Saturday, December 10, 2011

Attaining the Prize

Joseph Herrin (12-10-2011)

A number of people have written to me expressing some difficulty with yesterday’s blog post. One sister in Christ summed up her struggle in an exceptionally articulate manner in the following words. Please note that she wrote this out as a dialog with the Father.

It is now 2:00 a.m. and I am still wrestling because I cannot put these things together...that I am saved by grace through faith; that you love me with an everlasting love that nothing can separate me from and then I start thinking about the teaching of Joseph tonight and how he is feeling that he may not be an overcomer because he is in parking lot number 143 instead of number 144 and because he was not going to be served a Reuben sandwich in a restaurant. I am not joking, Lord. Is that how you speak to us? Is this really what saved by grace through faith and an everlasting love is? That because this man has not completely beaten his body into submission that he may not be an overcomer? I keep thinking that this is not the way of grace and love and faith, but then I think that there is a way that seems right to man and that way leads to death. I want to understand and take ownership of this tonight, God. I believe time is oh so short and I am afraid that if I don't get this right maybe I won't be an overcomer either.

Is this truly how it is? That a man would devote his life to teaching your word, living humbly, striving to do all that your spirit leads Him to do and yet he thinks because he is not devoting every minute in the day to you that he may still not win the race? Where is the mercy in this?

You have brought me far tonight, and I thank you for that. But I don't intend to stop struggling with this until you give me clarity and understanding on this. If Joseph, who I believe is a man wholly devoted to you, is not an overcomer, then what hope is there for me?

[End Quote]

I am prompted to share a number of things as I read these thoughts. I would start by sharing that my blog writings perhaps do not give a clear picture of who I am, and the struggles I have. It is a common tendency of man to magnify our successes while diminishing our failings. I have sought to be open about my failures in life. I have written about the struggle I had for many years, beginning about the age of 13, with pornography and impure thoughts. The Father led me to victory over this giant in my life when I was in my thirties. I have written about the covetousness that I walked in for many years, incurring debt to gain the material possessions I could not afford. I have also written about the struggles I have had with eating, and being overweight.

Although the Father has given me great victory in these areas, the flesh remains ever sinful. There must always be a daily vigilance to subdue every enemy in the land. I have come a long way in each of these areas. I have not looked at pornography in more than a decade. I have lost about a hundred pounds from what I used to weigh, and I eat a much healthier diet. I have not had any debt since 1999, being content with what I am able to pay for in cash and what the Father provides for me.

Despite all this progress, I confess that I am not yet perfected in any of these areas. The word of God says:

Matthew 5:48
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

God is at work to see Christ fully formed in us. The goal of God is much higher than the church today commonly aspires to. The apostle Paul described it in the following manner.

Ephesians 4:13
Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.

At the end of Christ’s life He confessed:

John 14:30
"I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me...”

Christ is the standard. If we aim at anything less, we are aiming too low and will fall short of the will of God.

I do not think it is an evil thing to read the news, or know what is going on in the world, but the Spirit testifies when we have crossed the line. We live in a very dark age. The news sites are increasingly adding more content to titillate, and to appeal to man’s prurient interests. There is an enticement to lust in many news stories, and images are presented to the mind that are not wholesome.

Although I have long since put away pornography, my mind can still be defiled by news sites that put articles and images of the Kardashian sisters, Lindsay Lohan, or some other Hollywood tart right next to the news article on the earthquake in Christchurch, or the total lunar eclipse that I am interested in reading about. I have at times clicked on the pulp articles and read about Tiger Woods many mistresses, or some other salacious piece of gossip. When I have done so, I sense that I have in some manner defiled the temple of God, which is what we are. The Bible testifies:

I Corinthians 3:16-17
Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

There are things worthy of reading online, and things unworthy. If I would be numbered among the overcomers I must exercise the self-control necessary to not be enticed into reading things that do not profit. If I do not have the self-control, then I need to avoid the news sites that entice the flesh. As Paul told Timothy:

II Timothy 2:20-22
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts , and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

I will not cease to be a son of God by failing to exercise self-control, but I can very well be disqualified from the honor of being a firstborn son of God. There are vessels of honor, and vessels of dishonor, in God’s house. I want to be accounted as a vessel of honor. Such vessels must be pure, not dabbling in the filth and defilement of the world. We are to flee from these things, not play with them, or entertain them, even momentarily, in our minds.

