The Odyssey (Part 10)

The Map
by Rayola Kelley

      One of the challenges confronting us as spiritual sojourners on our odyssey is what we call the “walk.” As believers, we must walk or live in the way that has been ordained by God. If we walk in the way, we will overcome all the challenges that could beset us on our journey and send us in another direction.

      The problem is that it is easy to talk the talk, but another whole story when it comes to walking the walk. As believers, we must indeed “put our money where our mouth is” to avoid becoming a bona-fide hypocrite on the spiritual journey. Hypocrites in Christianity are those who wear the title of being a Christian but do not live the Christian life.

      I remember my first seven years as Christian, I ignorantly majored in hypocrisy. I was developing my Christian talk by learning about God and applying the right terminology at the right time. As most know, head knowledge alone can make you judgmental, self-righteous, and stiff-necked. People who fall into such a trap, become dogmatic and delusional. They perceive that if they know a matter as being true, then they can rightly conclude it is true in their case. However, if you never make such a precept a practice that you live in and by, it will never become a reality or truth in your life. You may declare it, but it you fail to live it, you will eventually be considered a hypocrite. Head knowledge without a heart revelation that results in obedience to what is true produces a delusional, dogmatic hypocrite.

      What does it mean for a Christian to walk the walk? Like all people who are trying to go a certain way, it requires following a map. As Christians, we have one map: The Word of God.

      Like all maps, problems with following the Word of God can be quite challenging. There are those who do not perceive they need a map, for they think they know where they are going. However, in most cases such people become confused, and become quickly lost. There are those who do not know how to read the map and they become turned around or end up going in circles. There are those who study the map until they think they know where they are going, but fail to consult it along the way and end up taking detours.

      When it comes to walking the walk of the Christian life, one must consider his or her attitude towards the Word. For example, those who think they know where they are going lack humility and have failed to humble themselves before God with the intent of truly obeying His Word. They become skeptical because they will never get anywhere in their spiritual life. For those who do not know how to properly handle the Word of God, they have either failed to pay the price to learn it, or they are inexperienced and must take the initiative and time to learn that it is milk and food for their soul. If they fail to see that the Word contains the nourishment to keep them going, they will become spiritually bankrupt. For those who initially consult it, but fail to regard it along the way, their many detours will cause them to become disillusioned with their walk.

      This brings us to our attitude towards the Word. Do we esteem it? For example, how much do you value God’s Word? What is your attitude towards it? Do you really believe it? Granted, as Christians we can automatically quote the famous creed, “I believe that the Word of God is inspired by God; therefore, it is infallible (in intent, truth, and doctrine) (2 Timothy 3:16). How many of us understand or really believe it is infallible? Since it is infallible, it is void of inconsistency in intent and incapable of possessing any error in truth or doctrine. As the Bible states it will stand when all else is consumed in the fires of judgment (Matthew 7:24-27). This means the idea that it is metaphoric, obsolete, and not applicable for the times we live in will prove to be foolish, for all matters will ultimately stand in judgment before this everlasting testament of God.    

      Sadly, we can deceive ourselves to our real attitude towards the Word. Instead of esteeming it, we can show utter disregard towards it. We can quote a matter to the point that we believe it has become our creed and way, when in fact we do not back it up by our conduct.  How do we know if we believe God’s Word? The answer to the question is quite simple. Those who believe it, live it!

      It is easy for a person to say he or she believes that the Bible is infallible, but show contempt towards it (1 Samuel 1:30). In other words, the individual treats it as being common and insignificant when he or she does not see any real need or urgency to adhere to it. Such a person may show contempt towards the Bible by using certain Scriptures out of context to “confirm” as “acceptable” to God what is actually heretical, profane, and foolish. Contempt is also shown when a person highlights pet doctrines over the complete counsel of God’s Word. Individuals will show contempt by picking and choosing what they will believe, and they will show disdain when they simply give the impression of faith in it, but are quick to discard those things of the Bible that challenge their moral compass. Regardless of the approach, contempt towards the Word of God finds its origins in unbelief.

      A person can say it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, but totally miss the intent of it because he or she is not being led into all truth by the Spirit (John 16:13; 2 Peter 1:20-21). In such cases, the Word becomes dead-letter. Jesus said it best when He stated, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). In such situations, we are once again reminded that one can talk the talk but the real proof will always be in the walk.

      As we consider our attitude towards the Word of God, it is important to realize that our attitude towards the matters of God find their basis in our own character or way of handling situations. For example, today it appears that people’s word means little; subsequently, that is onE reason why God’s Word holds no real significance in the minds of many, including many Christians. If someone does not really mean what he or she says, then he or she will prove to be untrustworthy. If we lightly esteem what we say, how can we possibly believe that God’s Word has any real substance to it? Clearly, if we lightly regard anything that is truthful, holy, moral, and right, we can conclude that we will surely lightly esteem God’s Word for it is based on eternal truths, encased in holiness, and confirmed by moral uprightness.

      Last month, I stated that I would share how you can overcome the world. We know Jesus overcame the world, but how? The first epistle of John tells us that the world is made up of the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, and the lust of the eyes. We are told we overcome the world through our faith in Jesus. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (1 John 2:15-17; 5:4; Romans 10:17). Ultimately, active, genuine faith manifests itself in obedience to what it has heard and knows to be true. We know that Jesus overcame all three of the elements of the world by quoting the Word in context during His temptation in the wilderness. In other words, He believed the Word and stood upon it. However, the real key to Him overcoming came through His obedience to the Word. Hebrews 5:8-9 tells us, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”  Notice the end of Hebrews 5:9— only steps of obedience keep us in step with our Lord and Savior.

