The Challenge

Discernment 13

THE CHALLENGE

By Rayola Kelley

 

      Jesus warned us that in the end days, delusion would be prevalent. The problem with delusion is that one is not aware he or she is deluded. When it comes to being deluded, people are confident they are not deluded and their conclusion is that those who are on the opposing side are the ones who are deceived.

      The idea of being deceived will often cause fear for those who are teetering on the fence of delusion. They may have one foot on some truth and another foot on a lie. Although truth is sure and a lie is a slippery “banana peel,” they will do all they can to maintain the lie while trying to adjust the truth to their slippery path because the alternative of being wrong not only slams against their pride, but points to the harsh reality of being rendered ineffective and considered a hypocrite. These self-deluded individuals will do everything they can to persuade those around them that they are right, thinking that it will be the proof they need to verify their inept or erroneous beliefs. However, regardless of who they manage to lead astray, truth will remain what it is, and all will be judged by it no matter how much this type of individual tries to keep one foot on it while justifying their personal realities on the fragile footing of a lie (2 Corinthians 13:8).

      Truth is not half way. A half-truth is nothing more than propaganda that is intended to twist truth enough to indoctrinate people, while truth taken to the extreme becomes an untruth because it lacks the right spirit. Truth that is defiled or handled in unrighteousness identifies a person as being under the wrath of God (Romans 1:18). The Apostle Paul stated in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 that truth will test the hearts of people and if they don’t love it they will be taken away with a great delusion. As a brother in the Lord reminded all of us at the Bible Study, “You either believe all of the Bible or none of it.” You cannot piecemeal the Bible by believing what you want to believe, without treating the whole Bible as a lie. You can’t use parts of the Bible to confirm your personal take on a matter while throwing the rest out without becoming an inept hypocrite, incapable of living any of it.

      One of the great evidences that truth reigns in our life is that the Holy Spirit has the freedom in our lives to bring us higher (John 8:31-36; 2 Corinthians 3:17). The “higher” in this case has to do with the freedom to come to a greater revelation of God outside of doctrinal boxes, rigid belief systems, and concrete theology. It sets us free from the dead-letter straitjacket of the Law, as well as fleshly, worldly lies by setting the record straight, bringing an assurance of peace with it.

      God will not be boxed in by our small-minded concepts. He will not be controlled by a particular school of thought; nor will He operate within the limited confines of our religious conclusions. If anything, the matters of life will challenge our small concepts about God, causing us to realize how small our thinking and conclusions are about God. A. W. Tozer often states we think too little of God and think too highly of ourselves, whether it is what we know, what we think, or what we do (Romans 12:3). Often we humanize God by bringing Him down to our understanding, and deify aspects of our thinking and conclusions about Him. Such deification causes us to create and exalt a god to our own liking. We may fall in love with our concept of God, worship the sentiment we feel about Him, and be zealous about what we think we know about Him, but such aspects are nothing but idolatrous.

      I learned years ago that I could easily be deluded. In my fallen state, I am prone to believe a reality that fits my narrative whether it is truth or not. My feelings can be easily persuaded if my pride is being fed. My thoughts can be taken captive if truth is not the pursuit of my heart.  I can easily be seduced by the spirit of this world if I do not properly maintain the ways of righteousness and hold myself accountable for my attitudes and actions. Loving the truth is a choice, and I must develop a preference for it over my reality, and desire it over my pride. I must make it a necessity to be my final source of authority when it comes to evaluating what is really going on around me. I must learn to test the fruit of a matter and not assume that my understanding of something is not what is actually determining whether I have a right standing before God. If the right fruit is missing, then the right spirit is missing, which means I am in a wrong spirit which will be considered unacceptable to God (Galatians 5:22-23). After all, we are known by our fruits, not by what we necessarily know (Matthew 7:16, 20).

      We will not enter God’s kingdom without the right spirit and truth, nor will we not be offended by it at different times, while always being brought to the crossroad of decisions because of it. In the end, truth alone will stand when everything else is slammed against it, testing it to see if it will stand. Whatever is not truth will be brought down to utter destruction.