It is in compromising in what many consider small things that we can disqualify ourselves. Solomon said:

Song of Solomon 2:15
Seize ye for us foxes, Little foxes — destroyers of vineyards, Even our sweet-smelling vineyards.
[Young’s Literal Translation]

We are Yahweh’s vineyard. Foxes are cute and cunning creatures. They are attractive, yet destructive. If we entertain these little foxes, rather than seizing them and casting them out, we will find our vineyard destroyed, and the fruit that should come forth for the glory of God to be lacking.

These are the sort of things with which I have struggled. God would have my mind to dwell on that which is profitable, not most of the time, but all of the time. I have a large number of very good books and writings on hand that I know would challenge and enlighten my spirit man. I sense the Spirit informing me that I would do well to read such things in the evenings, and to go to bed with spiritual thoughts on my mind, rather than to be careless in browsing the Internet. Self-discipline is needed to make right choices.

As I read the e-mail of the sister who wrote to me, and considered other people’s comments, I can sense that there is a misapprehension among the body about what is truly required to attain to the number of the firstborn. I do not say this intending any criticism, it is simply that these things are not taught among the body of Christ today. Indeed, just the opposite is taught. The church is filled with ministers of cheap grace, and depictions of a mush God who smiles benevolently upon every carnal act while saying “Don’t worry, My Son died for that sin.” Listen to the words of Paul:

Romans 6:1-2
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

It need not be some egregious, overt sin, that brings Yahweh’s disapproval. It is the little foxes that spoil the vines. Christ must ever be set before us as THE standard of righteousness. Have we attained to that standard?

Let me say a word about grace. Grace is not defined as God overlooking our sins. I have heard many describe grace as God looking at us through Christ colored glasses. Instead of seeing our sins and failures, God sees the righteousness of Christ. No! No! No! This is not grace, but it is easy for a saint to be misled, for this is the prevailing teaching among the churches today.

Grace is the power of God given to us to live a life pleasing to Him. God gives us all grace necessary for us to walk holy and righteous in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. Grace is God giving us all things necessary for life and godliness.

II Peter 1:2-3
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Yahshua our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness...

Here is a good definition of Grace. It is Yahweh’s divine power granted to us to live a godly life.

The apostle Paul says we can fall short of the grace of God.

Hebrews 12:15
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God...

How do we fall short of God’s grace? We fail to avail ourselves of that divine power which God freely offers to us. We are content with a little sin, in our lives. We are content to be partially conformed to Christ while allowing a few enemies and strongholds to remain in the land of our flesh. The antichrist spirit within man would tell us that it is okay to remain a little bit carnal. It would seek to convince us that perfection is beyond our capability.

Ask yourself truthfully, “Do you think God would give us only enough grace to partly overcome sin, Satan and the flesh? Will not God give us all things necessary for a life of godliness?”

It is in availing myself of this grace that I find that I have been falling short. I have not pressed on to perfection. I appreciate the generosity in this sister’s statement when she asks, “If Joseph, who I believe is a man wholly devoted to you, is not an overcomer, then what hope is there for me?” This is where the rub really comes in. Am I WHOLLY DEVOTED to Christ? I can say that I have been greatly devoted to Christ, but I cannot say I have been WHOLLY devoted to Him. I must bridge this gap, and press on toward attaining to the FULNESS of the stature which belongs to Christ.

We could all ask the same things as this sister when we consider the life of Paul. Paul was in far more travails, persecutions, distresses, perils, and need than other disciples of Christ. He labored far more than the other apostles, being devoted to fulfilling that work Christ had given to him. Yet this man expressed concern that he might be disqualified from the prize of being numbered among the firstborn of Christ. He had been running well for many years when he said:

Philippians 3:13-15
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Yahshua. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you...

It is evident that Paul had in mind a far different standard of Christian living than the church has adopted today. He speaks of those who are perfect (spiritually mature) having this attitude of not considering themselves to have arrived. There must be a continual pressing forward, a constant advance and growth in Christ. None can rest on our laurels. The race must be run to the end.

