Sunday, April 21, 2013

Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God

How many times have you heard someone teach that we should stop striving?  It's a very common message in the Church today.  If you don't think so, just do a google search on "faith stop striving," and you will see many sites with this message.

I understand the basic intent of these messages is to get people to trust God, rest in Him, and stop trying to earn God's love.  All of those are important aspects of our lives in Christ.  You can never earn God's love; you can only receive it.  And when you come to Jesus, you will find rest for your souls.  His burden is light and His yoke is easy.  Knowing His love for you and experiencing His rest comes by trusting Him, just as everything we receive from Him or do for Him is by faith.

Paul said to the Ephesians, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."  (Eph 2:8-9)

The writer of Hebrews concurred by saying, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a Rewarder of those who seek Him."  (Heb 11:6)

So it might seem as though there is no place at all for striving in the life of the believer.  But I beg to differ, and I'd like to show you in Scripture why I disagree.  Let's begin with the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Himself.

Strive to Enter the Kingdom
When someone asked Jesus whether only a few people would be saved, He answered by saying, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." (Luk 13:24)

So if you don't think a believer should ever strive, you need to take that up with Jesus.  He said it first, and I'm just teaching what He said. The original Greek word recorded in Scripture for "strive" is "agonizomai," a root word for our English word "agonize."  The word "agonizomai" means "to struggle, literally (to compete for a prize), figuratively (to contend with an adversary), or generally (to endeavor to accomplish something): - fight, labor fervently, strive." (Strongs).  It means "to contend, struggle, with difficulties and dangers antagonistic to the gospel." (Thayers Greek Lexicon). Thayers states that in the Luke 13 passage cited above, Jesus meant "to endeavor with strenuous zeal, strife, to obtain something."

Now let's insert that definition into the sentence that Jesus spoke. When He was asked if only a few people would be saved, He commanded us, "Endeavor with strenuous zeal and strife to enter through the narrow door."  That's intense, and it's the only way to be saved! He said that many people would "seek" to enter and will not be able to.  He meant they would be unable to be saved.

What makes these people different from the ones who are saved?  Why do so many "seek" to enter unsuccessfully?  The word for "seek" in that phrase that Jesus spoke means simply "to endeavor" or "seek".  There's nothing extraordinary about it.  Many people make this ordinary attempt, but they are unable to enter.

The one thing that sets apart those who do manage to enter is the intensity with which they struggle to enter.  They put up a great fight, and labor fervently.  It's as if they are on fire.  It's the kind of behavior you might expect from a person whose clothing is literally on fire, who is trying to escape a burning building.  A person in that situation, seeking to exit through the door of a burning room, will not make an ordinary or casual attempt to do so.  He will make an extraordinary effort, displaying tremendous zeal.  That's the way Jesus said we must enter through the narrow door.

What was this narrow door He was speaking of?  If you read the whole passage, He said, "Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up to us!' then He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know where you are from.' "Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets'; and He will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.' "In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. "And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God." (Luk 13:25-29).

In this passage, the ones who fail to enter through the narrow door felt like they were well acquainted with the Lord. They said, "We ate and drank in your presence."  But they are left outside the narrow door that has been shut.  The Lord tells them He never knew them, and orders them to depart from Him, calling them evildoers.  They are thrown out to the place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, which is hell.

The ones who do enter through the narrow door are "in the kingdom of God," reclining at the table and eating.  These include Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets.  So He was referring to the kingdom of heaven, where the righteous enjoy their eternal reward.

Elsewhere Jesus said, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." (Joh 10:9).  He Himself is the door through which we must enter the kingdom of God.  But if we believe in Him, why isn't that enough?  Do we need to earn God's love?  Is God unwilling to recognize the power of Jesus' blood to wash away all your sins?  Is God trying to stop you from entering the kingdom? No!  Certainly not.

The reason we need to strive to enter is because there are forces antagonistic to the gospel, which do not want you to enter.  Satan and his demons hate the holy ones and fiercely oppose us, trying with all their might to stop us from entering through the narrow door. It's called a narrow door, because it requires holiness and obedience to Jesus' commands.  Those who seek to enter without holiness and obedience will not make it.  That's why these evil creatures constantly seek to thwart the righteous, attempting to lure them into traps to get them from living holy lives of obedience to Jesus.