      Obedience is a discipline. All discipline begins with learning what something must look like in its proper form. You cannot understand how to comply to something unless you understand how it must be done. The Word of God clearly shows how something must be executed. It explains how it will look and the end results. However, it requires steps of obedience in what one knows will be correct, in order to ensure a right outcome. Psalm 119:105 confirms that it requires steps of obedience to inch one’s way towards the end of a matter, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”  Notice it is a small lamp that is only capable of lighting the path a few feet at a time. We do not make spiritual advancements by leaps and bounds, but by steps inspired by faith and wrought by obedience.

      Adherence to the Word of God is the only way to ensure an acceptable walk before the Lord. To properly obey the Word, you must first discipline your disposition with humility. You must submit your attitude in meekness to the truth of a matter. You must bring all imagination into obedience to Christ, and you must “beat” all your bodily members into subjection.

      It is important to realize that the Word of God addresses all matters that affect our life. It is not only meant to protect the believer from themselves, but it is designed to protect the Church from wolves, and those seeking the light from the misdirected, and often cruel, ways of self-righteousness. Everyone who walks into a place where the Word of God serves as the ultimate authority and truth to beliefs, attitudes, and conduct should never have to be concerned about what they will encounter.

      Admittedly, one of the hardest tasks I have encountered in the past is to know where to send seeking souls. It seems that many of the churches I knew or heard about did not adhere to the Word of God. Instead of being grounded in the Word of God and discipled in the ways of Christ, so many sheep were either being led astray by heretical beliefs, beaten up by unloving religious attitudes and ways, or falling through the cracks of indifference. Such sheep have very little chance of coming out of this sort of grist mill in the best of shape.

      If as Christians we obey God’s Word, we will walk in light of the authority of heaven. If the church walks according to the Word of God, it can be assured of being a holy sanctuary in which the Holy Spirit has free access to reconcile, heal, restore, and bring souls into the place of redemption. If a person seeks the wisdom of the Word of God, he or she will find salvation, refuge, hope, and confidence that he or she is standing on sure ground that will not be moved. Clearly, the Word of God is our protection, source of authority, and sure foundation. But, we must approach it to believe that it is so with the intent to apply it as truth and obey it.

      This brings me to the revelation of overcoming with the Word of God. In the past I believed that transformation of the heart attitude would be so drastic in my life that I would be able to mark the hour, day, and year. I perceived that it would require a major crisis to line me up to the truths of heaven. Granted, there were some major crises in my life, but they only caused me to reexamine my ways and sometimes change direction in my life, but they never transformed the inner man. I realized that crises often brought me to places of brokenness and repentance, but never to the work of transformation that is the product of being truly converted by, and to, the ways of God.

      It seemed like I waited for years for something drastic to happen to me in order to see the real transformation take place I so desired in my life. One day I started to remember how I was, and as I traced my life to my present walk, I realized that the work of transformation had indeed taken place. Granted, my life will always be a work in progress until I meet Christ face to face on that glorious day, but I had a real awareness that a work had taken place. It was not simply a surface work, but a deep transforming work.

      I pondered when and how such a work took place. It was at that time the Lord turned on the light to show me what had transpired. He revealed to me that the transforming work that took place occurred as I had simply obeyed His Word. Admittedly, I was a bit shocked. Although I did not display the greatest attitude at every point of obedience, I always found that my attitude adjusted accordingly once I responded in obedience. It was clear that by obediently walking in the way of Biblical truth, my inner being was being transformed.

      I also realized that as I obeyed the Word of God, my motive was being purified. Many times I would obey for the sake of personal pride (made me feel good about self), or for the sake of impression (made me look good to others), but the more I obeyed because it was simply the right thing to do, the more I realized that it was my reasonable service to do so (Roman 12:1-2). In other words, self could only pervert the things of God; therefore, it must be absent from any service or worship to God to ensure the integrity of my life. Obedience towards the things of God should be a natural extension and response of our love for Him, our faith towards Him, and our sincere respect for His Word. It was then that I realized my motive had not only been purged from the profane ways of selfishness through obedience, but transformed.

      I also discovered that through obedience  heavenly wisdom had replaced my fickle, immature zeal. As I got older, this discretion became a real asset to me. In zeal you are relying on personal strength, but as a person’s strength is ebbed away by age, activities, and the many demands of life, you must become honest about where your real source of wisdom and strength comes from. Unless a matter is ordained by God, it will prove to be vanity, and if one’s reliance is not on God to lead the way, strength will be robbed from him or her by frivolous pursuits and deeds.

      The Word tells us that it is the water that cleanses us, preparing us to be the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:26). For me, when I obeyed it in the right spirit, it became a washing machine that created the right action in my life to produce godly character. It was a hammer that knocked a lot of personal notions out of my thinking, and it is an ongoing fire that illuminates and purges what remains of my selfishness. It is a sword that penetrates deep down to my motives, exposing them, while circumcising the intents of my heart (Jeremiah 23:29; Hebrews 4:12).

      Clearly, if we are to ensure the success of our odyssey, we must make sure we are following the map God has given us. We cannot ignore, adjust, pick or choose, or discard it along the way and assume that we will arrive at our destination. We must believe it is the only map, and through obedience to it we will secure the heavenly treasure, possess the promises of God, and be assured of forever living in the light of our Lord’s glory, love, and grace.