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 The Forgotten Kingdom excerpt

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kypheonix
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PostSubject: The Forgotten Kingdom excerpt   Sat Aug 20, 2011 10:21 am

This book grew out of a very painful struggle with Christianity gone bad, and one thing that has helped me separate God's truth from human error has been to work it out on paper - seeing the printed words on the page, and then examining those thoughts against what the Bible says is true. The chapter below is one piece in an examination of where our purpose, identity, hope, and ultimately joy come from. Thank you for your time!



Chapter Two – Enlisting
It seems as though we have either forgotten or never truly understood what occurred when we accepted Christ, and I believe much of our confusion and disillusionment with the Christian walk can be traced back to a fundamentally wrong picture of who a believer is. This misconception is graphically illustrated in large text on church roadside lawns on a regular basis. I have seen numerous billboards encouraging the reader to accept God’s “free” gift of salvation, and while I understand the motive behind this statement and others like it, there is nothing free about our relationship with Jesus Christ and the eternal life He offers.
What they are trying to communicate is that we cannot in any way earn this precious gift that is salvation, but to suggest that it comes at no cost to us sets up old and new Christians alike for serious problems. However, before I explain further what I mean, please allow me to take a small detour to visit the fact that we cannot work our way into God’s kingdom because that is an incredibly glorious truth that deserves repeating.
All of us are in desperate need of a life transplant – the one that we are born with is terminal, and the question is not if it will fail, but when. Jesus’ sacrifice enabled God to offer us a new life, one that is far superior to what we are surviving with now, and it requires nothing for us to be eligible. In this world, in order to receive an organ transplant you must meet a list of preconditions – for example, they do not give a new liver to a practicing alcoholic. Fall short of the list’s requirements, and you cannot be helped.
The replacement of our failing life with Jesus’ eternal one could not be more different. His offer is extended to us despite the fact that we are incredibly undeserving of it and are also completely incapable of ever living in a way that would merit it. In an attempt to illustrate this awesome truth of a perfect God’s love answering the greatest need of a hopelessly imperfect world, the term free is often used to grab our attention. However, while His gift is given with no ability for us to earn it, it is most definitely not free.
First and foremost, salvation cost our Lord Jesus His life. The sin and complete rottenness that we inherit upon birth carries with it the penalty of death. This debt will be required of all people, but because of what Jesus did we now have a choice: pay it ourselves through eternal separation from God in hell, or accept Christ’s offer to take the punishment for us, on our behalf. His death would then take the place of our own, and in God’s eyes our debt will be paid and justice satisfied.
Where we often get into trouble is our understanding of what we must do in order to accept God’s divine solution. Saying yes to Christ’s offer requires us to die voluntarily just as He did, and will cost us everything we hold dear: our life, our priorities, choosing to do whatever we want, everything - exactly what was required of Him while on this earth. Jesus said all who attempt to save their own life will lose it. The only way to enter God’s kingdom is to surrender our life; in other words, for this to work Jesus must be our Lord first and Savior second, which means He owns every part, having complete say over every second of the life He gives to us.
I think we understand the idea of exchanging our failing life for Christ’s eternal one easily enough; we can all remember a time or times of such struggle and despair that we would gladly trade this existence for something better. The harder part is realizing we are changing ownership the moment we lay down our life so that we may accept His. Once we belonged to, and were completely lost within, our own sin. Now we belong to God, are a member of His family, and have an inheritance in His kingdom.
Essentially, we have enlisted, and with that enlisting there comes a set of expectations and accountabilities. Anyone who has served in the armed forces or has a loved one within the ranks knows from experience that once a person’s signature is on the dotted line, the government owns you and your future is entirely at their discretion. For us as Christians, this is the more difficult concept to grasp - that we are God’s possession for all eternity and as a part of His family our future direction is in His hands, not ours.
This means that God takes us from salvation, being freed from sin’s bondage by Christ’s death and resurrection; and moves us into sanctification, the process of being gradually transformed into the likeness of Christ through a bittersweet combination of loving teaching and painful struggle. Many Christians cross the sanctification threshold without realizing what is coming, due to either honest or willful ignorance.
I remember shortly after being saved as a young boy grumbling to myself about how much harder life was after becoming a Christian – somehow it felt like the world was against me and what used to be easy was now an absolute pain, and I was pretty upset over it. This makes more sense looking back because the world is against me since I am now wearing the uniform of God’s army, and struggling with overcoming sin is a part of sanctification, one that does not exist for the unbeliever. But at the time, I thought salvation somehow put me on the fast track to heaven and what I was experiencing was definitely not what I had signed up for!
One thing I believe very strongly is that God accepts our statement of faith even if we do not completely understand what is involved at the beginning. Isn’t that incredibly cool? I think this is best illustrated through the beginning stages of a marriage or new workplace, where there is a time of easily enjoyable freshness before long-term reality begins to set in. Similarly, God will not leave us within that window of not knowing for very long, and He will in the proper time begin giving us opportunities to grow out of our ignorance. Because of this, we will be held accountable to Him for how we proceed as believers.
So, my last thought on salvation not being free is the mistaken premise that it completely releases us from all judgment. If anything, being a part of God’s family holds us to a higher standard than the rest of the world, and there will be a final examination of what we have done with the life of Christ given to us. A soldier in any man’s army is more accountable to that man than are all the un-enlisted outside. How God’s judgment of the believers will be measured out is somewhat debatable, but Jesus’ examples through his parables at the very least indicate that God takes our conduct after salvation just as seriously as the need for salvation itself.
Are we living as earnestly, devotedly as we were in the moment that the realization of our need for God and His mercy stopped us in our tracks and compelled us to follow Christ? The God that saved us then and is still saving us today has certainly not relaxed in His purpose nor His ambition to bring us closer to the likeness of Christ. At the same time that we are going about our day-to-day routines and responsibilities, He is simultaneously working within and around us to grow us deeper into Himself, equip us against the attacks of the enemy, and reach a lost world for Christ.
All we have to do is look to recognize that the fields around us are indeed ripe for the harvest. Our Lord requires us to serve Him by joining ranks with fellow believers simply where we are, and become the best soldiers possible by following His example. Remember Paul’s analogy: you are called to run this spiritual race in such a way that you earn the prize, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you fall, get up; if you fall again, get up yet again, knowing that He who began a good work in you will complete it – He gave us His word, so believe Him.
Don’t worry about how He will accomplish it, or how He will let you know what to do – do you honestly think the Creator of the universe that chose you, saved you, and is sanctifying you is in any way limited in communicating His will for you? Ask, seek, and knock. You will look back and realize in gratitude that He was unwaveringly leading and directing you even in the times you felt most lost and confused. God is so incredibly God that if you believe you cannot be separated from Him then it is equally impossible to stay unchanged. You have enlisted. Serve Him with everything you have, holding nothing back, and leave all else to Him. He alone is God, and He does not disappoint.



