God’s principles are concepts that offer general guidance, are not to be understood as absolutes in each and every situation.
Some principles contradict each other, advising one course of action at one time, and just the opposite at others. It is knowing which of the two opposing principles to apply at any given time that will bring about the desired results.
The principles of Ecclesiastes Chapter Two reveal that there are times to do one thing, and there are times to do just the opposite.
“…A time to time to plant, and a time to uproot what has been planted (Eccl. 2:2 NABS).”
“A time to kill; A time to heal; a time to tear down; and a time to build up (Eccl. 2: 3 NASB).”
“A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing (Eccl. 2: 5 NASB).”
“A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away (Eccl. 2: 6 NASB).”
“A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak (Eccl. 2: 7 NASN).”
“A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace (Eccl. 2: 8 NASB).”
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There are many principles found in the Book of Proverbs promote the concept that honest dealings generate prosperity in the here and now, yet the same book (Proverbs 11: 31) concedes that dishonesty can generate even more earthly “prosperity.”
“If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, How much more the wicked and the sinner (Proverbs 11: 31 NASB).”
New Testament Scripture teach that there is nothing wrong with legitimately obtained and enjoyed prosperity (3John 1: 2), but cautions that all the prosperity that the devil’s (Luke 4: 6) world has to offer is not worth the ultimate consequences (Heb. 12: 6/1Cor. 3: 15) one will receive if one chooses to compromise his walk with the Lord in order to obtain or retain it (Mark 8: 36).
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God’s promises are different. They are absolute and will take place in God’s timing, and in God’s ways, with NO exceptions.
Accordingly, the wise man will make himself aware of that God has promised to do.
This applies to events and situations that we would naturally consider to be positive, and well as ones that we would naturally consider ominous.
The classic example of a positive promise is found in such passages as John 3: 16.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3: 16 NASB).”
On the other hand, there is the ominous promises in such verses as Rev. 20: 15.
“If anyone’s name was not found in written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15 NASB).”
There are no ifs, ands, or buts when it comes to the promises of God taking place. When God promises that something will take place, it is as good as done.
The Old Testament book of Proverbs is loaded with godly principles, generally comparing a favorable outcome of godly behavior vs. the unfavorable outcome of engaging in evil or sin.
It is important to keep in mind that the rank and file Old Testament believers did not view life after death as being one of great blessing or one of great suffering. They saw the here and now (on Earth) to be the time, if ever, that one was to experience the best blessings or the greatest wrath of God.
This line of thought can be seen in much of the Old Testament writings, focusing on the blessings or the adversity of the here and now. Many of the prayers were uttered for deliverance from physical death, and to receive the blessings of God in the here and now.
Even the coming of the prophesied Messiah, was seen as one who would, like the “Judges” of their past history (See Book of Judges), liberate the nation of Israel from its present political adversary, the Roman Empire.
It was believed by many, that not only would the coming Messiah politically liberate them at that time, but that He would establish their national kingdom as one that would never again be overcome.
This position had the support of how they i-n-t-e-r-p-r-e-t-e-d Old Testament Scripture (John 5: 9). This highlights the principle that one can quote Scripture verbatim, and yet misunderstand and/or misapply what it really has to say.
When it became known that the restoring the nation of Israel as an independent entity was not the purpose of the First Advent, many of the Lord Jesus Christ’s earliest followers abandoned Him.
What He had to offer was not what they were after.
Not all that much has changed. When discipleship fails to produce what believers expect, many abandon the call to discipleship, leaving some doubting the very existence of God.
Anyone can be a “goody two shoes” as long as things are going his/her way.
It is when such things as persecution (2Tim. 3: 12), loss (Job 1: 21), suffering (Phil. 1: 29), rejection (Matt. 13: 20-22), and personal sacrifice (Luke 9: 23) becomes a part of one’s daily experience, that many Church Age, born again believers abandon the post salvation spiritual life.
This is due, in part, to mistaking principles for promises.
Such born again believers will either return to or seek out one of the devil’s “religious” alternatives, that offer the crown (blessings) without the cross (suffering) that the plan of God will require of them.
This was the same strategy that the devil used against the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 4: 6).
“and he (the devil) led Him (the Lord Jesus Christ) up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give your all of this domain and it glory… (Luke 4: 6 italics mine,” somewhat matching one of the promises that the plan of God offered Him (), but without having to endure the shame and the agony of the cross.
