OceanSide church of Christ
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THE ALTERNATIVE TO UPWARD IS DOWNWARD
Victor M. Eskew
Today, we are kicking off our theme for the year 2021. Our theme is: Seeking Higher Ground in 2021.” There were many thoughts we considered before arriving at these particulars words. One of them was: “Taking It to the Next Level.” “Seeking Higher Ground in 2021” was chosen for several reasons. First, it expresses action: “Seeking.” Second, it reveals our goal: “Higher Ground.” Third, it reveals direction, that is, to move upward.
Our theme verse for 2021 is Philippians 3:13-14. Paul told the Philippians that he had given up all for Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:7-8). He did this because he wanted to obtain the righteousness “which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9). If he did this, he would be assured of “the resurrection of the dead” (Phil. 3:11). However, he had yet reached the point of perfection (Phil. 3:12). It was at this point that he revealed his objective in life to his readers. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one things I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). Paul uses the word “press” and the words “high calling” in this statement. Paul was telling his readers that he, too, was pressing on to higher ground. The ultimate “higher ground” involved “the mark for the prize.” In Philippians 3:15, he continued by exhorting his readers to be of like mind. “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded…”
Dear readers, it is essential that each one of us as Christians continues to move upward in our Christian life. The only alternative to upward is downward. Unfortunately, some seem to choose the downward path. Those who do need to be reminded of some things about this path. First, it is an easy path. Going down takes little effort. There is hardly any energy that has to be exerted whatsoever. In fact, it is so easy that some have a tendency to run down this path. Jesus did not exhort His disciples to take the easy way. He commanded them to take the strait, that is, difficult way. “Enter ye in at the strait gate…because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).
Second, it is the wrong path. The downward path does not lead to spiritual things. It does not lead to holy things. It does not lead to things that are eternal in nature. The downward path leads one away from God. It leads to the carnal, sinful, and worldly things of life. When we obeyed the gospel, we were called out of the world. Instead of looking down, we began to look up. We became like Abraham of old. The Hebrew writer tells us that “he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:9). Like the patriarchs of old, we “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly” (Heb. 11:16). Why would we want to turn around and take the downward path to the things we left when we became Christians? My friends, downward is the wrong path! It is the wrong path if you desire “a building of God, a house not make with hands, eternal in the heavens” (II Cor. 5:1).
Third, the downward path is a path of failure. As we walk the upward way with Jesus, we find ourselves having success after success in our Christian lives. We overcome challenges. We conquer temptations. We defeat the evil one. We become more and more like our Lord Jesus Christ. Taking the downward path does not allow one to be successful. Remember, it is a walk away from the Christ. It was Jesus who said: “…for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). A life without Jesus amounts to nothing. It is a life of failure. A person fails to be saved. A person fails to serve the Lord. A person fails to overcome sin. A person fails to reach his spiritual potential. Dear readers, we only have one life to live. Who wants to walk a path of failure? That is exactly the path one is on if he is going downward.
Fourth, downward is a Satanic path. We say this because it is the path that Satan wants you to walk. Satan does not long for the salvation of your soul in heaven. Satan seeks only to destroy. Peter is clear about this. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8). In the story about Job, the devil thought he could bring ruin to this good man by afflicting him. The devil told God: “But put forth thine hand now, and touch him, and he will curse thee to thy face” (Job 1:11). Satan wants all on a downward trajectory.
Fifth the downward path is a path of death and defeat. In Romans 1, we read about the Gentiles who took the downward path away from God. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:21-22). These individuals became idolaters (Rom. 1:23-25), homosexuals (Rom. 1:26-27), and sinners of the worst sort (Rom. 1:29-31). Because of their sins, God gave them up (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). They were worthy of death (Rom. 1:32). All they had to look forward to was the wrath of God from heaven (Rom. 1:18). Their downward path may have brought them momentary thrills and satisfaction and pleasure. In the end, however, it brought them death and defeat. The downward path brings all men to ruin.
We are exhorting all of us to seek higher ground in 2021. We will be reminding ourselves about our need to do this throughout the year. Paul said he was pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus when he wrote the Philippian epistle. When he wrote his second letter to Timothy, he was at the end of his upward climb. He told the young evangelist that he was certain of his reward. “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Tim. 4:6-8). If we will follow in the footsteps of Paul (I Cor. 11:1) and climb that upward trail, we, too, can be assured of a crown of righteousness on that day.