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

by Rayola Kelley

Have you ever been told you belong to a certain camp or Christian belief? I have and to my surprise I never really fit in the camp I was placed in. There are many of these camps in Christendom. They can be based on anything from men to the type of gospel they proclaim to doctrines, movements, signs and wonders or denominations.

Being put in a camp you don’t really fit in will often cause confusion because your perception of what you believe is often different than the explanation tacked onto you by other people. Are these conclusions wrong? Not necessarily, but the confusion occurs because perceptions are based on personal conclusions that vary according to personal frames of reference.

For example, you can ask people to explain a certain doctrine and each person could give you a different explanation. I have learned over the years this is the main reason behind so much conflict. Some people can actually be in agreement and never realize it because they are arguing over their particular presentation rather than coming to an understanding of the spirit or motivation behind something.

This is why the Word of God tells us to test the spirit for there will always be conflicts over the presentation (or understanding) of beliefs and doctrines (1 John 4:1). But you can’t hide the spirit behind something because it produces the fruits coming out of your life (Matthew 7:16-18).

Meanwhile, inexperienced believers who find they do not fit in one of the popular camps in Christendom will often suffer identity crises that will bring them to a spiritual crossroad. The reason is because there has been a lot of critical stigma attached to individuals who refuse to fit into one of the popular categories or camps. Such a person is classified as one of those dreaded “Lone Rangers” or a “rebellious renegade.”

But when you study the Word of God, the dreaded “Lone Ranger” or the “rebellious renegade” fits the description of many saints who were not at all rebellious but rather obedient to God. Obedience to God often causes a separation between that which operates within a religious group (or system) and those who truly want the freedom to serve God.

People like Moses, Elijah, the Apostle Paul and most of all, Jesus Christ, never fit into the religious groups of their day. These men were not trying to make some great religious statement by serving outside of the conventional religious mode but rather, they were obeying the will of God. This obedience often challenged the popular religious thoughts of the day.

The various camps within Christendom remind me of Israel. Israel was divided into tribes. Each camp was distinguished by their own standard. If there was a conflict among tribes, the different groups would head for their tents and prepare for battle.

It is not much different today. It is not unusual to see rocks flying or swords clashing between the camps that are supposedly under one auspice. Some of these battles are designed to bring people into blind submission and control while others are a means of protection for those under attack. Some are efforts to confront and expose error.

These battles often bring a reproach to the name of Christ, but in some cases they can’t be helped simply because there are so many wolves coming in among the sheep to devour them.
As I pondered this, I remembered how the Apostle Paul became upset when the carnal Corinthians had their camps or groups, only theirs were based on leaders instead of belief systems. He said,“For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who, then, is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man”(1 Corinthians 3:4-5)?

The question is why are people quick to put other people into categories, camps or groups? One of the reasons is because many desire to be able to identify friend from foe. They naturally want to know if they can have fellowship with someone or, on the other hand, if they should get out their bucket of rocks and get ready to do battle.

The problem with this scenario is that people can end up attacking a committed saint of God. A good example is Jesus Christ. The religious camp crucified Him in the name of God.

The second reason “rebels” are often put down is because they frighten people. They are independent thinkers that can’t be controlled by trying to appeal to their pride or by fear and guilt tactics. Sometimes these “rebels” bring a contrast that serves to remind people that God deals with individual people and not necessarily groups. This shows us Christianity is not about groups but rather about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

It is important to realize that the Apostle Paul was not only critical of such camps within Christianity, because they were fleshly in nature, but because God did not establish separate camps in the New Testament. In fact, He established one body (or church) that had only one head, mind, heart, will, faith and banner (or standard) (Ephesians 4:4-6).

The one head and mind of this body is the Person of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18; Philippians 2:5). Jesus being the head of the body not only makes Him the ultimate leader but the only leader. This is why the Apostle Paul made this statement to the Corinthians: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

I may disagree with someone doctrinally at different points but if they lift up the real Jesus of the Bible, I will be able to have fellowship with them. But if Christ and Him crucified is missing or conveniently tacked on to keep up a false facade, I already know there is no basis for fellowship or agreement.

There is also one heart that maintains life in the body and it belongs to the Father. The Father’s heart is that I know, love and serve His Son (John 3:33-36; 5:17-26, 36-39:14:23-27; 16:7-16, 24-28). He wants me to not only possess eternal life, but He wants me to experience the abundant life which comes from Christ in me the hope of glory (John 10:10; Colossians 1:27).

There is also one will that must be upheld in the body of Christ, the will of the Father. His will for my life is that I will be a follower of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus always did the will of His Father (John 5:30). By following Jesus, I will also be in obedience to the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21; 12:50; 16:24). This is the secret of not only pleasing and acceptable obedience but also of a victorious life.

Finally, there is only one banner or standard over the body that we must constantly display: the love of God (Song of Solomon 2:4).

This love comes from the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God. As a follower of Jesus submits to the work of the Holy Spirit, the love of God will manifest itself in obedience with authority and power. It will compel or motivate the person in everything they do (2 Corinthians 5:4). Its main goal will be realized, as Christ is exalted, bringing glory to the Father.

I also realized another important truth as I considered the different camps of Israel. They were located on the outside of the Tabernacle, God’s dwelling place. The only people allowed into the Tabernacle were the priests. These men were in the inner group because they were chosen and had access to God. They could come into His dwelling place and serve and worship Him.

Jesus’ death on the cross opened up the way for every man, not only to enter into the Tabernacle, but to come into the most Holy of Holies to commune with God. No wonder Christians are called priests and kings (Revelation 1:6). They are no longer part of the outer camp but now they are part of a body that has access to God. They not only have the right to know Him as their dwelling place but to personally commune with Him between the cherubim at the mercy Seat (Exodus 25:20-22).

How privileged every blood-bought saint is and yet many never come into the place of relationship and communion with God. It seems that some prefer to stand outside of the entrance to the Tabernacle in the place of the camp. They may sense the beauty of God but they will never know or experience it as their dwelling place or refuge because they will not enter in. Why?

One of the reasons is because people want to belong to the popular crowd. Camps give people a sense of identity and purpose. But tragedy occurs when a camp is proven to be fallible or a counterfeit or in error. This harsh reality will not only cause identity crisis but it has been known to cause depression and suicidal tendencies among disillusioned followers.

This is why the Word of God tells us to find our identity in Christ. He is the immovable Rock that will not let us down.

Watchmen Nee gave this thought provoking insight:

“When we stand up and speak, folk detect at once whether we stress doctrine or life. If it is the former, we never run risks. We keep carefully within the limits of our doctrinal scheme, in order to be absolutely safe and to avoid all possible chance of misunderstanding. We present our reasons in logical order, and by a process of induction arrive at our incontrovertible conclusions. But if it is life we are stressing, our approach will be very different. We shall be far less concerned with technical correctness, for we ourselves have known conditions through which mere doctrine could never carry us. If only we can present Christ in his living Person to our hearers, and leave them with him, we know our object will be achieved” (From A Table in the Wilderness, Daily Meditations, September 19).

The question is, are you part of a camp or do you abide within the body of Christ? If you belong to a camp, you need to know you are standing outside of the Tabernacle, missing the essence of real life–knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ. If you are in a camp and want to possess the real prize of God, know this–Jesus is not far from you.

All you have to do is realize the insignificance of your camp and enter into the place of relationship and communion with God through Jesus. After all, you have free access to the Bread of Life, Giver of Living Water and intimacy with God Almighty.

We at GSM want to thank all of our faithful supporters. Without your partnership we would never be able to continue our work in the harvest field.

We trust God will bless you for your faithfulness.