by Rayola Kelley
Last month, I wrote about my peak in Christianity. It pointed to my salvation experience, being delivered from the pit of death, hopelessness, and despair. This month I am going to share with you what I refer to as my various detours in my Christian walk.
Those who know me, know that I was saved out of a cult. I wish I could say that I quickly learned about the implications of being part of a cult, but it took me almost 14 years to rid myself of every shred of the absurd indoctrination that cleverly takes one’s mind captive when he or she has been exposed to the deceptive teachings of a counterfeit belief.
When I first recognized that what I had assumed was a genuine presentation of religion came from nothing but an antichrist premise that was designed to replace the true Jesus of the Bible, I became alarmed and fearful. The idea that I was on my way to hell because my family held to a heretical belief of God, salvation, and the Gospel was unnerving.
At times I felt I was on an emotional roller coaster ride. I was angry that I had been deceived. Any illusion I had about my family being trustworthy in the religious path they had led me down, turned into feelings of disappointment and betrayal. The fact that the religion my family upheld as the right way to God had been passed down from generation to generation without being successfully challenged by truth, made me feel as if there was a bit of unfairness or injustice to it all. As a result, based on my own salvation experience, I unwisely concluded that if they had heard the truth, they would not be on their present destructive path.
In spite of my immaturity, the struggle with reality and feelings made me realize that I just had to accept some facts. Sadly, it took a few years for me to recognize and accept each fact. The first fact I had to face was that my religion was wrong. Although there were some “good” moral aspects to it, it was still leading people to hell. In essence, it was rejecting the truth God had clearly set forth in His Word.
It was then that I realized because God and religion are attached to some belief does not make it right. The Apostle John in his first epistle reveals that there are three tests that every individual must pass to ensure their status as a child of God. Each test will reveal a different aspect about the person’s spiritual condition. Like most cults, the cult I belonged to failed the first test. The test is simple and to the point, “Who do you say Jesus is?”
To get Jesus right there are four aspects to who He is that we must believe and know about Him. To downplay either point will identify the belief or person as being under an antichrist spirit. Those who are part of my discernment studies often have this drilled into them from every angle. They are: 1) Jesus is the Messiah, Anointed, Promised One from heaven (1 John 2:21-23); 2) He is God who came in the flesh (1 John 4:1-3); 3) He is the only Savior of the world (1 John 4:14); and 4) they must confess that He is the Son of God (1 John 4:15).
To confess that Jesus is the Son of God requires one to recognize His position as the only Messiah, believe that He has a dual nature of deity (is God) and humanity (as man now serves as our High Priest—1 Timothy 2:5), and He is the only one who can save us. In other words, it is not Jesus plus some religious affiliation or good works that save us, it is Jesus alone who has provided the way of salvation through the redemptive work of the cross.
There are people who claim or believe some of the aspects of Jesus, but not every one of them. The reality is that the Jesus of the Bible is presented to us in a full package and must be received as so to ensure salvation. It is because of who He is He can save us to the uttermost. It takes unfeigned faith to believe every claim the Bible makes about Jesus and it must be assimilated as being truth if our attitude is going to properly align itself to Jesus as the only way to please God and to ensure we are a recipient of the life that has been promised to all who believe.
My cult failed to recognize Jesus in all four areas. Although, they used terminology that sounded acceptable, they had changed the intent of it. In other words, they changed the meaning of it; therefore, erecting another Jesus other than the one who is in the Bible. As Christians we need to look behind the veneer of pious images, religious cloaks, and vague terminology and find out what a person really believes, aware that a soul could be on the line.
The second test in 1 John is what I refer to as the relationship test. When I first got saved my goal was never to be led astray. I wanted to rid myself of the many religious assumptions planted by my family. This is where I had to admit that they were wrong! We all start out assuming our families are the smartest people on the block; however, if they are wrong, they are wrong!
I wanted to rage against them and ask “How could you lead me astray?” After all, upon such a discovery your family’s intelligence can be called into great question. However, I had to realize they were deceived! Although some were quite sincere in their delusion, they were sincerely wrong. It was as I faced the deceptive cover my family was under, that I had to realize that unless their foundation was being shaken by God, their vague Jesus unveiled as a fraud, and the convicting present of the Spirit was upon their life, they would see no need to examine or reconsider the validly of what they believed. They were indeed victims of Satan, blinded to the true light of the Gospel, and terribly lost to the truth of their own spiritual condition (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).
