The Importance of a Journey of Faith 2

“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”  (Jn. 17:21)

From The High Standards of God for End-Times Christians

The Bible does not tell us what heaven will be like.  Words written in black letters on the white pages of a book could not adequately describe the marvels of heaven.  But judging by the preview of this current physical earth that God created, and our own incredible motor skills, five senses, and intellectual curiosity, it is a safe, educated guess that heaven is likewise filled with a myriad of natural wonders, interesting and challenging activities, breath-taking places to visit, and fascinating people and heavenly creatures to meet.

God created us in His image.  God created us with the capacity to be able to appreciate and enjoy an environment where friendship and love can exist for an eternity.  Jesus Christ is the great Screenwriter of Life for all time and the Master Director of the ultimate movie-set.  We would all like to spend each and every day of eternity being an integral, contributing, and valued member of His cast.

Lucifer isolated himself from God through his rebellion.  Lucifer’s malicious and wicked intent is to draw man away from God into isolation as well.  Sin tragically separates us from God and from each other.  What is at stake in this contest as to who controls the thrones of our hearts, is the fundamental meaning and purpose behind the existence of life.

The bond of friendship and love is one of the most satisfying things in existence.  When the angels in heaven announced the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, they said “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).  Jesus said: “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  As Spirit-born Christians, we must enter into this living journey of faith that promotes a friendship with God and selfless camaraderie with other believers, that will surpass anything we might ask or think (Ephesians 3:20) in this life.  And we must try, through the Holy Spirit inspired means of loving persuasion and the evidence of our own transformed lives, to bring in as many other people into this eternal joy and happiness as possible.  This is a part of the divine motivation behind the high standards of God for end-times Christians.

There is an old saying: “If you aim for nothing, you are sure to hit it.”  The contemporary Christian church in the developed countries needs to refocus on the simplicity and purity of Christ, the cross, and the power of the resurrected life.  We need leaders who will point people toward Christ, and a genuine, biblical walk of faith, so that the church can achieve the high standards that God intends for individuals and the body of Christ as a whole.  If as Christians we lower our spiritual vision to the horizontal level of worldly acceptance and expectations instead of the cross and the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14), we aim at nothing and are guaranteed to hit it.

With God’s leading, when we do finally discover the individual narrow way for us, establish our spiritual footing, and find our place of service in God’s grand plan, God will say to us: “I always loved you and meant the very best for you.  Thank you for trusting me enough to help you.  I enjoyed the time I spent with you and am looking forward to knowing you throughout eternity.”

We were created with the potential for a walk of faith with God.  These are The High Standards of God in the End-Times for individual Christians and for His church as a whole.  God is the only capable author and director of this process.

The Importance of a Journey of Faith 1

“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision; for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.”   Joel 3:14

From The High Standards of God for End-Times Christians

What is at stake in these three key words that apply to Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)?  Why write a book about the high standards of God as we approach the beginning stages of the end-times?

The part of the make-believe world of movie acting that is not make-believe is the bond of friendship and camaraderie that is often formed within the acting troop.  The relationships between the fictional characters within the story and the fictional world the actors are playing-out in the movie are oftentimes better than the actor’s real lives.

The invention of DVD movies that can be replayed in our television sets has allowed for something called Special Features to be included that contain interviews with the actors and the movie directors.  Toward the end of shooting on set, actors in recent movies like Pride and Prejudice (2005), or the movie trilogy The Lord of the Rings (2003), for example, often say that they enjoyed the friendships they formed while playing their fictional roles so much that they wish their movie make-believe world would continue indefinitely.

This secular window into our human nature provides a glimpse into something important about us.  Well-written fictional characters, acted out within movie-scripts having high ideals, with capable, talented, and caring movie-directors, and supportive fellow actors, creates a short-lived, idyllic yet challenging and fulfilling environment that we would popularly call “a small slice of heaven on earth.”

