The Odyssey (Part 3)

Facing My Greatest Enemy
by Rayola Kelley

      I am so thankful that the Lord saved me. When I ask people what they were saved from, the most popular answer is hell. I rejoice that Jesus took my place on the cross so that I would not die in my sins and spend eternity separated from my Creator in a place of utter torment. No doubt the torment of hell will manifest itself in different ways, but the truth is there is no greater torment than that which comes from the hopelessness that surely abounds in hell. I have come face-to-face with this torment many times in my life. And, I for one am glad that the hopelessness has been replaced with the anchor of joy as I have learned to come to rest on that which inspires and sustains all my hope: The Lord Jesus Christ.

When I ask believers, who they consider to be their greatest enemy, they will often say Satan. I have encountered this enemy in different ways through the years. I have learned never to underestimate his tricks, and as the Apostle Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 2:11 we must not be ignorant of his devices for he will gain advantage in our lives. However, I have learned that Satan can only do so much because he is limited by two boundaries.

One boundary is God Himself. As a believer, I belong to the Lord. Granted, He uses Satan to test and sift His people at different times as He did in the lives of Job and Peter, but He is the One who determines how far this enemy can advance into the midst of each of us. It is for this reason that I am aware that Satan is part of my process and is used to bring spiritual maturity to my life.

The second boundary is the believer. Satan must gain inroads into our lives. There are three avenues that he is very successful in using to gain advantage into our lives, homes, and sanctuaries. They are: ignorance of God’s Word, sin, and pride.

Pride is a sin that operates in the shadows of ignorance and the shroud of delusion, blinding a person to its personal working in his or her life. Very few people recognize their pride. They do not realize that it is often cloaked in self-pity (victim syndrome), has an attitude of arrogance, a haughty look that unmercifully judges, a false appearance (fake nobility) to hide its hideous tentacles of jealousy and malice, a bitter taste that others must swallow, cruel mannerisms, and an indifferent pose.

It took some doing on God’s part to show me my pride. It cleverly hung in the shadows of fake nobility and was masked by what I considered “good intentions,” but when such intentions were stripped of their pious presentation, all of it proved to be nothing more than selfishness.

I often share how God first began to deal with my pride one spoonful at a time. He took a spoonful from my self-confidence to get my attention about the foolishness that often lurked behind my pious presentations. He took a spoonful of my conceit to bring my high opinions down to a more lowly perspective so that I could be reasoned with. He took a spoonful of my fake nobility and caused me to question the motives behind my pursuits. However, there came a time when He took a backhoe to my pride. When He finished with me there was not one area of my life that had not been unearthed to reveal the extent this illustrious idol had on me. I remember the whole matter left me raw and vulnerable. I realized that I could not even trust my actions because of the self-centered hidden motive or agenda behind them. I begin to understand why the Bible states that even my best would prove to be filthy rags before God because actions are often defiled by a person’s motive or intent towards something. The reality of it was my whole disposition (inner man) needed to be transformed by the power of the Spirit. I recognized that it was only the life of Christ in me that I could trust.

It was during this purging of my pride that I came face-to-face with my real enemy in actuality. As someone once said, “Look in the mirror and you will meet your real enemy.” We can talk about how God saves us from hell and how He has given us power to overcome the kingdom of darkness, but the reality that has produced the greatest humility in me was the fact that I really needed to be saved from myself.

How many times have you “shot yourself in the foot” by what you have said or done? How many times have you “cut off the limb that you were sitting on” by how you have handled a situation? How many times have you burned “valuable bridges” behind you because of anger and bitterness? Although these terms are considered idioms in our language, they leave a very good picture of how great an enemy we often become to ourselves.

As I came face-to-face with myself I had to realize the depth of the fallen disposition in me. We often just look at what we do. Many of my past actions showed rebellion against God, but I had to learn that it is not what I do that speaks of who I really am; rather, it is the type of disposition I possess within that determines the type of person I am.

