The Odyssey (Part 9)

The Matter of The World
by Rayola Kelley

    The spiritual journey I have been on has rewarded me with unseen treasures that are priceless. These treasures are made up of blessings and gifts. These blessings and gifts have secured for me an eternal inheritance, everlasting promises, and the ultimate prize of heaven.

      Before I explain what the ultimate prize is, I must address the blessings and the gifts, along with an inheritance. The Apostle Paul spoke of the blessings in Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”  Note, how our blessings are heavenly which make them unseen. However, as believers, these blessings enrich our lives in such a way that we end up obtaining a royal position and priestly place. Revelation 1:6 summarizes it best, “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

     Hebrews 6:12 tells us how we are able to obtain the matters of heaven, “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” James 2:5 goes on to give this insight into this subject, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” Blessings are a matter of God bestowing His provision on people out of mercy and grace, but when it comes to promises, there are usually conditions that must be met before people can actually partake of the promises of God. The only active virtue that ensures that believers secure such promises is faith.

      When it comes to gifts, they are also unseen. Blessings identify us to God’s abiding intervention on our behalf, but gifts become the means by which the heavenly life will operate in our lives. The Apostle Paul identifies the essence of these gifts in this way in Ephesians 1:17, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.”

      The Holy Spirit is both a promise and gift from the Father (Acts 1:4; 2:38). The gift of the Holy Spirit has to do with salvation, while the promise of the Holy Spirit has to do with being endued with power from above. This power enables us to walk out the life that is being established in us. The Spirit also imparts gifts to the Body of Christ to build each member up in agreement and unity in order to come to perfection.

      Sadly, some people abuse the power given to them by heaven above to gain some type of religious status, and use gifts as a personal platform to exalt self and promote personal agendas that are not only self-based, but are often laced with compromise and heretical poison.

      This brings us to the matter of inheritance. For the children of Israel, their inheritance was the Promised Land, but for the children of God it is the fullness of redemption. It is true, as Christians, we have been redeemed from the slavery of sin, we are being redeemed from the traps and nets of Satan, and ultimately we will be redeemed from all the claims of this present wicked age. Meanwhile, the reality of this physical body and the world’s gravity keeps us bound to the age we are now in. As a result, we have been given the seal of the Holy Spirit until we can realize the fullness of redemption.

      Finally, we come to the ultimate prize. It you note, there is much about our spiritual inheritance in the book of Ephesians. There is a general consensus that some of the New Testament books serve as companions to the books of the Old Testament. For example, Ephesians is a companion book to Joshua in the Old Testament because both books deal with inheritance, and what it means to possess it. However, for the children of Israel it was directed more towards obtaining a physical inheritance, but for Christians it is a spiritual one.

      What is the ultimate prize that we need to obtain? Amazingly, it was and is the same for the children of Israel as it is for Christians. In the Old Testament the ultimate prize was referred to as Abraham’s reward, and the children of Israel’s portion. It states in Genesis 15:1, “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.  Psalm 16:5 makes this declaration, “The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.”

      In the New Testament, the prize is referred to as the Pearl of Great Price. Matthew 13:45, 46, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Although the pearl of great price is mentioned here in regard to the kingdom of heaven, we know the revelation and fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven culminated in Jesus Christ. It is the fullness of His life that we, as believers, must obtain through faith, possess in obedience, and secure in light of heavenly hope.

      This brings me to the challenge of gaining that which is heavenly within the confines of the worldly, the fleshly, and the demonic. Because of the world’s design, I have taken many detours in the past. The worldly ways often caught my attention, while the fleshly stirred up my lusts, and the demonic would seduce, and entice me to accept or pursue another reality. For me, the challenge as a Christian was not just a matter of overcoming such distractions, but recognizing the point of temptation, enticement, and entanglement attached to them. After all, the world appeared to have my happiness in mind, the flesh gave the impression that it promised me glorious experiences that would produce satisfaction, and the demonic offered me spiritual enlightenment that would give me a corner on all matters. However, what I ultimately discovered was that the world was clothed in the vanity of false promises, the flesh was robed in utter foolishness, and the demonic became an open door to a vacuum that not only confused me about the real issues of life, but sucked the life out of me.

   As I struggled with the matter of the age I lived in, I had to come to terms with what I needed to do to be loosed from the influences of these three aspects. It took some trial and error before I began to understand what must occur for me to truly overcome the world with its avenues and ways.

      The first thing I had to recognize was what I was pursuing. Pursuits will tell much about what we value, our agendas, and priorities. It took me a while, but I had to realize that I was pursuing points of the world because my agenda was based on the influences of the world. My priority was to be wise in the matters of God, and be pliable under His hand, but my expectations of how He would use me or how His wisdom would translate was based on worldly attitudes and standards. Such expectations found their inspiration in vain imaginations and idolatrous emphasis. As a result, I was becoming double-minded towards the matters of God (James 1:8).

      This double-mindedness produced inconsistencies in my walk and testimony. Instead of walking in the strait ways of God, I was constantly juggling different issues of life between Scriptural truths and worldly practices in order to come to some type of understanding. However, true understanding eluded me because compromise with the world caused me to operate in misty shadows. There was no real clarity; therefore, I would find myself grabbing at this or that, but never really able to land on what was real and true. Such a state caused me great frustration, but it appeared that my solution was to continue on the same path as before.

