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Clinging to a Counterfeit Cross

Clinging to a Counterfeit Cross

by James P. Shelly


We Walk By Faith Not By Sight

Christians are referred to in Scripture as pilgrims (aliens NASB) and strangers (Heb. 11:13, 1 Pet. 2:11), as foreigners (Eph. 2:19), their earthly bodies as tents (2 Cor. 5:1, 4; 2 Pet. 1:13, 14), i.e., temporary dwellings. Their citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20) and are therefore depicted as temporary dwellers in a foreign land on a journey to their heavenly home. Their earthly sojourn is as a momentary stewardship, a brief time of testing, a God given opportunity to show themselves approved as good and faithful servants of their Lord (2 Tim. 2:15, Matt. 25:21). They live in pursuit of the high and lofty goal of eternal blessedness in God's everlasting kingdom rather than in the vain pursuit of transitory and illusive happiness in a crooked and perverse world (Phil. 2:15). In contemporary terms, they do not live in pursuit of the so-called "American dream" but rather in pursuit of the "heavenly city" which God has prepared for those who love Him (Heb. 11:16). They "walk by faith not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). They walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (Rom. 8:5).

Our example is Jesus himself. He says in John 8:23, "I am not of this world" and says of His disciples, including all who will afterward believe in Him through the Gospel that, "they are not of the world,  just as I am not of the world." He prays to the Father,

I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word (John 17:14-20). (emphasis added)

Jesus here describes all Christians as being not of the world in the same way that He Himself was not of the world. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith" (1 John 5:4). John writes in Revelation,

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (Rev. 3:21)

To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life (Rev. 2:7)

He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death (Rev. 2:11)

He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations (Rev. 2:26)

He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life (Rev. 3:5)

It is plain from these Scriptures that those who do not overcome, as Christ overcame, will not be granted to sit with Him on His throne; shall not eat from the tree of life; shall be hurt by the second death; shall not have power over the nations; shall not be clothed in white garments; and will have their name blotted out from the Book of Life.

So then, since only those who overcome will dwell with Him in His Kingdom it is essential that we answer the question, in what way did Christ overcome the world? First and foremost He overcame by submitting to the authority of His Father, living by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). He rejected the cultural norms and traditions that were in conflict with His Father's will, its religion, philosophies, wisdom, pride, lusts, and vain pursuits and thus He was not swayed by, nor did He succumb to, the influences and temptations of the ungodly world around Him. He walked in the light of God's truth rather than in the darkness of the lies, deceptions, and misconceptions of men. He had great compassion for the sick and needy, the widow and orphan, as well as the receptive sinner, but had little tolerance for religious teachers who would, in any way, pervert the integrity and character of His Father. Unlike the world, He sacrificed His own well-being, forsaking all the comforts and pleasures of this fallen world, living with an eye to that which is eternal rather than that which is temporary. He was unaffected by any thought of being hated, despised, and rejected for speaking those truths which, although in the best interest of the people, were often offensive to their corrupted hearts. All His earthly duties and endeavors were done in light of God's word and for His honor. He lived not for His own glory, but for the glory of His Father. In all aspects of His life He was crucified to this world with the mind-set of "I must be about My Father's business" (Luke 2:49) All this He did with a view to the joy of future glory, sitting on the throne of His Father in the everlasting Kingdom with all His fellow over comers seated with Him. In other words, He walked by faith and not by sight, and thus overcame the world.

It is written in Revelation 21:7-9, "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Here, those who overcome are contrasted with the unfaithful who live in immorality. God says to the one who overcomes, "I will be his God and he shall be My son." He is speaking of one who has become a partaker of the new covenant. "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel [the true Israel of God, the Church] after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Heb. 8:10) (emphasis and brackets added). This is quoted as the fulfilled promise of Jeremiah 31:31-34. We read in Jeremiah 24:7, also speaking of the New Covenant,

Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.

The people of whom this phrase "I will be their God" refers are described as having returned to Him with their whole heart. God tells us what He means by "returning to Him," in Zechariah 1:2-4,

The Lord has been very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, "Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Return to Me,' says the Lord of hosts, 'and I will return to you,' says the Lord of hosts. 'Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets preached, saying, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds.' 'But they did not hear nor heed Me,' says the Lord. (emphasis added)

And in Nehemiah 1:9,

‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. (emphasis added)

God says He will return to us, i.e., He will be our God, if we return to Him by turning from our evil ways and deeds with our whole heart, and walk in faithful obedience to His commandments. These are the "good and faithful servants" of the New Covenant spoken of by Christ in Matthew 25:23. They alone will enter into the joy of the Lord. In other words, without a whole hearted repentance of sin resulting in a faithful obedience to His word there is no salvation.

