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CHRISTIAN LIVING
 by Dietmar Scherf

 

  > The Rewards Issue

  > Taking Up The Cross Daily

 


"During every moment of our life, we have the opportunity to create beautiful memories."

(Dietmar Scherf)


 

While at least a number of Christians understand and teach the principle of salvation by Grace as explained in our article on Salvation, many fall short when it comes to the actual application of the Christian life by Grace. The group of true Grace Christians becomes a real remnant. Although the Word of God is very clear about the practice of the Christian life, the misconceptions and misinterpretations of various Scripture passages are numerous. Based on our understanding and practice of biblical truth, we won't discuss false teachings as each thought and comment is either rooted in Grace or it is derived from somewhere else which wouldn't be of interest to us.

Many groups impose all kinds of rules, regulations and limitations on their followers as they promote a performance-oriented type of supposed Christianity. But true Christianity is not at all performance oriented. Any true work of God is done by Christ in and through an individual. There's nothing a human being can do apart from the workings of Christ in and through them that would qualify such an effort to be a true work of God. While it is good to study the Scriptures, to pray and spend time with God and to gather with other believers, no divine good can be brought about by a person trying to keep e.g. the ten commandments and all kinds of other imposed religious regulations and exercises. Of course God does everything decently and in order, but that doesn't mean that we run around imposing weird rules and regulations on our fellow men. The key for the Christian life is to get to know Jesus Christ on a personal intimate level. We want to live a Spirit-filled life. And a Spirit-filled life doesn't come about by us trying to outwardly conform to a certain standard of behavior, etc. As we study the Word of God and let the Spirit teach us, Christ will work in and through us reflecting God's glory to others. With our free will we let Him work in us as we're motivated by the Holy Spirit to say "Yes!" to Christ's work in and through us moment by moment.

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Philippians 2:13

We make ourselves available to learn of Him, and even the motivation regarding availability comes directly from God. Reading the Word of God will familiarize us with the Eternal value system and with the thoughts of God. It's recommended to study the Bible in categories in order to learn God's precise thoughts about every subject and situation that is revealed in the Scriptures. Many things will become normal behavior for a Spirit-filled Christian, e.g. local church attendance won't be a duty, but instead it will be a pleasure to meet and fellowship with other like-minded Christians. Prayer won't be a rigid ritual, but instead it will be a time of renewal, a quality time spent with God and it will be a time of great experience of the presence of God. Telling others about Christ won't be an ordeal and a supposed-to-be Christian duty, but instead it will be an adventure to share the love of Christ with others as God opens the doors and provides the opportunities to do so. That's good news as the Christian life based on Grace is extremely exciting. There's no longer a need to be occupied trying to conform to a certain standard and trying to keep religious laws and perform so-called "Christian" duties, etc., but instead now the very life that resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead empowers the individual. This new life is eternal and it is resident in the born-again believer.

Here's a very inspiring article, "The Key to the Christian Life" by Dr. Charles Stanley:
http://www.intouch.org/you/article-archive/content/topic/The_Key_to_the_Christian_Life_article

 


 

THE REWARDS ISSUE
When it comes to the rewards issue, many groups, even very well-meaning folks, just simply deviate from the Grace of God as in fact they do not apply the Grace of God in this particular area. They make the bestowment of rewards dependent on the merits of the Christian. These groups usually threaten with certain Scripture passages that if a Christian doesn't do this or that and/or if they do not endure/persevere, that he/she will not receive rewards or even lose eternal rewards in Heaven. In the human economy things may work that way, but God's economy is completely different as it is a divine economy based on pure Grace.

