How to Remain Faithful
How To Remain Faithful
From Genesis to Revelation the problem presented in the Bible is sin. Throughout the history of God’s people, the danger of unfaithfulness has always been present. Hosea declared, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (4:6). Jeremiah asked, "Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet My people have forgotten Me days without number" (2:32). Amos spoke of a famine in the land, "not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord" (8:11). During His ministry Jesus warned, "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire" (John 15:6). Paul and Barnabas urged Christians to "continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43). Jude admonished, "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21). The Corinthians were told, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (10:12). Peter admonished his readers, "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness" (2 Peter 3:17).
A Cultural Cross Current
More and more we are hearing from liberal congregations the feeling that we spend too much time warning people about sin or error, or that since we are all probably in error or sin on some point, that we really do not have to worry about this issue. More and more professed Christians seem to be embracing a Calvinistic idea that grace automatically and unconditionally forgives a person without any conditions including repentance, that even if we do compromise with the world, grace will cover us. Jesus and the apostles taught a much different view (1 John 1:5-10; 2:3-5; 15-17; Romans 8:13; Hebrews 10:26).
Study The Word!
It is so easy to forget that unfaithfulness starts in the mind when we start believing a concept that is false. Temptation first hits us in the mind and if the mind can be convinced then everything else (body, time, talents, and so on). The Bible can help us keep the right mental perspective and thus the right allegiance (Psalm 119:9,11; see 2 Chronicles 26:16). Peter plainly said, "Now for this reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence knowledge" (2 Peter 1:5).
Realize Choices Have Consequences
Many choices are life altering. Many choices have consequences, consequences that still remain even after one has repented. Many of the choices that confront us have eternal consequences (Galatians 5:19-23). In addition, both good and bad consequences tend to multiply. Good choices in life multiply opportunities to do good, they bring us happiness and so on. Bad choices quickly remove happiness; they remove opportunities, and they just as quickly bring upon us many negative side effects or secondary consequences (See Deuteronomy chapter 28).
Choose Your Friends Wisely
1 Corinthians 15:33 "Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’"; Proverbs 22:24-25 "Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, lest you learn his ways, and find a snare for yourself"; Deuteronomy 13:13. Indeed, those with whom one associates can have a strong influence upon one’s thinking. In addition, do not make the mistake of thinking that friends affect us only when we are young. We are affected by friendships throughout our lives; remember the above verse was written to adult Christians.
The Choice of a Marriage Companion
Some of our closest friends in Beaverton are married to non-Christians and they would be the first to tell you many passages emphasize the importance of marrying someone who is spiritually strong. One could say "spiritually compatible", but the only spiritually compatible person for a Christian is a spiritually strong person (Genesis 24:4; 26:34-35; 27:46; 28:1; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; Ezra 9:1ff; 10:1ff). And who could forget the folly of Samson (Judges 14:1ff; 16:4ff) or Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-4)? A study was done in a congregation in Oklahoma where 143 young people who grew up there were studied. The survey sought to discover what happened to these young people when they married. They found that 79 of them married a non-Christian. Of this number, 57 left the Lord, only 22 were still faithful, just 14 had converted their mates, and there were 25 divorces. On the other hand, 64 of them married a Christian. Of this number, just 5 left the Lord, 59 were still faithful, and there were only 2 divorces. In an article entitled, "Are You Thinking of Marrying a Non-Christian?", Norma Smith made the following observations. 1. Very few people who marry non-Christians actually end up converting them. 2. Attending services by yourself and trying to manage the children at the same time is both lonely and exhausting. Even husbands or wives who do not hinder their mates from attending will still say or imply, "Do you have to attend so much?" "Why can’t you just stay home with me now and then". 3. Sometimes we do not realize how much time is involved in assembling with the saints. 4. Socializing with Christians is more difficult. She writes, "So you can invite some couples to dinner, sure, that’s good for you and your children and maybe if things go right, your spouse will find something in common with your friends or maybe not. Of course, its exciting to sit through an evening hoping that your spouse doesn’t offend anyone or that they don’t offend your spouse, now that’s a nice relaxing visit". 4. There are things that you would have never thought of that come into play when you marry a non-Christian. One woman noted that her husband really wanted to enjoy a beer now and then with her sons. 5. Even if you marry a good moral man or woman, you are still on two different paths (Matthew 7:13-14). Even though the following was written by a non-inspired man, it does remind us that marriage is a relationship in which a man and woman are to become "one" (Genesis 2:24). "Beautiful is the marriage of Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They pray together, they worship together; instructing one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church; side-by-side they face difficulties and persecutions, share their consolations. Unembarrassed they visit the sick and needy. They give alms without anxiety. Psalms and hymns they sing" (Tertullian of Carthage).
