Everything The "Good Fight" And "Course" Of 2Timothy 4: 7
There is an old saying that some folks aren't happy unless they have a fight going on with some one over some thing. While many Christians fee compelled to project themselves as a people of peace (1Pet. 3: 8), the advancing disciple will find no lasting contentment here on Earth if he/she is not engaged in the ongoing "good fight" and "course" of 2Timothy 4: 7. This is what puts the spring into the step in the walk with the Lord. Without it, there's "something missing" in the recipe. The post salvation spiritual life of discipleship IS a personal extension of a conflict between the divine forces of God and the diabolical forces of the devil. This battle involves both internal and external conflicts. These internal conflicts are between the fallen nature that remains with us (Romans 7) after we are saved, contending with God the Holy Spirit, Who desires to conform our thoughts and behavior to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8: 23). The fallen nature in Man, is by nature, inherently hostile (Romans 7: 8) towards God and the things of God, and will continue to oppose any forward progress that a born again believer is achieving along the road to spiritual maturity. There is a contention between the forces of evil and God because God chooses to give Man the freedom to choose which side of the conflict he is going to be on. There is no "neutral" zone in the spiritual realm. The voices, good or evil, that we choose to listen to will impact our thinking, that in turn impacts our behavior. "For as he thinks within himself, so he is (Prov. 23: 7 NASB)." Every conversation, gab show, sit com, drama, play, news paper, musical lyrics, DVD, CD, Internet program, book, magazine, bumper sticker, etc., etc., etc, contain messages promoting principles of either good or evil. The more evil one is exposed to, the more desensitized one becomes to it. Once the "shock" stage has passed, one comes to accept things that at one time greatly offended or disturbed him/her. Eventually, such things can even become a form of "entertainment." What one finds entertaining speaks volumes about where he/she is in his/her personal walk with the Lord. Internal spiritual progress, that is conforming one's thoughts and actions to the likeness of Christ, will overtly manifest itself in external changes in behavior. When there are no changes taking place, the conforming process of Romans 2:29 has stalled. These internal changes and accompanying external behaviors are what sets one apart (See Doctrine of Sanctification) for the service of God. They are also what will bring the advancing disciple into conflict with those who choose to live via the ways of the devil's world. The post salvation spiritual life and the good fight and course of 2Tim. 4: 7 go hand in hand. When a born again believer experiences no internal or external conflicts, he/she is NOT pursuing the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship, and is not involved with the "good fight" or the "course" spoken of in 2 Tim. 4: 7. One of the deceitful characteristics of man-made religion is that religion (including "Christian" religion) appears to offer a soul a "reasonable" alternative to the true post salvation spiritual life without all the pressure that true discipleship will require of him. Christian religion (an oxymoron), as opposed to genuine Christianity, consists of all the Man made traditions and rituals that have been introduced and accepted within the Christian Community at large. Many are without the support of Scripture, and some actually contradict it. As long as one crosses the "t"'s and dots the "i"'s of his chosen religion, be it "Christian" or otherwise (Psalms 96: 5), the participant is led to believe that all is well between he and the god/God that he/she worships. As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. There are some genuine atheists who choose to reject the God-given (Eccl. 3: 11) knowledge of the concept of eternity, but most human souls adopt some form of "religion" along the way. The gates of Heaven are not open to the person who believes that his "religious" activity has "earned" his way. The gates of Heaven are open to those who have been born again (John 3: 5, 7, 18). The lake of fire is awaiting all the souls of the human race who choose to disbelieve in the Gospel Message. No act or amount of religious activity, good behavior, or good deeds can take the place of what only God could have done, has done, and will do for those who are born again. The products and practices of religion are among the things that are acts of futility (Mark 7:7/Matt. 15: 9). Even though such things are held in high esteem by Man, they are detestable in the eyes of God (Luke 16: 14). Religious activity is held in high esteem by those who practice it because they have been deceived into thinking that it is via such things that obtain and/or retain salvation. They are detestable to God because they are elevated in the minds of Man to equate, duplicate, and/or "reproduce" the Work and/or the function that God alone can accomplish. They are detestable because they suggest (by their mere existence) that the Lord's Work on the cross was not enough. Either one's sin debt was stamped PAID IN FULL by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Gospel Message contends, or it was not. Once a debt has been paid in full, there is NO NEED to make ANY additional payments. To suggest such a thing is to cast discredit on the One who already paid the debt. Eternal security is NOT a license to sin. Even though one's salvation can not be lost, there are still other consequences, both here on Earth (Heb. 12: 6) and in Heaven (1Cor. 3: 15) for the choices and sin that we commit. The Lord Jesus Christ atoned for sin debt of the entire world (1John 2: 2), with the exception (by divine design) of the sin of disbelief (John 3: 18). For the sin of disbelief, there is no forgiveness. Not now, not ever, no matter what is or is not done by anyone, anywhere once the soul of an unbeliever has departed the body. It is for the sin of disbelief that any soul will find him/herself in the Torments of Hades (Luke 16: 28) upon departing this Earth and eventually being tossed into the lake of fire (Rev.20: 13, 15), following the Judgement Day event scheduled for unbelievers. If it were possible for a born again believer to find him/herself in either the Torments of Hades or in the lake of fire, then the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ on cross failed. Although salvation can not be lost, being born again is the only first step on a life-long road towards the goal of spiritual maturity. One can not be at peace with God and at peace with the devil's world at the same time. Peace with one side puts one at enmity with the other (James 4: 4). Accordingly, the peace that the advancing disciple is going to experiences is not the absence of conflict, but peace of mind (Philippians 4: 7) in the midst of all the internal pressure and external adversity that true discipleship will generate. Although these internal and external conflicts will be the daily experience of an advancing disciple, these conflicts are only a part of what the "good fight" and the "course" of 2 Tim. 4: 7 is all about. There are many political, environmental, social endeavors, that if successful, can make the devil's (Luke 4: 6) world more equitable, and to that extent, a 'better place to live." For that reason, unbelievers and atheists can produce just as much human good as the believer. If human good were the basis for heavenly reward, then unbelievers and atheists would have to be rewarded. Human good has its own rewards and benefits here on Earth, but will be totally rejected at the evaluation of deeds (1Cor. 3: 12-15) in Heaven. Only divine good, that God (John 15: 5) produced through born again believers will be rewarded. History reveals that societies (and many individuals) go through cycles of moral incline and decline. Until something comes along that motivates the society or the individual to re-evaluate the path that he/they are presently on, there will likely be little overall changes. In the spiritual realm, one is either progressing or regressing along the road to spiritual maturity. The uphill or downhill changes that take place on a daily basis are (usually) so gradual that they go undetected until one takes a look back and notes how far up or down he has moved over a period of time. As prophesied (Daniel 12: 4), Man has obtained much knowledge and has applied this knowledge to engineer many "improvements" to the quality of life here on Earth. Many of these same "improvement" have come at the cost of human lives and damage to the environment. Man continues to use this same knowledge to build weapons and means of mass destruction, and technology that threatens the natural environment of the planet. As also prophesied (1Tim. 4: 1), believers are presently living in a time of great apostasy, with many of them turning away from the teachings Scripture and adopting doctrines and policies being promoted by demons. The more Man convinces himself that he can solve all of his problems, the less significance Man will place on God and the things of God. The same can be said of believers who place their trust on their own assets and resources. "Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that your are wretched, and miserable and poor and blind, and naked....