By Rayola Kelley
Depending on how you might look at what is happening in our world today, people must admit that it is either exciting or frightening, prophetic or pathetic, a judgment or a joke, and that God is in control or the wicked powers; but there is one thing for sure, the middle ground has been reduced from a grayish environment to a clear line in the sand. This line separates the kingdom of darkness from the kingdom of light as it reveals the hearts of people.
People will be forced to make a choice at every level of society. As the darkness becomes more defined, the light of truth becomes sharper. In the end, people will choose the ways of everlasting life or the culture of death. They will realize that life without quality based on eternity, is a mere exercise of breathing in the stale air of the world’s vanity. If life is reduced from the heights of moral excellency at any point, it will find itself in the hellish depths of corruption, misery, and despair.
As we draw closer to our Lord’s coming, we must be clear about the choices we need to make to stand on and for truth, effectively confront wickedness, trust God, obey His Word, and endure to the end to be saved. Sadly, there are some Christians who are avoiding making the necessary decisions. They believe they might have a few ripples along the way, but do not believe that they need to prepare for a great storm because they “will not be here.” I hope they are right, but the Bible does not talk about sliding into heaven without any opposition or being spared from the various storms of tribulation; rather, it speaks of believers being spared from His wrath that is coming upon this world (Matthew 24:13; Luke 21:19; John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
It is vital that we wrap our minds around the days we live in, set our hearts on the Lord, and regardless of the cost, stay true to what has been established as being right and acceptable to God. We must get our lives in order and make sure we have the necessary oil of His Spirit to enable us to see in the darkness, shine in the hopelessness, and remain steady in our walk.
What I am about to share with you may seem repetitious, but it is through repetition that pieces here and there can come together, revealing a beautiful mosaic of the Christian life. Keep in mind, one piece of the puzzle may identify where it belongs in the complete picture or it may seem foreign to what we understand, but each piece must be placed in its rightful place in order to complete the picture.
For my Facebook page, I recently wrote this post, “Are you ready for the shaking that is occurring and will most likely escalate in the days we live in? Hebrews 12:27 tells us everything that can be shaken will be shaken by God. The concept of shaking something points to disruption. For those spiritually asleep it is to wake them up so they can stand, for those who are on wrong spiritual foundations it is to warn them their foundation will not stand the testing that is taking place or is about to take place, and for those who are rooted in corruption it is to show them that the fire of God’s wrath is about to expose their wickedness, purge the roots of evilness, and burn up the chaff that remains. We are living in serious times. For the most part the world has been buried in lies, blinding those who are marked for God’s wrath. It has been inundated with misinformation to either hide the truth in plain sight, forcing people to discern what is, to warn people of what is going on so they can properly wade through the events without fear, or serve as a smoke screen to hide what is occurring to control or direct people’s steps. As Christians we must make sure that we remain alert as to what is going on, watchful as to what is coming, and ready to meet each challenge with the truth of His Word. We must do this while standing by faith on the sure foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ, bracing ourselves with the promise of His hope, and ultimately endure with patience as we continue to “possess our soul in patience according to righteousness.”
It is clear that we are being shaken, and anything that is not founded on Christ, established by His Word, and sanctified by His Spirit will crack, crumble, and fall in utter ruin (Matthew 7:24-27; 1 Corinthians 3:11). This brings us back to what it takes to stay true to our high calling by faith, stand in the battle with the sword of the Word, and stay the course to ensure we reach our ultimate destination (2 Timothy 4:7).
To stay true to what is excellent will require us to make many right decisions in regards to small matters before we are prepared to make right choices when they might require some sacrifice, possible loss, and rejection. There are those individuals who assume they will make the right choice at the right time, but until then, they do not have to be bothered with small matters that seem like nothing but little ripples in a big ocean or a speed bump on the road to the “Promised Land.” However, ripples sometimes are warning of angry waves coming at us and the speedbumps are to caution us to slow down because there are always unexpected obstacles ahead that we must be prepared to properly respond to.
We are told our lamps must be filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 25:1-13). To have the oil of the Holy Spirit means we are following after Him in righteousness, being led by Him into a growing relationship with the Lord, and walking in Him so we do not give way to the temptations of the lustful flesh (Romans 8:1, 11-17; Galatians 5:16-18). To give way to the flesh instead of overcoming it gives inroads to the devil that ends in oppression and becomes an avenue that allows the world’s attraction to pull us into its destructive web of sin and death.
