Are you ready to meet Christ?

Recently I was reading a fascinating article about the training of air force pilots. It stated “One flight condition a pilot must understand is hypoxia or ‘oxygen starvation’. Students are paired off in an altitude simulation chamber. With oxygen masks on, they are taken to simulated conditions of 30,000 feet. One student then removes his mask for a few minutes and begins to answer simple questions on a sheet of paper. Suddenly their partner will force the oxygen mask back on again. After a few gulps of normal air, the writer is astounded to discover the gibberish he has written. The first lines are legible, but the last few are unreadable. Remarkably, until the mask is replaced the participant will feel certain that he was still writing legibly. He will have been oblivious to the fact he was on the verge of losing total consciousness.”

As a pilot can be on the verge of blacking out, without being aware of his condition, so too, people can be spiritually starving without being aware of how far they are from God. In Matthew ch  7 vs 21-23 Jesus  stated  that  there are  a vast  number of people  who think they are  Christian’s  and who  wrongly imagine themselves to be close to God. In this passage He warns that although they may be involved in all sorts of good endeavours, because they refuse to place Him first in their hearts and lives they are still “practising iniquity”. They are as deceived and unaware of their true state as a pilot suffering from hypoxia.

In reality, what God wants more than anything else is  obedience to His wishes in our own personal lives not our busyness or “outward activities”. He wants our hearts not our works. The Gift of His Son Who suffered such Agony on the Cross for our sakes deserves nothing less than this devoted personal obedience. As important as church attendance, reading the Bible, praying   and giving to charity may be, these activities don’t as such make a person a Christian. What actually makes a person a follower of Christ is the wholehearted obedience and application of their own personal lives to God’s commandments  and wishes.

 Such personal obedience and commitment will of course sometimes involve sacrifice. Many years ago an American cowboy who was converted to Christianity described the kind of obedience God wanted with the following illustration. “Lots of folks think that being a Christian simply involves doing easy things such as shouting themselves hoarse praising His Name and helping the poor. Now I’ll tell you how I look at that. I am working for Jim here. If I do nothing but easy things like sitting around the house telling what a good fellow Jim is, singing songs to him and giving away money, I would not suit Jim. I am  only  really serving Jim as he wants to be served  if I obey him at a personal level  and am  willing to remain obedient to  his orders  no matter  what   the sacrifice  may be  to me. Jim  doesn’t want lazy and second rate field hands who only do the  easy things he asks, he wants ones  who obey him from the heart and remain obedient no matter  how difficult the  task  he calls upon them to do.”

That’s the kind of obedience God deserves; personal obedience from the heart whatever the cost!  The hallmark of a true Christian is one who is obedient to God in his or her   own personal life no matter what.  Many people imagine themselves belonging to God but are spiritually starving because  they are unwilling to personally obey Him.   In the depths of their being they are unwilling to deal with the sin in their own personal lives and so they busy themselves with “kindly activities” and “easy things” deceiving themselves into believing that God will accept these “good works” in place of an obedient heart. Like the pilot suffering from hypoxia they have no idea the dangerous state that they are in.

Scripture warns that because self deception or “spiritual hypoxia” is so easy to miss it is the responsibility of every individual to regularly examine their hearts and lives in the light of God’s Word. (See 2nd Corinthians ch13v5).  It is the responsibility of everyone to make sure they really are living in accordance with God’s will in every area of their personal lives. Reading and learning about His will concerning conduct and attitudes is like giving proper air to an oxygen starved pilot. The oxygen of Scripture makes us see things as they really are in God’s eyes.  Whatever we ourselves or others may think  about various kinds of behaviour,   absorbing the oxygen of Biblical  teaching,  instantly  reveals what is  permissible and what is not.

A famous incident took place in America during the presidency of Millard Fillmore. The story goes that a group of 20 politicians and businessmen met at Astor House in New York. Amongst them was Secretary of State Daniel Webster. During dinner the Secretary of State was asked “Mr Webster will you tell us what is the most important thought you ever had?” Those listening expected some sort of political reply, perhaps to do with foreign or social policy. How shaken they were when after a brief silence he confidently and thoughtfully replied “The most serious thought that ever occupied my mind was that of my individual responsibility to God.” Owing to the dangers of self deception Scripture states that it is the responsibility of every individual to regularly examine their lives in the light of Biblical teaching.