Just as it is impossible for a person once saved to ever lose his/her salvation, it is also absolutely impossible to lose any actual eternal rewards in Heaven. Why? As Christ works in us and through us, the rewards are given to us as joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17; Col. 3:24) because of Christ's work in and through us. We are members in particular (1 Cor. 12:27) and we'll share in the eternal rewards that are awarded to Christ as if these were our very own according to our capacity for Christ in our souls. As all acceptable divine good, incl. good works, can only be brought about by Christ, although working through an individual, it is impossible that God the Father would ever take back His eternal rewards given to the Son just because a human being has a bad day, week, month or year(s) and doesn't live in the Abundant Life for certain moments and/or seasons. In Ecclesiastes 3:14 it says, "... whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever." It is crystal clear, also based on the character/nature of God, His Mercy and Grace, that it is impossible to lose any actual eternal rewards as these were in effect given by Him to the Son, because of Christ's work in us, as we're privileged to share in these eternal rewards according to our capacity for Grace as if these were our very own.

"An inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you."
1 Peter 1:4

A Christian who was genuinely saved by accepting Christ as their personal Savior by Grace through faith once in their life, will spend all eternity in the presence of God. But if a Christian does not get to know Jesus Christ here on earth and therefore doesn't enjoy a Spirit-filled life, he/she will miss out on the temporal benefits (rewards) of an Abundant Life with all its blessings here on earth and he/she will miss out on the many eternal rewards that are available for the Christian as such a person didn't choose with their free volition to have their capacity for Christ increased.

The missing out of available eternal rewards is what the Bible talks about when it talks about suffering loss (forfeiting rewards) as such rewards were potential rewards available to the Christian (a better translation for the word "loss" in this regard would be the use of the term "missing out"; because loss implies that something has been obtained and has been in possession of an individual, but now it's gone and no longer in the possession of  that individual; BUT "missing out" regarding the availability of potential rewards does not imply that something was in possession, but rather that something is available for possession and that an individual did not take advantage of the opportunities to take possession of rewards, because that person just missed out and forfeited the opportunities of taking possession of the rewards).

Just as salvation is available to all men (Titus 2:11; 1 Tim. 2:4), God made a full reward available to all Christians. But it is a sad reality, that just as only a number of people accept salvation, only a number of Christians will be available, based on their own choices, to receive a full reward.

In fact one of the most critical passages in 1 Corinthians 3 (especially verses 11-15) which is often used to argue that a Christian can lose his eternal rewards, is in fact a passage which confirms that it is impossible to lose any eternal rewards. This particular passage explains that anything we do has to be done through Christ as otherwise it is a worthless deed/act in the sight of Godit would be wood, hay and stubble and it will be burned at the Bema Seat (the place where the Christian's works and motives throughout every moment of his/her Christian life are revealed/differentiated between the works of Christ in and through the Christian which are gold, silver, precious stones and the works done without Christ which are wood, hay and stubble; but wood, hay and stubble will be burned and will be no more, while on the other hand gold, silver and precious stones will remain and these will be the basis for the distribution of eternal rewards; at the Bema Seat the Christian is awarded eternal rewards and that's the emphasis at the Bema Seat―it's an awards ceremony; the Bema Seat is NOT a judgment seat other than the positive judgment that the Christian is automatically judged righteous and blameless because of Christ, but instead the Bema Seat is a place of celebration).

The foundation on which a believer builds must be Jesus Christ as otherwise anything he/she does (including all so-called "Christian" works) and someone presumes that they have because of their "Christian" performance, etc., will finally burn as it was built on the wrong foundation.

On earth, based on his/her own decisions, the Christian can lose his freedom to live in Grace and therefore he/she will not be able to enjoy the Abundant Life with its many blessings here on earth. And by losing these advantages (blessings) for a season or all together here on earth because of their own decisions, he/she would miss out on many available eternal rewards because of their limited capacity to share in them and to receive them. And those who lose their freedom to live in Grace will be bound and tortured by legalism just as the Galatians were and these performance-duty-oriented Christians will miss out on many rewards while they will enjoy the eternal rewards they've received through Christ during the moments and seasons of their lives whenever they've lived a Spirit-filled life as Christ reigned experientially in them. But they just won't enjoy a full reward as their capacity to share in Christ's inheritance was limited by their own choices.

