“Hold On To Your Crown”  (November 2010)

"Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."  (Revelation 3:11)  "That no man take thy crown".  What is this crown that He is talking about?  It is the eternal blessedness that will be given as a prize to the genuine servants of God and Christ- who have endured to the end, who have fought the good fight and finished the race; it is the reward of righteousness.  This crown will be given to those who have been faithful- a victors crown. “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Revelation 22:12)  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.” (2 Timothy 4:7,8)

Let’s break this verse down a little to get a true sense of its meaning.  When you read the verse, it gives you the impression that someone can steal your crown from you.  Upon further examination of the words we get another picture.  The word “crown” is the Greek word “stephanos” which means- (to twine or wreathe); a chaplet (as a badge of royalty, a prize in the public games or a symbol of honor generally; but more conspicuous and elaborate than the simple fillet, diadema), literally or figuratively-- crown.  The crown that is described here is more like a prize of honor that is received by an athlete who persevered and won the race.  The word for “take” is the Greek word “lambano” and it means- to take, or receive.  This word is not the same Greek word for take that means to seize by violence, but more like a handing over of something.  We know that the thief (the devil) is the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy.  “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10a)  He is ultimately behind the overall scheme to steal our crowns.  But the wording in the verse above is “that no ‘man’ take your crown”.  The word for "man" here- "let no man"- is translated:  nobody, no one, nothing, not anything.  In the verse He didn’t tell us not to let the devil take our crown.  He said, "that no man take your crown".  It means that people can be used to cause you to not receive your crown, and it also means that no man can take your crown unless you allow him to.  Let me sum this all up.  The verse carries a warning and an admonition.  There is a reward- a prize, a crown- that awaits those who remain faithful to the Lord.  We must hold fast to what we have and not allow someone else to be instrumental in stopping us from receiving our reward for whatever reason.  We must remain faithful in pressing toward the mark no matter what.   

I want us to look at two main ways that we allow others to take our crown.  Like we said, the verse didn’t say not to let the devil take our crown, it said not to let any man take it.  We also said that the devil was behind the scheme to steal from you and to kill and destroy you.  But he will use people to try to accomplish his task and carry out his plans.  “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:11,12)

The first way I want to talk about that he uses people to try to get us to give up our crown is through hurt and offense.  I have seen people who were on fire for the Lord, active in their church, witnessing for Christ, following His teachings and example, turn from God and have nothing more to do with Him because someone in the church said something or did something to them.  These people may have talked bad about them, they may have rejected them, they may have been hypocritical in front of them, they may have turned their back on them in their time of need and as a result this person got offended, got their feelings hurt, got angry and no longer attends church or follows the Lord.  The have become bitter, resentful, pious and unforgiving.  But sadly, they are "taking it out on God" as if He was the one who did it to them.  They are blaming Him for what someone else did.  They are taking it out on Him by not attending His house any more, by not following His commands, by living in unforgiveness, by no longer worshipping Him.

We have all been offended and we have all offended someone else, either intentionally or unbeknown to us.  But taking our offense, hurt or pain out on God and “removing” Him from your life is not the answer.  You are only making it worse on yourself in the long run and playing right into the devil’s hands.  You are doing exactly what he wants you to do.  If he can cause you to distance yourself from God, he has a greater opportunity to destroy you. 

Acting upon offense and allowing it to govern our life and our relationship with God will open the door for our crown to be taken away from us because we have stopped running the race that is set before us.  “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” (1 Corinthians 9:24,25) 

So how can we guard against allowing our crown being taken from us?  "And this know, that if the good man of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through." (Luke 12:39)  First, don't be ignorant- know that offenses are going to come and the enemy is out to destroy you anyway he can.  Second, when he does come, realize that it is him and not the person.  Thirdly, since we have the responsibility to not allow our crown to be taken, go to God immediately with the offense (don't let it linger), submit the hurt to Him, ask for His strength and grace to "turn the other cheek" (or do whatever is needed), forgive that person, use your spiritual weapons to fight the real enemy behind it. 

Are you that person that I am talking about?  If so, then you need to return to the Lord.  Please don't keep staying away from Him because of what someone else did.  Go to Him and ask Him to restore you to fellowship with Him and the body of Christ.  Repent for holding on to a grudge, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness.  Ask for His forgiveness so that you can be forgiven as well.  “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your failings and shortcomings.” (Mark 11:25,26- Amplified Bible)  The bottom line is do whatever you have to do to make it right with God so that your crown is not taken from you.  Nothing else matters, and nothing else is more important.  Besides, why would you let someone else’s actions dictate you or your relationship with the Lord?  In this way you have allowed someone else to take your crown from you.  (Don't let any one take your crown because of hurt or offense.)