The behaviour God requires for someone to be a true follower of Christ is outlined  very plainly in Scripture and   a  true  Christian will take such teaching extremely  seriously. The Bible states that  the greatest need for  Mankind is the transformation of the human heart and so  it is in the heart  that  spiritual warfare takes place when an individual seeks to do things God’s way. When a person starts to bring their life into line with His will aided and helped by the Holy Spirit,   a great conflict often occurs within them. Are they really going to put God’s will fully first in their hearts and lives or not?

God has promised that in Christ, we will be given power over the sin in our hearts, but such supernatural power is conditional; it will only be granted if  we genuinely want to obey.  An American Indian convert movingly said “Now I am a Christian, every time I am faced with a choice between good and evil it is as though there are two dogs fighting in my chest, an evil black dog and a good white dog.” When he was then asked which dog wins he added “The dog I want to win will win!” Scripture does indeed promise Divine help and strength to resist sin in our hearts and lives but it is entirely conditional upon the genuineness and depth of our sincerity to want to obey. (See Romans ch 6v12 and ch 8v37, 1st Corinthians ch 10v13, 2nd Peter ch2 v 9, James ch4v7).

Scripture teaches that it is only the “pure in heart who will see God” (Matthew ch5v8) and that “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews ch 12v14). Every time an individual has successfully resisted sin and proven faithful in obedience, as a reward, the Lord always reveals something more of Himself. They see more of Him. This may take the form of a greater awareness of His love, a deeper sense of His Fellowship, a greater understanding of some particular truth, an indescribable inner joy, or perhaps a feeling of inner peace which passes all understanding. (See James ch4v8 and John ch14v21-23).

Whatever form it takes, however, it will always make the effort to remain faithful worthwhile and worth the sacrifice.  This is why Scripture  states  that “ the joy of  the Lord is our strength”  in other words,  the  joy that comes from   experiencing  deeper fellowship with Him  is what  motivates us  and encourages us to remain faithful. (See Nehemiah ch 8v10,Genesis ch 15v1). “The Lord Himself is our exceedingly great reward” so our motive for obedience shouldn’t be just to escape the punishment of hell, but rather because the reward of righteousness is so exceedingly lovely. The reward for righteousness is Himself. He Himself is our Reward, in other words, the reward is none other   than personal and everlasting companionship and intimate fellowship with Him, the God of infinite Holiness and Love.

To be fit for such a special relationship we obviously need to become like Him in character, behaviour and attitude, so that we “may be partakers of His Holiness.” (Hebrews ch12v10).  His will is clearly and plainly taught in Scripture for all to see. Those who apply this teaching to their lives are promised everlasting life in fellowship with Him, while those who wilfully disobey will experience the punishment of hell; as it warns in Hebrews ch 2v 3 “How shall we escape if neglect so great a salvation.” (Also Galatians ch 6v7 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will reap.”)

Personal Life Review based on God’s revealed will in Scripture.

So are we living our personal life in accordance with His will? Is our heart right before Him? Are we suffering self deception or “spiritual starvation”?  Do we need to deepen our relationship with Him?  Are we growing in our faith as we should be? Are we as motivated and enthusiastic as we should be about spiritual matters?  Is indifference and worldly compromise stifling our faith?  Are we persevering as we should or do we give up when the going gets tough? Am I open to, and listening out for, God’s guidance in my life.

