FOR THE POSITIVE TO THRIVE
FACING THE ELEMENTS
THERE MUST BE THE NEGATIVE,
FOR THE POSITIVE TO THRIVE
By Rayola Kelley
When I became a Christian in 1976, the popular saying and fad was to be “Born Again,” but soon a bit of poisonous heresy began to gain the attention of many including myself. Even though being born-again into a new family and royal kingdom is necessary to gain the spiritual birthright to an eternal inheritance, I realize the latest fad making its way through Christendom was nothing more than a destructive wave of heresy that would change the face of Christianity in a negative way (John 3:3,5). This heresy was nothing new, but it was repackaged to appeal to a new generation who sadly had been subtly conditioned to buy it.
If you ask me how Christians are conditioned to buy destructive error, it is quite simple. Mix a bit of the world’s philosophy of self-esteem and self-love into a slightly watered-down Gospel, and instead of applying the powerful blender of truth to the mix while standing in Christ’s authority and putting the fire of the Spirit to it, simply add some feel-good fleshly fluff about love and grace that has the appearance of righteousness, and people are ready to tip-toe through the tulips of silliness instead of lining up to the narrow path of discipleship (Matthew 7:13-14; 16:24-26; Galatians 1:6-9, 2:21; Colossians 2:8).
As I became more aware of the conditioning of the church by the subtle profane mixture of the world, I began to see how such poison could easily ride into Christendom on the shirttails of some truth. Since there was a bad mixture present, it seemed like weeds of rigidness was growing up in some fields of Christian theology to try to combat the present spiritual lethargy towards the truth that the poison was producing, while some grounds were becoming a marshy place of foolishness, and others pigpens of defilement.
Let me say this, the dulling down of the sword blade of truth by the world as a means to take away the spiritual edge of discernment of the church and dumb it down is nothing new. Whether it’s the lie of the serpent in the garden, the jealousy of Cain caused by Abel’s acceptable sacrifice, the fleshly Ishmael mocking the promised son, Isaac, the disregard of the birthright by the likes of the earthly Esau, the casualness of a Saul towards obedience to God’s commands, or being drawn back to the world like Demas, God’s people along with truth and faith have always come under attack. As a result, we must be vigilant towards our enemies, sober about our high calling, steadfast in our commitment, and sure of our mission (Genesis 3: 1-6; 4:4-8; 21:9-10; 25:30-34; 1 Samuel 15:18-23; 2 Timothy 4:10; 1 Peter 5:8-10; 2 Peter 3:16-18).
The contrast has always been there where there is the positiveness of truth that brings true liberty to the soul, but those who oppose it are always rendering it into a negative to soothe the religious conscience, while pacifying the flesh with some sentiment towards God and putting fig-leaves on to cover the moral deviance of one’s character. It is a way to pervert what is pure while putting what is wrong and spiritually ails mankind in a positive light, redefining what is right to be wrong. Remember how Isaiah 5:20 warned us of this environment where they call evil good and good evil.
The Bible tells us we will know something by its fruits and not by how it makes us feel or look. As I observed the fruits coming out of these different arenas it helped me to realize early on in my journey that the rigidness of religion was quite dead, the marshy places stunk, and the pigpens were repulsive. And yet, it seemed like some people in the religious world prove to be nothing but corks taken out by the waves of delusion (Matthew 7:1-6, 16, 20; Romans 7:6; Ephesians 4:14). There were others who seemed content to sink in the mud of compromise, while others liked to wallow in the pigpens. There were also those who seemed resolved to stand and hold their ground against the great wave of destruction, but they did not seem to have the power to withstand. In many ways they became marginalized because they looked small in their critical ways, bitter in their judgmental attitude, and as hollow echoing chambers in their claims and concerns that felt ungenuine because they lacked the fire of power.
Fortunately for me, in spite of the various ingredients being present, the blender of truth and faith were used on my understanding that allowed me to throw off the heresy and eventually spit out the fluff of nonsense (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 4:2, 12). Granted, I found myself a bit confused at times, but the Lord kept bringing people my way that would challenge me with the plow of truth. Even though I did not always appreciate the chaos it sometimes created when it threw everything up in the air, I did eventually value the clarity and freedom it brought to me.
It was then that I began to realize the narrow path to salvation was just that, a narrow, hard path that would not change with the times. The positive and the negative were necessary to bring contrast and balance in the Christian walk. I had to accept that the abrupt edges on the path would never be adjusted, the width often became narrower in places that added greater challenges to the spiritual journey, and the heights to which it ascended became shrouded in the clouds of uncertainty.
