I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people…
Paul warns us in his many letters of obstacles within the church as well as those outside the church, i.e. those things regarding the potential of the gospel he preached for corruption; corruption within the Church and corruption that proceeds from the world. Paul warned of vain philosophies, errors, gross or subtle miss interpretations, doctrines of demons and devils thus warning of the many snares that will come along either to test our faith, or for those who are weak in the faith, the potential exist to lead them astray, away from Paul’s revealed gospel, and ultimately to lead one to abandon their faith. One other obstacle, in terms of maturing ones faith is more subtle or elusive and dangerous, a major stumbling block in the church that is set in your path to a full assurance of understanding, and that is, a continually listening to or reading those messages/sermons that do not, and cannot, mature your faith, or establish you in it…always learning and listening to anybody who will teach them, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. These sermons I speak of lack proper interpretation and insight and are full of emotionalism, funny stories and illustrations, or are intellectual in nature appealing only to the natural mind, and because they lack any spiritual value or substance, or God given power, these words cannot reach our hearts, nor can they enlighten the eyes of our hearts that we might truly understand the gospel message and come into a full personal knowledge of Jesus Christ, i.e. we continue in our spiritual deafness, blindness and lifelessness.
When you exit the building of those who possess a true knowledge and union of the Lord, after listening, you are not emotionally or intellectually charged, but you leave soberly, recognizing you have heard the Lord…no one spoke like this man... thus you leave wanting to know more of Jesus, and His righteousness and holiness, that you might truly worship your God discovering in what manner you can please Him.
Not only are there many attacks against what Paul preached there are many assaults coming against the deity of Jesus Christ. For example, Jesus explains that He is the Son of God and the only way to the Father however, there are many lies and arguments being propagated to the contrary, convincing at least 48% of Christians that there are other ways to God the Father, and other means to heaven. So how is it that these Christians, who are being led astray, do not understand and believe Jesus own statements about Himself? I think it is most clear in what regard the scriptures explain who Jesus is and His importance to the Father, and importance to those who place their faith in Him as their redeemer as the only way to God and to heaven.
He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
What other religious figure or historical characters in any religion can say these things about their leader whom they claim is the way to God, NONE. Thus my argument that 48% of Christians have bought into a gross lie because they do not know their bibles, nor do they attend a local church that tells them unequivocally who Jesus is, and in what high regards the Father holds His Son and has raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in His kingdom. If these statistics are correct and there are 48% of Christians who believe contrary to Jesus own words, and the words of the Apostles you have to ask yourself, how did they get into this state of belief, if in fact they were truly born from above? What has caused these born again Christians to move away from Jesus own words into deception, believing lies. Why do not Jesus words…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me… fill their hearts and minds with faith in Him, and faith in what He taught, where without a doubt they possess a robust mature faith that is continually looking to Him who is above, resting in Him as their savior, their redeemer, believing in all that the Father has given us, in His son?
The faith that we have received at our new birth compels all of us to believe Jesus words, that is, if our faith remains incorruptible by the world, remaining uncompromising to its many challenges, and arguments; yet our faith will always be tried by these things both in this world and within the church. Our God given faith compels us to greatly respect Gods words, and especially to listen to Jesus. For example, God the Father puts His stamp on how important Jesus words are when He spoke from heaven. Peter at the transfiguration began to say things that had nothing to do with what was being revealed at the top of that mountain, however, God the Father steps in and does something that was unparalleled in history; He spoke to Peter from that cloud telling Him, and the others, that this is His Son LISTEN TO HIM. How important is it then that we listen to the Lords words and respect them in the manner they deserve. Each of us have His words recorded for us to read anytime, yet many set it aside. These words that Jesus spoke are the most important words we will ever read or hear. We are to meditate upon these most important words, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring them to our remembrance during our day, and allow our God to teach us from them; God alone has the power to penetrate our heart, impacting and maturing our faith with these words as He breathes life into them. In other words, it is the Holy Spirit alone who will bring Christ words to bear upon our hearts, enlightening the eyes of our hearts, granting understanding and insight into the Gospel in the context that Jesus taught and meant for us to understand them; thus can we properly interpret them in the context of living our own lives in an upright acceptable scriptural manner; this is a maturing Spiritual wisdom. It is the Holy Spirit who will grant to us wisdom, i.e. to make the things of Christ applicable to each of our daily lives so that we might know in what manner we are to walk before our holy God, unto pleasing Him, unto righteousness; the more we know the Lord personally the more upright we will walk.
