By Rayola Kelley
This is the last in my series on the subject of discernment. Discernment is a necessary ability, gift, and exercise that keeps a person on track of what is true, alert as to the spirit in operation, and a means to rightly judge the times they are living in. The key is that discernment must be exercised. Sometimes Christians assume a speaker is okay; therefore, they do not exercise discernment and become vulnerable to a wrong spirit which confuses them or conditions them to buy a lie and become indoctrinated into greater delusion.
The Bible is clear that it is about the message and not necessarily the instrument that is being used to deliver the message. Receiving the truth of a matter and coming spiritually into agreement are two different matters. I must always receive a matter if it is truth, but I can only come into agreement with someone when there is the same spirit present. After all, deep calls to deep and everyone of like agenda, attraction, and spirit will sink to the same level. We must test the spirit to see if we can come into agreement spiritually with a person and actually fellowship with them, but the ultimate test in most matters of the kingdom of God comes down to the message.
The Apostle Paul made this fact clear in Philippians 1:15-18. There were some preaching Christ out of envy, strife, and contention in order to add to his afflictions, but he goes on to say, “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” As Paul clearly stated to the Corinthians when they were arguing over water baptism in relationship to the person who baptized them and not because of obedience to the actual ordination, “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).
There are people who are of a wrong spirit but their message can be true, but it will be very limited. People who have a wrong spirit, but a true message are those who have a self-serving agenda when it comes to the matters of the kingdom of God. In the end, they will prove to be personally treacherous to those who do not serve their purpose or go along with their agenda.
There are also those who have a mixed spirit. These are the individuals that have a combination of truth and false teachings. They can bring much confusion because they may start from a premise of truth, only to subtly take a detour into a heretical presentation. In a sense, these people are more dangerous than a wolf in sheep’s clothing because they can defuse true discernment in God’s people by presenting truth up front, opening a Christian up to innocently come into agreement with their heretical foolishness. These people prove to be hard and judgmental when you challenge them in their heresy.
Finally, there are those who are wicked, ever operating in a wrong spirit and are obvious about their heretical agendas. They could be motivated by a “religious spirit,” “seductive spirit,” an “anti-Christ spirit,” or a “familiar spirit.” Those who operate with right doctrine but are under a wrong spirit want their way in those matters that are part of their agenda. These individuals believe that since they are right doctrinally everyone should line up to their deviant ways and thinking as well. Those who have a mixed spirit insist on being right even if they are wrong, and believe you should come into agreement with them without questioning or discerning them, but those who are wicked, and clearly in the wrong spirit are looking to be exalted like God and followed like the Pied Piper into destruction.
This brings us to the ultimate test when it comes to spirit and that is the fruit that is being produced. Everything will leave some type of taste or “wake” behind it that will reveal the character, influence, and agenda of a person. It is easy to discern a person’s agenda by listening for what they emphasize the most. Jesus of the Bible will be the center and source of the emphasis of those operating in the right spirit, but those who are in the wrong spirit will make some left turn and make it about their doctrine, their beliefs, their deeds, or their insights. Such emphasis will be man-centered and not Christ-centered. It will bring you to the feet of self-importance of the person and not to the precious feet of Jesus where you will walk away with a greater sense of who He is.
The fruit left behind in one’s spirit after such encounters will clearly reveal the real spirit behind something. When man is being exalted in any way, the fruit will be confusion, frustration, and division of some type; but, when Jesus is lifted up, one experiences oneness of spirit as he or she walks away in an attitude of worship, knowing and sensing that the spirit is satisfied and the soul is at peace.
Jesus clearly tells us we will be known by our fruits and not by our pet doctrines, our religious presentations, and our deeds (Matthew 7:16, 20; Galatians 5:22-23). Fruit entails attitude, motive, and approach. The right attitude in a Christian should be the fear of the Lord to ensure wisdom and discretion in the handling of matters (Psalm 111:10). The right motive must be godly love that will express itself in kindness, gentleness, patience, and moral goodness towards Jesus’ flock, lost souls, and struggling sheep; and, a person’s true character will be clearly exposed in times of challenges as to the credibility of their word and how they approach a matter. There is only one way to approach a matter in the kingdom of God and that is under the leading of the Holy Ghost. The main evidence of such leading will be meekness and not rudeness, unbecoming conduct, aggressiveness, judgment, and the out of control, flapping tongue of false accusations (Matthew 5:5; 2 Timothy 2:24-25; Titus 3:2-4).