When Christ returns we will have to account for every thought, word and deed we have ever committed.  Our attitudes and not just our outward behaviour will be judged.  With all this in mind let us now put on the oxygen mask of Scripture and deeply inhale the following teaching. All of God’s commandments are important so the following list is deliberately not in any special order and is by no means comprehensive. As we yield our hearts to His Word may God the Holy Spirit show us if we are doing anything amiss so it can be turned away from, fully repented of  and  then forgiven. One consequence of the Fall is brokenness in all areas of our lives.  The wounds arising from this inherent brokenness require God’s transforming touch. The promise of Scripture is that ongoing change in all area of our lives is possible through the work of the Holy Spirit within. Let us now see our life as God sees it and measure it against His will:

Luke ch 10v27. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”
Matthew ch 7v12 “However you want men to treat you, do also to them.”(Do we always treat others the way we ourselves wish to be treated?)
Matthew ch 18v35 “So My Heavenly Father will do to you if each of you, from his heart does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” God wants our enemies to fully repent and be saved. See also ch 18 vs 21-35.
Romans ch 12vs 9-21. Here St Paul provides the template for Christian behaviour such as “Repay no one evil for evil” etc. (Eg Do we remain courteous towards those with whom we disagree?)
Galatians ch 5vs19-21. Here St Paul gives a list of behaviour forbidden by God, concluding with the statement, “Those who practise such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” See also the further list in 1st Corinthians ch 6vs 9-11 where he warns people not to be deceived. Note what he says about sexual relationships, forbidding sex outside  marriage and forbidding the practice of homosexuality. In Ephesians ch 5vs 3-7 he adds “Let no one deceive you with empty words.”  Note also the mention of “coarse jokes”. (Spreading unsavoury gossip is also forbidden in Leviticus ch19v16).  Other important passages are; Colossians ch 3vs 5-11.  1st Timothy ch1 vs 9,10  and  Revelation ch 21 v8 and ch22v 15. Romans ch 1vs 18-ch2v18 and  Proverbs ch 6vs 16-19.
Matthew chs 5-7 The Sermon on the Mount should be gone through line by line. For instance, do we hunger to be righteous? (ch5v6). Do we earnestly desire a clean heart? (See Psalm 51v10).  Note also the condemnation of pornography in ch 5v28.
Exodus ch 20vs 1-17 The Ten Commandments.
Luke ch 12vs15-21 regarding our attitude towards possessions.
Luke ch 17vs 7-10 regarding humility of heart/pride
Matthew ch 10vs 37-39 regarding Who is deserving of the greatest love of our hearts.
Luke ch 18vs 1-8 regarding persevering in faith and prayer.
Luke ch 17vs 11-19 regarding gratitude.
Psalm 111v10  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Do we fear God the way Scripture says we should? See also Proverbs ch 1v7, 2nd Corinthians ch5vs 10-11, Hebrews ch 10v31, James ch 2v19
The  entire Book of Proverbs is a useful guide to the way God wants us to think and  behave. 
James ch 4vs 19-27.  Don’t just be a hearer of the Word, be a doer.
Galatians ch 5vs 22-26.  Are we growing in these virtues? Note the mention of “self-control” in v23.
Matthew ch 25vs31-46. Do we really help those in trouble the way we should?
Matthew ch 25vs 14-30. Do we adequately use the gifts and talents God has given us? We are but custodians and stewards of these things.
Proverbs ch 3vs5,6. Do we seek God’s guidance “in all our ways”? Do we bring all our ideas and plans before Him for His approval and blessing? See also James ch4vs 13-17.
Colossians ch3vs12-17. Note “if anyone has a complaint against another …we must forgive.” See also Ephesians ch 4vs1-2, 19-32. Are we quick to taken offence? Are we harsh in our words or over critical of others?  Someone once remarked that as people get older they either “turn into vinegar or a fine wine”! Are we becoming more gracious and Christ-like as we get older or are we becoming bitter, stubborn and argumentative? When people look at us can they see Jesus in us? Remember, Jesus is to be the pattern of our life and the example we are to copy. It’s always helpful to ask ourselves in any given situation “WWJD” or “WWJS” ie “What would Jesus do/say”?
 2ndCorinthians ch 9v15. Do we really appreciate what God the Father did for us in the sending of His Son? He endured a gruesome death for us. It was no small thing. Do we adequately reflect on this Awesome Sacrificial Love? Do we think about it regularly and rejoice that we are loved so dearly?

If  this Personal Life Review has been of  help to your spiritual growth,  then please share it with others. I conclude this serious article with one final thought. 

In 1st Samuel ch2 v 30 God says “Those who honour Me I will honour (but  those who despise Me…”). This promise still stands.  God is Faithful. Honour God with your life and your heart, and He will honour you!