Besides legalism, believers can also fall into carnalityan experiential life apart from Godand that lifestyle too will result in the missing out (forfeiture) of available and potential eternal rewards for a believer, although this individual will also receive the eternal rewards they've received through Christ's work in and through them during the moments and seasons of their lives whenever they've lived a Spirit-filled life as Christ reigned experientially in them. But these folks too won't be able to enjoy a full reward as their capacity to share in Christ's rewards and to receive them was limited by their own choices.

But a true Grace-oriented believer doesn't need to fear that he/she will fall into a habitual carnal lifestyle as the Grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:11-12). The key is to be occupied with the Grace of God (Col. 3:2), getting to know Jesus Christ on an intimate personal level. In Isaiah 45:22 we read that we just need to look unto Him and we're saved (at soul salvation from damnation and in the daily Christian life from the various traps in this world). See, as we make positive choices toward God, meaning as we look unto Jesus, we're submitting ourselves to God, and as a result we're effectively resisting the devil as every thought is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), and the devil will flee (!) from us (Jam. 4:7).

A legalistic Christian will eventually burn out and fall away, perhaps into a carnal lifestyle. The focus cannot be in delivering a great "Christian" performance, but instead we must be Grace oriented, meaning Christ focused. And to be Christ focused and therefore Grace oriented is a rather simple procedurein fact it is easy. The Christian life isn't hard, instead it is easy (Matt. 11:30)! Because of Grace we can live in consistent fellowship with Christ and when we slip we can always rebound within a second (1 John 1:9). There's no fear of failure and no fear of being unable to live up to some strange standards.

A Full Reward
In 2 John 8 we read that we should take care not to lose those things which we have obtained, so that we receive a full reward. Many folks use this verse to put Christians under pressure in putting them under a self-conscious works program. What the Word of God really teaches in this passage is that during our growth in Grace as a Christian we've received an understanding of Grace which only God was able to reveal to us in His Word through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. And in this passage we're encouraged to be careful that we do not lose the understanding and comprehension of Grace which we've already received during our growth in Grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Because if we lose sight of His Grace, then we won't be able to share in a full reward as we would have only a limited understanding of Grace and therefore a limited capacity to receive and share in His eternal rewards. As soon as we turn away from Grace, we'd fall either into a works-oriented (legalistic) lifestyle or a carnal lifestyle and if this happens then we miss out on the Abundant Life with its blessings here on earth and we miss out on potential eternal rewards as we would have only a very limited capacity to understand Grace. Therefore, for our earthly and heavenly benefit, we're lovingly encouraged to continue to make free-will decisions to keep looking unto Jesus moment by moment so that we continue to be Grace-oriented believers with an increased capacity to receive a full reward.

        
 


 

TAKING UP THE CROSS DAILY
What does it mean to take up the cross daily? It is very sad that the particular Scripture passages in Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34, 10:21 and Luke 9:23 are so often misunderstood. Too often preachers use these verses as a threat to force people into works, self-consciousness and Christian performance, when in all reality it is one of the most beautiful experiences for a Christian to take up the cross daily. What cross you may ask? An understanding of pure Grace is necessary to realize that it is His cross and we glory in His cross, because He already went on the cross for us. Consider the following regarding this issue from a Grace-oriented and Christ-centered viewpoint:

"But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."
Gal. 6:14

Taking up the cross daily means that Christ wants us to focus on Him, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). As we look unto His Finished Work (John 19:30) on the cross of Calvary, which was the manifestation of His Love expressed through Mercy and Grace as He met the conditions of His perfect justice, He is able to work in and through us to manifest His Love with the mind of Christ active in us (1 Cor. 2:16; Phil. 2:5) through acts of Mercy and Grace to the folks around us including to ourselves. It's His cross that we want as a frame of reference.