(Rev. 3: 17 NASB)." In spite of all the "improvements" that Man has engineered, the spiritual needs of Man has not changed, nor has the primary purpose (the glorification of God) for which God created Man changed. "For what does is profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul (Mark 8: 36 NASB)?" Throughout human history, "ruling the world" has been and remains to be one of the long term objectives of various competing political and religious group. Christianity is no exception (Rev. 2: 27/Rev. 20: 6/Rev. Chapter 21). World dominion is what the spiritual bone of contention is between the Israel any of their western allies (UN/USA/NATO/Etc.), all of whom are considered to be "infidels" in the eyes of the followers of Allah. Some empires and coalitions have closer to this achieving this objective than others, but the rise, the extent of global influence, the decline, and the fall of ALL nations and coalitions of nations are in the hands of God (Acts 17: 26). With the rise and decline of each one, they have fulfilled the divine purpose in the Master Plan of God. God has used both godly and ungodly nations, coalitions, and empires to inevitably accomplish His objectives. Perceiving what the divine purpose that each one served or serves is what makes a nation great in the eyes of God. Building a secure, productive nation of equality based on the principles of God can make a nation great, reaping the benefits of divine blessings. Attempting to build a secure, productive nation without God (Isa. 14: 13), is a recipe for disaster, bringing on the various stages of divine, national discipline. There are five levels of divine national discipline, with each one being more severe than the former one(s), up to the final level resulting in the removal of the nation involved from among the community of nations here on Earth. See Leviticus 26. The principle of divine national discipline applies to ALL nations, but especially to those nations who claim to either officially or by practice, identify themselves as being a "Christian" nation. The USA, constitutionally speaking, does not promote or interfere with the practice of ANY religion, but until more recent moral decline, has historically been considered to be a Christian nation. As the believer or a nation drifts further and further away from God and or the things of God, the individual believer (Heb. 12: 6) and/or the nation (Lev. 26) is subject to the various levels of individual or national discipline. Theologians will debate what stage of divine national discipline the USA is presently experiencing, but anyone with even an ounce of spiritual discernment can see that the USA, as a nation, is clearly in a state of spiritual decline. The maximum level of divine discipline can receive is its removal as a nation from among the community of nations of the world (Luke 21: 24). The maximum level of divine discipline that a believer can receive is physical death (Acts 5). Here in the Church Age, an understanding and application of the Gospel Message and such passages as John 14: 1, 2/Romans 8:1 relieves the born again believer of the Heb. 2: 15 fear of death that lack of understanding will inevitably bring upon weak believers. Religious additives only add to the fear that one will fall short of what God requires pass through the gates of Heaven. "Religious" people "hope" there is a Heaven and that their participation in their "religious" activity will get them there. "Spiritual" people "know" there is a Heaven, and that their faith (trust and confidence) in the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross will get them there. This confident attitude of assurance exhibited by born again believers is often misinterpreted by "religious" people as one of arrogance. In truth, it is one of humility, acknowledging that they are powerless to save themselves by ANY means, and that their confidence of their salvation is based on faith in what God had done, is doing, and will do for the people of faith. The advancing disciple will reach the stage of spiritual maturity in which he has experienced the (John 8: 32) freedom from the bondage and fear of physical death. Believers who do not reach this level of spiritual maturity will be no different from the religious crowd who only "hope" there is a Heaven and that they will go there. Popular human viewpoint of our day and age blames everyone and everything (other than their own choices) for much of the adversity that they encounter here on Earth. Shortly after the Fall, the first "blame game" recorded in human history took place. Adam blamed God for giving him the woman (Gen. 3: 12). Eve blamed the devil (Gen. 3: 13). The devil's third party spokesman (the serpent) took the hit (Gen. 3: 14). Meanwhile the devil walked away with the deed to planet Earth (Luke 4: 6). Physical death is certainly NOT always the result of divine discipline. It is the release mechanism that is part of process in which the soul leaves the body (Mark 15: 39). The physical death of a believer is a "precious" event in the eyes of the Lord (Psalms 116: 15). * * * For most born again believers, there will be periods of time during his/her post salvation spiritual life, during which time(s) there is no productivity of divine good. This is a daily choice that one makes. During such time(s) the born again believer remains spiritually alive with his Titus 3: 5 "regenerated" spirit, but is "dead" in regards to the production of divine good. There are several names for this type of death. I refer to it as temporal death. Temporal death, is a state of being in which a born again believer, here on Earth, is "dead" (inactive) in the production of divine good, symbolized as silver, gold, and precious stones in 1Cor. 3: 12-15. It seems that for many believers, the only time we hear a principle of Scripture coming out of their mouths is when they are back stabbing or judging others. Many believers justify their sin of gossiping because what they repeat is factually true. Libel and slander involves passing along false information. Gossip includes TRUE facts that need not be repeated. For the advancing disciple, if he/she doesn't have something good to say, he/she will say nothing at all. "So then, let us pursue the things that make for peace and the building up (not the tearing down) of one another Romans 14: 19 NASB italics mine." "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but ONLY such a word, as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear it (Eph. 4: 30 NASB." Instead of responding with the popular, "Oh, my God!", to latest piece of gossip, the advancing disciple will inform the gossip that, "I really didn't need to hear that/". Proverbs 20: 19 takes it a step further. "...Therefore do not associate with a gossip (Prov. 20: 19 NASB)." Mastering control of our tongues is a part of the good fight and the course spoken of in 2Tim. 4: 7. * * * We (born again believers) often make these choices to accommodate, promote, and/or prioritize alternative activities. While many of these alternative activities have value to one's Earthly experience, they are only deeds of human good symbolized as wood, hay, straw in the 1Cor. 3: 12-15 passage. Our deeds of human good have their own rewards here on Earth, but will "go up in smoke" at the Evaluation of Deeds in Heaven (1Cor. 3: 15). Many believers have the idea that all their bad deeds will be placed on one side of the scale, and all good deeds on the other, with their rewards in Heaven being determined by which way the scale tips at the 1Cor. 3: 12-15 judgement. Scripture teach that no sin (Romans 8: 1) or bad deeds come into the picture at this event. The divine purpose for this event is to identify and to receive reward for one's good deeds of divine good. At the same time, all one's good deeds of human good are rejected for having no merit towards heavenly reward. The rule of thumb here is that if an atheist or an unbeliever can perform the same deed, it is not divine good in view. It is going to be shocking moment for many believers to finally learn that much of what they chose to invest their time and energy in while here on Earth "goes up in smoke" (1Cor. 3: 15). Whatever rewards or benefits they received for the human good they produced while here on Earth will ALL be left behind. Only the deeds of divine good will receive reward in Heaven. Remaining diligent to identify and to respond to all the daily opportunities to have God (John 15: 5) produce divine good of "planting" and watering (1Cor. 3: 8)" through us (born again believers) is a key element in fighting the good fight and completing the course spoken of in 2Tim. 4: 7 NASB. * * * There is a major difference between Christian religion and Christianity. Christian religion consists of all the Man-made products, practices, traditions, and rituals that made its way into the Christian Community at large throughout the course of the Church Age. Christian religion consists of all the religious activity that the practitioners of religion engage in, having been led to believe that by engaging in such things they will secure, or retain the earthly and the eternal blessings of God. The appearance of false teachers, and the false (inconsistent with Scripture) doctrines, practices they promote were clearly and repeatedly prophesied, as well as the stage of great apostasy taking place in the End Times (1Tim. 4: 1). Thedevil promotes Christian "religion," as it is designed to appear to be what God requires, when it in fact it promotes false Gospel Messages and competes with the post salvation spiritual life outlined in the New Testament. Government agencies that deal with counterfeit currency do NOT combat it with keeping up with all the new and never ending versions of counterfeiting, but develop the means to quickly identify true currency when it is being presented. This same strategy works well in the realm of spirituality. When one knows what the true Gospel Message, the true post salvation spiritual life, and accurate Bible Doctrine is all about, it becomes easy