a born again believer progresses in the true post salvation spiritual life, he/she becomes more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8: 28), leaving no room for knowingly engaging in any activity that the Bible defines as sin.
For an advancing disiciple, the Bible has the final say in determining what is and what is not sin.
Unfortunately, the Bible is often misused, making inappropraite application of the Word of God.
The devil and those who do his bidding, can cause the Bible to appear to say just about anything one wants it to say. Here again, the ministry of a BIBLICALLY qualified pastor-teacher takes center stage.
Spiritually mature disciples spot the devil's agenda in the media, entertainment, and coming from apostate pulpits all the time, whereas unedified believers continue to take it in hook, line, and sinker and then wonder why they aren't getting anything out of their "religious" practices. Much of what they do receive, they could live without!
The devil failed trying to use a distorted application of Scripture when tempting thethe Humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 4), but has had great success when dealing with members of the human race.
Ignorance of what the Bible has to say is no excuse, as spiritual ignorance is a choice that we make.
Fear of making the wrong choices will always be a part of being a human being, but being able to make an "informed" choice is one of the benefits of building and maintaining an edified soul structure (Matt. 7: 24-27).
The only "wrong" choice we can make is one that we know (or should know) violates a principle of Scripture. If what we are considering violates a principle of Scripture, the answer is obvious for an advancing disciple.
Once (if) we clear the "no violation" hurdle, the next question to be askd if what I am about to do going to advance or be an impediment to the plan that God has for me. For the advancing disciple, the choices he/she makes should never be to entertain or not to enterain sin. He/she in such cases should never choose to sin. The choices that an advancing disciple has to make involves choosing between was it good and what is best serves God's plan for him/her.
With ongoing edification, comes an ongoing change is how one thinks, and inevitably how one behaves.
The more a born again believer matures, the less interested he/she is in anything that would be inconsistent with who he/she is in Christ.
One of the first steps of engaging in the true post salvation spiritual life is to have the issue of Heaven vs. Hell being forever resolved. The devil works long and hard to raise doubts and fears concerning the integrity of one's salvation that a born again believer has already received and can not lose.
Edified believers will not fear Hell, but neither will an advancing disciple choose to dishonor the God that saved him/her.
God gave the task of INFORMING to the Church (Matt. 28: 19, 20), but the job of CONFORMING (Rom. 8: 29), He reserved for Himself (1Cor. 3: 6,7).t dishonor the God who saved him either.
Believers that do not reach the stage of spiritual maturity (here on Earth) in which they have forever resolved WHERE he will be spending all of eternity, is destined to be spending, or better, waisting much of his/her post salvation spiritual life trying to work for what they already have and cannot lose.
Those who are satisifed "just to know that I'm going to Heaven", or that grace is a license to sin, are demonstrating their self-centeredness, and are not engaged in the true post salvation spiritual life. They remain Heaven-bound, but are inviting a lot of divine discipline along the way!
There is only ONE sin that will send anyone to what the Bible calls the "lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15), and that is the sin of disbelief (John 3: 18) in the Person (who He is) and Work (the atoning Work He did on the cross) of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Since becoming a believer is the ONE and ONLY Biblical requirement to receive salvation (John 2: 16), the issue has been resolved for all of etenity as of the moment one is born again (John 3: 5, 7) HERE on Earth. Eternal life is NOT something that we will receive upon departing the Earth, but is something that we have already received and will continue to experience in a new location and bodily form.
To tell any born again believer that he/she could still go to Hell is not only promoting false information, it amounts to the sin of blasphemy. It is blaspheous in that it casts a shadow of diabolical (Gal. 3: 1) doubt over the atoning Work (1 John 2: 2) that the Lord Jesus Christ finished (John 19: 30) on the cross; the regenerating (Titus 3: 5) Work that God the Holy Spirit performed at the moment of salvation; and the sustaining Work of God referenced in Romans 14: 4.
Rejection of the concept of eternal security is an insulting attack on the character, nature, and Work of God.
Such doubt generates diabolical (Gal. 3: 1) fear in the minds of weak (unedified) believers concerning the fundamental principles (Heb. 6: 1) of the faith. Abusing the grace of God generates divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6). There is NO place for either this kind of fear, or this kind of abuse, in the life of an advancing disciple.