But this idea runs much deeper.  Throughout the filming of a great movie, in memorizing their lines, studying their characters, and acting their parts, the actors must think about and internalize the issues of the story composed within the artistic inspiration of the storywriter.  This is also what occurs in a journey of faith following Jesus Christ…we learn the deep and fundamental issues of truth while living a walk of faith.  Paul can write his New Testament letters by living the life Jesus composed for him as the missionary evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world.

What is different in our subordination of self in following the lead of Jesus the Great Director in our personal journeys of faith, and in the larger grand story of human redemptive history, is that it does not all come to an end with a “wrap” of the filming production and the actors finally going their separate ways.  The bonds of friendship we form with God, and with other believers, last for eternity in a new heavenly world without time.

The improved character traits we purchase through a journey of faith actually take shape and become part of ourselves, not just in the form of the wisdom and knowledge that actors take with them after studying a particular character and learning their lines in order to act out that character in a fictional movie.  The journey of faith, being led into all truth by the Holy Spirit according to Ephesians 2:10, results in us becoming the enhanced character of the story, rather than abandoning our movie-acting roles at the end of film shooting to return to our otherwise normal lives.  Peter speaking to the Sanhedrin, or Paul addressing Festus, are not fictional roles…they are real, eternally beneficial character building performances.

An accomplished actor performs “in-the-moment” using their natural personalities and emotions, but empty of their true selves in favor of inhabiting and possessing the fictional character portion of the stage play or movie they are in.  Great actors lose themselves in their character portrayal to the point that they temporarily suspend all sense of nervousness, stage-fright, and self-awareness.  It is being empty of self, yet utilizing our own personality traits and emotions that create a memorable performance in terms of facial expressions, voice modulation, body motions, and interactions with the other actors.  But at the close of each day of shooting on the set, actors revert back to their normal selves.  Not so with Spirit-led Christians engaged in a God-composed walk of faith.

Partnership with the Holy Spirit producing beneficial character growth becomes permanently ours…becomes part of us.  This is what God hopes and longs for…that we will become who and what He created us to be, living and acting voluntarily at a high moral level that He can relate to, enjoy, and be comfortable with forever, time without end.  Isn’t this a similar pattern to what we long for in our relationships with our own children and grandchildren?

The biblical journey of faith is the real performance that has lasting benefits and consequences beyond our current imaginations.  Passing from death into eternal life is the raising of the curtain for the beginning of the actual stage-performance.  This current rehearsal preparation to enter into a new world where time does not exist, fully trained and familiar with our true intended character roles “in-Christ” according to the script composed by the great Playwright God, elevates the process of becoming sons and daughters of God to the level of the High Standards of God for End-Times Christians.

Following Jesus is the Pinnacle of Human Experience

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”  (Heb. 12:2a)

From The High Standards of God for End-Times Christians

Lucifer takes the Christian born-again salvation experience and slanders it with one of his most deceptive lies.  The world accuses the new Christian of having a weak character, of copping-out, of using God as a crutch, by relinquishing their throne and giving it over to Jesus Christ as Lord and Master.  This is the crux, the heart of the issue over sin.  Lucifer tells man to remain in his fallen nature as a god on the throne of his life.  But man was not created with the capacity to be a god.  God is the only person qualified to sit on a spiritual throne.  When we push God away and continue to assume the unnatural position of being our own gods, we are spiritual rebels.  Lucifer has led mankind to join his rebellion by getting us to think we are something we are not.  Lucifer has deceptively gotten mankind to accept a job promotion at a divine management level that we are not qualified nor trained for.

What is incredibly remarkable about this whole affair is that God’s solution to the spiritual opposition of Lucifer fomenting rebellion within the ranks of mankind, once again is to brilliantly take spiritual darkness and turn it around upon itself.  By enlisting mankind in his rebellion against God, Lucifer has unintentionally and unwittingly given God a wide-open door to expose for us the eternal key to peace and happiness.  The way to eternal joy and peace is found in knowing who and what we were created to be within a relationship with the Almighty God, and not in attempting to be gods in autonomous rebellion outside of fellowship with God.  We are in our most blessed condition when we are living securely within our capacity as human beings, allowing God to walk in the very large-sized shoes that only He is capable of filling.  This is a formula that will happily work for us for all of eternity.