We can always recognize or discern the unrighteousness in one’s life, either yours or in others, when there is an element of un-repented sin in us, that is, something that has come between you and the Lord, whether you chose to recognize it or not because these things impact our daily union with the Lord and our partaking of His life. This sin I speak of shows up in our demeanor, attitude, or language you chose, thus impacting your spiritual life; someone who is walking distant from the Lord is one who walks in unrighteous because, as I explained, the closer that you are in union with the Lord the more upright is your life. Also, a poor relationship with the Lord, or sin in your life, also contributes to self-righteousness. Someone who is self-righteous might believe they are walking in Gods will, quote all the right scriptures, attending all the meetings however, it is evidence that all they are doing is self-centered no matter how religious they might seem. This self-righteousness is very superficial in terms of the Gospel, i.e. there is no depth of spiritual experience which only comes via a meaningful union with the Lord. You cannot have either unrighteousness or self-righteousness in a life, in communion with Jesus Christ, and possess these unwanted characteristics, i.e. these are not the characteristics of the Lord.
How important to all of us are these words the Lord spoke and sacrificially brought to us, and gave to us. It is difficult to estimate their value in this world, they are a priceless treasure, yet somehow we allow them to sit on our night stands without reading them. At the minimum we should go to our bible believing local churches and listen to those who have read them, i.e. those who have mediated on them, allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal heavenly things in Christ to them, so that they might feed Jesus sheep in the manner that Jesus requires, which is based in and rooted to the love of the Lord…i.e….do you love me more than these, feed my sheep. We will never hear more important words that are those found in our bibles, NEVER, so what care must we exercise in our reading, or listening to them. Paul puts it another way in Romans when he says,
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen
Regrettably, we are witnessing a dramatic shift in the traditional values, doctrines, and morality that is being taught in the local churches today, and we have to ask ourselves what is behind these evil trends. Many of our local churches have become entertainment centers, rather than worship centers, some have abandoned the most basic of biblical teachings and doctrines for what are more contemporary and socially acceptable and tolerable. Many will explain that what is more traditional is out-of-date, and no longer works for the new “seekers”, i.e. their message is less judgmental and avoids the sinfulness of men, where the love and grace words of scripture are superficially tossed around to justify a more all-inclusive gospel, and a more inclusive Jesus. These local more contemporary pastors are moving away from proper interpretation to something that is unrecognizable in scriptures. We must recognize and understand that the hearing of the Holy Spirits voice is based solely in, and dependent upon, the full gospel message as revealed and given to Paul and others. The Holy Spirits voice is the voice of heaven, enlightening the eyes, and is a voice whose primary content, context, and teachings are rooted in Jesus Christ and Him crucified which has insurmountable content and insight for all who choose to hear Him. However, at the minimum the preacher’s voice, at our local churches, must be the voice of the Spirit in each of our lives; those whose ministry is given by the Lord, where there teaching and words are certainly as Paul explains, gold silver and precious stone, and not wood, hay, or stubble. Therefore, how is it that one can stand when our faith is tested or challenged?
The point is that on all these matters (of faith) under given conditions the natural outfit (things of the natural man) will break down and will have to be laid aside, but in Christ we have a new equipment at every point. For instance, our faith will not take the strain of the requirements of a deep experience of trial and adversity, but if we “live by the faith of the Son of God,” the issue will be different. T. Austin-Sparks
Full Assurance of Understanding
…attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words…and to see the stability of your faith in Christ [your steadfast reliance on Him and your unwavering confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness]….See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble], according to the tradition [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world.
What had been the Lords means and method to protect His Church against the ills of this world’s corruption, sin, and the evil one all which work against us to steal, harm, and compromise our given faith? Paul’s intent regarding our assurance of the things of Christ in which our faith resides had been to make it full, where moving it toward this fullness is not based in the knowledge and wisdom in this world, or its religious systems, but is rooted in the knowledge and wisdom that is God given in Christ, and made available to Christ Church so that it remains established and unshaken in faith, and is not deceived as Paul explains by persuasive words. The true substance that faith is nourished with, and by, is not man’s wisdom (intellectualism nor emotionalism) but is nurtured and sustained by what is given from above. Paul explains the nature and character of His ministry.
And my language and my message were not set forth in persuasive (enticing and plausible) words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit and power [proof by the Spirit and power of God, operating on me and stirring in the minds of my hearers the most holy emotions and thus persuading them], So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (human philosophy), but in the power of God.
How do we begin in moving in the right direction regarding a full assurance of understanding, an understanding that matures your faith, and will establish you in it? It, of course, begins with a new birth however, we must move on in what we understand and know, we must move from the altar within the gates of the temple to the holy place where the candle stick, which provides the light exists. This new life we are to move into, in this world, begins and ends with a robust faith, yet, the gift of faith that we have been given has to be responsive, healthy, and energetic to bring us into the desired land which is, in Christ, the fullness of God. Moving from the altar and into the holy place, and finally the holy of holies could only be known by specific groups of people. The altar was available to all however, the holy place and holy of holies only priest could go, i.e. each had to be clothed and washed in the manner in which the law gave, and it was only one who could go into the holy of holies on a specific day. However, what does the New Testament say to us all through and in Christ?
