Hebrews 11 shows that it’s possible to live a life of faith by reminding us of people who’ve done just that. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Rahab, and scores of people there’s no time to name all walked by faith. They compass us about as a great “cloud of witnesses” inspiring us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” with our eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2).
I didn’t realize until attending church last Shabbat how well my post that week fit in with the season we find ourselves in now. We’re in the month leading up to God’s fall holy days. Traditionally, as the Rabbi in my Mesisanic group pointed out, this is a season of reflection, self-examination, and teshuva (repentance). We need a determination to pursue godliness if we’re to move forward in our walk with God. Along with that goes a perseverance to use our time on this earth wisely, as the minister in my afternoon church spoke on.
The gift of salvation is freely offered to those who take it. Accepting the gift bring us into a covenant relationship with God. One of the things we’re expected to do as “heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him” (Jam. 2:5) is grow toward spiritual maturity.
Leaving Sin Behind
We’re not meant to stagnate nor to continue in sin after receiving God’s grace. After opening his letter to the Romans with a discussion on the wickedness of man, Paul shifts his focus from those who’ve rejected God to those readers who think they’re right with God but aren’t.
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. (Rom. 2:1-2)
You can’t do such things as are discussed in Romans 1:18-32 and expect to escape God’s judgement.
And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Rom. 2:3-4)
Even if you’re a Christian sinning puts you under divine judgement. God is patient and kind, offering time and opportunity to repent, but if you don’t leave wickedness behind you’re in trouble. The church is being judged now (1 Pet. 4:17).
If you’ve become part of Christ’s body and accepted the free gift of salvation, continuing to pursue godliness is vital. Christians are not granted license to sin when they’re covered by the blood of Messiah. This doesn’t mean we never sin, but when we do sin we repent and turn back to following Jesus. We mustn’t live lives steeped in persistent sin.
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil (Rom. 2:5-9)
While we can’t earn salvation through our works, God watches our lives after we’ve entered covenant with Him to determine whether or not He’ll give us eternal life. He’s not going to have people in His family who reject His law, refuse to obey Him as their Lord, and practice evil. He’s looking for people who patiently continue to seek union with Him, repenting when they sin and consistently choosing to follow Jesus.
Growing To Perfection
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Jesus knows we’re not going to reach a completed state of perfection in our human lives. But the people who are growing spiritually and striving toward perfection are called “perfect” as long as they are on the path toward being like God.
Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1)
We’re meant to leave behind evil as we grow toward being like God. The holy day seasons provide a yearly reminder to check ourselves and ask, “How am I doing? Is God pleased with the spiritual growth I’ve made in the past year?”
Even if we’ve grown very little, not at all, or have slipped away from God, it isn’t too late. We’re not dead yet and Jesus hasn’t returned — the goodness of God is still offering us the opportunity to repent. But we should stop wasting time.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. (Rom. 13:12-13)
It’s time to shed any traces of Laodicean attitude and zealously repent, opening ourselves to a transformation relationship with Jesus Christ (Rev. 3:15-20). Persevering in spiritual growth involves abiding in Jesus, and our relationship with Him is what enables us to bear godly fruit (John 15:4-8).
What will your spiritual legacy be? Will you join the cloud of witnesses proving that God can work with people to perfect their faith? or will you fall by the wayside because you gave up on, or never even tried, following God? If we’re willing to focus on “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” and “run with endurance the race that is set before us,” He will bring us to perfection. That’s a promise, if only we’ll reach out and take hold of it.