This is probably going to reveal my age but when I was in elementary school, we got a good paddling if we misbehaved. I vividly remember getting in trouble in the second grade. I honestly can’t remember what I did but it was enough that I, and another student had to stay inside for recess. We were told that we were not to speak to each other, and we were not to get out of our seats for anything except a fire alarm.
Our teacher took our well behaved classmates out to the playground. After sitting quietly for some time with no one coming in the room to check on us, we decided to talk to each other. One thing led to another and soon we were up running around the classroom dodging in and out of rows of desks chasing one another and playing tag!
We weren’t paying attention to the clock, so imagine our surprise when our teacher opened the door and caught us laughing and running around the room. She was not happy. She told us she was going to call the principal to come and give us a paddling. For the next several minutes, I sat there in terror waiting for the principal to open the door and call us into the hall.
I had heard so many stories of his giant wooden paddle with holes punched in it to give a good sting to the unruly student. Many spoke of how hard he could swing that paddle, lifting students completely off the floor with one smack! It seemed like an eternity, and then the door opened.
Our teacher called us up, and walked into the hall with us. She told the principal of how we had misbehaved, and after a few stern words, he told us to turn around and place our palms on the wall. I felt the wind just before I felt two good whacks from that paddle. I don’t remember anything the principal said to us that day, but I remembered that spanking. It was the first and last one I received in school.
From that day forward, if I felt the need to act up, I quickly remembered the sting of that wooden paddle. I counted the cost of my actions!
We live in a society that no longer feels accountable for their actions. Many people have lost the fear of God. Others simply don’t believe in God or the reality of heaven and hell. They feel that their denial of the very existence of such will make them impervious to the consequences. But that’s simply not true. We all will stand before God and give account for our actions, and whether we accepted or rejected His Son Jesus. As an evangelist my heart breaks for the lost, and that’s why I try to lead as many as I can to Jesus.
But, I’m also concerned about those who profess to be Christians and are not sold out to God. Many are consumed with the world, and are trying to look like the world. Sadly, I know many Christians who have compromised and are using grace as a license to sin. They have walked away from the teachings of our fathers and grandfathers.
They want to get as close to the world as possible, to see how much they can get away with, and still be considered a Christian. Instead of striving to look like Jesus they desire to look like and adhere to a lifestyle only slightly higher than the standards of the world. They have chosen the slippery slope and are now in a backslidden condition. But, they still lead worship on Sunday mornings. They still teach and preach and serve in church because that makes them feel like they are serving God.
They have a “form of godliness,” but they are completely powerless. They deny the power that could change them and make them powerful forces for the Kingdom of God. Living the life of a Christian is not always easy. Jesus warned the disciples of the cost.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
(Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)
And again here:
“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 desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
(1 John 2:15-17 ESV)
“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him…By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil”
(1John 3:4-6 & 10 ESV)
Paul warns Timothy of these things in the last days, and how to avoid the temptation to compromise.
“You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! …These teachers oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. But they won’t get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are, just as with Jannes and Jambres….But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived. But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
(2 Timothy 3:1-5, 8, 9, 14-16 NLT) emphasis mine
Before we ever become Christians we must count the cost. And when we become Christians we should strive to be holy because Jesus is holy. We must keep our eyes open to deception, and avoid those who would tell us it’s okay to live however you wish because grace covers it all. No, being in relationship with Jesus requires more of us than that. We must count the cost because eternity is at stake!
That’s why Jesus tells us:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
(Matthew 7:13-21 ESV)
And for those of us who preach or teach, we must be extra careful not to lead anyone astray.
"Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly."
(James 3:1 NLT)
Our elders preached holiness. It is just as important today as it was then. The reason we have so many powerless churches today is because many of them have a form of godliness. I don’t know about you, but I want the real thing! I don’t want a counterfeit. I want to see God glorified, and His power to save the lost, free the captive and heal the sick in operation. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom! I say all these things in love. We can expect more, because our God has so much more for us! Let us count the cost and then walk in His power.