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Run to Win 

We’re living in the last of the last days, Jesus is coming soon, and the greatest spiritual outpouring in all of history is going to take place before his arrival.  More signs, wonders and miracles are going to be manifested in our day than ever before, and we’re going to have the opportunity to help bring into the kingdom of God the greatest harvest of souls that’s ever been reaped in one generation.

Already, it’s beginning to happen all around us.  As anyone who’s been paying attention can tell you, the last days’ move of God is on!

For it to come to its fullness, though, something more must happen.  The Church as a whole, and each one of us, as individual believers, must come up to a higher level of holiness.

For God’s glory to flow through us to the max, we must cleanse our lives of anything that’s contrary to His will, get our flesh under control and go all out for God.  We must drop everything that pulls us away from Him so that we’re living like 2 Timothy 2:21 commands:  As ‘an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (New International Version – 84).

God isn’t going to bring His work to a climax in this age through half-baked believers who have one foot in the world and one foot in His kingdom.  He’s going to put on the front lines of His grand finale, Christians who are running their spiritual races full out.  He’s going to pour out His power through a Church that’s rejected worldliness and sin and given itself 100% - spirit soul and body – to Him.

That’s the kind of Church Jesus intends for us to be in these last days.  It’s what He had in mind when He gave His life for us.  According to Ephesians 5:25-27: “Christ … loved the church and gave himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to himself a glorious church, not having sport, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

Those verses don’t say Jesus gave Himself for the Church so that we could live pretty much like the rest of the world and then go to heaven when we die.  They don’t say He gave us His Word so that we could be just old sinners saved by grace.   No, they say that Jesus gave Himself for us so that He can present us to Himself, a Church that is glorious, holy and without blemish.

 

“Well,” someone might say, ‘that holiness business sounds like bondage to me.  It sounds like legalism, and I’m into grace.”   I’m into grace too!  I love everything about it.

I love that grace causes God’s unmerited favor to manifest in my life.  I love that it’s by grace we’re saved through faith and not by our own works.  I love that by God’s grace, all His promises and BLESSINGS are mine in Christ Jesus.

But you know what else I love about grace?  I love that, as Titus 2 says:  ‘The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared … teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (verses 11-13).

I’m not sure we talk enough these days about that aspect of grace.  But we should because all the aspects of grace work together.   For the divine favor of God to operate in our lives, the grace of God that teaches us to deny ungodliness must also be in operation.  For us to experience the grace that enables us to be BLESSED and a BLESSING, we must embrace the grace that empowers us to live in holiness as well.

Nothing Scary About It

I realize that the word holiness scares some believers, but it really shouldn’t because for us there’s nothing scary about it.  It doesn’t represent some impossibly high standard that we can’t achieve.  The word holy just means ‘separated to God, taken out from the rest of the world and set apart for Him.’   Holiness simply refers to conduct befitting that separation.

You were made holy when you were born again, so for you, living in holiness is normal.  It’s just walking out what God has already done in you.  It’s acting on the outside like who you are on the inside.  It’s taking dominion over your flesh, yielding to your inner man and living in tune with the Holy Spirit.

 Many believers don’t realize this, but one of the Holy Spirit’s primary missions is to lead us to ‘mortify’ the sinful tendencies of our flesh and live holy lives.  He constantly helps us to do that because He understands (even if we sometimes don’t) how important it is.  “For if ye live after the flesh,” Romans 8:13-14 says, ‘ye shall die:  but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.   For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

In your Christian life, every time you got into trouble by diving into your flesh, you had to override the leading of Holy Spirit to do so.  Every time you messed up and got into sin you had to ignore His still, small voice, because He was talking to you and telling you not to do it the whole time.  

He wasn’t just talking either.  He was also making available to you the power you needed to do what He was saying.  But for some reason, you didn’t choose to use it.   Either because of spiritual immaturity or because you just wanted to do things your own way, you chose instead to sin.

We’ve all done that at times, and because we’re all still growing and maturing spiritually, we’ll do it again from time to time.  When we do, thank God, we can repent and receive the Lord’s forgiveness.  It’s always there for us no matter what we’ve done.

Even so, we don’t want to become flippant about it.  We don’t want to start thinking that sin is no big deal, or that we can persist in it willfully and there won’t be any price to pay.  That’s just not true. 

Sin is a destroyer.  The Bible says so, and I’ve seen it proven out time and again.  I remember one ministry I visited many years ago.  It was doing quite well at the time I was there, but during my visit I became concerned about it.  Although I didn’t see anything going on that was blatantly sinful, a casual attitude toward holiness had crept in among the leaders.  They seemed to be taking on the spirit of the world.

After I got home, I realized those leaders didn’t have anyone around them who could alert them to the problem.  They‘d surrounded themselves with paid staff who said only what they wanted to hear.  It was a dangerous situation, as it would be for any of us, as believers.

We all need people around us who will speak truth into our lives.  We all need Christian friends and mentors who love us enough to tell us when they see us slipping back in our relationship with the Lord.  When everyone around us agrees with us, we can overestimate ourselves.  We can become legends in our own minds and think that we’re no longer subject to the commands in the Bible.  That we’re so special we won’t be negatively affected by sin.

