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

by Rayola Kelley

Another year is beginning and it seems like 2001 barely started and ended. I have wondered if each passing year seems shorter because time is winding down to Jesus’ coming and His thousand-year reign, or as I accumulate more responsibility, if I simply fail to realize time is getting past me undetected.

Each New Year serves as a reflective time for me. I have to consider in what ways I have failed to mature in Christ because I am demanding my own way in certain areas with God. It is a time to ponder about my focus and agendas. I need to consider my ways to insure God has taken His rightful place in my life to avoid spiritual drought (Haggai 1). It is also a time to discover the perfect resolution in light of my relationship with God. But what do I need to resolve in my heart this year?

As I meditated on each area, I was reminded of my recent challenge to the discipleship groups I am working with. I had them read Romans 6:2-3. The first part of this chapter explains that if you are in Christ, you are dead. I asked each person in the group the same question that I want to challenge each reader to consider. “Do you believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior?” Upon their affirmative reply, I looked into their eyes and informed them that they were dead and then I asked them, “How much of you is still striving to survive or live?”

At the core of victorious Christianity is death. Jesus said as much when He called His followers to deny self, pick up their cross and follow Him.

Death to self and the world serves as the only door to a greater life in Christ but most people avoid this spiritual door. They justify the existence of self and adjust the world into their Christianity. They strive to maintain their world of things, rights, personal agendas, worldly pursuits and pleasures, and religious substitutes. In the end, people end up with nothing as each pursuit or substitute constitutes nothing more than vanity.

Why do people insist on pursuing after nothing? Is it because they are caught up with the idea of it rather than the reality of it? As you honestly examine these endless pursuits, you can see they are all about self and not truth.

The pursuit of self in any form is idolatry. The more you seek to adhere to the insatiable appetites, petty, touchy unrealistic demands and the arrogant opinions of self, the smaller and more miserable your world becomes. If you don’t believe me look around. People who are so full of self are miserable people and they leave a trail of misery behind them. In fact, they are not happy unless you are caught up with their perverted little worlds.

These people not only want to enslave you to their small worlds but they resent any liberty you may display. And where can you find such liberty?

There are two types of liberty people can experience. One is created by fantasy. People who operate in fantasy create their own world. They are free because they refuse to be challenged, as they remain indifferent to reality. Even though these people appear to have liberty, they are in great bondage because their world is fragile and will set them up for destruction.

The second type of liberty can only be found in Christ. But this liberty can only be obtained through the door of death to self and the world. This liberty actually allows a person to serve God in spirit and truth and reach his or her potential.

Amazingly, even some Christians fear this precious liberty. They would rather be in bondage to creeds, rituals and self-righteousness. They prefer to be right in their own eyes rather than humble, desperate, and hopeless before the cross of Jesus. They prefer to play god in their worlds rather than trust Him.

Christians who fall in this category suffer neck problems because they are stiff-necked and will not bow before the King of kings. They have leg problems because they refuse to bend their knees in humility and a foot problem because they dig in and will not turn from their wicked ways. They have a heart problem because it has never been regenerated and is still desperately wicked and often covered by a religious cloak.

This brings us to an important reality, there is no life outside of identification with Jesus and the cross. Jesus stated the way to heaven is narrow and few will find it (Matthew 7:13-14). We know that the way to heaven is the Person of Jesus but this path becomes even more restrictive when you realize we can only come to terms with Jesus by way of the cross and death.

I have come to the conclusion that one can only experience God’s love, know His grace, embrace His forgiveness, discover life, and walk in liberty, when one become identified with the cross of Jesus. This brings me to the frightening reality of what constitutes the broad path—anything outside of the cross of Jesus.

The cross of Jesus lines man up to God’s way of doing and anything outside of the cross is man’s way of adjusting life to his way of thinking. One is based on an active life of upright responses while the other one is a life maintained by vain imaginations.

How do we line up to the cross? First, we need to set our faces towards the cross as Jesus did Calvary (Luke 9:51). We need to pass through the door of the cross and experience total identification with Jesus. This is necessary to insure that life as we know it ceases to be about self but becomes an expression of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul stated: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me… (Galatians 2:20).

In this New Year will you not make the perfect resolution—to die totally to self on a daily basis? If you do, you will discover liberty, experience God’s love and grace, grow in confidence toward Him as well as understand what it means to possess the abundant life.

Our wish is that you have a blessed 2002 as you discover greater depths and higher heights in Jesus Christ and the freeing liberty of the cross.