      We must begin with truth; continue with truth to end with truth. We must begin with the reality of our holy God to come to terms with our sin, opening us up to redemption, and we must continue on with the examples of righteousness found in Christ’s teachings, examples, and instructions in order to end with truth. However, truth can be lifeless without the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the means to properly discern how to apply truth to a matter. Job’s friends were right about God, but failed to discern what was going on in the case of Job. They ended up falsely accusing Job and incorrectly accrediting Job’s plight to God’s punishment. In the end, Job had to make a sacrifice on behalf of his opinionated, self-righteous companions as the Lord made clear Job was right but they were wrong (Job 42:7-9).

      There is much that can be written about discernment. The truth is people either have discernment or they do not. People are either properly exercising it or becoming dull in it. People either believe what the Lord says or they pick and choose what they are going to believe while operating in a small rut of ignorance or in unbelief towards His complete counsel. People either insist on their reality about spiritual matters or humble themselves to ask for God’s perspective, aware that they only know in part, and are always responsible to seek His truth about a matter. Such people realize that they see through the “dark glass” of the flesh, as well as are ever knocking on doors until the one to a greater revelation leads them to a greater life in Jesus (1 Corinthians 13:9,12).

      We must remember that we may be right about many things, but if we insist that our limited understanding can be applied to all things in every aspect of the Christian walk, we are going to be found wrong in the end because we are not all-knowing or all-wise. We each have our own walk and even though we ultimately learn the same lessons, the way in which we learn them proves to be different, creating a different perspective and approach. We need to keep in mind that due to our diverse experiences we do not have the same testimonies, callings, gifts, and abilities. For example the approach and emphasis of an evangelist is different than that of a pastor or a teacher. The evangelist will emphasize those things that appeal to lost souls and sleeping saints, while a pastor will emphasize the feeding of the sheep to ensure their spiritual well-being, and the teacher will emphasize what it means for one to become a true disciple of Jesus. The evangelist appeals to the soul, the shepherd to the heart, and the teacher to a person’s understanding. No one man has a corner on truth and ministry and that is why the Apostle Paul explained that there is a body made up of believers who have various gifts and that they are given for the edification of the whole body.

      I remember a pastor who bragged he was all his church needed, and that he could be the evangelist, pastor and teacher.  Needless to say, we did not agree with him and we ended up leaving that church a few weeks later. We drove by that church a few years later and it was boarded up, which is such a shame as it was a fairly new building.

      People approach a matter from what they know from personal experience. This is why we are to come together to reason a matter out in humility and meekness for the edification of each other and not to debate it into the ground or insist that people have to agree with our understanding of a spiritual matter before they earn the right for us to even listen to them. The Word was never intended to be used as a club on the sheep in order to drive them into some narrow pen of understanding and belief. It is amazing how some Christians are willing to show compassion for lost souls, but are unloving, rigid, judgmental, and demanding when it comes to struggling sheep who are simply seeking the refreshing Living Waters of God’s Spirit and the green pastures of God’s living Word.

      The Bible is clear that we are to seek the Lord with all our hearts so we can live (Jeremiah 29:13; Amos 5:4, 6). “Seeking” reminds us that there is a definite discipline needed in our pursuit and approach to spiritual matters. Matthew 7:7 also refers to this disciplined life when Jesus stated we must ask, seek, and knock. Acts 14:22 constantly reminds me there is a struggle that occurs when it comes to entering into all that God has for us, “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

      As disciples, we face the reality of disowning (denying) ourselves on a daily basis so we can pick up our personal cross, creating the necessary discipline to follow our Lord into the abundant life (Luke 9:23-24; John 10:10). The cross points to death of the self-life and the influences of the world, but death of this nature involves a struggle to ensure a new life is brought forth. Before a child is born there is the travailing to bring that life forth, and from that point there will be points of challenge to bring that life to maturity. Parents can experience various struggles to bring a child to maturity, which can include sorrow, disappointment, and a broken heart.

