By Mike Ratliff
And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. (1 Corinthians 2:3-7 ESV)
When we observe those “Christian Leaders” espousing the social activism of new evangelicalism, which is rooted in Semi-Pelagianism and Humanism, it should make us wonder at what motivates them. Why would these people seek to create a new version of Christianity? I suppose it is that they see that what they are seeking to replace has “failed” because so many young people want nothing to do with it. Therefore, they desire to create a new Christianity that uses the marketing techniques of the world and entertainment to entice people to be part of a church that is new and exciting. Gone is any call to repent of sins. Sin is hardly, if ever, mentioned. Instead of calling on God for mercy and seeking the Son for salvation from the Father’s coming judgment, they are told to come to Jesus and let Him into their lives so He can make their life better.
What are the leaders of this movement missing? What is wrong with what they are doing? It is not wrong to want to reach the lost with the Gospel. No, we should be doing that, but it is very wrong to make every Sunday morning into a show that only appeals to the flesh. Instead of worshipping our Lord God in referential fear, they have a rock concert. The leaders of this movement may indeed create large churches and international ministries by doing what they do, but is it right?
The call we read in the Bible is to know God and become Christlike. Knowing God is more than simply knowing about Him. Knowing God Biblically is to know Him intimately. When we see a mature Christian, like the Apostle Paul, we see a man who was totally wrapped up in knowing His Lord. His heart’s desire was to know Him with all His being and for those he taught to know Him that way as well. Paul’s ministry was never to present Christianity in a way that was appealing to the flesh nor was it ever geared to making it palatable to the lost so that they could accept Jesus, but remain in their sins. No, Paul always preached Jesus crucified as the propitiation for the sins of men because without that no one is saved. He never taught that people could know God and remain in their sins. Instead, to know God is to be changed and forever maturing. He also never taught that people could work their way to God.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh– though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:1-11 ESV)
Jesus told us to be as wise as serpents, but as gentle as doves. (Matthew 10:16) We must be alert as we rejoice in the Lord. We must be careful around those who would subject us to a “works based theology.” No, we are saved by grace through faith, not works. God saves His people; we don’t work our way into His favor. The mature Christian is one who sees the works of men as a substitute for faith and knowing God as rubbish. It is valueless. We must not cling to those things thinking they please God. No, the righteousness that allows us to know God is Christ’s righteousness, which is imputed to our account at salvation. Remember, we get this righteousness outside of works so our faith is not a work; therefore, it is a gift from God. So, we must view our salvation in this light. We must yearn to know Him in the power of our Lord’s resurrection, as well as sharing in His sufferings. We must die to self, take up our crosses and follow Him. That is not seeking a religion that allows us to party and be fleshly in our “worship.” No, it is a dying to self and as the Lord develops our heart’s desire to simply know Him and be with Him with our entire being.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:12-21 ESV)
No one in this life reaches perfect Christlikeness. If Paul couldn’t do it, then I doubt if anyone else could either. However, instead of being discouraged by our lack of perfect spirituality, we must press on to make it our own. How? First we must never believe that we have arrived. We are all full of evil desires whether we are willing to admit it publicly or not. So we must come to terms with our innate sinfulness. Yes we are sinners, but no, we don’t have to remain enslaved to our flesh. Once we understand that, we are primed and ready to move forward with our Lord, yoked up with Him, pulling the load in His power.
Second, we must put what is past to death. We have all sinned. We have all done stupid things, maybe even horrible things, but Paul, a former persecutor of the Church, tells us to forget what lies behind. Third, we must strain forward to what lies ahead. We must press on towards the goal for the prize. What is the prize? It is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. What’s that? In this life we will never be perfect. We want it, but it is unattainable here. However, the time is coming when God will call all of His people to Himself. There, at the Resurrection, we will all come to be with Him forever where there will no longer be a sin problem for us.
I was a runner for many years. I ran in innumerable races from 1mile to 10 miles in length. I even ran some 440-yard races in school when I ran track. Running the race is what moves you from the starting line to the finish line. You can’t reach the finish line unless you run the race. Also, no one can run the race successfully if they do not do it within their abilities. I have seen many drop out of races because they tried to take on more than they were able. I have also seen people jog along not really caring if they did well or not. The ones who claimed the prize at the finish line were those who ran smart and fully. They strained forward for the prize, not looking around or back. Instead, they ran with their eyes fixed on the goal. That means that 8 miles into a 10-mile race their bodies were screaming at them to stop, but they pressed on and denied themselves so they could finish well. That is how we must run this race God has set before us. We must keep our eyes on Christ, our prize.
Maturing Christians are not necessarily the ones who do the most works. They are not more religious than others. Instead, they cling to Jesus. They do not try to work their way into His affections. They simply know their Lord intimately, obey Him, and depend upon Him for their all. They seek His glory through them and that comes from their obedience, often in the fires of tribulation.
On the other hand, professing Christians whose god is really their belly surround us on all sides. They are after glory here in the temporal thinking that the more they do here will bring them ultimate glory with God in Heaven. They lead multitudes of others away into their sin. We must be careful not to be deceived by these workers of iniquity. They may appear to be Christians, but they are worldly and use the tools of the flesh to grow their ministries. They do this for their own glory, but God is not fooled.
Possessing the Treasure is to possess Christ. The byproducts of that are a godly treasury of goodness in our hearts as well as the prize of eternal life in Heaven. However, our main treasure, the object of our affections, is our Lord Jesus Christ. We know when we possess the treasure now when we desire to depart this life and be with Him more than to experience the best this life has to offer. It is then we know that our heart’s desire is to be with Him forever and that means that we are in the race and are truly straining forward toward the goal. Soli Deo Gloria!