Summary: There’s a biblical expression — “at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1) — that some people use to describe Christians who take a relaxed, nonchalant approach to their faith and their relationship with the Lord. This attitude should never be so! The Bible consistently commands the Christian believer to be active, to be diligent, and to “make every effort” to please the Lord in conduct and character. Not taking our ease, but going all out, “pedal to the metal” for God. Here are some God-pleasing, biblical ways in which we can (and should) be doing that.
Concerning our very salvation, Jesus declared, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
There’s a broad road that leads to destruction, and Jesus said that many choose to walk that broad road and thereby fail to find salvation. He then said that, compared to the “many” on the road to destruction, there are relatively “few” that choose God’s narrow road to salvation. There are not “many roads to God,” as some declare. Good works will not save you; salvation is by the free grace of God. Neither will just a general belief in God — even the demons believe in God, but are not saved (James 2:19). Being in other people’s eyes “a good person” certainly won’t get you saved. There is only one way to God — and that is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Our Lord said to “make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” It requires a choice and action. It doesn’t just happen. If God is touching your heart right now to come to Him through Jesus His Son, please allow the late, respected evangelist Billy Graham to lead you into God’s wonderful salvation — you’ll find help to do that at Steps to Peace with God. You’ll be eternally thankful that you made this choice.
Just above, we talked about “making every effort” to enter the Lord’s salvation His one and only way — through the grace of God expressed in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for our sins. Now let’s see what the Bible says about how our ongoing walk with the Lord should be in light of the pending end times.
“The day of the Lord” is a Bible phrase referring to Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. Each of us, having been born again by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, is commanded to “live holy and godly lives.” This doesn't just happen automatically because we are born-again Christians. No! Our carnal nature, our “flesh,” works nonstop against us, in an attempt to lead us into sinful lifestyles contrary to God’s holiness.
The solution? Take full advantage of the power of God’s Word, God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, and God’s grace to help you live a life of holiness that will please God, rather than pleasing your flesh. This takes daily, dedicated effort. That’s why the apostle Peter charged us to “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with Him.” How holy and godly should sincere, God-honoring believers aim to be? The apostle Paul answered that clearly when by the Holy Spirit he wrote that each born-again believer, each new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), is “to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). This is worthy of our every effort daily, in light of the upcoming “day of the Lord” and the prospect of the redeemed spending eternity with the Lord.
God loves unity among His faithful people (Psalm 133:1). But unfortunately we often see bickering and conflict among Christians. Certain groups of Christians vehemently oppose, even reject, other Christians for holding differing doctrines — Calvinists and Arminians, infant baptizers and immersion baptizers, Pentecostals and non- or anti-Pentecostals, and many more such distinctions based on doctrine or practices.
I believe fervently that God does want us to come into unity in our knowledge of His Word, the Bible. But in our present, fallible mortal state, we haven’t yet succeeded in attaining that praiseworthy goal in the 20 centuries since Christ walked the earth. We shouldn’t stop pursuing that biblical unity, because there is for the faithful a yet-to-be realized, Scriptural promise of us “all reach[ing] unity in the faith” (Ephesians 4:13).
But right now, today, in the current absence of that unity in the faith, there is a unity that we can pursue, a unity for which we are commanded “to make every effort” to achieve (Ephesians 4:3). And that is the unity of the Spirit among us believers (vs. 3). I can and should deeply love, honor, and respect all my Christian brothers and sisters, and we are enabled to do that by the Holy Spirit who indwells each and every born-again follower of Jesus Christ.
In sum, combining the flow of thought in Ephesians 4:3 and 13, we are charged by God to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit (3)…until we all reach unity in the faith.” Like our salvation and our holy lives described above, this unity is worthy of our “making every effort.” These things won’t just happen by themselves.
How about growing in Christlike character? Well, God has graciously made this worthy goal entirely possible for each Christian. He has given us salvation in His Son Jesus Christ. He has given us His Holy Spirit to indwell us, to work sanctification in us, and to empower our lives. And He has given us His Word, the Bible, as an eternal and unshakable foundation for living our lives in ways that are pleasing to God.
