As I stated in the first part of this post, there is a very real struggle in this world between the fear and guilt associated with condemnation and the sometimes uncomfortable but always beneficial effects of conviction and admonition.
I hope that the previous post helped to quell much of the misunderstanding regarding condemnation. If we are in fact, Christ professing, salvation possessing believers striving every day to obey the full counsel of God, then you have no reason to live under condemnation. You have no reason to allow guilt to weigh you down. You can take that thought captive(2 Corinthians 10:5) and cast it in to the sea of forgetfulness where God casts all your sins(Micah 7:19).
You can live with the peace that your right standing with God does not come from any measure of success you experience in obeying the law of God. Rather, your salvation is based wholly on the righteousness of Christ's perfect life and sacrifice for sin. The fact that you desire to fight sin and pursue righteousness is evidence of your salvation. If there is any confusion about that please go back and read the first part of this two-part discussion. It is fleshed out further there.
Conviction and Admonition
Now for the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the admonition of fellow Christians and Christian leaders. These are the two means by which we are kept on the difficult path to the narrow gate that leads to righteousness and eternal life(Matthew 7:13-14).
I am concerned because I have seen so many professing "Christians" and supposed "Christian" leaders that are compromising the word of God and watering down the gospel because they don't want to make people uncomfortable. They don't want to offend anyone. Somehow, they have come to the conclusion that they/we are the ones who are responsible for changing hearts and helping lost souls to experience the love of Christ. Consequently, many feel that we must make the message of the gospel more palatable, being only encouraging and positive and never daring to speak of our sinfulness or mention hell.
Please don't misunderstand me. God absolutely allows us to be a part of the process that calls people to Christ and teaches them what it means to live a God honoring, holy life. And, we are responsible to obey as a part of that process. However, that does not give us permission to preach anything less than Jesus Christ and Him crucified nor does it allow us to negotiate which truths must be taught or which truths must be applied to our lives as believers.
Conviction is that internal check that comes when we are exhibiting, internally or externally, traits that are contrary to scripture. Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit as the word is read, heard, and applied. The word can certainly be read by an individual apart from any other company but the Holy Spirit. It can also be heard in the same manner by reading aloud. I have heard it said that "if you want to hear God speak to you in an audible voice, read the bible out loud". It is tongue in cheek, but it is no less true. All that we need to know about who God is, what He has done, and what He expects can be found in His word. Many times the Holy Spirit brings conviction by another route.
Admonition is generally considered to be coming from other people. While certainly God can and does admonish via the reading of His word, He instructs his followers and especially those He places in positions of spiritual authority to admonish others with the word. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy in this way. He says, "All scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
Reproof and correction fall under the category of admonition. Make no mistake, every preacher of God's word, every man in a position of elder or pastor are responsible to preach and uphold the full counsel of God, every jot and tittle. They must preach what scripture says, not what they want it to say. Scripture does not contain only encouraging words and positive messages of overcoming sin and adversity. It does not suggest that love conquers all, no matter what you do or how you live.
Scripture is loaded with instruction to believe, repent, and obey God's commands as evidence of our love for him. It is full of statements indicating that if we are to live for Christ, we will be expected to die daily to ourselves. And Hell which is hardly spoken of except in jest or as a figure of speech in this day, was taught about more by Jesus than any other biblical figure. In fact, He spoke more of Hell than He did of Heaven.
These are not popular truths. This is probably not going to be a popular blog post. It may be read by few or many but there will likely be those who do not like what I am saying. I want to challenge you that this applies to all of us to some degree. However, even if you are on the right track and most of this does not heavily apply to you, you know of people to whom it does. Either they are inappropriately applying God's word themselves or they are sitting under teaching that is doing it. Either way, we have a responsibility to admonish those that are heading in the wrong direction in either of those scenarios.
We live in a world where much of "Christianity" is laden with liberal messages suggesting that God not only loves us the way we are, but made us the way we are, therefore we should not have to change who we are.
