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When Right is Wrong
by Stella Paterson

Several months ago, the Lord spoke to me about writing an article with the title, "When Right is Wrong." That was it; just a title, but in more recent months He has revealed some of what He meant, with scripture passages and quickened thoughts from messages by others, which are central to the message He wanted shared. The importance of the message did not become completely clear until a couple of weeks ago when the Holy Spirit shed His light on a few verses from the book of Hebrews.

A good parent will raise a child with guidance in what is right and what is wrong, but there comes a time when, in the eyes of God, "right" can be "wrong." Wisdom tells us, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12) That verse might popularly be considered applicable solely to the eternal salvation of man, and that once "saved" one must spend his life doing what is right. But that is where the problem exists.

So, let's begin by taking a close look at this wonderful passage from the letter to the Hebrews, followed by other scriptures, and we will see how right can be dead wrong--it does not lead to life.

"Word" of God?

There is a common assumption that the written word of God "is sharper than any two-edged sword." (Hebrews 4:12) But the Greek word logos, from which "word" is translated, also means "reckoning," as is used in Young's Literal Translation. Rather than meaning simply a "word," Thayer's Greek Dictionary includes "account, i.e. reckoning, score" in the list of multiple uses for "logos." As is most often the case, the context indicates the correct definition.

Although it has been divided into three verses, this is one very powerful sentence:

May we be diligent, then, to enter into that rest, that no one in the same example of the unbelief may fall, for the reckoning of God is living, and working, and sharp above every two-edged sword, and piercing unto the dividing asunder both of soul and spirit, of joints also and marrow, and a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart; and there is not a created thing not manifest before Him, but all things are naked and open to His eyes--with whom is our reckoning. (Hebrews 4:11-13 YLT) Notice how reckoning is used twice in the passage.

The Holy Spirit, the true Author of all scripture, tells us we must enter into that rest of complete reliance upon Christ for our spiritual wellbeing--indeed, for our very life! He used a Greek word for "unbelief," that is much stronger than we might think. The definition for apeitheia is "obstinacy, obstinate opposition to the divine will." (Thayer's). Therefore, if we do not enter into the rest, found only in Christ, we are in obstinate opposition to the divine will. We become subject to the reckoning of God which is "sharp above every two-edged sword, and piercing unto the dividing asunder both of soul and spirit." He knows what is in our soul, which is where self dwells and opposes the work of the Spirit who has come to dwell in our spirit. This is antichrist in us! As we know, antichrist means "opponent of Messiah"--the One who came to free us from self and flesh.

The next part of the passage tells us that His reckoning discerns "the thoughts and intents of the heart," and that nothing can be hid from Him--"with whom is our reckoning." We cannot fool God! He knows if we are living by the Spirit or if we are living out of our fleshly soul--our self life. Or, as Paul so eloquently said, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these things oppose each other, so that you do not do the things that you wish." (Galatians 5:16-17 EMTV) It is a constant battle, with a need to daily submit to the working of the Holy Spirit as He sets up His Kingdom reign in us.

Dead wrong

This may sound a little harsh, but we are talking about a very serious matter. A hypocrite lives by the flesh, out of his soul, and may say and do so much that seems right, even fooling a lot of people in the process. He has most likely deceived himself. He knows all the right scripture passages, and where they fit. But there is one thing that is missing--fruit of the Spirit--with the most noticeable being the sweet peace of God. If all fruit of the Spirit is not there, neither is the Spirit reigning in a life. As quoted earlier, the ways of man may seem right, when in reality he is tragically dead wrong--the end is the "way of death."

Could it be that Jesus was referring to those who attribute their own words to the Holy Spirit, thereby speaking against Him, as recorded in Matthew chapter twelve? Hear what He says:

"And whoever may speak a word against the Son of Man it shall be forgiven to him, but whoever may speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is coming. `Either make the tree good, and its fruit good, or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad, for from the fruit is the tree known. `Brood of vipers! how are ye able to speak good things--being evil? for out of the abundance of the heart doth the mouth speak." (Matthew 12:32-34 YLT).

Is it possible that words spoken out of self, from the soul, are the "idle words" of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 12:36? Especially when those words are attributed to the Holy Spirit? The consequences are severe, as we see in His words. "And I say to you, that every idle [Greek: 'useless'] word that men may speak, they shall give for it a reckoning in a day of judgment; for from thy words thou shalt be declared righteous, and from thy words thou shalt be declared unrighteous." (Matthew 12:36-37 YLT).

Yes, it is so easy for us to deceive our selves and to think that out of our soulish self can come fruit that is of value in the Kingdom of God. Without Jesus on the throne of our life, instead of self, it does not matter that our words may sound right, we will still be dead wrong. Jesus alone is our Life. He said, "Abide in Me, and I in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit on its own, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me." (John 15:4 EMTV).

