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Thoughts on the Doctrines of Grace Pastor Rob Wilkerson

Its Not How Much WE Love Him


Keeping Pace as a Marathon Saint
November 7, 2002 For the last week Ive been pondering for you the doctrine of grace that we know as the perseverance of the saints. And there is no other illustration with which to illustrate it other than a marathon. The perseverance of the saint in life overall is seen in the saints marathon for Christ always running, many times tripping, lagging and winded, but always running. Each Day is a Only Snapshot of the Marathon Your personal perseverance in everyday life, however, is something harder to see since it is only a snapshot of the marathon. The picture taken at that moment, that very day, in your life may be one of sunken despair caused by the ravages of physical suffering. Or perhaps it is a picture in which your face displayed sheer exhaustion because of the high degree of incline you were attempting to overcome that day. Then again, it might have been a picture in which tears of pain coupled with beads of sweat were being thrust down your head and body as if you were about to drop from thirst. Butyou still kept on running. What another may have seen, or what you may have pondered that day was only a snapshot. It reflected only one of the thousands of steps you will take on your way to the finish line. Just Finishing is What This Marathon is All About Does the marathon runner keep on running because he truly thinks he is going to win it? Maybe for the top twenty runners. But for the other hundreds or thousands who are running, it is all about the thrill of the run and the thought of just crossing that finish line and experiencing the sheer joy and excitement of clutching the coveted T-shirt. As a Christian, however, your marathon is not about winning, necessarily, for that has already been promised. God teaches you in Romans 8:37 that in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. And back in verse 31, you are asked the question, If God is for us, who is against us? So your winning is guaranteed. In the Christian marathon, however, it is pretty much just the thought of finishing that keeps us going. If we can just make it to the end of our day, we feel that we will have accomplished much. And for the most part, that is true. But you must also feel the weight of making through the next moment, the next trial, the next argument with your wife or children, the next fellow who cuts you off in traffic, the next company who lays you off, the next prank
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Thoughts on the Doctrines of Grace Pastor Rob Wilkerson

caller, or the next bad thing that may come your way. Yes, you are guaranteed a crown in heaven where you will live with Christ eternally. But in the process of getting there, many of us are just hoping to cross the finish line. This was Pauls plea in Philippians 3. Remembering his lineage and heritage, and remembering the sin that came with all of that, he looked back and counted it as loss for the sake of Christ (v. 7). For Paul it was about knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (v. 8), and gaining Christ (v. 8), being found in Him with Christs righteousness through faith (v. 9), to know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (v. 10), all in order that he might attain to the resurrection from the dead (v. 11). He did it all just to finish. He knew he had already won. But finishing the race, and finishing well, was his outlook. He concluded, I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus (v. 12). He admitted that he did not regard himself as having laid hold of it yet. But one thing he did do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, he only desired to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (vv. 13-14). Again, Eugene Peterson has masterfully translated this in The Message.

Im not saying that I have all this together, that I have it made. But Im well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, dont get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but Ive got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward to Jesus. Im off and running, and Im not turning back. So lets keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision youll see it yet! Now that were on the right track, lets stay on it. Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal.
With the last three statements in mind, this is just what I want to do for you in this article my dear friends. I want you to stay on the right track, stick with me, and keep track with everyone else who is on the same marathon as we are, heading for the same finish line. You need great encouragement, and thats the reason I write this to you this week. The Biggest Challenge in Your Marathon
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Thoughts on the Doctrines of Grace Pastor Rob Wilkerson