I am convicted that I have not been running as well as I am capable. I have not fully been availing myself of the grace God is making available to me. I must renew my focus, and flee from all things that would hinder, or disqualify me from the prize. I spoke with Randy Simmons about this yesterday, and we both spoke of the inconsistency of our motivation. Some days we see things clearly, and are focused on the prize, and on running a good race. Other days we experience a lack of clarity, and can easily drift, falling short of the will of God for our lives. This is why I invited people to pray that I might be more focused. We must all see clearly what is required of us, and where the finish line lies.

Brothers and sisters, we are saved by grace, but salvation is not something we obtain through confession and belief alone. Salvation is something that we must all work out “with fear and trembling.” It is not accurate to say that we have BEEN saved by grace. Rather it must be acknowledged that we are BEING saved as we avail ourselves of the divine power Yahweh makes available to us to live godly lives.

I Corinthians 1:18
For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Salvation is a present, ongoing process. Salvation is synonymous with deliverance. We will be saved when there is no longer anything remaining of the sinful Adamic nature left in us. When all that we are is Christ, then we can testify in truth that we have BEEN saved. I have not arrived there yet. I am still working out my salvation. It is right and proper that we all do so with fear and trembling, fearing lest any of us should fall short of entering into the Sabbath rest of God where we have ceased from our own soulish works (Hebrews 4:1, 10).

I do believe I have discerned those signs aright that I shared in yesterday’s blog. I am close to being declared an overcomer, but am not yet walking consistently as an overcomer. The prize set before me is Reuben’s portion, which is the right of the firstborn, but it can be withdrawn if I do not exercise self-control in all things.

Let us, as many as are mature, have this same mind. The grace of God is available to us. May Yahweh help us that we might not fall short of the grace freely given to us.

May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.

Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws  
 
Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com    

Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063

6 comments:

DRandall said...

Joseph,

I must say that the sister who wrote the "2AM" comment seems to already be on the path with angst and fear and does not yet even know it.

Two years ago, when I first starting reading your work, I felt that you were wise, but extreme, in your path to Christ. I now feel that you are correct in most matters but, in some ways, you are poor "marketing" person. Please let me explain.

While you are correct in setting forth the true nature of our salvation and grace and the absolute nature of God's Law (Condemnation) and God's Love (Forgiveness and Atonement)and God's Grace (Reconciliation of All Things)you do not set forth the attendant and absolute joy of killing one's sins on the Alter of Truth (Christ).

To me it is, in some respects, a matter of perception on how fear and trembling on the road of affliction work. Understanding that Christ is the model upon which we must strive to build our own Temples (bodies) is an absolute standard akin to God's Laws of Physics. With understanding that is an awsome and fearful thing, but, it is also a standard by which we can find joy.

By using this standard we can offer our sins to Chirst on the alter of His Truth. He offered up His body for all of our sins, however, we have yet to pay Him back by giving our sins to Him. So, by using His Standard, we must take every unclean spirit out of the temples of our bodies just as He drove the animals and money changes out of His.

So, by using Him as a Standard Candle (a term used in astrophysics) we know exactly where we sit in regards to our salvaiton. No more fuzzy logic to gloss over our continuing error and sin. We have a narrow path lit with a very bright light. What a joy!

Moreover, the angst that we must feel as we grope to drive sin out of our lives is also met with an understanding of how truely awesome the promiss is. You see, as we understand our failings and our stumblings He will take them away from us. You just need to ask. The dross yielded during this purification is sin, error, misunderstanding the word, love of self over others, etc..., it is only removed if you are fearful and are truly "under the gun." But at the same time, if you are grateful for what Christ has done for you, as shown by your actions, your failings are also forgiven. Yesterdays sin is remembered no more. It is the sin that you commit today and will comit tomorrow that are the problem that we must daily strive to drive our of our temples.

So, this is Good News. Many teach this good news but leave out the real work required to walk that path.

If you think I have this wrong, I look forward to your correction and instruction.

YBIC,

DR

Kim said...

"I must say that the sister who wrote the "2AM" comment seems to already be on the path with angst and fear and does not yet even know it."

Could you please clarify this comment?

Thanks.

Joseph Herrin said...

