Many times we have heard athletes explain how they kept their focus on the finish line in order to put everything they had into reaching it and becoming victorious. Though he did not use the word “focus”, the apostle Paul alluded to this same way of thinking when he said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing 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). We wish to use an acrostic of the word “focus” to illustrate how we can obtain the crown of righteousness in the last day.
“F” stands for “faith”. Faith is our beginning point. Biblical faith comes from knowledge of God’s word. Paul said, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Without this Biblical faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Jesus said, “…if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). Though many make this belief in Christ as the only requirement to salvation, the Bible tells us that there is more that one must believe. After telling the apostles to preach the gospel, Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Jesus also said, “…repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Often in the New Testament, the word faith is used for the entirety of the Christian doctrine. Jude spoke of earnestly contending for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). No man shall reach heaven without knowing the gospel of Christ, for “…it is the power of God unto salvation…” (Rom. 1:16).
“O” stands for “obedience”. James wrote, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (Jam. 1:22). After hearing and believing the gospel, one must obey the gospel. Jesus once said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Paul told the Thessalonians that the Lord would come, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thess. 1:8). The gospel requires that one hear the word (Rom. 10:17), believe that word (Mark 16:16), repent of their sins (Acts 3:19), confess Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37) and be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-4). If one will have heaven as their eternal home, they will have to add obedience to these commands to their faith.
“C” stands for “continuance”. When the nation of Israel crossed the Red Sea, escaping the bondage of Egypt, they were not yet in their promised land. They had to continue to follow God’s will in order to reach it. When one comes up from the waters of baptism, they are a new man, but they are not in heaven yet. Paul said, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). The gospel reveals all that we need in order to walk in harmony with God’s will. “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). Paul wrote, “If we continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel…” (Col. 1:23). We will fall short from time to time (I John 1:8, 10), but when we do we will have to come back by way of repentance, confession and prayer (Acts 8:22; I John 1:9). We must keep our focus on that home in heaven that we never stop the efforts to reach it.
“U” stands for “uncondemned”. After having become one of God’s children, so long as we walk in the light (I John 1:7) and seek the forgiveness of our shortcomings as just noted, we are living in an uncondemned state. Paul said, “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1). Knowledge that we are living without condemnation is the assurance we have of a heavenly home. We can indeed have true Bible hope, which is an anchor for the soul (Heb. 6:19).
“S” stand for “salvation”. Paul said, “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. 4:7-8). Paul had focused on heaven as his eternal home, and by obedience to the gospel, continuance in it until the end, he could stand confident that his home awaited him. One might notice that according to Paul, there are plenty of crowns to go around. There is one for each of us if we stay focused on that home in heaven. If we have learned God’s way, obeyed the first principles of the gospel in order to become Christians and remain faithful to the end, we will have our salvation.
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to [email protected]