by Mike Ratliff
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)
The “push” to replace Christianity or change it along the lines of emergent gurus Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Phyllis Tickle, et cetera as well as those of the Seeker-sensitive paradigm such as Rick Warren and all of those who follow him seems to make giant strides each day. Those of us who do see very clearly the deception in what is going on can become quite discouraged even to the point of despair at times, as it appears the Church is circling the drain into the vortex of apostasy. However, we must not allow Giant Despair to drag us into the dungeon of Doubting Castle.
In John Bunyan’s masterpiece, The Pilgrim’s Progress, three shining ones appeared at Christian’s salvation at the Cross, he was given a key call Promise to keep in his bosom. Later, when Giant Despair dragged him and Hopeful to Doubting Castle, they were sorely put. They were starved, beaten, and threatened with all sorts of hideous torture and brutal death. However, on the eve of their promised execution they prayed for deliverance.
Now, a little before it was Day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out in this passionate speech; What a Fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk in liberty? I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will I am persuaded open any lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, That’s good news, good brother, pluck it out of they bosom and try.
Christian immediately tried the key in the dungeon door, which sprung open at once. The key worked at every door in that deadly place enabling these good brothers to escape Doubting Castle and the clutches of Giant Despair. Of course, this is an allegory. These two men were captured by Giant Despair when they left the narrow path in order to take a way that looked easier, By-Pass Meadow. Yes, the narrow path was rough and tedious at the point in which they left it, but they quickly found that what looked easier was actually a deception that lead them to lose fellowship with God and so they began to doubt and despair. What was the thing that God used to draw them back to the narrow path? It was the Promise given to them at the Cross. What is this Promise? This includes all of the wonderful promises to the Christian found throughout God’s Word that are for the genuine believer only. God will sustain them forever. They will be found just when they do enter into eternity. They will be part of the Church that our Lord will never stop building until the end of the age et cetera. When we rejoice in these promises and live accordingly as we remain on the narrow path of obedience and devotion to our Lord then no weapons of our enemy can thwart us. Oh, we may suffer and be attacked by those who are trying to make a new path to God and, therefore, resent those of us who refuse to leave the narrow straight way, but we have God’s promises given to His Saints.
To remain in our obedience on the narrow path we must grow in Christlikeness. This is nothing mystical. It is a maturing in the Faith by becoming humble and submissive. We grow this way as we put on the New Self.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)
This is the proper focus for the Christian. In order for us to walk the narrow path or run the race set before us by God (Hebrews (12:1-2) we must keep our eyes on our Lord. This is done as we pursue a deeper knowledge of Christ Himself (Philippians 3:10). As we do this, we must also repent and change how we live accordingly. We learn that there is a proper way to live with and for our Lord, which is the opposite of being focused on the world and its ways. Genuine Christians are new creations. At their regeneration, they died and were raised in Christ. Their life is now hidden with Christ in God (Isaiah 49:2; Psalm 27:5-6; Psalm 31:19-20). Our focus on the eternal may be bashed by the emergents, but God’s Word tells us very clearly that the fact we will be with Christ in glory is a promise that should motivate us to draw even closer to our Lord.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:5-11 ESV)
This passage tells us that we must make a decisive break with the sinful tendencies that remain in us after God saved us. These sins came with us into this new walk. These are the sins that clings so closely (Hebrews 12:1). We must put them to death because we cannot walk the narrow path or run the race set before us if we cling to what our flesh loves. We must not indulge the flesh, but deny it. We put them all away as we put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of the creator. This is a succinct description of the difference between the regenerate and unregenerate person. The unregenerate person is the old self which cannot repent while the regenerate person, the Christian, is the new self which is a new creation. Paul says that at the new birth this new self was put on, but it isn’t yet perfect. No, it is being renewed in knowledge after the image of the creator.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
This is how we are renewed in knowledge after the image of the creator. We must not be conformed to this world, but instead, we must be continually transformed by the renewal of our minds. This is what we do when we study God’s Word and sit at the feet of godly preachers and teachers and apply what we learn to our walk.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17 ESV)
This is describing how genuine believers should be with each other. There is no reason for us to be hateful and belligerent with each other. Oh, we must confront the false prophets out there. We must warn the Saints about them, but with each other, we should be supportive, loving, forgiving, patient, et cetera. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the fruit of the spirit? We manifest the fruit of the spirit as the word of Christ dwells in us richly. We teach the brethren and admonish those who err in all wisdom. We don’t treat each other with disrespect or name call, et cetera. Those are the way of the world and we must put off that by denying the flesh as we walk through this life as spirit filled believers. Compare vv16-17 above with the following passage.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV)
This is what the spirit-filled believer does. They do not kick down doors and cause havoc amongst the brethren. Instead, they follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and He will never have one of us treat others in the Body of Christ as if they are worthless or vile. No, all in Christ are precious in His sight. On the other hand, there are many charlatans out there drawing many professing Christians into apostasy. We must deal with these as directed by the Holy Spirit as well. That means we rebuke and expose them from the Word of God. This is part of the New Self that we put on as we mature in Christ for then we can see the truth and recognize that which is false. However, I contend that we should never do this without spending a great deal of time in prayer and if possible, we should never go it alone.
I pray that all reading this will see clearly that all truly in Christ should not be living fleshly lives with hardened hearts. However, that is what most do because they have not been properly discipled. This is a tragic consequence of the lack of discernment and spiritual maturity in the Church in our time. Let us all pray for the wisdom, discernment, and direction as we obey Him in what He wills for us to do in these last days.
Soli Deo Gloria!