BUCKLE UP it’s going to be a rough ride as you press toward the mark …
There’s a prize to be won & a crown to be gained, but no man is crowned, unless he strives lawfully (Phil. 3:14, 2 Tim. 2:5, 1 Tim. 1:8).
Attaining the Prize of the High Calling is not for the faint of heart.
If you’re more familiar with the ways of the world & the words of men than the words & will of God, you may find yourself distracted, deceived & disqualified.
The entry fee (salvation) has already been paid by another & it can’t be revoked (It’s a gift that rests solely upon the finished work of Christ) (Eph. 1:13-14, 2:8-9, Col. 1:13-14, 22, 3:3-4). While eternal life is assured, the question of the added reward, the prize of a crown for faithful service is not. There is an inheritance for all believers that cannot be lost (Eph. 1:11-14, Col. 1:12-13, 22). There is also a reward that’s attached to that inheritance which is associated with the high calling of God which is in Christ Jesus for individual faithfulness & ‘perfecting’ (Phil. 3:12-14, Col. 1:28, 3:23-24, 4:12).
THE ARENA OF THE CONTEST
Many Christians have been deceived into thinking that the earth, not heaven is where the sphere of blessing is today. Our citizenship (seat of government) is not on the earth but in heaven, (Col. 1:13, Phil. 3:20, Col. 1:18, 2:19, Eph. 1:22-23). Sadly those who don’t act in accordance with their heavenly citizenship, minding earthly things, will be beguiled of their reward. They’re unaware that their warfare is not in the earthly realm (against flesh & blood) either, but against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age—against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the arena of heavenly places (Eph. 6:12, 2 Cor. 10:3). The irony is that our spiritual foe’s greatest scheme is to redirect focus toward the arena of the terrestrial (earthly things—flesh & blood—things of the world). It’s through these things that don’t last that disqualify the believer from receiving his reward (Col. 2:16-23, 2 Cor. 4:18, 1 John 2:15-17). Sadly, it was the Apostle Paul’s fellow worker, Demas that forsook him, because he “loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10, Phil. 1:24, Col. 4:14).
This winning strategy of the enemy becomes more easily understood when one grasps the meaning of Satan’s current titles: (1) ‘The Prince (ruler) of this World’: Christ (while on earth) called him this (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11) & yet when tested, rejected & rebuked Satan & his offer of the “kingdoms of this world” (Matt. 4:8-10); (2) Another title he presently holds is ‘The Prince of the Power of Air’ (Eph. 2:2): the ruling spirit over “the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:3); and (3) ‘The god of this Present (evil) Age’ (2 Cor. 4:4). He’s the master mind controller over the world systems that are dominated by earthly passions through the corrupt, depraved nature of the flesh—enmity against God (Gal. 5:19-21, Rom. 8:7-8, James 4:4).
KNOW YOUR OPPONENT & HIS TACTICS
Satan is not only crafty & calculating; he most certainly doesn’t play by the rules. To learn more: Gen. 3:1, John 8:44, 2 Cor. 2:11, 11:3, 14, Eph. 6:11, 1 Tim. 3:7, 6:9, 2 Tim. 2:26, 1 Peter 5:8.
It’s in the area of the believer’s new nature, with its preordained walk & works (Eph. 2:10), that need to be ever guarded, as the old (corrupt) nature is still in residence and if not ‘put off’, will allow access & opportunity for Satan to operate & deceive. The enemy’s strategy is to redirect thinking from ‘things above’ (Col. 3:1-3, 2:7-8) & away from the fullness of Christ toward other ways & means that have no place in this present dispensation, such as: false humility & works, unscriptural mediators & false teachers, food & drink, rules & ordinances… (Col. 2:16-23, 3:5-10, Eph. 4:17-27, 2 Cor. 10:3-6).
Attitude is everything. The winning attitude for the race set before us would appear to worldly eyes as though the last man wins the prize, not the first. The apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “walk worthy” with “all humility of mind” (Eph. 4:1-2). He instructed the Philippians with this same mindset in Phil. 2:3-4, referring to the ultimate example being Christ Jesus, “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (vs. 5-8). Only in the realm of grace can the believer have this mindset, as this thinking is so contrary to worldly ways, where the nature of the race is to win at all costs—jostling for position, elbowing out the other competitors to get the upper hand and win. Fellow believers should ‘strive together’ for the faith, not with one another as we are members of the Church of the One Body (Phil. 1:27, 2:3 Eph. 4:3-6, 15-16).
Since game day is already here (Eph. 5:16, Gal. 1:4) there’s no time to waste. The Christian must be ‘suited up’ in the gear God’s provided in Christ, the Armor of God, to protect against the wiles of his opponent & keep him standing on his feet (Eph. 6:10-18, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). He is “complete in Him” & so lacks nothing (Col. 2:10).
STUDY THE TRAINING MANUAL
In order to be thoroughly equipped for every good work and to stay ‘in the game’, one needs to diligently study the Training Manual (The Holy Scriptures) & rightly divide it so there’s no err in doctrine and practice (as some who fell out of contention for the prize) (2 Tim. 3:16, 2:15-19). The one who is an ‘approved vessel’, that’s useful for the Master, pursues righteousness, faith, love, & peace with like-minded believers. They shun profane & idle talk, depart from iniquity, flee youthful lusts, avoid foolish & ignorant disputes (knowing that they generate strife). They don’t quarrel, but are gentle to all & able to teach patiently, with humility, correcting those who are in opposition (as they once walked in their shoes) (Col. 1:21, Eph. 2:1-3, 2 Tim. 2: 14-26).
Exercise yourself toward godliness so you can be strong in the grace that’s in Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 4:8, 2 Tim. 2:1).
To work out (Eph. 2:10) what God has already worked in (Phil. 2:12-13) one needs to be willing to be trained (taught) by grace. The same grace that was active when one is saved & became a ’new creation’ (Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10) doesn’t depart from the believer, but continues to teach, as well as correct. The old nature must be considered ‘evicted from the game’, so grace can fully train the believer to be zealous for good works as they “live soberly in this present world—denying ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Tit. 2:11).
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE: LIVE LOOKING
Grace also teaches us that we should live looking (Titus 2:11-13). Looking isn’t so much a reference to ‘sight’ as it is to an expectation. “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God & Savior Jesus Christ” is a powerful incentive to walk worthy and so be in contention for the prize (Eph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:1-3, 10, Phil. 3:14-16, Tit. 2:13-14). So lay aside every weight (the things that come between you & the goal i.e.: James 3:15, 1 Cor. 15:40, Phil. 3:19) & run with endurance the race set before you (Heb. 12:1, Phil. 3:13). The paradox of faith can be seen in the faithful listed in Heb. 11 who died without receiving the fulfillment of the promises that were made to them, but as Moses did, looked to the reward, enduring as seeing Him who is invisible (Heb. 11:24-27).
It’s the good soldier that endures hardness (suffers evil) and the hardworking farmer that gets first dibs on the fruits of his labor (2 Tim. 2:3, 6). As we allow grace to teach & correct us we can keep our eyes on the heavenly goal line, looking for the appearing of our great God and Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, living godly in the present age, so we as the apostle Paul can say, “…I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
SO PRESS ON!