The Shift (Part 1) – The Center

   by Rayola Kelley 

 One of the challenges I face in my own personal life is how far from the center of truth I am in my life before God. Granted, some people may perceive me as a fanatic or out of date because of some of my stands, but the truth is, I do not believe that even my so-called  unrealistic stands (that I am accused of having) are close to the center of the character of God. God is the only true center of what must be considered absolute truth, acceptable righteousness, and genuine holiness.

   In the midst of Christians debating about this and that, how many of us are really measuring everything in light of God’s character, examples and Word? For example, we can debate about issues such as movies, doctrines and practices, but how many of us are basing our perception on what we know, feel or think, rather than on what is right and holy before God? After all, our thoughts and ways are not His thoughts and ways.

   Even though it may be hard for some of us to accept that God’s ways are much higher than our ways, it is a reality that is meant to challenge, humble and make us receptive. Therefore, how many of us in our attempts to justify our beliefs and actions in our own eyes have actually brought God and His truths down to our carnal, unholy way of thinking and doing?

   Over the years, I have felt as if I am swimming upstream against a tide of uncertainty and compromise. This is especially brought to my attention as I read the books of men such as William Law, Andrew Murray, Charles Finney, Oswald Chambers, and A. W. Tozer. Although, some of these men lived in the 1800s, they were contending with some of the very same issues that are prevalent today, such as the quality of and the effect that entertainment has on society.

  Most of what we do at Gentle Shepherd Ministries is to contend for the truth. We do not maintain that we possess a corner on truth. Like everyone else, we must prayerfully wade through the onslaught of issues, movements and fads. However, we must always strive to bring everything back to one main standard: That of truth.

   What comprises the truth? What most people conclude to be truth is not based on the character, examples and teachings of God, but on their own conclusions about a matter. Most of the debates going on in Christendom are based on what people perceive to be right in their own eyes.

   This was the condition of the people of Israel during the time of judges (Judges 21:25). The reason for this condition was because they did not have one ruler or king over them. Therefore, they were left to define life, morality and truth according to their own preferences. This left them with a spiritual mixture that included both God and idolatry. It made them weak and open to defeat. As Proverbs 16:2 states: “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.”

   Today the schisms found in the Body of Jesus based on theology and worldly influences have left many Christians to define their own reality of God, Christianity, love, and righteousness. As in the days of judges, there is no one real source upon which people can agree to test their perceptions, attitudes and conduct. Although, Christians say we have the Word of God, how many of us are seeking to establish our life according to it, and how many of us only regard it in light of reaffirming what we already consider to be truth?

   Obviously, some people’s influences have come from religious upbringing, but in many cases conclusions find their origins in what feeds their intellectual arrogance, makes them feel comfortable in their religious conscience, or good about self.  Sadly, such conclusions fit in the warning found in Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

   The ways of death means that individuals are walking the broad path of destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). These individuals are not lining up to the narrow ways of truth, righteousness, holiness, and life. Rather, they are adjusting the things of God to fit into their mishmash of beliefs and conclusions. Therefore, the person becomes the one who determines his or her reality about God and righteousness, rather than the Word of God.

   This brings us back to what constitutes truth in the kingdom of God. The first characteristic is that it does not change. Since truth will not change according to the times we live in, we must seek it out in the midst of changing times. It is important to realize that people have a tendency to shift with the times, rather than stay close to the truth. Such a shift causes people to think that the truth has become obsolete in the time they live in. This allows them to establish the personal truth according to the times, rather then discern the times according to the truth as a means of maintaining righteousness. This type of shift will cause a moral breakdown.

   Another characteristic of truth is that it will challenge every foundation. It cuts through the façades of arrogance, exposes the heart, tears up man’s theology, and brings a separation between the unholy with its darkness and the holy with its light and truth. In other words, truth will cause a division. Jesus confirmed this when He gave this warning: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

   Obviously, the main issue is not who is right or wrong, but whether you are truly on the side of truth. It is something that must not be assumed in arrogance, but sought out in humility. Today, the debate mainly comes down to who is right and wrong, rather than what is right before God.

   Another important characteristic of truth is that it is priceless, and it must be preferred over all other pursuits and bought with every means available. Proverbs 23:23 says: “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.”

   What does it mean to buy the truth? It comes down to where your affections rest (Matthew 6:21; Colossians 3:2). Truth is not based on strong convictions such as theologies, doctrines or religious preference. Rather, it is based on the Person of Jesus Christ. He said:“I am…the truth” (John 14:6).

   I tell people all the time, I cannot know all of the truth, but I can know The Truth. The debates that are going on in the Church prove one thing—Jesus is missing in most of it. It is the Person of Jesus who serves as our only point of agreement. He is the King of this spiritual kingdom, the head of the Body, and the Lord of everyone who truly knows Him as Savior.

   The truth of Jesus comes down to who He is, more than what He did. Granted, He died on the cross for us, but if He was not Who He was, He could never have obtained salvation. The debates that exist are a product of people not really knowing the Person of Jesus or actually possessing another Jesus. These people may have concepts about Him, they may be in love with their ideas of Him, they may talk about Him, and quote His sayings, but few know Him.

   It is the Jesus of the Bible in His fullness who will silence the debates, and bring wisdom, instruction and understanding to His people. Jesus is truly the Pearl of Great price that is worthy to be possessed, no matter what the personal cost (Matthew 13:46).

   To love the Jesus of the Bible means to love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). When your affections are directed at Jesus, that is where your focus will be. All things will be brought back to Him and considered in light of Him. The desire to possess Him, please Him and properly represent Him will be foremost in a person’s heart, mind and pursuits regardless of how it will be perceived by others.  It will be about Jesus and not what a person thinks, feels or perceives. In fact, there is no reality outside of what Jesus has already established in His Word, teachings and examples.

   Sadly, for decades, most of the Church has shifted from the center of Jesus to adjust to the times. This implies that the unholy has invaded the church system. Instead of Jesus being the center, the Church now has a false center. This false center gives Christians a false security, as the very foundation of the church system moves further away from Jesus, causing Christians to lose power and authority. The shift has caused two extremes within the Body. Local churches are either dead or ineffective, such as the church at Sardis, or they are full of idolatry and paganism, like Pergamos and Thyatira (Revelation 2:12-26; 3:1-6).

   The combinations of these churches produce a church of rituals and works, but the rituals lack life and the works are lukewarm. In other words, these works lack the discipline and conviction of truth and the fire of the Holy Ghost. Such an atmosphere produces the attitude of the Laodiceans (Revelation 3:14-18).

   Those at Laodicea examined themselves in light of worldly goods and felt they were spiritually all right. However, Jesus’ evaluation of them was quite different. He saw them as spiritually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. Obviously, these people were deluded.

   How many in the Church today are deluded about their condition because they examine themselves according to their own personal evaluation? And, even when there is some type of recognition of their condition followed by repentance, few ever come back to the real center because they are examining themselves according to the false center that has already been established.

   In my almost three decades of being a Christian, I have witnessed four movements within the Church which have caused her to move further away from the center. Although, there have been adjustments or attempts to come back to center, many still remain short of the mark. This is the first of a five-part series on how and why the Church has shifted away from the center. In the next article I will be discussing  movements that have caused the Church to veer off center into dangerous, erroneous waters.

   Meanwhile, consider your ways before God. Are you lined up to the center or are you adjusting to a false center? It is easy to talk about the truth, but do you love the truth? It is also easy to show a real zeal for religious activities, but do you have a passion for Jesus that will enable you to endure to the end?