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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Steadfast? Immovable?

We have to work at our salvation.

Toward a Strong Soul (1)

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15.58

The hard work of faith
We have been considering the nature of the soul, and how best to care for and nurture the soul for a strong inner life, so that we can serve the Lord faithfully with all our words and deeds. We must be always about the work of renewing our mind, cleansing our heart, and purifying our conscience, for nothing outward will have any staying power unless inwardly we are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

Growing in Christlikeness in our souls is a matter of working out the gift of salvation God has given us, drawing on the wisdom of His Word and the power of His Spirit, to be conformed to Jesus Christ rather than to the ways of the world (Phil. 2.12, 13; 2 Cor. 3.12-18). We do not work for our salvation. We work out the gift of so great a salvation we have received as we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, strengthening our soul and thereby renewing our bodies for serving the Lord.

This must be a matter of continuous attention. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians is typical of what we encounter throughout the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews urged his readers to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12.1). Peter charged the churches in Asia Minor to “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (2 Pet. 1.10). And our Lord Jesus warned the seven churches of Asia that only those who overcome in the face of adversity will know His full blessings (Rev. 2.7, 11, etc.). They who are “faithful unto death” will receive the crown of life for which they strive (Rev. 2.10).

We must always be working out our salvation toward a strong soul and a more Christlike way of life.

Three conditions
These many exhortations to steadfastness highlight three conditions of the early Church that characterize the Christian movement in every era.

First, being a Christian is hard work, but work which, as we pursue it diligently, brings forth the fruit of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (cf. Phil. 2.12, 13; Rom. 14.17, 18). Being a Christian is a full-time calling that involves us in a whole new way of life. Christians pursue a different vision of the world than their unsaved neighbors. They submit themselves to different disciplines as they pursue that vision. And those disciplines lead to a whole new set of everyday outcomes that bring glory to God and benefit to our neighbors. No one can justly call himself a Christian who does not live within the framework of the Kingdom vision, disciplines, and outcomes of love which Jesus and the apostles taught.

Second, the world is full of many distractions and temptations which can obstruct or divert believers as they pursue their calling to be steadfast and bear fruit. The world, the flesh, and the devil continuously assault us in a relentless warfare which, while spiritual, is nonetheless real and destructive. Paul reminds us that there is no such thing as a spiritual vacuum in life; every moment of time and every opportunity of life not seized and engaged for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom will be lost to the powers of evil and sin (Eph. 5.15-17). Christians must be constantly vigilant against the devil and his powers, and ready to resist him, lest their walk with the Lord be compromised and their fruitfulness turn to barrenness (1 Pet. 5.8, 9)

The third condition signaled by these many exhortations to steadfastness is simply that, within the Christian community are some who are unstable of soul, as Peter described them (2 Pet. 2.14) who, because they do not heed the exhortations to steadfastness, are vulnerable to being led astray and falling through temptation in to levels of sin from which they may never extricate themselves.

Who are these people with unstable souls? How can we recognize them? And what can we do to keep ourselves from succumbing to an unsteady soul? What can we do to ensure that we will always have stable souls, strong souls, which are growing into Jesus Christ and serving God for His glory?

Peter tells us that these unstable souls were people within the Christian community who had begun to know the goodness of the Lord by their profession of faith and participation in the Body of Christ (2 Pet. 1.13). They attended worship with other Christians, shared in the Christian lifestyle, at least to an extent, and considered themselves true believers in Jesus Christ.

But they were not. For all their outward protestations and participations, these people who did not take seriously the need to work out their salvation had merely tasted of the faith; they had not truly embraced the Lord.

As Peter notes, these unstable souls did not stand firm. They took no steps to make their calling and election sure, and to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. They were unwilling to contend for the truth against the lies of an age in flight from God. They did not discipline their minds to think like Jesus, nor their hearts to embrace God’s Law, nor their consciences to judge with righteous judgment. Their overall laziness in pursuing Christian growth indicated to Peter that they were not true children of the Lord. Instead, like dogs returning to their vomit, they were pretenders, whose lack of true faith would one day be revealed for all to see (2 Pet. 2.22).

This is harsh language, I know; but Peter joins his voice to Paul, insisting that every believer in Jesus should expect to grow in the Lord, becoming strong and stable in their soul, and consistent in their walk, so that they and everyone can know that their profession of faith is not in vain, and their labors of good words and good works are just what we might expect from those who are being transformed increasingly into the image of Jesus Christ.

What then is involved in moving faithfully and consistently toward a strong soul?

For reflection
1.  Explain what Paul means by “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”

2.  Is it possible to do this without a strong soul – a mind that’s being renewed in the mind of Christ, a heart that is being cleansed from every sinful desire, and a conscience that is being purified from worldly ways? Explain.

3.  What are the marks of someone who has an “unstable soul”? What is our duty in shoring-up our own souls, so that this does not describe us?

Next steps – Preparation: Pray through your answers to the three questions above, and listen as the Spirit searches your soul to show you any areas where you might be unstable or tending that way.

T. M. Moore

All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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