Missing the mark
(This article is meant to deal with those of a COG background)
I find it interesting that the majority, because they are in a COG group somewhere, may not even consider that they may be missing the mark of true Christianity! Could this be you or me, perhaps someone we have known for years within the COG realm? Is the entire COG realm at risk of this, in this last (Laodicea) generation, as at least three different groups I know of seems to have indicated at one time or another? (Excluding themselves, of course. Two claim to be Philadelphians but acknowledge this is the era of Laodicea & the 3rd just claims to be the COG excluding all others!)
Looking at things a little more sound minded and seriously though, how many are truly staying on course today and where is the true COG among all those who claim to be? (Can you answer this question with the Bible? Listen to the audio series now being webcast on the Gospel page titled “Signs of the true COG” for more on this subject. There is also an older two part article with the link, “SIGNS” that has details of the same subject.)
The memorial “feast of first fruits”-“Feast of weeks” or anniversary of Pentecost, which symbolizes the start of the NT COG in 31 AD by the giving of the Holy Spirit, has now come and gone for 2015. The Bible shows what a person needs to do to receive that Holy Spirit and then remain converted, (Matt.6:33, Acts 2:38 & 5:32, 2Pet.3:18) but how many today are successfully doing this? Do some grow lax over time and begin to slumber or compromise with Gods Law and possibly lose out on salvation? (Matt.25:1-13) It has happened with many down through time, who eventually begin to compromise with truth and the faithful keeping of the Commandments & Holy Days; fudging a little here and there at first, staying home or doing something else once in a while on the Sabbath, until that becomes easy and then they will fall away. The COG has passed through an apostasy once again, two decades ago now, which is actually still subtly been going on for some—but all of those once converted and now compromising with truth, who have not repented, are sad to say missing the mark! They will have to acknowledge their error and repent to be added back into the body. (Rev.3:16-19)
How many, who have committed themselves to striving to be a Christian, could still have an attitude and approach that may be “missing the mark” of true Christianity? (Many do today and they do not see it in themselves!) Surly all of us, when growing up & learning to do various things; tried & failed many times. Such as hitting the bulls eye, for an example. Whether it be with a bow and arrow, darts or even a handgun or rifle, we may have missed the mark far more than we hit it. But when that happens, do we then give up and just settle for less than what our best efforts can produce, or do we strive to be better? How many children had a hard time learning to even color inside the lines when little, but went on to become professional artists? This “perfecting of the self” is something that requires us to have patient, teaching parents and then train ourselves as well through time, to practice and have a zealous desire to be steady and focused; doing the best we can do at whatever we are doing. (Eccl.9:10—NKJ throughout unless otherwise noted.) No adult should blame their parents for their own failures as an adult, yet some do it anyway because it is easier than to put forth effort to change.
Everything in human life works like this, to one degree or another, but sometimes life itself (just trying to live righteously) can get very confusing and become a challenge, especially when we have a lack of Spiritual strength and true knowledge. (Some display a stubborn-ness or self-willed attitude early on in life and just do not put forth the effort to learn, and will not unless made to, which requires a little tougher love and measures from the parents, for the child’s sake. God is a loving parent to all of humanity. Many hang onto this stubborn-ness to “have it their way or do things their way” all the way through life, never learning what they could have, if only they had been more submissive and willing to learn the lessons at the time, from whomever the teacher might be.
We all have to determine individually, if what we set out to accomplish is worth the effort (counting the cost) and then drive ourselves to learn how to stay on course with whatever it is we are doing, if we want to do well. (Every situation is a training experience; especially for the Christian, as God & His ways/truth must come first) Christianity is one of those areas of life that a mediocre approach will not work nor bring any lasting success that leads to eternal life. It has to be done by righteousness and whole-heartedly, in obedience to the word of God and in submission to the lead of the Holy Spirit. A Christian has to commit to living by every word of God—and have a desire to believe. (Matt.4:4 & Luke 4:4)
However, we still have to learn step by step over time; (God knows this and is patient) and we will, when we take the steps to make sure we can “hit the target” or better yet, be on target where we need to, when we need to and learn to be consistent about it, no matter what! Otherwise, we are missing the mark or the intended goal more than we hit it or succeed, and this is not acceptable for a first fruit. (Matt.5:48) For some, in fact way too many today, this failing is “not that big a deal” in their minds! It is the feeling or attitude; “So I failed-better luck next time”—“None of us are perfect” or “God loves me anyway” and then just “flow” through life making excuses and accepting failures without any real commitment or effort to overcome and be learning from God His way. This will affect a person’s whole life in some way or another, because of their own mindset; whether it be obeying parents, Loyal and faithful in marriage, Church, child rearing, business and various other kinds of relationships; these will be treated as a common thing that “just happens” to everybody. If a thing does not work out the way WE want it to, the carnal attitude is “toss it aside” and go for something else that is easier and less demanding! That is the normal approach and attitude today.
However, that is not the mindset of a true Christian that is on course, once a commitment has been made and we have covenanted with God to walk in His ways. A true Christian strives in every way to keep their commitments! However, one who is led by the Holy Spirit will exercise the Spirit of discernment (1Cor 12:10) in order to stay away or get away from evil and a wrong mindset. We are commanded to do that and it IS TRUE that no one is perfect, but that does not release us from trying or give us excuse to let down and follow the easy path.
Can a true Christian even allow that kind of approach and attitude, with their Spiritual life, to creep back into the mind after baptism? (I prefer to call it a mindset that forms an attitude, because it does—I have seen it happen over and over; Satan gets into the mind, which then begins to change and a wrong attitude begins to form!) So can we allow ourselves failures that are not necessary because we could have done better, if we had tried harder? First off, we must recognize and repent of a stubborn self-willed or laid-back approach to Scriptural truths or commitments, being submissive to let God teach us, following the lead of the Spirit, etc. We can probably all look back and say; “if I had or “I wish I had put forth more effort, had better understanding, tried harder or paid better attention” to many things of the past. It seems that this last time frame of the COG has become very lukewarm, laid-back and compromising with the word of God and its instructions; thus life itself becomes this way for many in the COG. (Rev.3:14-21)
Could we all be much better at driving ourselves or more zealously approaching Biblical truths and the way of God to stay on track?? Is it possible those many divorces occurring of late, among people in the COG realm, did not have to occur—did selfish desire and covetousness have to take over and blind people to their own faults—or did they just let it? Could any of us have been more devoted to our God–given role and the promises we made with God and perhaps the mate, one may have just divorced?? (Jer.17:9-10) Yes, we could have and God knows these things about us, especially the called and chosen, because He examines the heart and mind for zeal, effort and a true desire to follow Christ and do what He would have done. That stubborn way of “get” is going to require some repentance and forgiveness or we will miss the mark! Again, this can apply to everything in life and it is this life and what we do now that is testing us and preparing us for tomorrow. So, are we missing the mark?
Some are and some are not and it is a matter of the heart and a willing effort to overcome! However, Christ indicated true Christians would have to go through the narrow gate and stay on the narrow path, which takes focus, effort and commitment, from their conversion forward. That is found in Matt 7:13-14 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” These taking the broad way are certainly “missing the mark” of being a true Christian! V.14 "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” We have to be willing to be corrected when we get off track or out of sorts with what the Word of God reveals. However, some of us may need a little more time and patience from those teaching, to come to see something not so clear.
Christ also said in another place that many are called but few are chosen, so even of those who have been granted a calling, some do not put forth enough effort to really become one who is chosen. When an opportunity presents itself, they let other things get in the way. (Luke 8:14) We find this written in Ps 34:11-14; “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12 Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” There are many today who have let down, backslide into the way of the world (The broad and easy road to destruction) when it seems to be in their best interests at the time, so they are in effect MISSING THE MARK at that time, not putting forth enough effort to stay on course and strive to remain righteous. (Matt.6:33) This will have to be repented of before one can move forward Spiritually.
The word “seek” in the passage above has the meaning of “searching out or striving after” which is followed up by the word “pursue”, which has the meaning in Strong’s CC. “to RUN AFTER”, so hopefully you can see the intent or meaning behind the words and the zeal required to stay on course. This requires some practice, certainly zeal, dedication and effort on our part to not let down for any reason, that could cause us to possibly miss the mark.
