Whose Side Are You On?

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” Joshua 5:13 ESV

We all want God on our side. In fact, we often claim He is without ever bothering to ask Him. We assume we have the power of His Name behind us, fighting for what we believe.

But the real question, dear one, isn’t whether God stands on our side. It’s whether we stand on His.

Joshua discovered that when he faced the commander of God’s army outside Jericho. The question left his lips in hopeful anticipation. “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” His response brought Joshua to his knees.

And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” Joshua 5:14

Essentially the angel told him, “I’m not for you or your enemy. I fight for the Lord.” In that moment Joshua humbly asked the only question he could ask, the one each of us should be asking.

“What does my lord say to his servant?”

You and I want to be on God’s side, beloved. When we are, we have the full power of His might behind us. Joshua’s trust in God’s words collapsed the walls of an impenetrable city, giving the people of Israel their first victory in their Promised Land. Our trust in God’s words will secure our victories as well.

But look at what happens when we don’t live according to His Word.

In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Isaiah 63:9-10

Sobering, isn’t it? These verses don’t describe God coming against a foreign enemy. They depict Him turning against His own people, those He had loved and redeemed. Why would He do that? Because His own people ignored Him.

“These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations; I also will choose harsh treatment for them and bring their fears upon them, because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes and chose that in which I did not delight.” Isaiah 66:3-4

We have this idea that when we bear God’s name, He always fights for us. But when we don’t stand for what He stands for—when we rebel against His Word—God actually turns and fights against us.

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God.  1 Corinthians 3:18-19a

Wisdom that comes from anywhere other than God is folly. And folly leads to death.

So you and I have a choice to make, dear one. Will we stand on His truth even when it’s not popular? Or will we stand with the world opposing God?

Because that’s exactly what aligning our beliefs with the world does, dear one. It sets us up against God.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? James 4:4-5

When we’re not for Him, we’re against Him. So you and I better know what He says. We can’t afford to make assumptions about His Word or His character. The cost is too great.

Isaiah 59:14-15 offers a fitting description for our days.

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.

Evil increases in our days, dear one. The one who deceives the whole world has convinced it to exchange the truth of God for a lie. Truth has stumbled in the public squares. We cannot trust the wisdom of the world.

But there is wisdom that saves, beloved, wisdom rooted in the only source of truth.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways. Proverbs 2:6-15

It’s time we take sides, dear one. Jesus died to deliver us from the deceptions of this world. When we stand with the world, we stand against God.

Don’t just assume He’s got your back, beloved. Open the Word and make sure you’ve got His.

Proven and True

If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV

Our human nature seeks the quick fix. We want the path of least resistance, the easy way out. So we’ve convinced ourselves that walking an aisle or praying a magic prayer ensures our salvation.

But what if there’s more? What if 1 Corinthians 4:2 actually means what it says?

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (NIV)

Beloved, what if professing faith in Jesus Christ is more than just a simple, one-time commitment? What if what matters most isn’t how we begin but how we finish?

Consider Paul’s words to Timothy, found in our opening scripture.

If we endure, we will also reign with him.

Jesus also declared on two separate occasions while describing the difficulties that will come in the world,

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22, 24:13

The writer of Hebrews agreed.

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Hebrews 10:36

Do you notice the consistent theme popping up in these verses, beloved? You and I need to endure. It doesn’t matter how sincere we thought we were when we started. Even Judas appeared sincere to the other disciples. What matters is how we finish the race.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

Paul didn’t write those words for his own benefit, dear one. The Holy Spirit inspired them. God sent a message through Paul to penetrate our hearts with truth. Finishing well matters.

I used to wonder at the meaning of Philippians 2:12-13.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (emphasis mine)

What does it mean to work out our salvation—especially with fear and trembling? Doesn’t God Himself do the work when we believe?

The answer, of course, is yes. Jesus completed the work of salvation through the cross. And we can only access that salvation through faith. We can’t earn it.