Many pulpits are incredibly unbalanced, teaching supposed benefit upon benefit of being a believer, while rarely, if ever, mentioning our condemned state as sinners in need of a Savior. Even those whom are saved need to be reminded of their need for the Savior because we still have the tendency to begin relying on our own strength.
Many pastors are making the grave mistake of assuming that everyone within earshot is a Christian and consequently the cross is more often a sidebar rather than the center through which everything else flows. Many of them, unfortunately have nationally or worldwide, televised programming of these horrible, man-centered messages. This is creating a culture that values the gift over the giver.
Even worse than this is that these teachings are deceiving an increasingly secularized world into believing that they are not in danger of eternal damnation in a tortuous Hell. Much of the world does not even realize that they are in need of a Savior. Many of those that do realize they need a Savior think that profession of
faith = possession of faith. They think that because they prayed a prayer, walked and aisle, or signed a card, perhaps all three, somehow indicates that they are now safe from hell fire. Many then either go on living life as usual, or pick and choose which parts of the bible to believe. What makes matters worse is that there are many liberal pastors and "professing Christians" who will lead them to believe that this perfectly ok. Either because they don't know any better or because they have truly self-deceived themselves regarding what constitutes genuine Christianity.
This is what makes biblically based conviction and admonition so desperately important. This is why we must understand the difference between guilt, based in condemnation, and discomfort based in healthy, blood bought, Holy Spirit driven conviction. We as believers, whether shepherd or sheep, have got to be ok with the convenient and the inconvenient aspects of God's word. In the same way that a child is uncomfortable with correction and behavioral adjustment via unpleasant discipline sometimes, we must be ok with the same.
Scripture says that the Lord chastens, corrects, and rebukes those whom he loves(Proverbs 3:12) that they would be zealous and repent(Revelation 3:19) and that they would share in his holiness(Hebrews 12:6-11).
What Christ Died For
This is what the cross was all about. It was not about us feeling good all the time or getting what we want all the time. The cross was about a people set apart for a purpose. A chosen people from every tribe, tongue and nation that, once saved, would spend the rest of their lives striving for perfect holiness. They would live, dying to themselves, and striving for that which brings God most glory and shows genuine love for His son.
Jesus did not say, "if you love me, you will love others as I did, but you don't have to do anything that feels contrary to your nature." Jesus said, "those who love me, keep my commandments...whoever does not love me, does not keep my words"(John 14:21-24) Before Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, he left us instructions to make disciples, baptize new converts, and teach them to observe ALL that He commanded(Matthew 28:18-20). Not some, not what is convenient, not what does not require change and discomfort. Keep all of God's word.
I know I have gotten serious and preachy. I know this is lengthy and I am sorry. I am sure some may have already stopped reading or are thoroughly displeased with the direction of what I have said. We must understand the eternal importance of this topic. This IS life or death, forever.
Those who embrace Spirit wrought correction via scripture and the admonition of other bible believing brothers and sisters in Christ will persevere to the end. It will not all be unpleasant, but experiencing the joy of your salvation and assurance of eternal life in the here and now comes from learning to walk in obedience. The pleasantries are fruit that are sometimes birthed out of non-pleasantries.
However, those who refuse to apply the whole counsel of God will find otherwise. Those who have refused to submit to the full authority of God's word and have only applied what feels good or natural or that seems to line up with our sin-stained human ideal of love will likely be sadly surprised. They will likely find that they have been walking the easy path to the wide gate and that when they get there, it is locked. They may find that on the other side is Jesus saying "depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you"(Matthew 7:13-23)
Please consider what is being said here. Please consider all of the commands and warnings, convictions and admonitions in scripture. They are there to help us all stay on the right path. They are there to help us make our calling and election sure. For if we obey scripture and pursue righteousness and Christ-likeness we will never fall(2 Peter 1:10). "Do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights"(Proverbs 3:11-12).
God is patiently waiting to return, that all who would repent, believe, and pursue holiness, while awaiting his return would do so. For He does not wish that any would perish, but that all would come to repentance. So do not listen to those who would ignore or twist scripture to their own destruction. Rather grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ(2 Peter 3:8-18).
To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.
With all sincere love concern,