Christian character does not just happen, it is developed through the trials and tribulations of life that our Sovereign God allows us to experience. Romans 8:28 is a precious verse of Scripture and we highly recommend that if you have not already done so, you commit it to memory. It says:
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (KJV, emphasis mine).
It does not say that all things are good in and of themselves, but rather that all of them work together for good. In other words, each and every thing that comes into the life of a genuine Christian—whether we deem them good or bad—taken as a whole, is ultimately for our good. And to illustrate the point, let me ask you a question. Have you ever met anyone who has gone through military basic training and expressed the sentiment that they enjoyed the experience? Almost forty years ago I entered the Air Force and underwent a basic training that, by Army and Marine standards, was a "boy scout" camp by comparison—but I can assure you that I did not enjoy one minute of it! You see my personal enjoyment did not happen to be one of the criteria for the program. Everything about the several weeks I spent there was designed to eradicate self, develop the team concept, promote discipline, and foster personal character. And in retrospect I must admit that the experience was good for me. No, I did not appreciate it when they shaved my head! At the time I wore what was called a "flat-top," with my hair very short, but they peeled me anyway. I will always remember one little guy from California who was the "life of the party"—all mouth and a head full of curls (long before "Afro’s" became popular)—prior to sitting down in the barber’s chair. When he came out of there, he looked like a wet squirrel and the mouth was instantly gone. However, none of the rest of us was feeling very talkative either because we had all been given the same dose of humility.
I cannot help but view this life for a Christian as "basic training" for the rest of eternity. While we are here on earth we are being shaped into the image of Jesus Christ and our reward will be based upon how much progress we make. As someone has pointed out, the captains of ocean-going vessels are not trained on smooth lakes. In order to be able to handle whatever the elements will eventually throw at them, they must actually experience the storms to learn from them. The same is true of life. God toughens us through trials and testing, just as a soldier is toughened by hardship. So try to remember this point the next time something unpleasant is thrust upon you or your family. Claim Romans 8:28 as a life’s verse and lean on it constantly, because God is going to use the circumstances for your ultimate good.
Once God gives one of His elect children spiritual life through regeneration and enables them to believe, their response of repentance and belief begins a very important process called sanctification. This term means to be dedicated, or set apart, for God’s service and it is not just a one-time event. It is an on-going process and will continue as long as we live in these mortal bodies. Just as drill instructors and programmed stress work together to toughen and train soldiers, God uses life itself to lead us to prayer and Bible study— which in turn promotes positive spiritual growth and progress toward the ultimate sanctification that will be realized when we receive our glorified bodies at the rapture. Only when we stand in the blessed presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will we be completely set apart for His service and forever free from sin. But until that wonderful day arrives, we will be engaged in the up’s and down’s of life struggling against (1) the world, (2) the flesh, and (3) the devil. 1 John 2:15-17 speaks to this point:
"Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification], and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]. And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life, abides (remains) forever" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary).
<![if !supportLists]>(1) <![endif]>What is meant by "world"?
<![if !supportLists]>(2) <![endif]>What is meant by "flesh"?
<![if !supportLists]>(3) <![endif]>What is meant by "devil"?
The term "world," as used in this context, refers to the evil attitudes and actions behind this world system. It is the typical mind-set of unregenerate and spiritually blind men. It entails a philosophy that "you only go around once, so get all the gusto you can"—(to quote a popular beer commercial of a few years back). It operates on the principle of "do unto others before they do unto you!" "Climb as high as you can and have as much fun as you can, because that is just the way it is and anyone who doesn’t is a sucker!" It fully reflects the fallen and depraved nature of the masses, which the Bible refers to as:
The "flesh"—the attitudes and actions that take place outside of the spiritual side of a Christian’s regenerated nature. Those sinful things we do and think that are the result of "doing what comes naturally." It is an oft-repeated illustration, but a good one that tells of an American Indian who was saved and several months later had a conversation with the preacher. When he was asked how he was doing spiritually, the man replied, "Inside me are two dogs fighting—one white and one black." The preacher then asked him, "Which one is winning?" The answer was, "The one I feed the most!" When we feed our flesh with impure and improper thoughts, sights, and sounds, we need not think that we are spiritual and making progress toward sanctification. Only when we ask for God’s help in fighting against our basic nature, will we be able to overcome it and it is not easy.