Among these fundamental principles are the finished Work (John 19: 30) of Christ on the cross; the regenerating (Titus 3: 5) and the permanently sealing (Eph. 4: 30) Work of God the Holy Spirit that takes place at the moment of salvation, and irrevocable Rom. 11: 29 characteristic of God's gift of salvation.
Anyone who understands the TRUE Gospel Message will have NO Fear of going to Hell. No advancing disciple will choose to dishonor God.
Believers who take these same principles and the assuring promise of Romans 14: 4 as a license to sin, know little (or reject) what the Bible has to say about what the earthly (Heb. 12: 6) consequences are, and heavenly (1 Cor. 3: 12-15) consequences will be as a result of the post salvation sin(s) we commit.
Just because the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15) is not a possibiity for a born again believer, does not mean that the consequences for post salvation are things to be taken lightly.
Divine discipline here on EARTH can range in anything from living with a guilty conscience, up to and including physical death (Acts. 5: 5, 10/1 Cor. 11: 30 etc.).
Loss of reward (1 Cor. 3: 15), but NOT the loss of eternal life (1 Cor. 3: 15) is the Heavenly consequence that born again believers can experience and will come to greatly regret.
It is in the area(s) of one's thinking or behavior where faith (knowledge, belief, or application) of/in the principles of the Word of God is lacking that the seeds of ungodly fear are planted and cultivated.
Fear of the unknown is truly unneccesary in light of the fact that all that we need to know has been made known to us in the Word of God.
Chief among such ungodly fears in the fear of physical death that can enslave those captivated by it all their lives (Heb. 2: 15).
Very few believers reach the level of spiritual maturity as did Paul when he spoke of not knowing which option to choose (if given the option) of going home to be with the Lord now, or remaining here on Earth a little longer for the benefit of other believers!
It has been a long time conviction of mine that I do not wish to leave this planet until ALL the work that God has planned for me has been completed, but neither do I wish to remain here in the devil's world one more second that what the plan of God for me requires.
No one should have a premature (before God calls for it) death wish, but fear of physical death is a POOR testimony for anyone who claims to be a Christian. Desiring to remain here in the devil's world once his work is done is a POOR testimony of an advancing disciple. The self-centered, immature believer wants to be where he/she desires to be and doing (or not doing) what he/she desires.
The advancing, spiritually mature disciple desires to be where God wants him/her to be, doing what God wants him/her do be doing, until the time comes for one's departure. This applies regardless of one's age, health, wealth, or stage of life, environment, or location.
If one is walking the path that God has chosen, and there is any doubt about where God wants him/her to be at any given time, all one has to do is close his eyes and open them and there you are! The qualifying factor in the preceding statement is found in the word, "If"! IF one is not walking the path the God desires, the same process can be used to identify where God does NOT want one to be!
As far as what it is that God desires believers to be (primarily) doing, that NEVER changes. Disciples (students and appliers of the Word of God) are called to be His ambassadors no matter WHERE they find ourselves or in ANY circumstances, be it in times and places of joy, health, pleasure, and prosperity, or places of trials, tribulations, adversity and declining health.
Consider, for instance, if it was God's will to have your spend your final stage of life confined to a bed in a nursing home, because that was where He desired you to minister (evangelize/edify) those with whom you would interact with on a personal level, or in a professional/client scenario. How one faces death and process of dying speaks volumes about where he/she is (or is not) in his/her walk with the Lord.
Many of things we naturally might fear would not be the case if we had the wisdom to acknowledge that it is God working (Romans 8:M) behind the scenes causing His children to be where we are and what it is that we are experiencing at any given time by what He sends or allows. In such times, the advancing disciple does not ask WHY, but WHAT it is that God wants to accomplish! God is not where He is to fulfill our will. We are where we are to fulfill His (Luke 22: 42)!
Every day of the post salvation spiritual life is like a single brick in a large brick wall. In of itself, it may not seem to be of much significance, but without it the wall would never be what it was designed to be.
