Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Rayola Kelley

            Another year has passed. It seems incredible that we are embarking on 2006. The New Year means that GSM is beginning the 17th year of service in the kingdom of God. While  considering the New Year, I think about what I learned last year.

Don’t get me wrong, after 30 years of being a Christian, it is not necessarily about learning new lessons, but having past lessons reinforced and re-established in your life, as to a greater revelation of God’s character, His ways and the personal responsibility in applying those lessons.

 The greatest lesson that has been reinforced this year for me is the lesson concerning approach. How one approaches a situation will determine how something will impact his or her life. Approach is determined by attitude. If a person’s attitude is improper, his or her approach to a matter will be disastrous.  This lesson can be clearly observed in how people approach God, His Word, others, and life’s challenges. People’s attitude will create a greater crisis in a matter when their approach is self-serving. Sadly, people feel they are justified in their approach, but the fruits of the situation indicate that the approach was fleshly and worldly.

As I consider the New Year, my challenge is not to keep new resolutions I make, rather to approach this year in the right way. I need to ensure the lessons of the past have been properly applied to my present. There are some ways I can examine my attitude to see if I am approaching 2006 constructively.

Lessons: First, I must consider the lessons that have been learned or reinforced in my life. What do these lessons reveal about God, His character and ways, and my relationship with Him? What do these lessons reveal about my character? No doubt they will reveal both weaknesses and strengths in my character. Am I willing to challenge my weakness to enlarge my character, and am I disciplining my strength to allow the Holy Spirit to channel it for the glory of God? Enlarging my weaknesses involves faith in God. Disciplining my strength will ensure authority in my life.

Attitude: The key about attitude is that it must be upright before God. One of the greatest challenges in ensuring a right attitude is that of humility. Such a state means I have to climb over personal moods, rights, feelings, and conclusions. This state of humility also means I can be easily broken by sin. I am pliable under the hands of God, and sensitive to the leading of the Spirit of God. A person, who is in such a state is able to come to repentance.

Sadly, self-pity or worldly remorse is often mistaken for brokenness (2 Corinthians 7:10). Self-pity feels sorry for self. Ultimately, it will justify or exalt a person through fake nobility. The one difference between self-pity and true repentance is that self-pity will not take accountability for being wrong. It simply confuses the issue by being noble about being wrong.

People who experience worldly remorse become indifferent to the wrong they have done. They are insensitive to the domino affect that their actions may have on others. In fact, their worldly remorse is nothing more then selfishness that feels bad that it was exposed, while it maintains its right to justify itself and preserve its dignity. Attitudes of this nature fall short of ever really coming to true repentance.

  I have discovered that worldly remorse never ends in resolution. The person remains a victim or misunderstood. Sin or problems remain in darkness, hidden from the light that can bring a heavenly perspective. However, if someone is wrong, he or she is wrong no matter how the person may clothe his or her attitude in false nobility. On the other hand, righteousness will always become accountable for what is wrong, in order to properly address it. This not only ensures repentance, but reconciliation and restoration.

Reasoning: Another important aspect of an upright attitude has to do with the ability to be reasoned with. God talks about how stiff-necked the children of Israel were. When you consider being stiff-necked, you will realize it is stubbornness or obstinacy.

People who are stubborn towards that which is right, want life on their terms. These people prove to be touchy, which means they must be placated before you can even begin to challenge them. “Placate” means to play the game according to people’s pride or pamper them according to their fragile ego. Usually, you have to compromise with what is right before God, causing you to partake of their sin; thereby, compromising your testimony.

  When you do challenge these people, it becomes a battle of the wills, due to their stubbornness. They refuse to give way to anything that does not placate their idea of their self-life, life in general or Christianity. They see it as a point of competition. They must come out on top. They begin to try to influence your way of thinking through control and manipulation. They see their conclusions as being wise. After all, they have considered all the angles of a matter, for there is no way they can be wrong in their own mind.

   You can try to reason with these people, but they will turn such reasoning against you. Ultimately, they will defile the truth, as they justify their reality and negate any reality that will not bow down or adhere to their way of thinking.

    In God’s Word, He tries to reason with us about sin (Isaiah 1:18). Reasoning does not attempt to influence one against his or her will, rather it is the deductive means to expose a person’s way of thinking and doing, with the intent of challenging their attitude, thereby, changing their approach. You can see where God was forever reasoning with His people to see what is right and acceptable to Him. But, due to their stiff-neckedness, they were unreasonable. They were presumptuous in their ways, assuming in their conclusions, and deluded about their state. The fruit of their state is that they walked in unbelief towards God(Exodus 32:9, 33:3; Numbers 14:39-45; Hebrews 3:19).

    Reality: This brings me to another aspect about approach. Our approach is greatly influenced by the reality we maintain. We all have our reality, but how much of it can we trust? I know I have talked about reality in the past. The more I deal with people about spiritual matters, the more I observe how their realities greatly affect their outlook and approach to life.

   To each person, his or her reality is true. However, the real test to reality is not based on personal feelings, conclusions or beliefs, but on the Word of God. The Word of God warns us about being wise in our own conceits, of thinking too highly of our conclusions, of being too confident in our opinions, and thinking that we are an authority or an expert of a matter when in fact we know nothing (Romans 12:3, 16; 1 Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 6:3).

  As I deal with people’s reality, I become concerned about my reality. Am I insisting on my reality, or do I hold it lightly in regards to God’s Word? Is my reality so fragile that I demand others agree with it, or do I respect that others may have a different reality? Granted, people’s reality may differ, and I may challenge it, but it is not my responsibility to change it. Such a matter is between God and the individual.

I have seen people become set in their reality. They end up becoming disillusioned, angry, bitter, judgmental, and unreasonable. As I consider the tormenting world of those who insist on their own reality, I still prefer God’s liberating truth. Granted, His truth may challenge my reality, I may have to change my opinions, deem my conclusions as non-applicable, and admit I do not really know about a matter, but in the end, such an attitude will make me free to discover God’s truths.

  The question for 2006 is the same. How am I approaching this year? Have I become more pliable, so that I can be reasoned with about matters that concern God? Is my reality subject to change, so I can embrace all that God has for me? This year I want to come out with a greater knowledge of God, and not a greater awareness of my own life. As Jesus said:“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).