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Why the praises, because anyone who ventures out to know God in this manner will spontaneously praise Him as they encounter His majesty and glory. In addition, what does the scripture tell us about knowing God?
…no one of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.
Therefore, where is it that we all should be moving toward, toward God, in Christ? If the Father has placed us in His Son, by raising us up with Him, and made us to sit with Him in heavenly places, then how is it that these things remain distant from us, why don’t we go beyond an external knowledge, and acknowledgement of these into an internal knowing of them? We know them, things above, by faith, but how must this faith work in us that we might apprehend those thing we have been apprehended for? We must move from what is external in our faith to what is internal, a faith that has a single trajectory and that is into Jesus Christ, a faith that rests in Him, a faith that is solely dependent upon Him. Our life has its source in what is external in our religion or from what is internal, that is, what in us is in union with Jesus Christ, what is within us, that is, subject by faith in the Kingdom of God, and what is orchestrated and given by the Holy Spirit who is in us. If what we do, no matter how it might be seen as something religious, if it originates in and from our self-interest is not a good work, because it is self-motivated, self-promoting, and does not originate in God’s love which is the rule of His kingdom.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Unto Full Assurance
Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]. For by this [kind of] faith the men of old gained [divine] approval.
The amplified bible uses the word assurance, and from where does his assurance come, if faith is a gift from God then what is the source for knowing assurance, a guarantee, a confidence? Isn’t it as Paul explained, that is, a fullness, or an assurance when one can possess through much given spiritual understanding and wisdom, that is insights into the both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge mysteries of both the Father and the Son, things hidden from the natural mind, i.e. those things which have their source in things above, where Christ is seated; a given understanding that continues to expand in us, unto the knowledge of the mystery of God, that is, insight into the cross, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and its applicability in our daily lives. As we are given understanding and wisdom of these most important aspects of the Fathers Son, and what He has accomplished for us, and its impact upon every area of this life onto eternity. We can possess knowledge of these things however, unless they are working through the activity of the Holy Spirit in us they remain dormant. The things of Christ begin to come alive only as we are given understanding of them by the Spirit.
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned…
It is the Holy Spirit who is the administrator of those things in Christ, in heavenly places, i.e. all spiritual blessings. Faith is maintained and established based upon those things written in scripture that the Spirit inspired, spiritual words enlightening the eyes of our understanding, which is capture in the words of the Psalmist,
…The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The vanity and miss guided understanding and wisdom of men is that somehow they believe they play a role in obtaining such wisdom and knowledge. Men have set up many religious institution to acquire such knowledge of Christ and God, local churches teach every Sunday such knowledge, there have been many books written on every subject of the knowledge of God and Christ however, are lives changed, is faith established, are we built up in the faith, in Christ? If not then why are most children who grow up in Christian families leaving the faith or why do 48% of Christian believe there are other ways to God? Although these religious institutions and educational systems have a place, they cannot cause someone to grow in their faith, nor can they add to the spiritual character of a man or women because they do not contain the life given from above, both in Christ and in the Father, i.e. they are empty of such things; we are solely dependent upon our God to open our eyes and provide insight. A.W. Tozer says it this way,
I hope that if I am remembered at all it will be for this reason: I have spent my efforts and my energies trying to turn the direction of the people away from the external elements of religion to those that are internal and spiritual….
I believe that prior to a given knowledge and wisdom that promotes an full assurance of understanding of our faith, a faith that we initially have received by God’s grace and are responsible to maintain and invest in during our life, our spiritual direction in life is usually all over the religious map as we attempt to find our way in this Christian life. Because of our blindness and spiritual ignorance we are both vulnerable and susceptible to every kind of error, and or deception, that come our way via persuasive words and arguments of men.
Many are easily driven about by every wind of doctrine that blows through their local churches which causes much confusion and loss of focus rather than that which promotes unity and peace among Gods people. We lose focus when we base our faiths maturity, or pursuit of fruitfulness on the latest popular book, music, teachings that are in vogue, or upon some charismatic religious personalities teaching however, because Gods people do not possess the level of understanding that produces spiritual maturity, which is a prerequisite to avoid such things as mentioned many are tempted to follow ignorantly and blindly inordinate fads, phases, and movements as if they were Gods ultimate intentions for His people, according to His will in Christ. Nevertheless, once we begin to see and understand our position in Christ and His kingdom, and allow the Spirit to establish us in Christ, as Paul mentions, we can differentiate between what is of the Spirit, and what is not, and at this point we can begin to place major emphasis upon what is truly Gods will for all of us and walk in it, as we should.