Sadly, the leaders in this particular ministry fell into that mindset.  Over time, they became involved in immoral behavior and the ministry was destroyed.  When it all came to light, people were appalled.  “How could such a well-known minister ever slip into such shocking sin?”  they asked.  “How does that kind of thing happen?”

It happens a little at a time.  A little sin here, not repented of, leads to a little more sin there, not repented of.  As the sins pile up, the heart gets hardened to them.  It stops sounding the alarm, and the sinning believer keeps moving further and further away from the light and into the darkness.

No matter how far out into the darkness that believer gets, if he’ll repent, God will receive him with open arms and help him get back on track again.  And in the case of these dear Christian leaders, that’s how the story ended.  But the sobering truth is, it’s not always that way.

Sometimes believers who willfully and persistently choose to sin get to the place where their hearts are so hardened, they no longer have any desire to repent.  They could repent if they only would, but they don’t want to.

Kenneth E. Hagin used to tell a story about a woman like that.  She was a pastor’s wife with a beautiful voice who’d spent years singing in church.  One day the devil started whispering in her ear, telling her she was missing out on something better.   “You’re a beautiful woman,” he said.  “You could have anything you want.  You could be a movie star.  Your life is being totally wasted here.”

For a while she resisted the devil’s lies, but he kept coming back and talking to her – and eventually she started listening.  She started thinking about what he was saying and it took root in her mind.  Eventually, she embraced it so completely that she left her husband and turned her back on the Lord.  She rejected the pleas of the Holy Spirit and the other believers who tried to help her, committed herself to a life of sin and never repented.

Seek Those Things Which Are Above

Such stories are sad to hear.   They’re also relatively rare because sin is so foreign to our nature as believers.  In our hearts, we really don’t want to walk in darkness because we’re literally born of the Light.

That doesn’t mean, though, that we don’t need to take the warnings in the New Testament seriously.  If we’re going to shine brightly in this sin darkened world, when the devil temps us to become a little more like it, we must remember that the Lord says in 2 Corinthians 6, “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?   And what communion hath light with darkness? … Come out from among them, and be ye separate … and touch not the unclean thing” (verses 14,17).

To separate means “to disconnect,” and that’s what we must do to live a holy life in this unholy world.  We must disconnect not just from the sinful behaviors it considers acceptable, but from its ungodly mindset.  We must disconnect from sinful thoughts.

Don’t buy the idea that you can fantasize in your mind about sin and it won’t affect you physically.   Don’t think, I’m just going to imagine what this would be like, but I’m not going to act on it.   You can’t have an unclean mind and a clean body.  If you think about something long enough, you’ll do it.

So, don’t even go there in your mind.  The moment you catch unholy thoughts trying to get a hold on you, take authority over them and steer your mind in a different direction.  Separate yourself from them and rise above them, like cream separates from milk and rises to the top.

“But Gloria, I’m not sure I can do that.   Sometimes my flesh and the temptations of the devil are just too strong for me.”   No, they’re not!   You’re a child of Almighty God.  You’re born of Him and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.   “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world”

(1 John 4:4).

Unholy thoughts and fleshly lusts can’t conquer you.  You have Holiness Himself living inside you.  You have God’s holy Word to guide you and an unlimited supply of His mighty grace to empower you to overcome.  All you need to do is avail yourself of it and do what God says in the Bible:2)

“Seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God (And) set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”  (Colossians 3:1-2)

“Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God … And be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  (Romans 12:1-2)

“Lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us and let us run with patience the race that is set before us looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Heb 12:1-2)

Granted, doing those things takes effort and commitment.  But the rewards will be worth it – especially in this day and hour.

This is the time of God’s grand finale.  The greatest move of God this world has ever seen is staring to take place.  Jesus is about to present to Himself “a glorious church, … holy and without blemish,” and you have the opportunity to be part of it.

Don’t slough off and waste that wonderful opportunity.  Give yourself to God 100% - spirit, soul and body.  Drop everything that pulls you away from Him and head toward the finish line of this age, as if how you cross it will matter for eternity, because it will.

As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize.  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.”   By the power of God’s grace, run your race to win!

Points to Get You There:

1 – When you cleanse your life of everything that’s contrary to God’s will, His glory can flow through you.    2 Tim 2:21  

2 – God empowers you to reject ungodliness and live in holiness by His grace.   Titus 2:11-12

3 – The Holy Spirit will lead you to put to death your fleshly tendencies to sin.   Rom 8:13

4 – You weren’t born again to live like people in the world, you were created by God to live in holiness.   2 Cor 6:17

5 – Laying aside worldly weights and sin enables you to run your spiritual race to win.1 Cor 9:24

Understanding Holiness:

1 – The devil is the author of sin and when you yield to it, you open the door for him to bring destruction into your life.   Rom 6:23

2 – God wants you to ENJOY THE BLESSINGS of His abundant life so He has called you to separate yourself sin and walk with Him.   2 Cor 6:17-18

3 – In your spirit God has already made you as holy as He is.   1 Cor 1:30               

4 – All you have to do to be holy is to cooperate with Him and give outward expression to who you really are on the inside.   Heb 12:1-2

Article written by Gloria Copeland from Kenneth Copeland MinistriesTaken with permission from the “Believers Voice of Victory magazine”, Aug 2019 edition.