The Original Question: How Does God
Want His People To Live?
A t the beginning of this series of essays we asked an all-important question: how does God want His people to live? Why is this such an important issue? Because until we find the right answer and put it into practice we will continually fall short of reaching the goal God desires us to obtain. Additionally, there are many special blessings and advantages available only to those who obey God. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that we can’t live in a way pleasing to God until we know what pleases Him. Fortunately, God has made plain what pleases Him through His written Word and the Spirit of prophecy. One major problem is that multitudes have never met God or even read His Word. God is working to solve this problem through His people who obey the great commission He gave in Matthew 28:19. The job seems endless. Let’s not despair, for the power and provision of our God is also endless. Sadly, many who do have access to His Word never partake of the many benefits God has for them. Why? They won’t allow God to tell them how to live. So what’s the answer? How does God want us to live? To make answering our question easier, first let’s eliminate the categories of how God doesn’t want us to live.
—THE WRONG WAY
To begin, the Bible makes it clear our lives are not meant to revolve around the endless desire to have our way, get what we want, and please ourselves. The lust of the flesh and covetous eyes are the sworn enemies of the suffering Savior who had no place to lay His head. Jesus told us those who lose their life for His sake will find true life (Matt. 10:39). Yet multitudes calling themselves God’s people live for nothing more than enjoying the “good life.” Simply put, self-idolatry is an abomination to God, and if pursued will inevitably lead to a Christless grave and the lake of fire. The deception of living for the sake of satisfying the flesh is a cruel and wicked trap. Why? Because the flesh can never be satisfied. Plus, once you set up patterns and habits of indulging the flesh, whether obviously sinful or seemingly innocent, you make permanent changes to your spirit man—changes for the worse. You’re strengthening your carnal nature (that part of you that wants to sin). You’re keeping alive the very thing Christians are supposed to put to death (Matthew 16:24).
Neither does God want us to live bound by the curse of fleshly ambition. Endless striving for fame, fortune, or power will never lead you closer to God. Of course we should be eager to work for the Lord, yet the curse of unbridled human ambition only leads to unrest, strife and conflict. It comes down to the question of control. To clarify: there is a vast difference between fleshly ambition and spiritual growth or achievement. The first is controlled by the flesh and leads to death. The latter is controlled by God and leads to true joy, peace and everlasting life. Both take effort on our part, but what a drastic difference in the results.
Another snare many Christians fall into is the trap of religious works or good causes. Countless people gain a measure of peace with themselves by working for what they think to be a good cause. Basically, they feel good about themselves because they are doing works that are considered compassionate, noble, even sacrificial. You run into trouble when these good works take the place of true Spirit-led obedience to God. Sure, the religious and secular crowds may applaud you—but what does God think? Good works are wonderful when directed by God. Yet believing that your good works somehow justify you in God’s eyes is the epitome of religious deception. No matter how good or spiritual these works make you feel, they are no guarantee that you are right with God. Tragically, many carry on in their self-satisfied delusion until it's too late and they find out they've wasted their life doing things God never called them to do.
This trap is especially dangerous because it’s so easy to convince yourself that you are doing God's will when you are involved in a cause that appears to be good. We conveniently forget Samuel’s condemnation of Saul’s sacrifice when we want to trust in our own accomplishments instead of obeying God: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (I Sam. 15:22). Some go to great lengths of sacrifice and toil instead of putting their idols on God’s altar to be burned. It doesn’t matter how much we give or how hard we work if we’re not giving God what He wants. Churches are filled with religious rebels like this who think they can buy God off with their measly offerings and He will close His eyes to their sins. They are trusting in their works instead of obeying God’s commands. Don’t expect to get to Heaven like that.
Many are led away from God's will by the lure of recognition and praise of men. The religious community is especially notorious for heaping praise and glorification upon those who labor and sacrifice for good causes. Don’t be deceived. Good works do not necessarily equal God's will. True, God's will can involve humanitarian works, yet we must be very careful that we are being led by the Spirit and not religious flesh.