Brother Randall,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I trust you will concede that the way of the cross is a difficult package to "market." I do find your statement that I am in some ways a poor "marketing" person to be a bit unappealing. I don't really want to be known as a marketer, promoter, or someone with a sales pitch to hawk.

I believe I understand the spirit of what you are seeking to convey in this statement, and I can appreciate your concern. You have further defined your meaning as you wrote:

"you do not set forth the attendant and absolute joy of killing one's sins on the Alter of Truth (Christ)."

Well..., in truth I cannot say that I have a regular experience of the "attendant and absolute joy" of being crucified. Even of Christ we read:

Hebrews 5:7
In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death...

I know that James tells us to "count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into various trials." Also we have the words of Christ:

Matthew 5:11-12
"Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice , and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great..."

There have been seasons when I have done exactly this. Even while in jail I have known times of profound praise and joy before the Father as I have reflected on the honor of being called to suffer shame for obedience to Christ.

At the same time, I have found that there is much counsel in the Scriptures to be "sober minded."

2 Timothy 4:5
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship...

1 Peter 1:13
Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Yahshua Christ.

continued...

Joseph Herrin said...

continued...

Perhaps it is partly due to my own personality and formative experiences, but I tend toward a sober demeanor most of the time, rather than one of overt joyfulness. There is great peace in my sober condition, but this is not always manifested as a joyous attitude.

As you have graciously pointed out, I do seek to present a balanced message. I have books focused on the condemnation of the Adamic man, on God's love and forgiveness, on God's merciful plan to reconcile all things to Himself, and on the way of the cross. I do seek to present the kindness and severity of God, and I suppose that it could be rightly perceived that I spend more time teaching about suffering, and the high cost of discipleship, but I think this is justified due to the glaring absence of these things being taught among the majority of churches today.

You mentioned that Christ is the model for us today. I wonder if we could rightly describe Christ as a good "marketer." On many occasions, as crowds were gathering and His popularity increasing, He would intentionally say something to offend the majority. John chapter 6 reveals such an occasion. We read the result of Christ's words in the following:

John 6:66-68
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore. Yahshua said therefore to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of aionian life."

The message of Christ and the cross offends. Christ never tried to remove the offense. Those who perceived that divine life could be found nowhere else, would endure the offense and remain close to Yahshua. This situation remains today.

I think it is unwise for us to try to present truth in such a way that the offense will be removed from it. I do see your point (I hope it is your point) that there needs to be a presentation of the end result, the benefit of being delivered from sin and of obtaining an inheritance imperishable in the heavens. I will seek to continue to emphasize this part of Christ's message as well.

May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.

DRandall said...

Brother Joseph,

Thank you for your response. As always, your insight is sober and steadfast in your view of the Lord's Word; and I respect and honor that without question.

However, I must ask you, when you gave up your sin in pornography did you not feel some joy and rest in overcoming that sin? When you failed did you not feel some grace in asking for forgiveness and knowing it is given? I know that you strive to eliminate sin from your life; may I ask why? Does it cause you grief to eliminate sin? Does it not actually do the opposite and give you some comfort in Christ? Did Christ not say in Matt 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” NAS

My point is that while Christ did indeed offer us an afflicted path, which you are very good at pointing out, He also gave us the comforter in the Holy Spirit and that Joy and Peace can be had if one has understanding of what this life is all about: which is preparing for our eternal life.

If we value this life above our soul and spirit then, yes indeed, the path of affliction will be horrible, painful and without rest. Yet, if one sees their salvation and the process by which it is obtained as a process of cleansing by driving sin out, then one can rightly see this effort with some joy.

If you somehow need to avoid joy and happiness in the Lord during this lifetime in your zeal for the correct view of the God's Word, then I would suggest that perhaps something is missing. For you might be the only man in history to see that following the Lord is a joyless effort.

Seeing the afflicted path as one that can yield joy does not mean the "fear and trembling" are avoided. It only means that they are put in context of the wonderful gift that Christ is giving to us.

With joy,

DR

sifted believer said...

this is true for me,i have been allowing little strongholds,in pretty much the same things you describe.The Father has been patient,but His Spirit is warning me to conquer all the land.Another timely message;glad i came to your sight tonight.