The second way I want to address that you can allow your crown to be taken is through false teaching and deception.  "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." (1 Timothy 4:1)  The devil is a master deceiver- he was at the very beginning in the Garden of Eden and he still will be at the end; the Book of Revelation tells us that.  “And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” (Genesis 3:13)  “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9)  He comes to us with lies that are wrapped up in beautiful packages.  Those lies appeal to the flesh- they tell us what we want to hear.  They sound like the answer, they sound like the truth, they seem to "make sense" but they are a mixture of what is true and what is false.  Therefore, it makes the whole thing false.  "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." (Galatians 5:9)

"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." (1 Timothy 4:1)  Jesus also warned that in the last days there would be false teaching and deception.  “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.“ (Matthew 24:3,5,11,24)  I believe that we are living in that latter time that the scripture is talking about and that Jesus warned us of.

We have been given strict warnings in the scriptures, especially concerning the last days, to be on guard and not be deceived.  "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4:3,4)  If ever there was a time when this was true it is now.  So many don't know what they believe, why they believe what they believe, or they believe anything and everything.  That is detrimental to our spiritual well being.  It can steal our crown.  “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” (2 Peter 2:1,2)

There is a growing trend of ideology and Eastern mystic religions intertwined with ancient Greek philosophy that is infiltrating the church.  The New Age movement is alive and well and being taught in many Evangelical churches, and even replacing sound doctrine.  Church folks are opening themselves up to the “Age of Enlightenment”.  The simple messages of the gospel are seen as outdated and rhetoric by unlearned, superstitious, simple-minded people who are dogmatic and intolerant of everyone else.  “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (2 Corinthians 11:3,4)    
I don’t know if you are aware of what is creeping into the churches or not, but it is exactly what Timothy called it- “doctrine of devils”.  So many Christians- and, yes, these are truly Christian people who love the Lord and are trying to live their lives for Him- are being deceived into believing such lies as:  all ways lead to God; it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you do the works (that is what we will be judged by); belief in the virgin birth and the deity of Jesus is not a prerequisite to being saved; hell is not a reality; heaven is what you make it; all religions of the world will be saved because we all believe in the same God/god.

Can you not see how the devil has stepped up his strategies to try to destroy us by using these false “teachings” as another instrument to take away our crown?  He sends teachers who tickle our itching ears with a message that pulls us further away from the Lord.  It is not all right to believe whatever you want to believe as long as you are sincere in your belief.  “You can be sincere, and be sincerely wrong!”  “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2 Cor. 11:13-15)
I don’t have enough room to go into all the reasons why these teachings are false, but I will say this, if Jesus was not born of a virgin then He was not sinless.  If He was not sinless there was no way His blood could bring about the remission of our sins.  If He was not God then we are hopelessly lost still.  Jesus was not just another prophet, or good man, or respected teacher... He IS, WAS and will ALWAYS BE GOD!!!  If not, there is no opportunity of salvation and eternal life for us.  We have nothing to base our faith upon.  “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:17,18)

How do we keep our crown from being taken from us by believing that what is false is the truth?  Jesus said that when we know the truth it will set us free- free from deception.  And what is this truth that will set us free?  "Thy word is truth". (John 17:17)  “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

Beware of what you hear.  “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.  And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear.” (Mark 4:23,24)  It may sound right, but does it line up with God's word.  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)  Does scripture back it up?  Just because it is a popular teaching, just because it is taught by well known respected people, just because everyone else is teaching it, just because it is the newest thing coming down the pike, doesn't mean that it is the truth.  In the Book of Acts it is recorded that when Paul was in Thyatira that a young lady followed them proclaiming that they were sent from the most high God to show them the way of salvation.  That sounded good, that was their mission, but the young lady was demon possessed and being influenced by demons.  “And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.” (Acts 16:16-18)  Am I saying that everything we hear is false and inspired by demons?  Of course not, but I am saying that it doesn't matter how good or how popular the teaching sounds, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is the truth or that it is from God.
“Let no man beguile you of your reward.” (Colossians 2:18a)  As we said earlier, no one can take your crown unless you allow it to be taken.  We discovered that we can allow it be taken when we hold on to offense, hurt and unforgivness that was inflicted on us by someone else.  By doing so we give that person more power in our lives then we do the Lord.  We also discovered that we can allow false teachers to take our crown if we believe them instead of God’s word.  It all boils down to this- you are responsible to run the race and how you run the race.  You are responsible to finish it and receive the prize. 
In closing I have one question I want to leave you with.  Which of these two verses will be your testimony concerning your crown?  “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Galatians 5:7)  Or  “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.” (2 Timothy 4:7,8)