And the good news is, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes on me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever lives and believes on me shall never die." (John 11:25b-26a) Believe means to "entrust our spiritual wellbeing to Christ." That is another way of saying we are "abiding in the Vine." If our spiritual wellbeing is dependent on Christ, He will be involved in every aspect of our life, for it is in our 'natural' life that the Lord teaches us His ways. He leads us in ways that seem unreasonable to us in the natural because our ways are not His ways. But He wants us to allow Him to show us a greater trust in Him for everything, as He perfects us and forms Christ in us.

When we consider the fruit of the Spirit, it becomes clear that it pertains mainly to our relationships with others, with the first fruit being "love." So then, most of the perfecting that is done in us has to do with how we treat others. Jesus' own words show us an example of this. "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me." (Matthew 25:40 RV). Yes, He means even those who irritate us the most, whether they are closest to us, or the seeming 'obnoxious' one whom the Lord brings across our path. That which manifests will reveal whether we are walking by the Spirit or operating out of our soul. The 'soulish' one will shout, "I have my rights," but the spiritual one will humbly say, "I need no rights--I am the Lord's possession."

The futility of self

Just to show how easy it is to operate out of our soul, and to think we are doing what is right, I will share a personal experience that is directly related to this article. After the Lord gave me the title, of course I was curious as to the content that I knew He would provide in His time. Every time I heard a scripture mentioned, or an example of something that sounded like a "right" or "wrong" choice was involved, I added notes to my document with the title "When Right is Wrong." It wasn't until the Lord so amazingly enlightened the meaning of the Hebrews 4 passage that I checked all my notes and discovered that most of them had nothing to do with the revelation the Spirit had given me. When I read them, they 'fell flat' and I knew I had been doing what I thought was right, but even though the scriptures were all good, they had nothing to do with the message the Lord was now giving me. He gave me all new scriptures to use, and they are all included in this article. It had to be by His Spirit--not what I thought was right.

There are countless scriptures that speak to us of the importance of not relying on self, and living out of our soul with our own thoughts, rather than submitting to the Life of Christ by His Spirit. Here are a few:

"The LORD knows the thoughts of man, that they are vanity." (Psalm 94:11).

"Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain." (1 Corinthians 3:18, 20).

"Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD." (Isaiah 55:6-8). Ah, the gift of repentance! What wonderful, good news.

The Lord created us with a mind; not to figure things out for our selves, but to receive from the Lord His thoughts. Reasoning with our minds has its source in our soul. It is our 'natural' life--our flesh life--the life of self. Unless we submit to the thoughts that come from the Spirit of Truth, our own thoughts will surely lie to us. That is a sobering thought!

Let's read on--there is more.

"O depth of riches, and wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable His judgments, and untraceable His ways! for who did know the mind of the Lord? or who did become His counsellor? or who did first give to Him, and it shall be given back to him again? because of Him, and through Him, and to Him are the all things; to Him is the glory--to the ages. Amen. I call upon you, therefore, brethren, through the compassions of God, to present your bodies a sacrifice--living, sanctified, acceptable to God--your intelligent [Greek: 'logical'] service;" (Romans 11:33-36; 12:1 YLT).

"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:1-3 EMTV).

When chastising the Galatians for their tendency toward trusting in what they thought was right, through the works of their flesh, Paul said, "Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3).

If those who name the Name of Christ had always faithfully been led by the Spirit, the world would have been won to Christ by now. There is so much that is done in the strength of self, and yet is attributed to the "work of the Lord," when, in reality, He had no part in it--His voice has been ignored. For example, there may have been a time when, after prayer, the Lord had led someone to use a particular method in ministering to a needy soul. And then when faced with a similar situation that same person decided it would be right to use the same method again. What has happened is that person has 'hijacked' God's previous leading and made it his own. He has 'stored' the experience in his soul, to retrieve at his own will, rather than seek the Lord for His leading.

When we reach a level of 'spiritual maturity' and become 'seasoned' in ministry to others, and knowledgeable in the ways of the Lord, we can so easily blunder in our fleshly understanding of 'spiritual' things, running ahead of the Spirit, and get in the way of what the Lord desires to do. Just as Wisdom tells us, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12).

Are we beginning to see how the reckoning of God, being sharper than a two-edged sword, will bring that separation between soul and spirit? Do we realize that nothing is hid from His eyes, and we will give answer to Him? In His eyes, our failure to trust fully in Christ and be led by His Spirit is "obstinate opposition to His will." Will we be as those of whom He speaks when He says, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23). If we use the Hebrew definition for "work iniquity", which was originally used in the Old Testament, Jesus is saying, "Depart from me, you that practice nothingness."

"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do this." (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 EMTV).

Click here to view the message "Soulish or Spiritual" by Zac Poonen. Be sure to watch it--it is very powerful! It was when I watched this sermon that the Lord revealed to me what He wanted shared in this article. I have purposely delayed watching it again, so that I would be faithful in hearing what the Holy Spirit had to say to me, rather than repeating Zac's words. Now I am free to see it again.

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