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

Existing or Living?
by Rayola Kelley

The Apostle Paul said of the last of the “end days” that it would be a perilous time (2 Timothy 3:1). As a person studies Scripture in regard to the last of the “end of this age,” he or she can begin to understand that these times are a result of a world-wide tribulation that will touch every living soul in some way. There will be no real place to hide. In fact, the events that will exist will produce an environment that will cause people’s hearts to faint in utter fear, while emotionally collapsing in complete despair.

For most Christians, there is a belief that we will be spared from experiencing such times. I do pray that this is true, but what if the events of this age begin to touch us in unexpected ways? We can tout that we would stand, but is that in light of hoping we will be spared from experiencing other facets of such dangerous times, or is it in a realistic light that perhaps the darkness that is enfolding each of our present worlds will not only touch us in some way, but it could very well reach into our souls, shaking and testing every bit of the religious foundation we might be clinging to (Hebrews 12:27)?  Such a time may test the character of our faith, the sincerity of our claims, reveal the source of our confidence, and force us to consider the cost of being a Christian in a world that has always hated, and still hates, Jesus and His truth (John 7:7; 17:14).

For many believers in other parts of the world they have had to count the cost to be a Christian. For some it has been with their very lives, for others it has been torture and imprisonment, and for others they have been cast aside by families, religions, and societies. As a result, many have lived and experienced Hebrews 11 in some way.

This brings us to a very important fact. The Bible tells us that Christ is coming back for a Church without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:26-27). In all reality, what can we as believers honestly say about the Church in America? Can we claim as a Body that what we possess would prove to be pure, holy, and acceptable to the Bridegroom? Can we honestly believe that we stand spotless when there has been no real evidence of water and fire? In other words, only water or fire can separate God’s Church from the unholy and purify it from that which is profane.

We know that the Word of God is a washing machine, but it requires obedience to it before it can cleanse us. It can be a hammer that will destroy all falsehood, but it requires us to esteem it as truth. It can serve as a two-edged sword, but we must expose our hearts and souls to its sharp penetrating edges for it to have its way in our lives. We know it is fire for its very judgments can bring retribution upon those who mishandle or reject it (Jeremiah 23:29; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 4:12)

The Holy Spirit also serves as water and fire. He is the living water that brings forth life, but He is also the fire from above that baptizes us into a sanctified, emboldened, and holy life. He sets us apart with His anointing and makes us fit for the Lord’s use. However, we must be baptized into the eternal life of Jesus with the Spirit’s presence and experience the sanctifying works of His fire in order to appropriate and live this life to the fullest (Matthew 3:11; John 7:36-39; Acts 2:1-5 Titus 3:5).

What if the evidence of such purification proves to be weak or missing in our lives? Perhaps we do not really believe the complete counsel of the Word. Maybe we have misconceptions concerning the Spirit that has grieved, quenched, and vexed Him from fulfilling the will of God in our lives. What will cleanse and purify us if these two sources of purification have not been allowed to prepare each of us as a bride of the Lord?

There is another fire besides the Word and Holy Spirit that is able to purify the Lord’s Church. It is persecution. Satan and his kingdom have singled out God’s people. When you read about the last of the end days, persecution against God’s people will escalate (Matthew 24:9-10). The truth is the Church has experienced this fire throughout the past twenty centuries, but the Church in America has not had to face such intense fires. In essence, it has been spared from the fiery ovens of affliction when it comes to blatant persecution. Granted, there has been personal persecution in various ways for some of its members, but for the Church as a whole, it has been spared such adversity. The line that brings such distinction has not really been drawn in the sand, forcing Christians to take a decisive stand. However, that is changing. Is the Church in America ready to face the harsh consequences as its members decide which side of the line they are going to stand on? Are they ready to pay the price, prepared to stand for truth and righteousness, and equipped to endure?

The problem for the last century is that Christians in America see the lack of persecution as stipulating them as being elite, special, or exceptional. However, God blessed the Church in America so He could, in a sense, use it to further His kingdom. In a way, the freedom and prosperity we have experienced in America as the Church of the Living God makes us more accountable for how we conduct ourselves. We must remain true to the purpose, reason, and source behind our liberty and blessings. We are called to fulfill a commission as well as be good stewards with what He has entrusted to us.

Is the Church in America fulfilling its commission to the extent that it stands distinct or does it pose an image with no real substance or clout behind it? Is it unique or is it riddled with worldly compromise, dulled down by heretical influences, and shrouded in the gray areas of ineffectiveness? Does it stand distinct or is it succumbing to the political influences of the world to fit in and flow with the waves of the tolerant, but despotic social gospel touted by wicked revolutionaries and radicals?

Obviously, if Christians are going to survive the darkness encroaching on the world, they must be standing in the light of God, walking in the light of His righteousness, and focused on the light of His eternal promises (Ephesians 5:1-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10). Such light will not allow believers to recede into the shadows of compromise. As a result, they must come higher in their lives in Christ in order to avoid the onslaught of the wicked, religious, and political inversions and darkness that are enfolding the world like a heavy curtain. Heavenly light will always cause great distinction in the lives of God’s people even in spite of the foreboding curtains of wickedness covering the hearts and minds of people (Isaiah 25:7). The distinction is what the kingdom of darkness will take note of, bringing forth the fire of persecution.

If Christians do not allow the light of Christ to expose their inward environment, they will never see the path or slope they are on. If they do not insist on the ways of the light, they will not be capable of honestly facing and discerning the darkness. If they do not walk in the light, they will become lost in the darkness. If they do not follow after the ways of righteousness enfolded in the light, they will never be able to venture to the place of excellence that will place them above the darkness.