      Regardless of the flimsy, false presentation of Christianity taking place in our nation today, tribulation is associated with the Christian life. Jesus told his disciples that they would have much tribulation in this world, but to be of good cheer for He had overcome the world (John 16:33).  As Christians we are in a war and are instructed to endure hardship like a good soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-4). We are in a race and we must put aside any weight that would keep us from running it (Hebrews 12:1). The Apostle Paul stated that in order to run the race he had to fight to keep his body under subjection so he would not be a castaway (1 Corinthians 9:23-27). It is clear in Hebrews 11 that the saints experienced various trials and afflictions because of their faith, but their hope was not in this world but in the next; therefore, they willingly embraced such challenges and struggles to obtain a greater resurrection. The Apostle Paul asked the Lord three times to take away the “thorn in his side,” but the Lord told Him that His grace was sufficient to keep him and that in his weakness the Lord would prove Himself to be strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). The Apostle Paul clearly understood the deep work of affliction and he brought out its ultimate goal in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  

      Granted, salvation is free, but the life of Christ must be worked in us, and the tools that are used are tribulations and afflictions, and it must be worked out of us in obedience. The Apostle Paul instructed in Philippians 2:12 to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and he told Timothy, “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). God is clearly working the life of Christ in us through the Holy Spirit but we must work it out in our everyday life (Philippians 1:6). “Work” implies there is some type of labor involved in it and we know the end result of that work is that as believers we need to reach our potential to reflect the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

       I have learned that there is a cost to know God in an intimate way that involves a process that can lead one into various dark valleys, along narrow, rocky paths and over harsh terrain, but through each challenge I have been keenly aware that the Lord is in control and ever-so-close to me. The Lord knows what kind of adverse challenges and terrain in my walk will bring out the image of His Son in my life. As I realize that I am living the life of Christ in me by faith, I also remember that faith involves a fiery test where complete dependency on Him becomes pure gold in my faith walk (Galatians 2:20; 1 Peter 1:6-9).

      Our challenge as believers is simple; we need to know the Lord in a personal way. Good relationships do not just happen. Healthy relationships involve an investment and are often forged through times of testing and adjustment. Our relationship with the Lord requires an investment on our part that comes out of love and faithfulness so that we can know Him in greater ways. Daniel 11:32 states, “That the people who do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”

      It is not what we know, but Who we know. We must not assume our knowledge stands as the absolute measuring stick for others, nor must we presume if people don’t see it our way that they are rebellious and unbelieving. Knowing God is not about knowing doctrine or being able to quote Scriptures. I have met people who know Scriptures but who do not know the Word of God. They may know the letter of it, but not the spirit, intent, and principle behind a certain truth because it takes spirit to discern such a matter, and compassion to enter in. They put God in a box instead of letting God be God in the lives of His people. They try to dictate what people should believe instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to confirm a matter and lead a person into the truth he or she needs to possess to be transformed in their mind. Such individuals strive to make converts to their way of thinking instead of ensuring that the sheep Jesus died for become converts and followers of the person of Jesus Christ.

      The challenge for many Christians is not to let man and his doctrines define them. We are to listen to Scriptural counseling, but we must discern if it is applicable to our present situation. We must be teachable, but not gullible to believe whatever is thrown at us. We must make sure that the Word of God is being used in proper context and in line with the Holy Spirit, and that it serves as our final say as to what we believe is so, and not man’s interpretation or personal perception of something. We must fight to maintain our liberty in the Spirit and avoid being brought under some law or religious standard that enslaves us (Galatians 5:1).

      I have learned in the past that we, as believers of Christ, cannot live our life or realize our calling in Christ unless we have the freedom to follow the Holy Spirit in it. Often man tries to be our conscience or be the Holy Spirit to us. However, I have learned if the Holy Spirit has not convicted or confirmed a matter to our spirit, it remains a concept that is lifeless and lacks real merit. It is the Spirit that must confirm a matter as He prepares us to accept it as being so.

      As we live in a day where great delusion is sweeping the landscape, let us personally make sure we are anchored in the Rock of Ages, the Rock that is immovable in truth, sure in salvation, and faithful in all promises.