Last night was our first real snow for 2011, as far as difficulty driving any way. It’s funny how when the driving conditions are difficult, two lane hi-ways end up one line. There’s only those few that are considered adventurous or foolish (depending on your perspective) that will forge through the snowy, icy part of the road that has no tire tracks. Usually these are the 4-wheel drive guys that have been waiting all year to show the world, “this is why I got this big truck!” I have to admit (keep in mind, I am still being sanctified), but I have to admit, I get a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing these guys in the ditch. It’s like, “Yea, you can plow through a lot of stuff, but you can’t plow through a deep ditch.
Jesus said very clearly, broad is the road that leads to destruction and many go that way, but narrow is the Way that leads to life and few find it. The biggest problem with professing Christians is that they do not realize that there is a ditch on both sides of that narrow path. I am not talking about those that have not professed their faith in Jesus Christ, I am talking about confused Christians that are in the ditch and don’t even realize it. That 4-wheel drive truck can spin its wheels in the ditch all day long, but the fact is, it is never going to get to its destination until it gets pulled out of the ditch. In the same way, there are many Christians that are in a ditch spinning their wheels, not realizing that their efforts will not get them to Heaven.
I used to be in one of these ditches and I am thankful beyond words for the person that loved me enough to tell me the Truth. As I write this, it reminds me of what Paul said:
Galatians 4:16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
I am hopeful that as you read this you will examine yourself in the faith to be certain that you are not attempting to trek through one of these ditches that does not lead to Heaven; after all, we are supposed to examine ourselves in the faith.
2Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
I remember a few years ago a coach came in to my shop to get a design started for some State Championship T-Shirts. He was certain they were going to win, after all, they only had one meet left and they were certain they were going to win. He called the day after the meet and I was expecting him to say, “yep, we won….go ahead and run the shirts.” Instead I heard the story of how they had seemingly won, but the opposing coach brought it to the attention of the judges that a kid on the other team was wearing a small lapel pin on his jersey. The kid was the stud of the team, and he wore the pin all year, and if memory serves, it was to honor his mom who had died. All season the opposing coach knew the kid wore the pin, but he didn’t play “his ace in the hole” until it really mattered. That coach wanted to win the State Championship so bad that he was willing to crush the kid’s dreams because he wore a lapel pin to honor his mom; and it was against the state high school rules. Imagine the disappointment that team had, thinking they just won the State Championship, only to have it taken away.
You have an enemy that hates you so bad that he will deceive you by any means necessary to keep you from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Imagine that horrific scene, where a person is “running the race” like they thought they were supposed to run, only to find that they were deceived in to doing what ought not be done, and they are disqualified as they cross the finish line.
1Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
2Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
The two ditches I am talking about are addressed by the apostle Paul in God’s Word. Paul warns us of both that we may test ourselves in the faith, not be deceived, and finish the race. Paul even rebukes the believers in Galatia before he educates them (again) on the elementary doctrines of saving faith:
Galatians 1:6-7 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Paul takes it a step further:
Galatians 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
Whatever it is Paul is about to correct them on is so serious, and he is so upset about, that twice in two verses that anyone teaching this doctrine should be damned to hell! WOW!!
So, what is this horrific teaching? RELIGION! Here’s the deal, these people have been introduced to Jesus Christ and they have seemingly received Him as their Lord and Savior; however, there were those that came in and convinced them, “OK, now you need to be circumcised.” In other words, they were saying, “great, you received Jesus, but now you have to keep the Levitical Law.” Do you see how insane that is? God made a covenant with His people that He will be their God, and they shall be His people; however, they are not to have any other gods before Him. His people committed adultery; they did worship other gods…THEY BROKE THE COVENANT! But, God provided another Covenant; a Covenant that would provide the Way of redemption for ALL PEOPLE. This is the Blood Covenant which can be entered in to when we repent and put our trust in Jesus Christ alone to redeem us from our sin. Are you seeing the madness of these people that would attempt to bring a person under the old covenant law after they have entered in to the New Covenant? That is as silly as divorcing your first wife because she commits adultery, remarrying a faithful women and being told that you have to go back and spend a week-end every now and then with your first wife. How would your second wife feel about that? When we belong to Christ, we are the bride of Christ, He DOES NOT want us returning to a yoke of religious bondage, whether it be the Levitical Law, or the “man-made” religion of today:
Galatians 5:1-7 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. 7 You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
Paul’s focus here is on those that are adding circumcision to obtain salvation; however, the fact is, you can plug in any work of the flesh or religious ritual. Whether it be confirmation, catholic confession, communion, or anything else that religion will add to the work of The Cross…Christ plus ANYTIHNG is an abomination. We are saved by Grace through Faith when we repent and put our faith in Jesus Christ, there is nothing we can do to earn it our deserve it.
With that being said, it brings us to the other ditch. In the flesh, a logical question would be “If I’m saved by Grace and there is nothing that I can do to earn it or deserve it can’t I just continue in sin since ‘Jesus died for my sin’”. As you might expect, Paul addressed this exact question, and his answer was short and to the point:
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
The question then becomes, did we die to sin? In other words, do you hate the sin in your life and war against it; or do you still enjoy it? I am not talking about being perfect; I am talking about hating your sin and warring against it. Or, do you have the mindset that says (even if it is subconscious), “I’ve cleaned up my act a little bit, but I am still battling with this or that”? Praise God of you have the discernment to recognize things you are doing that are outside of God’s Will, but don’t be deceived in to thinking that your feeble attempts in the flesh will hold an argument on the Day of Judgment. A willingness to deliberately continue in sin only demonstrates that a person in not dead to sin, he has not crucified the “old man”; it clearly demonstrates that the “old man” is alive and well:
Romans 6:6-7 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
Before we go any further, let’s take a look at some of lifestyles we may be in bondage to that we need to crucify with Christ” (through His strength when we surrender to Him):
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Ephesians 5:3-6 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
2Corinthians 12:20-21 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish--that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.
Notice how Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 12, that “they have not repented of”? He did not say that they have “never done these things”. The difference is not whether or not you have sinned against God in a portion of the listed things above, or if you have sinned against God in their entirety. The difference is whether or not you feel the weight of conviction in realizing that you have done these things and sinned against God and you want to repent of them. You no longer want to enjoy them, you no longer want to practice them, you no longer want to even entertain them in your mind, you want to turn completely from them, you want to war against them as though your life depends on it, you no longer want to walk in the flesh, but instead you desire to walk in the spirit. That is what God promises to all that will surrender to Jesus Christ, a new heart with new desires; we will cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of Light:
Romans 13:12-14 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
Now that we have looked at these to ditches, a logical question might be, “which is it, ‘I can’t do anything to earn or deserve it and religious ritual is bad’ OR ‘I need to live a certain way or I will be condemned’?” Answer: “YES!” Both of these statements are true, but you do not live holy to be saved, it is evidence that you have been saved. If you examine yourself in the faith today and conclude, “WOW, I still continually practice these things that are ungodly. So according to the Word of God I am not going to Heaven. I will be disqualified from the race at the finish line.” I would lovingly, gently, and respectfully say to you, “Today is the day of salvation. Call out to Jesus and tell Him, “my body is weak, but my spirit is willing, please help me to set my mind on you ad repent of my wickedness. Please forgive me, Lord, save me.”
Colossians 3:1-14 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. 5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. 8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Romans 8:1-15 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father."