Secure Your Inheritance
“For of this you can be quite certain: that neither the immoral nor the dirty-minded nor the covetous man (whose greed makes him worship gain) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” From Paul’s letter to the Christians at Ephesus – Chapter 5 – J.B. Phillips Translation
We humans have a tendency to twist things in the Scriptures to align with our desires. The Bible states that we are “saved” from God’s wrath and judgment as an act of His mercy and grace, and that we cannot earn this by our good deeds or by keeping His laws, so that no man can proudly boast that he has earned God’s forgiveness and pardon (God owes him). Some Christians have twisted this to say that our good deeds and keeping of the law is therefore not important, or they have twisted it to say that any thought of our righteous actions having an impact on our acceptance to God and our salvation is contrary to His grace and is “salvation by works” and therefore is erroneous. The Scriptures are clear: we cannot earn our pardon by our good deeds, but we can disqualify ourselves by our evil deeds. We must prove the sincerity of our faith by allowing it to transform our inner man so that we change our actions from darkness to light, from evil to good, from selfishness to love, from carnal to spiritual.
But we humans want to have an excuse to continue in our old nature, and yet feel that we are accepted by God and are His children. We want to have the pain of our guilt removed, but not have to experience the pain of putting to death our flesh, leading to victory over our sins.
I have encountered professing Christians who have reacted adversely when I suggested that God expects us to be literally righteous and free from sin, and that we must have a clear conscience regarding sin. They confronted me in anger: “Are you perfect? No one is perfect but Jesus! If you say you are without sin you are a liar! Even the Scriptures say this in 1st John!”
Some of this thinking comes from the “Eternal Security” doctrine or “Calvinism” that some Christians adhere to. It states that once you are “saved” (said the sinner’s prayer), you are always saved no matter what you do, good or bad. This doctrine is based on the idea of predestination, that God has chosen us before we were born to be children of light, and others are “predestined” to be children of darkness. Our infinite God knows the future, so, of course, this is true, but it is impossible for our finite, limited minds to fully comprehend this.
The eternal security doctrine also says that if a professing Christian has immorality or sin in their lives, either God is going to change them so they don’t need to worry, or they were not “saved” in the first place (they are children of darkness). I don’t agree with this view. I believe that although God knows what we will do in the future, He holds us responsible for our actions and He expects us to deal with our flesh and to strive towards living and acting in love, like Jesus. Some Christians are using the eternal security doctrine as an excuse to continue in sin.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that living a righteous, holy life is not important, or that all Christians sin, that Christians aren’t perfect, they are just forgiven (I once saw a bumper sticker that said this). Yes, our transformation takes time and we will struggle with some sin in our lives. God doesn’t reject us when we sin, but He expects us to make every effort to purge our lives from sin.
Consider for yourselves what the Scriptures say regarding the expectations of holy, righteous living:
“As obedient children, do not conform to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:15-16
“For this is the will of God, that you should be consecrated (separated and set apart for pure and holy living): that you should abstain and shrink from all sexual vice, that each one of you should know how to possess (control, manage) his own body in consecration (purity, separated from things profane) and honor, not (to be used) in the passion of lust like the heathen, who are ignorant of the true God and have no knowledge of His will, that no man transgress and over-reach his brother and defraud him in this matter or defraud his brother in business.” 1 Thess. 4: 3-6 (Amplified Bible)
“But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and ‘Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity (sin).’” 1 Tim. 2:19
“Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. Be wretched and morn and weep. Let you laughter be turned to mourning and you joy to dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.” James 4: 8-10
“And by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says ‘I know Him’ but disobeys His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in Him: He who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” 1 John 2: 3-6
“We know that any one born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.” 1 John 5:18
I think it is very clear from the Scriptures, not only in the above quotes from the New Testament, but from the main principles communicated in the Gospel and taught by Jesus, that we are expected to live a holy, righteous life free from the bondage of sin.
Don’t be discouraged if you are struggling with sin in your life. God is able to strengthen you and He promises to aid you in your efforts. He also promises that no temptation is too powerful for us to resist; He won’t allow us to be overpowered by temptation.
My goal here is to encourage you. Remember that we have the key to victory. If we set our affections on the things above, where Christ is, and not on the things of this earth, placing our hopes fully in the promises of God, we can have victory over our flesh. Having a false hope in the things that this world has to offer is the root of our problem with sin. Also, God has given us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us, aiding in our transformation. We have everything we need in Christ to obtain a victory over sin in our lives.
I believe that our enemy, the devil, wants to distract us and catch us off guard, not focused on living a holy, righteous life. Much of western Christianity has fallen into this trap and allowed sins such as pornography, adultery, greed, jealousy, envy, strife, drunkenness, drug use, sexual promiscuity, etc. to put them into bondage. Many of these sins are so rampant in our society and so well accepted that Christians are blinded to them or powerless over them. And now they have been led to believe by the leadership of some western Christian church organizations that holiness and righteousness is not important because we are “saved by grace, not by works.” Instead, these leaders should be admonishing their congregations to focus on pursuing holy, righteous lives by dying to their flesh, not focusing on material blessings, or spiritual manifestations, or even on gaining more converts by evangelism.
The same admonition that Paul gave to the Ephesians applies to us today. Here is the rest of his words from the 5th chapter of the letter:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them, for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.’ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” Eph. 5: 1-20
Let us also be wise and make the most of our time here on earth. This will secure our future inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven.