Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How Can We Be Sure?

                I have been going back and forth over something with the Lord in my prayer time, in my reading time, and in my times of study with Him for the past few weeks. You see, the more and more I read and study my Bible, the more I realize that I do not know half of what I thought I did. Our women’s group has been going through the Book of Revelation.  Studying and reading this book has made me question and examine myself in ways I never have before. I have been chastened, disciplined, encouraged, humbled and just in utter worship before the God whom I serve. It is an amazing book- just read it, you will be blessed.

 The main thing, however, that has come out of this study for me is a desire to be the woman God has called me to be. That is a woman who chases after the things of God and not the things of this world; a woman who chooses to live a holy life, and who no longer walks in the power of her flesh but in the power of the Spirit. Because, I will be honest, I thought that I was doing all of these things before we started this study. But, after much reading, praying and studying I find that I was more in the flesh than I realized and to be completely honest- I think all of us are more in the flesh than we realize. The other thing that has come out of this study in the Book of Revelation is the question, “How can we be sure”?
                How can we be sure? How can we be sure without a single doubt that we are going to be in heaven, praising Jesus and God our Father, casting our crowns at His feet? What makes us so sure that we are so right in what we believe that we can go on and live our lives in the flesh and not care about whether we live in the Spirit or not? As we have studied through the book of Revelation, one scripture has been constant and keeps going through my heart and mind, and it is the answer to my question- how can we be sure.
                “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’.” Matthew 7:21-23
                I have heard preachers tell me that Jesus is referring to those who teach false doctrines, and that it does not apply to you if you have given your life to Jesus Christ. But let us really take a look at what Jesus is saying. Let us not try to look at this scripture and justify it to fit our desires, but let us look at it literally for a minute. Jesus says that “many will say “to Him “in that day”- what day do you think He is referring to? The day that the books are opened and we are all standing in the throne room of God before the Great White Throne of judgment. “And I saw the dead, small and great standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” (Revelation 20:12) The Book of Life, the Book that has the names of all those who are His, who have believed in Him and followed after Him is opened on that day in front of the Great White Throne of Judgment. Let us not be so conceited that we think we just get to pass this one by and sit on the bleachers watching, I believe we will be very present on this day.
               So on that day, when the Book of Life is opened, and all the peoples, small and great are standing before God, there will be many who will say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” They will stand there and want to know why their name is not found in the Book of Life. If we are reading this passage of scripture in Matthew literally, then they were pretty much saved from today’s outlook. I mean they did everything that looked just like what Christians are supposed to do. They prophesied in His name, which is a gift of the Spirit, I might add, so they must have thought that they had the Spirit of God in them. They also cast out demons, and if we read through the book of Acts the Apostles cast out demons, raised people from the dead and did all manner of miracles. These people who were standing before the Great White Throne of judgment were positive that their names were in that Book of Life. But what does Jesus say to them? He says, “I never knew you; depart from Me”.
                This all leads me to the point that I believe we need to understand and see. I believe that we have watered down what it means to follow after Jesus by telling folks that if we say a little prayer, and lift up our hands then our names are going to be written down in the Book of Life, and we are all going to escape the coming judgment. But let us also remember what Paul wrote about this same topic. Let us go to Philippians 3 and take a look, a literal look- not a look to justify our own fleshly desires, but a true, open and honest look at what Paul is writing to us about.
           “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ,” Philippians 3:8
                First of all, Paul says that He has lost everything, and that all that he has lost means absolutely nothing to him and he is glad that it is gone. (I am paraphrasing) How many of us have lost anything since we gave our lives to Christ? How many of you have given up anything for Christ since you became a Christian? How has the way you live your life changed? Paul lost everything- his job, his home, his family, his friends. How many of us would stick around after something like that happened to us? But, that is not exactly my point. Paul says that he willingly gave it all up, was glad to see it go so that he may gain Christ. But, if Paul was a Christian, and he said that little prayer and he “received” Christ as his personal Lord and Savior, then why would he have to try to gain Christ.
                The New King James version says “gain” while the King James Version says “win”. Both of these words mean to seek and to gain favor and fellowship with Christ. It means that Paul, or for those of us who truly want to find our names written in the Book of Life, will strive after the hope that we too might gain Christ. Paul knew that he had to strive to make it in. He understood what Jesus meant when He said that we must “enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and there are many who go in by it.” (Matthew 7:13) Paul understood it, because he writes about it.
                “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:9-11
                I believe that Paul understood that there was a chance that he just might miss the mark. His desire was to know Christ and to know and experience the power of His resurrection in His life. He knew that it was by faith in the promise of God to eternal life that he was able to live a life of godliness and holiness before the Lord. But he also knew that it was just as easy to miss the narrow gate and go the broad way instead. I think that we should not be so confident in our own selves just because we said a prayer and attend all the right church functions that we are shoe in for eternal life. Let us not be so confident in our own righteousness that we miss the gate entirely. I know I don’t want to be the one standing before the Great White Throne of judgment and hear the words “depart from Me”, and neither did Paul, and hopefully, neither do you.
                “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.“ Philippians 3:12-15
                Paul never once boasted, or claimed that he had attained to anything other than a hope in a promise that God had given to him. We have been given the promise of eternal life. God has shown us that through faith in Jesus Christ we may have the hope of a life lived in eternal peace with Him. But that promise has not been granted to those of us who are still walking this earth. The writer of Hebrews made this point when he wrote the “Hall of Faith” that they had not attained the promises, but they sought after them and walked after them in hope. That is what we are to do also.
                More and more I see and hear Christians today living their lives in the world, and they think because they said a little prayer and “received” Jesus into their hearts that they are just automatically written down in the Book of Life. Let us not be so conceited that we think by us saying or doing anything that we might attain to such a glorious blessing as eternal life. Let us not take God for granted and cover our fleshly desires up with grace and call it a day. Let us not deceive ourselves that we are doing great and that we are saved, let us not boast that we are going to heaven, because we may be the ones who don’t get to go in after all.

                Paul never claimed that he was perfected, that he had arrived at salvation. He only stated that he was striving after, following after and chasing down the promise that had been given to him through the knowledge of Jesus Christ his Lord. He never said that he had arrived and that all was good and he could now go and do as he pleased with his life. He said that the only thing that he did was to forget what was behind, forget what happened yesterday, and reach forward to the hope of the promise of eternal life, while he strived to reach the goal. The goal being the prize of eternal life fulfilled in Christ Jesus.  
One thing the Lord has shown me over these past few months as we have gone through the Book of Revelation is not to be so sure of myself that I miss the narrow gate, and wind up going the broad way. Stay in Him; follow after Him and Him only. Listen, and obey His Word (all of it, not just the parts that make me feel good about myself) and most of all have faith that He who has promised is faithful to fulfill His promises to me. I have not attained yet either, but I will continue to press on toward the goal so that I too may win the prize of Christ Jesus my Lord. Besides, the other gate leads to the lake of fire.
                You may not agree with anything that I have just written, so I am going to leave you with the words of Paul, and pray what he prayed, leaving the choice in your hands. Don’t take my word for it, read His.
                “Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.” Philippians 3:15-16

                May His Word open your hearts, your minds, your eyes and your souls to see which gate you are headed for. In the name of Jesus Christ my Lord, amen and amen.