The devil—is that fallen angel the Bible calls Satan, who at one point was the greatest and most powerful angel God ever created. His original name was "Lucifer"—or the "light bearer"—and was apparently second only to God in his power and position in heaven. But for reasons the Bible does not explain, God allowed him to rebel through pride. We find this alluded to in Isaiah 14:12-17, where Lucifer boldly states that he "will be like the most High" (verse 14). The rebellious exercise of his own will, contrary to the will of God, brought the reality of sin into existence for the first time. Sin is anything failing to meet the standards of God and Satan is the "author" of it. His rebellious attitude is being manifested in the world today through the lives of sinful men—the product of his enticement to get Eve to break God’s one and only prohibition in the Garden of Eden. In breaking God’s command to refrain from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve sinned and their spiritual nature died immediately. Their physical nature began the process of dying and all of their children from that day until this have been born spiritually dead and doomed to die physically. The consequences of sin are still very much with us and even as Christians we must cope with them day by day.
Yes, the world, the flesh, and the devil are the landmines we must avoid as we walk through our lives and one of the defensive measures God has provided us is called "separation." Soldiers are not likely to step on landmines when they make a conscious effort to stay away from them. When we mature to a point where we understand our weaknesses, we are much less likely to give in to them and get hurt—by avoiding such behavior and the people involved in it. Playing "Russian Roulette" with sin is very dumb to start with and a sure way to become a casualty. If you were in the military, would you be likely to "buddy" with a guy who insisted upon stomping around in minefields? Friend or no friend, I suspect you would avoid him like the plague because his behavior will get you both killed. The same thing should be true of a believer where their friends and acquaintances are concerned. It is the closeness of the relationship that is in question—not the friendship itself. God expects us to be friendly, but He also expects us to remain insulated from being entangled in the sinful behavior of others. To maintain proper relationships with those around us often requires a lot of tact and a consistent testimony. They need to understand that there are certain things we just will not do, but yet will not make a big deal out of it at their expense. The Lord Jesus Christ often mingled with unbelievers and, as far as we know, the only strong rebuke He ever gave was aimed at Pharisees—the religious hypocrites of that day. Keep lost (unsaved, unregenerate) friends "at arm’s length" and do not get too close, because if you participate in their sinful activities, you are as guilty as they are. You should also maintain the exact same attitude toward sinful behavior by Christian friends as well. Their sin is still sin and a lax attitude toward it is contagious.
And just as the military always attempts to instill and maintain a sense of esprit de corps among the troops, Christians must lean heavily upon Romans 8:28 and realize that all of the struggles of life are designed for our ultimate good. Yes, they are "designed"! Our sovereign God utilizes the everyday experiences of life to discipline and mold us into soldiers capable of waging and surviving spiritual warfare. And it is truly tragic that so many professing Christians today have apparently never learned this basic concept. God has blessings to bestow that are beyond our ability to comprehend, but many of us miss out on them because we are so preoccupied with self that we will not take the time to seek the big picture of His will for us. The one main tenet continually emphasized in the New Testament is that we must die to self for the sake of others. Soldiers in combat who make the mistake of "looking out for #1," usually do not survive very long and get others killed in the process. Teamwork and a unified approach to winning the battle is essential for success, because it involves "covering the other guy’s back" and doing whatever it takes to insure the victory. And very often this calls for personal sacrifice and the necessity to lay it all on the line for the benefit of the whole. An unwillingness to do this on the part of just one individual seriously weakens the effectiveness of the unit, because a chain is truly only as strong as its weakest link. One man sleeping on guard duty is potentially fatal for the rest of the men and is therefore a crime punishable by death. This is a commons sense regulation and understandable by all, but selfishness will always tempt the unwise and uncaring individual to take the risk. Hopefully, the severe penalty will always dissuade those who would even entertain the thought. In a similar manner, Christians must remain constantly alert to the "wiles of the devil" and sound the alarm if they discern his presence. Others may not appreciate being awakened from a sound sleep, but an ounce of prevention is better than a ton of cure.
Does your Christian life exhibit personal character and spiritual discipline? Are you a good soldier of Jesus Christ? If you cannot honestly say that you possess these essential traits, we exhort you to admit these failures to the Lord and seek His help in developing them. It will involve experiencing unpleasant things and the pain of denying self, but the end result will be analogous to a raw recruit becoming a real soldier—one respected enough to trust with your life when the going gets really tough. Can the rest of us count on you?
If you have been born again and received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
If you have never placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, but have come to sense His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to receive His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you truly believe in Him as Lord and Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.
We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World Order—Kingdom of Antichrist—in their daily news.
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Cutting Edge Ministries, C/O Pastor Ron Riffe
P.O. Box 26
Gordo, AL 35466
You can also E-Mail Pastor Ronald Riffe regarding questions or comments about this article.
God bless you.