to identify all the never -ending alternatives that religion has to offer. Discerning Christian religion from Christianity is an essential part of God's plan of salvation for unbelievers and the true post salvation spiritual life for born again believers. Religions (Psalms 96) of the world identify false gods. Christian religion (as opposed to genuine Christianity) identifies the true God, but promotes Man made concepts as to how one is to obtain and/or retain salvation. Because religion is designed to a-p-p-e-a-r to be what God (or a false god) requires, both worldly and "Christian" religions are powerful tools in the hand of the devil. The phrase "Christian religion" is an oxymoron, as genuine Christianity (coming from God) and religion (coming from Man) are to VERY different things, and produce VERY different results. When a Christian is asked if he/she is a religious person, his/her response should be, "Certainly NOT!" Such a response can open the door to explain the difference between "religion" and genuine Christianity. Developing the ability to identify what is of religion and what is of genuine Christianity is critical is one is to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although making disciples (students and appliers) of the Word of God was/is the internal part of the mission given to the Church, only a minority of those born again ever engage or remain in the life of discipleship (Matt. 28: 19)! Many believers will acquire at least a minimum amount of Bible doctrine, but will consistently fail to be "doers James 1: 22-" of Word, especially when its going to cost them something. One of the primary reasons that discipleship is not encouraged in the midst of "religious" activity is that the promoters of religion would have a hard time explaining the contradictions between what is taught and practiced and what the Word of God has to say about the same things. The lame response of, "This is our faith.", when asked to explain such contradictions will not be an acceptable answer for an advancing disciple. ie Faith is not only the act of believing, but is also what it is that one believes. Many unbelievers have great "faith" in what they believe, but such "faith" will not keep them out of the "lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15 NASB." Faith is not only the act of believing, but what it is that we choose to place our trust and confidence. ANYONE, including an atheist or an unbeliever, can go through (or be put through) the motions and rituals of religion, and still find themselves in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 13, 15). Religious rituals that take place before salvation or after physical death accomplish nothing in the spiritual realm, even though such activity is among the things that are held in high esteem by those who promote and participate in the them (Luke 16: 15). "And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed by men is detestable in the sight of God (Luke 16: 15 NASB." "But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men (Matt. 15: 9 NASB." The "precepts of men" include all of the religious teachings and practices that have been added to or distorts what Scripture has to say. * * * A believer cannot (independently of God), produce divine good (John 15: 5). What part of n-o-t-h-i-n-g (John 15: 5) is it that religious people can't understand is beyond me. The devil promotes human good as being equivalent with divine good, deceiving those who produce it (human good) into believing they are doing the Work of God. Some forms of human good and divine good can appear to be one in the same. For example, If one chooses not to lie, cheat, steal, or engage in sexual immorality in order to glorify God, divine good is in view if the restraint is the result of submitting to the leading of the indwelling God the Holy Spirit. At the same time, If one chooses not to engage in the same type of activities by any other power or motivation, it is only human power and human good in view. There are many atheists and unbelievers who restrain themselves from lying, cheating, stealing, and engaging in sexual sin for a variety of reasons (health, social status, marital security, family approval, employment, inheritance, legality, etc. that have nothing to do directly with spirituality. Only God (and the persons involved) knows why any one of us does (or doesn't do) the things we do, but the rule of thumb is to ask if the activity can be accomplished by an atheist or an unbeliever. If the deed can be accomplished by an atheist or an unbeliever, that it is likely only human good that is in view. In most cases, the part that a born again believer plays in the production of divine good is the presentation of the Gospel Message to unbelievers; the sharing post salvation doctrine with fellow believers; and living via example. It is God (John 15: 5) who produces the divine good (1Cor. 3: 12-15) through us when we so speak and/or live via example. "So then neither the one (that God uses) who plants (initially presents the Gospel Message/edifying doctrine) or the one who waters (clarifies/explains further/edifies) is anything, but God who causes the (spiritual) growth (1Cor. 3: 8 NASB italics mine." The classical example of human good is what takes place in the operating rooms in hospitals every day, when "life-saving" procedures take place at the hand of surgeons who are atheists or unbelievers. Producing human good, be it by believers and/or unbelievers, has its own rewards and benefits here on Earth for both the producer and the recipient. At the same time, all the human good in the world can not save or edify a soul. The human good, regardless by whom it is produced, is used by God to fulfill different aspects of His will but human good does nothing to evangelize or to edify the soul. Among these different aspects are providing for the means to secure one's logistical necessities such as food. shelter, clothing, etc.. Those who do the devil's bidding also engage in the same areas of human good to secure the same Earthly benefits for themselves. While such forms of human good greatly benefit the recipients here on Earth, no amount of human good can "earn" eternal life (John 3: 16) or heavenly (1Cor. 3: 12-16) reward. The lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15) will be filled with many souls that either produced or benefited by deeds of human good while here on Earth, but failed to address their spiritual needs (John 3: 5, 7). Divine good can ONLY be produced by God (John 15; 5), working t-h-r-o-u-g-h a born again, Spirit-filled, believer. The devil promotes the production of human good, but opposes the production of divine good. * * * To the extent that God allows, the forces of evil can produce some of the same miraculous activity that are produced by divine forces (Exodus 7: 10,11/Matt. 24: 24). In Exodus 7 NASB we read, "So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did as they Lord commanded; and Aaron through his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent (vs. 10). Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts (vs.11). In Matthew 24: 24 NASB we read, "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so mislead, if possible, even the elect." The "elect" in this verse is making reference to the people of God during the Church Age. No advancing disciple would want to deny God the glory when divine miracles are in view, or worse, attribute demonic activity to divine miracles (Matt. 12: 24), but one must be also aware of how the devil has used and will use miraculous activity to deceive. When discerning rather or not a "miracle" was the Work of God, it is not the deed or the outcome that necessarily has to be verified, but who or what that the manifestation of the "miracle" glorifies (Acts 3: 6, 9/Acts 14: 10-15). Is the credit/glory for the miracle being given to a member of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit), or is it being given to a living or passed human being, an evil spirit, or an evil force? Although the recipients can benefit (here on Earth) from a miracle of any type, the spiritual objective of a divine miracle is to generate faith in God. The spiritual objective of a diabolical miracle, is to diminish faith, and to give the glory due God's to someone or something else. Building shrines to worship or to secure miracles from spiritual beings outside of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit )has been promoted by the devil and many religious groups throughout human history. To the extent that God allows, the devil has made use of such activity. Perceiving the true power source behind miraculous activity is a part of the "good fight" and the "course" of 2TIm. 4: 7. I understand the desperation that one's circumstances can generate, but going outside of the Trinity to secure a miracle is an insult to character and nature of God (Phil. 4: 19), and is treading on a slippery slope. To those who do, I would ask exactly what is it that you desire to receive that God Himself would not give to you IF it were truly a part of the plan that He has in mind for you? Accepting a "no" answer to a prayer request that IS within God's ability to provide (Luke 22: 42), is not only a great test of faith, but is a powerful testimony for all who observe. * * * During periods of temporal death the born again believer retains his/her regenerated (Titus 3: 5) human spirit, the (baptizing-identifying) sealing of God the Holy spirit (Eph. 1: 13/Eph. 4: 30), the eternal life (John 3: 16, 18) that he/she already received on the day he/she was saved. The spiritual issue with temporal death is that there is no divine good (1Cor. 3: 12-15) being produced through (John 15: 5) him/her on a daily basis. During periods of