Last edited by kypheonix on Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:50 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Forgotten Kingdom excerpt   Sat Aug 20, 2011 2:27 pm

I love your sermon. And, I know well what you say is true. I have been tested, tried, and refined more times than I like to remember, as Psalm 66:10 says: For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. Although, I deeply wish to be molded and perfected by our Lord, I'm sometimes nervous to ask him for this because I know how hard that can be sometimes. Yet, I still pray, "All of you Lord, and none of me." Because, I know that in the end, he knows exactly what I need and things will work out better in the long run.

There are also times I feel as though nothing is really happening, so it helped me when you said: "Don’t worry about how He will accomplish it, or how He will let you know what to do – do you honestly think the Creator of the universe that chose you, saved you, and is sanctifying you is in any way limited in communicating His will for you?"

Finally, I caught a typo I thought you might like to know about. You forgot to add the word be to this sentence in the fourth paragraph from the bottom.

If anything, being a part of God’s family holds us to a higher standard than the rest of the world, and there will (be) a final examination of what we have done with the life of Christ given to us.

God Bless you.
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kypheonix
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PostSubject: Reply to posting answer   Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:58 pm

Thank you for your encouraging words - your prompt and kind replies to all submitted posts is very uplifting and admirable. I appreciate the typo feedback as well, and have corrected it in the post as well as the original. Your effort and time spent is very helpful - thank you again.

God Bless,

Aaron
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