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

Discernment 12


By Rayola Kelley


       We have been considering discernment. It would behoove every Christian to know how to discern between good and evil, the natural spirit as well as the spirit of the world from the Holy Spirit, and the motives and intentions of the heart in order to recognize the true fruits of that which may look alright but lacks life, godly qualities, and produces spiritual growth in the ways of righteousness.

       Sadly many assume they know what is true, but their truth is based on their perverted conclusions and will lack the verification of the Word and Spirit of God. Some presume they are on their way to heaven, but they lack that inward witness of the Spirit that verifies they are indeed adopted children of God (1 John 5:9-13). There are those who hide behind their pet doctrines, but identifications with certain doctrines do not save a person; rather, a person is only saved by their identification to the Lord Jesus, the Son of the Living God. Some are trusting in religious affiliation, but according to Scripture only faith towards the true God of heaven is going to ensure salvation because it is such faith alone towards Him that pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6). We have those who are depending on “good works” to get them to heaven, but we know such works are unprofitable without the presence of faith towards God and believing and obeying the truth. Unfeigned faith also allows one to receive the blessings and grace of God in the right Spirit to experience salvation.

       The truth is that man’s religion and the world present many different paths to heaven that become one broad path to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). This broad path is often lumped into the “ecumenical movement” to bring all religions under one umbrella or “Universalism,” where everyone will somehow be saved, but God has only provided one path to eternal glory and that is through His Son, and anyone who refuses to receive this gift will perish in their sins. This concept of one way to heaven is unacceptable to the world. The world refused to accept that true salvation is based on believing and receiving the person and work of Jesus. Such a notion is rigid and not in line with “political correctness.” As a result, many talk about the love of God, but there is only one place where a person can experience such love, and that is at the cross of Christ as he or she embraces the message of the Gospel.

       How many times have we heard John 3:16? How many of us thought “Wasn’t that nice of God to send His Son,” but fail to go any further to realize the only place we can know such incredible love is by receiving the Son as our Lord and Savior. It is in and through Jesus that the Father is able to bestow His great love on each believer who has truly been adopted and sealed by the Holy Spirit, and it is at the point of humble faith that we can truly receive it as being so (Romans 8:13-17; Galatians 4:4-7; John 3:1-2).

       Jesus warned that many would, in essence, come and say “Lord, Lord, have we not done these works in Your name?” Jesus will tell such people I know you not because you have not really done the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21). We can do a lot of decent things and what many would consider to be “good works” for the common good of others or mankind, but if they are not according to the commission and will of God, they will turn out to be detours, reprobate works, and worthless causes (Titus 1:16). Jesus made it clear as to why we as believers are here in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16: to preach the Gospel which is clearly laid out in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, and make disciples (followers) of Him, and Paul revealed the same sentiment when he declared, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified…yea woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1 Corinthians 2:2; 9:16).

       There is an incident that I have shared in the past but it clearly stands out in my mind in relationship to this article, confirming the warning found in Matthew 7:21. There was a pastor at a church who was a heretic. He clearly did not love the truth and had his own form of theology that was clearly unscriptural, and an agenda that was more in line with self-importance, self- exaltation, and controlling the sheep and the “show”. We tried to challenge him, but he would not repent of his unscriptural, unloving, cultic ways.

       Years later this pastor found out he had cancer. At one time they thought God had healed him, but the cancer was still there and escalating. He eventually conceded to the fact that cancer would win out and went about putting his house in order and planning his funeral. On his death bed he had an experience his wife recounted to a mutual friend. As his earthly life was fading, he cried out, “Open the door, open the door!”

       His wife thought he was asking her to open the door, but Revelation 3:7 is clear about the real door keeper, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutted; and shutted, and no man openeth.”

       I can only surmise that the door to eternal glory was closed to this man and the Lord did not open it because He did not know this man due to his heretical teachings and unloving ways. The Bible is clear that until He comes for His church, we all have an appointment with death, and then we must face the great judge of our souls (Hebrews 9:27). Like the five foolish virgins who will ask the bridegroom to open the door so they can avoid the coming judgment, I had to wonder as this heretical pastor called out at the closed door if he possibly heard a similar response, “But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not” (Matthew 25:13).

       There are doors mentioned in the Bible. They are entrances, but when it comes to God each door stands distinct because it is the only door in which man can enter in, and through, to find life and do service that will have God’s approval. There was one door in Noah’s ark in Genesis 7:16, “And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.”  Even though it doesn’t say, I have wondered if the Lord was the one who also opened the door so the occupants in the ark could go forth.