But what you and I need to work out, dear one, is whether the faith we claim to have in Jesus is real, biblical faith. We must ask ourselves: Is God obviously at work within us?

1 John 2:19 reveals an important truth.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

True believers—held in the hand of our Savior—will not depart from Him. We can’t, because God Himself is at work in our hearts directing our wills to align with His pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

What proves the sincerity of our faith, beloved, is whether we endure when things get hard. Our challenges reveal the true condition of our hearts—and who really governs them.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7

The next verse reveals the key to genuine faith.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. 1 Peter 1:8

True faith can't exist without love. Click To Tweet

Authentic biblical faith will endure because it’s grounded in love. It doesn’t come from duty or a desire to earn grace. Love returned to Jesus for the great sacrifice He made will keep us from falling away.

We may falter at times. We may stumble. But Jesus will always remain faithful to keep us because we are His. He holds us, calls to us, instructs us, and guards us, enabling us to endure.

That’s what 2 Timothy 2:13 means when it says,

If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

When our faith is grounded in love, we don’t just belong to Him. We’re a part of Him. And Jesus will never deny Himself.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

A Distinct Salvation

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:8 ESV

The world keeps changing.

And society continues to redefine itself right along with it. Yet in the midst of our continually evolving world, one thing remains constant.

“I the Lord do not change.” Malachi 3:6

As much as you and I may feel inclined to redefine God to suit who we want Him to be, He doesn’t change. And scripture is clear. Though everything else may fade away, His Word will endure. Eventually, it will prove itself true, and no one will be able to deny it.

So you and I have a choice to make, dear one. Will we draw near to God, stand on His Word, and reap the blessings of the faithful? Or will we allow society to redefine our beliefs and suffer the consequences?

That’s right. Turning our backs on God’s Word will bring consequences. Always. They may not be immediate, but they always come. That’s why Jesus told the deceiver,

It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

Did you catch that, dear one? Jesus said every word. If you and I want to really live, we need to trust what God says.

You see, whether or not it’s presently popular to believe it, God’s Word remains true. Infallible. Flawless. And not just the convenient parts or the scriptures that suit our agendas. It’s all true.

The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. Psalm 119:160, emphasis mine

Partial truth deceives, dear one. We need the whole of it. And that’s what has brought us so much trouble. We’ve tried to pick and choose.

We grab hold of scriptures that celebrate grace while neglecting God’s call to holiness. Or we attack with the law as if it’s a weapon, ignoring Jesus’ plea to love even our enemies.

Beloved, our selective application of scripture places us on very dangerous ground. Ignorance of what God really says doesn’t qualify as an excuse to avoid His judgments.

And that’s what’s coming, dear one, for those who continue to exchange the truth of God for the enemy’s lies.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness … Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! … Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked. Isaiah 5:20-21, 25, emphasis mine

In days when our society turns from God in increasing measure, it’s imperative that we, His people, turn toward Him with even greater fervor. You see, if we don’t allow God to reveal His truth to us, we will find ourselves easily convinced by the lie.

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:17-18, emphasis mine

There is only one way to avoid being caught in the tide that’s coming, dear one. We need to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He alone holds the standard of truth by which we will all be judged. And He alone provides the power meet it.

Jesus holds the standard of truth by which we will be judged. And He alone provides the power meet it. Click To Tweet

Let Psalm 119:10 be the prayer of our hearts.

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

You and I need to seek the truth, beloved, and Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). For too long we’ve allowed others to tell us what truth is. We need to open our Bibles and permit the Teacher Himself to write His Word upon our hearts. As we trust Him, aligning our beliefs and lives with what He reveals, we ensure our deliverance.

You see, a consistent theme reveals itself throughout the Word of God.

The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. 2 Peter 2:9-10

A distinction is about to be made.

