Let Us Fear?

Hebrews 4:1   (KJV)   4 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

There are healthy fears, and this is one of them. This is a concluding statement after a warning about hardening of hearts, turning away from God, and failing to enter God’s rest. Praise God; the promise of entering into His rest still stands. However, the Hebrews 4.1 - Let us Fearpossibility of coming short of entering that rest also exists.

God is still so graciously offering His rest to us. How we believers interpret the meaning of coming short of it—failing to enter that rest—may differ, but the seriousness and gravity of the admonition ought to neither be overlooked nor undermined. The blessing offered is very great, it’s just befitting that we take careful and sure steps in our pilgrimage: to have good, right, and godly attitude in all this.

John the Beloved wrote, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18); the writer of Hebrews tells us, “Let us therefore fear…” They may seem contradictory, but they are complementary. My humble take: Perfect love casts out fear, except fear of God. We can elaborate and expand on that proposition ad infinitum, but the Scripture is very clear and explicit. To discard one is to err.

God’s Goodness and Severity

Romans 11:22   (KJV)   22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

God is good and severe; God is loving and just; God is Father and Lord; God is gracious and holy; God is to be loved and feared. All facets of God’s nature are true; one ought to not be sacrificed for the other; one ought to not be rejected in preference of another. All Symbol of scales is made of stones on the cliffof them have to be embraced. I’ve observed so many people becoming very passionate about one of God’s natures and in doing so undermining the value of another, perhaps unawarely.

“Behold;” take a look; observe it; notice: God is both good and severe. He is loving, gentle, kind; He is also holy, stern, strict, serious. His Fatherhood is a good, balanced Fatherhood. He loves and disciplines. He doesn’t rear spoiled kingdom kids.  It’s clearly explicit: “on them which fell,” to those who live in disobedience, He is severe. That’s not birthed out of thoughtless and angry emotion or passion. That springs forth from His wisdom and patience.

On the other hand, “if thou continue in His goodness,” if we continue to live faithfully in the light of His goodness, He continues to pour out more goodness to us than we deserve. What God gives to us is always way more abundant than what our actions merit—He is gracious, that is. And it’s important that we heed these words soberly. He is more serious about it than how a lot of believers think and teach. If we fall and don’t stay down, if we don’t continue in His goodness, we “also”—which could mean it’s been true to others already—“shalt be cut off.”

Instead of being quick to interpret those words away to fit our emphasis on the doctrine of love and grace, my loving encouragement is that we please consider the severity of those words more than we probably have been willing to before. In the first place, our loving and gracious God included them in His recorded Words for loving and gracious reasons. He’s not hating on us in recording those words.

Touch Not God’s Anointed

1 Samuel 26:23   (KJV)   23 The Lord render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the Lord delivered thee into my hand to day, but I would not stretch forth mine hand against the Lord’s anointed.

God calls leaders. We honor our leaders because we honor God Who calls them.  Although all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, there is a unique anointing that comes with God’s leadership call.  They may not be our best choice; we may not agree 1 Samuel 26.23 - Touch Not God's Anointedwith the way they do things, but as long as they don’t tell us to jettison our God, His Word, His law, we ought to honor them, submit to them, pray for them, and support them.

God is our supreme leader.  When someone He has anointed as leader tries to usurp His authority, that’s the time we rightfully rebel—this is a righteous rebellion.  Otherwise, disobedience becomes a direct assault on God’s choice.  We want them to do good; we want them to succeed; we want them to make the right decisions, and we’re ready to accept their decisions even when different from ours.

I pray that this won’t be taken as self-serving since I too am a leader, perhaps not to hundreds and thousands, but to scores.  We are accountable to our heavenly Father as to how we obey Him in honoring His anointed;  the anointed leader is personally accountable to the Father as to how they conduct themselves.  Leaders will make bad decisions; instead of shooting them down, why not find ways of filling their lack?

To position ourselves as an opposition to a leader and everything he does is obviously biased and wrong, but there are those who glory in such stand.  We don’t support anyone—leaders or not—when they directly oppose God.  We fully support God’s choice;  we dare not touch God’s anointed.  Instead of giving them a hard time, we bless them, and we want to be a blessing to them.  Again, if it’s just a difference of opinion, policy, approach, strategy—if it’s not against God or His Word—the leader has the mandate; we give him that.  It’s a righteous thing to do, and the Lord rewards it.

Second-Mile Obedience

Matthew 1:24   (KJV)   24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife

Joseph obeyed the angel’s command although it wasn’t a simple one.  He had to be very sensitive to spiritual matters; he had to be discerning enough to recognize that his dream was something beyond the ordinary. His decision wasn’t something small; it was life Matthew 1.24 - Second-Mile Obediencealtering, in fact, it was big-time history changing. He may not have known the importance or the extents of the consequences of His obedience, but that’s a nature of obedience: we can’t predict it’s real value.