I would also learn that the only way I could walk up that path was as a true disciple of Jesus, where He leads, I must follow. Granted, I attempted to find my niche in religion but it would leave me lean in spirit. I tried to fit in some local body that I was either called to for a season, or not called to at all, while remaining quiet in order to keep below the radar and avoid being some target where “too” much concern, having too deep of scriptural convictions and being too vocal in the matters of truth would not disrupt the program, the agendas, the comfort zones, the cliques, and fragile leadership, but in due time I found I did not fit. The fact that I didn’t fit caused discord that required me to bow out.
I wrestled with the dichotomy that often divided the church at insignificant places, caused conflict over that which was worldly, left the lost still groping in their darkness, the vulnerable wounded, the confused in a state of unbelief, and the seasoned weary. In my mind I reasoned if God is so powerful, why does He allow the foolish to reign, the absurd to come out on top, the ridiculous to influence attitudes, and controlled chaos to serve as a mere veneer to hide the real tug-of-wars taking place in some of the churches and souls. It is true, because of the flesh getting involved, there are always personality conflicts, due to certain agendas there will be political maneuvers made by some, and because of hard hearts there will be, at times, tyrannical wolves in sheep’s clothing ever waiting while seeking to divide and control the sheep for their own personal egos and gains. However, as His people we have a higher calling to reach beyond the fleshly and worldly ways to walk in the place of excellence, overcoming the fleshly and the worldly, and be victorious over Satan.
This question would be answered beginning with Ecclesiastes 10:6-7 which tells how folly is set in great dignity and the rich sit in low places, while those who are servants ride on horses while princes walk as servants upon the earth. It took some studying in the Bible before I realized that the definition of what is considered great and rich in God’s Word is contrary to the world’s definition. Greatness in the kingdom of God is given to those who become a servant to all and the ones who are truly rich in God’s kingdom are those with genuine faith (Matthew 20:23-28; James 2:5).
It is for this reason, the Apostle Paul instructed followers of Jesus to come out and be separate from the idolatrous world in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. The world is an enemy of God and those who love the world, will be void of the love of the Father. Jesus made it clear that since believers did not belong to the world it would hate and reject them. He also declared woe to those whom men of the world speak well of for they often spoke well of false prophets (Luke 6:26; John 17:11-16, James 4:4; 1 John 2:15)
Don’t get me wrong, God did use different people to bring me up in doctrine and local churches to establish me, but it was in the darkest of pits, the most tumultuous times of my life, tasting the most devastating personal failures in my life, and coming up to the impossible obstacles that my greatest spiritual growth took place. After going into these different places at various times, I realized that the narrow path led me to each location. I would sit there resenting the idea that I would have to continue to experience these unpleasant challenges. It always proved to be somewhat overwhelming to my spirit, unsettling to my soul and just plain uncomfortable to my flesh. In a way, I reasoned that it was not fair, but in the deep recesses of my heart I knew no matter how much I said, “not again, no way,” I kept getting, “WAY.”
It was, after all, the disciplined way of the cross-bearing Christian who is following Jesus. It is the consecrated way that requires not only self-denial but the fires of the Spirit to be applied upon the altar of the heart, the cleansing water of the Word to wash away any debris, and then used as a hammer to knock away any inconsistencies of the old life that were still clinging to the newly formed clay vessel. This way was not only the only way, it was the excellent way that required one to press forward to the high calling in Christ Jesus (Jeremiah 23:29; Luke 9:23-26; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:7; John 14:6; Ephesians 5:26; Philippians 3:14; Titus 3:5).
The one thing I had to recognize about myself was I am inclined towards that which leaves me feeling good in my pigpen and have a tendency to justify the muck that clings to me because of inconsistency in my Christian life. It became clear to me that the journey was about God revealing the inconsistency in my life so that He could bring the right instruction, reproof, and correction to change my inner character (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Initially the conflict in churches often caused me distress and confusion. To me the church was to be a place of cultivation where the small initial seed of Christ’s life would be established in the ground of pure doctrine, watered with the Word, cultivated with the spices (gifts) of the Spirit, and established in sound teaching. As a new Christian I started out to be a sponge. I could not get enough of the Word. I went to church, Sunday School, and Bible studies but I eventually found myself becoming saturated with knowledge that was new and exciting but not transforming and life changing. There was something in my inner being that would not let me rest in what I intellectually knew, and I calculated that since God is eternal, there must be more and it was up to me to discover it. In a sense, I could not depend on others to take me where they themselves had not yet walked and share personal spiritual experiences that specifically belonged to them, such as in the case of the oil of the five wise virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. It was clear that it was time for me to grow up and take responsibility for my personal Christian walk. Granted, I did not know what I was looking for and I was not sure I would even recognize it but I could not settle for less and it was from this premise, I began my first initial steps on the path of faith.
