February 26, 2018
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
When I first became a Christian, I knew very little about the Bible! I was 19 years old, had just joined the Air Force a few months before. I was in Radar Repair training at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. A friend had converted to Roman Catholicism from some fundamental denomination (I don’t remember which one), and I asked him, “Why? ” As Jerry explained his reasons and experience, I thought, “Maybe I will become a Catholic!” I didn’t have much Christian training growing up, and was I drawn by Jerry’s testimony. I don’t remember when it happened, but I became saved! I put my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! But I could not explain it like I can now, after 52 years of being a Christian, 45 years as a pastor, lots of studying in formal education, and especially reading and studying the Bible daily for so many years! But back then, I only knew three things:
Jesus was real!
He was alive!
He loved me!
And I fell head over heels in love with Him!
I had a lot to learn about being a Christian! I knew very little of what the Bible said. You see, it is our guide book – telling us of our great God revealed in His Son Jesus Christ, and instructing us how we should then live because of His great love toward us. He loves us so much that He sent His own Son to die for us, so we might live eternally and fully through Him! (See John 3:16; Romans 5:8; I John 4:10).
There are a lot of dos and don’ts in the Bible. Jewish tradition holds that there are 613 commandments in the Old Testament! As Christians, we are not under the Jewish law, but under grace. (see Romans 6:14). But there are still many commandments in the Bible which followers of Jesus are to obey! In reading through the three chapters of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7), I found about 50 commands we are to heed! And there are many more in the rest of the New Testament! Now we are not saved by obedience to commands. But, as Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My Commandments.”
As I said, I knew next to nothing about what the Bible teaches when I first put my faith in Christ. According to Luke 12:47 and 48, the more we know of God’s will, the more responsible we will be held!
…that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself
or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he
who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be
beaten with few.
We are to grow in our knowledge of the Bible! (See II Peter 3:18). But I learned early on there are some general guideline Scriptures that will help us as we increase in knowledge. Romans 14 contains four of these guidelines that I call The Four Gates Of Christian Conduct! The truths in just these four verses will guide you a great deal in the living out of your faith – until you learn more and more specifics from the Word!
• Romans 14:12 (the First Gate Of Christian Conduct) – “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”
✞ Many people have a vague idea that we will stand before God in judgment someday! At that last judgment (in their opinion) the person’s works are weigh, good against the bad. And if the good works outweigh the bad, that one is invited into heaven and eternal life. If the evil works outweigh the good, then that one is condemned to hell. This is the false theology of salvation by works! And it plainly says in Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us…” (See also Ephesians 2:8-10). The only work that procures heaven for anyone is the work Jesus accomplished on the cross, dying for our sins and rising again! And the only work left for us to do to acquire that salvation is what He taught in John 6:29: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him [Jesus Christ] whom He sent.”
✞ But what of Romans 14:12? When will the Christian give account of himself to God? And what account is Paul talking about? There is another judgment called “…the judgment seat of Christ…” in II Corinthians 5:10. It is also known as the Bema Seat Judgment, but that phrase is not found in Scripture. The Bema was a raised dias upon which a magistrate sat to hear and decide cases brought before him (see for example Acts 18:12-17). The term was used also for the stand from which judges observed and determined winners and losers in contests such as athletic games.
The judgment seat of Christ is described in I Corinthians 3:11 through 15:
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is
Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver,
precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work with become manifest,
for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire
will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has
built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned,
he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
All who stand before this judgment will be saved ! It is a judgment of the Christian’s works – what he or she has built upon this foundation which is Jesus Christ – after he or she has been saved!
▸ We can live our lives for the glory of God – using as it were gold, silver, precious stones – and build a beautiful structure of our lives on the foundation of Christ. We then will receive a reward – not heaven, but rewards in heaven!
▸ Or we can chose to live our Christian lives for our own pleasure, ignoring what God wants of us. Although a person looking at such a life cannot often tell is that one is a true believer or not, if he or she has genuinely accepted Christ as Savior, that one has eternal life! But what rewards will he or she gain for eternity? None! All potential heavenly rewards will be lost!
So this is the First Gate Of Christian Conduct: Am I doing this for myself or the glory of God? If what you are about to do cannot pass this test, don’t do it! If it will be done for God’s glory, go on to the Second Gate Of Christian Conduct………in the next blog.