Imagine if there was a door shaped like Jesus.  And just like those children's games where you have to put the round piece through the round hole and the square piece through the square hole, only those who are shaped like Jesus can enter through the Door.  Unless you are conformed to the image of Christ, you cannot enter.  If there is anything in your life that's not of Christ, such as an idol, and you won't let go of it, then you won't be able to get through the Door.

"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;" (Rom 8:29; cf. Rom 12:2)

Peter wrote in his first epistle: "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.'" (1Pe 1:14-16)

And in Peter's second epistle, he wrote: "Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless." (2Pe 3:14)

The Greek word that Peter used for "be diligent" was spoudazo, meaning "to use speed, that is, to make effort, be prompt or earnest: - do (give) diligence, be diligent (forward), endeavour, labour, study." (Strongs).

That's why Paul taught you need to train yourself to be godly, saying, "godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1 Tim 4:8).  And in that context, he went on to say, "For it is for this we labor and strive (agonizomai), because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. (1Ti 4:10).  It was for godliness that Paul labored and strove, which is that same word "agonizomai" that was used in Luke 13:24, in which Jesus spoke about striving to enter through the narrow door.  Paul taught that this kind of training is far more important than any physical discipline like weight lifting or exercising in preparation for sports games or fighting.

Fighting to Enter Through the Narrow Door
Just to prove that this really is a fight to enter, let me show you how this word "agonizomai" is used elsewhere in Scripture.  Remember, we said "agonizomai" is the Greek word translated in English as "strive" when Jesus said we must strive to enter through the narrow door.

When Pilate questioned Jesus, demanding to know what He had done that caused His enemies to turn Him over to the authorities, "Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." (Joh 18:36)  The original word for "fighting" here is "agonizomai."

If Jesus' kingdom were of this world, His servants would have been fighting intensely on His behalf.  You can be sure the disciples and multitudes of others would be fighting with swords, spears, and daggers to stop the enemies of Christ.  As it was, only Peter swung his sword one time, chopping off a man's ear, and the Lord ordered Him to stop, lovingly putting the ear back on his enemy's head.

The apostle Paul used this word, "agonizomai" in his epistle to Timothy, saying, "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (1Ti 6:12).  You must fight the good fight of faith in order to take hold of eternal life.  Nobody said you'd be able to "stroll through the tulips" to enter heaven. You will encounter intense opposition.  And at the end of his earthly life, Paul could gladly say, "I have fought (agonizomai) the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;" (2Ti 4:7)

Competing to Win the Race
Another passage where this word agonizomai is used is in Paul's epistle to the Corinthians.  He said, "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." (1Co 9:25).  That word "compete" is the same word that Jesus used when He taught how we must enter the narrow door to God's kingdom.

It's as if you were in a wrestling match, a football game, a race, or any other competitive sport.  You've got to live your life in Christ as if you are in a competition. You don't want to end up being disqualified at the end.  You must run in such a way as to win.  That requires an intensity and fervency similar to the kind you see in winning athletes.  Have you ever seen a champion runner with a casual attitude about running? Have you ever seen a champion boxer with an indifferent approach to the game?  Never.  And neither will you find anyone who enters through the narrow door with such an attitude toward the Lord and His commands.

Paul went on to describe the way in which he ran the race, saying, "Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.  (1Co 9:26-27)

This passage is saying the same thing that Jesus said in Luke 13, using the same word "agonizomai".  Let's compare these two passages:

Jesus Paul
"Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." (Luk 13:24)  "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." (1Co 9:25-27)
"Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up to us!' then He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know where you are from.' "Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets'; and He will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you are from; Depart from Me you evildoers.' "In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out." (Luk 13:25-28) For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play." Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. (1Co 10:1-12)

In both passages, Jesus and Paul taught the need to strive as one who competes in the games, in order to enter the kingdom of God. Both of them taught that it is possible to try unsuccessfully.  Jesus called it seeking to enter and not being able to.  Paul called it being disqualified, which means unapproved, rejected, depraved, or cast away.

Jesus said that those who try unsuccessfully to enter the narrow door will be thrown out of the Lord's presence, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  He said many would do so.  And Paul also said that we must take heed of the example of the Israelites.  Although they were all baptized in the sea and drank from the rock which was Christ, nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of themMost of them were destroyed in the wilderness, because of their sin. The reason we must beware of their bad example, is because they are a type of the Church, upon whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.  O Christian, the same thing can happen to you, if you follow their example.

