Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jude 1:3)
Personal peace and contentment have long been considered to be normal Christian attributes. When these appear in the life of one who intimately knows the Lord, many lives can be powerfully affected. Jesus can be even more dramatically revealed during times of great stress and suffering. Then, a peaceful countenance gives that much more evidence of the risen Christ!
Consider the impression that Stephen must have made on the young Saul of Tarsus. While being viciously stoned by his adversaries, all Stephen could do is look upon the face of Christ and bless them.
On the other hand, we have many portraits of the warrior in both the Old and New Testaments. In fact, war is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. Do these seemingly opposing principles, peace and warfare actually coexist? Or does one override the other? Depending upon where we are in our present experience, we might be drawn to one or the other in our thinking and studies of the Scripture. How often, I wonder, do we find ourselves choosing and pursuing the condition which is most appealing unto us?
To some, Christianity is the pursuit of perfect peace and tranquility, while others seek the triumph of good over evil. Does the gospel of Jesus Christ present us with a choice between the two, or rather the balance we need to have an abundant life? Jesus preached the coming of the kingdom of God. He taught us that God's kingdom was visible wherever His will was being done in the earth. It is a domain where His righteousness, peace and joy are prevailing and the realities of heaven are revealed unto men.
Our prime directive is the reign of God in our lives and the lives of others, to the glory of His Name, and the satisfaction of His Heart. From this perspective the outworking of His plan will employ many diverse means and processes. An all wise God has many purposes within purposes, and many wheels turning within wheels. Would it not be presumptuous of us to pit those purposes against each other? Are we actually capable of determining which should be preeminent, or which is appropriate for the present situation?
In the lives and writings of the New Testament saints we find practical wisdom for living in Christ. Here are some powerful examples for us, which reveal the life of Jesus in many aspects. These saints both struggled valiantly for the Truth of the Gospel while maintaining great peace and confidence in a Loving Heavenly Father. Jude was no exception. How blessed we are today to have his living, Holy Spirit-inspired words to bring us back on track!
There remains therefore a rest for the people of God -- for those who labor diligently to enter therein. Some must enter into it, and after finding it for themselves, the compassion of Christ within them compels them to lead others into such blessedness. In one sense the struggle will never be truly over until the last life has been rescued and brought into security in Christ.
When Jesus cried, "It is finished," He forever secured our inheritance in glory. Today we do not see all things under man's feet, but we see Jesus! By focusing more and more on Him, we daily enter into His victory!
Centuries ago, when Jude penned this short letter to the saints, he expressed a concern that some may have been losing ground in this victory that had already been won for them. He urged them to earnestly contend for The Faith. This powerful faith had been once and for all time delivered unto them. It was already theirs. It was purchased for them by the precious blood of Jesus, and offered to us all by virtue of His matchless Grace!
Why then is there a need for this struggle, this contending, this intense agonizing (see Strongs Concordance G1864: epagonizomai) to recover something that has been so freely given? Perhaps there are a number of reasons. But first we must determine which battleground that the Lord has actually called us unto, and eliminate those that we may have taken up on our own.
At the time of your reading this, some of you may be presently under the stress of battle. You could be dealing with temptations, fears, physical pain, or even the bitterness of disappointment. You might be having tension with members of your natural family, or experiencing misunderstandings with other believers in Christ. Be assured that these trials and struggles are common to us all. If we are not careful, we can easily become overly conscious of our adversaries, whether they be personal, impersonal, within or without. One of the greatest dangers is to become more aware of our battles or enemies than of our great, mighty, wonderful and lovely Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ! This is a time to contend for a greater trust and faith In Him!
If those of you who are experiencing some of these anxieties could bear with me, and set these struggles aside temporarily, a more permanent victory might be found for you in Christ. We may discover that our individual battles are only a small part of the greater battle for The Faith that has already been delivered unto us. It may be that when this greater overcoming faith is restored to us, the smaller struggles will become less significant.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am in no way implying that anyone's personal struggles are not legitimate. But here we hope to increase our ability to become empowered in the strength of His might! We do this by growing in our wisdom, understanding and knowledge of Him. May we ultimately become persuaded with Paul the apostle, that in all things we become more than conquerors through Him that loves us!
Returning to our First Love
In recent years, those in our circle of fellowship have become increasingly aware of the fact that Christianity, especially in the West, is preparing to undergo a major and fundamental change. In fact the transitional period has already begun. Words like renewal, revival and restoration are more commonly being heard, while the general level of dissatisfaction increases. Deep within us all, there seems to be an inner knowing that something has been missing in the equation of modern Christianity, and many are hoping to recover that lost element through a number of methods and means.