So, how can you be sure you’re being led by the Spirit? Like all things involving God and His will the surest way to avoid deception is by diligently seeking His face, communicating with Him through prayer, and patiently waiting on His direction in a spirit of obedient humility. You can even try fasting, for that wonderfully clarifies the mind and spirit. Then, once God has made His will plain you must not easily let go of it. It’s up to you to cling to it and cherish it for the treasure it truly is. You must be ready to fight to stay in God’s will. Now that you’re on the right track you can be sure the enemy will do his best to stop you. His strategies range from cunningly gentle deception to brutally cruel and mercilessly wicked coercion. The forces of darkness hate nothing more than a people who are determined to carry out God's will for their lives. Seek God and obey—YOU WIN!! Do what you think is right—YOU LOSE!!
—THE RIGHT WAY
Now that we've looked at how God doesn't want us to live, let's go back to the all-important question at hand: HOW DOES GOD WANT HIS PEOPLE TO LIVE? After reading through this short series of articles I hope the answer has become obvious. God desires His people to live a life of genuine, Spirit-led, loving obedience towards Him. It’s that simple. The life of a true disciple can be summed up in four points: 1) Love God and love one another; 2) Strive to live a life of holiness; 3) Live in a spirit of separation from the world; 4) Lift Jesus up and exalt Him in the eyes of everyone regardless of race, creed or color. Let’s examine these points one by one.
FIRST) As God’s people we are commanded to love Him and Him alone. We can have only one God in our life. The curse of serving false gods keeps multitudes bound in darkness. Once the Living God has revealed Himself to us we must never serve another no matter what the supposed benefits may be. As we experience the pure love of God in our lives we will naturally be motivated to love and serve one another (John 13:34). The Apostle Paul tells us that the greatest characteristic we can cultivate is love, for without it our life becomes nothing but an empty religious show–lots of noise and activity but no real substance (1 Corinthians 13:1-13). It goes back to the fact that our God is the very definition of love. Since He desires to transform us into His image, this will involve teaching us what true love–His love–is all about. This means our humanistic, sensual, imitations of love which the world cherishes so much have to go. Once the foundation of true love is laid, then comes instruction about how to let our lives be governed by the Spirit of godly love and compassion. True love lays down its life for others. True love works relentlessly to liberate others from the bondage of sin that destroys. God’s love is holy, and best of all it’s free. True disciples spend their lives sharing the life-changing love of God with as many as they can.
SECOND) The question of holiness is very important, for the Bible plainly tells us that God has called those who love Him to a life of holiness, without which no man shall see God (1 Thessalonians 4:7; Hebrews 12:14). In essence, holiness implies a state of purity, both mentally and physically. We all know that when something is pure it is not adulterated or contaminated by anything else. Our problem is sin—that evil disease which continually seeks to contaminate and defile our life in God. It naturally follows that a life of holiness means striving to be as free from sin as possible. Let us ever be thankful to our merciful God that sincere repentance will bring us to a place where we can be cleansed of all sin (1 John 1:9). That’s the easy part. Next we face the challenge of remaining in that place of purity—and that’s one challenge we better take seriously. Eternity in Hell is terrifying beyond imagination, yet that is the end of a life lived in sin. Nowhere is it written that we have to sin. Even though we stumble and fall, we can, we must, get up and try again. Regardless of popular opinion and the twisted doctrines of defeated Christians, a life of holiness is possible. God knows we are weak and prone to sin. Mercifully, His forgiveness is free and full. There is hope. By the power of His Spirit He strengthens and encourages us to stand our ground against sin. With all that help on our side we have no excuse. All He asks is that we give Him our heart and sincerely try our best.