      I realized that I had to put preeminent value on my relationship with God if I was going to ensure the integrity of my pursuits. I had to be transparent about my agenda. There is only one acceptable agenda that a Christian must possess and that is to glorify God in everything that is done (Mathew 5:14-16). The Apostle Paul tells us what needs to be our priority and that is Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).

      The next area I had to consider was where I was directing my affections. The Bible tells us that we are to set our affections on things above (Colossians 3:1, 2). Clearly, we see that we are to discipline our affections, rather than being defined by them. Many times my affections became entangled by lustful emphasis. They were often being launched from the premise of worldly sensationalism or ecstasy. Usually it was like being launched from a canon in the hope of hitting the net of happiness and satisfaction. The height I reached at such times was minimal, and the flight temporary. In a sense, the swings of my affections made me feel like I was part of a side show. Once again my imagination would often play a part in how a matter was supposed to affect me emotionally. Sadly, I discovered that my affections were fleshly and that in most cases they never really left the ground of carnality.

       Another area that I had to confront was my strength. For years I ran the Christian race in my own vigor. After all, I had my pious plans, my religious ways of doing things, and my own spiritual take on how it was supposed to turn out. However, I found my strength constantly being ebbed away. In the strength of my youth I could afford my strength being misdirected by demands of the world, and religious activities, and still come back to center and maintain the course. But, eventually various aspects of life took a toll on my strength and I found myself questioning whether or not I would even finish the rest of the marathon race that was before me.

      I recognized at that time that I needed to guard my strength. This meant I had to be wise and discreet about the battle lines I chose. Admittedly, I struggled with what battles I needed to fight. After all, we must stand for what is right and true, withstand the onslaught of worldly, foolish demands that can be put on us by others, and continue to stand when nothing makes a bit of sense in our lives.

      As a new Christian, I fought many battles over non-essential matters, but as my strength ebbed away by various demands of the world, I had to discern what was important to my relationship with God. There were times I was so tired that I would let other people dictate to me as far as my spiritual growth. However, I discovered that such individuals never had my best in mind. Their main concern was that they wanted me to make them feel comfortable in what often proved to be their mediocre, uncertain worlds. In essence, I found myself being brought down to their level, leaving me even spiritually weaker and somewhat resentful of them.

      In such a state I found a dichotomy. On the one hand I perceived myself too weak to fight, but on the flip side of the coin I was not able to gain any real strength from succumbing to that which was spiritually inept and weak. The Bible is clear that our strength comes from the Lord, and if I was to gain strength, I had to press into Him and cling even harder to what I knew was right and true. At times it was an intense battle and I simply wanted to sit in the middle of the road and let a truck run over me, but I knew that in weakness I could give way to the strength of the Lord and find grace. His grace would allow me to begin to take small steps of faith that would allow me to advance forward. It was in my advancement forward that I finally gained inward strength from the Lord to continue the race.

      Due to the influences of the old man and the world, it is natural to go with the currents of the world and give way to the tendencies of the flesh. In those areas that have not been regenerated, it is easy to fall back into our old habits and justify our treacherous ways before God, cover up our moral deviations and preferences, and cry foul that the problem does not rest with our present state, but with the environment around us, the circumstances of life, and the consequences of previous actions. At such times, we act as if we have no free will to choose what is right because there are really no absolutes to bring the contrast between righteousness and lawlessness from which we can choose. Clearly, each of us will choose the way in which we will walk, the path we will adhere to, and the destination we are preparing for.

      This brings me to the matter of the world. In many cases the things of the world are neither bad nor good. Since we are in the world, we are forced to look to certain aspects of the world to sustain us in our physical life. However, the ways of the world constitute vanity, the attitude of the world lawlessness, and the spirit of the world results in rebellion. Since we have need of certain aspects of the world, how do we properly balance our involvement with the world with our spiritual well being?

      To balance my spiritual life in light of worldly activities proved to be a great spiritual battle for me. I went through various bouts of discovering the emptiness of worldly dependency to realize that the world had served as my solution, while I treated the Lord as my option. Without realizing it I had kept the world before me just in case the Lord did not come through for me the way I thought He should. It was as if I was setting God up in my mind to fail because I could not, or I should say I would not, trust Him with all matters of life. Admittedly, I was shocked at my unbelief.

      All dependency separates from God, and will lead to unbelief because at the core of it all is idolatry. Whatever we look to, to solve our problems, bring purpose, or determine our reality will automatically take the position of redeemer, creator, and God.

      The God of heaven is always the great I AM, the essence and omnipresence of what constitutes reality and truth. He is the Creator who understands our reason for being, and He is all powerful, capable of bringing forth a matter to completion. He is all-knowing with the wisdom to ensure the best results, and He is unchangeable, making Him reliable and trustworthy in whatever He does, for He never steps outside of who He is, His perfect plan, and His ultimate goal to save His people.

      Through the years I have struggled with the matters of the world, but I have found that when I finally choose to trust the Lord with the issues of life, the world quickly loses its influence and begins to fade into the background. Subsequently, I have also learned how the world entangles me into its insipid reality.

      In next month’s article, I will write more extensively on how the world entangles us and how to overcome. Meanwhile, I want to challenge you to consider who your real solution is. It is easy to say God is your solution, but it is another matter altogether to make Him your solution. So many times talk is cheap. It often proves that there is a disconnect between what we say and our actions. It is time for the church Jesus died for to not only talk the talk, but live what is being declared. Living the life of Christ is what makes us living, walking epistles that will confirm what has already been established in Scripture as truth.