Remember that no Christian ever had it ideal in this life! You are not alone with your troubles and sufferings (Jn. 16:33; 1 Pet. 5:9). We are living in a cursed age, with rampant deception, sin and injustice everywhere. This world is now the devil's turf and he hates Christians. Obviously, this world can't be the saint's haven. Paul wrote:
In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus taught that five out of ten (or 50%) of the people who once had a light burning in their spiritual lanterns will not be known by him when he returns (Mt. 25:1-13). The context of that teaching is specifically for the last generation. This same kind of incredible apostasy-warning is also found in Mt. 24:10; 2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim. 4:1 and 2 Tim. 4:4. It's eternally important, therefore, that we stay ready to meet the Lord. This is where safeguards come in!
Spiritual safeguards are real, very important and should be taken seriously:
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same thing to you again, and it is a safeguard for you (Phil. 3:1, NIV).The following list of safeguards is for your spiritual health and well being. The more of these the Christian acts upon, the more he will benefit spiritually.
Rejoice In The LordBecause the Christians at Philippi were going through (and enduring) sufferings and struggles (Phil. 1:29,30), Paul issued the command (safeguard) for them to rejoice in the Lord.
Similarly, Jesus told the disciples:
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven(Lk. 10:20, NKJV).
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:17,18, NIV).
Be Humble And Stay HumbleBe humble and stay humble like a little child. Jesus shockingly warned his disciples that they would never enter the kingdom of heaven unless they would change and become humble like little children (Mt. 18:1-4)!
And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 18:3, NIV).In other words, though they were saved at the moment, their individual selfish ambitions to be greater than the other disciples (Lk. 9:46-48; 22:24-26) would somehow prove spiritually fatal in the future for them, unless they would become humble like a little child who doesn't aspire for such greatness over his peers the way the disciples were.
Peter later wrote:
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time (1 Pet. 5:5,6, KJV).Verse 6 from the Amplified Bible reads:
Therefore humble yourselves (demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation) under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you).
Hide God's Word In Your HeartPsa. 119:11 says:Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You! (NKJV).To strengthen your own ability to resist sin's temptations, store up God's word in your heart. You can accomplish this by meditating in and memorizing Scripture. One method that might work well for you is to make little flash cards with the Scripture verse you desire to memorize on one side and its reference on the reverse side. Verbally reading the verse(s) out loud and writing them out will enable you to memorize almost any passage after a while. It would also be wise to listen to the Bible on cassette tape every chance you get, such as in your home and car.
Don't Even Think About The Pleasures of SinScripture actually teaches that sin has pleasure in it (Heb. 11:25). If it didn't, it would never be a temptation. The dangers of just thinking of sinful pleasure is also shown in Scripture:
If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country -- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Heb. 11:15,16, NIV).Remember the awesome truth of Num. 11:5 where wrong thinking is exemplified. The Israelites thought about the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic that they regularly ate while in bondage in Egypt (a type of the world), but couldn't find contentment with manna, their God-supplied food. Because they focused in upon the good things they had while in Egypt, they totally forgot that they were worked ruthlessly and their lives were made bitter with hard labor (Exo. 1:13,14). The misery and emptiness of their lives in Egypt had escaped them. They now, incredibly, thought they were better off in Egypt (Num. 11:18)! The devil will use the same type of lie on us too, especially since it worked so well for him back then.
We should always be looking forward and never back. Long for heaven and that city which God has prepared for the worthy. Peter wrote:
... We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Pet. 3:13, NIV).Similarly, Heb. 13:14 reads:
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come (NIV).If you follow this principle you won't disobey Rom. 13:14b:
... Do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature (NIV).It is also very important that you guard your heart by not watching adulterous TV shows and going places such as public swimming pools and beaches. This will definitely be a safeguard for your soul! Remember, it's possible to commit adultery and never actually go through the physical act (Mt. 5:28). [Please see our on-line article regarding Jesus' teaching on lust.]
Ponder the following truth about how your thought life influences your behavior:
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace (Rom. 8:5,6, NIV).
Consider JesusTo prevent growing weary and losing heart in your race, consider Jesus:
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Heb. 12:3,4, NIV).The word consider in Greek means contemplate. Therefore, we are advised to contemplate the unfair, unjust and merciless treatment the perfect, loving and sinless Lord Jesus was subjected to from the hands of wicked, merciless people. He didn't deserve any of it.
Learn The BibleThis is the all-inclusive safeguard. Hos. 4:6 reads:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children (KJV).The only way you can adequately learn the Bible is to spend quality time in it for yourself. Start in the New Testament, reading and rereading it so that no zealous and sincere, Scripture-quoting false prophet or false teacher can shake the true message from your heart. Remember, we can negate our salvation by accepting a wrong plan of salvation.
By which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you; unless you believed in vain (1 Cor. 15:2, NKJV).After you learn the New Testament, move to the Old Testament. The Old Testament was written to teach and warn us in New Testament times (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11). It was also the only Bible the earliest Christians had before the New Testament was written! There is much in it for us today.