Striving to Present Men to God
This is why Paul didn't take his role lightly.  When he led people to Christ, he knew his work was not finished.  He would labor and strive for them.  He said, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." (Col 1:28-29).  In this verse, the word "agonizomai" is used again to mean striving.

Notice that the purpose for which Paul labored and strove was so that he could present every man complete in Christ.   That takes more than work, it's an intense struggle.  And Paul was striving according to the power of Jesus Christ, which worked mightily in him.  He didn't strive in his own power or strength.  Neither should we.  Our striving to enter the narrow door, and our striving to present others complete in Christ must be according to Christ's power that works mightily in us.

Epaphras was one of Paul's coworkers in the ministry, who came from Colossae.  Paul told the Colossians about him, saying,  "Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. (Col 4:12).  This again is the word "agonizomai," which is translated "laboring earnestly." Other versions translate it by saying,

"He always prays intensely..." (GW)
"He always prays fervently..." (GNB)
"Always striving for you in his prayers..." (ASV)
"He is always wrestling in prayer for you..." (NIV)

That's the kind of prayer for others that God commends.  And it's necessary, because of the evil forces at work in the lives of our loved ones to keep them from entering through the narrow door.

Putting it All Together
Although we are saved by grace through faith alone, we still need to strive to enter through the narrow door, which is Jesus Christ.  Many people simply try to enter, but are unable to.  Only those who strive to enter are able to do so.  It's the only way to be saved.

The reason it's called a narrow door is because it requires faith, love, holiness and obedience to Jesus' commands.  We need to run like an athlete in competitive games.  It requires you make your body your slave, so that you will not be rejected in the end.  Nobody wants to be thrown out by the Lord to the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Believe me, you don't want to go there.

Because there are evil forces which hate the holy ones, and which ceaselessly oppose us, we need to fight the good fight of faith.  It's an intense struggle that continues throughout our earthly pilgrimage, until we step through the gates of the Holy City into the kingdom of heaven.  Then we can say, "I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith.  Now there's laid up for me a crown of righteousness."  Those who do so will recline at the table in the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets.

Another reason the kingdom of God has a narrow door is because you cannot enter in groups.  You can't rely on your affiliation with family, friends, or your church.  Each person must individually enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, being conformed to the image of Christ.  Don't let anyone or any evil creature from hell stop you from doing so, and from keeping the faith until the end.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. "I Am the Way" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist. "Running to Jesus" illustration is by my daughter, C.V. Lacroix. You can find more of her artwork at A Brush with Life.

Author's note: You may also want to read my other posts called, Pressing on Toward the Goal, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, Taking Heaven by Force, Seeking Glory from God, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Called to be Blameless, Salvation with Fear and Trembling, The Obedience of Faith, Doing What is Right, Faith Works!, The Apostasy Parables, and Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?  I also recommend Zipporah Mushala’s Second Testimony of Hell, in which she saw a man of God in hell for relying on His obedience to the Law to save him. You may visit the Seeking the Lord Directory, and also find a collection of my most popular blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Obedience of Faith

Obedience and submission are necessary in our walk with God.  They are very closely connected.  Many so-called Christians call Jesus “Lord,” but do not obey Him.  They are not submitted to Him. Is it possible to be saved that way? Let’s look at what the Word of God says about obedience and submission.

The Obedience of Faith
The apostle Paul spoke of "the obedience of faith."  Most Christians have probably never heard this expression, much less know what it means, but it’s right in their Bible.

Paul wrote to the Romans, “Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake.” (Rom 1:5)

Luke wrote in Acts, "The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith." (Act 6:7).  This proves that in the early church, the faith was not just a set of beliefs to agree with, but rather the authority of Christ's Lordship to submit to, and His commandments to obey.

The word “obedience” comes from the Greek word – hupakoe - attentive hearkening, that is, (by implication) compliance or submission: - obedience, (make) obedient, obey (-ing).  Comes from hup-akouo - to hear under (as a subordinate), that is, to listen attentively; by implication to heed or conform to a command or authority: - hearken, be obedient to, obey.

Paul said, “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed,” (Rom 15:18)

That means true faith is always demonstrated by observable obedience.  So you cannot understand Paul’s doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone without properly understanding his doctrine of "the obedience of faith."