Lucifer introducing sin into the world, and God’s illuminating answer to it, forever solidifies for us the eternal truth of being graciously, lovingly, unselfishly, and contentedly satisfied with being who and what we are within the context of our creation by God (1 Timothy 6:6).  We can exercise the most brilliant and creative God-given attributes, safe from destructive pride for all eternity, as long as we stay within the parameters of loving thoughtfulness and beneficial service to others, thanks to this all-important spiritual lesson we learn here on earth.  The divine character of the Holy Spirit living within the Christian makes this invaluable lesson…of death to our self-in-control natures through the cross, of the benefit of stepping down from the thrones of our hearts…accessible and comprehensible to us.  The fact that God can craft this priceless lesson for us out of the challenging environment of spiritual darkness and rebellion validates forever God’s claim to be a loving and all-wise God.

The power of Lucifer’s deceptive lie about Christians being weak because we rely upon God instead of exclusively on ourselves, when turned on its head, supplies an opposite but equal force in God’s rebuttal response.  Stepping down off the throne of our lives opens up the opportunity for an adventurous, unconventional, supernatural walk of faith following Jesus Christ, which by God’s intentional design contains genuine risk.  Accepting the risk of failure following Jesus Christ through a walk of faith, having no advance guarantee of success other than the Word of God, our current relationship with God, and our previous positive Christian experiences, is the opposite of being weak.  The step out of the familiarity of self-reliance into a new adventure of faith following God requires courage, not weakness.

The real truth is that there cannot be a risk/reward, courage filled walk-of-faith while we remain in the state of being our own god.  Two kings cannot occupy the same throne.  That is why repentance is not weakness but enlightened good sense.  How can anyone trust Jesus Christ about things over which we still maintain complete control?  Until we surrender as rebels and throw down our arms in this issue as to who should be God, eternal life in the Spirit in a proper relationship with God cannot begin.

Surrendering all to Jesus is the epitome of stepping out into an adventure of faith, in the one area that really counts for something…the course of our lives.  The Christian walk of faith is the exact opposite of the lie that Lucifer spins about the weakness of the life following Jesus Christ, when Jesus is atop the throne of our heart.  Stepping down off the throne of our heart, turning away from being our own god, and inviting Jesus Christ to assume His rightful place as God, is the foundational cornerstone truth that will set people free to enjoy a life of peace and fulfillment for all eternity.

In a nutshell, this is the great end-times closing message.  People are not gods.  We were never meant to be gods.  We have no business being a part of Lucifer’s rebellion.  Lucifer is still trying to make his point in his rebellion, and he is using mankind as his foil, using people as his dupes.  That is why it will be sheer lunacy to accept the end-times mark of the beast in allegiance to the Antichrist.

Jesus Christ selflessly died on the cross to set us free from ourselves in this deceptively miscast role of being our own gods.  The Bible tells us we were created in the image of God, not actual gods ourselves.  Jesus Christ really is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, because the walk of faith orchestrated by God for us through this current broken world begins by correctly enthroning Christ atop our lives.   Jesus Christ is our Savior and King for a very simple and practical reason…He actually is God…we are not.

Spiritual Opposition 3

“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”  (Ps. 18:2)

From The High Standards of God for End-Times Christians

Whether it is Daniel in the lion’s den, or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, or Queen Esther trusting in God’s protective care in approaching the king in opposition to Haman the powerful enemy of her people, God is able to combine overcoming victory, the dividing of truth from error, and beneficial spiritual growth within each of His masterfully creative solutions.  The character traits of unconditional forgiveness and unselfish love exhibited in the believer through the heart and mind of Christ, cannot be defeated under any set of dire circumstances (Luke 23:34).