Don't Envy The UnsavedRead Psalm 73. Asaph envied the wicked and almost slipped spiritually (v. 2, NIV). He noticed the prosperity they have, their healthy bodies, them being carefree from burdens common to man and not plagued by human ills and he thought:
In vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence (v. 13, NIV).Asaph was oppressed until he focused in upon their final destiny (v. 17). This means don't envy the wicked because they might be popular, happily married, with a good job, physically healthy, good looking, live in a nice home, drive a new car and have lots of money. They are on their way to the lake of fire where they will be tormented forever (Mt. 25:41,46; Mk. 9:43-48; Rev. 14:10,11; 20:10).
To envy the wicked is a subtle Satanic temptation designed to get you to stop living godly and to pursue the temporal pleasures of this life.
Maintain A Biblical View Of PhysicalThis will be especially helpful in extreme persecution, where martyrdom prevails.
Death And Your Life Here
For the Christian, physical death is gain (Phil. 1:21) and better by far (Phil. 1:23). Only then will you really be at home with your real family, that is, your heavenly Father, your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and your brothers and sisters in the faith from all parts of the earth. It's also where your treasures are.
This life is not your home! We are strangers in the world (1 Pet. 1:1) and we are to live our lives as strangers here in reverent fear (1 Pet. 1:17). You are just passing through this life, so don't be engrossed in the material things of this world! Think in terms of eternity. Remember:
... The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare (2 Pet. 3:10, NIV).
Maintain The Hope Of Being Like1 Jn. 3:2,3 read:
Jesus When He Returns
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure (NIV).How will we be like Jesus? We too will have a glorified body of flesh and bones like his (Lk. 24:39; Phil. 3:21), that is, a tangible body that can enter a room with the doors locked (Jn. 20:19) and disappear from a location (Lk. 24:31).
Pray To Stand Firm In All The Will Of GodIn Col. 4:12, we read:
... He (Epaphras) is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured (NIV).Be quick to pray about everything you face, casting all your anxieties on God (1 Pet. 5:7). Pray for other people, too.
Sing And Make Music In Your Heart To The LordEph. 5:19,20 read:
Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (NIV).Keeping a tune of thanks and praise in your heart to the Lord will help you greatly in your spiritual battles. Focus in upon what you have, not what you do not have but would like to have! In other words, learn to be content in your non-ideal circumstances. This is a safeguard in itself. Paul wrote:
... for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content (Phil. 4:11, NKJV).Remember, he was in chains and in prison when he wrote this (1:13), yet he was content! Furthermore, he wrote:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that (1 Tim. 6:6-8, NIV).
Avoid Godless ChatterThe godly, like Timothy, can become increasingly ungodly through godless chatter. Hence, the following warning came from Paul:
Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly (2 Tim. 2:16, NIV).All secular TV shows are prime examples of godless chatter. They also promote a value system which is of this world and highly antithetical to the Scriptures.
Indulging in voluntary conversation on a regular basis with the darkened people of this age will take a spiritual toll after a while. This is especially true if spiritual matters are intentionally avoided by the spiritually enlightened.
Similarly, Paul wrote in 1 Tim. 6:20,21:
... Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith (NIV).The danger of godless chatter, as well as so-called knowledge which is contrary to Scripture, is evident from this.
Stay Self-controlled, Alert AndThis is the way we can protect ourselves from our spiritual arch enemy, who is not in the lake of fire yet, but continues to try, and often succeeds, in hurting Christians:
Continue To Resist The Devil
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings (1 Pet. 5:8,9, NIV).The seriousness of our spiritual warfare is shown here. Also regarding being self-controlled, alert and resisting the devil, remember this: those who enter the kingdom of God will have to be more self-controlled, alert and faithful in resisting the devil than Solomon, the Apostle Judas Iscariot, the unnamed disciples of Jn. 6:66, etc. who didn't enter the kingdom!
Avoid Bad CompanySurprisingly, the Bible teaches that Christians are to avoid certain people (Prov. 20:19; 22:24,25; 24:1; Rom. 16:17,18; 1 Cor. 5:11; 2 Thess. 3:6-15), places (Prov. 4:14,15; 5:8; 2 Cor. 6:17) and things (Prov. 20:3; Acts 15:29; 1 Thess. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:23; Jam. 1:19,20). Not to avoid these when you can, is to needlessly open yourself up to spiritual danger. Paul wrote:
Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33, NIV).Please note, according to that reference, bad company tends to adversely affect the Christian and not the reverse. This, however, does not mean that we willingly should never associate with the unbeliever, for we are called to evangelize them. Jesus ate with the sinners, but he did so with an evangelistic motive only, not to socialize with them.
Especially destructive to one's spiritual condition would be to marry someone who does not belong to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39). This is evident by what happened to Solomon when he married pagan women. See Neh. 13:26. If you are a single Christian, please know that it is much worse to marry the wrong person than to remain single, though it can be painfully lonely at times!