Let me side track right here for a moment and explain specifically what I believe why Paul used the word mystery to characterize that this word is spiritual, i.e. given spiritual wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of Christ and of God comes. At the natural level if we want knowledge and understanding of any matter we know we have many resources for obtaining such things, e.g. books, teachers, the internet etc., i.e. what we can see by the light of day. However, regarding the things of God our source is Christ by the light of heaven. However, these heavenly things just do come to us through much human effort but they come to us through a personal relationship with the Son; Jesus speaking His heart and mind to us via the Holy Spirit. How is it possible to learn things that are much higher, in every respect, than us, or how it that you can know things of God kingdom other than they are revealed? Otherwise, even as a Christian we can remain blind to heavenly things and remain spiritually ignorant as Paul exhorts the Colossian Church not to be in this state as unbeliever are where he implied that the state they should be in is one of spiritual understanding of given things in Christ.
Why, as some suggest, that the bible is difficult to understand? I would explain that the “word” is dependent upon the word giver. Apart from our cultivating a relationship with the Son His things will remain distant and remain as a mystery. For Jesus heart and mind are revealed by Himself and in the light of their being communicated to us, either by the Spirit in our quiet times of our inner life, or by a Preacher who has the proper building materials, can matures our faith, unto a full assurance of understanding a given insight into those things previously hidden from the reasoning mind, but revealed to the spirit. A robust faith, at the seat of the heart, patiently awaits those words that are full of light, enlightening the eyes, and life, that nourishes both soul and spirit.
The goal of a full assurance- Relationship
…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
Now that our faith is full what might we be doing with it? We abide by faith in Jesus Christ who is our life, thus partaking of His life in Him, that we might know the love of God in Him, Jesus explains.
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
What a great thing John the Apostle is stating in the above scripture, a statement of the highest value, a mystery, yet simple, something that should be proclaimed on the highest mountain, and something that has unparalleled implications and worth, a matchless privilege, a momentous announcement that we may have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ and might know the love God, that is in Christ might be in us; a love that is far above what we ever could aspire to, that is, Gods love in Christ in us.
The fellowship John speaks of is more than speech, more than reading the scriptures, more than looking up into the heavens with prayers, more than adherence to doctrine or a moral code, it is a relationship; this relationship/fellowship speaks to a much deeper and more profound knowing the Lord and partaking of His glorified life, that He so graciously and lovingly decides to share with each of us. In other words a communion, or union with the Lord, a closeness, an intimacy which if truly understood and lived would be the witness that many a Christian speak of, and longs for, yet is absent in many lives, i.e. it is only hearsay and subsequently has little impact upon how they lives their daily life. Consequently, because we are speaking of what is relational faith is that spiritual element that will aid us in knowing and understanding the Lord which is a life long journey.
John wrote of a God ordained physical fellowship that he had been a witness of and also wrote of a spiritual fellowship he knew after the Lord death and resurrection; a fellowship that can bless each of us daily from flows victories over sin, self, and the evil one, unto spiritual fruit, understood and realized in given wisdom, and given understanding, that reveals the Lord to us and affords us the privilege of partaking of His divine life. Our full assurance of faith is realized only in Jesus Christ, our knowledge and fellowship with Him which is something that we should occupy ourselves with all of our life, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, wanting to know more of. Why do you think Jesus said to love God in such a manner that would take all of you? Isn’t it because He knew from personal experience such a love relationship with His Father, a love from God where ones only response could be to love God back with all we have, that is, heart, soul mind and strength. Jesus knew that if He could have others enter the same fellowship with the Father all would be good with men’s souls.
Johns testimony certainly can be found in the bible, and we can read it many times yet with little understanding and insight, something most take for granted, yet spoken little in the pulpits of local churches, therefore the Church remains but religious, doing many religious activities all in the name of the Lord yet without truly knowing Him, I never knew you. No, this is not hell, but relational, a knowing of the Lord on our part. Most Christian understanding of John’s statement is usually based in one’s own intellect and abilities to reason however, it is the Holy Spirit in us who truly is the administrator of the things of Christ in our lives. If the Holy Spirit does not break into and upon our lives with the witness of this fellowship by faith, a full assurance of faith remains just words on a page that we read without really knowing the depth of heavenly things, things from above in Christ. Not unlike a famous author whose books you have read can give you some idea of the author’s personality, likes, and dislikes, their creativity etc. However, until you actually meet them, and begin to converse with them in person, exchanging thoughts and ideas, do you eventually come to know the author. Jesus words are to be read and learned however, if they are not leading us to Him, to know Him personally, then how is it that you can truly fellowship with Him and enter into a meaningful relationship with Him?
Apart from the reality of personal relationship, fellowship, union, or communion with the Father and the Son we are powerless to do as the word says. If you do not know the importance of this fellowship unto partaking of the Lords shared life then you miss all that pertains to our ability and capability to walk upright before our God in the context of our daily lives, that is, unto pleasing Him which characterizes the given nature of our God given faith.