Like the fruits of the Spirit, against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22), the traits of perfect love and Christ-like character are not subject to defeat (1 John 5:4).  In a world where Spirit-born Christians already possess eternal life, the character traits of faithfulness, fidelity, trust, and loving commitment to Christ eventually win-out, even in martyrdom.  In a world where Jesus is risen from the death of the cross, Christians do not have to be afraid of anyone or anything (2 Timothy 1:7).  The willingness to become as last (1 Corinthians 4:9), and to be fashioned as empty vessels able to contain the outpouring of the Spirit for ministry in the last days (Joel 2:28-29), will set apart the end-times Christian in glorious revelation of the character of Jesus Christ at the end of human redemptive history.

The Bible teaches us that the condition of mankind, while lost in sin, is out of balance (Ephesians 2:1).  God created mankind with the capacity to live as human beings, not as gods unto themselves.  When a person repents and accepts Christ into their lives, they step down off the throne of their hearts to give place for God to assume His correct position in the relationship.  This is one of the explanations for why people, who become born-again in the Spirit, experience a deep inner sense of joy, peace, and relief.  They no longer have to assume the unnatural role of being the god that they were not created to be.  The blood that Jesus shed on the cross not only washes the repentant believer clean of sin, but also sets in proper order and balance Jesus Christ on the throne of a person’s life.  The born-again Christian, who has vacated the throne of their heart to make room at the top for God, can venture out into a genuine walk of faith following Jesus Christ, precisely because they are now operating as a human being and not as a god.   

Spiritual Opposition 2

“For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.”  (Ps. 61:3)

From The High Standards of God for End-Times Christians

Isaiah 9:6 gives many names for Jesus Christ…Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, and The Prince of Peace.  Jesus, the Prince of Peace, cannot remove the offenses of this world until all of the purposes of God are completed.  But Jesus can change evil into outcomes of eternal peace because He is both God and the Prince of Peace.  Jesus Christ can superimpose peace in and through any set of circumstances concocted by spiritual darkness when people place their faith and trust in Him.  Five of the most important words ever written are found in Psalm 23:4…”for thou art with me.”  God’s promise to keep safe His faithful followers is based upon His love and His mastery over spiritual opposition.

Paul is nearly stoned to death by the Jews in Lystra (Acts 14:19) because Paul and Barnabas are being used of God mightily to convert the Gentiles to the new Christian faith.  Yet Paul is not defeated by this extreme opposition to his ministry.  On the contrary, as a result of this stoning, Paul is probably freer of any remaining inhibitions about preaching the gospel, is more determined than ever not to be defeated, and is further stripped of his self-in-control nature.  Paul could add this new experience of a near-death stoning to his resume as an apostle, suffering in conformity to the cross of Christ as a definite sign that his ministry was having an impact (Ephesians 5:20).

Stephen is martyred by the Jews of Jerusalem because He is defending the new way of Jesus Christ as the risen Messiah with such power and persuasiveness (Acts 6:10) that the Sanhedrin cannot tolerate Stephen’s message in their city.  But spiritual opposition does not win in this confrontation with Stephen.  Stephen does give his life as a faithful witness to Jesus Christ.  But as Stephen was about to be stoned to death, Acts 7:55 says that he looked up into heaven and saw “the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.”

Acts 8:1-4 then goes on to describe how an intensified persecution of the Christian church after this stoning of Stephen, resulted in the church being scattered to outlying regions around Jerusalem and as far away as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch (Acts 11:19), creating the first Christian missionaries.  Spiritual opposition silenced Stephen, but in doing so it set in motion the persecution spearheaded by the young Saul soon-to-become Paul, and thereby created the opposite unintended consequence of hundreds of Christian missionaries who “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).  God took Stephen’s sacrifice at the hands of spiritual opposition, and turned it into the beneficial pattern of missionary evangelism that would continue down to our present day.

Peter is arrested by Herod the king, and scheduled for martyrdom to politically appease the Jewish rulers (Acts 12:3-4)  This was in opposition to the great work that the Holy Spirit was doing through Peter and the other apostles in the growing Christian church in Jerusalem.  This spiritual opposition that manifested itself in the outer natural realm, first in the execution by Herod of the Apostle James (Acts 12:2), then in the seemingly hopeless outward appearance of doom for Peter, did not deter God in the slightest.  God simply reached deeper into His assortment of options and sent one of His angels to release Peter and guide him safely out of the prison.  Scripture does not tell us why God allowed James to be killed at this time.  But we can be sure that after Peter’s rescue, the second rescue from prison in his Christian career (Acts 5:19), that even the heretofore highly experienced Apostle Peter gained a greater confidence in yielding and surrendering himself into the care of the Almighty God.

The Old and New Testaments of the Bible are filled with similar stories of situations and circumstances meant to destroy God’s people or individual servants of God, which God then channels and re-directs towards a good outcome containing positive spiritual lessons and character-building.  Equally important, the Old Testament tells us that God is capable of using spiritual opposition on a macro scale, in the form of the threat of invading foreign armies, periods of exile, captivities, and dispersions, to redirect the entire nation of Israel back into the sphere of His ways.

This is one of the upcoming great issues of our time…that God is so in control of events and circumstances that He can beneficially use evil and spiritual opposition as tools to reveal His divine capacity to resolve a crisis and work His purposes at the same time.  The Christian, who has learned through a walk of faith, that in a God-led life all things work together for good, will not be deterred, offended, or discouraged by the spiritual opposition that will manifest itself in the natural realm of events in the upcoming last days (Matthew 24:6).

Spiritual Opposition 1

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock.”   Matthew 7:25

 

From The High Standards of God for End-Times Christians

Spiritual opposition to people living and walking in the Spirit is a reality previewed for us in the Bible (Ephesians 6:12).  Opposition in the form of negative situations and circumstances in the natural realm is one way that spiritual darkness sows doubts, creates fears, undermines resolve, attacks faith, and weakens trust within the active servants of God.  Spiritual darkness can even use negative situations and circumstances to retaliate against the servants of God, after the fact when God has wrought some positive spiritual work through them, large or small.

God allows spiritual darkness to operate within the natural realm of events and circumstances.  God is so intelligent He can reshape the efforts of spiritual opposition into re-directed positive outcomes for believers who are in the midst of God-composed and orchestrated walks of faith.  The reason that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) is that God is smarter than the agents of evil.  In the Bible, God always takes spiritual opposition that presents itself in the form of negative appearing events and circumstances, and turns this spiritual opposition around for good outcomes when faith and trust in Him are in operation.

Lucifer introduced evil into the world in the Garden of Eden.  God is not the author of this evil.  God has been demonstrating His divine quality ever since that time, through His ability to take evil and reshape it for His good purposes.  This is one of the most powerful lessons in the Bible.  Throughout the biblical record of God’s interaction with man, God refocuses evil in the direction He wants it to go, defeats it, creates an object lesson out of the encounter, and generates beneficial spiritual growth for His followers all in one brilliant stroke.  We see this repeated many times in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

The example of Joseph being sold into slavery to a caravan heading for Egypt, by his brothers, was meant for evil.  God took this evil action and turned it around for good on a massive scale.  Who other than God could compose such a story as Joseph’s, in which everyone, including Joseph, required hindsight in looking back at events to be able to understand and appreciate what God had done?

The cross of Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of this divine ability to shape and remold spiritual opposition into a beneficial outcome, in this case the sacrificial redemption of mankind from the curse of sin through the exercise of faith in Christ.  The cross and the resurrection tell us that God can take evil in its deadliest form, and turn it upside down on its head to perform a great work of God in complete frustration of evil’s original intent.