God also says of the people of the new covenant that, I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts... The mind and heart are that which governs one's life and forms one's character. The evidence that we have God's law written within our heart's is expressed in the following verses;

Depart from evil and do good,
So you will abide forever.
For the Lord loves justice
And does not forsake His godly ones;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.
The righteous will inherit the land
And dwell in it forever.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
And his tongue speaks justice.
The law of his God is in his heart;
His steps do not slip. (Ps. 37:27-31)

Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:8)

My son, do not forget my teaching,
But let your heart keep my commandments;
For length of days and years of life
And peace they will add to you.
Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart (Prov. 3:1-3).

My son, keep my words
And treasure my commandments within you.
Keep my commandments and live,
And my teaching as the apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart (Prov. 7:1-3).

Those who have the law of God written on the heart depart from evil and do good and are described as the righteous and godly ones. They delight to do God's will and are characterized by obedience to God's commands. This means that every believer has been given, by grace, a new administering principle of righteousness placed within his heart and mind, which has an effectual moral influence on his conduct. These alone are said to be preserved and will abide and dwell forever. Adam Clarke writes,

I will put my laws into their mind - I will influence them with the principles of law, truth, holiness, etc.; and their understandings shall he fully enlightened to comprehend them.

And write them in their hearts - All their affections, passions, and appetites, shall be purified and filled with holiness and love to God and man; so that they shall willingly obey, and feel that love is the fulfilling of the law: instead of being written on tables of stone, they shall be written on the fleshly tables of their hearts.1

Joseph Benson writes,

For this is the covenant that I will make after those days — In the times of the Messiah; I will put my laws into their mind — I will open the eyes of their understanding, and give them light to discern the true, full, spiritual meaning thereof; and write them in their hearts — So that they shall love them, and shall experience inwardly, and practise outwardly, whatsoever I command. They shall have that love to me and all mankind shed abroad in their hearts, which shall be a never-failing spring of piety and virtue within them, and which, of my mercy and grace, I will accept as the fulfilling of the law.2

In Jeremiah 32:38-39 we read,

They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. (emphasis added)

Here God promises that He will give them a heart to fear Him forever. We read in Proverbs 8:13, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." InProverbs 10:27 we find that those who fear Him are contrasted with the wicked, "The fear of the Lord prolongs days, But the years of the wicked will be shortened." We read in Deuteronomy 13:4, "You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him." (emphasis added) In other words, those who are given this heart to fear God, hate evil, walk not in the way of the wicked but in the way of God's commandments. To hate evil is to love righteousness and all who do so will have a heartfelt desire to cease from acting out or behaving in any way that is contrary to it. We read in Ezekiel 11:19-21,

Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads, says the Lord God. (emphasis added)

And in Ezekiel 37:23,

They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. (emphasis added)

It says in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18,

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” 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.” (emphasis added)

Adam Clarke writes

Is it not plain from this and the following verse that God would be their God only on the ground of their taking him for such, and that this depended on their being separated from the works and workers of iniquity? for God could not inhabit in them if they had concord with Belial, a portion with infidels; etc. Those who will have the promises of God fulfilled to them must come under the conditions of these promises: if they are not separate - if they touch the unclean thing, God will not receive them; and therefore will not be their God, nor shall they be his people.3

So then this phrase "they shall be My people, and I will be their God" is only true of those who meet the following conditions,

He who overcomes (Rev. 21:7-9)

Has been given a heart to know God and have returned to God with their whole heart (Jer. 24:7)

Have God's laws put in their mind and written on their hearts (Heb. 8:10, Jer. 31:33)

Turn from their evil ways and their evil deeds (Zech. 1:2-4)

Are faithful servants of God and keep God's commandments and do them (Neh. 1:9)

Have been given one heart and one way, that they may fear God forever (Jer. 32:38-39)

They have a new spirit, a new heart, and walk in God's statutes and keep His judgments and do them (Ezek. 11:19-21)

They do not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions (Ezek. 37:23)

Are not unequally yoked together with unbelievers and have no fellowship with lawlessness or communion with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14)

Are to come out from and be separated from the worlds ways and influence and are not touch what is unclean (2 Cor. 6:17)

All this is accomplished by His grace and not by our own unaided effort or work. In other words, the grace freely given to us in the New Covenant is a grace that enables us to meet all the requirements God sets forth for our salvation and is accomplished only by the effectual working of His own power in all who would be partakers of these promises by faith. For He says,

I will give them a heart to know Me.

I will put My law in their minds.

I will write it on their hearts.

I will gather them.

I will give them one heart and one way.

I will bring them back.

I will put a new spirit within them.

I will take the stony heart out of their flesh.

I will give them a heart of flesh.

I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them.

Those who have freely received this grace are those who walk with God in truth and righteousness, whose hearts no longer follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations and do not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions. They "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph. 5:11). These alone are said to be His people and He their God. They alone have "overcome the world." They are no longer cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, or liars. "...that everyone may turn from his evil way, that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin" (Jer. 36:3). Only those who turn from their evil ways receive His mercy and forgiveness. And again, even this turning from sin is the free gift of grace; "God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities" (Acts 3:26).

John gives us further insight as to what he means by the expression "overcomes the world" in 1 John 2:15-17,

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Here, John contrasts loving the world with doing the will of God. We read in 2 Peter 2:20, "For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first." Peter says that those who come to a knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, those who believe the Gospel, have escaped the defilements of the world. The Apostle Paul describes those who overcome the world as those who no longer walk according to the course of this world.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others (Col. 2:2, 3) (emphasis added).

According to Paul to walk according to the course of this world is to walk in the lusts of our flesh,  fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Those who do so, he says, are sons of disobedience and children of wrath.

So then, to overcome the world, even as Christ overcame the world, is to overcome its defilements, lusts, evils, rule of conduct, pursuits, erroneous beliefs, philosophies, etc. It is to overcome the wicked one (1 Jn. 2:14). It is to live according to the words of God rather than the words of men. In simple terms, to overcome the world is to overcome the dominion of sin. The standard of the world's morality is a morality whereof the first and greatest commandment, to love God with the whole heart, is entirely absent. Therefore, to be no longer of this world is to live in contrast to even the most moral and upright persons in the world who are without Christ.

James says that "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27)(emphasis added). Albert Barnes writes,

That is, religion will keep us from the maxims, vices, and corruptions which prevail in the world, and make us holy. These two things may, in fact, be said to constitute religion. If a man is truly benevolent, he bears the image of that God who is the fountain of benevolence; if he is pure and uncontaminated in his walk and deportment, he also resembles his Maker, for he is holy. If he has not these things, he cannot have any well-founded evidence that he is a Christian; for it is always the nature and tendency of religion to produce these things.4

It is often said that Jesus Himself was a "friend of sinners." However, when we look to Scripture we find that it is contrary to what Jesus actually taught. He says in John 15:14, You are My friends if you do whatever I command you (emphasis added). This is the very antithesis of the claim "Jesus is a friend of sinners." Jesus is saying, in essence, you are not my friends if you are sinners, i.e., those who do not do what I command them. He says to His disciples in John 15:15, No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you (emphasis added). James tells us, Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God (Jam. 2:23)(emphasis added).

We read in 1 Corinthians 15:33, Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.' The Greek word rendered "company" means, association, conversation, companionship, intercourse, or communion. We are taught here that evil companionships, or "friendships" with the ungodly, will have a destructive influence on our moral behavior. There is a direct correlation between a person's character and the company he keeps. Few would disagree, even in the unbelieving world, that such is undoubtedly the case. It is, therefore, a common practice among loving parents to forbid their children from being friends with other children whom they think would be a bad influence. Would we expect our heavenly Father to have any less concern for His beloved children? Would He not also prohibit them from friendship with sinners and their corrupting influence? We read in Proverbs 13:20, He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed. We read in 2 Corinthians 6:14, "...what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? ...Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?" If Jesus was a friend and companion of sinners would He not, according to these and many other passages of Scripture, be setting a dangerous and perilous precedent for his followers?

The Pharisees, seeking to find fault with Christ, were proclaiming, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’( Luke 7:34) It would make little sense, in light of their intent, to include the charge of being a friend of sinners if it were not generally recognized as being contrary to Scripture. They were deviously seeking to make the case of guilt by association. If Christ was eating with gluttons, as apparently they assumed all sinners to be, then He Himself must also be guilty of this sin or at the least be giving His approval of it. If He drank wine with sinners, who are known to drink in excess, then, according to their reasoning, He Himself must also be drinking in excess even as the sinners. Likewise because He associated with and was compassionate toward sinners He was assumed to be a friend of sinners and one who enjoys the camaraderie of the wicked. If any one of these charges were true He would have indeed been guilty of wrongdoing. However, these were nothing more than erroneous assumptions and exaggerations of what was actually occurring. Jesus tells us in Luke 14:12, 13, When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends... But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind (emphasis added). In light of this verse, the fact that Christ ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners in no way implies that He was their friend and companion, or guilty of any sin in doing so. Jesus was not a friend of sinners but rather He came to save sinners, eating and drinking with the enemies of God that He might bring them the message of reconciliation, the gospel that would indeed give them the opportunity to truly become His friends.

