Sunday, April 13, 2008

Accountability For The Christian Pilgrim

By Cult Pastor Williams

Accountability in the Christian life has become a forgotten truth for many on the Pilgrim journey. Content with their salvation experience, and therefore knowing they will be in Heaven one day, some Saints of God presume on God's mercy by living self-serving lives, giving little or no thought to their responsibility to please their Savior.

Their reasoning would be outlined something like this: my sins are forgiven past, present and future. My genuine salvation experience guarantees my justification and future glorification (Rom. 8:30). Since nothing can separate me from the love of God (Rom. 8:31-39), why should I be overly concerned about being spiritual?

This line of carnal reasoning can be expressed in the vernacular expression: "I have my fire insurance against Hell, so why worry about how I live as long as it is not scandalous?"

Does God save us only to let us go on in our self-serving ways? Is God a patronizing, indulgent grandfatherly sort who winks at our daily indiscretions and cares little about that time period between our salvation and the time we arrive in Heaven? To observe the careless and carnal Christianity that would characterize much of modern Christendom, one would have to conclude this is true.

Do we indeed have a responsibility to "fight the good fight of faith" (1 Tim. 6:12), to mortify our members upon the earth (Col. 3:5), and "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18)? Is fighting against sin and wicked habits only for those few zealots who take their faith too seriously, or is the process of sanctification and growth in grace a responsibility that is incumbent upon every child of God? The philosophies of this Laodicean age notwithstanding, the Scriptures indicate we are accountable to grow and change away from fleshly, self-serving ways to God-pleasing ways.

Scripture holds before us a negative example called the carnal Christian to warn those who would be at ease in Zion and choose to shrink back from spiritual conflict and growth. Paul describes the carnal Christian in his first epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 3:1 - 4:5). These justified believers were living inexcusable, wilful, fleshly lives. They were stunted and undeveloped in their Christian experience, and their failure to grow in grace was being reflected in the strife, sectarianism and division in which they were involved. Moreover, such believers are sometimes indistinguishable from the natural man (1 Cor. 3:3).

Does God wink at such behavior in His children? Does He conclude carnality and lack of growth is of no consequence? Quite to the contrary, Paul points out that not only will such behavior result in damage to the individual believer and to the church in which he is involved, his spiritual delinquency will culminate in a loss of rewards: "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" (1 Cor. 3:15).

That God may presently discipline and chasten His children for carnal, self-serving behavior is manifestly demonstrated in Scripture:

1. For those who harm the integrity of the local church: "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy" (1 Cor. 3:17).

2. For those who come unworthily to the Lord's Table: "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1 Cor. 11:30).

3. For those who lie to the Holy Spirit: "And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things" (Acts 5:5).

4. For those who persist in unrepentant sin though disciplined: "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 5:5).

5. For those who persist in acts of sin: "There is a sin unto death" (1 John 5:16).

Believers live a nonchalant, irreverent pilgrimage at their own peril. Based on the above passages, it is clear the Lord expects righteous behavior and spiritual growth from His children. Justified souls are at risk of God's disciplining attention if they choose carnal and worldly behavior. Such discipline may take the form of physical illness or physical death (as in the case of Ananias and Saphhira).

Unrepentant believers who have chosen a lawless way of life may also experience forfeiture of their privileges in the Kingdom. Obviously, a redeemed soul will enter the Kingdom, but if disinherited by the Lord on the basis of his/her carnal, self- serving testimony, that redeemed soul will be excluded from co-regency with the Lord and will be "cast into outer darkness" (Matt. 22:13-14). Many redeemed souls are called to the wedding supper, but few attain to its felicities and blessings because they have chosen an unfaithful way of living for Christ.

This New Testament truth was first illustrated by God's people in the Old Testament. When over two million Israelites began sojourning in the wilderness, most of the adults were justified (the exceptions would be the mixed multitude who left Egypt with the people of God). These were the same Hebrews who had put the blood of the Passover lamb on their lintels and doorposts (Exo. 12:1-36). They were justified by believing God's revealed Word and acting upon it.

However, though justified, they were carnal, unbelieving, rebellious and worldly. These same justified Israelites tempted the Lord no less than ten times in the wilderness, culminating in their final act of unbelief and disobedience at Kadesh-Barnea. They refused to enter the Promised Land and even planned to stone Joshua and Caleb for their faithful minority report (as apposed to the majority report from ten spies which discouraged the people).

What then was the experience of these carnal Old Testament saints? They were disinherited ("Ye shall not come into the land concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein" Num. 14:30), by being excluded from their promised inheritance, the Land of Palestine (see also Num. 14:12). They were disciplined by the Lord "as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you" (Num. 14:28). And the form of this discipline was physical death: "your carcasses shall fall in the wilderness" (Num. 14:29).

Notice also the discipline was according to privilege and responsibility. The ten spies giving an evil report died immediately of the plague (Num. 14:36-37). Following their demise, all the rest of the congregation over twenty years of age (In God's economy, children under twenty had not yet attained their majority), were sentenced to die premature physical deaths in the wilderness over a span of forty years (Num. 14:29-35).

Thus, many were called (over two million Israelites were called out of Egypt), but few were chosen. Only Caleb and Joshua escaped discipline, death and disinheritance because of their willingness to follow the Lord. Only these two faithful saints took possession of their inheritance! Their faith and resolute obedience to the Lord were sorely tested inasmuch as they had to stand alone against two million other believers who were hurling pejoratives, epithets and threats at them. Had it not been for the glory of the Lord appearing in the Tabernacle (Num. 14:10), they were also planning to hurl stones! The path of obedience chosen by Joshua and Caleb was a lonely one fraught with deadly perils and indescribable pressures, but one which was richly rewarded by the Lord (Num. 14:24, 30, 38).

Prominence, notoriety and authority has no mitigating effect of God's discipline of His own. No matter what one's station in life, no matter what one's position in God's family, no matter how long one has walked with God, God's child is still obligated to love, serve and obey Him with all his heart, mind and soul. In fact, greater light, experience and authority in God's family brings greater responsibility! "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" (Luke 12:48). Moses is a case in point, and reaffirms the truth God is no respecter of persons.

After 120 years of exemplary obedience, including an intimacy with God, and power and authority from God that was unparalleled, Moses was disciplined. This sobering account from Numbers 20:1-13 ought to have a chilling effect on any believer who believes he has spiritually attained, and is now exempt from God's chastening hand. Writing about 1500 years later, Paul warned, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). Though the meekest man on earth, though a type of Christ (Deut. 18:15), though he had been miraculously preserved, elevated and used by God for over 100 years, Moses was disciplined with disinheritance (he could not enter the Promised Land), and with premature death because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it.

A clear understanding of our responsibility and stewardship is surely needed in this Laodicean age of loose living, identification with the world, contemporary music and carnal, self-serving testimony.

Paul was steeped in the Scriptures, and having a clear understanding of our appearance as believers before the Judgment Seat of Christ wrote, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor. 5:11). Even as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ he wrote, "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (disapproved, disqualified = a loss of reward) 1 Cor. 9:27.

If Moses was disciplined, and Paul feared discipline and the sobriety and awful reality of the Bema Seat, it is foolhardy, presumptuous and irresponsible for us as believers to live fast and loose lives as if we will never give an accounting. Heaven may be your home, but depending on how you choose to live your Christian life, you will be reigning with Christ in His Kingdom, or you will be ashamed at His coming and suffer irrevocable, irredeemable loss. We are saved by grace, but our works and choices as a Pilgrim will decide the outcome of our appearance at the Judgment Seat of Christ, our reward and the form of our participation in the Kingdom.