It was then that I realized I must not assume something is true because someone I love, trust, admire, or respect says so. Therefore, my pursuit for Biblical knowledge hit a fervor. Granted, my pursuit sounded noble, but it was not the correct goal. Every Christians’ goal should be the same: it should be to know the Person of Jesus. When one pursues knowledge about Jesus, they will simply end up possessing a lot of head facts about Him, but they will not have any heart revelation of who He is and needs to be.
As my studies brought a contrast between the real and the counterfeit, I had become aware that my cult had made everything about God a religious exercise. Most of what was being advocated by my former cult was establishing an outward light of a person’s religious best. Clearly, there were some who were better at such outer reformation, but in all reality it was a false light. The one thing it lacked was reality. The truth of the matter is that behind our best, lurks the “old man,” the epitome of the worse we are and can be when left unregenerate in our lost state. The truth of the Bible is the only sword that can finally strip one of his or her religious cloak, but the person must be ready to embrace it by faith as being a matter of truth.
Man’s religion will cause one to be indifferent to the desire of God to have a personal relationship with each of us. When you are doing your religious best, your relationship with God is based on what you are doing, not on getting to know Him. You assume it must be pleasing to Him, since it pleases your religious conscience. However, God cannot be discovered, found, or known according to religious things or works. He can only be found in a living relationship through Jesus Christ.
Because of my past influences, the initial idea of having a relationship with God was very foreign to me. Sadly, because my pursuit was misdirected in my newfound Christian walk, I began to walk in the ways of religion. Such religious emphasis is nothing more than a detour, a counterfeit to hide the fact that your walk lacks the real heart of God.
Due to the religious detour I was taking, I found myself becoming enslaved to religious standards that lacked spirit and life. The more I tried to do right in my own power, the more I became confused and found myself doing wrong. Eventually, I found myself spiritually bankrupt.
It cannot be emphasized enough: Christianity is all about relationship with God. Jesus came to restore the relationship that was ripped apart in the Garden of Eden. The Apostle John tells us in His first epistle what it will take to ensure a right relationship with the Lord.
In 1 John 1:3-7 we are told we must walk in the light if we are to have fellowship with God and one another. The light of God addresses the one thing that tears, rips, and breaks all relationships apart and that is sin. By walking in the light, all sin will be exposed, addressed, and taken care of. Clearly, the light of Jesus will show us the most excellent way of repentance, forgiveness, and restoration.
Since I was walking according to my own pious religious beat, I found that I had a veneer of what looked acceptable, but it was nothing more than disobedience to God. This brings us to the next part of the test in 1 John. It has to do with obedience (1 John 2:3-6). If we believe a matter, we will walk in it. To believe something is to assimilate it as truth that will express itself in compliance to the Word. Obedience is the natural expression of a growing relationship with the Lord. It is the product of faith. If we walk by unfeigned faith, we will express it in obedience.
As I walked contrary to God’s excellent design for my life, I found myself coming under the spirit of the world. Granted, I justified, adjusted, and conned myself about my Christian walk, but it was obvious that problems existed in my relationship with God. This brings me to the third part of the relationship test, which has to do with our relationship with the world. The world is what often brings a separation between God and us. If we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15-17). If we are dancing with the world according to its tune, we will be out of step with the Lord. We will find ourselves in opposition to His righteous ways if we walk in its ways. It is true that we are in the world, but we are not to be part of its ways or belong to it for that will make us enemies of God (James 4:4).
If we are enemies of God, we can be assured that we are not His children (1 John 3:10). The final part of the relationship test is that we are identified to a spiritual inheritance and legacy. We have been born again into a heavenly family, legally adopted; therefore, our lives should be expressing the reality of the Lord. If we abiding in His household, exposed to His presence and ways, we should be reflecting His glory and emitting the fragrance of His life.
As I realized that my religious detour proved to be lifeless and dead, I had to admit I had taken a terrible alternate route from the real promise of the Christian life. The promise being that of fellowship, of actually being able to once again walk with the Lord in the garden of my heart where I would always discover the real hope of glory in me, Christ Jesus.