All He had to do was to worship before the devil Luke 4: 7 NASB).
Church Age believers would not go as far as “worshiping” the devil, but many “Christians” are willing to honor the devil by functioning in the ways of the devil’s world in order to “get ahead” in the here and now.
Many Church Age believers sell out to the devil for a lot less than what the devil is willing to pay.
Anyone who has experienced both the religious life and the spiritual life can tell you that the religious life is a lot less costly on a day to day basis.
In fact, the “religious” life for many only consumes an hour or so once a week, whereas the spiritual life is 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
What the devil won’t tell the religious crowd is that what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15) is going to filled with “religious” souls that were never born again (John 3: 5, 7).
On the contrary, he leads the “religious” crowd to believe that it is through their religiosity that they earn a place in Heaven. The devil has no problem with humans thinking they are Heaven bound, when they are not. Not only to they pose no threat to his agenda, the unwittingly promote it.
What the devil will not tell the born-again believer who chooses to return to (or to seek out) the “religious” life over the post salvation spiritual life, is that there will be loss of reward (1Cor. 3: 15).
The “religious” life is designed to appear to be the means to identify and to establish a lasting relationship the one true God. Like any other counterfeit, it must appear to be the real thing if the deception is going to succeed.
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God’s plan of salvation was revealed to Man in stages, beginning in Gen. 3: 15. Believers during the Old Testament period did not have the advantage of New Testament details that made clear the plan that God had in mind for the human race at large, and for the nation of Israel.
What we now refer to as the Bible, was composed over a period of approx. 1500 years, with a 400-year gap between what would become the last Book of the Old testament and the beginning of the New Testament in the 1st Century AD. Some date the writing of the Book of Job (not the subject matter) as preceding the writing of the Book of Genesis.
Genesis was composed by Moses around 1500 BC. As of the completion of the last Book of the Bible (Book of Revelation) in 96 A.D., Man has been given ALL the information that God desires to provide Man with concerning the His plan.
Any “missing” details are not a deficiency in Scripture. Like a jog saw puzzle with “missing” parts, Man’s attempt to fill the fill the missing spaces to form a complete picture has led to many false doctrines that the devil has used to challenge the credibility of Scripture.
These missing details are among the “secret things” referenced in Deut. 29: 29 NASB.
God has revealed to us everything that we need to know, but not necessarily all that we might want to know.
God has provided us with enough information in the Gospel Message alone to make us morally accountable, but withholds some details so that we come to Him on the basis of faith (Heb. 11: 6), as well as fact.
There will always be a gap between how far the facts can take us, and the spiritual goal (salvation/edification) with which we want to connect. It takes faith to close the gap.
This is true of the Gospel Message to be saved, and is true of the edifying passages of Scripture needed to advance in the life of post (after) salvation discipleship.
Even though Church Age believers do have New Testament Scripture, many continue to focus their attention on the here and now, and NOT on the life that continues on when we leave our bodies behind.
Even if we were to live close to 1,000 years on Earth, as did the some of the individuals of the first generations (Gen. 4), it would still be like comparing a single grain of sand (our earthly life span) to the bulk of sand (eternity) contained in the Sahara Desert.
Even at that, this illustration falls short, as there IS a limit to the number of grains of sand in the Sahara Desert, but there is NO limit to extent of eternity that has no end!
Addressing the spiritual issues (salvation/edification) during one’s time here on Earth is what determines where and how one will spend all of eternity.
“For what does is profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul (Mark 8: 36 NASB)?”
Only a fool would seek all the pleasures and “toys” that this world has to offer if it costs him a place in Heaven as an unbeliever, or costs him his heavenly rewards (1Cor. 3: 15) and privileges (Rev. 2/Rev. 3) if he has been born again.
The Lord Jesus Christ spoke of investing one’s time, talents, resources, and energy with an eternal focus in mind (Matt. 6: 19-21).
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The earthly prosperity of the wicked here on Earth has been a challenging hurdle to overcome along the path to spiritual maturity in each and every generation of human history. The Biblical answer to such questions are found in the principles of such passages as (Psalms 73:1-17/Job 2:10), but it takes a degree of spiritual maturity and the enabling power (John 15: 5) of God to accept and apply them.
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The primary principle of Proverbs 16 7 tells us that, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies be at peace with him.
Again, it is general concept that is in view here, as the earthly experience of an advancing disciple is going to be anything but a “walk in the park.”