When God is in charge of the program, spiritual opposition loses every time.  God is so intelligent He uses the very deception that Lucifer originally devised in the Garden of Eden to attempt to undermine God’s authority, to instead illuminate the spiritually bankrupt nature of sin and thereby our deep need for God.  God is so intelligent He uses the spiritual opposition intended to trip up the Christian, instead as actual lesson-plans to divide for us the difference between right and wrong.  These lesson-plans help us to discover genuine repentance in the character areas we are deficient…short temper, impatience, pride.  God is so intelligent He can take the evil opposition that is intended to destroy us and creatively use it to help us to grow spiritually strong into Christ-like character and conduct.  God set up this physical environment called earth, knowing that this was the best possible environment for exercising faith and trust in Him through situations and circumstances that both spiritual darkness and spiritual light had an opportunity to utilize.  The God of the Bible is never intimidated, deterred, or outsmarted by spiritual darkness, no matter how deceptive or terrifying it seems in the natural realm of events and circumstances.

The Two Advents of the Messiah 9

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  (1 Jn. 2:16)

From The High Standards of God for End-Times Christians

The gospel message has a powerful positive appeal to it, of the real hope of a life-transforming change for people, whether it is spoken by John the Baptist at the Jordan river, by Jesus to the woman at the well (John 4:5-45), by Peter to the multitudes at Pentecost, or by Paul to the Jews and Gentiles in Antioch Pisidia.  This preaching of the gospel message comes within a confident, bold, selfless, truth-piercing delivery of genuine conviction out of Holy Spirit inspired purity of heart.  This is one of the invaluable pay-offs for the Christian disciple picking up their cross and patiently following Jesus through an adventure of faith.  The ability to someday share our testimony with natural simplicity, with the power of honest conviction, with the freedom of complete unawareness of self in fearless love, and with complete mastery over the opposing spirit of unbelief, to family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, is an outcome of the cross and the resurrection in our lives that is of incalculable worth.

Paul preached the cross in Antioch Pisidia.  This is still the central, key issue of our present-day Christian experience.  How do we define the person of Jesus Christ, and what do we expect in our relationship with Him?  Are we looking for a similarly unconventional, God-composed experience like that of Abraham?  Are we willing to risk everything like Joseph to discover for ourselves that God is trustworthy and true, and to be used mightily for others?  Can God call us like Moses to go to Egypt, so to speak, in our modern world context to share our Christian testimony to deliver the captives from the bondage of sin?

Can we follow God to the banks of the Red Sea, patiently looking to God in faith and trust to manufacture a miraculous deliverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenge?  Can we relate to Paul, who said that the world was crucified unto him, and he unto the world (Galatians 6:14)?  Is our personal relationship with Jesus Christ the most important thing in our lives?  Or are we looking merely for a messiah who will temporarily repair our outward world only, while at the same time allowing us to remain as sovereign kings atop the thrones of our lives?

The totally unexpected separation in the first century of the coming of the messiah as prophesied in Isaiah 9:6-7, Genesis 3:15, and Jeremiah 33:15-16, for example, into two distinct advents accomplishing two entirely different tasks, was and is one of the great issues of the first-century ministry of Jesus Christ.  This separation exposed and divided out of the body of believers those Jews who were merely going through the mechanical, perfunctory motions of synagogue worship.  It inaugurated the living new covenant relationship with God that made the journey-of-faith experiences of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel, and Elijah available and commonplace for every new covenant Christian, Jew and Gentile alike.  And it created the church age that has continued down twenty centuries to our present time.

This unexpected and unanticipated split into two messianic advents had enormous ramifications for the human race.  It perpetuated the intense hatred of the Jews toward the occupying Romans, eventually resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the scattering of the Jews around the world for 1,900 years.  The first advent of Jesus Christ as Savior kept in play the adventure of faith for countless people for another 2,000 years, and produced the colorful history of the church age through the dark and middle ages, through the Reformation, and through the incredible and remarkable past four centuries of recent history.

The gospel message of the cross preached by Paul in Antioch Pisidia, leading to a biblical-quality adventure of faith, is staring us in the face today as much as ever.  This timely truth is right there in front of us…so close we can reach out and grab it for ourselves.  The best and finest life is the uniquely unconventional life of faith that God has composed and would orchestrate for us, to match the pattern and template recorded in the Bible, however and wherever that takes us.  We have all the evidence we need to step out in faith, place our trust in Jesus Christ, and begin our journey toward whatever lies ahead in the upcoming last-days.