by Anita Miles
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
There’s a song our choir sings that never fails to bring a reaction from the congregation. It starts out like this:
If it wasn’t for the Lord - where would I be?
My life was nothing - until He set me free…
What a change He made in my life -
No more compromising the wrong for the right
Jesus made a difference … He made a difference in my life!
I don’t walk like I used to walk -
I don't talk like I used to talk -
I don’t live like I used to live -
I don’t give like I used to give -
Jesus made a difference…. He made a difference in my life!
It usually doesn’t take long for one brother on the front row to start his excited pace along the front. Not too much longer, and I can hear Sis. Jeanie Morgan behind me go an octave higher in her praise and as she does that - her husband decides it time to come out of his seat with his hands in the air. Before long, it invokes a simultaneous reaction from the front to the back of each one being taken back to who they before they met Christ and who they are in Him now! He makes a difference.
I love to watch as an invisible veil just tends to roll back and God seems to put His hands on the shoulders of those that have chosen to follow Him. I draw great strength from those moments - but I also analyze them in my head. And below is the breakdown of my conclusions.
What is the difference between those who are rejoicing about where God has brought them from - as opposed to those who never seem to be able to break through the ice and get anywhere with God? They come to the altar and pray, cry, plead, and beg….but they get up and walk away unchanged! What about God’s intent to make a new creature from the old??
In asking that question, I’ve been meditating on the life of Elijah and Elisha for a character series we’ve been doing in our Sunday school class. In preparation for that study, I was listening to a minister exhort on Elisha's reaction when Elijah asked Elisha to follow him. I believe the reaction of Elisha could be as relevant to our call to follow Christ as much as it was to Elisha answering the call to go minister with Elijah.
Let’s go back in time for just a minute to envision Elisha plowing the fields of his family. He had a team of 12 oxen going ahead of him. Elijah has come to name Elisha as his successor. Elisha doesn’t lollygag around and try to figure out what he’s going to do. He’s just been assigned by and to the greatest prophet of his time. He’s ready to go!! I love this reaction from Elisha: he takes the oxen, slaughters and boils them by burning the plow and yoke he’d been using, and then he takes the cooked oxen to his family as a going away offering and tells them goodbye. Sounds to me like Elisha meant business. He meant that there was no turning back in his actions!
He left no path behind him to ever return to the person he was before his encounter with Elijah!
In thinking on these radical actions by Elisha, I’m convinced this lack of sacrifice is why people in general struggle so hard to be a new creature in Christ. Understand that salvation is not by our works in any shape, form, or fashion! It is ONLY through the precious blood of Christ! But how can we become new in Christ if we consistently return to the life we had before we encountered Him? I believe it’s God’s will to reshape our lives and make a difference in our lives - but how can He when we won’t boil the oxen who have driven our own righteousness? How can we burst out of our complacency and go to new heights with God if we insist on standing behind the old plow - instead of burning it? We can’t stay consumed in the old relationships who have negative influences on being new in Christ. Sometimes we have to be like Elisha and go back and say our goodbyes!!
In my lifetime, I’ve seen more turning back than I care to think about. It’s heart-breaking! Compromise and the desire for former things - be it relationships or actions - come hovering over when a little discontent settles in and the oxen start to show up again! They weren’t put to death!
So what in our little worlds and lives need to be eliminated to keep us from turning back? What prevents us from experiencing a double portion of the power of God??
Have we burned the plow and said goodbye to the former things - completely taking away any chances of us returning to the old man we used to be!
Are the relationships we keep causing us to slowly slip backwards? Do we need affirmation from the toxic relationships we would be better off bidding ado to?
Heaven is closer than it’s ever been! I can’t miss out because I was unwilling to let go of the things that held me captive to my past! God is a jealous God. He has given us the free-will to choose Him, but He will not compete with the other gods in our lives. There’s no playing second fiddle in his playbook!! It’s a decision we have to make to follow Him and we take responsibility for renewing our mind to follow Him.
As one of my favorite songwriters put it - “I’m way too close to turn and go back now!” It’s up to us to win - and as for me - I want the power of God in my life. I’ve intentionally chosen to boil the oxen, burn the plow, and I can’t stay connected to the relationships that hinder me! I got in this walk with God for keeps and there’s no turning back!
“So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee? And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.”
1 Kings 19:19-21