The life of an advancing disciple is one of daily, personal sacrifice (Luke 9: 23), and periods of persecution (2Tim. 3: 12) and suffering (Phil. 1: 29).
Suffering for Christ is not the same as enduring the consequences for the negative choices we (Gal. 6: 7), and others in our personal periphery (Prov. 17: 5), make.
Suffering for Christ is not the type of suffering (diminished health, wealth, social standing) that is part of the human experience common to believers and unbelievers alike.
The difference between the unbeliever and the advancing disciple going through the same type of common adversity, is that the advancing disciple can go through it with, “… the peace that surpasses all comprehension (Phil. 4: 7 NASB). Doing all things without grumbling or disputing (Phil. 2: 14) is a commandment (not an option) that will “test the steel” of the even the most advanced disciple that I know. Such things require the strength that the Lord (Phil. 4: 13) provides.
How one conducts him/herself in times of suffering that is common to all men will reveal to others where one truly stands in his/her relationship with God (Phil. 4: 4- 6).
Suffering has the potential of bringing out the best (spiritual maturity) and the worst (manifestation of the sin nature) in all of us.
Many of us sin from time to time by thinking more highly of ourselves than what we ought (Romans 12: 3), overlooking the fact that we still have a fallen nature within us (Romans 7) that is self-centered and hostile towards God and/or the things of God.
Pride goes before the fall (Prov. 16: 18).
God allows such falls to remind of us the proverbial rock (spiritual depravity) from which we all crawled out from under, and to remind us that the spiritual battle (of life) is His. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15: 5).
In times of suffering that is common to Man, the spiritual issue is a matter of choosing to glorify God by submitting our thoughts and actions to the enabling power (John 15: 5) and control (Romans 8: 5) of God the Holy Spirit, or choosing to allow the fallen nature in us (Romans 7) to have its way.
Especially when the pressure of adversity or intense suffering in on, our tongues will “betray” us, baring our soul, exposing whatever evil thoughts we have stored there that we would otherwise restrain ourselves from revealing.
No one really knows another person until they have seen both the best and the worst that we can be.
Some say it’s the pain, the drugs, the alcohol, or the sickness that is doing the talking. I say that it is the evil that we have in us that comes our when our restraints are removed.
“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison (James 3: 8 NABS). The poison the tongue ejects comes from the soul structure it represents (Matt. 15: 19).
The need to conduct ongoing self-examinations 2Cor. 13:5 to detect and remove evil from one’ soul structure is an essential part of the post salvation spiritual life.
A: “For as he thinks within himself, so he is… (Prov. 23: 7 NASB).”
The root of all that one says and does is found in the soul structure.
“The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching the innermost parts (soul structure) of his being (Prov. 20: 27 NASB italics mine).”
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Although advancing disciples look forward to the life to come, this does mean that he/she is to walk around with his/her head in the clouds.
Wake up! There is work to be done, and an account to be given (Romans 14: 12).
“…When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the Earth?”
Faith is not only WHAT we know, but how we apply what we know to what we do and say (James 1: 22).
When your time comes, be it at the Rapture or the appointed time of your physical death, will you be in the midst of producing divine good?
Even in a nursing home or on one’s death bed, the advancing disciple still has the unspoken testimony of his daily life and spiritual opportunities to produce divine good. Until we take our last breath, there is a divine purpose for our being Earth.
Departing this Earth, be it via the Rapture (1Thess 4: 17) or physical death, is inevitable. No one lives any longer or dies any sooner that what God has a-l-r-e-a-d-y determined (Psalms 31: 15).
God chose the day we (our soul -John 3: 6) came into this world, and God has appointed a day for us (our soul) to depart. It is what we choose to do with the time in between these two days that determines where and how we will spend eternity.
As good stewards of what God has given us, we should take care of our physical bodies, but one verse of Scripture that will not likely be displayed on the walls of a fitness center is (1Tim. 4: 8).
“for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1Tim. 4: 8).”
Having an annual physical exam makes sense, but having a spiritual exam (2Cor. 13: 5) on a regular basis is much more important.
Many of us keep a close watch on what we allow to enter our natural bodies that are destined to turn to dust (Gen. 3: 19), but how many of us take the same steps to monitor what we allow to enter into souls that are going to live on forever?
Going through a likely death-resulting experience along the way to our inevitable departure affords the one involved to see where he/she really stands in his/her relationship with God.