       There was one gate, one door, and one veil in the wilderness. These three entrances were found in one place, the tabernacle. The gate was the way into the outer court, the door was the entrance into true service in the Holy Place, and the veil was the entry into the Most Holy Place. Moses was called into the Most Holy Place to commune with the Lord at the mercy seat (Exodus 25:17-22).

       Today we have similar entrances but they are found solely in the work Jesus did on the cross. The gate is the way of the work of the Cross which is narrow and straight, the door to truth and service is the person of Jesus, and the veil points to His body that was offered up for our redemption so we can know and possess true life and come into a place of true communion and worship with the Lord (Hebrews 13:10-11; John 10:1-2, 7; 14:6).

       The challenge is that few want to discern the only true door to life because it does not fit their narrative to do so.  Many try to find openings around the reality of Christ’s cross for it speaks of sin, death, the need for repentance, sacrificial love that costs, obedience, and everlasting life.

       This brings us to what we must first deal with to enter into the life we are called to. In each compartment of the tabernacle were three distinct altars. The gate of the outer court served as a type of frame for its altar, the altar of Burnt Offerings. This is where all the sacrifices were made for the sins of the people. Before we can enter into the life God has for us, our sins must be addressed through confession, repentance, and conversion at the altar of the cross of Christ. These sins must be washed by the blood of Christ and completely taken away by redemption.

       There are those who may come up to the door of service, but are often distracted by the world and will take a detour from serving God to living out their life in the world for a season. I can’t tell you how many people I have met who had great visions of ministry but would not line up to the narrow door of Jesus in humility to learn what it means to be a faithful servant with the small matters of His kingdom before being entrusted with greater matters (Luke 16:10) . This particular door in the tabernacle outlined the Altar of Incense that stood before the veil. This altar has to do with the highest type of ministry—that of prayer and intercession (Psalm 141:2; Ephesians 6:18).

       Finally, the veil opened the way to the Ark of the Covenant. There are those who get caught up with the idea of serving the Lord, but stop at the entrance of the veil, and never enter into sweet communion and worship. Like the veil in the temple in Matthew 27:51, Jesus’ body was torn so that we could come into the fullness of our life (Hebrews 10:10, 19-20). This ark represented the presence of God. It is in His presence that you can commune with and worship Him.

       The veil represented total consecration, and many people are not willing to submit all to come into deep places with the Lord.  The Lord wants to recognize His people as faithful servants, but His deepest heart desire is to be able to call us “Friend” who He is able to share deep matters with (John 15:14-15).

       It is clear that we need to enter into the right entrance in order to come into our lives in God. There are some who give the impression they will run in just before they die, but if a person does not first learn to walk by faith towards the life God has for him and her, than the question is how do such individuals expect to run in at the last moment? Hebrews 12:1 talks about running the race, but one must lay aside every weight, and the sin which besets him or her to run the race with patience, and I fear such people will run right into the abyss.

       There are those who think they are going to slide into heaven at the last moment by riding on the shirttails of others or by hiding behind God’s love or “cheap grace.” However hell is down and heaven is up and the only slides I know are those that head into the abyss. There is no sliding into heaven at the last moment. Luke 13:24 puts it this way, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”

       Finally there are those who operate in wishful thinking. They are decent enough according to the world, but they have no real spiritual inclination towards believing or obeying the Word. They go into a type of delusion about their spiritual wellbeing when they are, in reality, spiritual beggars who believe they are wearing a robe of righteousness when the truth is they are spiritually undone and naked (Matthew 5:3; Revelation 3:17).

       This brings us down to the matter of our soul. What is the spiritual condition of our soul? Jeannette wrote about the “skinny” soul in a past article. Our soul has either been redeemed by the Lamb of God or it has been sold, or is being sold, to the world in order to partake of its tasty poisonous fruit (Matthew 16:23-25). It is hard to convince people who have some semblance of religion that it doesn’t matter how much they identify themselves to religious matters, it will always come down to the condition of their soul.

        Luke 21:19 gives us this insight into the soul in relationship to the end days, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” Most people consider their spiritual condition in light of their works or their “good” intentions, but how many are discerning the condition of their soul? I wonder if the heretical pastor I mentioned in the prior paragraphs ever considered the condition of his soul. It was clear that he thought himself to be scripturally right, spiritually in tune with God, and on his way to heaven. The question is how could one be so deluded? It is easy. People choose to believe the darkness of the lie because their deeds are evil and they do not want the light to reveal just how spiritually bankrupt they are (John 3:18-21). They clothe themselves in heavy religious garbs, convincing themselves that it’s the heaviness of the garb that proves they are on the right track. However, the priests in the Old Testament wore the white linen garments underneath their robe, garments that spoke of righteousness that comes from above as they realized that they never sweat in them when they were standing and serving at the altars. Man’s sweat points to personal works, and the man in the parable found in Matthew 22 brings out a very important point. This man was invited to the wedding supper of the King’s son, but he came wearing his own garment (works) that spoke of self-righteousness according to his terms, and this is what the king said to him, “And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hitther not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:11-13).