The Holy Spirit continuously motivates each Christian to look unto Him and with our free volition we say "Yes" and then He can work in and through us. And letting Him work in and through us is what Jesus Christ means in His Word when He speaks about taking up the cross daily. It's at His cross where we meet Him, our Lord and Savior, and where He finished the work. Now we have peace with God and we can rest and let Him perform His work in us to conform us to His image (Romans 8:29).

And it is very important to understand that to take up His cross is never an actual work performed by a Christian and it's never a burden or a matter of distress, but instead the cross represents a place of victory and glory. Calvary's cross is the only cross God will and can accept. There's no sacrifice we as individuals can offer to God as God doesn't want our sacrifices (Psalm 40:6, 51:16-17), but instead He wants our heart (Proverbs 23:26; a choice in our free will to let him take over our lives which is not a work by itself, but only a type of mental consent) and that's not a sacrifice or work. When we give Him our heart it's the most joyous thing an individual can do to experience the Resurrection Life of Christ in this lifetime. And then the presentation of our bodies as living sacrifices in Romans 12:1 is no longer a work performed by the efforts of an individual, but instead it is the working of the Holy Spirit in us as our minds are renewed (Rom. 12:2).

Some confuse the taking up of the cross with some burden, distress, work, Christian performance and/or duty, discomfort or whatever, when in fact it is one of the greatest things a Christian can experience every day of his/her life as an individual yields to the kind and loving urging/pleading of the Holy Spirit to let Christ reign in them for that day, hour, minute and every single moment. It's also true when we yield to the Holy Spirit that the things on earth will grow strangely dim as we will no longer yearn to fulfill our human-based (sin nature rooted) desires, but instead we'll be delighted in His will as we have faith (trust) in Him that His way (plan) is perfect (Psalm 18:30). Yes, once again it's all by Grace and the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63).

GotQuestions.org has a very good article regarding the question "What did Jesus mean when He said, 'Take up your cross and follow Me' (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)?"
http://www.gotquestions.org/take-up-your-cross.html

 


 

A Note of Encouragement
God loves you just as you are! Yes, He hates sin and He died for it and paid for it all, so that we can come to Him freely. HE encourages us to learn of Him and to get to know Him (2 Peter 3:18) as He has so many blessings and benefits prepared for us. HE wants to fellowship with us, meaning He wants to spend time with us and show us His eternal handiwork, His love with the benefits of His Mercy and Grace. This is good news: the God who made the universe wants to have a close friendship with every human being. There is joy, love and happiness in His presence and He made it possible that we can enjoy all His benefits, not by living up to some ridiculous standard, but by simply receiving from Him. HE can't wait for us to embrace this eternal truth so that He can share His overflowing abundance of Love, Mercy and Grace with us.

You may also want to check out our articles on:

 

 


Check out these very helpful Books to explain the subject of a Spirit-filled life in greater detail:

HE THAT IS SPIRITUAL by Lewis Sperry Chafer

HE THAT IS SPIRITUAL by Lewis Sperry Chafer
>Check today's low BOOK Price Now!    >More Info
Available at:
Amazon.com Christianbook.com


The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee


THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN LIFE by Watchman Nee
>Check today's low BOOK Price Now!          >More Info


You may also want to check out Dietmar Scherf's very helpful book:

 

I Love Me: Avoiding & Overcoming Depression by Dietmar ScherfI LOVE ME: Avoiding & Overcoming Depression
... which is in an excellent guide to a fulfilled life
ISBN 1-887603-03-4 | Hardcover |  212 pages

 In CANADA: Amazon.ca

This book is based on the promises of Psalm 107:20,

"He sent His word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions."


Video Devotionals by Dietmar Scherf:

"Eternal Rewards cannot be lost" ... a video devotional by Dietmar Scherf
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMHeJhGO_kc

                


More
>Video Devotionals by Dietmar Scherf


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