Many are even searching among the ideas of the cults and the New Age Movement in their quest for this "missing link." How sad. There is an answer to the dilemma that modern man faces, but it is actually one which we have already discovered. It is one that we have already known for centuries, but for some reason our hearts have strayed away from Him -- The Lord Jesus Christ.
How and why did our love for Him become cold? Was it Christianity itself that drew us away from Christ? Was it religion, or sin, or worldliness or deception, or Satan, or all of the above? Whatever the reason, it is likely that many have a long hard road back, at least that has been my experience. We must contend against our trust in ourselves, our plans and programs and return to trusting in His Love alone.
How often has it just been easier to try one more church, one more doctrine or "revelation," one more movement or perhaps a lost ritual that might do it for us, rather than simply returning to Him? What are we afraid of? Is it the price of a true and deep relationship that appears overwhelming? Is the admission of our pride and reluctance to fully surrender ourselves unto Him a task that is too difficult?
Or rather, have we just become accustomed to the way that He has worked with us in the past? Surely He would not ask us to leave the comfort zones of our traditions that once were so blessed of His Spirit? Beloved, is any habit or earthly desire really worth losing the freshness of this Relationship of ALL RELATIONSHIPS?
Yes, this is The Faith that was once and for all delivered unto the saints. It is a faith and trust in a Person, Jesus our Redeemer, our Anointed Saviour, and our Only Lord and King! The wonder of it all! To Know Him! To touch Him and to feel His touch! To embrace Him, the One Who before all time said, "Let there be" ....stars, seas, mountains, vegetation, crawling creatures, and the most glorious creation of all -- Man!
If only we gave as much attention to our relationship with Him as we have to our doctrines concerning Him! Instead of discussing our understanding of the Atonement and Reconciliation, we should give ourselves to being reconciled to God! And what does He require? No less than any healthy human relationship requires: our time, attention, consideration, and passionate devotion!
If we simply listen to Him we will come to know what pleases Him. And if we give ourselves to pleasing Him we will no doubt sense the joy of His pleasure! Is this not worth contending for? Do you remember the days when you could not get enough of time in His Word? Do you remember the fact that it was not Biblical knowledge that you hungered for, but the sense of His Living Presence as you immersed yourself in His revealed Truth, desiring only to know what pleases Him?
Do you remember when prayer was not a duty, but a glorious engagement with the Creator of the universe, your Heavenly Father and personal friend? Would this reality not be worth returning to, even if an agonizing struggle with your flesh, your pride, your reason, or your busy lifestyle was necessary?
Some of us have sunken deep into complacency with our overconfidence and trust in the level of "spirituality" that we have attained unto. What we have called the Sabbath rest of the Lord is in reality a place of dormancy wherein we have not fought and won the battle but unconsciously surrendered to the enemy. Only the blind, the deaf could succumb to such rationalization, convincing themselves that the promised land has been conquered while war, starvation, and gloom pervade the planet that was given for our stewardship!
The time has come for many of us to repent, to fall on our faces before our Mighty God and King and plead with Him for the restoration of our first Love! Lord, what would you have me to do today? And then, ask the same question each and every following day, for we can never become complacent again! This is the true Sabbath of the Lord, when we have taken His Yoke upon us, and what a holy, blessed yoke it is!
Out of this renewed relationship with Jesus a fresh understanding of the Normal Christian Life can begin to come to us. Surely the all-wise and wonderful Lord of the universe has a better plan for us than what we have devised! Surely the abundant, overflowing life that He promised to those who live in trusting surrender to His love is something worth contending for!
It may become necessary to re-evaluate our previous views concerning what we once considered the essentials of life in Christ. It is likely that some of our concepts were contributing factors in our corporate and private drifting away from Christ as the Center of our lives together in the Kingdom of God.
Hear me carefully. No single human individual can ensure the proper balance of our walk with God. Do not put your confidence in this writer or any other man. We must trust in Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to lead us. He will use our own searching through the Written Word. He will also use our private times with Him. But if we neglect His Voice as it speaks to us in the midst of His people as they gather, this too will be unto our own sorrow.
After having recovered this living, vital faith in Christ through repentance, forgiveness and restoration, this relationship must be vigilantly maintained. We will continue to repent or have our thinking changed on a regular basis. By His Grace we will grow together unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ!
Driven by the Wind
Jesus and the early believers knew a secret. Many down through the ages have also discovered this secret. It is about sailing. There are several ways to move about on the sea. One can row by his own physical strength. Or he can use the modern technology of gas powered engines to swiftly move from place to place. But there is another very efficient energy source. It is both free and effective, and also pleasurable. So much so that it continues in popularity unto this day.
Long ago it was discovered that the power of the wind could be very useful when properly understood. From the outside it would appear that these ships move very effortlessly through the seas, but actually an abundant supply of knowledge, discipline, teamwork and physical effort is required in sailing. Without these, one could easily become lost, stranded, and even drowned!