The struggle to understand why the things of God proved to be anything but smooth for the sojourner, reminded me that I was a stranger in this world and a pilgrim in my searches (1 Peter 2:11). A stranger is not content to stay in a place that is foreign to him for he has a home waiting for him, and as a pilgrim in this world I would always be searching for that place that allows me the freedom to serve God according to a high calling and to be able to worship Him in Spirit and truth. It became clear that the more comfortable I was with the world, the less I would be inclined to discipline myself in light of my ultimate destination, heaven. I would see no urgency to line up to it, no reason to set my heart on it, and no inspiration to desire it above this present world.
I could see why God did not stop the testing, the sifting, the turmoil, the challenge, and the sorrow of this present world. God created a perfect environment of worship for the first man and man turned around and gave his dominance to Satan in order to gain independence from God’s reign. Now he lives in a spiritual wilderness that only knows loss, sorrow, and death. It became clear that man brought much distress on himself. He could have it all in the Lord—a good life, a satisfying life, and a long life but he chose to walk contrary to his Creator.
God would reveal certain aspects to me in relationship to my Christian walk. The first one had to do with Him being SOVEREIGN. I had to receive with child-like faith what I needed to know. What I needed to know was recorded in His Word, and what was veiled by eternity pointed to the simple fact that beyond what the Lord has and will make known to me is none of my business. Granted, there are things that would be revealed to me as I needed to know them, but every time I treaded into an area that was not my concern or business, I would hear Jesus’ words to Peter in John 21:22 when he had asked about another disciple, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.”
The test is to trust the Lord with what I don’t know, the sifting came when my arrogance was claiming some dumb pinnacle of silliness in the matter, the turmoil would come when I insisted on my own way, and the challenge would be determined by how long I wrestled before or with God as a means to try to get my way. The sorrow would grip my heart when I realize the great cost of sin upon the Son of God, on the souls of the innocent, and in relationships.
The second thing I had to learn was that the sun shines on both the just and unjust, just as the rain comes down on both. This was the initial glimpse into the fact that life is what it is, God is just, and the ways of the world are ultimately void of favorites as we will all taste the sorrows of it. Regardless of what we encounter in this world, as believers, we must continue in the faith, knowing that it is through much tribulation we will enter into the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:16, 45; Acts 14:22). It was from this premise that I realized that to have balance in my life there must be both the negative charge to occur before a positive response and results could be produced.
We see this in nature all the time in the case of lightning storms. Lightning will cause responses and sometimes it is nature’s negative way of purging and uncluttering the terrain, but it also leaves a positive charge in the environment that can cause our lawns to become greener. My understanding is that lightning is the earth’s way of getting rid of built-up magnetic energy and activity. The ground actually grounds the charge while the energy dissipates in the sky.
In a report I recently heard, because of all of our electronic devices, our bodies are being greatly stressed by a similar build-up and we need to become grounded in order for it to be released from our bodies along with any inflammation. The way one becomes grounded is standing in the grass, barefoot for 15 to 20 minutes. I have tried it and have experienced some interesting results.
When I think about lightning, it causes the positive charge of awe while connecting me to the reality of things, and grounding me with what some would refer to as being negative, that of fear. Fear is to bring a sobriety to me that will keep me from being foolish in my responses to what is coming my way. The other factor is that thunder usually warns us of the lightning. It is as though God is sounding the alarm for our benefit as He directs the path of the lightning to bring forth desired results on earth (Job 28:26; 38:25).
This brings me back to my spiritual walk. There must be lightning in our lives, but we must learn to listen for the thunder marked by the signs of the times, the trumpet of God’s warning in His Word or the “still small voice” of His Spirit to be prepared to respond properly to ensure a positive result. We must have the worshipful awe in our spirits towards the Lord to soar above what is happening, while establishing the fear of the Lord to ensure we become more grounded in His Word. Perhaps it will cause some fire that will purge the cluttered landscape of our life, burn up the silliness of foolishness, or ground us to reality so that we can properly discern and stand, but it is for the purpose of ensuring when it does come, we are in the right place with Him, hid in the high tower, the refuge of His life.
It is clear that there are ominous clouds on the horizon, but it is important to listen for the cues, while watching for the lightning. At all times remember what we are told about Jesus’ coming in Matthew 24:27, “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”