Meekness points to strength under control. A person cannot have temperance or self-control as to personal reactions unless he or she is under control. People who instantly react instead of wisely responding to a situation are those who are going with the ways of the carnal flesh, whether it be logic, assumptions, and/or feelings. Christians who realize that all fleshly reactions first must be properly channeled by the Holy Spirit in line with God’s Word will respond with sobriety and humility to a situation in order to ensure they do not bring a reproach on the Lord and discredit their testimony. After all, we are here to bring glory to the Lord and to grow in our knowledge (testimony) of the Lord. As Christians we must approach any challenge in meekness to ensure that we are sensitive enough to move with the Spirit to address the matter, humble enough to enter in with the struggles of others, and open enough to learn or be instructed in the ways of righteousness when we may be veering off in our attitude, motive, or approach.
When we talk about discerning the end times, it will come down to something other than simply our religious activities or worship. Granted, our activities and worship will reveal aspects of our Christian life, but we have to be prepared to walk through the times we live in, while maintaining the integrity of God’s Word, and displaying the fruit of the Spirit as our testimony of Jesus grows and is perfected.
Jeannette made an interesting statement to me. She stated that it appears that Christians in America are escapists. They want to escape the responsibility of personally studying the Word, escape the process of their faith being refined in fiery ovens, escape the challenges of walking out the Christian life in child-like obedience, escape the testing of their character to see if they are prepared to stand, the shaking of their religious foundation to see if they are truly standing on the Rock, the adversities of tribulations that will reveal their real point of reliance, and to somehow escape the times they are living in by hiding in something that amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking and fantasy. They want to escape the realities and challenges of this world by having some type of emotional experience in worship, finding someone who will tickle their ears with what will make them feel good in their present inept state, and allow them to take a spiritual nap in some pew while soothing their religious conscience. In essence, they want heaven to be a type of “nanny state,” where they simply slide into heavenly bliss, without selling out to the Lord and living a life truly consecrated unto Him.
These individuals want the happiness of the world and not the holiness of God. They seek the adoration of the world and not the approval of God. They want deliverance without changing their master, new life without transformation of the mind, justice without moral rightness, mercy without true repentance, and grace without faith and righteousness. They want the things of God handed to them without denying self of its right to life on its terms, while picking up a personal cross to become crucified to and separate from the world to follow Christ into the godly disciplined life of a disciple. They want the flesh satisfied while ignoring how lean their spirit is becoming in the midst of the world’s endless vanity. They want it all, the world, heaven, and their sin, while tacking God onto their vain activities. However, God will be missing from their pursuits while they compromise the truth of His Word, the holiness of His character, and the redemption of His work to gain the world as they continue to sell their soul to the god of this world. In their half-heartedness towards God, their driving desire is to compromise with the world without facing the corruption that will ultimately take their soul down into the cesspool of desperation.
Right now we are in the book of Hosea on Friday nights. God’s main complaint against Israel (Ephraim) was that the people strayed from Him so they could marry the world. Because of their compromise with the idolatrous and pagan practices of the people of the land, God called them a cake unturned (Hosea 7:8). In other words, they were half-baked, black on one side because their burning lusts caused them to come into unholy agreement with their enemies to gain the world, and doughy on the other side. The reality was that in their spiritual state they did not taste good to the world and they were useless to God. They had come under the spirit of whoredom and were walking in a state of rebellion and deception.
I had to ask how much of the church is unturned and how many Christians are half-baked? Keep in mind, the major sign in the last days is deception. I want to point out again that the last days started at Pentecost according to Acts 2:14-18 at the time the Lord actually poured His Spirit out on His new Church. We have been in the last days for two thousand years, and for two thousand years the greatest affront against the Church in each generation has been leveled at truth. To confirm this, all you have to do is study the history around the written Word and if you want to understand the subtle attack taking place against it today, check out Gail Riplinger’s website (http://www.servantofjesuschrist.com/archives/tag/gail-riplinger), and order either her book or DVD, called the, “New Age Bible Version.”
Let me clearly state, “JESUS IS COMING!” The question that will and should naturally follow such a statement is, “Are you ready for His coming?” In the late 1970’s whether one was ready or not was a major question that was being asked in the churches I attended.