Realize Jesus is Lord
Faithfulness is far easier if early on in one’s Christian life they accept the fact that Jesus is the Master and they are the disciple (Luke 17:10). Unquestioned allegiance to His will is far easier, when one has unquestioned trust in His wisdom and love (James 1:17 "Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow"; 1:13; Hebrews 13:5-6). Since God created me and Jesus died for my sins, God does have the right to demand my complete attention and the very best of my heart and mind (Matthew 22:37). Seeing that He rescued me from eternal suffering, I should never resent any of His requirements, even if they cost me friends, family, possessions, or my life (Luke 14:26).
Remember The Devil Is Real
"Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith" (1 Peter 5:8-9); "For even Satan himself disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14); "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).
I have noted that unfaithfulness, whether in doctrine or morals, often happens when people forget that the devil is active and relentless. When people start resenting "sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1), or God’s precise rules or restrictions, they are forgetting that: 1. These commandments are given to protect us from evil. In a world where evil is all around us, we need to know precisely, what is the truth? What are the limits? What does God exactly want? Because so often the devil’s temptations are nothing more than slight changes in what God does or does not want (Genesis 3:4). 2. The devil is always trying to push the limits or boundaries of God’s truth, this is why people need to be taught exactly and accurately what the Bible teaches (2 John 9). 3. Satan is also a master of twisting Scripture (Matthew 4:1ff), and has many willing and ignorant accomplices (1 Timothy 4:1-4; 2 Peter 3:16-17). This is another reason why we need to carefully study Scripture and at times go verse by verse.
Love The Brotherhood
"Honor all men, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king" (1 Peter 2:17); "Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart" (1 Peter 1:22).
I have observed that some people become unfaithful when they become disillusioned with the church or the Christians who compose it. In addition, the devil is always trying to cloud the issue concerning who is right and who is wrong, and thus in some places what passes as a sermon is filled with jokes and satire that make light of baptism for the remission of sins, scriptural music, the one church, insistence on book, chapter and verse preaching, and so on. We need to remember that the church is the bride of Christ, the body that was purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Our generation owes much to those before us who struggled out of denominationalism and endured persecution for the sake of Christ. One writer noted, "To love the church is to love those features which make her distinctive. Though mocked by modernists, we love her for standing for the Bible (1 Timothy 3:15). Denominations ridicule the necessity of biblical baptism, but we love the church of Christ for insisting upon it. While many see no authority in the New Testament pattern, we love her emphasis on restoration. It may seem incongruous in a pluralistic society, but we love her conviction that there is one true church. We love the simplicity of worshipping in ‘spirit and truth’. We love the name ‘Christian’ and that we can call Bible things by Bible names. We love the preaching of sound doctrine. In spite of the occasional dismay over uncharitable controversy, we love the fact that the church is ready to challenge every unscriptural idea or practice" ("Love the Church", David R. Pharr, The Spiritual Sword, April 2000, p. 22).
Take Time To Be Holy
I have repeatedly been impressed with how one’s use of "time" can make all the difference in the world. Time to pray, time to study, time to be with brethren, and time to be involved in good works. Never underestimate the value of redeeming the time (Ephesians 5:15-16).
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017