We read in James 4:4, "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." James does not say a friend of the world is a poor Christian but an enemy of God! Friendship with the world is to be in collusion with the enemy. Why would a Christian want to be friends with those who stand diametrically opposed to Christ? Who live flagrantly and unashamedly in rebelliousness to His word and are of such character as would resemble those who crucified Him? For, "...what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? ...Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?" Saints and sinners walk in two opposite directions. The one walks in the narrow and difficult way which leads to life, while the other walks in the broad way that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13, 14). The one is a slave to righteousness the other a slave to sin (Rom. 6:15-23). The one walks in the Spirit the other in the flesh (Rom. 8:5-8). The two have nothing in common in regards to their core beliefs, interests, and lifestyles. What then would be the basis of such a friendship? According to Scripture the answer is, none.

We are called as Christians to love our enemies, that is, to be charitable, kind, compassionate and "friendly" toward them, but not to affectionately embrace them as friends. This is a love that seeks their best interest, both physically and spiritually, not an emotional attachment to them as intimate friends and companions. Adam Clarke writes, "How strange it is that people professing Christianity can suppose that with a worldly spirit, worldly companions, and their lives governed by worldly maxims, they can be in the favor of God, or ever get to the kingdom of heaven!"5 Matthew Henry writes, "Let us not be joined with ungodly men; but warn all around us, especially children and young persons, to shun them as a pestilence."6

Christ tells us, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matt. 5:44). Obviously, we are not called to retreat from society and never associate with sinners otherwise the call to love our enemies, to be the salt of the earth, or to preach the Gospel would be meaningless, but we are warned, Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits' Therefore, Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord (2 Cor. 6:17). The Apostle John says that sinners are of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8) and makes this distinction in 1 John 3:10, In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, etc. To claim that the children of God can legitimately be friends and companions with the children of the devil would be, in essence, to claim that Christ could be a friend and companion of Satan and to that we would say God forbid! For, what accord has Christ with Belial? (2 Cor. 6:15).

Paul says in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The faithful eagerly wait for that day when the child of God sees face to face the one who died for him, has been living in him, sanctifying him, leading him, working in him, transforming him, lovingly chastening him and comforting him. The whole of the Christian life is a preparation for that day when we stand before God with the great anticipation and expectation of hearing those glorious words “well done My good and faithful servant.” That day we go to make our home with Him who, by the Spirit, came and made His home with us (John 14:23).

“For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11:14-16) (emphasis added).

It is that heavenly country Christ spoke of to his disciples “…I go and prepare a place for you, …that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2, 3). What an incredibly life changing revelation it is when we come to truly grasp and wholeheartedly believe that the eternal God of the universe has prepared a city for us that we might dwell with Him forever! "For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance (Rom. 8:24, 25). Paul speaks of the hope of every Christian and how absurd would it be to speak of those eagerly waiting for that which they have doubts as to its reality? Would it not be remarkable for a believer to say, “I prefer this God hating, sin infested world of suffering, pain, and death to that heavenly city wherein perfect righteousness dwells; where perfect peace and love reign supreme; where sorrow, pain, and death are no more; where our beloved Savior rules as King of kings and Lord of lords!?” And would it not be just as remarkable to be eagerly waiting for its fulfillment and yet refuse to come under its governing authority as loyal subjects of the King while on this earth? Would it not be an oddity for one to be fully assured of the kingdom of God and yet not to contemplate in his heart, “For me to die is gain.” It is without question that this was the mind-set of the martyrs of the early Church even as many throughout the world today. Yet, how many in the professing church today are of this mind? How many are groaning, earnestly desiring to be clothed with their habitation which is from heaven? (2 Cor. 5:2) How many sincerely say in their hearts, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” How many actually walk by faith and not by sight? I think it save to say relatively few. Naturally, the unbelieving world will perceive such a belief as extremism. For it is too high and lofty for the natural man to comprehend without the illuminating power of the Spirit. Paul was indeed an extremist from the worlds perspective (Acts 26:24), as were all the disciples, even as their Master. However, for the Christian “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters behind the veil of the presence, where the forerunner has entered before us, even Jesus...”(Heb. 6:19). This is the hope that keeps the soul from straying from its course, for its anchor is sure and steadfast. It is an anchor secured by a steadfast faith. It is this hope that is continually set before us, that effectually works within us, to convict, persuade, and empower us that we might purify ourselves even as He is pure (1 Jn. 3:3). In contrast, “…he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8). We read in 1 Kings 18:21, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God follow Him; but if Baal follow him.” David, the man after God’s own heart, says in Ps. 119:113, “I hate the double-minded...” The Lord does not tolerate double-mindedness, for “No one can serve two masters.” Any doubts that arise from our own weakness and sinful tendencies can never be justified and must be purged that we might remain steadfast and immovable in all our ways (1 Cor. 15:58). It is true that God test's our faith as Christians, but He is testing that which is a product of His own grace and therefore, if it be genuine, its victory is assured.