Our part now is to obediently obey God, using these marvelous gifts that we have by His grace to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, KJV). In the verse above (2 Peter 1:4-8), the apostle Peter told us to “make every effort” to do something (are you noticing how often that “effort” phrase occurs in Scripture?). We are to expend effort to grow in faith, in goodness, in knowledge, in self-control, in perseverance, in godliness, in mutual affection, and in love. Additional worthy traits could surely be added to the list. Peter is telling us to allow the power of God’s Word and His indwelling Spirit to cause us to grow in our Christian character, to “possess these qualities in increasing measure” (vs. 8). Don’t be content with where you are now. Determine to continue growing in the Lord.
My wife was saved as a very young girl. I was saved/born again as a young adult, about 50 years ago. She and I have been committed church-goers ever since being saved. But … even now as “senior” citizens with many decades of serving the Lord behind us, we spend time together every day reading and discussing God’s Word the Bible. Why? We realize that even as long-haul Christians, we both have plenty of room left to keep growing in our character and in the knowledge of our Lord. Our Christian faith — yours and mine — is a lifelong pursuit of growth in God, and one that is entirely worthy of our “every effort.” May each of us practice devoted, fully committed, “pedal to the metal” Christianity all the days of our lives on earth as we prepare for a glorious entrance to heaven.
Part of the active practice of our faith is regular attendance at a Christ-honoring, Bible-loving local church. The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14:26 and the surrounding verses, tells us that a typical, edifying church service will include, among other things, three all-important elements — the preached or taught Word of God, sincere worship of God, and the gifts of the Spirit of God. Word, worship, and spiritual gifts, all three.
Most Bible-believing churches properly devote themselves to declaring God’s Word and to worshiping Him. But often the spiritual gifts are neglected or in some churches, sadly, are taught against. By contrast, the Bible teaches clearly that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today, just as they were for the early church. And in respect and deference to God’s gracious gifts, the apostle in God’s Word charges us “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit.” Seek the thoroughly Scriptural baptism with the Spirit, with the biblical initial evidence of speaking in tongues. And then stir up that Holy Spirit power within you and eagerly desire the spiritual gifts for the edifying of the Church.
This one cannot be emphasized enough! The Word of God, received and put into practice (Matthew 7:24-27), is an unshakable foundation for our lives. So Paul wrote appropriately that we need to “be diligent … accurately handling the word of truth.”
Read the Word daily, both directly in the Bible and, I recommend, in Bible-based devotionals. Hear the Word of God preached and taught in your local church. And if God’s Word is not prominently featured in your local church, without hesitation I suggest that you find a Bible-honoring church. Your spiritual health depends on it. God’s Word is an issue concerning which the apostle charges us by the Spirit to “be diligent.”
Surely many other issues can be found in the Bible upon which we are commanded to expend diligent effort. But let’s close with the verse above. Perhaps some of the things we’ve looked at in this message have caused you sadness. Maybe you’ve neglected one or more of these areas and you are feeling convicted over that. The solution is simple and biblical. Repent and ask God’s forgiveness for any neglect that He brings to your attention. He will quickly forgive. Then determine to go forward, to be more diligent, to “make every effort” to be (using our modern expression) “pedal to the metal” Christians, going all out for the Lord.
Having gotten your heart right with God, don’t look back regretfully. The apostle Paul didn’t, and neither should you. Paul said, “I haven’t arrived at my goal … I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” He knew that he needed more advancement in his walk with the Lord. He knew that he hadn’t yet taken hold of all that Jesus had in mind for him.
But his attitude should be ours too: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…” Paul had no reverse gear in his Christian walk. Using himself as the example, he exhorted all of us to “strain forward … to press on.”
Jesus has provided for us a great salvation — blessings for our entire being, body and soul and spirit. If you’ve come to Him personally and sincerely as your Lord and Savior, ahead of you lies an unimaginably glorious eternity in the very presence of Almighty God and His Son Jesus our Savior. All the splendor of heaven will be yours to enjoy. In light of this, let’s all determine to take heed to the instructions we’ve read today from Jesus and the apostles Peter and Paul. Let’s approach our sacred privilege of being part of the kingdom of God with the attitudes revealed above: making every effort … eagerly desiring … being diligent … straining and pressing forward.
Jesus our Savior left heaven, came to earth, went to the cross, and gave His all for us. How can we do any less for Him!
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©2018, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and
Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.