       What do we need to understand about the soul? It needs to be saved by once again being made alive by the Spirit of God, and transformed. The soul houses our will (inclination), intellect (mind), and our emotions (heart attitudes). When God created man out of the dust, He formed within man the capacity to house His Spirit, making Adam a living soul who could interact with God. When sin came into the picture, the Holy Spirit lifted leaving man a soulish, fleshly individual who could only interact with a physical (cursed) world that his very dust had been taken from in the beginning to create him (Genesis 2:7-8; 3:17-19).  

       Since the Spirit of God was missing from the soul of man, it meant his soul was no longer living. It was in a base, unresponsive state towards God, operating in a physical world according to the lust that found its way through his eyes (imagination) and affections (emotions). Man would find himself pushed by worldly attractions and driven by insatiable appetites that left him empty and miserable. He would be like a wave in the great ocean of life, ever driven by the winds of the age he lived in as he found himself heading towards rocks that would break his strength, reefs that would hinder his abilities, and shores that pointed to utter destruction of his futile attempts to secure life for himself by leaving lasting marks and footprints in the sands of the world.

       It is the “born again” experience that will quicken the spirit of man, bringing life back into his soul, making him a spiritual man who can once again interact with the Lord (John 3:3,5; 1 Corinthians 15:44-49). It is the act of consecration (offering the body as a perpetual living sacrifice and surrendering the soul to the inner work of sanctification) that lines up the spirit to the will of God that ensures the transformation of the soul (Romans 12:1-2).

       If you want to understand the soul, the best book to study is the book of Psalms. Psalms speaks of the soul being oppressed by enemies and that it needs to be saved, redeemed, and delivered. It is in the soul that great sorrow and afflictions are experienced, but it is also where heavenly joy captures it, setting it free to soar above the troubles of the world. Psalms also talks about the soul that not only delights in the Lord but is lifted up to Him in praise and adoration and becomes hungry and thirsty for Him, ever seeking for its satisfaction from the One who alone is able to fill the soul with the love, joy and peace of the Holy Spirit. It is also in Psalms where the psalmist asked the Lord to preserve his soul.

       How important is the discerning and maintaining of our soul? The Apostle Paul talked about bringing his body into subjection so he would not be a castaway. The apostle understood that in order to possess his soul, he had to bring his thoughts into captivity to Christ, crucify the attractions and lusts of the flesh, keep his focus right, and his priorities true to the heart of God (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:7-14).

      I remember reading a story and recording it in my book, Heavenly Gems. I want to share this story with you now because it makes a very important point.  

      During the great reformation of the 18th century, there was a great preacher by the name of Roland Hill. One day he was preaching in the streets, which were attracting a large crowd. An aristocrat by the name of Lady Ann Erskine was passing by in her carriage when she heard that Hill was preaching. Since she had heard much about the preacher, she decided that she wanted to join the assembly. However, when the preacher saw her and realized she belonged to the elite aristocracy, he suddenly stopped in the midst of his preaching, and said, “My friend I have something for sale.”

      The hearers were amazed at Hill’s statement. “Yes, I have something for sale; it is the soul of Lady Ann Erskine. Is there any one here that will bid for her soul? Ah, do I hear a bid? Who bids? Satan bids. Satan, what will you give for her soul?

      “I will give riches, honour, and pleasure.

      “But stop! Do I hear another bid? Yes, Jesus Christ bids. Jesus what will you give for her soul?’

      “I will give eternal life.

      “Lady Ann Erskine, you have heard the two bids—which will you have?”

      And Lady Ann Erskine fell down on her knees and cried out, “I will have Jesus.”

      God put a cost on your soul and mine. It cost His only begotten Son. However, if we do not accept His bid and receive the gift of His life, we might gain the temporary world, but we will forever lose our soul in the end. It is clear that people are either embracing the glorious redemption of Jesus, knowing that their soul has been bought with a price or they are bartering their soul away for temporary worldly riches that will burn up when the fires of judgment are put to their works, realizing that their souls are about to experience utter ruin in the throes of hell.

      Have you turned in brokenness and repentance towards the holy God and received His payment for your soul or are you bartering your soul away to gain the foolish, temporary glory, false promises, and empty riches of this present world?