temporal death, the born again believer, is still spiritually alive, but "dead" in the area of production. Born again believers who are in the mode of temporal death bring NO glory to God. Glorifying God through the production of divine good is the primary objective of the post salvation spiritual life. If one is not presenting the Gospel Message to unbelievers; not sharing post (after) salvation doctrine with fellow believers; and /or is not teaching by example, then he/she is not involved in the production of divine good. We do not serve God in order to be rewarded, but God has revealed to us His desire to reward in Heaven those who live for Him while here on Earth. An advancing disciple lives for God out of a grateful heart, even if there were no rewards coming, and at any cost. Spiritually immature believers are in it for themselves. As each minute, hour, day, week, month, year, decade or score in the temporal death mode passes, so do all the opportunities for one to have produced divine good that would have glorified God and stored up rewards in Heaven. Born again believers who are in the temporal death mode are NOT fellowship (2Cor. 13: 14) with God. When not in fellowship with God, one is not going to be in the frame of mind to produce divine good. For the born again believer, being out of fellowship with God is likened to "married" people in the middle of a "spat". The partners remain married, but the environment is cold, hostile (Romans 8: 7) and void of intimacy until the issue between them is resolved. In the spiritual realm, when the believer is out of fellowship (2Cor. 13: 14), the salvation remains in tact, but the intimacy is replaced with inherent hostility of the fallen nature (Romans 8: 7). The longer one spends out of fellowship, the less interested one becomes in reconciliation and more and more disinterested in God and/or the things of God. Sin, be it by what we think, say, or otherwise do (or fail to do) is what takes the born again believer out of fellowship with God. Accordingly, this is what makes living in ANY (James 2: 10) sin so destructive to the quality of one's post salvation spiritual life. While "living in sin" includes engaging in relationships that involve fornication, adultery, homosexuality and lesbianism, one is just as much "living in sin" whenever ANY type of sin has become an ongoing part of one's thinking or behavior (James 2: 10). As long as one has a sin that has not been confessed (1John 1: 9) and/or forsaken (John 8: 11), he/she is out of fellowship with God and "living in sin." Relevant Old Testament and ALL New Testament commands are NOT suggestions! The New Testament commands requiring Church Age believers to love our enemies (Matt. 5: 44); to forgive others (Col. 3: 13); obey our parents (Eph. 6: 1); wives to obey husbands (Eph. 5: 24); husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church (Eph. 5: 25); to do unto others as we would want them to do to us (Matt. 7: 12); to put others first (Phil. 2: 3); to do our secular jobs to the best of our ability (Col.3: 23), and to do ALL things without grumbling or disputing (Phil. 2: 14) are just a few of the 300+ New Testament commands that are a challenge for many of us each and every day. Obeying God 98% of the time doesn't work (James 2: 10). "For he who keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (James 2: 10 NASB)." In light of the more than 300 ways that one can sin, according to New Testament scripture alone, we all sin (Rom. 3: 23) each and every day, and in doing so, spend at least part of each and every day out of fellowship with God and "living in sin." Maintaining (through obedience) and restoring (through confession) fellowship with God will be a part of the "good fight" and the "course" of 2Tim. 4: 7." The fact that we are all sinners is no excuse for sins we personally commit, but we all can benefit from a serving of humble pie from time to time and acknowledge that fact that we are all in the same stinking, sinking, boat of sin. The sinning believer remains out of fellowship with God until the sin that took the believer out of fellowship is confessed (1John 1: 9). If the confessed sin is not also forsaken (John 8: 11), the believer will soon enough finds him/herself out of fellowship once again. This develops of cycle in which the believer goes round and around in a "revolving doorway" going in and out of fellowship with God and never going any further in his/her walk with God. Periods of time out of fellowship (and in the mode of temporal death) can be as brief as the few seconds in takes to confess the sin (to God), or can be as long as the rest of one's post salvation spiritual life, That is a choice that we make by how long it takes us to confess (1John 1: 9) and/or forsake (John 8: 11) ANY activity that the Bible identifies as sin. Religion and the devil will provide us with many alternatives, but NONE of them will work. Engaging in good deeds of human good and "religious" activity are among the most common alternatives as one attempts to make up for sin that keeps us out of fellowship with God. Comparing (and justifying) our personal sin with what we consider to be a less serious sin that what others may be involved in is another alternative way to address the sins we commit, but James 2: 10 blows a big hole in the middle of that idea. One can experience great "worldly" success in all other areas of his/her life while out of fellowship with God, leading one to believe that all is well between them and God. Some of the most evil persons to have walked on the face of this world have enjoyed much material blessings during much of their lifetimes. Many such believers find the time to do just about everything else, but have no time for God and/or the things of God. If a born again believer does not have the time for God, God will not have the rewards for him/her. God gives the same 168 hrs. a week to every soul here on Earth. What we do with each one of those hours is determined by the choices we make. The more freedom that our individual circumstances afford us, the more accountable we are for what we do with it. I believe that one of the reasons older age limits what we can do with the daily time we have is to give born again believers one last period of time to produce divine good before departing this world. When virtually all else has been taken away, one has much more time to devote to the spiritual issues that he/she didn't have the time for previously. As long as we are sucking air, God has a divine purpose for our individual presence here on Earth. Sad to say, but for some, it will be to become a living/dying example of what God does NOT want a born again believer to become. In many cases, how one faces death and/or the process of dying will be his/her greatest testimony of his/her faith. Some of us will be called home without any indication that we are about to depart, whereas others will knowingly take part in the final leg of the race that God has in mind for him/her in the"good fight" and the "course" of 1Tim. 4: 7. Many believers will leave this world in the same fearful frame of mind that plagued them all the days of their lives (Heb. 2: 15), having never reached the stage of spiritual maturity to experience either the John 8: 32 confidence/freedom or the Phil 4 : 6, 7 peace of mind. This , too, the end result of negative choices that one made along the way. While there is no guarantee of the opportunity to make a death-bed conversion, many are saved as a result. However, such a believer will not have the time it takes to develop the level of spiritual maturity to experience his /her departure with the same peace and confidence that an advanced disciple can experience. A peaceful departure, regardless of physical pain or horrific circumstances, is one of the last blessings that an advancing disciple can receive this side of Heaven. * * * The gaining of the whole world principle of Mark 8: 36 refers to one making it to the top of whatever activity or walk in life that one chooses to involve himself. God is not all opposed to one gaining his/her own world (3John:1-2), p-r-o-v-i-d-i-n-g one does not neglect the things of God in the process. Battles of one sort or anther is a common and daily experience shared by believers and unbelievers alike. Some of these battles are consciously engaged in, whereas others take place without our conscious thoughts being involved. That is, until something goes wrong. From second we take our first breath of natural life (Gen. 2: 7), our immune system begins to fight off millions of germs, bacteria, and virus that if not kept in check, can terminate the biological life of our bodies. In the event that our bodies are subjected to physical trauma, the body must fight to recover or suffer the debilitating or fatal consequences of the damage sustained. Providing for at least the minimum necessities of life is a life long battle (Eccl. 2: 23), being one of the consequences of the Fall (Gen. 3: 17) and/or the lack of choosing to establish divine priorities (Matt. 6: 33). Even the earthly "rich and famous", who are born into or attain great wealth with seemingly little effort, face many of the same battles as anyone else. Being deceived by the privileges and benefits that earthly prosperity provides (Mark 4: 19), many (not all) of the rich and famous live and die in total ignorance of the awaiting consequences (1Cor. 3: 12-15/Rev. 20: 15) of their spiritual poverty. To enjoy the domestic or secular labor that one engages in , and to be content (Heb. 13: 5/Phil.4: 11) with whatever level of earthly prosperity one is presently (Phil. 4: 12/Job 1: 21) experiencing, are among the greatest blessings that one can experience here on Earth. The vacation industry makes billions of