So it is that walking by faith and not by sight, living with an eternal perspective, is not possible for the lukewarm, the so-called "carnal christian" (as defined in this modern day), those who reject His lordship or refuse discipleship, for these are the double-minded and the unstable in all their ways. They spend their life sitting on the fence and unless grace intercedes and enables them to climb down and enter in at the narrow way, they will find that sitting on the fence is to be in a worse position than those who never attempt to climb the fence at all (Luke 12:47, 48, 2 Pet. 2:20)

We often hear the statement, “Do not be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good.” However, the truth is we can be of no earthly good unless we are so heavenly minded. Again Paul says,

Set your mind on things above and not on the things on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:2, 3).

The Living Bible paraphrase is,

Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t spend your time worrying about things down here. You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person does (emphasis added).

How much desire does a dead person have for this world? Again, Paul is not giving us an option here, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit the things of the Spirit(Rom. 8:4, 5) (emphasis added). In Rom. 8:5, to live according to the flesh is to “set our mind” on the things of the flesh, and in Rom. 8:13, those who live according to the flesh will die. Again, it should be clear to all that the death Paul speaks of in this passage is eternal death or the second death of judgment, for all men, irrespective of how they walk, will die a physical death.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption [death], but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life”(Gal. 6:7, 8) (italics and brackets added).

This verse makes it clear that he who does not sow to the Spirit will not receive eternal life. What conclusion can we come to but that only those living according to the Spirit, having their mind set on the things of the Spirit, will have eternal life. What is your mindset says Paul, where is it anchored? Is it anchored in the unseen realities of heaven or does it remain anchored in the things of this world? Where is your hope? For the Christian it is at the right hand of the Father. It is the hope of the Kingdom of our Lord. Paul tells us, in Phil. 3:19, the end of those who set their mind on earthly things, it is eternal destruction.

Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, who set their mind on earthy things (emphasis added).

Paul describes these men as enemies of Christ. Who are the enemies of Christ? Christ, in Luke 19:27, calls all those who reject His lordship, those who refuse to have the Word of God to reign over them, His enemies. It is those alienated from God by wicked works (Col. 1:21). Paul is speaking of those false professors in the Church. He says in verse 17, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Follow my example says Paul, as well as those who walk as I walk, in the Spirit, we are the pattern by which you know how a Christian must walk, for many walk, verse 18, in a contrary way. It is a false and deceptive way. Let us understand how somber the matter is; Paul is weeping! Can we sense his sorrow in our own soul? Can we feel the anguish of his tears as they flow? Listen to the cries of his godly heart. He sees not a few, but many who are professing Christ, they come to church, they claim salvation, but they have their minds set on earthy things, walking in the flesh, walking contrary to His will. Why is the matter so solemn? Because it dishonors the glorious grace of our Lord. God’s name is continually blasphemed because of them. The world cannot differentiate these goats from the true sheep and assume that all Christians are hypocrites even as these. The eternal souls of men are at stake! They are enemies of the beloved cross!

And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber (2 Peter 2:2-3).