This brings us to the master we choose to serve. We can serve the flesh, the world, the devil, or God. To serve the flesh is to serve sin, to serve the world is to serve the idols of the age, to serve the devil means to serve hell and death, and to serve God is to know liberation of truth, the regeneration and liberty of the Spirit, the cleansing of His Word, the beauty of His redemption, and the hope of a glorious resurrection. However, the master we choose is not necessarily a mental assent of considering the options available, looking at what best serves each of us personally and then choosing it and assuming it is a done deal. Choosing our master comes down to who we allow to influence us the most in our attitudes and conduct and the types of action we ultimately choose to take as we sojourn through this world.
For example, the flesh has us serving our lusts, while bowing down to the different altars of Baal from paganism to idolatry, corruption, and debauchery, all ending in utter emptiness and despair. Serving the world means to pursue the illusive carrots of success, wealth, and power while sacrificing integrity of character, the absolute truth of God, and the ways of righteousness on the altars of compromise, foolishness, and wickedness to discover that one is not really living or experiencing life, but simply getting by. To serve the devil involves selling one’s soul, bowing before the dark altars of deception, evilness, and perversion. It entails partaking of the seeds of death. These seeds cause such torment of the soul that the idea of death and hell becomes a pleasant escape for these people. It is for this reason Joshua told the Israelites they could serve the idols their fathers worshipped on the other side of the flood, but he and his family would serve Jehovah (Joshua 15:14-15).
Once we choose our master, we must come to terms with what it means to please him or her, or it. This points to the concept of adopting standards. We often adopt some kind of standard or code to live by, but the problem is that these rulers are not realistic and will set us up for failure. In the religious realm we have rituals, ordinances, and codes of conduct that can give us a sense of piousness, but none of these change the heart, transform the mind, and renew the inner man. Man can somewhat comply outwardly, reform his responses, perform according to an image, and conform to some expectation, but in spite of outward piousness, the heart remains black, the mind tainted, the emotions sporadic, and the soul fragmented and tormented.
The Christian life speaks of a new heart, a changed life, a yoke that disciplines our walk, and a burden that is not too great to come under: a burden of love. As believers our main goal must be to please God. God’s will is for us to repent as we turn from our base and wicked ways to choose to believe Him about His Son’s redemption and receive it as so in our hearts by faith. He desires submission to the Spirit of truth, asks for obedience to His Word, calls for a separation from the world, and to put on the life of His Son as a means to put off the works of the flesh (Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 12:29-31; John 11:25-26; 14:15; 16:11-13; Luke 6:46; Romans 12:2; 13:14; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 10:16; 11:6; 2 Peter 3:9).
The choice that will follow has to do with choosing the ways of faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). We walk by faith in the way of righteousness out of obedience to what is right as far as Spirit and truth. It is important to note that in our fallen condition we want to walk by what we see, know, and understand; therefore, unbelief towards God is a natural preference. Unbelief expresses itself in indifference to what has been established as acceptable, and omission when it comes to doing what is honorable. Unbelief can pick and choose what it wants to believe, while justifying wrong and omitting what is right. Faith on the other hand is a choice of the heart and will that gives us right standing in the Lord through redemption, right standing before the Lord because it expresses itself in active obedience, and doing right because it produces godliness (Romans 14:23; James 4:17).
Many people talk about faith, but very few allow it to be developed in their life. God must give us a measure of faith before we can obey. Each step of obedience enlarges our faith to take greater steps up the narrow path of righteousness, and if we must wait at points along the way, He gives us a gift of faith so that we can patiently endure the testing of our faith until He moves (Psalm 23:3; Romans 12:3;1 Corinthians 12:8-9).
The next choice we must make to victoriously walk out the Christian life by faith is to be a true disciple of Jesus. The choice of discipleship is not a one-time decision; rather, it is a daily decision. Discipleship involves making the right decision on a continual basis in three areas. The first one is consecration (Matthew 16:24-26; Romans 12:1-2).