Jesus likened the life of one born of the Spirit as being very unpredictable, somewhat like the wind. To be carried by the wind, one must be always conscious of the wind itself. In like manner, those who desire to live and walk in the power of the Spirit of God must recognize Who is actually in control. We must learn to be sensitive to the blowing of the Spirit. This may take a lifetime of learning experiences, but we can begin learning immediately. Our Teacher is ready, willing and able to teach us these spiritual disciplines.
Life in the Spirit of God is very appealing. In Him, righteousness, peace and joy become very spontaneous fruits. While millions continue to row through the Christian life as though it is some standard to live by, filled with rules and regulations, others are finding that human effort will never get us where God desires to take us. One can choose to row on his own, or perhaps use the machines of religion to make the journey. But to soar into the heavenlies, or to sail on the high seas with God, we must learn His Ways, and move by His power.
That is not to say that our minds and wills do not play a part, or that our participation is not required. As in the skill of sailing, the Spirit-walk requires training, and practice. We must learn the various movements of the wind, and learn to respond accordingly. We must constantly adjust and adapt to its directions, until flowing with it becomes "second nature."
When the wind of the Spirit is not moving, we must conscientiously use the time to maintain our sails, staying prepared for the next brisk gust of the breath of God. We must also be sensitive to the gentle breeze of His blowing, for during these seasons a work is being accomplished in our relationship with Him that cannot be described.
Here we are contending for the preservation of a nearly lost art. The world is literally filled with the impression that has been given by the "Christian" machine of denominationalism, and churchianity. Are you ready for a battle? Then just give yourself to recovering the simplicity of Christ. Forces from within, without, and all around will begin to muster, when this spark of light hits your brain! But fear not! The Lord Himself has prayed for you! He alone can ensure that your faith will not fail. He alone will see the vision of His Heart through to its fulfillment!
As mentioned earlier, the adventure of sailing is a team effort. It was never meant to be experienced alone. Of course, modern inventions have also circumvented this concept, but today we are learning to recognize our God-given need to function together as the body of Christ. Each one has his or her station, and each one answers to the Captain of our salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ! Together we are moving ahead in His purposes. We may have a general idea of where we are going, but only He knows the twists and turns we will follow as we are carried by the currents of the wind and the sea.
This course of action can also be very dangerous. There are some very negative and destructive winds and sea currents which have carried some towards shipwreck or to become lost in uncharted waters! We must know Jesus, His Voice and be very knowledgeable in His Word. Then we will know which winds to which we must raise our sails, and which ones to avoid.
Take up your Cross
Contending for The Faith also means to contend for that life of obedience to our Mighty Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Again this can easily be seen in a legalistic view. But now we are learning to experience the Power of His Words! He gave us instructions like: believe in me, abide in me, eat of me, live in me, follow me. We must contend for the faith that is totally directed toward Him! He is the King of Glory! He is our Source of Life!
The greatest battle of all could perhaps be that letting go of my self-trust and confidence, and placing more and more of my confidence upon Him. I must die to the belief that I can do anything on my own, and live in the faith that I can do all things through Christ Jesus.
This also means I must trust in His ability to deal with my fellow shipmates. He can and will mold each one of us into that tightly knit crew that operates this vessel in which we share our lives. Is this sometimes a struggle to you? Is it easy for you to believe that God is leading you along, but difficult to see what He is doing in the lives of your brothers and sisters? This too is a part of the faith that was once and for all committed to the saints.
Immediately after the coming of the Spirit in power on the day of Pentecost, there was found in those early saints, an unreserved generosity, trust and love for one another. They were being carried by the wind of the Spirit to a place no one had ever been before! It is high time we recovered that early and primitive faith. The only price to pay for this wonderful, exciting, miracle-filled life is to give up your own. In exchange, He will provide one that is more abundant, full and satisfying, that is -- His Life!
Confessing or Possessing?
Many today have re-discovered the eternal realities of our inheritance and who we are in Christ. But instead of taking up their crosses and beginning to lay hold on these truths, some instead merely confess and affirm that it is already done. Believe me, I wish it was as easy as that! Abraham had a vision of his inheritance, but he was required to walk in it. Four generations later his descendents fought to possess it. Who of us could challenge our Maker? Do we by our reason and human desires for comfort and ease, disannul His Eternal wisdom? Is it not wiser for us to simply respond in obedience to Him?
There is a war to win! In war we have victories and defeats, blood, pain and scars. But oh the thrill to be on the Lord's side! How precious is the reality of Life in the glorious body of Jesus Christ! How beautiful is His Church to see and be a part of! Is this not worth the price of laying down our lives? Can we not see the release that She will bring to all of humanity as She reflects His Light?