To understand what disposition is we must realize that it is the inner state of our person. What influences our state will determine how we think. Our thought process will be steered by our attitude towards a matter. Our attitude reflects the state of our heart, and will determine how we approach something. Our approach will reveal our emphasis or what is important to us. It will also determine how we handle a matter.

Everything I do is motivated by my inward disposition. It is for this reason that the Lord stated in Ezekiel 36:26-27 that the new covenant would entail Him giving His people a new heart and spirit to ensure the work of regeneration. When the Bible states that the old passes away and all things must become new, it is talking about the work of regeneration. Regeneration can be compared to spring time, where new life comes forth to reveal its glory (2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5).

Pastor Paul Washer made this statement about regeneration, “In modern day evangelism, this precious doctrine [of regeneration] has been reduced to nothing more than a human decision to raise one’s hand, walk an aisle, or pray a ‘sinner’s prayer.’ As a result, the majority of Americans believe that they’ve been ‘born again’ even though their thoughts, words, and deeds are a continual contradiction to the nature and will of God.”

Teacher/author William MacDonald talked about regeneration when he addressed how Christians shy away from using the word “religion” to describe their life in Christ. MacDonald acknowledged that they want to stipulate that Christianity is not about religion, but a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. However, there is a bit of religion to Christianity, but it is not based on religious affiliation or activities, but on the transforming life of Christ within. MacDonald went on to say this in regard to this subject, “We mean that we are not asking (a person) to join a church or denomination but to enter into a relationship with the Lord Jesus. We are not pushing a creed but a Person. We are not advocating reformation but regeneration, not a new suit on the man but a new man in the suit.”

It was obvious that there were areas in my life that spoke of the “old life”. As a result, my life was a contradiction and I needed to get down to the reason and source of it. It was at this time that I began to understand that I had been trying to rehabilitate the “old” disposition in me. Inner change can only come from a heart change, and God is the only One who can give a new heart or enlarge it to embrace the matters of His kingdom, but I could not change who I was. In my initial years of Christianity, I simply had managed to reform the outer man to take on a certain religious stance, but I had failed to let the Holy Spirit transform the inner person in me by bringing forth the life of Christ in greater measure.

I knew there were areas that had not been transformed in my attitude; and, such areas would prove to be untrustworthy and deceptive. In every delusion there is a disconnect between what is and the reality the person is adopting about him or herself. To come to terms with my inner person, I had to examine my attitude about matters that were affecting my spiritual walk. This was the only way I could get a sense of the overall picture of my heart condition.

As a Christian, God had given me a new heart, but I was not walking according to a new life. The Spirit was trying to bring conviction to me about certain attitudes and aspects of my lifestyle, but instead of repenting, I tried to reform my outward actions to silence the indictment of my conscience. When I thought I was on top of my conduct, something would come along and trip me up once again, revealing that I harbored the same heart attitude.

I cannot tell you how many times I ran around the mountain on the path of reformation instead of coming to a place of true repentance where transformation would occur. Subsequently, the scenery and end results never changed. Even though I did not like the fruit that was manifesting in my life, I was willing to ignore it as I consoled myself that I would do better next time. Eventually, I finally came to the same conclusion the Apostle Paul came to inRomans 7:15-19; “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

It was as I humbled myself before the Lord that He could finally reason with me about my sin. Isaiah 1:18 tells us that God wants to reason with us, but so many have adopted the present day false gospel that Jesus loves them and wants them to be happy. However, God does not want to reason with us about our happiness, but about our sin. Jesus did not come to save us in our sin; rather, He came to save us from our sin. He became the solution to our sin instead of providing us with a ticket to sin while avoiding the consequences that come with such deviant actions.