I heard a story several years ago about a pianist who played marvelously at a concert. Afterward, a person from the audience approached this pianist and simply said: “Oh, I would love to be able to play like that”! The pianist said; “well you can and maybe even better”! The puzzled response was; “How”? The reply was this; “If you submit yourself for training and then practice, practice and practice, after about 20 years of following all the steps you are given, you can do this and may become better than me”!
Well, in our spiritual walk, we will never be “better” than our teacher, who is God and Jesus; Lord, Master and head of the COG. However, we can become like him, if we practice, practice and continue to practice until the end and are expected to do so if we want to be a first fruit! (Luke 6:40) We have to practice, practice and then practice some more by following the things (Steps & instructions) in Scripture that are there to guide us. These will make it possible for us to have salvation, if doing the best we can in our respective roles: male or female, as we move through life. Anything less is missing the mark of where we could have been, had we applied more effort and zeal! Christ is building a bride that will stay committed and remain loyal and faithful, not questioning every decision He makes. Where have you placed your loyalty?
However we do it, married or single, we must take the steps necessary to reach the intended goal—that of being a true Christian and a first fruit—by following the examples of Christ, who was in total submission to the Father. Another thing to keep in mind—we have a time limit—if we have been called and converted in this life, we only have this life to conquer and overcome to the best of our ability. We do that by letting the word of God and the Holy Spirit led us thru life, step after step, trial after trial. When we fail, (and we all do sometimes) we have to repent of that failure, ask for forgiveness and keep on practicing! There are no “second chances or do overs” for the called and chosen, because the house of God is under judgment now, as we read in 1Pet.4:17. We may have already been given many opportunities to get it right and if we take the lukewarm attitude and compromising approach that whatever trial comes up just is not worth the effort to “pass the test” right now—we surly are missing the mark!
The steps to salvation are all laid out for us in Scripture and it is required of us to have the belief in them and to put forth the zealous effort to keep on going down that straight and narrow path until we reach the end! How “strait” are you making your path and how dedicated to staying on it are you? Are you letting tests of character development slip by with failures that did not have to occur because you could have conquered? Be honest now, Christ knows what you have done or are in the process of doing! Nothing gets by Him and we have to be zealous for His ways.
Are you as focused on the “bulls eye” of the coming kingdom of God as you should be or are you allowing yourself a little lukewarm “slack” time, by wondering off of the straight & narrow and back onto the wide easy way, on occasion? (Luke 9:62) Can we see that might be a sacrifice of our Spiritual life for the things of the physical? Christ reveals in Rev 17:14 that at His return to earth; “those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful." That will also reveal (At last and to all) who was really the true COG; those who were not missing the mark, by striving to be faithful in what they were given! (Mark 4:24 & Luke12:48) They learned to be willing to give up everything, even having done so for the Gospel and through life’s various difficulties and in various persecutions, (Mark 8:35) in order to stay focused on obeying God without compromise, continuing to worship in Spirit and in truth! (John 4:23-24)
Some just cannot recognize a true servant of Christ when they see or come in contact with one and therefore cannot have the Spirit of God leading them, even though being exposed to truth for many years! The Holy Spirit is the same in everyone, being the divine nature that comes from God. (2Pet.1:4) Why this needless failure for those given so much? Having been called and possibly even chosen, it then becomes a matter of priorities being in the wrong place and choices that were not as valuable as they should have been.
If we stay “lined up” on Christ, (justified or made innocent-Rom.5:9 & 8:30-and thru obedience) and endure to the end, we will remain a child of God! We can do that with confidence and constant practice of clinging to truth; becoming a first fruit in the first resurrection, as a part of the submissive Bride who has made herself ready! (Rev.19:7) When the festival of Trumpets comes this year, I hope you will have an even greater longing for the future fulfilment of it, because you have kept the Holy Spirit active by diligently pursuing God’s kingdom and righteousness, just as you promised you would do in the beginning! By doing so, you will be assured that you are not missing the mark!