“For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”  (Rom 5:19)

It’s through the obedience of the One, Jesus Christ, that you are made righteous. And it will always be through His obedience.  But if you have been made righteous, you will demonstrate the obedience of faith. It will result in your obedience both by word and deed.

“Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”  (Rom 6:16)

Some people have a problem with submission or surrender to God. They feel that in doing so, they lose their individual freedom.  But the truth is that you are either a slave to sin, resulting in death, or a slave of obedience, resulting in righteousness.  So your eternal destiny is determined by whether you remain a slave of sin or become a slave of obedience to Christ.

“For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.”  (Rom 16:19)

The obedience of the Roman disciples of Christ was reported to all.  The Church throughout the world was hearing reports of their obedience.  Likewise, when you have true faith in Christ, the report of your obedience will reach to many people.

“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 16:25-27)

Paul said that the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ is a mystery that has now been revealed and which leads to the obedience of faith.  If you are not becoming more obedient, then you don’t have saving faith in Christ.  You can’t have obedience to Him without faith.  And you can’t have true faith in Christ without obedience to Him.

This is what Paul preached everywhere. He said he, "kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance." (Act 26:20)

He told the King that he declared to people wherever he went that they should repent and turn to God, habitually proving their repentance by their deeds. It's not enough to repent. You must prove or demonstrate your repentance by your works, repeatedly performing obedient acts.

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,”  (2Co 10:5)

Obedience to Christ is the outcome of true spiritual warfare.  All those speculations and all those high things raised up against the knowledge of God are destroyed, and every thought is captured for the purpose of obedience to Christ.

“and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.” (2Co 10:6)

You must be on a continuum of progressively greater and greater obedience to Christ. At some point, your obedience must be complete. 

“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”  (Heb 5:8)

Obedience is learned through suffering.  Even Jesus, who never sinned, learned obedience from what He suffered. 

“And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” (Heb 5:9)

At the cross, the obedience of Jesus Christ was perfect, as He became obedient to the point of death (see Phil 2:8).  There He became the source of eternal salvation, but only to those who obey Him

The apostle Peter wrote to those who reside on earth as aliens, who are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” (1Pe 1:2)

Peter taught that we are chosen to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.  The apostles are in agreement. 

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’”  (1Pe 1:14-16)

Peter taught that if you address God as Father, you must be like obedient children and be holy in all our behavior. He will judge impartially according to each one’s work.  Your behavior and your works do matter to God. Are you living in holiness as an obedient child, or do you only call God Father but live like the world?

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1Pe 1:22)

God’s Word is Truth and He sanctifies us in it (see Jn 17:17). The Truth will only purify your soul, if you obey it. Many have heard the Truth, but have never been purified, because they have not obeyed it.

“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.”  (Rom 2:5-8)

Notice that it is those who persevere in doing good, who will receive eternal life.  And those who do not obey the truth will receive wrath and indignation.  Where it says they “do not obey”, this is apeitheo, meaning “to disbelieve (willfully and perversely): - not believe, disobedient, obey not, unbelieving.” 

The expression “do not obey” comes from “a” (not) and "peitho" (obey). Since we must avoid being among those who do not obey, let’s look at the root word “peitho” that means “obey.”

Obey
The word obey comes from the Greek word “peitho,” which is a primary verb; to convince to rely, agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be (wax) content, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.

Paul instructed us to, “Obey (peitho) your leaders and submit (hupeiko) to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.  (Heb 13:17)

Obedience and submission are closely connected, and this verse in Hebrews demonstrates that.

Submit
The word “submit” comes from the Greek word “hupotasso,” meaning “to subordinate; reflexively to obey: - be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.”

James wrote, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.   Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  (Jam 4:7-8)

“Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?”  (Heb 12:9)

The Opposite of Obedience is Rebellion
The opposite of obedience and submission is rebellion. This may surprise some of you, but if you are not obedient and truly submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, then you are living in rebellion

The verb “to rebel” comes from the Greek word, “apostrepho,” meaning “to turn away or back (literally or figuratively): - bring again, pervert, turn away (from).” Rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft, and insubordination like the sin of idolatry (see 1 Sam 15:23).

“Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, ‘You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion (apostrepho), and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him.’” (Luk 23:13-14)

You see, Jesus was accused of rebellion.  But Governor Pilate found no guilt in Him, although he wasn’t even a believer in Christ!