dollars every year, offering a temporary period of enjoyment that many individuals fail to experience in the remaining 45- 50 weeks (86-96%) of their lives each year, depending on how much vacation time one has in any given year. Nothing wrong with taking a break and enjoying pleasurable activities. But there is something VERY wrong with NOT enjoying the remaining 86-96% of one's time here on Earth. There are NO vacations or retirement plans in the post salvation spiritual life. There is the principle of rest that can be experienced throughout the course of each and every day. Discipleship is a 24-7 lifestyle. Be it at home in a domestic environment, or out on the devil's world engaged in a secular job, we spend a significant percentage of our adult life engaged in one form of labor or another. To say that God does not have spiritual objectives for us to achieve while engaged in such a large portion of our time here on Earth is an indication that one has no clue what the post salvation spiritual life is all about. Where one labors, recreates, or socializes, be it at home or out in the devil's world, is where he/she is to be Christ's ambassador (2COr. 5: 20). THIS is what brings spiritual significance to our chosen area of labor, be it at home or out in the devil's world. Take God and or the things of God out of ANY activity and they will become, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity (meaningless) (Eccl 1: 2 NASB italics mine). These are the words of a man (Solomon) who sought after and experienced virtually every thing there was to do under the sun, in the day in which he lived. * * * The individual plan that God has for any given individual can call for his/her earthly departure of any soul at any time. It can take place at any age. It can take place In a period of illness or great health. In the midst of prosperity or poverty. It can take place if we are ready or not. Accordingly, as advancing disciples, we will learn to "number our days (Psalms 90: 12 NASB)", that is to perceive the significance of each and every day that he/she wakes up and finds him/herself still here on Earth! Tens of thousands of souls depart this world each and every day, with the death of many being the last things that anyone (including themselves) expected. The 24 hours that we are given each day can NEVER be recovered. As each day comes and goes, its opportunities are gone forever. How much of each day we choose to focus on eternity, and how much of each day we spend focused on this world is a daily choice that we make. All of worldly things we invest in and the earthly blessings that such investments have secured come to an end (for us) the day we depart. Only our eternal investments are going to matter then (1Cor. 3: 12-15). According to the plan of God, Adam, and many of the earliest generations of Man lived for centuries (Gen.5). For others, they were/are called home during infancy or childhood (2Sam 12). The Lord Jesus Christ (in His humanity) died at the approx. age of 30-33. The three score and ten (70 years) of Psalms 90: 10 represented the a-v-e-r-a-g-e life span of the human experience in the period of history (1,000 yrs. BC) in which the passage of Scripture (Psalms 90: 10) was written. It is not meant to indicate that everyone will live that long, nor does it mean that one's time of departure is imminent upon reaching his/her 70th birthday celebration. In order for 70 to be an average, there were many who died before and many who lived beyond the 70 year average. On the individual level, no one remains here on Earth one second longer, or departs one second sooner than the time that God's direct will calls for, or God's permissive will allows to take place. If it is NOT one's time, he/she isn't going anywhere, but if it is one's time, nothing is going to stop the departure from taking place. The primary purpose that an advancing disciple is here on Earth is to identify and fulfill the individual plan that God has for him/her. This specific plan called for a specific day of arrival and a specific day of departure. God has promised to supply us with all that we need to fulfill His will, not ours. This includes all of the time that the plan of God calls for. When one's work (that the plan of God calls for) has been completed, it is time for him/her to depart. Accordingly, the advancing disciple will NOT desire to remain here in the devil's world any longer than the time it takes to complete plan that God has in mind for him/her. Once completed, the advancing disciple welcomes death with great expectation of what is awaiting him/her on the other side. If it is God's plan for any one us ( as an individual )to remain here on Earth beyond (70 years) the three score and ten cited in (Psalms 90: 10), we, in varying degrees, will engage in the battle of aging (Eccl. 12), struggling to maintain a reasonable quality of life in light of the physical and mental limitations that older age will brings to us. The battle of aging is shared by "saint" and "sinner" alike. The battle of aging is one of the ways that God warns or remind us that there IS a coming day of departure. Like any other warning, one can choose to take heed or dismiss it, but denial does not make the truth go away! The Lord Jesus Christ taught that during our appointed (Psalms 31: 15) life span here on Earth, one must (not an option) be born again John 3: 5, 7) THIS is the most important battle that ANY soul will ever engage in, as it ALONE (John 3: 18) determines WHERE on will spend ALL of eternity. This battle begins at birth with the God-given understanding of there being an eternity (Eccl. 3: 11). The soul either chooses to believe or to reject the concept of eternity. Those who reject it, adopt atheism. Those who accept the concept of there being a God/god and an afterlife of one form or another, will engage in the battle of spirituality vs. religion in order to identify and secure an eternal relationship with the God/god that the various religions of the world (Psalms 96) promote. What makes Christianity (not Christian religion) different from ALL the religions (Psalms 96) of the world, is that with Christianity, one's relationship with God is based on one (believing) placing his full trsut and confidence in what God has done, is doing, and will do, whereas religion in all about what Man must do (or not do) to earn the earthly and heavenly blessings of the God/god of choice. The spiritual life of Scripture, and not the man-made rituals of ANY religion, is what the God of the Bible requires if one is to secure a relationship with Him and to receive the accompanying blessings that go along with that relationship. Here in the Church Age, the battle for the salvation that determines WHERE one will spend all of eternity ends IF and WHEN the soul chooses to believe, that is to place his full trust and confidence, in a presentation of the Gospel Message. Once (if) the battle for the salvation of one's soul has been won, same soul enters into the battle (spiritual combat - Eph. 6) associated with thepost (after) salvation spiritual life. Success or failure in the battle for salvation determines WHERE on will spend eternity, whereas success or failure in the spiritual combat of the post salvation spiritual life determines HOW (with or without reward - 1Cor. 3: 12-15) that the individual born again believer will experience in eternity. A major part of the devil's strategy is to try to cause the born again believer to become involved in the many OTHER battles of life that can so easily take center stage in the earthly experience of the believer. Such "other" battles include, but are not limited to the inherent adversity associated with personal relationships, marriage, parenting, labor, profession, education, health, wealth, aging, social, racial, and political issues that ALL are a part of life here in the devil's world. For those who are born again, the most important battle for him/her to identify and engage in is the "good fight" and the "course" of 2Tim. 4: 7, and let be distracted by all the adversity that the "other" battles can generate. Human nature, inherently hostile (Romans 8: 7) towards God and the things of God, looks everywhere else for solutions to the problems of life, and then blames God when things turn out the way they do. The truth is, IF Man chose to apply even the most basic principles of Scripture, the devil's grip on this world would be greatly shattered. IF MAN, for instance, ONLY did unto others as they want others to do to them (), there would be no war, no crime, no deceit, no hatred, no jealousy, no murder, no stealing, no adultery, no lying, no poverty, no violence (etc., etc., etc.). As long as it is the fallen nature (Romans 7) and not the "mind of Christ (2Cor. 2: 16) that influences much of what goes on here on Earth, the world (on a global scale) will NOT change (for the better). There are only two roads in life (Matt. 7: 13, 14, and the majority of fallen Man will consistently choose the wrong one! This is true concerning the call to unbelievers concerning salvation, and it is true concerning the call to born again believers to engage in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. The end result is the world in which we live. There is an old saying [promoting the concept that all roads lead to Rome. The truth is that in the spiritual realm, with the exception of ONE (Matt. 7: 14/John 14: 6), all roads lead to Hell. At death, when the smoke clears from all the earthly battles of life, it will ONLY be what the born again believer did (or didn't do) with the call to engage in the "good fight" of 2Tim. 4: 7 that is going to matter (1Cor. 3: 12-15). Whatever (if any) "other" gains were made as a result in the "other" battles of life, are ALL those