Calvin states of false professors:

Those having nothing of Christ but the name and sign, would yet be called Christians. How dare they boast of this sacred name? None have intercourse with Christ but those who have acquired the true knowledge of him from the Gospel. The Apostle denies that any man truly has learned Christ who has not learned to put off ‘the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and put on Christ,’ (Eph. 4:22.) They are convicted, therefore, of falsely and unjustly pretending a knowledge of Christ, whatever be the volubility and eloquence with which they can talk of the Gospel. Doctrine is not an affair of the tongue, but of the life; is not apprehended by the intellect and memory merely, like other branches of learning; but is received only when it possesses the whole soul, and finds its seat and habitation in the inmost recesses of the heart. Let them, therefore, either cease to insult God, by boasting that they are what they are not, or let them show themselves not unworthy disciples of their divine Master. To doctrine in which our religion is contained we have given the first place, since by it our salvation commences; but it must be transfused into the breast, and pass into the conduct, and so transform us into itself, as not to prove unfruitful.7

The greatest enemy of the Cross is not the man who rejects it outright, but rather the man who embraces it outwardly but has no root in himself. It is the thorny ground hearers who “go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14). Note here that he does not say the sinful pleasures of life but simply the pleasures of life. We find the same thought in 2 Tim. 3:4, “...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Where is their mind set? It is on the pleasures of this earthly life. They are enemies of the cross of Christ. They walk by sight and not by faith. Who were the greatest enemies of Christ while on this earth but those professing religion, those who claimed to know God but were utterly destitute of His grace. They were God’s representatives on earth, turning the love, justice, and mercy of God into that which is detestable. The Scribes and Pharisees cleaned the outside of the cup and dish, by outwardly doing good, but the inside, the heart, remained filthy. Likewise were those who think the inside of the cup and dish clean, by the imputed righteousness of Christ, while the outside remains filthy (1 Pet. 2:16) and therefore revealing the true condition of their unregenerate hearts. The Pharisees were relying on their relationship with their father Abraham for salvation, while these are relying on their relationship with Christ claiming God as their father. Yet what does Jesus say to the Pharisees? “If you were Abraham’s children you would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). Likewise would He not say to these “If you were God’s children you would do the works of God?” Indeed, he does say it in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord and not do the things that I say?” Paul says it in Ephesians 5:1, "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children." Peter says it in 1 Peter 1:16, “Be holy, for I am holy.” John says it in 1 John 2:6, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." But no, these, even as the Pharisees, turn the grace of God into that which is profane and defiled. Out of their mouths flow praises to God, yet their hearts are estranged from Him (Matt. 15:8, 9). It is not the rivers of living water which flows from their hearts (John 7:38), but rather the stench of a stagnant pond.

We find a description of a common occurrence among those who profess to be God’s people in Ezek. 33:30-32,

So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them a lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not do them (emphasis added).

This describes many professors of Christianity in the Church today. They are not lacking in love, but it is a love of self, not of God and neighbor. “What is in it for me?” That is their cry. It is the love of sinners not saints (Luke 6:33). They love to talk about the grace of God and forgiveness but only because it comforts them in their sin infested lives. Speak to them of the necessity of obedience and you will find a ravenous wolf in sheep’s clothing howling legalism! Phariseeism! heretic! while having little understanding as to what these terms actually mean. See how quickly they turn on you, to bite and devour you. It is a religion of form with no power. They “turn the grace of God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).

There were those, even as there are today, who were teaching such a grace, so he warns us in Eph. 5:6, Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things (verse 4, 5) the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 3:13 that “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” John gives us the warning in 1 John 3:7, “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous just as he is righteous.” James says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). And again, Paul says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived (1 Cor. 6:9) (emphasis added). We notice that in each of these solemn warnings the deception is not that of a “works righteousness” salvation, but of a fruitless faith that is independent of works. A grace that does not produce a holy and godly character is a (dis)grace. It is a disgrace to God’s wisdom, His majesty, His honor, and His Glory. Therefore, “Awake to righteousness and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God” (1 Cor. 15:34). Spurgeon preaching on Phil. 3:18 stated:

Mark you, the end of a professing man who has been a hypocrite will be emphatically destruction. If there be chains in hell more heavy than others…professing Christians must have them if they be found rotten at last. I had rather die a profligate than die a lying professor. ...Oh, to have had a name to live, and yet to have proved insincere. The higher the soar the greater the fall. This man has soared high; how low must he tumble when he finds himself mistaken! He who thought to put to his mouth the nectared cup of heaven, finds when he quaffs the bowl, that is the very draught of hell. He who hoped to enter through the gates into the city finds the gates shut, and he himself bidden to depart as an unknown stranger. Oh! how thrilling is that sentence, “Depart from me, I never knew you!” I think I had rather hear it said to me, “Depart, accursed, among the rest of the wicked,” than to be singled out, and to have it said, after exclaiming, ‘Lord, Lord’, ‘Depart from me; I know you not; though you ate and drank in my courts; though you came to my sanctuary, you are a stranger to me, and I am a stranger to you.’ Such a doom, more horrible than hell, more direful than fate, more desperate than despair, must be the inevitable lot of those ‘whose god is their belly,’ who have ‘gloried in their shame,’ and ‘minded earthly things.8