This enthusiasm over eschatology occurred over four decades ago, but since our present life is like a fading flower, It may seemed a while back that this enthusiasm actually existed, but in the Lord’s time frame, His coming whether tomorrow or 50 years from now or a hundred years in the future, is going to prove to be very soon. Clearly, we are closer to His coming, but it will always come back to whether we are spiritually prepared and ready for His coming, which will be revealed by the fruits we are now producing or will leave behind. We can talk about His coming every day, but if we are like the five foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 who were watching for the bridegroom but did not have enough oil to endure the long night until he came for them, we will still miss the actual event of going with Him.
It is obvious that it is not enough to watch for an event, we must be prepared to become part of that event. It is also clear that we must have the oil (Holy Spirit) to endure the great night that will come upon the face of the world in the end of the age. In fact, when the night is the darkest, the oil will burn the brightest as it maintains the integrity of the light (witness). Jesus verified this when He stated, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
Endurance has to do with faith that walks according to expectation (hope) of what is yet to come (Hebrews 11:1). As Jesus clearly warned in Luke 18:6-8, “And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
Obviously, we have much religious activity going on in various churches and there has been a great push for worship, but such activities do not constitute preparation. We have to be prepared to walk through the times we live in, while maintaining the integrity of God’s Word, displaying the fruit of the Spirit, and establishing our testimony. Preparation for the last days has to do with the Christian walk and not religious activities or outward worship.
The Apostle John made this statement in 1 John 2:6, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk, even as he walked.” Walk has to do with our attitude and conduct. One of the statements that I keep thinking of in regard to the end of the last days is found in Luke 19:13, “And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.”
There are a couple of things I want to point out in this scripture. The first is that the lord gave the servants the talents they needed to function until he came back. He clearly did not leave them to their own devices. Is this not true of our Lord? He has given us the Holy Spirit who distributes gifts and talents as He will to ensure the edification of the Church and the proper function of the kingdom of heaven in the hearts of men (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
The next thing I noticed about this verse is that the lord of this household left a simple instruction that could easily be followed by his servants. Our Lord has left us simple instructions that can be followed because we have been given the means to do so. These instructions can be found in His Word but have been summarized in the commands to love God, others, and the brethren in an honorable, sacrificial way (Mark 12:29-31; John 13:34-35; Romans 13:8-10). Godly love ensures proper submission to that which is honorable, and when honoring or preferring others over self, such love will always choose the excellent way of righteousness (Romans 12:9-10; Ephesians 5:21).
The simple instruction the Lord left us in this text was to, “Occupy till I come.” This brings us to the final point of preparation. We must be prepared to endure the age we are living in and trust that we have all we need at hand to carry out the simple instructions of the Lord, which points to “occupying” until He comes.
“Occupy” is an interesting word. It points to inhabiting, living, and residing. In order to live in something, we must conquer the territory we are to live in in order to claim it. It means overcoming that which opposes us in order to take possession of it. A good example of this was the Promised Land.
In God’s plan the Promised Land belonged to Israel, but they had to go in and conquer it before they could occupy it and benefit from it. We must be in possession of what God has ordained in order to lay claim to our spiritual inheritance. As pointed out, we are instructed to possess our souls in patience (Luke 21:19). Hebrews 6:12 states, “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
The opposite of occupy is vacant. Vacant points to empty, unused, and lifeless. Clearly, the opposite of “occupy” shows us how the fruit of rebellion, half-heartedness toward the Lord, and compromise will manifest itself. Luke 21:34-35 charged us to, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.”
In Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 we are told what we need to do to occupy. We are to watch in relationship to the times we live in. We watch to guard our own spiritual lives against the thief who wants to rob us of our right standing in the Lord, kill our life in Christ, and destroy our testimony. Watching ensures that we will not be spiritually sleeping but in a ready state for what comes. To be ready we must become a faithful servant in the household of Jesus Christ. We cannot be foolish and say to ourselves that our Lord is delaying His coming; therefore, we can live contrary to our Christian life and responsibility.
We must not let our hearts fail regardless of what we see happening. Instead we must look up, knowing that our redemption is drawing nearer and take heart that we are not of this world; rather, we belong to the world to come. We must not only watch and be ready but we must pray always that we are counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man without dread because we failed to do what was right, ashamed because we have done our own thing, or sense His rejection because we have rejected Him as the way, the truth, and the life. (Luke 21:36).
The question remains simple, “Are you presently occupying until He comes?”