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

by Rayola Kelley

It is important to take time out and become a philosopher for a short time. This might seem like an unusual statement until you realize that a philosopher is one who considers the significance of life. As I consider my life, I realize I started to be a philosopher in my late teens. I began to wonder what life was all about. As I watched people go through the same routines, I wondered if that was the essence of life. Man simply lived, worked and died.

The reality of the vanity of it all gnawed at me. Surely, there had to be more to life. To me, the reality of physical death was so foreign, and only happened to other people. In my mind, I would avoid death and live forever. I could not imagine that life was ever meant to cease. Living, even in my limited knowledge, seemed eternal.

Yet, life as I knew it would cease, but in what way? Would it simply be on a physical level because there was more to life then this present world? There was something in my subconscious or inner being that knew the answer lay beyond my present understanding.

Needless to say, these questions were answered when I discovered Jesus Christ. The Person of Christ caused me to cease speculating about the idea of life and brought me to a place where I could actually embrace it. I realized that God has presented me with a package marked “life” on it. Granted, the package was not as outwardly attractive as the packages the world had presented to me.

Each package of the world had a possibility as to how self-serving and fulfilling they would be. There were the boxes marked happiness, success, power, prestige, and riches to name a few. In light of the many boxes offered by the world, the idea of one box labeled life seemed unattractive. After all, what did this mysterious box hold? At least the boxes of the world gave me some sense of control over my life. Why would I trade the promises of the world for a package that held no obvious possibilities?

The possible experience I could have by opening the world’s boxes was exciting. They tantalized my imagination. However, when I opened each box, the possibilities turned into dissatisfaction, failure, disillusionment, despair, poverty, and hopelessness. At the end of each experience, I realize there had to be more to life or it would prove to be a cruel joke. It was at this point of hopelessness that I encountered Jesus.

Suddenly, I realized the significance of the box I had been given by God. To find the meaning of life, I had to open the box to discover what the true essence of life was in light of the author of life. Life is not meant to be observed from a philosophical point, but it is meant to be experienced on a personal level. Life is not meant to be lived in a constant survival mode as lost and uncertain people live from one event to the next. It is meant to be discovered on a daily basis.

The hope of life is not found in some hopeful fancy, but in discovering its real meaning and purpose. This precious gift of God was never meant to be avoided or adjusted, but embraced with its challenges and lessons in light of an unseen reality that is glorious and eternal.

Jesus said He is the life. His life is eternal, and possesses resurrection power. Therefore, knowing Jesus has caused me to graduate from one who ponders and observes life in hopes of understanding it, to finding the real meaning of life. Once I realized that life did not make sense outside of Jesus Christ, I was able to understand why the many boxes of the world left me lean in my spirit and empty in my soul.  Although the world’s boxes occasionally brought me temporary pleasure, they eventually gave way to the emptiness of vanity.

My encounter with Jesus changed my understanding concerning life. The life of Jesus was complete. In other words, I discovered spiritual life that satisfied my spirit. I experienced life within that penetrated every area of my soul with purpose and confidence. I encountered life in God’s creation, arraying my world with meaning and beauty. The life of Jesus is everywhere. However, it was a matter of finding Him in the midst of the world with its many counterfeit boxes.

The challenge that people have in regard to the life of Jesus is that even though this gift is handed to them, it is hidden by an unusual bow (the cross), cradled in an ugly box (the grave) and highlighted by empty grave clothes.  The gift of life can only be discovered at the point of death. We must confront this death to discover life. However, why would one want to confront death in order to discover life?

The death we must come to terms with is what Jesus did on the cross. Why did He have to die, so we can have life? Although this life is a free gift, what will it take for us to possess it? As we come into the time where we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday, believers need to take stock of the Christian life. It was secured on the cross by Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Because of the disposition of sin working in each of us, it cost God His best and Jesus His all. The price that was paid was complete and now serves as the means for people to be reconciled back to God.

To consider the life God offers, we need to consider the cycle of life. We relate these cycles to the four seasons. The first season we want to consider is summer. Granted, life does not start in the summer, but it is often tested under the intense light of summer. Summer represents a mixed bag of challenges. For the unbeliever, summer represents the intense drought of their soul. These people have the light of their own understanding, but their soul is suffering from a spiritual drought. Eventually, the intensity of their spiritual drought will cause affliction of the soul. The torment will end in the gnawing reality that the water vital to the quality of life is missing from the equation.

For the Christian, summer can prove to be a time of testing. It is in the summer that the world can draw a Christian’s affections away from what is important with its many attractions. It is in the summer that we as believers can become so wrapped up in activities that our personal strength is zapped. We can become diverted by the insignificant, and subtly graduate from a dependency on God to self-sufficiency. Eventually, Christians will become lean in their spirit as they become stagnant pools that need the fresh water of the Holy Ghost to realign their values, priorities and focus.

Autumn represents the time of preparation. It is when the harvest begins. For the non-believers, their hearts will be revealed. Keep in mind, the seed of the Gospel has been planted. According to the parable of the sower and the seed, some seeds will fall to the way side due to a hard heart, to be consumed by the enemy.  Some seeds will fall into the stony ground of a selfish heart, and will become ineffective. This ineffectiveness is due to people becoming disillusioned with the Christian life. Other seeds will fall into the thorny ground of a worldly heart, and be drowned out by the attractions and demands of the world.

Christians need to remember that they are God’s field. Although we are all called into the harvest field, God must be allowed to work in the fields of our lives. We are susceptible to the same challenges as non-believers when it comes to the enemy, personal selfishness and the world. The fall season for the Christian is about preparation, so that God can bring forth more fruit out of our lives and testimonies.

Winter reminds us that death must occur before life can come forth. There cannot be springtime where this new life is manifested until there is a winter when life lies dormant in the belly of the earth. For non-believers, this represents their spiritual state. They are dead to real life. They have the potential to experience life, but will remain in the grave because the light of the Gospel is unable to penetrate their darkness.

For Christians, our life must be marked with three types of death. The first death is Jesus. We must keep in mind that Jesus took our place on the cross, so we could have hope. He died, so we could have life. He was buried, so we could become identified with Him. It is His death that serves as an example for the second type of death: death to self.

Death to self is where I give up my right to determine the purpose and direction of my life. It ceases to be about me, as I come under Jesus’ yoke. I begin to take on His attitude and become disciplined by His ways. In meekness, I learn to line up my will to the Father for one purpose: to bring glory to Him.

The third type of death is to the world. I must die to the influence of the world to ensure the Lordship of Jesus. Death to the world is necessary because it will become a competitor with Jesus. It will cloud the difference between holiness and the profane. It will justify compromise, encourage idolatry, and ultimately, cause one to reject the truth.

The end of winter brings us to the spring. Spring points to the new life. For the non-believer, it points to being born again of a new disposition. The new disposition will produce new creations that will display the One whose likeness they have been born with. For the Christian, it points to renewal where regeneration is once again redefining who we are. The problem with living in this world is that we can start displaying the world without realizing it. Springtime is the season when we examine ourselves to see if the life of Jesus is coming forth, or if it has been put under a bushel.

We will be celebrating Resurrection Sunday. This celebration reminds us that the life of Jesus is new and refreshing every day. His life regenerates our spirit, changes the glory of the reflection of our soul, and causes us to become the outward expression of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. These reflections reveal that the old has passed away, and all things have become new.

   What does this new life look like? In my article next month, I will attempt to answer this question. We are all human and struggle with a selfish disposition. However, if the life of Jesus is present in us, it will be obvious to others, in spite of our bouts of humanity. We need to honestly examine this subject. It is one way to determine where we are in our life and growth in Jesus Christ.