Jesus exhorts us in Matt. 6:19-21,

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

When we choose to live in pursuit of the treasures of this world we lose, not only treasures in heaven, but eventually, the treasures of this world as well, "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out" (1 Tim. 6:7). However, he who loses his life for Christ's sake ultimately gains the eternal treasures of heaven while losing nothing more than that which, in a matter of time, is lost anyway. Why then would we spend our time on that which perishes when we can choose to spend it on that which remains forever? Or do we not believe in Christ and His words? Where is our heart? For the Christian it is in heaven and there is where his treasures lay. John Gill writes,

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. This seems to be a proverbial expression, and contains in it another reason, dissuading from worldly mindedness; because of the danger the heart is in of being ensnared and ruined thereby: and the sense of it is, if your treasure is on earth, and lies in earthly things, your hearts will be set upon them, and be in them, in your bags, your coffers and storehouses; and so your souls will be in danger of being lost; which loss will be an irreparable one, though you should gain the whole world. But if your treasure is put into the hands of God, your hearts will be with him, and be settled on him; your desires will be after heavenly things; your affections will be set on things above; your conversation will be in heaven, whilst you are on earth; and that will be the place and seat of your happiness, to all eternity.9

"The word treasures does not mean simply riches. The term is not to be literally limited to material wealth alone, but is a symbol for whatever we hold to be our main good, whatever has our predominant affection, whatever is our aim of life.10 Treasures in heaven are laid up by those actions and deeds that are done with the pure motive of love for God and love for our neighbor. They are performed only by those who have "put on Christ" (Rom. 13:14) and having done so are ever mindful of their duty and obligation to be about their Father's business. It is the natural outworking of the true love and compassion which God has produced in our hearts which seeks the well being of our neighbor with no thought of personal gain or accolades. However, the deeds done with selfish ambition, in order that we might receive a “pat on the back” and the praises of men, is to receive our reward in this life (Matt. 6:1-18). In other words, it is not the deed itself God is concerned with but the motive behind the deed; Love of self or genuine love for others. The former needs to hear a "thank you" because self satisfaction is the desired outcome of the deed, the later is focused on God's satisfaction thanking Him for the ability and opportunity to serve others even as Christ (Matt. 25:40).

Matthew Henry writes:

Good counsel, to make the joys and glories of the other world, those things not seen that are eternal, our best things, and to place our happiness in them. There are treasures in heaven, as sure as there are on this earth; and those in heaven are the only true treasures, the riches and glories and pleasures that are at God’s right hand, which those that are sanctified truly arrive at, when they come to be sanctified perfectly....It is our wisdom to lay up our treasure in those treasures; to give all diligence to make sure our title to eternal life through Jesus Christ, and to depend upon that as our happiness, and look upon all things here below with a holy contempt, as not worthy to be compared with it. We must firmly believe there is such a happiness, and resolve to be content with that, and to be content with nothing short of it....We are therefore concerned to be right and wise in the choice of our treasure, because the temper of our minds, and consequently the tenor of our lives, will be accordingly either carnal or spiritual, earthly or heavenly....The heart is God’s due (Prov 23:26), and that he may have it, our treasure must be laid up with him, and then our souls will be lifted up to him...if we have done these only to gain the applause of men, we have laid up this treasure on earth, have lodged it in the hands of men, and must never expect to hear any further of it. But if we have prayed and fasted and given alms in truth and uprightness, with an eye to God and to his acceptance, and have approved ourselves to him therein, we have laid up that treasure in heaven; a book of remembrance is written there (Mal 3:16), and being there recorded, they shall be there rewarded, and we shall meet them again with comfort on the other side of death and the grave. Hypocrites are written in the earth (Jer. 17:13), but God’s faithful ones have their names written in heaven, Luke 10:20. Acceptance with God is treasure in heaven, which can neither be corrupted nor stolen. His “well done” shall stand for ever; and if we have thus laid up our treasure with him, with him our hearts will be; and where can they be better?11

Jonathan Edwards writes:

Be directed to sacrifice everything to your soul’s eternal interest. Let seeking this be so much your bent, and what you are so resolved in, that you make everything give place to it. Let nothing stand before your resolution of seeking the kingdom of God. Whatever you used to look upon as a convenience, or comfort, or ease, or thing desirable on any account, if it stands in the way of this great concern, let it be dismissed without hesitation; and if it be of that nature that it is likely always to be a hindrance, then wholly have done with it, and never entertain any expectation from it more. If in time past you have, for the sake of worldly gain, involved yourself with more care and business than you find to be consistent with your being so through in the business of religion as you ought to be, then get into some other way, though you suffer in your worldly interest by it. Or if you have been heretofore conversant with company that you have reason to think have been and will be a snare to you, and a hindrance to this great design in any wise, break off from their society, however it may expose you to reproach from your old companions, or let what will be the effect of it. Whatever it be that stands in the way of your most advantageously seeking salvation—whether it be some dear sinful pleasure, or strong carnal appetite, or credit and honor, or the goodwill of some persons whose friendship you desire, and whose esteem and liking you have highly valued—and though there be danger, if you do as you ought, that you should be looked upon by them as odd and ridiculous, and become contemptible in their eyes—or if it be your ease and indolence, and aversion to continual labor; or your outward convenience in any respect, whereby you might avoid difficulties of one kind or other—let all go. Offer all such things together, as it were, in one sacrifice, to the interest of your soul. Let nothing stand in competition with this, but make everything to fall before it. If the flesh must be crossed, then cross it, spare it not, crucify it, and do not be afraid to be to cruel to it. Gal. 5:24. ‘They that are Christ’s, have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.’ Have no dependence on any worldly enjoyment whatsoever. Let salvation be the one thing with you. This is certainly what is required of you: and this is what many stick at; this giving up other things for salvation, is a stumbling-block that few get over12 (emphasis added).

William Law writes:

As to the death of Christ, the condition is this: ‘If we be dead with Christ,’ we believe that ‘we shall also live with him.’ (2 Tim. 2:11) If therefore Christ be dead alone, if we are not dead with Him, we are as sure, from this Scripture, that we shall not live with to the Resurrection of Christ, the Scripture showeth us how we are to partake of the benefit of it: ‘If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.’ (Col. 3:1) Thus, you see how plainly the Scripture sets forth our Blessed Lord as our Representative, acting and suffering in our name, binding and obliging us to conform to all that he did and suffered for us. It was for this reason that the Holy Jesus said of His disciples, and in them of all true believers, ‘They are not of this world, as I am not of this world.’ (John 17:14) Because all true believers, conforming to the sufferings, Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of Christ, live no longer after the spirit and temper of this world, but their life is hid with Christ in God. This is the state of separation from the world, to which all orders of Christians are called. They must so far renounce all worldly tempers, be so far governed by the things of another life, as to show that they are truly and really crucified, dead, and risen, with Christ. And it is as necessary for all Christians to conform to this great change of spirit, to be thus in Christ new creatures, as it was necessary that Christ should suffer, die, and rise again, for our salvation.…we know and consider ourselves not as men in the flesh, but as fellow-members of a new society, that are to have all our hearts, our tempers, and conversation, in Heaven.13

We read in James 4:14, "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." To focus on the vapor at the expense of the eternal substance is foolishness to the extreme. If we are cleaving to a cross that allows for a life of earthly mindedness, a mind caught up in the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life, living with a greater attentiveness to the things that are seen and temporal than that which is unseen and eternal, walking according to the flesh rather than the Spirit, by sight rather than by faith, we deceive ourselves if we think we have a saving faith in Christ and tragically will be found, in the last Day, clinging to a counterfeit cross.

Taking Up Our Cross: An Essential Requirement in Salvation


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1. Clarke's Commentary: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, Hebrews 8:10 (Abingdon Press 1977)

2. Joseph Benson Commentary, Hebrews 8:10,

3. Clarke's Commentary: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, 2 Corinthians 6:17 (Abingdon Press 1977)

4. Barnes Notes on the Old and New Testaments, Albert Barnes, James 1:27 (Baker Books; 19th edition 1983)

5. Clarke's Commentary: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, James 4:4 (Abingdon Press 1977)

6. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Matthew Henry, James 4:4, (Hendrickson Publishers, 2005)

7. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (Albany, N.Y.: Sage Digital Library, 1996) Book 3, p.774

8. Charles Spurgeon, “False Professors,” Sermon (No. 102) Delivered on Sabbath Evening, August 24, 1856 At Exeter Hall, Strand.

9. John Gill's Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Ezekiel 9:4-6, (Baker Book House,1980)

10. Whedon's Commentary on the Bible, Matthew 6:19,

11. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Matthew 6:19 (Hendrickson Publishers, 2009)

12. Knowing Christ, Jonathan Edwards, (Banner of Truth, reprinted 1993) p.92

13. William Law, A Serious Call To A Devout And Holy Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1977)

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