"Moses said, 'THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. 'And it will be that every soul that does not heed (akouo – hear, harken) that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.'  For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning (apostrepho) every one of you from your wicked ways."  (Act 3: 22-23, 26)

Peter preached about two final outcomes that are possible, destruction and blessing:
  1. Destruction - Those who do not heed (akouo – hear, harken) the Lord Jesus will be destroyed.
  2. Blessing - God sent Jesus to turn you away from (apostrepho – turn away or back) your wicked ways, which is a blessing.
“And so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE (apostrepho) UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.’"  (Rom 11:26)

The Lord Jesus Himself will remove ungodliness from us.  He makes us rebel against wickedness.

“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away (apostrepho) from Him who warns from heaven.”  (Heb 12:25)

If you decline or reject Jesus when He speaks, then you are rebelling against Him.  If you do that, don’t expect to escape destruction.

Israel rebelled and wanted to submit to Egypt for help, but it was in vain.  The Lord showed Israel this through the prophet Isaiah and beckoned them to repent and trust Him.

“For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing.”  (Isa 30:15)

Ten Blessings of Repentance and Trust
Isaiah prophesied of ten blessings the Lord promises to His people, if they will repent and trust Him (Is 30:15-29):
  1. He will save you and give you strength. v. 15.
  2. He will be gracious to you and have compassion on you . v.18
  3. You will weep no more.  v. 19
  4. He will hear your cry and answer you. v. 19
  5. You will see and behold your Teacher. v. 20
  6. You will hear Him again. V. 21
  7. You will defile the idols in your life (pollute them and pronounce them unclean). v. 22
  8. He will send rain for your seed and bread for your field.  v. 23
  9. He will heal what’s fractured and bruised in your life. v. 26
  10. He will give you songs in the night and gladness of heart. v. 29
Putting it All Together
True faith is always demonstrated by observable obedience.  If we have faith, then we will demonstrate something known as “the obedience of faith.”  This is done by both word and deed.  When you have true faith in Christ, the report of your obedience will reach many people.

When you have saving faith, you will no longer rebel against God, but you will rebel against your own ungodliness.   You will repent and trust the Lord. You will turn from your wicked ways.  You will listen to His Word and comply with it.  You will come under the Lord’s authority, He being your Master and you His servant.  And in that place of submission to Him, in which you are under obedience to Him, you will give heed to His voice, and do what He says to do.  You will say what He commands you to say.  It will affect your whole life.

Obedience to Christ is learned through suffering.  It’s the outcome of true spiritual warfare. As you suffer and fight the good fight, you must be on a continuum of progressively greater and greater obedience to Christ.  If you are not becoming more obedient, then you don’t have saving faith in Christ. 

You can’t have true faith in Christ without obedience to Him.  And you can’t have obedience to Him without faith.  He is the source of eternal salvation.  We’re made righteous through His obedience.  But He is only the source of salvation for those who obey Him.  Your eternal destiny requires that you become a slave of obedience to Christ. God’s chosen people were chosen to obey Christ.

Those who do not obey the Truth will receive wrath and indignation. Those who reject the Lord’s voice will be destroyed.  But the ones who listen to Him, repent, trust Him, and obediently come under His authority will be saved.  It's not enough to repent. You must prove or demonstrate your repentance by your works, repeatedly performing obedient acts.  Then He will save you and give you strength. He will be gracious to you and have compassion on you. You will weep no more.  He will hear your cry and answer you. You will see and behold your Teacher. You will hear Him again. You will get rid of the idols in your life. Then He will send rain for your seed and bread for your field.  He will heal what’s fractured and bruised in your life. And He will give you songs in the night and gladness of heart.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted. The "Wise and Foolish Builders" and "Thy Will Be Done" paintings © 2012 are by Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Author's note I invite you to visit these related articles of mine: "Is Obedience Optional?", "Obedience by the Spirit,"  "Righteous Deeds and White Robes,"  "Doing What is Right",  "Faith Works!" "Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?", "You Must Be Born Again", and "The New Covenant."  I recommend Zipporah Mushala’s Second Testimony of Hell, in which she saw a man of God in hell for relying on His obedience to the Law to save him. Remember that we are not endeavoring to keep up the law of Moses in conjunction with the gospel of Christ. You can access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.