What Really Matters Part 1
By Benjamin Raven Pressley
I hope you are ready for this. I promised you a series on what really matters when it comes down to being a believer and follower of Christ and this is part 1 of that series. I’m not going to pull any punches and what I am saying applies to anyone, anywhere, any denomination and whether you are a Christian or not it is still the truth. Don’t expect a list of do’s and don’t’s either. Those never work. They are like New Year’s resolutions. I am tired of sincere people who want to live for God that are rattled, confused and spiritually schizophrenic. It is time to unmask, decode and expose what is truth and what is error. And it isn’t about religion. Religion has historically kept the truth from people and sat on its ivory throne high above the people and used its interpretation of scriptures to rule the masses. Religion is nothing more than man creating God in his own image, creating a god that can be manipulated and controlled like a puppet speaking whatever man wants him to speak that isn’t a god at all. It goes back to the original sin, if you think about it! Read Genesis 3. Notice what the enemy tempted Eve with: to be as gods. Eve wasn’t tempted by the offer of one more fruit in the garden to eat she was tempted to be a god, to be in control, equal with God. And to this day it is the same. People want to be as gods. They want to have control over their destinies, they don’t want to bow to anyone and so we have a world that is ‘all-about-me’. Religion has got so out of control (and in debt to the bank, I might add) that they won’t ever admit they are wrong. They will continue to recreate themselves in a form that is pleasing to our flesh, our earthly desires and our selfishness. Sounds like Genesis 3:6! Don’t be fooled any longer. Dare to ask the true and living God to open your eyes and reveal His truth to you as only He can. Does that mean don’t attend church? No, you should attend and gather and study with a group of believers loving one another, learning together, admonishing one another. “16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25). An important part of what the Word just said is admonish one another. Do you know what that means? Let me help you out: ad·mon·ish—1. to caution, advise, or counsel against something. 2. to reprove or scold, especially in a mild and good-willed manner. 3. to urge to a duty; remind. So your gatherings should be more than hype, songs and condemnation. They should be life giving, supporting and helping one another. But let me get one thing straight, you don’t go to church, YOU ARE THE CHURCH. Just semantics? No I think it is an important distinction. People need to stop GOING to church and BE the church!
Well, I said all of that to lead up to my first point in what really matters. YOU MUST HAVE A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. That does not mean being religious. What does a relationship with anyone mean? It means you have a connection. It means you spend time with one another. It means you communicate with one another regularly. It means you relate with one another on a level that is personal and only understood by the two of you. But imagine that you both spoke different languages. Problem! In order to have a relationship one or both of you are going to have to learn the other’s language. That is one reason you must be ‘born again’ as Jesus called it (John 3:3). Man, now there is a term that is misunderstood and used by religion to control people to follow their particular bent! Here is the truth. Jesus explains it while speaking to Nicodemus in John 3:1-21. He metaphorically calls it being ‘born again’ because he is trying to emphasize that something needs to go through a rebirth. What is it that needs to be reborn? He explains in John 3:5-6, “5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” It is the human spirit that must be reborn. Humans are composed of body, soul and spirit. The body or flesh of course is that part of us that we can see, touch and feel that interacts with our physical world. The soul is the seat of the mind, will and emotions and also where we make choices, good or bad. It is also the bridge between the body and spirit. The spirit is that part of us that communicates with God. It is where our intuition and spiritual consciousness, as well as our conscience, dwells. It is the only part of us that can communicate with God. However, that being said, if your body, soul and spirit are unified as one your entire being becomes an instrument of praise to God. So, in other words, God knows when your praise comes from your heart (spirit) and when it is only words.
Now, back to Adam and Eve. When they disobeyed and ate of the tree that was forbidden them to eat from they fell from the lofty position in creation that God had given them and sin entered into all mankind. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12) They were the first couple so everyone of us came from their loins so we all are born in sin (Romans 3:23). Our spirit is basically in a state of death. It is not really dead just cut off from God. Out of relationship with God. It puts the flesh in a stronger position to control our choices. So, being born again restores our spirit to a place of life and makes it possible to have a relationship with God again because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross and rising again unto life.
“Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. 18Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 20Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:14-21).
