1. Holiness comes by looking unto Jesus
"Let us run the race....looking unto Jesus" (Heb.12:1,2)
The secret of godliness is found in the Person of Christ Who came in our flesh (as1 Tim.3:16 makes very clear) - and not in the doctrine that Christ came in our flesh. It is through His Person and not through a doctrinal analysis of His flesh, that we become holy.
Any amount of self-effort will never make a sinful heart holy. God has to do a work within us, for that to happen. Holiness (eternal life) is God's gift - and it can never be attained by works (Rom.6:23). The Bible states that God alone can sanctify us (make us holy) entirely (1 Thess.5:23 says that so plainly that no-one can mistake it). Yet multitudes of believers are struggling to deny themselves in order to be holy. They become Pharisees instead. "The holiness which is no illusion" (Eph.4:24-Philips) is attained by faith in Jesus - in other words by "looking unto Jesus".
If we keep looking only at a doctrine we will become Pharisees. The purer our doctrine, the greater the Pharisees we will become. The greatest Pharisees I have met on earth were among those who preached the highest standards of holiness through self-effort!! We have to be careful that we don't end up as one of them!
What it means to look unto Jesus is very clearly explained in Hebrews 12:2.First of all we are to look at Him as One Who lived on earth "enduring His cross" daily - "tempted in all points as we are and yet without sin" (Heb.4:15). He is our Forerunner (Heb.6:20), in Whose footsteps we are to run. Secondly, we are to see Him as the One Who is now "at the right hand of the Father", interceding for us and ready to help us in every trial and temptation.
2. The way of the cross is the way of life
"If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him" (2 Tim.2:11)
There is no way for us to have the life of Jesus manifested in our body other than by accepting death to our Self-life in all the situations that God plans and arranges for us (2 Cor.4:10,11).
We must "consider ourselves dead to sin" (Rom.6:11) in all situations, if we are to overcome sin. We must "mortify the deeds of the body through the Spirit" if we are to live (Rom.8:13). The Holy Spirit will always lead us to the cross in our daily life.
We are sent by God into situations where we are "slaughtered the whole day long" (Rom.8:36) and "delivered to death for Jesus sake" (2 Cor.4:11). In such situations, we must accept "the dying of Jesus" (2 Cor.4:10), so that the life of Jesus may be manifest in us.
3. We are called to be rejected and persecuted by men
"All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Tim.3:12)
Jesus told His disciples that in the world they would face tribulation, (Jn.16:33); and He prayed to the Father NOT to take His disciples out of the world (Jn.17:15).The apostles taught believers that only through much tribulation they could enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:23).
Jesus said that if people had called the Head of the house Beelzebul, the members of His household would be called by worse names (Matt.10:25). It is thus that we know we are faithful members of His household. Some of the names that I have been called, by other "believers", have been: "Devil", "Son of the Devil", "Evil spirit", "Antichrist", "Deceiver", "Terrorist", "Murderer", and "Diotrephes". It has been a great honour to be identified thereby as a part of Jesus' household. All who serve the Lord faithfully will experience this.
Jesus also said that a true prophet would not be honoured by "his own relatives" (Mk.6:4). Jesus Himself was not accepted by His family members. Every true prophet of God will be rejected and dishonoured by his own relatives, even today. In the same way, a true apostle will also be "slandered and treated as the scum of the world and the dregs of all things" (1 Cor.4:13). Suffering and rejection have always been the appointed lot of God's greatest servants.
The teaching that the church will be raptured before the "great tribulation" is a popular one with most believers because it comforts their flesh to hear it. But Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 24:29-31 that He will return to take His elect only AFTER the great tribulation. THERE IS NOT A SINGLE VERSE IN THE ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT THAT TEACHES THAT THE CHURCH WILL ESCAPE THE GREAT TRIBULATION BY BEING RAPTURED OUT OF IT. This doctrine was invented by a man in England in the mid-1800 s.
We must now prepare the church in our country for persecution.