Know That Persecution Comes To All Of TheJesus told his disciples:
Godly And You Must Testify About Jesus
All this I have told you so that you will not go astray (Jn. 16:1, NIV).To find out what this is in this verse that we must do so we won't go astray, we must go back to chapter 15. There we will see the Lord assured the disciples that the world would hate and persecute them (15:18-20)!
Furthermore, he added that we must testify of him. These two truths, internalized and acted upon, will keep us from going astray, according to Jesus.
Witnessing to others about Christ will also add to your understanding of spiritual things:
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ (Philemon 6, NIV).A good, reliable, easy-to-read translation like the New King James or the New International Version will help you greatly in learning the Bible. Especially avoid the Living Bible and the New World Translation.
Fear GodWe are told to fear God for he can destroy our bodies and souls in hell (Mt. 10:28; Lk. 12:5). This command to fear God is past (Deut. 10:12,13), present (1 Pet. 1:17), and future (Rev. 14:7). While the fear of man will prove to be a snare (Prov. 29:25), only good can be said about the fear of God! If you continue to fear God, it will keep you from sinning (Exo. 20:20).
Keep A Clear ConsciencePaul cited the reason why he personally kept a clear conscience:
And I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man (Acts 24:15,16, NIV).Paul kept a clear conscience because there would be "a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked." Similarly, Paul told Timothy he also needed to hold to faith and a good conscience. The reason was to safeguard his faith from becoming shipwrecked like that of Hymenaeus and Alexander:
Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme (1 Tim. 1:18-20, NIV).
Be Careful To Read And Obey The BibleBefore Israel ever had a king, God taught Moses how the kings could assure a strong spiritual walk for themselves. God told Moses:
Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel (Deut. 17:18-20, NKJV).The kings were to write their own personal copy of the Scriptures for themselves, which they were to carry with them and read daily. If done, they would consequently fear the LORD and follow God's commands. Then pride, through their powerful and exalted position, their great riches, etc. would not deceive them into thinking themselves better than others and straying from God's commands.
If only this was practiced, David would not have committed adultery and murder, Solomon would not have turned to idolatry, Uzziah to pride, and Saul to jealousy, murder, etc. which ended with suicide. If such clear and powerful advice would work for kings as the leaders over millions of people, how much more should it work for us? Of course, the proper attitude to have when reading Scripture is to read it with a willingness to change accordingly, either doctrinally or behaviorally.
Test The SpiritsThe Apostle John informs Christians not to be gullible:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 Jn. 4:1, NKJV).The testing of all teachings, dreams, visions, experiences, etc. must be with the standard that God has given mankind, namely his written word (2 Tim. 3:16,17).
Walk In LoveDozens of times throughout the New Testament we are commanded to love. Perhaps one of the most important truths about the welfare of our own faith is linked to this thing we call love:
For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love (Gal. 5:6, Amplified Bible).Your faith is energized by your love and your love is adversely affected by sin (Mt. 24:12)! Love is patient and kind (1 Cor. 13:4).
Help God's PeopleThe unnamed writer of Hebrews stated:
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case -- things that accompany salvation. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised (6:7-12, NIV).According to that passage, to make our hope sure (v. 11) we are to help God's people to the very end. (Compare to Mt. 25:34-40.) According to other passages, salvation and eternal life are our hope (1 Thess. 5:8; Titus 3:7). Faith and patience are exalted in Heb. 6:12.
Flee The Desire To Get RichThe New Testament often mentions greed (Mk. 7:22,23; Lk. 12:15; Eph. 5:3; etc.) and its ability to exclude one from the kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9,10; Eph. 5:5-7). It, therefore, should be apparent that this sin should be carefully guarded against. Paul wrote Timothy about this:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Tim. 6:6-12, NIV).Please note, Paul told Timothy to flee the desire to get rich (v. 11) and stated why such was so important. Some Christians have wandered from the faith over this! Clearly, a man of God can yet be plunged into ruin and destruction through the desire to get rich. So alongside the command to flee sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18) and idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14), we are also informed here to flee the desire to get rich.
Rather than being eager for money, we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. See also 2 Tim. 2:22.
Make Your Calling And Election SureAfter our salvation, we are to put forth every effort to add to our faith, according to the Apostle Peter.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall (2 Pet. 1:5-10, NIV).
We Must All Go Through Many HardshipsThe ministry of Paul and Barnabas included strengthening and encouraging real Christians to remain true to the faith. In part, they did this by teaching them:
... strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said (Acts 14:22, NIV).Again, Christians are in an intense, spiritual battle. Hardships will come even to the most devoted saints. We are told to endure them.
Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:3, NIV).This issue of endurance is very important because sometimes our powerful prayers will not remedy the situation the way we'd like them to! This will be especially true when Rev. 13:7 is fulfilled.
He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation (NIV).
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