gains are left behind. As long as we remain here on Earth, Scripture teach that there is a time for peace and a time for war (Eccl. 3: 8). The post (after) salvation spiritual life IS a war, with the glory of God here on Earth, and the quality of the eternal experience that awaits the individual believer, hanging in the balance. Each and every day of the post salvation spiritual life of a born again believer involves spiritual combat (Eph. 6) with one's own fallen nature (Romans 7), human viewpoint of other people, and often with the Eph. 6: 12 forces of evil. Each and every day the born again believer makes choices that brings glory to God or that denies God the glory that He would (should) have otherwise received. It begins with the priorities and the agenda that we generate and execute each and every day. Through daily discipleship, that being the teaching (Matt. 7: 24-27) and the application (James 1: 22) of the Word of God, the born again believer is trained and equipped to make choices that glorifies God. Without the impact of the Word of God, we make our choices from a position of weakness, based on human viewpoint that appeals to the fallen nature (Romans 7) within us. Providing in-service training to law enforcement personnel in the field was one of the functions I was assigned to during the course of my 30 year law-enforcement career. Especially under stress, one will do what he has been taught and equipped to do. The same principle applies to the spiritual combat of the Church Age. If the Christian soldier is not trained and equipped, the chances of success in the daily spiritual battles are greatly diminished. Some of us aren't even out of bed in the morning, and already we have entertained some form of mental attitude sin (Phil. 4: 7) and in the of the 1John 1: 9 process if it is going to be a day in which we walk with the Lord. Every day, the devil, the Ephesians 6: 12 forces of evil, our own fallen nature, and/or human beings whom evil has deceived, bombard our souls with all kinds of suggestions, that if entertained, will take us out of fellowship with God and lead us away from the plan that God had in mind for that day. This is why the Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples to take the post salvation spiritual life one day at a time. "Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt.6: 34 NASB)." We are creatures of habit. Our success/failures of today is what sets the stage for our success/failures tomorrow. Just as what we did in thought and did yesterday impacts our experience today, so will out thoughts and actions today impact our experience tomorrow. Failure to perceive and/or address the s-p-i-r-i-t-u-a-l issue(s) behind the moment to moment, day to day, events of one's "every day" life is a clear indication that such a believer is not participating in the post (after) salvation spiritual life of discipleship. Every born again believer has "a" post salvation spiritual life, but only a minority of them ever identify or execute "the" post salvation spiritual life outlined in Scripture. "The"post salvation spiritual life of Scripture includes participating in the "good fight" and the "course" of 2Tim. 4: 7. In the course of each day's spiritual combat, there will be times to speak and time to remain silent (Eccl. 3: 7). There is a time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing (Eccl. 3: 5). * * * The Bible clearly documents the Great Commission given to the Church. The Great Commission calls for the proclamation of the Gospel Message to unbelievers and the edifying of born again believers for the development of post salvation discipleship. Many sectors of the Church at large has adopted many alternative agendas while neglecting the primary mission that it was given. While the Great Commission is to be promoted "in and out of season (1Tim. 4: 2)," Scripture (Matt. 7: 6) also teach that there are NOT to, "...give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw (present) your pearls (the Gospel Message/edifying doctrine) before swine, lest they (not only) trample (show contempt) them (Gospel Message/edifying doctrine) under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces (Matt. 7: 6 NASB italics mine)." Evangelists and pastor teachers are involved with presenting the Gospel Message (to unbelievers) and presenting post salvation doctrine to congregations of born again believers on a regular basis. These "congregations" can physically gather together (Heb. 10: 25) in the traditional way and/or via remote means of technology. IT is not HOW or by what means believers gathers together, but what takes place when they do that matters. Only a very small percentage of the body of Christ are called to function as an ordained evangelist or pastor teacher, but EVERY believer is called to share the Gospel Message with unbelievers and post salvation doctrine with fellow believers within his/her personal environment when God gives him/her the opportunity. Developing the spiritual perception to identify one's God-given opportunities to share the Gospel Message and/or an edifying passage of Scripture is an essential part of participating in the "good fight" and the "course" of 2Tim. 4: 7. Although discipleship begins with oneself, the long term objective involves the salvation and the spiritual edification of others (1Cor. 12: 7/Matt. 28: 19, 20). Attempts to share the Gospel Message with an unbeliever that God has not first prepared to receive it can trigger a "hostile Romans 8: 7" response (Matt. 7: 6). The same can be said of post (AFTER) salvation, edifying doctrine in the case of fellow believers. The advancing disciple will know that God has made the preparations when inquiring souls come to them. In the meantime, the advancing disciple has the unspoken testimony that (should) attracts the attention of others that will, in God's timing, present the advancing disciple with the opportunity to evangelize/edify others. "During times of verbal silence (Matt. 7:6), there is (should be) the unspoken (but powerful) testimony of one's daily life. Attacks from those who reject either the evangelizing Gospel Message or the edifying principle(s) of post (after) salvation doctrine are inevitable. When unable to dispute the message, the only alternative is to attack the messenger. Experience, if not Scripture (Matt. 7: 6, will teach the advancing disciple that attempting to evangelize or to edify a recipient that God has not first prepared, will prove to be an act of futility. In many cases, it is when God brings the inquirer to the advancing disciple, that the advancing disciple's "answer (1Peter 3: 15)" will be most effective, being presented with gentleness and reverence, not with threats or judgment! "...but sanctify Christ in your (own) hearts, always being ready to make a defense (give an explanation) to every one who ASKS you to give an account (justification) for the hope (that they should see) that is in you, yet (do so) with gentleness and reverence (1Peter 3: 15 NASB italics mine)." Most people do not get upset when receiving an answer to a question they asked, even if it was not the answer they anticipated. The Lord Jesus Christ made both the benefits for believing (John 3: 16) and the consequences (John 8: 24/Rev, 20: 13, 15) for rejecting the Gospel Message perfectly clear. The one's who got upset with Him and His message(s) the most were from the "religious" crowd of that day. Not that much has changed since then. It is the UNSPOKEN testimony of the advancing disciple that attracts the attention of the inquirer and motivates the inquirer to approach the advancing disciple for an answer to a spiritual issue. No testimony, no inquirers! Forcing spiritual principles down the throats of people that God has not prepared to receive, will trigger the hostile (Romans 8: 7) response cited in Matt. 7: 6. When not under the influence/control of the God the Holy Spirit, Man is governed by the fallen nature that is inherently hostile (Romans 8: 7) towards God, the things of God, and anyone who speaks for Him. On Earth there is a sense of security in numbers, but when it comes to spiritual issues, the majority is usually wrong (Matt. 7: 13). Every soul here on Earth IS on ONE of two roads at any given time. On one, there is fellowship 2Cor. 13: 14). On the other their is friendship with the world. Being friends with God, sets the stage for war with the world. Being friends with the world, sets the stage for war with God. God has granted us the freedom to choose which side of the conflict we want to be on, but we are not free from having to take one side or the other. There is no neutrality in the spiritual realm. God sees the spiritual status of each and every soul here on Earth as being spiritually dead, or spiritually alive. As God sees it, the spiritually (born again) alive group is subdivided into two groups. One group is advancing towards spiritual maturity, the other is in retreat. Being an advancing disciple, as opposed to a born again in retreat, is a clear indication that is involved in the "good fight" and the "course" of 2Tim. 4: 7. * * * Since the Fall of Man, with the exception of the humanity of Lord Jesus Christ, we all come into this world spiritually dead. This spiritually dead condition is passed down to us from the preceding generation at the moment of conception (Psalms 51: 5). "In sin did my mother conceive me (Psalms 51: 5). There is NOTHING sinful about sexual intercourse between a (MARRIED) husband an wife. It is, however, at the moment of conception that the sin nature is passed down to the bodies of the incoming generation. Women receive their sin nature from their own biological fathers, but are not involved with the passing down of the sin nature to the offspring. This