by Rayola Kelley
After my article on salvation last month, a friend commented about the fact that she always thought Christians were saved from hell, rather then spared from eternal judgment. Until recently, I assumed this conclusion was right. Whether I was taught the concept or developed my own conclusion about it, I possessed an assumed belief that appeared scripturally correct and sounded acceptable to my religious perception. However, as I studied the idea of judgment, the word “spare” was associated with it, rather than deliverance. Romans 11:21 states: “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.”
The Apostle Peter made this statement: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be received unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5-6).
When you consider the words “save” and “spare,” they have distinct meanings. Save points to deliverance, while spare means to refrain, to avoid and to abstain. Obviously, God wants to spare us from judgment, but He cannot spare us unless we change our direction, face Him in humility, and allow Him to deliver us from the tyranny of sin and His wrath that will come upon all disobedience.
As stated last week, God must deliver us from our way of doing, thinking and being. For Him to deliver us, we must repent. Jesus called people to repentance, and it is God’s will that all repent, rather than perish (Luke 13:3-5; 2 Peter 3:9). Changing direction means we are getting off the broad path of personal preference of religion and goodness that leads to destruction, onto the narrow path of self-denial and death to the old way. By changing direction, a person will be facing God, allowing him or her to receive Jesus as his or her solution.
When Jesus called His followers to be His disciples, they were required to do three things: 1) deny self, 2) pick up their personal cross, and 3) follow Him. It seems simple enough. However, self-denial can prove to be uncomfortable, picking up the cross for the purpose of disciplining the walk is not glamorous, and following Jesus does not lead to some mountain of ecstasy, but down a route that requires meekness in attitude, submission in our way of being, and obedience in our way of doing.
Sadly, for many in the Church, Christianity is considered solely a belief, rather than a walk. In other words, as Christians, we are to walk out what we believe. This is what it means to walk by faith. Faith that is not active in applying what it believes is dead (2 Corinthians 5:7; James 2:24-26). Faith in this capacity is merely an intellectual concept or an emotional whim. Believers must walk out the doctrines and principles of the Christian faith to maintain a pure heart, to allow the mind to be transformed, and to conform their lifestyles to manifest the life of Jesus. If believers are walking according to the character, teachings and examples of Jesus, they will be spared judgment. In fact, they will be walking away from hell, rather than towards it. They will be walking in the light. The light will reveal the detours, traps and snares of the enemy, causing one to avoid the temptations of these devices.
Today, Christians are hiding behind their intellectual beliefs, rather than walking out what they know is right. By making Christianity a matter of intellectual understanding, it has caused the Word to become dead-letter. As dead-letter, the Word lacks the authority and power to penetrate people’s lives with the truths of God. Without the penetration of the Word, there will be no proper instruction, inward change or revelation of Jesus.
Clearly, Christianity is an active walk. Walk means a manner of living, behavior or conduct. Therefore, the Christian walk constitutes the life you live and the lifestyle by which you live it. It is important to realize that we are all walking in accordance with a lifestyle that is being established by what we are pursuing in this present world. As Christians, what must we be pursing? The answer is clear. We must be pursing a relationship with the Living God. Pursuing this relationship means that our main desire must be to know God for the purpose of pleasing Him and bringing glory to His name, work and salvation.
How does this life present itself? According to the Apostle John, there will be fellowship. If a person is walking in the light of who Jesus is, he or she will have agreement with God and have a common ground with other believers. This agreement and common ground ensure fellowship (1 John 1:3-7). Fellowship is about relationship. For Christians, they will grow in a relationship with God. As they grow in the knowledge of God in an active relationship, their walk will adjust to their understanding of His heart, will and ways. The problem with many people is that they believe in a God of their own making. Since their God is a product of their imagination, there is only theology and no relationship. But, spiritual life can only come out of relationship and experience with God, and not concepts.
Fellowship means that you have a common ground on which you can meet other believers. Unity is found at the point of Christ. It is from the point of Christ that the Holy Ghost brings unity to the Body. This unity is reinforced by the love of God. Jesus’ command to His disciples was to: Love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).As a result, the Apostle Paul told believers in Ephesus to walk in love (Ephesians 5:2). Out of such love, believers will honor and be sacrificial in their commitment to others. Such sacrificial commitment will refuse to hold grudges towards others, and will be benevolent in actions, encouraging harmonious fellowship with others.
Walking in the love of God ensures righteousness. Love wants to please. Pleasing God means that one will not give in to the temptations of the flesh, but will give way to the working of the Spirit. The Apostle Paul gave this instruction: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
To walk circumspectly means to be diligent in your walk. Diligence points to initiative that will do right and wisdom that will show discretion. It will not be slothful in attitude, complacent in response, and lazy towards responsibilities. This proves that Christians must constantly stir themselves up to walk out the Christian life. This stirring up to adhere to the different aspects of the Christian life enables believers to properly redeem the time. Redeeming the time means that Christians are not spiritually asleep, but they are being faithful in matters, aware as to what is going on, and taking the opportunity to prepare and grow in the knowledge of Jesus. Diligence is also a response of genuine faith. Hebrews 11:6 states: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Another aspect of walking out the Christian life is that one will be walking in the light. As stated, Jesus is the light. It is His life in us that serves as the light. Walking in the light of Jesus means that we will be walking in the truth. Many people walk in darkness. Darkness means that one is walking in ignorance towards God, impressed with what they perceive to be their personal goodness, and abiding in sin. The problem with people is that many think they are walking in the light. But, the light they are walking in is their own understanding or conclusions of God and life. These people are blinded by what they think they know. The tragedy of this light is that it actually blinds these people to sin and the path of destruction and judgment that they are on. They believe they are seeing clearly, but the fruit of the Spirit is clearly missing from their life (Matthew 6:22-23;Galatians 5:22-23; 1 John 1:7-9). However, they have no contrast by which to righteously examine their life.
One of the most important benefits of walking in the light of Jesus is that a person can clearly see his or her sin, the devices of Satan, and the traps of temptation. In case of sin, a person will be able to distinguish personal sin and seek forgiveness. When it comes to the devices of Satan, he or she will be able to properly discern them. As far as temptation, the light of Jesus will illuminate a way out of it. However, when a person is abiding in the delusion of his or her own light, he or she will justify the sin, fall prey to the devices of Satan, and will fall into temptation.
The Apostle John made this statement: “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). Jesus is the Christian’s source of life. John tells us in his Gospel that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We must abide in Him to find and secure our life in Him. The quality of our spiritual life depends on us seeking our life in Him, our growth will depend on our level of dependency on Him, and our fruits will be determined by our relationship with Him. The truth is, there is no life, purpose or hope outside of Jesus.
Christians can run on the outskirts of this dependency on Jesus, but they will never experience the life He has for them. They may accept possessing a nominal commitment, but they will never know the joy of His life. Some may even try to slide in, but they will hit a wall of defeat. The Christian’s walk calls for total devotion to discover the One who is the source of this incredible life. It is a journey that is challenging, but rewarding. It calls us to be sojourners in a world that holds no meaning or significance. It requires us to walk a narrow path that will not only discipline our walk, but also keep our feet from slipping into destruction.
As we take time to consider our blessings during this Thanksgiving season, do not forget the greatest blessing that all Christians are able to lay claim to. That is, you possess the very life of Jesus. Evaluate whether you are walking in His glorious life or if you are avoiding, ignoring or running around on the outskirts of His life. Jesus’ invitation remains the same. He invites us to come and partake of the water that will not only revive and refresh us, but will produce everlasting life.