To KNOW HIM, and the POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION, is this not worth fighting, even dying for? Beloved, let us earnestly contend for a pure relationship with Jesus Christ. Let us surrender all in faith, trust and devotion to Him! As He becomes our reality, our every thought and action will find its purpose in His desire. The faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints was the total confidence and knowing that He is our all, our everything, and that He lives today in His people. Together they who are His own flow onward in His course, unto the destination He has set for them. We begin in Him, and therefore we end in Him. He is our destination!
Enemies of the Cross
Peaceful people have a natural distaste for war. They often look for points of agreement among one another and even with the world. They usually have difficulty in understanding the zeal in others for spiritual warfare. They sometimes gravitate to the gentle side of Jesus, and tend to ignore those aspects of His Nature that are depicted in Scripture by the fierceness of the lion of Judah. Some even tend to explain away His confrontational tendencies.
Happy are the peacemakers! They shall be called the sons of God! But these are not to be confused with those who compromise essential and crucial elements of eternal life in Christ. True peace can only be achieved where righteousness is pre-eminent. And true righteousness can only be realized in the Reign of God through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Whenever we attempt to soften the sternness of our Lord and His commands, we actually weaken our chances for peace among us and in this earth. In these attempts we can easily open the door for our true enemy to gain more ground in our lives.
Let me make myself perfectly clear here. Our enemies are not those Christians who understand the Bible differently than us. Neither are they those who practice various customs in their meetings.
The most dangerous teachers in our ranks are those who undermine the marvelous, all- sufficient work of the cross of Christ in our lives! Those ideas and beliefs that seek to preserve the selfishness and self-centeredness of man are those that will ultimately destroy us!
These deny the Lordship of Jesus, and our place under His Headship! They stand before His people as Lords themselves, in order to gain power, prestige and glory for themselves! They will entice us with promises of personal wealth and bind us with the fear that disobedience to them will bring down the wrath of God.
Let all of the heavens and the earth proclaim -- Jesus Christ is Lord! Let us lose our ambitions and lust for power, to be filled with His righteousness, peace, joy and love! As we bow before Him in humble adoration, He will reign in us, and drive out those things which hinder us from living that abundant life in Him!
There is truly a faith to be recovered. That faith is only realized in a relationship with a Person. The Faith is based on The Person - the most desirable being in this vast universe! Can I ask you a question? Do you know Him? I am not asking if you know about Christianity, or of the teachings of the Bible. Do you know Him, of Whom the Bible testifies?
Have you felt His touch, and heard His Voice? Have you surrendered your past, present, and future into His capable and faithful Hands? If and when you do, you will be on the road to recovering a life experience that millions over the centuries have heard of, but very few have actually known for themselves.
Let us walk together, fighting the good fight of faith together. Let us encourage one another to love and to good works. Let us continually think of Him and speak His Name. Let us not become enemy conscious, but increasingly conscious of Jesus, our only Lord! When facing an adversary, the first step is to submit to God. Then, by our obedience to Him we have the power to resist those thoughts, attitudes, temptations and forces that attempt to defeat the work of God in our lives.
There is a peace to be pursued and won as we contend for The Faith. It comes as our trust and confidence in the love, grace and unlimited power of Christ continues to grow. It is a conviction, a persuasion that builds up in us as we grow closer in our relationship with our Lord. The growth of this relationship can only come as we spend time with Him and His people.
May we all come to the same place of powerful confidence that Paul the apostle came to when he boldly proclaimed:
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)
And what will be the result of this renewed conviction and increased confidence in our Lord Jesus as the undefeated, and unfailing, Almighty God? What will become of a people who Know their God intimately?
Perhaps a change will come in the way we view one another in Him. Perhaps the world will again begin to recognize the disciples of Christ, the children of God by their love for one another, and we will allow Him to remove the walls that divide us. Could this be the day when the prayer of the Son of God will be answered -- that we would be one -- even as He and His Father are one -- that the world may know and believe?
Is it possible that a broken and contrite people will lead the way for a fallen humanity to rediscover the wonderful communion with the Father that was once known by Adam? Have any of us fully realized the immense power of one life fully devoted to the pleasure of our Creator and Lord?
Could the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in us today lead to the glorious days that were predicted by the holy men of old? Who knows? There is one thing that we do know: His Word is sure, and He can bring to pass what He has spoken. He can and will fulfill His promise that the earth shall be one day filled with the Knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea!
For now, we must be content to simply follow Him, as He walks this earth selflessly. We will care as He cares. We will give as He gives. We will deliver the oppressed as He reaches out to them in Love. We will know liberty from self and sin as He knows complete devotion to the Father's will. We can all begin to truly experience the sheer delight of giving ourselves as living sacrifices unto Him. Through this most pure form of worship we will join with Jesus in proving that most glorious, good, acceptable and perfect will of God!
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