The ONLY ones who have every reason to fear physical death is the ones who are as spiritually dead as the day they were born, having not ever been born again. Such souls ARE headed for the Torments of Hades upon departing this world, and following the Judgment Day scheduled for unbelievers, will find thenselves in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 13, 15).
Only the bodily remains (if available) can be attended to once the soul has departed. There is NO soul in any coffin, morgue, funeral parlor, cemetery, or urn.
According to the Bible, unbelievers have every reason to fear physical death, as this is the point of no return with no more to look foward to but the immediate torments of Hades and the eventual confinement in the lake of fire to all of eternity (Rev. 20: 20: 13, 15.
For an advancing disciple, there is no room in his soul structure for the fear of death.
Not being in fear of death does not mean that we should conduct ourselves in reckless defiance of the "laws of nature" that GOD authored.
One can engage in military combat and not receive as much as a scratch. At the same time, one can avoid many dangerous activities, yet still become a quadripledic or die as the result of something as simple as a slip and fall in the shower.
I endorse a healthy diet and exercise, but no one knows what may be going on "under the hood" in our physical bodies, nor do we know if we will not die as a result of some trauma that has got nothing to do with our general health at the time.
Tens of thousands of people got up today who will not be here tommorrow, whose death was the last thing on thier minds or on the minds of those who knew them.
The only thing we can count on is that at the appointed time, each one of us will leave our body behind unless we are among the last generation of the Church Age here on Earth when the Rapture takes place (1 Thess. 4: 17). In either case, the day of our departure is coming!
The edified disiciple knows that the time of his birth and the time of his departure are not random events, but are in the hands of God (Psalsm 31: 15).
Regardless of what happens or fails to happen, NO one departs this world one second sooner that what God's direct, permissive, or over-ruling will says, and NO one remains here on Earth one second longer. Even suicide will not work if God does not allow it.
I can tell you from personal experience that there is no greater motivational blessing than to survive a situtation in which dying was a very real possibility.
I wouldn't wish my own specific experiences on anyone, but it is in such times that one learns what he/she really does or does not believe in when it comes to spiritual issues.
The devil will use extremely challenging experiences to try to convince people that there is no God, or at least one that has any concern for the daily lives of those afflicted, whereas others will use the same experiences to reinforce their faith, regardless of circumstances or earthly outcome.
Why God allows some of the most horrific things to happen will be a test of conviction for even the most faithful among us.
In my experience, the believers who have been put through the most are the one's who yurn out to be the most useful in the hands of God.
Those who take advantage of the situation, rather than allow the devil to us the situation to take adantage of them will find that there is is no experience that can better prepare someone for when the actual time of departure arrives than to have taken a walk through the shadow of the valley of death and to have feared no evil (Psalms 23)!
His/her spiritual outlook on life and the inevitable departure from this Earth will be forever changed, with fear having no part in it.
I believe that when many of us get to heaven, we may be shocked to learn just how many times we were in line for a departure, but the plan of God intervened.
That "wrong" turn, that last minute phone call, traffic jam, that flat tire, dead battery, etc., etc., etc. might have all played their part in preventing one's "pre-mature" departure.
There is no Biblical reason for suffering survivor's guilt, but there is every reason to seek out the divine reason that one survived whereas others in the same set of circumstances did not.
When one crosses the line of legitimate respect and enters into the realm of unreasonable fear, it can have a severe and debilitating impact on one's temporal and spiritual life here on Earth.
As good stewards of the body and mind that we were given, we are responsible or its care and preservation, but if one becomes so fear-full that he can not engage in and enjoy all the legitimate activities. opportunities, and experiences that life here on Earth has to offer to any one of us, there is something gone wrong that needs to be addressed.
Respect, yes! Fear, No!
Concerning spiritual issues, negagtive fear is the result of either ignorance of, or refusing to apply accurate Bible Doctrine to the situation at hand.
Being frightened at the onset of finding oneself in immenent danger, or upon receiving upsetting information is normal, rather you are a believer or not.
Spiritual regeneration (Titus 3: 5) does not make us emotional zombies.
How quickly (or if) one can recover from the initial shock and then respond with the doctrine (that should be) in one' soul, is what distinguished the believer from the unbeliever, and a disciple from a rank in file believer.
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