I went through a battle with stage three cancer. There was surgery and 7 ½ months of chemo ahead of me, with a 40% chance of survival. I did not pray for a healing, but there were many who did in my behalf. I would never dispute the power of prayer.
Never-the-less, I was prepared to go home to be with Lord, and I was prepared to continue on with whatever work there was still to be done.
As it turned out, God had more work for me to do. My appointed time for departure had not yet come. To date I have been cancer -free for 14 years, but continue to struggle with diabetes.
What I did pray for was the ability to maintain the integrity of the spiritual testimony of my daily life, regardless of the outcome of my physical circumstances.
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Conducting oneself as a “Christian” is the duty of a born-again believer. (Luke 17: 9, 10) teaches that one should not expect any special consideration just because one does his duty.
There are many ways that one can suffer, but suffering for Christ is the result of adversity one experiences for having engaged in the Great Commission that was given to the Church at large.
One does his/her part in the fulfilling of the Great Commission by participating in the process of evangelizing and edification of others. This is what the “godly” (spiritual) life of 2Tim. 3: 12 NASB) is all about.
This adversarial experience does not invalidate the principles of Scripture that generally promote a prosperous and pleasant life, but provides the balance between the good and the adversity, as BOTH come from the hand of God (Job 2: 10) by what He either sends or allows to take place.
It is when the anticipated (positive) results are not experienced after having applied any given principle of Scripture, that the advancing disciple relies on such promises as spoken of in Romans 8: 28.
A favorable outcome for having applied godly principles is dependent on the free will of all the individuals involved.
“Train up a child in the way that he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it (Prov. 22: 6 NASB).”
First of all, the “old” being spoken of here is NOT chronological or biological age. It is speaking of spiritual maturity. If the child rejects the teaching and the discipline of the parent, he/she will not develop the spiritual maturity needed to reap the benefits of Prov. 22: 6.
Christian marriage will not be established nor maintained if all three (God, husband, wife) partners are not on the same page.
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Some promises have qualifying prerequisites if a favorable outcome is going to be experienced.
The same God that promises eternal life to the believer (John 3: 16), promises eternal damnation to the unbeliever (John 3: 16, 18/Rev. 20: 15)."
The promise of Romans 8: 28, that God works all things to work together for good, comes with a qualifying prerequisite. That qualifying prerequisite of Romans 8: 28 is love for God. This love for God is in view IF and when God and/or the things of God have top priority in one’s thoughts and actions. This promise does not mean that there won’t be adversity, but that such adversity will work for good in the spiritual life of the one involved.
The deeper an advancing disciple treads into enemy held territory, the more adversity he can expect from the Eph.6: 12 forces of evil, and the more that he/she will suffer for Christ.
Enemy held territory in anywhere that the devil or our own fallen nature has secured and maintains a position of negative influence over our thoughts and accompanying actions.
Enemy held territory can be as close as the areas of spiritual weakness that exists within our own soul structure/ Enemy held territory is in the souls of those with whom we interact on a daily basis. An area of spiritual weakness consists of areas of our thinking or actions that are inconsistent with the Word of God.
Internal disturbance will result when there is a conflict in our soul structure between what God has to say, and what ANY other source has to say about any given spiritual subject. External conflict (with others) will be the result when our input stirs up the internal conflicts in others.
It is in the midst of these internal and external conflicts of the spiritual life that God is glorified, or is denied the glory, by the choices we make in the midst of spiritual combat (Eph. 6).
Being in friendship with the world means being at war (James 4: 4) with the Spirit of God who indwells the physical bodies (1Cor. 3: 16) of Church Age believers).
Having a “fling” with the devil’s world is what makes us “spiritual adulteresses (James 4: 4).”
Being in fellowship (2Cor. 13: 14) with God means being at war with the devil (1Pet. 5: 8) and his Eph. 6:12 forces of evil.
Not being at war with either one means, in the best-case scenario, that one is spiritually alive but not involved in the post salvation spiritual life. In the worst-case scenario, one is spiritually dead having never been born again.
In either case, the devil is well-pleased and will do all he can to encourage you to remain right where you are.
In summary, a principle is a standard offered as general guidance, but should not be interpreted as an absolute. There are exceptions and conditions.
On the other hand, a promise is a decree from God that will take place in God’s timing and in God’s ways.
When seeking Biblical guidance and edification, one needs to be aware of the difference between the principles and the promises of God.