Consecration points to a sold-out life for Jesus. It chooses to follow in the ways of righteousness. To follow in the ways of righteousness, we must be converted to what is righteous. Such conversion points to changing our bent in life. We are born with a bent in our character called iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19-22). We are bent towards serving self, pursuing the fleshly, and striving to gain the world. This wrong bent makes the unholy natural to us; therefore, the bent in our character must be straightened out by aligning our attitude with the attitude of God towards all matters that include sin, the ways of righteousness, godly conduct, and a holy state.
This means we embrace the teachings of Jesus as being true with the fortitude to walk them out when being tested to do so to establish character. In a sense, it is like going against the grain of what is natural, and against the current that is flowing downward. It is the presence of upright character or integrity that proves the bent of our character is lined up to the plumbline of the Word and are like the cedar trees of Lebanon that point to heaven itself. Keep in mind when you make a commitment to do what is right, you will be tested to see if you were sincere or trying to give others the impression of being godly. Impression without actions to back it up makes one a hypocrite.
Man’s ways are clean in his own eyes, but God’s ways are higher and He sees man’s ways as being perverted and strange (Proverbs 14:12; 16:2; 21:8; Isaiah 55:8-9). God is holy and He will never lower Himself to a base state. For a man to come higher he must consecrate his whole life to God. This means often giving up personal aspirations, pursuits, and desires in order to seek the Lord’s will with a clean slate. Consecration enfolds denying self of life on our terms and picking up our cross to follow the Lord. The cross points to ongoing sacrifice, a perpetual sacrifice that leaves the old life behind in the wilderness while renewing the altar of our hearts with ongoing sacrifices worthy of our Lord’s consideration, ever bringing pleasure to Him.
The acceptable sacrifices are described by the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 2:5 and 9. These sacrifices are spiritual and must be offered up by the royal priesthood of the New Testament. They include praises and good works that will always bring God His deserved glory (Hebrews 13:15-16).
The third one is that of preparation, where I am not only willing to offer my life up for His glory, but I am ready to do so if the circumstances require it. This preparation entails walking towards my demise. This demise involves my divorcement from my former life in order to pursue my new life in Christ.
So much of the old holds onto us via our affections. Our affections can become confused by divided loyalties, frustrated by demanding responsibilities, and tormented by regrets that our real calling passed us by, as well as the tragedy that we missed opportunities of true service because we were not available to seek out our life in Christ. We must be prepared to direct all of our affections heavenward (Colossians 3:2). As long as any part of our old life holds affections captive, we are not at liberty to put our hand to the plow to follow Jesus into the harvest field (Luke 9:62). As long as the affections have any ties to the world, we will constantly be pulled back to once again become entangled with it.
Once we deal with our affections, we can begin to neglect the pride that wants to be the center of attention. Our pride uses logic to make any real spiritual advancement seem unnecessary. It will use the threat of looking like a fool if we become too dedicated, ridiculous if we give too much of the world up to follow Jesus, and unloving if we do not pamper or cater to the world to prove our Christian faith. All of it is a lie.
The truth is we must become crucified to the world and the world to us if we are to be free from its attractions, demands, and silly and unobtainable standards. We can only be true to Jesus when He is our master, our example, our teacher, and the one who we come into agreement with about all matters pertaining to life and godliness. We must put off the corruption of this present world in order to ensure it is no longer influencing the way we think, respond, and act, and put on the attitude and life of Jesus daily. We must learn to love Jesus first and foremost and then we can become an avenue where His love can flow through us to those around us.
Godly love causes the Christian to stay the course of the disciplined life. Love is what makes the Christian way natural; therefore, no longer requiring one to make a conscious choice. Such love will cause all burdens we have for others to seem light, all sacrifices our reasonable service, honorable actions a natural response, and enduring, godly commitments a joy. Jesus said it best that people would know we were His disciples because we had love for one another. He also reiterated there was no greater expression of this love than to give one’s life for another (John 13:35; 15:13).
When you think about it, Jesus became our example of love so in like manner we would return it when it comes to the Christian life. He came to give His life for us and we must, in preparation for heaven, be willing to daily offer our lives out of love for Him to use and do with as He wills to bring honor to Him. As John stated in 1 John 4:19, “We love him, because he first loved us.”