How To Guarantee Success

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As Christians, we should want to live the best life we can. That means glorifying God in everything we do, everywhere we go, every decision we make. That sounds like an impossibility. But if you are a serious Christian; if you are serious about your relationship with Jesus Christ, you should strive to achieve the impossible.

The good news is this: God has a way for you to never fail in your faith. If you follow these easy steps, you will always be a winner.

The bad news is this: Most of you won’t do anything to improve your life for Christ. That’s the cynic in me. I hope I’m wrong. We’ll see.

Confess your sins

The first step in living a successful Christian life is so simple, most of us miss it. If we have failed, the cause of that failure is always sin.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NKJV)

This seems to be a pretty simple, straight forward verse. But it’s a little deeper than it appears. There are three things going on in it.

First, the conditional part of the verse: If we confess our sins. Acknowledging our sins is something only we can do. It won’t work if somebody points them out to you. You must do the hard work of “confessing.” Without hiding them or covering them up, it is absolutely essential that Christians “fess up” to their sins. That means we don’t make excuses for them, we don’t try to justify our sinful behavior, and we don’t defend ourselves. We simply confess our sins to show repentance and to show that we have, in fact, received a new life. John doesn’t say how often we should do this or where, but if we repent daily, we should confess daily. In the original language, John’s admonition is a little clearer: “If we keep on confessing our sins,” he wrote.  Confessing, then, must be an ongoing thing.

Second: He is faithful and just. This is a statement of fact. We may be assured of forgiveness because God is “faithful and just.” God doesn’t scold you. He doesn’t chastise you when you come to Him confessing your sins. He’s not impatient with you. And He never, ever goes back on His word. There is no trick in gaining God’s forgiveness. He only requires our open, honest confession.

Lastly, here is what God will do: He will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. There is a finality to God’s forgiveness. There is no doubt He will do this. This forgiveness lasts for all eternity. The word John uses for “forgiveness” carries with it the idea of “cancelling a debt” or “dismissal of all charges.” When our sins are forgiven, they can never be recalled by God. The word for “cleanse” refers to a kind of purification process whereby the pollution of sin is wiped or washed away. That’s a pretty phenomenal thing to think about. The simple act of our confession results in not only our sins being forgiven and essentially forgotten, but God sees us completely clean and He is able to have fellowship with us and answer our prayers.

Surrender your will

These verses are like a snapshot of a sad period of Hebrew history:

O Israel, return to the Lord, your God, for you have been crushed by your sins. Bring your petition. Come to the Lord and say, “O Lord, take away our sins; be gracious to us and receive us, and we will offer you the sacrifice of praise. Assyria cannot save us, nor can our strength in battle; never again will we call the idols we have made ‘our gods’; for in you alone, O Lord, the fatherless find mercy.” “Then I will cure you of idolatry and faithlessness, and my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be forever gone! (Hosea 14:1 – 4 TLB)

Hosea had a long and frustrating career as a prophet. It was frustrating because he try as he might to help his people, they seemed forever destined to keep on failing. An old man by chapter 14, once again he called on Israel to “return.” That was his favorite word. That was all he wanted: for his people to return to the Lord. God was calling His people to repent and return. Words must be followed by a corresponding action. A sinner repents (words) and he must return (action) to the Lord. Part of returning to the Lord means changing behavior. Specifically, Israel had to repent of three continual sins of failure: they relied on Assyria for salvation, they depended on Egypt for military aid, and, maybe worst of all, they depended on man-made idols for spiritual guidance and blessing. Each of these sins caused Israel to fail and fall further and further away from their God.

Imagine making something with your very own hands and then bowing down to worship it. Many Christians are doing just that. They worship their own talents and abilities. They worship their intelligence. They worship what they are doing and what they are able to do. Trouble is, they lose every time. If we as Christians want to be winners, we have to learn to surrender our wills to God. That’s not an easy thing to do. We want to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. But that’s a recipe for failure. Surrendering your will is difficult, but if you want to win, you’ll have to figure out how to do it.

Consecrate your life

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1, 2 NIV)

“Consecration” is linked to sanctification – the process of becoming holy. Consecration an old fashioned word most of us have heard but don’t know what it means. Very simply, we consecrate ourselves to God by separating ourselves from the world. By virtue of our association with a Holy God, we are to become holy. Romans 12:1, 2 tells us how to do that. If you want to win at life as a Christian, you have to do what these two verses say. A lot of Christians don’t. And a lot Christians fail because they compromise instead of consecrate.

Just look at what Paul is saying here. True and proper worship has nothing to do with singing songs or clapping your hands. It’s living the consecrated life. It’s how you live your life – the things you do, the places you go. And it all starts in your head. It’s changing your habitual way(s) of thinking. When you do that, your actions will follow. That’s what consecration is all about. It’s seeing the world from a different perspective. When a Christian does that, he starts winning. He starts loosing when he starts thinking like the world, then acting like it.

Lay aside every weight

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

Living a God-glorifying life isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes in living right, you feel like you’re living alone. But you are never alone because you are promised the enduring presence of God Himself. He promised to never leave or forsake one of His own.

Not only that, we’re in good company. Luther, Calvin, Knox, Moody, Spurgeon, and the countless believers – some with names most without – listed in Hebrews 11 serve as inspirations. They were men just like we are, subject to the same ups and downs we are. We are one with them – we are part of that group of saints from all the ages. That’s what the writer of Hebrews was trying to get across to his readers. Lord knows all believers need that kind of encouragement.

Very often in the New Testament, the Christian life is compared to a race – a foot race. Here, the athletes (Christians) are told to get rid of all the excess baggage of life that can slow us down. That sin keeps us from winning. It causes us to run slower, to stumble, to trip.

A lot of us Christians are weighed down with the baggage of the past. Old thoughts and attitudes. Old habits. Old associations. If we want to be winners, we have to get rid of those things.

In a race everyone runs, but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. I’m not just shadow-boxing or playing around. (1 Corinthians 9:24 – 26 TLB)

That was written by a serious Christian. Are you as serious? If you are, you’ll run with perseverance or patience. As Christians, the need for effort and hard work and patience cannot be understated. The people to whom this letter was written were suffering and growing impatient. They probably wondered why God wasn’t doing anything for them. Maybe you’ve wondered the same thing. Maybe, in your discouragement and frustration, you’ve lost patience with yourself, your church, or your God. You’ll never win if you harbor those kinds of thoughts and emotions. If you want to increase your odds of winning, you need to be patient and you need to stick to it. You can’t give up the race. You need to trust the Lord.

During our time on earth, many things will happen that we don’t understand. There will be questions that have elusive answers or answers we won’t like. If you want to be a winner, you need to know that God knows the beginning from the end. It should be enough to know that He has all the knowledge and power we need and that He is the God of all grace. God doesn’t want you to lose. He’s made it possible for you win. Accept His help and start winning.

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