Like all spiritual detours, there was only one way I could get back on the right path to be established in a right relationship with the Lord and that was to repent. Detours cause us to walk away from the source of light. It will also cause us to walk in disobedience as we become more like the world in our way of thinking and doing. It was not until I developed a real hatred for my plight that I was able to really repent, thereby, changing my attitude towards my life in Christ and the world.
This brings me to the third test found in 1 John: the fruit test. Christianity is a personal adventure. No one can walk your route, live your life, and become who you are called to be except you. As I came to terms with my personal life in Christ, I realized that I had a choice. When it came to my family and my former cult, I had chosen to assume they were correct without doing my own homework. Regardless of their wrong influence, the Lord would still hold me responsible for personally finding out the truth for myself.
This brings me to the final realization: I was wrong. Due to our fragile egos, we hate being wrong. However, because of our fallen condition, we all start out from the wrong premise. It does not matter if our religion or family is right or wrong, we still must personally address our own spiritual condition to experience salvation. Before I met Christ, I was wrong in every way. Even after I became a Christian, I took plenty of wrong detours from what was right. I spent the first seven years of my Christianity wrong the majority of the time, and the following years partially right. Finally, I can say at this stage of my journey that I have simply learned what it means to be right. I have to be right about Jesus, be right before Him, and do right by others. As long as all three of these aspects are correct, I can be assured of right standing in Him.
The more I strive to be like Christ in my disposition, attitude, and conduct, the more I become an open vessel from which His love can flow to me and through me to others. This is the only motivation that will ensure the fruit of the Spirit and honorable conduct. In his first epistle, John makes it clear that you cannot walk in the darkness of hatred (this includes its cohorts such as bitterness, unforgiveness, and malice) towards others, and claim you love God (1 John 3:13-19).
Godly love gives us the freedom to enjoy the life we have in Christ. Since we know and love Him, we can trust Him; therefore, we can take joy in what He has said and abide in confidence towards Him (1 John 1:3-4). In the past I have learned if joy is missing from my life, I have let go of my anchor, the Rock of ages. When you let go of that which is eternal, you become adrift in the empty oceans of the world that will cause you to be taken by the various winds of false doctrines and the endless waves of disappointment.
When a person chooses the excellent way of godly love, he or she will walk in the ways of righteousness (1 John 2:29). Godly love demands we take the high road in our relationship with God and others. The high road in Christianity is the path of righteousness. Righteousness can only honor in a way that is considered reasonable in service, but it will prove to be beyond reproach when it comes to our testimony, and sacrificial when it comes to the world’s way of viewing matters. It will always submit to that which is worthy of consideration and is regarded as beneficial to others.
To walk in the ways of righteousness will also cause us to be overcomers in the world. We know that all that is done out of unfeigned faith is counted as righteousness to us. The Apostle John makes it clear in 1 John 5:4-5 that the evidence of a victorious walk for a Christian is that he or she is an overcomer. “For whatever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.”
The spiritual journey begins with Christ, but it also must end with Him to ensure the victory. In between is the journey of discovering that everything the Bible says about Him is “Amen, so be it, for it is so”. If one does not begin with Christ, it is obvious that he or she will not end with Him. If one does not end with Christ, then he or she must concede that a detour has taken him or her away from the center of what is right, sane, and trustworthy.
As we can see, there is no secret when it comes to the victorious, overcoming Christian. And, when it comes to being right it is not a matter of who has the right opinion about something; rather, it is about being right about and before Jesus. So much of what we can get caught up with is non-essential in the scheme of things. To get caught up with the insignificant, worldly, and foolish is to take a detour that will only lead to one dead end after another.
I have taken many detours in my Christian walk, but praise God when I got tired of hitting my head against the same wall, and seeing the same scenery because I was being taken around the same “old” mountain, the Lord was waiting graciously to lead me to that place of fellowship and restoration with Him. Each time I would marvel of how my pigheaded conclusions and ways led me down the wrong path. I would wonder how I could foolishly forget that the Lord has provided everything I have need of to experience what is real and lasting, while still ending up taking foolish detours and accepting wretched counterfeits. After examining my foolishness in such matters, my conclusion was always the same: I am a work in progress and will remain so until I see Him face to face. Meanwhile, the journey continues.
What about you. Are you taking a detour right now?