“They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. Malachi 3:17-18, emphasis mine

Beloved, you and I can’t expect people who don’t follow Christ to act like people who do. But we also can’t allow them to carry us away from truth with the futility of their thinking.

The Word of God must be our standard. We must not let our culture dictate what’s acceptable and what isn’t. God alone has that right.

But when we stand with Him in truth, dear one, you can be sure He will also stand with us.

A Perfect Promise

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

I realize I may have already lost you with our opening scripture. Perfect is a far too potent word. We’re comfortable using it to describe our Savior and what awaits us in heaven, but we certainly don’t want to apply it to us in the here and now.

And yet, the words before us emerged from Jesus’ lips during His Sermon on the Mount.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48, emphasis mine

Yep. Jesus said it. Right after He instructed us to love our enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. … For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Matthew 5:43-46, emphasis mine

According to Jesus, anyone can love those who love in return. Sons and daughters of God, however, will also love their enemies. And not just love them, but advocate for them through prayer. Then He sums up His teaching with a charge to be perfect, in the same way that our heavenly Father is perfect.

That’s a pretty tall order, don’t you think? Jesus couldn’t possibly have meant perfect. After all, perfection is impossible, an unattainable goal.

Perhaps this is a good time to ponder another of Jesus’ statements.

“All things are possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23

Beloved, what we find impossible, Jesus makes possible.

What we find impossible, Jesus makes possible. Mark 9:23 Click To Tweet

And He commands us to love perfectly—not just our friends, but our enemies—just like the Father does. Impossible?

I can’t help wondering, dear one. Have you and I limited the power of the cross in our lives through unbelief? Have we set boundaries on what we’ll believe Jesus can accomplish here?

What if a church perfected in love is the very thing He’s waiting for to herald His return?

I know. It sounds crazy. But let’s at least entertain the thought a moment. The word translated “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 is teleios in Greek, and it means perfect, mature, finished (#5046, Strong’s). Paul used the same word in Colossians 1:28.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Paul wrote that his goal—his reason for toiling in ministry—was to present everyone mature in Christ. According to the Greek, we could also say it this way. To present everyone finished. Perfect.

 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

This I know for certain, dear one. Jesus would not command something of us that He did not provide the power to accomplish. What if He’s simply waiting for a generation who will believe He’s able to do it?

Our word teleios also appears in Ephesians 4:13.

 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood (unto a perfect man, KJV), to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

You may need to read it again to let it sink in.

All that Jesus provided through His grace for the work of ministry centers on one purpose: building up the body until we attain the unity of faith that flows from intimate knowledge of Him. That unity will take place as individuals mature—or become perfected—attaining the full measure of Christ’s stature.

Beloved, Jesus desires to reveal the full measure of who He is through you and me. He gave us His nature. Now He wants His church to mature, stop fighting one another, and reveal it.

And He will accomplish it before the end.

You see, Jesus always prays according to His Father’s will, so He always gets what He asks for (1 John 5:14-15). And before He allowed an angry mob to nail Him to that cross, He prayed these words.

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:22-23

There’s that word perfect again. This word comes from the same root but carries the verb form, teleioō (#5048, Strong’s). It means, “to perfect, complete, finish, to reach a goal, be fulfilled, completed, made perfect.”

Jesus prayed for His body—you and me— to be made perfect, to mature to such a level that we would all be one with each other in the same way that He and the Father are. Perfectly one. Can you imagine it, dear one?

When it happens—and it will happen—the world will recognize that Jesus really did come from the Father. And they will know that God loves.

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

One question remains, beloved. Will ours be the generation that sees it accomplished? Will we grow up in Him to maturity, attaining the full measure of His stature so that we can reveal His love?

I choose to believe, dear one, not in my own will or ability, but in the power of my God. He is able to do far beyond all we could ask or think, according to His power at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

Let’s tear down the boundaries we have set up, lose ourselves in His perfect love, and let Jesus loose a little glory.

I pray,beloved,

that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of GodEphesians 3:17-19