is why God could (and did) make use of Mary, but could not make use of Joseph in the production of our Lord's humanity (See the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union). Spiritual death is not a state of non-existence, but existing while outside of a relationship with God. Every soul will continue to "exist" AFTER it departs the body at physical death. "Life after death" is NOT a matter of IF, but a matter of where and how it WILL be experienced. Those who choose to reject God's one and ONLY means to be born again (John 3: 5, 7) and in doing so, fail to receive a regenerated (Titus 3: 5) spirit, will spend all of eternity future in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15). ALL born again believers have a home in Heaven, but only those who engage in the life of discipleship will receive and enjoy the h-e-a-v-e-n-l-y rewards spoken of in 1Cor. 3: 12-15). God's one and only means through which a Church Age can be born again is by placing one's faith (trust and full confidence) in the Person who He is) and the Work (what He accomplished on the cross) of the Lord Jesus Christ. One is first "born" in the natural sense when he/she takes in his/her first breath of natural life (Gen. 2: 7). It is at birth that the soul that God (not the parents) creates (John 3: 6) is placed in the body. Here in the Church Age, one is "born again", IF and when the soul chooses to believe (consciously choose to place his full trust) in a presentation of the Gospel Message. This second "birth" is not another natural birth (John 3: 4), but spiritual in nature. One goes from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive. This regeneration (Titus 3: 5) and sealing/baptism () is the Work of God the Holy Spirit and not the function of Church Age clergy. ALL "water baptisms" conducted by the Apostles involved ADULTS who were ALREADY born again believers, for the purpose of identifying themselves as a member of a local group of believers, or the Church at large. Connecting with and participating in a local assembly or ministry IS a post (AFTER) salvation activity(Heb. 10: 25) for the primary purpose of discipleship (Matt. 28: 20). Being a "Church member" is meaningless if one has not been born again. Becoming spiritually alive via the regeneration of our dead human spirit is ONE of several things that takes place at the moment one is " born again John 3: 5, 7. Among those that are born again, there will be those who reject or neglect the call to identify, pursue, execute, and stick with the true the post (after) salvation spiritual life outlined in Scripture. Most believers who reject or neglect the call to discipleship will substitute the post salvation spiritual life with one of the many "religious" alternatives that have evolved throughout the course of the Church Age. The "advancing disciple" is truly a part of a minority within a minority. According to Matt. 7: 13, 14, and confirmed by even secular statistics, only the minority of each generation of the Church Age will be born again, and only a minority of those born again will choose to engage and remain in the post salvation discipleship. Discipleship is the study (Matt. 28: 20) and the application (James 1: 22) of the Word of God, beginning with oneself with the long term objective of evangelizing and/or edifying others (1Cor. 12: 7). The majority/minority principle of Scripture (Matt. 7: 13, 14) indicates that even though God provided the means (1John 2: 2) and desires that everyone be saved(1Tim. 4: 2), only the minority of each generation is Heaven bound, and only the minority of those who are Heaven bound will be the recipients of the full or partial rewards spoken of in 1 Cor. 3: 12-15. The majority of each generation of the Church Age, in the capacity of unbelievers, are headed for the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15), where they will spend all of eternity. The lake of fire is NOT a place of extermination, but a place of permanent separation from God. All born again believers receive eternal life (John 3: 16) and will spend all of eternity future in fellowship with God in Heaven. A born again believers can NEVER be any more or any less "saved" that he/she became the moment he/she first believed in a presentation of the Gospel Message. One is converted from being a spiritually dead unbeliever, to a spiritually alive born again believer in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though Heaven bound, the majority of born again believers will forfeit some or all of the rewards and privileges that are reserved for those who were advancing disciples during their time here on Earth. Post salvation discipleship calls for the born again believer to become an advancing disciple by identifying and taking part in the good fight of 2 Tim. 4: 7. Discipleship is a post (after) salvation activity. Discipleship is the study and the application of the Bible. It is an ongoing process that began (or should have begun) with the start of one's post salvation spiritual life, and will never end this side of Heaven. Many (the majority) of born again believers are satisfied just to know that they have secured a place in Heaven, and have no real interest in taking their spiritual life here on Earth any further. In this vulnerable, spiritually weak, condition, it is quite common for such believers to begin to question the reality or the integrity of the salvation they have a-l-r-e-a-d-y received. Their vulnerability does not place their salvation in jeopardy, but they are easy targets for the forces of evil to remove them from the battlefield of the "good fight" and the "course" of 2Tim. 4: 7. Most spiritually weak believers are willing to concede that "something is missing" in their walk with the Lord. Most go through the motions, but rarely get anything out of all of their "religious" activity, beyond fulfilling some perceived obligation, and securing the availability of the "Church" for such things as water baptisms, weddings, and funerals. When, in the natural realm, a body is not fed with nourishing food, it's condition is weakened and its ability to function and to be productive is compromised. When a born again believer is not fed with the Word of God on an ongoing basis, his/her her ability be used of God to produce divine good is compromised. Humans, under the influence of the fallen nature, are SELF centered. Everything they do (or don't do) is determined by how it is going to effect them. Advancing disciples will become CHRIST centered under the tutorship of God the Holy Spirit. Becoming CHRIST centered is one of the first battles that one must win to be victorious in the "good fight" and to finish the "course of 2Tim. 4: 7). As (if) one spiritually matures, his knowledge and the application of Bible Doctrine will continue to increase. If one is not advancing, then he/she is reverting. The struggle to c-o-n-t-i-n-u-e to advance in the spiritual lif plays a major role in finishing the course of 2Tim. 4: 7. * * * The human race was created to glorify God in the midst of an ongoing conflict that began BEFORE the creation of Man. This conflict (See The Angelic Conflict) will continue to run concurrently with human history until the time of its prophesied conclusion (Rev. 20). With the Church Age just beyond the horizon, the Lord Jesus Christ made it clear that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matt. 10: 24). Those who choose to pick up that sword during the dispensation of the Church Age will find themselves in the midst of conflict. The peace announced by the Christmas angel at the First Advent (Luke 2: 14) referred to individual peace between born again believers and God, not universal peace with other people or between nations. Interpersonal and international peace (on a global level) will NOT take place during the dispensation of the Church Age. The Church Age began at the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem, Israel in the approx. year 30-33 AD, and comes to its end as of the Rapture that has not yet materialized. The end of the dispensation of the Church is NOT by any means the end of God's plan for either the human race nor planet Earth. In the meantime, as long as the Church Age continues, the "good fight" and the "course" of 2Tim. 4: 7 will be the focus of attention of every advancing disciple. The general objective of the "good fight" is laid out in the "marching orders" that the Lord Jesus Christ left for the Church is documented in the Great Commission (Matt. 28: 19, 20). The Great Commission calls for the preservation and the proclamation of the true Gospel Message for the salvation of unbelievers of each generation of the Church Age, and for the making of disciples (students and appliers of the Word of God). The individual objective for each and every born again believer is to identify, develop, and execute the specific plan that God has for him/her in order to fulfill his/her individual part in the Great Commission. There are many components to the post salvation spirit life than an advancing disciple must identify, develop, and execute IF he/she desires to be all that God desires during his time here on Earth. Such components include, but are not limited to developing and maintaining an edified soul structure (Matt. 7: 24-27); the identification, development, and execution of one's spiritual gift (1Cor. 12: 7) with its accompanying ministry (area of service); and the production of divine good (1Cor 3). Just as God has a specific plan for each and every i-n-d-i-v-i-d-u-a-l believer (1Cor. 12: 11) of the Church Age, the devil has a plan to see to it that it never happens. Some believers are almost immediately made aware of what their individual spiritual gift and accompanying ministry is to be (Acts 