THIRD) God’s Word plainly commands us to LOVE NOT THE WORLD, neither the things that are of the world (1 John 2:15). You can't love God and the world at the same time. If you do, God looks at you like an unfaithful wife who commits adultery, mocking His pure, sacrificial love that suffered for us. We truly thank God we’ve been rescued from the sin-filled world of darkness, yet now we face a predicament. Until God calls us to be with Him in Heaven, we are stuck having to deal with the very world we’ve been rescued from. This can be quite a challenge. The answer? It comes down to how we look at the world and our relationship to it. We must never forget we are in the world as a witness. It’s essential that in our minds and hearts we maintain a strict spirit of separation. In other words, we are to be in the world but not of it. In this way we are able to reach out to those still trapped in the world of sin, yet at the same time stay true to the fact that we now belong to the King and the Kingdom of Heaven.
Maybe you’re asking why separation is so important? It’s a matter of survival. Keep in mind that we are soldiers of the cross and we are involved in the oldest war in history. Then take into consideration that the unsaved world in which we live is controlled by our enemy and the poison of worldliness it continually spews at us is deadly, the need for separation becomes obvious. No soldier in their right mind goes looking for entertainment and fellowship in enemy-controlled territory. If they do they won’t be around long. Our heart aches for lost humanity, so much so that we are ready to fight, waging war in the Spirit, for their salvation. Yet God’s wisdom, along with experience, have taught us that unless we separate ourselves from the world we will be powerless to rescue anyone. Our strength lies in our singleness of heart and mind. Consequently, we denounce this sinful world for the enemy it is. We despise the fact that it holds so many in captivity even as it once held us.
This spirit of enmity between us and the world of sin inevitably leads us to separate ourselves physically. With this in mind we seek God for an environment where we can live together in holiness under the command and protection of His Spirit. The actual distance we live from the unsaved is not the issue (although distancing ourselves from cities full of sin does have great advantages). Yet no matter where we live we stake out a perimeter and post warnings in the Spirit that the world of sin must STAY OUT! This barrier must be militantly guarded through prayer and discernment, for the enemy is relentless in his efforts to infiltrate and sabotage the work of God. This is spiritual warfare, and our lives in God (especially our young people) depend upon how aggressively we maintain a clean, unmistakable distinction between us and the world of sin. This is how ekklesias are born.
FOURTH) This brings us to the final aspect of our lives in God. As true disciples we have been commissioned, in essence commanded, to reach out to a lost world drowning in their sin (Matthew 28:19). Our lifelong goal becomes leading others into the arms of a loving Savior who offers the gift of eternal life free and full to any and all who sincerely come to Him (John 3:16). Naturally, this involves warning others to repent and put an end to their sinful behavior or else face an eternity in Hell, for it is unrepentant sin that damns us. The Holy Spirit leads us to carry out our commission in a manner that reflects godly compassion and love. Yet real life has taught us that no matter how plainly we explain that our warnings against sin spring from the love of God, inevitably some take offense. We must never let that deter us. When people are asleep in a burning house it’s not the time to react with casual indifference or worry if they get upset because you wake them. Their lives are at stake! Someone must quickly rush in yelling, “Fire! Fire! Wake up! Run for your life!” Sin is the deadliest fire on earth. It has destroyed countless “spiritual houses,” landing the inhabitants in the lake of fire for eternity. It’s up to us to warn people, hoping they will be awakened to the terrible danger they are in. In addition, the Bible makes it plain that if we neglect this duty, leaving people to perish in their sins when we could have warned them, the accountability of their blood will be required at our hands. A sobering thought indeed.
Figuring out how God wants us to live is the easy part. God has guaranteed us that His Holy Spirit will be there to lead and guide all who turn their hearts towards Him and seek His face. Additionally, His printed Word has been translated into every major language and most minor ones as well. Unfortunately there are still many who, for various reasons, have no access to the Bible. Nevertheless, everyone has access to the Holy Spirit, and there isn’t a language He doesn’t speak. Between these two powerful resources, God is able to reach out to any and all who are hungry for the truth. And you can rest assured that in His all-knowing, ever-present power, God hears the cry of every hungry heart wherever they may be. Admittedly, many are so bound by sin and the forces of darkness that the chances they will see the light of God are almost non-existent. God understands this too, and that is why He has commissioned His people to evangelize the entire earth. Thank God He has a plan. Back to those of us who have been given the light. Now that we’ve found out how God wants us to live, achieving this monumental task is another matter.