So by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16), confessing to Him we are sinners (Romans 10:9-10), believing and confessing to Him that we cannot save ourselves, agreeing to turn from our wicked ways (2 Chronicles 7:14, Acts 8:22): Then, we are born again. Notice I did not say pray ‘the sinner’s prayer’. You know that neat little prayer that some churches have you pray, “now just repeat after me…” and “just so we don’t embarrass anyone let’s all pray it together…”. Please! Just saying words will not change you and make you born again. You need to be feeling a deep remorse for your sins. You need to feel a tugging at your heart to come to Christ, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44). And what is this stuff about not wanting to embarrass someone? “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).This is the first steps of a sinner coming to Christ. Let the sinner come and let him know he must be bold. This could set the pace for his entire Christian life. Let them boldly come and boldly proclaim that they turn their back on sin in a bold and public way. It is something to be proud of. It may even help that one that is also feeling that tug at his heart to step out also. And it doesn’t have to be in church that you come to Christ. It can be anywhere (John 6:37). Anyway, when you are born again this puts the revived, redeemed spirit back into the position that it should be by putting the spirit in control. We also need to take that one step further. We learn to obey God’s Spirit now in us in a restored relationship and obey His lead as He leads us in our spirit. We are meant to be a spirit being that has a soul that is in a body. Not a fleshly being that has a soul and a spirit. God is a spirit and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Now, back to relationship. Relationship with God is probably the biggest part of what it is going to take to walk this walk in Christ. His Holy Spirit now guides and directs us. He speaks to us and leads us in the way we should go. If we listen to His still small voice within He will love us, He will lead us, He will bring us understanding of His Word. This is what apostle Paul calls ‘walking in the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16, 25). When we walk in relationship with Him we are listening to His voice and that voice of the flesh gets fainter and fainter. We will actually find ourselves making right choices and not ruled by our fleshly appetites. It is a daily choice though, sometimes a minute by minute choice! If you make bad choices based on your fleshly desires you are keeping that old nature alive (Romans 6:19). And this makes you double-minded and James said, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:18). It is so true. It is like you are trying to walk in two worlds. It is like you are schizophrenic or something. Don’t yield to that old nature. The devil also wants to bring you down and he can’t appeal or rule in your redeemed spirit so he will make his play to your flesh and tempt you to make fleshly, selfish, destructive choices. If you yield to the flesh God’s voice will grow fainter and fainter. That is just the way it is.
Relationship with someone you love isn’t that hard is it? Think about a good relationship you have with someone, someone really close, whether it is a mother, father, brother, sister, wife, whatever. Everyday do you have to remind yourself not to steal from that person, not to kill that person or in case of a spouse do you have to remind yourself every day to not commit adultery or covet another person’s spouse? Do you have to remind yourself to spend time with them, call them every now and then on the phone, do nice things for them? Of course not. That is what I’m talking about! It is the same with a relationship with God. If you are having to force yourself to spend time with God and pray and you are constantly sinning something is wrong. You are not in a love relationship with Him. Hebrews 10:16 says, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.” What does that mean? It means if you are so in love with God and His ways no one will have to tell you right and wrong it will be written on your heart. Your desire will be to love and please Him. Not so you can get to heaven or escape hell but just because you love Him. Maybe some of you were raised up in a church where God was an angry bearded old man on a throne casting lightning bolts at all mankind just waiting to send you to hell. I can relate. That is the kind of church I was raised in. It has only been in past few years that I have truly got to know this loving God that loved me so much that He didn’t ask me to be good enough but while I was living in sin He gave His Son and placed the judgment I deserved on Him. “8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:8-9). Now, if any of you that are reading these words right now are fuming and your blood pressure is going up and you are screaming “what about God’s wrath and judgment and the ten commandments?”. I have to say, re-read the scripture I just gave you, Romans 5:8-9. Then you have to ask yourself, Are we justified by the blood of Jesus or not? Are we saved from His wrath and judgment or not? According to these scriptures and many more I could give WE ARE. Don’t add to it or take away from it just rejoice in it. Does that give people a license to sin? Absolutely not, if a person’s desire is to sin then they need to go back to square one of this study and be born again. Sure we are going to stumble and fall along the way but there is a difference between someone whose desire is to live in sin and a person who just trips every now and then. The latter person that is in a relationship with God is going to repent when they fall and keep on loving God and know that God loves him. NO RELATIONSHIP SHOULD BE PERFORMANCE BASED. If you are in a human relationship and can’t ever seem to satisfy someone or think you are never doing enough to please them you are not in a love relationship. That is selfishness. It is all about pleasing someone. You need to get the relationship right or get out of it. Read 1 Corinthians 13. Now read it again putting ‘God’ in place of anywhere you see the word love because does not 1 John 4:8 say, GOD IS LOVE? : “7Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for GOD IS LOVE” (1 John 4:7-8). “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Let’s not just pass over that word ‘dwell’. It means we live with Him. It means we change addresses and move in with Him. That is a love relationship! It is like a man and woman in love that can no longer stand to be apart and they marry and move in with one another, even go by the same name and become one with the intention of loving one another with all their heart, soul and mind. That sounds familiar, Hmmm: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, all thy soul and all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37). Now, I have always been taught this was a ‘command’ as in “you have to do this or you are going to hell”. Jesus always taught people to focus on the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law. In other words look at the reason He is saying this don’t just blindly, legalistically follow it. Understand the reason behind it. Now, let’s think about this ‘commandment’. Can you force someone to love you? Can you command someone to love you? Of course not, it wouldn’t be love. It would be hypocrisy. It would be a lie. Love is not something you can force. You either love someone or you don’t. Jesus is giving us a tremendous insight here. He is putting things in context. He is teaching us a principle. He is saying have a personal, deeply intimate relationship with God. He is saying it is all about relationship. He even goes farther in verse 39 and tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Ahh, things are beginning to come into focus now. He is implying that having a relationship with Him is also going to flow over into our relationship with others. And it is same implication as I have said previously, if you love your fellow man then no one will have to tell you to not steal from them, etc. or do them wrong in any way. Relationship! God is all about relationship. Get into relationship with Him and you will understand.