Christianity—an honest union with Christ
Paul was trying to communicate that some principles of ordering our daily life must need discretion so as not to unnecessarily overwhelm our brother or sister in the church and cause a separation between them and Jesus. If I am a vegan, and others are not, I should not go around pushing on them what took me many years of striving to have victory over it. Then, I am acting as God to be the convincer of sin. I can keep my veganism, because no doubt it is the better lifestyle. But I should do it quietly, and strive to help my neighbor keep his focus on Jesus, instead of on his acts of righteousness. Jesus will teach him. Jesus can teach him (see 1 John 2:27). And I can cooperate with Jesus’ still small voice with a hint or encouragement at the proper time. Cooperating with Jesus’ still small voice requires a union with Him.
It follows the similar principle of, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.” (1Cor. 10:23,24). Not everything that I could say or do to bear witness to the truth that I’ve learned is profitable at this point in time. Timing has a lot to do with edifying others. This especially holds true for those who have stopped being rebellious to God and are seeking to become like Jesus. We should honor their new heart and mind by not overwhelming them with an encyclopedia of information that we’ve taken decades to learn, or have received it by growing up into it since childhood or have it by some “inherited spiritual predisposition”, “we who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles.” (Gal. 2:15). We should not force them into a rush to learn God’s will, when we had the luxury and the divinely awarded privilege of taking a long time to learn. This could cause them to be shaken away from Jesus. But, neither should we teach them to let self-indulgence have free reign.
Proverbs 4:18. “The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” We need to remember that the path of the just doesn’t start with the perfect day. It grows out of dimness and darkness. Yet the beauty of God’s forgiveness and justification is that all who remain tightly bound to his Justifier remains just from the first day. And he remains just before God while he grows out of the darkness and dimness. Thus, he grows up in more than just a knowledge of God’s expectations, but also in the knowledge of God’s love for him personally. The gospel is a message of mercy from God that allows for the natural process of learning. That natural learning necessarily includes shortcomings and spiritual mishaps, hiccups, bumps and bruises, and that also teaches him side lessons of God’s patience and forbearance and love. But, his justification keeps shedding light upon him all along the way, until he ends in perfect daylight. He is just/righteous before God in the perfect day; but, he was also just and righteous in the dimness all the while on the way to the perfect day.
On the other hand, God doesn’t stop loving righteousness because He loves and wants to be merciful to a new child. Therefore, along the path to perfection He calls His new child just and righteous only if His child continues to remain open to conviction of his sins that cause his darkness. God does this for His child’s sake. My salvation must be a concerted effort between me and my Redeemer. I need to know where I stand, because I want to have Him forever, and I want certainty of that. Plus, I don’t want to presume upon His grace. That would hurt the God I love. And He sees presumption/obedience the same way. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2Tim. 2:19).
So, if His growing child ceases to “walk in the light, as [God] is in the light,” then he has walked away from the glory of God and walks in darkness. God will not walk in sinful paths, just to keep His glory shining on His children. Jesus walks only in the paths of righteousness. Jesus cleanses us from all sin only if we are in the paths of righteousness. And in righteousness is where He wants to lead us for our happiness and health. Therefore, if His child does not walk under His cloud of glory, then he ceases to “have fellowship” with those who are growing in grace, “and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son” ceases to “[cleanse him] from all sin” (1Jn. 1:7).
What causes one to stop walking in the light? “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” (Jas. 1:14). Satan has filled this world with many habits and practices and things which cannot lead to the cleansing from sin. Especially in the cities. But even the countryside isn’t exempt, as the land of Canaan demonstrated. The evils of the city can be brought into the natural world and pollute the messages of the Creator that He painted across the sky and landscape.
All is not hopeless with respect to a dimishing natural world and a growing city life that spreads out to the uttermost bounds of civilization. But it makes it incumbent upon everyone who God has brought to hate his sinfulness that he must strive with every ounce of his being to stay with Jesus and abide under the safe shadow of His comforting wing.
The faithful disciple will heed the admonition of Jesus,“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in [some day when they decide to], and shall not be able.” (Luke 13:24). He must always follow Jesus’ admonition and His example. “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). He will also follow Paul’s example, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14).
But, sadly this is not the habit of many who begin the path to have God for a Father. The fellowship of His Spirit dwindles that was once so good, and they do not strive to get it back.“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.” (Heb. 3:14).
