Motivated to Service
We have noted that the greatest motivator for walking in the the new nature (the spirit) is the love of Christ our Savior. We also noted that the result of walking in and feeding the new nature is a clear conscience which leads to a vibrant prayer life and meaningful worship.
But we must not neglect other negative results of walking in the flesh. There are, of course, temporal consequences of walking in the old nature. These range from an empty life of slavery to the flesh to lack of peace to strife in our personal relationships and even to death. Beyond the temporal there are consequences in the age to come as well.
As we have laid out in previous studies, no one, no action, no sin can separate us from either the love of God or His promise of resurrection life through faith alone by grace alone through Christ alone. Nothing can rob us of the "life through his name" promised to all who place their faith in him. But we can certainly suffer loss. The Christian life is a race and we are either headed towards perfection (maturity) or perdition (loss). How we run that race will be reflected in the rewards, crowns, and the prize available to the believer at the judgment of his service.
This general truth is applicable in all ages (though the criteria may vary). A believer who chooses to live according to the old nature is like an unprofitable servant. The unprofitable servant is still a servant. He is still in the household of the master, but he may be found wanting in his service and lose reward.
Warnings for Believers
The narrow way and the broad way are choices for the believer. We would never tell someone who does not have the free gift of life that he must "do" something to "earn" it. There are so many passages of scripture which are given to believers in the context of reward which are misapplied to unbelievers in the context of resurrection life.
This is very dangerous.
Here is just one example:
We've all heard about the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" and "the outer darkness" spoken of by the Lord Jesus Christ. We almost universally hear it applied as a warning to unbelievers. But the context is ignored! When we look at this warning (to Israel during the Lord's earthly ministry) we do see faith, but we also see works. Works are never to be seen in context of the gift of resurrection life (except as the resultant evidence of the new nature).
I ask those who use this verse for the unbeliever, do you consider yourself a "child of the kingdom?" Can a child of the kingdom lose his gift of eternal life? Ignoring the error in claiming ourselves a heirs to Israel's earthly kingdom, surely we understand that one cannot lose a free gift. But who is the subject of the weeping and gnashing in the outer darkness?
the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. -Matt 11:12
We see this warning of "the outer darkness" in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. Do we believe the Lord entrusts his fortune with unbelievers? Is our eternal hope of resurrection dependent upon what we do? Never! The context here is Israel, but since Adam the gift of life has always been free!
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them..." -Matt 25:14
‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness.There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ vs.29-30
So let us now look back at our passage in Romans 8 and its warning.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. -Rom 8:1
Let us quickly look at a warning to believing Israel in the Book of Hebrews:
Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him... -Heb 1:14, Heb 2:1-3
How often is this "neglect" spoken as a warning to unbelievers in this age? Believing (without faith it is impossible to please God) Israel is the heir of the New Covenant to come. They are heirs of the restored kingdom in the land promised to Abraham. But an individual Israelite can drift away and lose the reward of his place in that kingdom (see Matt 11 and Matthew 25 again) and certainly not gain the "better resurrection" in the New Jerusalem.
Hebrews 11 must be read in this context. The great men and women of faith suffered much for the hope of a "better resurrection" and of a city "whose builder and maker is God." They did this through actions born out of true faith (here is where Romans 11 and James 2 come together). They "earned" these rewards. And just as one can earn a "better resurrection" one can lose it. We can never lose resurrection life (free gift), but we can lose reward.
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.
As I mentioned, the Book of Hebrews is the book of the life of maturity for Israel. The parallel book for our age is the Book of Philippians. We will look at this book in future studies.
Believe, Forsake, and Walk in the New Nature
Why are believers repeatedly warned not to go back, not to walk in the old nature, etc. Is it because the work of Christ is insufficient? God forbid! No, we are warned that we risk losing reward. One may even lose his temporal life.
Countless thousands were freed from the bondage of Egypt (the world). They were ALL baptized (identified) with Moses in the Red Sea. But very few of them entered into the full promise. Some longed for the leeks and onions of Egypt (the world), others lacked faith to enter into the land when they heard of giants waiting.
Of the 12 spies sent into the promised land, only two (Caleb and Joshua) came back with full faith and only these two of the 12 would eventually enter the land. The circumcision at Gilgal (Josh 5) was a picture of leaving the flesh behind after wandering the wilderness.
[Joshua is the name of the Lord Jesus. One is Anglicized Hebrew (Joshua) and the other Anglicized Greek (Jesus), but both are of the same root. Jesus leads those who will fully believe and follow him into greater promises when we leave the flesh behind.]
This walking by faith in the new nature applies to many areas of our lives. Not only in exhibiting the fruits of the new nature, but also in acting on faith to truths revealed to us through a diligent study of his word. We must not let tradition or fear of men prevent us from moving us from our spiritual convictions.
The Christian has three enemies: the world system, the old nature, and principalities and powers of darkness. This last one is defended against by employing the armor of God (Eph 6) we looked at previously. The other two encompass many things, but chief among them the traditions of men (the world) and the fear of men (pride, the old nature). These two permeate Christianity and many will stand before the Lord with empty hands; "saved as if by fire," but with no reward.