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

   by Rayola Kelley

  We have been considering the shift from the sure foundation of Jesus that has occurred in Christianity. Today, there appears to be no absolutes about the Christian life except the various theologies that people cling to.  As a result, many who call themselves Christians are doing what seems right in their own eyes, but failing to discover the rich, satisfying life that is found in Christ. The failure to find this life is manifested in discontentment, worldliness and unbelief.

   The real change that has occurred because of this shift away from the true foundation comes down to how people perceive God. In some cases, God has been brought down in His glory to reflect a god that winks at sin because of love, tolerates compromise with the world, and belongs to a certain denomination or political party.  By changing the glory of God, people erect other gods that will serve personal agendas, while establishing a personal moral code that lacks the spirit and intent of righteousness (Romans 1:18-28). Sadly, the god that is erected is man himself as he becomes the one who determines what is true and right in his world.

   Acceptable righteousness comes from God. It is imputed to those who choose to believe God about all spiritual matters. However, much of the concept of righteousness in Christianity has to do with the world’s influence that advocates tolerance towards sin, is adjusted to the popular political temperature of the day, and comes into agreement with the religions of the world. The problem with this concept is that many Christians cannot see how destructive it is. In a way, their own wisdom, righteousness and holiness have blinded them. They have enough religion that they feel they are all right in their present state. As a result, when the actual standard of God’s holiness is upheld, they see it as unloving and judgmental.

   The environment that this shift in the Church has established has caused confusion and division. There is no one standard of holiness. The way of salvation is adjustable. The Gospel has been reduced to a social gospel that is accepted by the world.  The variations in the presentations of God and the Gospel are many. However, there is one truth that remains constant: There is only one true God and one correct Gospel, and neither has changed.

   If a person fails to get God right, he or she will be on the broad path of delusion and destruction, having failed to possess the real means by which to test his or her beliefs or walk. If an individual possesses a wrong gospel, there will be no power to save him or her, for the true Gospel of Jesus is the power of God unto salvation (Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 1:16).

   The question I have often meditated on is, why do people go with trends, popular movements, or unscriptural beliefs if there is only one true God or Gospel? After all, the Word tells us that it is appointed for man to die once, then judgment (Hebrews 9:27). There is no second chance to get it right, once a person dies.  Therefore, we do not dare leave this present life deluded about God, or possessing a gospel that is powerless to save. Yet, people do not seem to care whether they are correct. It is as though they assumed they are correct because they have enough of everything from Jesus to religion to the world to ensure a right combination of faith, works and wisdom.

   As I pondered this problem, I had to consider if most people assume that their perception of God is correct, regardless of whether or not it lines up to the Word. Do they think their particular religion will gain them favor when they stand before God? Or, is it because most do not believe in their heart that there is a holy God who will require them to give an account of every aspect of their life? Granted, believers will stand before the judgment seat of Jesus to receive rewards based on their service, while unbelievers will stand before the Great White Throne Judgment to be judged according to the law (1 Corinthians 3:11-18; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 10:11-15). But, no matter how we look at it ,some believers will be ashamed, for they have nothing to cast at the feet of Jesus in honor and worship of Him, while unbelievers will taste the bitter consequences of death and judgment. I, for one, do not want to be ashamed before my Lord, nor do I want to die in my sins and be separated from Him for eternity.

   Jesus dealt with people who believed His words, but did not believe in Him. In other words, these people believed what Jesus said was true in most cases. After all, they could not deny the wisdom behind His words, but they did not believe who He said He was. Therefore, His words lacked authority in their eyes. They saw no need to respond in faith and obedience to Him.

   Today, many people walk around believing what Jesus said according to religious beliefs, but they do not believe in Him. Since they do not believe in Him, they will not believe what He says about the way of salvation. This may seem contradictory until you realize that Jesus is simply being adjusted to people’s reality, rather then people allowing the truth about Jesus to adjust their reality to His character, example and ways.

   This brings us to why the foundation of the Church has shifted over the last 20 centuries. If you honestly study the Church in Acts you will see that the Christianity being displayed today cannot be found in our Scriptural examples. Much of the Church has become worldly; therefore, ineffective in reaching souls. Its movements and activities may be popular, but have no authority. Some of it is supernatural, rather than dead, like some legalistic churches, but it still lacks the Spirit of God. All of it is quite religious, but it lacks true righteousness.

    How did the Church, with the promise of the Holy Ghost and the assurance of the Word, get so far away from righteousness? The answer to this question is found in people’s frame of reference. Frame of reference is how one processes information. It is motivated by spirit and determines reality. This frame of reference is made up of theology, disposition and conclusions.

    Man thinks highly of himself. It is hard for him to believe his means of coming to truth is perverted, self-centered and limited. This is why people’s minds must be transformed by the renewing of the Spirit. Otherwise, the mind can only conform to that which influences it the most. In those who have not been regenerated, their minds are conformed to this world. The spirit behind the world is Satan. It works disobedience in people who insist on walking in their own darkness. Although the Word clearly tells us we cannot trust our own conclusions, we cannot see how we could be wrong because the darkness we walk in (understanding) appears to be light (Proverbs 3:5-7; Matthew 6:22-23; Romans 12:1-3; Ephesians 2:2).

     Conclusions that are made outside of God’s truths are nothing more than theories. Religion, the world and personal desires influence these theories. In fact, if you combine the world and the flesh with spiritual truths you end up with carnality that simply wears a religious cloak.

   Theories find much of their base in vain imagination, rather than in truths or facts. After all, the Bible has already established truths, but people want to understand these truths intellectually, rather than receive them by faith. Intellectual understanding of spiritual truths produces unfeeling theology. Theology finds its root word in the word “theory.” It is within theology that matters are processed as to whether they are true and righteous. In some cases, these theories may be right, but they often lack the right spirit. Therefore, they do not lead a person to the truth of Jesus Christ. Without the right spirit, truth never becomes revelation to the heart. If a truth does not become revelation, it remains lifeless and powerless to change a person in his or her way of thinking and being.

   Therefore, theories that are minus the Spirit of God and Jesus are dead letter. This dead-letter theology will lack life, authority and will adjust all truths to its own perception. Such handling of the truth in this manner is referred to as handling truth in unrighteousness, resulting in judgment (Romans 1:18; 7:6; 2 Corinthians 3:6). Ultimately, dead-letter theology will make people indifferent to reality. Indifference keeps people from being challenged, as they become stiff-necked in their way of thinking and doing. They end up exalting their theology over truth, making it idolatrous, while rejecting Jesus and His truth in their heart. Such rejection makes them foolish. They may be ever-learning about Jesus, but they will fail to possess His life-changing wisdom (Psalms 53:1; 2 Timothy 3:7).

   The emphasis on theology rather than the person of Jesus and the relationship He is calling us to will determine our disposition. Disposition is reflected in our attitudes towards God and others. It works from the basis of our inclinations and tendencies. Unless transformed, these inclinations and tendencies will naturally go the way of self. For example, in our fallen condition, we are inclined to sin and have the tendency to justify it in our own mind. The god that is exalted in this state is a god that will understand our weakness, and love us in spite of our rebellious ways.

   Our initial disposition is established by the philosophies of the world. For example, one of the greatest philosophies of the world is that you can have it all if you work hard enough. These philosophies are reinforced by the various influences around us. They condition us in how we look at and approach God and life. They determine our values, the direction of our affections, and the conveniences of our comfort zones. Ultimately, we judge everything by these self-serving boundaries.

   Sadly, the philosophy that you can have it all is reigning in many Christians’ lives. They believe that they can have the world and Christ. However, the world opposes God. He refers to agreement with the world as spiritual harlotry or adultery; therefore, these two can never come into agreement, causing compromise with the unholy. Scripture instructs us to come out and be separate from every aspect of the world in values, purpose, affections, and lifestyles to ensure integrity, righteousness and holiness in our life before God (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Colossians 3:1-3; James 4:4). However, many Christians have justified compromise with the world, rather then demand personal separation or consecration from it. Such Christians are being blinded by the wisdom of the world (tolerance), the affections of the world (compromise with sin for the sake of peace), and the comfort zones of the world (that which determines what is right or wrong for me).

   Jesus will challenge all of the world’s boundaries. First of all, we must be born again to change the inclination towards the world. Up until this inclination is changed, we may have intentions to be good, but we will always give way to the flesh (John 3:3-5; Romans 7:17-23). Instead of preferring the ways of self, being born again gives us the liberty to pursue the ways of righteousness. Jesus then tells us to deny ourselves. Self-denial addresses the tendency to give into the delusion of pride, by neglecting its justifications, rights and claims. The next order of  business is to apply the cross. The cross will change our way of thinking and doing as it disciplines our lifestyle according to the leading of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 16:24;Romans 8:9-17). We will begin to line up to the character of God in attitude and conduct.  Finally, He calls us to follow Him. This means He will lead us from the influences of the world, thereby, changing our values, sources of affection, and comfort zones.

   The greatest emphasis of salvation is a changed life. It is true that Jesus came to save, but the reality behind it is that He is giving us a second chance to change our lives, thereby changing our destination. To change our lives, we must change our reality concerning God. To change this reality, we must come into agreement with God’s evaluation about sin, the flesh and the world. This change requires us to change our master, apply the cross to the flesh, and separate ourselves from the world. Ultimately, this will change our disposition from reflecting self and the world to reflecting Jesus.

   Jesus told the woman who was caught in adultery that He would not condemn her, but He also told her to go and sin no more. Sin is not a matter of doing something wrong, it is a matter of being. Job realized this simple truth. He stood righteous before God, but when he stood in the light of God, he abhorred himself in repentance (Job 1:1; 42:5-6; John 8:11). Job proves to us that even the righteous person must repent, for the disposition that can easily oppose God in adversity will resort to operating in superstition, when personal understanding eludes him or her, and will insist on its own way of doing.

   In last month’s issue, I showed how the Church moved off the foundation of Jesus. This month I want Christians to realize that without the absolutes of Christ, they will fail to separate themselves from the influence of the world. Not only has the world come into the Church, but it also has not been rooted out of the Christian’s way of thinking and doing. The reason for this is because the holiness of God has not been lifted up as the absolute standard of what is acceptable to God. This holiness has been drowned out by the invasion of the world into the Church. It has caused spiritual dullness to the point that Christians are unable to discern between good and evil. It has made much of the institutionalized Church tolerant towards sin and compromising with the world, in the name of blessings and happiness.

   Although much of the institutionalized Church is operating in a worldly environment, individual believers have a responsibility to do what is right. They must come back to center and begin to establish their life on the true foundation of Jesus.  To come back to center will require God’s people to come out from what is unholy, in order to become acceptable to God. It will require followers of Christ to go against the worldly trends in the churches, causing jealousy and hatred in others. Needless to say, this is not a popular or convenient way. Rather, it is the way of the cross. The cross must be the Christian’s reality. It is about death to the old way, the burial of sins, and the resurrection of a new life. Believers must possess the pure Gospel and become identified with Jesus if they are going to finish the course. Jesus also warned His disciples that since the world hated Him, it would hate them as well.

   The way to heaven is straight and hard, and few will find it. Let this warning put sobriety in your heart. Examine yourself to see whether you possess faith in the true Jesus, for He is the narrow ways to the reality of God (Matthew 7:13-14; 2 Corinthians 13:5). Do not leave your spiritual destination up to assumptions, false hopes or others. Make sure you know the true Son of God, and that you possess His life, because you are walking in His way and seeking out His truth.