by Mike Ratliff
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:5-8 ESV)
There is much terribly wrong going on right now in the visible Church. The main leaders of the emergent movement such as Brian McLaren are teaching rehashed heresies that deny the doctrines of Hell and Penal Substitution. The tragedy is how popular these teachings are with so many in the visible Church. These “fellows” deny all of the essential elements of the Gospel and then decry any teaching that proclaims its exclusivity. They proclaim that all of the world religions lead to God. Let us be honest my brethren. Isn’t there a drive or pull within us that proclaims all of the positive aspects of these false teachings? That “voice” tries to make us see how standing firm is so unpopular and all of this self-denial is sure excluding us from the majority. Those who finish the race by fighting the good fight and keeping the faith were never part of the “majority” or the “popular.” If that is so, then why do we even listen to that “voice?”
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11-12 ESV)
Polemics lead to division. That is the nature of the beast. If we stand firm and refuse to compromise with the world and those professing Christians who love being part of the majority as well as enjoying temporal pleasures while compartmentalizing their lives with their “faith” in a very obscure well-hidden spot that is restricted to Sunday mornings or “whatever” then there will be conflict between them and us. This small compartment in their lives has little to no affect on the rest of their lives except when it is to their advantage. The “these things” in v11 above is referring to the love of money. This would also include the love of possessions and the lifestyle that goes with accumulating much of the world’s goods. The one who is called to fight the good fight of faith is commanded to flee from these things. In place of pursuing what the world desires above all, we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. This is referring to Christlikeness my brethren and the exclusivity of that leaves no room for conformity to the world. This is why it is so obvious why the Seeker-Sensitive and Church growth movements are compromised. They attempt to conform to the culture in order to be more like the world so the unchurched will not be offended by the exclusivity of the Gospel.
This good fight of the faith requires self-denial and the taking up of one’s cross and then following Christ very closely. This is abiding in Christ as you are yoked up with Him. This is walking through this life as a living sacrifice. This is running the race set before us with eyes firmly fixed on Christ. This is only possible for those who draw near unto God in prayer and immersion into His Word. Then Christ’s character will become manifest more and more as humility increases and pride is diminished as the flesh is denied continually. Mind renewal is used by the Holy Spirit to lead us into the correct path, which is to take hold of the eternal life to which we are called. The Greek word used here that is translated “Take hold” is ἐπιλαμβάνομαι or epilambanomai. This verb is in aorist tense, imperative mood, and middle voice. All this means is that is a command, request, or entreaty in which the action is done to or affects oneself. This is much more than simply learning the meaning of what Paul is talking about. It is referring to laying hold of these words then assuming them just as Christ took upon Himself human nature of the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16). Therefore, what we are being commanded to do here is to become totally immersed in the fact that we have this eternal life and along with that we live out or walk out our lives accordingly. We are to be defined by the fact that we have this eternal life and that excludes it from being just being an add-on to our lives or something compartmentalized into obscurity.
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time–he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:13-16 ESV)
To fight the good fight of faith is to stand firm against all who desire to take the Gospel and edit it to please men. Any attempt to change it is to create something else that is not the Gospel, but is stained with compromise and reproach. We are told here to never stop defending God’s Truth until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. When leaven is found in the body of Christ, we are to expose it and warn the brethren to avoid it and those who teach it because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. I know so many in these last days who decry what I just said. They hold in derision all who point out false teachings and those who teach them. I know one who used to comment here quite a bit, but who now writes things such as those who stand firm against apostasy and heresies don’t really know Christ or are not Christians because they are being judgmental. That used to hurt a bit since he has included me in some of this stuff mainly because I refuse to back off of the exclusivity of the Gospel and that God’s grace does not trump His holiness and justice. What God calls sin is sin. Those who know this, but excuse themselves from walking in repentance in order to walk in compromise are giving evidence of an unregenerate heart.
One of this man’s “friends” linked to my article of George Tiller’s murder saying that I had “wished” for God to exclude him from heaven for being a mass murderer of the unborn. I never said any such thing. His article seemed to be saying that all that is required to be included in God’s Kingdom is a profession of faith. Tiller claimed to be Christian, but killed thousands of unborn babies. This paradox bothered me some and I did not address the article in any way nor do I intend to. However, I did read part of Nehemiah today in which he prayed to God the following prayer:
Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. (Nehemiah 4:4-5 ESV)
What is he praying here? This is referring to the enemies of those attempting to obey God in building the wall of Jerusalem and restore proper worship of God in the Temple and every day life. These enemies attempted to stop the work to discourage those standing firm and obeying God. Nehemiah prayed for God to turn their wickedness back on them and not forgive them. Wow! How unforgiving of Nehemiah! Yes, I know that our Lord told us to pray for our enemies and not return evil for evil and we must obey Him. However, there are some interesting statements made in the last chapter of Revelation.
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:8-19 ESV)
Yes, let us pray for our enemies that they repent. When professing Christians do evil things and refuse to repent then we should pray for them that God will draw them to repent, but if they do not then they are in His hands and that is scary. The unrepentant sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters and liars are excluded from the tree of life. These would be the unrepentant ones though because we know that God can and will save even people who have done very wickedly, but the key is that they prove that they are of Christ because they walk in repentance.
Meditate on these things my brethren. Are you fighting the good fight of faith or are you seeking to pollute the truth by distorting the very words of our Lord, giving license to the wicked? We are told over and over in God’s Word that genuine believers give evidence of their faith through their conformity to the character of Christ. No one in this life will be perfect, but Christians walk in repentance and even those struggling mightily with sin will never be a peace with it if they are New Creations in Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria!