That’s a legitimate question, posed by Elijah to the many “fence-straddlers” of his day – and ours. In doing so, he reminded the Israelis of Joshua’s insistence years before that the Israelis should, “…fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.” Joshua 24:14 The reason being that there was – and is – a tendency for people of faith to commit to a cause and then to almost immediately begin vacillating between staying true to it and hedging their bets; maintaining relationships and activities that are incompatible with their declaration of repentance and redemption, damaging their witness and credibility while insulting their Savior. A practice succinctly described in 2 Kings 17:40,41 as “They would not listen …but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshipping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day, their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.”
Joshua insisted that a choice be made and persevered in, setting an example by boldly declaring his own intent and living it out in the reality of a life of service to his God and fellow citizens. “…if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves… whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
There comes a time when declaring for faith, deciding between belief systems, and maintaining a moral code is imperative. You won’t benefit from continuously putting off such a decision. In fact, doing so will only further confuse the issues and confound your thinking as to what to do with your life; often prolonging agonizing situations rather than resolving them. (See James 1:6-8) James prescribing the cure for this condition when he advised the simple yet profound act of drawing near to God, who is anxiously waiting to return the favor of drawing near to us. As we then submit to His will and way of doing things, we will begin to instinctively resist the influence and temptations of the devil and the worldly way of doing things – Satan then fleeing the power of an ever-present Savior in our lives. (James 4:7,8)
So many of the conflicts Jesus had with people were rooted in their inability – or lack of desire – to differentiate between Godly precepts and entrenched human tradition, or as he saw it, divided loyalty. (Matthew 6:24 & 15:3-6; Mark 7:1-9) A condition that runs rampant throughout “Christian” society today as well. A genuine Christian’s first priority and guarantee of success is to seek and implement God’s will as thoroughly as possible (Matthew 6:33); which will take persistent effort, but which can be done. Jesus promising that as we, “Ask… it will be given…” Asking suggesting at least a degree of dependence. When we, “…seek…you will find…” Seeking conveying a yearning on our part for something beyond ourselves. And if we, “…knock… the door will be opened…” Knocking indicative of persistence, translated into action. Faith’s reward being God’s presence and provision. (Luke 11:9-13)
One way we remove instability from our lives is in intentionally remembering who we are in relation to God and how we became His child, and as such, co-heirs of the kingdom with Christ. (Romans 8:17) Paul noting how Jesus specifically asks us to, “…do this in remembrance of me…”; “this” referring to the newly expanded Passover Feast, which we celebrate as Communion. “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup,…,” we not only “remember” but “…proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:24 Which is essentially the mission and ministry of the church. When we do so, he then promises to, “…forgive (our) wickedness and …remember (our) sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12
Paul further stresses another important step in maintaining an unswerving faith and walk in Christ – forgetting; getting beyond the non-essentials and focusing on the task at hand. For him, this meant, “Forgetting what is behind (good and bad) and straining toward what is ahead, …” Philippians 3:13,14; to success and completion in Christ. James lamenting as well the failure of so many in not acknowledging their past condition (like Paul did – Romans 7:24), while getting past that in recognition of what they could and should now accomplish in and through Jesus. (Romans 7:25) Comparing those who don’t to a man, “…who looks at himself in a mirror (but who then)goes away and instantly forgets what he looks like.” James 1:24 Which can be symbolic of two problems. One is when a man looks at himself and recognizes he needs to clean up his act – and doesn’t. The other being when a man looks in a mirror and sees what God has already actually accomplished in his life – and doesn’t acknowledge or accept it. Both can cripple our witness and ability to function in the church and world.
Again, Jesus speaks specifically to this issue, reminding us that at the end of time, he will return and “…reward each person according to what he has done.” Matthew 16:27 Paul further expounding on that statement by explaining, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality (God) will be given eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” Romans 2:7,8 And that’s what we’d expect, blessings for those who seek out God, discipline/punishment for those who don’t. But what about those who appear to respond to the gospel yet fail to actually turn in repentance from a lifestyle of less than good deeds. Hebrews declares, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment…” And in comparing that punishment to the one meted out to the “unlawful” of another generation asks, “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” Hebrews 10:26-29 (See also 2 Peter 2:20-22 & Hebrews 6:4-6)
“We must pay more careful attention, (then), to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding (the Old Testament law), and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” A salvation received through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus in response to the law’s demand – freeing us from ever having to fear condemnation again. (Hebrews 2:1,2 & Romans 8:1)
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