If any of you have ever met me, you would know I'm kind of fond of discussing what I believe to be a lack in relational living, that despite the intimate communities we find throughout the New Testament, that most people's lives as Christians these days arn't even remotely similar. Considering the enormous contrast between these peoples and times, shouldn't we be asking, "Is their any justification for failing or refusing to live out the gospel truths in a manner so different than what was originally laid down and established by the apostles?" For example, is their any legitimate reason why we fail to obey these specific commands of Scripture:
"But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:13)
Is this your testimony? Are you personally finding and giving encouragement and support to your brothers and sisters in Christ daily? If not, I challenge you to discover the real reasons why and stop making excuses for what God commands.
"Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ" (Matthew 23:10)
Is this your testimony as well? Or it is that you are allowing not only others to refer to you as such but you are even calling yourself a leader!
"I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler- not even to eat with such a one" (1 Corinthians 5:11)
Seriously. Is this your testimony? Do you associate with any professing believers who act like the above? Do you practice ANY of the above? If so, neither God nor His people ought to welcome you. Repent.
"….and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf" (2 Corinthians 5:15)
Are you living for yourself Christian? Do you have an agenda or even a single thought outside of Christ for your life? Considering all Christians have been purchased by Christ's precious blood, is this a position you or I even have a right to take?
The real elephant in the room
The phrase above is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed (might I add: both). The expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.
What might this elephant be? What within our formal religious duties teaches us it is alright to forego assembling together daily as long as we show up once or twice a week? Who teaches us by both their words and example that not only can we be called leaders and call ourselves leaders, we can become them simply by purchasing some formal institutional training? What possible form of "fellowship" would make it absolutely impossible to know whether the people around us calling themselves "Christian" are even remotely spiritual or are tampering with sin or living in ANY of the sins above? And finally, among the other 50 or so ways in which "Christians" regularly disobey God, who has taught and is teaching you that you still have a right to yourself, or even a single right at all? Is that Jesus? Or might that be the stewards of the elephant who's job it is to keep you comig back, giving more and continuously taking the place of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit amongst the saints?
The real elephant in the room is this: the complete denial that every single thing church related is not, never has been and never will accomplish God's ends or eternal purpose. That the church world is both the invention of men as well as the inspiration of hell itself. It is flat out a counterfeit of the highest order, the masterpiece of our adversary the devil and he has most professing believers exactly where he wants them- firmly in his teeth.
Think about it. For every single reason any professing believer can give for the "good" that church and church related activities do, any studied believer could find multiple Scriptures to disprove those points. It doesn't matter how sincere, studied or charismatic your particular pastor or priest is- all of them are the purveyors of lies. It doesn't matter whether this is willfull or in ignorance. Men will reap what they sow as God has promised regardless of their place in society or among the people of God.
Church stifles growth and keeps the saints in infantcy
Would you do yourself a favor? Turn your Bible to 1 Corinthians 12:14 and read this:
"For the body is not one member, but many" Would you say this verse places an emphasis upon any particular individual among the saints? (Like a pastor or a priest?) Of course it doesn't. Then in the very next verse:
If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand (or a pastor or priest for our discussion-those things we generally place emphasis upon)I am not part of the body," it is not for this reason any a less part of the body" Would you say that those who are not the primary speakers are less or at least looked upon as less important? Of course you would, if you're honest that is. To reiterate the very same point again the ear is used and the statement spoken again, it is not for this reason any less a part of the body. Did you hear that this time?
Jump to verse 21 where it states;
And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."
But isn't that exactly what many of today's leaders are saying and exemplifying? How about when……
- No saint can interrup or interject a thought during a leaders "sermon" despite many verses to the contrary
- No saint can share his or her gifts without permission first…huh
- The hired leaders, who are eerily reminiscent of the hirelings in John chapter 10 are only accountable to the people they choose, not to the totality of the local saints as a whole.
- Many, many other church responsibilities supercede the immediate care of the saints
- The assemblies are so large that the supposed shepherd cannot possibly care for the sheep, let alone those that go astray
Now to verse 22 and 23 where another truth then command is given;
"On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care one for another" (1 Corinthians 12:22-25)
May I now ask, "How might the above happen?" Just how will those will less honor be given more honor? By silencing them, by relegating them to some superficial duties outside of the main assembly? The fact is, modern day pastors and priests do not practice these truths, and in fact, go out of their way not to practice them. They have no interest in members having the same care for one another as that would rob them of their preeminence in those places- the very thing they desire and are being paid to exercise.
I'm elaborating on this section of Scripture for a reason- these are commands, not suggestions. The whole manner of church and its services, from their content, the orchestration of events, their timeline and everything else makes it impossible to obey these commands when the saints gather together. The whole production from beginning to end is orchestrated by a man or maybe a few men. That keeps the saints unable to exercize their gifts as the Holy Spirit might lead them and keeps them in a passive mode where they are much more prone to lies and deception- the very thing they are being fed! A Sunday school class or "home study" does not allow any professing elder to control the saints in such a manner- but the fact that they are hired to run a religious organization does! That should be our clue that something is dreadfully wrong, and we're just touching the proverbial iceberg!
Ever increasing Faith
Ever increasing faith is cultivated within the context of what Jesus has established as a precedent and within the confines of what He is building. Seeing that Jesus is building something spiritual and heavenly, its safe to say he is not building church buildings, telling people to name them and hiring paid professionals to rule over His people. Is it really any suprise why people are falling asleep in church and bored out of their minds. Each member has a part to play, and in that role they will surely find their contentment and satisfaction in Him.
Despite the continual rejection of God's actual promises such as where Jesus says He will build His ekklesia (a spiritual organism of living stones (individual Christians) which He unites through small geographical assemblies (usually found in homes) where all Christian service begins, continues and is supervised), "educated" self-appointed leaders sinfully teach and promote the opposite which God is not, has not and will never bless. This doesn't mean God's Word doesn't fail to bless regardless of where it is spoken and heard, but it also curses those who fail to live according to God's commands. Didn't Jesus make this clear when He contrasted two primary builders who are erecting their own particular foundations:
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. (upon Jesus and His promises). And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock" [Matthew 7:24, 25]
Then in complete contrast to Jesus and His promises-
"Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house- and great was its fall" [Matthew 7:26, 27]
Just what does this sand represent in the above verse? Is it not representative of the promises of men- promises that derive not from God but directly from self-made religious professionals who exercise their authority through earthly religious institutions? Promises which include:
- God will bless you if you faithfully attend church and follow the leadership explicitly
- God will bless you if you follow religious tradition even if it contradicts Scripture AND is condemned by Jesus Himself
- God will do great things (even bless you financially) if we raise the money to build more and bigger earthly edifices to promote our brand of religion and "our" ministries
- That professional "Christian" education is necessary for any Christian to be prepared to lead others to Christ or in Christ
- That occasional church attendance is acceptable Christian service even if its only once or twice a week
- That experiencing Jesus subjectively is more important and valuable than learning objective truth through the Scriptures
- That standing against sinful people and sinful practices within the Christian community is less important than love or contrary to loving them. That practicing 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 really isn't practical or necessary.
- That a return to practicing how the Christians in the 1st century lived isn't practical or necessary- that we can continue with our church related practices which are more culturally relevant to this day and age.
People listen closely……man's inventions and the promises that coincide with them will be destroyed. Lies cannot accomplish God's will nor bring His promises to fruition as they oppose one another. It is not sufficient to follow the dictates or promises of religious men. Such will at best lead to a superficial and shallow religious experience and lead others into the same path that you yourself are walking in. