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

by Rayola Kelley

     The Bible talks about paying the price. Have you ever thought about what it means to personally pay the price? I can remember pondering the idea of what it would mean to pay some kind of price in my Christian walk. It was clear that the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrew 11 were willing to pay the necessary price to gain a greater resurrection. However, I could not figure out what the price was that needed to be paid, nor did I understand what the real prize had to do with a better resurrection.

      The problem is that many of us in our initial immaturity and naivetés towards the matters of heaven start out with romantic notions about the price we need to pay. We see the price in light of great sacrifices that will end with our names being brazenly engraved in the halls of heaven or in the book of life. In such immaturity, some of us initially see our prize as being personally exalted in the courts of heaven for our supposedly “great devotion” and “sacrifice.”

      It has taken God more years than I want to count to knock some of those silly notions out of my head in order to replace the foolish ways of my thinking with sobriety. In fact, I can remember a time when I was swinging from the branches of fanciful notions to reach the heights of grandiose expectation. The reason I chose the acrobatic approach to my relationship with God is I wanted to avoid living on a plateau of familiarity where there is no real inspiration or discoveries. Even though I had made this decision from the point of zeal that lacked knowledge, I did not want to leave a print in the pew, while failing to make any spiritual impact in the kingdom of God. I observed in the lives of others that such mediocrity will eventually cause individuals to succumb to a willingness to just accept what they already know, ending with them getting by on decayed manna, while trying to squeeze as much water out of empty or stagnant cisterns as they can.

      I was also considering how my Christian devotion would look to those below me. I wanted to appear grand, wise, and devoted. However, there came that day when, as I was in midair, God allowed life to shoot the arrow of reality at me, severing the limb I was about to grab. Obviously, I hit the ground with the greatest thump. As I got up spitting rubbish out of my mouth and dusting off my disheveled countenance, I realized that most people were too busy with their own lives to pay much attention to me, and the few who were giving me any consideration seemed almost happy to see me finally fall off the pinnacle of my arrogance, and were actually close to clapping at my failed performance in cheerful glee.

      Let us face it, we were not meant to be Tarzan swinging through the jungle of life with ease; rather, we were designed to walk through the jungles of mundane mire, push back the endless bushes of daily routines in order to advance towards a spiritual prize that we cannot even see. During such times we often strive to seek for one moment of enlightenment or encouragement from some hill or mountain of victory or revelation that could give us an idea as to whether we are close to the prize.

    The other reality is that if we try to swing above the mundane life, we end up being a Tarzan impersonator. Like the talented Carol Burnett who could make a great Tarzan call, we may make a similar call to tout our intention, but we will end up like George of the jungle, smashing into trees, falling to the ground in a comical fashion, and trying to get up with some measure of grace intact. After all, we do not want to let anyone know just how damaged our halo is and how embarrassed our pride is as we try to limit the crow we may have to eat in front of others—and all the while secretly hoping we do not have to admit our foolishness, limitations, and failures.

      It took me many years before I finally got it, and actually realized what I would gain by paying the price. It was not some great crown or even a plaque; rather, it was an unseen treasure that I could not even put a price on. It was precious beyond description it. It was so simple, I knew those who started out as upstarts like myself would not initially get it. The prize is knowing God in a greater measure.

      What does it mean to know God in a greater measure? It means you must be willing to go in some deep places with Him before you can appreciate the heights of His revelation. Most Christians want to simply experience the mountain tops and avoid the deep places that can bring one to utter despair and hopelessness. Granted, they want to know deep things about God, but they avoid being brought into deep places to gain a type of dependency on Him that allows them to know Him. They want to know great things about God, but they are unwilling to become disciplined mountain climbers to experience His greatness. However, it was in the deep places that I learned more about God’s faithfulness and sweetness. It was in the deep places where I was prepared to ascend to the mountaintops to receive the revelation that would transform my way of thinking and establish my inner being more solidly on the immovable Rock. I also learned that great discoveries of God were highlighted by the fact I was more aware of Him than of myself.

This showed me that if I came out of an experience with more of an awareness of me than God, I had somehow maintained something of my old ways, therefore, failing to learn the lesson, experience the sweetness of His presence or fragrance, or discover greater depths of who He is.

      The next question is what greater revelation of God do we need to receive? The answer is simple; we need to receive a greater revelation of Jesus Christ. The Bible is clear that if we want to know God more, we must come to a greater knowledge of His Son (John 14:5-11; Ephesians 3:2-5; 4:11-20; Philippians 3:8; 2 Peter 1:8-10; 3:18). Think about what Colossians 2:9 says about Jesus, “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”

      Growing in the knowledge of Christ is a process. Each new revelation of Him causes God to take on a greater depth in His attributes and a greater role in salvation, producing a deeper desire to experience Him in more intimate ways. Sadly, many people do not have a hunger to discover Him in deeper ways. They do not have a hunger for such discoveries because they are not developing a hunger for the Lord; rather, they are maintaining either a taste for the world or hanging onto the fleshly appetites, or complacently settling for old revelations of what was. The only way a person can develop a hunger for God is by diligently exposing him or herself to His Word with the sole intent of walking it out in obedience, making the decision to follow Jesus into the ways of life everlasting and pursuing the ways of righteousness to ensure He is honored and glorified in his or her life.

      There are three main revelations that serve as springboards for the Holy Spirit to bring greater enlightenment as to the character, work, and ways of God. I would like to take this time to share with you these three revelations.

      Savior: The first revelation of Jesus I ever had was when I realized He was my Savior. I remember the time clearly. I was sinking in a quagmire of sin, drowning in a cesspool of hopelessness, and being pulled down by a whirlpool of confusion. I knew I had a sin problem but did not know the answer to it until I was introduced to the Jesus of the Bible, the One who took my place on Calvary. I cannot tell you what a glorious relief it was for me to discover that God addressed my sin problem through His Son, providing the means in which I could be saved. Salvation means man now stands justified in Christ because his sins have been washed away by the very blood of Jesus.

      From the springboard of Jesus being my Savior, I came to understand how He was God’s sacrifice on my behalf and that He is the way to know the truth and discover real life. Because He was made a substitute for our sins, I now have an advocate in heaven. Sin clearly abounds around us and no matter in what way sin challenges us, whether it is the temptation of it, the influence, workings, or activities of it, we can turn towards our Savior and know that He is the solution to our sin. The key for believers is that when personal sin affronts them, they must honestly humble themselves and submit to the work of sanctification that needs to be done in them through the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:2).

      Jesus’ death reminds every believer that each of us has been saved by God’s grace. Sadly, there are those who call themselves Christians that live like the devil while touting the philosophies and ways of the world. Such people cheapen the grace that was shown on the cross. Whether they believe they can get to heaven on the shirttails of others or because of religious affiliations and good works, these people in their blatant disobedience exploit God’s grace while showing contempt towards His Word. Sins must be dealt with or man remains condemned in them. The Bible is clear that there is only one way in which sins can be addressed and taken care of to ensure that they have been remitted by the courts of heaven. Jesus summarized any other attempts to get to heaven other than through Him in John 10:1 in this way, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”    

      God: Jesus is the God-Man. In theological terms he is Theanthropos—one person with two natures. The union of Jesus’ humanity and undiminished deity is referred to by Bible Teachers as, “the hypostatic union”. As the Son of God, he has the same nature as His Father and is equal with Him in status. This union of natures is referred to as the mystery of godliness in 1 Timothy 3:16. In Titus 2:13, Jesus is referred to as being God, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Emphasis added.)   

      As the seed of woman, Jesus is totally man, and is able to fulfill His position as High Priest (1 Timothy 2:5, refer to Hebrews 5:1). The concept of Jesus being God separates 99% of the cults from mainline Christianity. Some cults maintain Jesus was also the Person of the Father. However, the Bible is clear that there are three distinct persons who comprise the Godhead. It is clear that Jesus did not think it robbery to cease to be equal with His Father, making them two separate persons. The concept of three distinct persons making up one God is brought forth in different ways in the Bible including in light of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River and His resurrection.

      At Jesus’ baptism all three persons of the Godhead were present. The man Jesus came to be baptized as an example of righteousness, while the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove to identify Jesus as the One sent by God, and the Father’s voice was heard as He introduced His Son, fulfilling prophecy (Matthew 3:13-17, refer to John 1:28-36 and Psalm 2:7 and Hebrews 1:8).

      At the heart of the Gospel is believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9). The Bible gives us insight as to which Person of the Godhead was responsible for raising Jesus. Galatians 1:1 tells us the Father raised Jesus from the dead. In John 2:19-21, Jesus stated that He would raise up His body, and in Romans 8:11, it tells us that the Spirit of God raised Jesus from the dead. We see where all three persons of the Godhead were also involved in Jesus’ resurrection.

      When it comes to the Godhead, you cannot logic it out or understand it in light of personal understanding. It takes faith to accept the truth about the one true God. And, it is only upon believing it that the Holy Spirit can unveil it to us in such a way that it becomes a truth. Even though we might give a simple, logical explanation of the Godhead based on creation such as the shamrock, the egg, or even the makeup of water taking on different forms but remaining water by nature, those who walk in unbelief towards the Godhead will think any explanation is stupid or far-reaching. They will not see it due to the darkness of unbelief over their minds. As Paul put it, the dark covering over such people’s minds can only be taken off by the real Jesus of the Bible (2 Corinthians 3:14-16).

      This brings us to the harsh reality that there are many people who profess to be a Christian, but who deny the deity of Jesus Christ. The problem with keeping Jesus as a mere man is that He would not have been an acceptable sacrifice who could take away the sin of the world. If Jesus was a typical man, he would have been born into a fallen nature, prone to sin, quick to justify it, content to live in a state of delusion, and would be under a sentence of death.

      Jesus was born of the seed of woman, but He was first brought forth in the womb by the power of God (Luke 1:34-35). Before His entrance into the world by way of the womb, He was the Word, the living expression of God, who was God (John 1:1). He created all that we see (Colossians 2:15-18). Clearly, He already existed before Abraham and John the Baptist (John 1:20; 8:56-58). At a specific time, He was sent forth by the Father to bring about the plan of salvation that existed within the bosom of the Father before Adam fell into total darkness in the Garden of Eden (John 1:18).

      Even though Jesus was deity, He went to the cross as man. In His humanity He did not allow Himself to be touched or influenced by the sinful disposition of man nor was he a slave to the appetites of the flesh or drawn to the false promises of the world. He was not bent on doing it His way or to give into the temptation to play the games of Satan and the world in order to be accepted or recognized (Matthew 4:1-11). He came for one purpose—to carry out the will of God in regard to the salvation of souls. He was the perfect sacrifice of God, who became the only way to heaven, truth, and life.

      Lord: The final revelation is that Jesus is Lord. The problem with the concept of Lord is that many people do not understand the reality of Lordship. In 1 Corinthians 8:6, we are told that there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9 and 10 tell us we must confess that Jesus is Lord in order to be saved, and 1 Corinthians 12:3 states, “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God called Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”

      The Scripture in 1 Corinthians 12:3 is very interesting. There are people who call Jesus Lord, but they do so in ignorance. They have no real concept of what it means for Jesus to be Lord. However, Isaiah 44:6 tells us the Lord (Yahweh) is the King of Israel, Redeemer, the first the last and the only one true God. In Isaiah 45:21-22 we are told this Lord is a just God and only Savior and that there is none else.

      As we consider these Scriptures in Isaiah, we must recognize that it is easy for people to declare Jesus to be Lord in a generic sense. However, for them to understand and believe that, Jesus as Lord, means He is the just God of heaven, the King of Israel, the only Redeemer and Savior of mankind, it takes the Holy Spirit to bring forth that revelation as truth in their hearts. For the individual to see that revelation, he or she must first approach the Word to believe what it clearly stipulates about Jesus being Savior, God, and Lord before the Holy Spirit can entrust the revelation to their hearts. After all, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

      Next month, I will deal with the concept of what it means for Jesus to be Lord in more detail. It is vital that people choose to put aside any misconceptions, indoctrinated ideas, or assumed notions about Jesus. After all, there are many Jesus’s being presented out there, but there is only one Jesus who can save man from the consequences of sin, and that is the Jesus of the Bible.

      The question is do you simply possess some type of head knowledge about Jesus or do you possess a heart revelation of Him being the only One who serves as ALL we need now and will become ALL we need to possess at the end of our journey on earth?