The problem we are faced with is this: how can sinful, fallen man gain entrance to the Bridal Company and stay there? Of course through sincere repentance we can be forgiven, and there is no law that says we must sin. Yet reality teaches us that the nature of the beast—our beast—inevitably leans towards sin. We don’t have to sin but a part of us wants to. Frightening. Don't look to the world for help, for the world is the enemy's camp. There’s an army of overeducated headshrinkers and psycho-quacks whose endlessly conflicting counsel will multiply your confusion while parting you from your money at the same time. It's nearly impossible to stay pure and unspotted while living among fallen humanity in a sin-cursed earth. Unfortunately, like it or not, we're stuck here. Be assured God sees our predicament. He knows what we're up against both internally and externally. Then how, when the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against us, does God expect us to live up to His standard? We're talking about the Bridal Company standard, not the religious freak show called church. This is an important question, a question beyond man’s ability to answer, a question which only God can answer.
You may have already guessed: the answer to this dilemma is EKKLESIA LIVING! This wonderfully wise system God has instituted enables us to live in the world yet still make the Bridal Company. The details of how it works could fill volumes. To summarize and distill it into its purest form, you could say the foundation, the guiding principle, upon which Ekklesia Living rests is this: God, through constant spiritual interaction and intervention, is given total control over every aspect of our lives. With God in control we can make it. This is true discipleship, for as the Master is, so shall the servant be. If God's control is anything less than 100% the system is unable to work to its full potential. Yet who can give God 100%? Jesus did. “But we're not Jesus!” you cry. God knows that too, and in His mercy and compassion He works with us at whatever level we are able. He knows it’s a difficult climb up, so He comes down and meets us on the path, takes our hand and strengthens us. As you take hold of His hand you feel the nail print, the scar of a battle fought long ago and won on our behalf. By that scar we know we are in the hands of true Love. In the power of that Love we find the strength to keep climbing no matter what it takes. God longs for His children to reach the top victoriously, and being the loving Father He is, He's there to help us every step of the way. Our only obligation is to do the best we can and keep on climbing.
Are we saying God demands perfection with never any mistakes? We know better than that. All God asks is that when we do make mistakes (unfortunately humans never seem to stop making mistakes) that we REPENT and, with God's help and wisdom, LEARN FROM THEM so we don’t repeat them. Does this way of life mean we can't do what we like? Perhaps. It depends on what you like. Ultimately it means we make doing God's will what we like. Problem solved. Undoubtedly Ekklesia Living is a challenge, yet once you commit yourself to the contest, once your mind is made up, the challenge which seemed almost impossible becomes a new way of life that fills you with joyous anticipation and excitement. Why? Because God is the one issuing the challenge and He promises us His help.
Ever since that glorious day when Jesus rose from the dead, God has been beckoning to His Bride, calling forth that special company to come stand by His side. Now you have the privilege to be among that number. Answering the call of serious discipleship is no light thing. When God sees our willingness to lay down our lives in loving obedience He promises to provide for and protect His beloved. In fact, He’ll move Heaven and earth to make sure nothing stops the wedding. All this adds up to something money can’t buy: a life of miracle-filled spiritual adventure which outshines any other religious system on earth; a life of steady spiritual growth leading to levels of maturity the churchgoing crowd knows nothing about; a life filled with the love of God—the purest love you will ever find. Be part of that glorious Bridal Company. Join a true Spirit-led ekklesia today. Contact us and find what you've been missing. EKKLESIA LIVING—when it comes to following the Living God there's nothing else like it.
Lt. Col. Peter Green