Even though unregenerate man cannot see the light of God, its truths will distinguish it from the darkness. Eventually truth will insult or threaten those who prefer their darkness. Even though these lost souls cannot comprehend the light, they will resent or rage against it once they encounter its righteous ways. Even though they cannot see the light, they will sense its illuminating, immovable ways and rush against it with malicious intent.

This brings us to the great challenge for Christians. How will each believer respond to the darkness of the last of this age? As Christians, we are to live beyond the darkness. We are to insist on the excellent ways of God’s light. We are not to accept the reality created by the darkness of deception, ignorance, or rebellion; rather, we are to strive for that which would identify us to the next age, the world of eternal bliss and glory.

The real challenge is to walk in light of that which is worthy and eternal, and not merely survive in the midst of darkness. As believers who are marked by the excellence of the glory of God, it is not enough for each of us to simply get by in this present age. For example, it is not unusual for struggling Christians to think of the next world as the great escape from the misery of the present world. Granted, the idea of the world to come makes it attractive. However, the perspective of such a concept is not Scripturally sound. The truth is this present age is meant to prepare us for the next world. It all comes down to how we are walking in light of our relationship with the Lord as to whether or not we are prepared to meet Him in glory.

The Apostle Paul was willing to remain in his present status for the sake of the eternal well-being of others. His desire in regard to the next world was not to escape the present trials of the age he was living in, but to be in the presence of the One he so loved and served. His willingness to stay in his present state was a selfless gesture in light of securing eternal value in regard to others (2 Corinthians 5:1-10).

To Christians, spiritual survival regardless of the darkness of that particular age, comes down to living the life of Christ. It is only by surrendering to that which is worthy of all praise, eternal in substance, and divine in nature that we can be assured of living above the present darkness. We cannot accept the base ways of the present darkness without realizing that in the end we likewise will become base in our perception and attitude. We cannot expect to come into agreement with it and not become buried by its wicked ways. We cannot walk in step with such darkness and not realize that in the end we will end up falling into the abyss of damnation. We cannot toy with such a foul environment as a means to keep it at bay or to use it for our own purpose without recognizing that in the end it will render us ineffective as it takes us captive. It is for this reason that the Bible clearly instructs us to come out and be separate from such darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). We are not to have any agreement by touching any aspects of its wickedness; rather, we are to separate ourselves from any agreement with such darkness, flee any enticement to prostitute ourselves with it by partaking of it, and rebuke it when it begins to gain inroads into our lives, homes, and churches (Ephesians 5:11). After all, if we love the truth of our Lord and His ways, we cannot remain aloof, silent, or indifferent when it comes to the ways of iniquity (1 Corinthians 13:6).

When we study the days we live in, we are given some clear instructions as to what we must do if we are going to survive the affront of darkness upon our lives. It is clear we must be prepared to stand against the darkness, withstand it, and continue to stand as a means to truly overcome it with the very life that is present in us.

Once again, we must choose to remember that the life in every believer is the life of Christ. It is an overcoming life. It is for this reason that we as believers are able to do more than survive the darkness, but we have the means to discover in greater measures the very life of Christ in us as we struggle to walk through such darkness. The Apostle Paul stated that the life of Christ in us is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). It is the hope of realizing the fullness of Christ’s glory that His very life will resonate in every breath and step we take through the present world.

This brings us back to surviving the present darkness while living and walking according to the very light of heaven. Matthew 24:4-5 tells us the first affront will be against that which is true. For this reason Daniel 11:32 gives us the first ingredient to victorious living in the midst of the grave darkness of deception, “And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries; but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”  It takes strength to overcome, but notice where such strength is acquired when it comes to the kingdom of heaven. Only those who truly know the God of heaven will overcome. They will not only overcome but they will be an avenue or extension of His power to do incredible feats when everything is fainting and love is growing cold in such a wicked, dangerous environment.

As I watch the great darkness of evil taking center stage in the midst of the onslaught of the seduction, and lying flatteries and propaganda, I have become increasingly aware of how I need to make God my refuge. For years I have strived to make Him my Rock. Granted in the midst of the ongoing flatteries of the world, I need to stand sure on the Rock of truth. I must never lose my sense as to what is absolute and right in the midst of such insanity and despair. But, I am also aware that because of the perilous or dangerous times we are living in, we need a place to run into, a place to hide, a place where we can land and rest when the struggles and battles seem overwhelming. There is only one such place and that is God.

God cannot be our Rock or our Refuge unless we can recognize Him in the midst of the confusion brought on by lies, false accusations, and perilous times. In such times nothing can be trusted and everything will become uncertain; that is, except God. He will never change. He remains constant regardless of the present shaking and the uncertainty that is trying our souls. However, we must be ready to stand on the Rock when nothing makes sense, hide in the place of Refuge when everything is being swallowed by evil, and remain standing in the tower of His strength when everything is being brought to ruin by the tidal waves of wickedness and judgment.

God has graciously provided the place of the Rock and the place of Refuge. We know that the foundation, our hiding place, and Refuge is Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:4; Philippians 2:5; Colossians 3:3). In order for Jesus to be our foundation, we must establish every aspect of our lives on Him. For Him to be our place of refuge we must learn of Him. It is only as we learn of Him that we will develop His attitude that will allow us to respond to the darkness in the proper way. We must also establish the right disposition as a means to keep our minds and souls in complete subjection to the Lord of lords and King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Spiritual survival is no secret. However, it can remain far away from those who will not obediently walk by faith according to the life that has been freely offered and given to those who are heirs of the kingdom of God.

The question is are you simply surviving the darkness of the times or are you learning to advance through it according to the life of Jesus that is present in you?