God values our obedience more than we know it. He values it more than sacrifice. By the way, grace doesn’t discard, undermine, diminish, dismiss, or nullify the need for obedience. They’re not opposed to each other. In fact, one of grace’s most important function is empowering us to obey God in saying “no” to undgodliness. Obedience demonstrates who we are as believers; obedience is living wisely as His child.

Obedience still brings rewards and disobedience brings discipline or punishment. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to argue against those who teach that God no longer punishes us when we disobey; I’m just sharing what I believe. Every blessing we have is grace from God, but God’s Word teaches that not everyone receives God’s grace.  Only those who appropriate grace by faith benefit from it. Faith isn’t just mental; living faith is belief-obedience. Remember, during the “awarding ceremony” of believers, there will be gradations of rewards.

My encouragement is not only to obey, but to go a second mile. Joseph did. He wasn’t commanded to have sexual relations with Mary, but He didn’t until after Jesus was born. He decided on that and did that on his own.

Punishment for Believers?

1 Thessalonians 4:6-7   (KJV)   That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

1 Thessalonians 4:6-7   (NIV)   and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

The context of these verses has to do with sexual sins.  God still avenges or punishes sexual immorality or uncleanness even under the Covenant of grace. He has given straightforward warning regarding this.

Christians ought to be bold and brave in telling the truth as it is. We’re very vocal about grace and God’s forgiveness. And that’s good. But, there are those of us who put on our breaks in declaring that God still deals with disobedience. In dealing with consequences for our sins, we comfortably refer to God’s “discipline,” and that’s true too. But we’d like to avoid any possible consideration that God still has the right to deal with sin. Let’s remember: He has the divine prerogative to punish unbelievers for their sin, and (ready for this) believers for our sins.

Didn’t God punish Jesus for all our sins? Yes He has. But it seems like verses like the ones above tell us that we don’t get a free ride to sinful practices without any consequences. Jesus took all our sins that we may be saved. As saved, let’s watch our steps. Even if God forgives us for lying, or stealing, or sexual impurity, there may be consequences for our forgiven sins that are irreversible. That can be true as well in the spiritual dynamics. Let’s not buy into the lies that purity is evil and harmful and that we ought to just be free in living out all our sexual passions because it is through that that we can really enjoy the fullness of life. Powerful lies that has victimized even believers. Truth: unbridled ungodly sexual passions lead to tragic crashes.

Choose real freedom. Choose punishment-free living. Choose purity.

Dear God, thank You for Your grace and forgiveness and salvation. May our steps be that of the righteous and holy. Many of us have fallen into and excused our ungodly sexual behaviors and practices. Help us to be serious in ridding ourselves of them. Please help us to realize that You will still deal with us – punish us because of our ungodly sexual indulgences. Save us Lord from its power. Or save us Lord from our foolishness, – in Jesus’ Name, amen.

It Really is God’s Word

1 Thessalonians 2:13   (KJV)   13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

Men preached the words but it is God’s Word they preached. God’s Word really is God’s Word. That’s the reason why it works.

God’s Word will accomplish whatever its purpose every time. Some of us will believe. If we do, God’s Word will change us, cleanse us, strengthen us, encourage us, guide us, teach us, correct us, transform us, etc. We get the point.  Some of us won’t believe. If we don’t, God’s Word will still accomplish its purpose for us. It will be a witness against us; it will serve as our very judge. Instead of blessing, it will be a curse for us. Our belief or unbelief never renders the word of God powerless.

Dear God, thank You for graciously giving us Your Word, Your dependable, inerrant, infallible, irrevocable Word. I pray that we’ll learn to value it as it really is: God’s Word – Your Word. May we clearly see how precious Your gift is to us and how powerful it is. Oh Lord, I pray that You would save us and spare us for the many times when we receive Your clear instruction and guidance and yet we continue to choose the path of sin and disobedience.

Some of us have symptoms of callousness growing. We hear Your Word and we continue to do those things that displease you and we’ve become or are slowly becoming so comfortable about it, that we keep falling to the same sins repeatedly. Some of us have mastered the art of trampling on Your Word – Your exhortations, Your guidance and Your commands as long as we do it within the privacy of our own personal world. We’ve mastered the art of presenting ourselves to others as having a good grip of Your Word, of our spiritual condition. We’ve learned to carry ourselves so well, innocent lambs submitted to the Shepherd’s voice. We look innocent, we act innocent, but deep within us is a rotting spirit of rebellion that’s ready to step out in more serious ungodly acts given the chance.

Please strengthen us against ourselves. Save us from our weak use of Your powerful Word. May we choose to live out its power – out there in the world, and more importantly, in our very own private battefield, – in Jesus’ Name, amen.