The truth is that there are Christians who want their sin, while secretly hoping that they will get to heaven in spite of the various warnings and instructions of the Word of God. They ask God to help them, but they do not ask Him to change their mind by giving them a hatred for their sin. Instead of their heart being broken over their sin by coming into agreement with God’s evaluation about it, they harden their heart towards the truth while claiming their right to the sin on such a basis as that it is natural to the flesh or too powerful to overcome. Such logic downplays or does away with the fact that the Bible has declared such conduct as being an affront against God. In the end, these individuals settle for a feel-good religion that allows them to wallow in the same wretched stench of their pigpens as they drown in the cesspool of endless excuses. Meanwhile, they maintain a religious pose that allows them to feel good about the Christianity they are putting forth. I am quite aware of this cycle because I have been entangled in it in the past.

The culprit that keeps us from the way of humility and repentance is our pride. Pride is what will sit on the throne of our hearts when we are giving way to the “old self-life.” Whether the pride is that of ego or vanity, it refuses to come to a place of humility to seek mercy. In some cases, this personal enemy declares that it will take care of the matter. In others, it will not concede its erroneous way of thinking and take responsibility for the attitude it has adopted towards a matter. Ultimately, it will show contempt towards God’s commandments, silently mocking and declaring that they are unfair, unrealistic, and not applicable in the present situation.

Today there are people who are angry with God because He will not change His way of thinking. They accuse Him of being unrealistic or behind the times because He will not stoop down and accept the stench of their worldly pigpens of compromise or become bogged down in their cesspool of excuses.

It was as I came to terms with what was reigning in my heart that I became acquainted with a divided heart. A divided heart is an idolatrous heart because the pride of the self-life often sits on the throne, while it adjusts religion to its worldly preferences. It is a heart that has experienced the intervention of God, but it maintains a worldly attitude. Since it is divided in loyalties, it is fickle. It is hard to say which way it will go as the different tides of life roll in. One moment it is a heart that is in line with the things of God, but in the next moment it can be in step with the attitudes of the world.

In order to bring the idol of pride down, I had to repent and agree with God about the matters of heaven. I had to change my mind and line up to the unchanging truths of His Word. This required me to give way to the mind of Christ by submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit. Whether He was convicting me of unacceptable attitudes and godless actions, or bringing the contrast of Christ as to what stipulated true righteousness, I had to avoid personal justification and bring attitudes and actions into line with His Word. If something was wrong to God, it had to become wrong to me. If God considered an attitude unbecoming, an action profane, and a particular way perverse, then I had to agree and change my attitude and direction.

The inward change entailed one right decision after the other, giving the Holy Spirit freedom to regenerate those areas that had remained in the shadows of carnality. It required me to put one foot in front of the next in simple faith and obedience to what I knew was right and acceptable to the Lord. At first the changes seemed strange to me. It was then that I had to recognize just how much of my present ways remained fleshly and worldly, and how much of me had to line up to that which was godly. As time went along, I began to notice the ways of righteousness were becoming more natural to my way of thinking and the worldly ways and influence were becoming perverse, causing a welcoming discomfort in my soul towards them.

The heart condition was just one aspect of coming face-to-face with my main enemy. The journey I found myself taking in this particular matter did not end up bringing me the full sense of myself; rather, it brought a greater revelation of who God is. It was the revelation that confirmed what I knew all along. He alone is the One who knows how to save, change, and preserve the souls of His people. He knew what kind of pressure He had to put on me and the right times to do it in order to bring about the necessary changes in my life.

Next month I will elaborate more on this part of my odyssey, but meanwhile how about you? Do you find yourself running around on the same mountain trail, seeing the same old scenery and hitting the same frustrating walls? Although it all seems hopeless, you need to know that God has provided a way out of the endless cycle. It is called repentance. Honestly evaluate where your path leads you and realize that to get on the right path, you must stop walking on the present one. Seek God’s perspective about your plight and then be sure to agree with what He shows you. Ask Him to give you the right attitude about it because your best intentions are void of having the power to change your heart, transform your mind, and correct your ways.