9), whereas many others identify it along the road of post salvation discipleship. If one does not pursue the true post salvation spiritual life, he/she will not likely develop the interest to identify or to devotion to develop and to execute his/her spiritual gift. The gift that God has in mind, is permanent, but how, when, and where one practices it may change and may be different from one believer to another. We are NOT here to do what others think our assigned gift and ministry should consist of, we are here to be where God wants us to be and doing what He wants us to be doing. One mus distinguish the difference from a "spiritual" gift and a human talent. "Spiritual gifts" serve the purpose of evangelizing unbelievers and edifying believers, in either a direct way or in a supportive role in a local assembly or ministry. Rather or not we become aware of what our spiritual gift is early or later on down the road, one must spend time developing such things as his/her own edified soul structure, as no one can be used of God to pass along to others anything that he/she does not first secure for him/herself. An advancing disciple will develop the spiritual maturity to discern the hand of God in everything that comes to his/her door. In fact, it will not be in times of overt blessings and prosperity, but in times of grief, suffering, loss, and adversity that his/her faith will have the opportunity to grow in leaps and bounds. There is nothing wrong with experiencing and enjoying the legitimate things and activities that life here in the devil's (Luke 4: 6) has to offer. There is everything wrong with these things if they become a stumbling block on the path that God has chosen for him/her to follow. Having diverse interests is what sets the stage for God to place each one of us in all the different walks of life, where the a-d-v-a-n-c-i-n-g disciple is to be His ambassador (2Cor. 5: 20). What had been merely our place of labor, recreational activity, or hobby, etc. BEFORE we were saved, becomes our first "pulpit" after we have been saved. This is especially true, IF and when we progress from being a born again believer to a disciple, and eventually capable of serving God in the capacity of an ambassador. Only a very small percentage of believers are gifted to be an evangelist or a pastor teacher, but each and every believer is called to become an ambassador, sharing the Gospel Message and edifying principles of Scripture with those with whom we interact with on a daily basis. In the Christian sense, the "ambassador" is one who, by speech and behavior, represents the Kingdom of God, here on Earth. Although born again believers have forever secured their own place in the Kingdom of God, the newly born again believer is not at all prepared to assume the role of an ambassador. Every person who identifies him/herself as a Christian, is (should be) projecting to those who observe him/her, his own unspoken testimony of what Christianity all about. Using the Lord's name as a form of cussing is very offensive in the ears of God and in the ears of a born again Christian. However, in principle, taking the Lord's name in vain goes w-a-y beyond that. Taking on (identifying oneself as a Christian) the name of Christ, and then not conducting oneself accordingly (Romans 8: 29), is ONE of the ways that a Church Age believer can violate the Old Testament command of Exodus 20: 7. "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain (Ex. 20: 7 NASB)." "...And He scourges every son (born again believer) whom He receives (Heb. 12: 6 NASB italics mine)." Accordingly, even though "ambassadorship" is not for unqualified born again believers, each and every born again believer still projects an image (good or bad) to those around them. The devil and his Eph. 6: 12 forces of evil will take every opportunity to point out to others our individual inconsistencies between what a Christian is supposed to think, say, and do, and what we actually think, do, and say. Their objective is to destroy our opportunities to evangelize and/or edify others. The more we advance in the spiritual realm along the road to spiritual maturity, the greater a target we become. The call to ambassadorship will not materialize until one has been trained in discipleship. EVERY born again believer is called to discipleship. Salvation is the first step, and discipleship is the second step along the road to spiritual maturity and becoming ALL that God created each one of us to be. Discipleship is the ongoing, never ending, study and application of the Word of God. The immediate objective of discipleship is the building and application of one's own edified soul structure (Matt. 7: 24-27), with the long term objective of being used by God to evangelize and/or edify others. An ambassador is one who is well versed in the policies of the kingdom he/she represents. Promoting ANY policy contrary to the official position of the kingdom that he/she represents is grounds for his/her recall. Okay, but what has all this got to do with the fighting the good fight? Although one's salvation was "a" fight (between the forces of good and evil) in of itself, "the" good fight of 2Tim. 4:7 has nothing do with struggling to retain the salvation that one has already received. The soul of a born again is immediately "sealed Eph. 4: 30 )" by God the Holy Spirit (not Man) the moment he/she is saved, and remains so throughout all of his/her post salvation spiritual life and for all of eternity upon departing this world. Sealing, in this verse, means to be securely identified as a born again believer. No one, including the one sealed, has the ability to undo this "sealing" Work that God performs on the day one is born again. "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by who you (born again believers) were (past tense) sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 4: 30 NASA italics mine)." The seal remains for the "day of redemption - Eph. 4: 30" when the soul of the believer arrives in Heaven. The preservation of this seal, and the eternal relationship it signifies, is the Work of God (Romans 14: 4), (not religious rituals) that placed it there in the first place. "Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own Master he stands or fails; and stand (stand = remain saved) he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand (Romans 14: 4 NASB) italics mine." In the ancient world, a seal was placed on the edge of the rolled scroll. This seal was made of hot wax imprinted with a symbol identifying the sender and to insure that the contents had not been altered. One could not open or tamper with the scroll without cracking the seal. There are many alternative fights and battles that can easily take the place of the good fight of 2 Timothy 4: 7. The deceptive part is that some of these alternative fights are, in of themselves, worthy and noble, endeavors, but never the less are not a part of the good fight and course referenced in 2Tim. 4:7. The good fight and course spoken of in 2Tim. 4:7 are connected with the advancement of the Great Commission, evangelizing unbelievers and edifying born again believers with the objective of discipleship in view. Political issues, racial equality, gender equality, environmental, and social justice are among the alternatives that are in of themselves worthy causes of human good, but are NOT to be confused with spirituality. Atheists and unbelievers, can engage in any one of the alternative battles and accomplish human good in the process. Such human good can make, at least for some, the devil's world a better place to live. Making the devil's world (Luke 4: 6) a better place to live, in of itself saves/edifies no one. Humanitarian services MAY be used to make the initial contact (James 2: 15, 16), but unless the true Gospel Message is also being presented to unbelievers and/or accurate Bible doctrine is being presented to believers, there is NO spiritual good being accomplished. Humanitarian deeds and projects that are void of evangelism and/or accurate representation of the Word of God can be powerful tools in the hand of the devil. ONLY a born again, Spirit filled believer will engage in the good fight and course of 2Tim. 4: 7. The devil is a master at offering what appears to be spirituality, when in truth it is either human good or religion that is in view. The good fight of 2 Tim, 4: 7 consists of overcoming all the individual obstacles and adversary that we will encounter (if) we choose to learn of and execute the individual, post (after) salvation plan that God has in mind for each and every born again believer. Our own fallen nature, the devil, and the forces of evil are not merely disinterested in the individual plan that God has in mind, but are hostile towards it. As a Church Age believer, the individual plan that God has in mind for us is connected with the Master Plan, identified in the Great Commission (Matt. 28: 19, 20). Our individual obstacles and adversity will differ from one another, as we all have areas of strength and areas of weakness. What can be a distraction or temptation to one person will not even the cross the mind of someone else, and visa versa. God has an individually tailor-made plan for each born again believer in order for him/her to participate in His Master Plan. The devil has an individually tailor-made plan to counter-attack ANY forward progress that an advancing disciple makes. In closing, it will be the desire of every advancing disciple to be able to say when he/she comes to the end of the road that he/she can stand before God and say, " I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith (2Timithy 4: 7 NASB)."
Just because the world at large is going down the toilet doesn't mean that we have to go with the flow!