“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Heb. 2:1-4).
The unpardonable sin comes to those who received the power of God unto salvation, and let it all slip away. How would they escape the compounded darkness and distraught sense of loneliness after knowing the great power of God’s wonderful communion and then losing it? The darkness in their soul would be inescapable. That is something to fear!
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Heb. 6:4-6). That is a lot to lose! And yet it is possible. Let it not be us!
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:28,29).
Certainly this is a fearful thing. The letter to the Hebrews had much to say about this, not just to terrify them, but because God’s salvation is not to be trifled with. Satan is declaring an all out war to keep us in his grip, or to get us back and to destroy every good effect God has ever had on us in His rescue of us from Satan’s abduction. A roaring lion is on the prowl wanting to devour any unwary soul. The many destructions of biblical characters is well documented for our sakes. Fear is good and healthy if we understand the bigger picture of it, and see the love behind the fearful warning and threat. God cannot go beyond our choice to serve our flesh, which is really serving His enemy, Satan. If we want to serve the deceiver and destroyer, then we cannot hold a place in God’s eternal kingdom. The great controversy has affected the perfect security of the eternal kingdom of God, and therefore, for the sake of the hosts of heaven who never fell into sin, God will be choosy about who He allows to be reinstated. Salvation is not just about us. Sin cannot ransack the kingdom again. Sin was too costly the first and only time. The great controversy has cause too much pain to the King and His crown Prince to ever have it repeated. He will not let that happen.
His means of getting us to Him is through His still small voice, which is only small because we are so deafened to it. Sin has caused our deafness; self-indulgence has made us deaf to righteousness; and righteousness is all that God and His eternal kingdom is about. His kingdom has nothing to do with self; it is all about focus on the great King of selflessness, and on service to others.
He calls us out of this world of self-serving, self-pleasing, self-exaltation, self-justification, etc. Everything to satisfy our fallen nature is that from which God must extricate us. He has much forbearance as He slowly teaches us how this and that and the other practice is only for self and must be discarded. But, all along the way, we have His perfectly peaceful acceptance. Acceptance is the great incentive to leave the life of self-focus, which gives no peace. Satan offers no acceptance because he has no love to offer; and he intends that no one ever gets any love because they would automatically become prospective disciples of God. Love naturally leads to the desire to be righteous. Acceptance leads to the desire to be increasingly acceptable to the Just one. Satan can’t allow that.
Yet, we will always have the pull of sin and self calling to us, even while seeking an ever closer walk with the God of acceptance and righteousness. Not until we are redeemed and “changed” (1Cor. 15:51) will we cease to “groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Rom. 8:23).
Sadly, the call to please our flesh (self) has been satisfied on what seems innumerable occasions, which the Lord faithfully recorded for our benefit. The following is not to be condemnatory, but instructive lest we follow their same choice.
“Then said He unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.” (Eze. 9:9).
Those men cut themselves off from God, not only by the indulgence of physical vice, but by spiritual vice—spiritualism. They thought that by secretly doing what they knew was wrong, that it would go unnoticed by God. Of course it didn’t go unnoticed because God sees every secret thing. Yet, though in their minds God wouldn’t see them and cut them off, the separation from God still occurred.
Separation from God is sin, and we may not recognize when we separate from Jesus, but we can examine our fruits. Then the Spirit of God will highlight the health of our standing before Him. Do we still have the burning in our heart for Jesus that we once had? Is everything prospering, as David promised to those who genuinely meditate on the Law of God? Is my fellowship growing a larger group of beloved friends, or a shrinking group? Can people implicitly trust me because they see and hear the loveliness and strength of Jesus in me? Am I becoming exacting and forceful, instead of patient and kind? Is my prayer life experiencing any “groaning for redemption”, or have I again become dead in my sins? Does the word of God remain a source of my conversion and sanctification? Am I being sanctified by the gospel I preach, or am I a castaway, and reprobate silver? Is it love that is causing me to mortify my flesh, or my own willpower? Is my obedience driven by expectancy of eternal life and walking in perfect forgetfulness of self? “God, am I really saved? or lost like King Saul?” The Lord loves the honest self-examination, especially here at the tail end of the investigative judgment when anyone not afflicting his soul will be cut off from Jesus.