What is probably the biggest challenge you face in your Christian life, as you seek to just finish each day? I think it is this paying more attention to your present condition than you do to keeping your pace. If a marathon runner pays more attention to how he presently feels than he does to making sure he keeps his pace, or if he lets his mind interpret the reality of the distance through the grid of his pain, he will probably stop running and even end up dropping out of the race all together. Marathons are almost completely mental, as any runner will tell you. Therefore, getting and staying in the right frame of mind is essential to just finishing the race. And its not how bad the runner appears to be doing in the snapshot that matters. It is whether or not he is keeping his pace and continuing to run toward the finish line that matters. This then is my first encouragement to you. When you sin, or when you find yourself in the midst of a sinful pattern in life, dont interpret your entire Christian life through the grid of that sin. Im not telling you to forget about your sin and count it of no consequence. All sin needs serious attention and immediate repentance. But what is not needed is to throw yourself into a spiritual and emotional tailspin. And what is needed is balanced attention given both to the putting off of your sin and the keeping pace in the race. Dont get sidetracked in your Christian life by the sin you commit. You will sinremember that. And if you havent in the last hour, it will come! But remember those glorious words of the apostle John in his first epistle: I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin. But when anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus (2:1, The Message, modified). Once again, I remind you that your Christian life is a marathon and in this race, just finishing is winning! Just as it is silly and foolish to assume by the winded and lagging physical condition of a marathon runner that he is not going to finish, so also it is silly and foolish of yourself when you assume by your own spiritually winded and lagging condition that you must not be saved. What Keeps You Running in This Marathon? What does keep the marathon runner running? It is his pace. Having practiced for hours upon end, he knows his condition, he knows the terrain, and he knows his own abilities. And he sets a pace for himself accordingly. For the Christian, however, the thing that keeps us running and the thing that sets our pace for us is Gods love for us. If you pay more attention to your present spiritual condition on one particular day or week, you will lose your pace. The fact of the matter is that you are sinful. And if no one has told you lately, then Ive just taken care of that for you! The Bible teaches that you are a worm and a maggot (Job 25:6)!
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Thoughts on the Doctrines of Grace Pastor Rob Wilkerson

For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust (Psalm 103:14). But when you let your mind and heart interpret the reality of your condition before God and your status in the race through the lens of your present or momentary or temporary sinful condition, you are sure to stop running and even dropping out of the race all together! Let me be more specific in what Im saying here. In this race, it is not about knowing how much you love Jesus that matters. Its all about knowing how much He loves you that is going to keep you in synch with the pace He has set for you. So my next encouragement for you is to keep the pace of your life based solely and completely on the truth that God loves you. When you let His love for you set your course and keep your pace, you will not be nearly as sidetracked in your life when you see the reality of your love for Him. Seeing the reality of your love for Him is probably enough to make anyone wonder about your spiritual condition. But its not about your love. Your love is lacking in an almost infinite depth and proportion to that with which God loves you. So you must keep your course and set your daily pace by His love and not yours. What Happens When You Set Your Pace By Gods Love? Am I saying that you should not be concerned with your level and condition of love for your Savior? Not at all. But what I am saying is that that truth that you have already won the race has probably not made its way into all of your thinking yet about your spiritual life. As I encouraged you already, youve already won the race because of Gods love for you. Remember Romans 8:35 and following?

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christs love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in ScriptureNONE OF THIS FAZES US BECAUSE JESUS LOVES US. Im absolutely convinced that nothing nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable ABSOLUTELY NOTHING CAN GET BETWEEN US AND GODS LOVE because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us (The Message,
emphasis added). The way that you bolster your love for Jesus is by pondering His love for you. And there is my third encouragement for you. When you ponder His love for you, it will always make you love Him more, and in a truer sense. But
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Thoughts on the Doctrines of Grace Pastor Rob Wilkerson

when you ponder on your love for Him, you will always be left feeling perplexed, frustrated, and you will tend towards a distraught spirit that will affect everything you do, say and think. Believe me when I tell you thisI was, and still am many times, a living example of this tendency almost every single week! Pondering your own level of love for Jesus is essential, as I just stated. Jesus commands it of you in Revelation 2 where He rebukes the Ephesians church for leaving their first love in Jesus. But the counsel He then gives them is not about continuing to reflect on their condition and how much they really havent loved Jesus. Rather they were counseled to repent and do the deeds they did at first. What were those first deeds? They were thoughts, actions and words that reflected a heart captured and enraptured by Gods unfathomable love for them in Jesus Christ. Therefore, I encourage you to ponder your sinful condition. And I encourage you to confess your cold, lifeless and numb heart for Him. But as a marathon saint you must keep your pace in life by Gods love and not get sidetracked by your own seemingly lifeless soul. You must maintain pace and keep running by repenting. And repentance is nothing more than returning your soul your heart and mind - to Him who will give them life again. While you must acknowledge your sinful condition, you must also refuse to stay there. How Do You Keep Pace With Gods Love For You? Keep pace. Do those things that God gives to you as His means of grace: prayer, reading and hearing the Word of God, fellowship with the saints. These means of grace are the means whereby you keep your pace in this race. Prayer is nothing more than a time of private worship whereby you ask God to glorify Himself by loving you moment by moment in your daily circumstances, needs and trials. This is the first way you keep your pace begging Him to demonstrate His love to you again and again, day after day! Now pray the Lords Prayer with this model in mind and see what happens to your soul! The second way to keep pace is by hanging the I-V bag of Scripture by your arm. Paul counsels us to Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you (Colossians 3:16). And what better words of Christ to pour into your spiritual veins than those that promise you of His dying and undying love for you! Theres His promise in John 6:37 that Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and dont let go (The Message). Then theres His promise in John 10:27-29. My sheep recognize my voice and I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from my out of my hand. The Father who put them
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Thoughts on the Doctrines of Grace Pastor Rob Wilkerson

under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. He also promised us in Hebrews 13:5, I will never dessert you, nor will I ever forsake you. This is much like His promise in Matthew 28:20. I will be with youday after day after day, right up to the end of the age. How many more promises of Jesus can you recall from His Word? Your answer to this question will determine whether or not you are keeping pace in this marathon. Finally, the third means of keeping pace is the fellowship of the saints. Persevering in this marathon race is a community project! It takes a village (if youll allow me borrow and revise that phrase from former First Lady Hillary Clinton)! Listen to the words of the writer of Hebrews, first from 3:12-14.

So watch your step, friends. Make sure theres no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as its still Gods Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesnt slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, were in this with Christ for the long haul.
Then consider his words from 10:23-25.

So, friends, we can now without hesitation walk right up to God, into the Holy Place. Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrificeSo lets do it full of belief, confident that were presentable inside and out. Lets keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Lets see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.
Conclusion: Good! Dont Stop Running Just Because You Dont Feel So

Dont stop running just because you dont feel any life there! Dont stop praying and reading the Word just because you feel the weight of your sin bearing down on your conscience and heart. Lay aside those weights by focusing your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)! Recall the truths about your
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Thoughts on the Doctrines of Grace Pastor Rob Wilkerson

position in Christ. Remember, you are seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6)! God looks on you and sees His Son! Not even your own sin can separate you from the love God has for you in Christ Jesus! And He never lies or breaks His promises. These promises, and others like them, are your very lifeblood as a marathon saint. And dont stop fellowship with the saints either, just because of your hypocritical deeds. Of course you dont act like Jesus sometimes. But God sees you and treats you just like Jesus. So forget what is behind and press on to finish the race and win the prize of Jesus. Youre almost there! Stay the course! Dont let the sins of the moment slow the whole race down! Keep running! Just a few more weary days and then youll fly away! And whatever you do, keep pace with the truth of Romans 12:3 pumping the truth of Gods promises through your heart and into your veins.

The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what He does for us, NOT by what we are and what we do for Him.
And as you run, dont allow yourself to interpret the reality of your condition before God and His love for you by your present condition or temporary circumstances or youre your surroundings. But rather rejoice in your heart s you run your race by singing these words from the hymn How Firm a Foundation.

How firm a foundation, you saint of the Lord, Has been laid for your soul in His excellent Word. What more can He say than to you He has said, Than to you who for refuge to Jesus has fled. That soul that on Jesus does lean for repose, I will not, no will not desert to its foes. That soul though all hell should endeavor to take, I will never, no never, no never forsake.
Oh, dear brothers and sisters, be encouraged by His promises and keep your pace in this marathon by His love for you, rather than your love for Him. This is your true lifeblood and it is the kernel of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Oh that you would live it and love it.

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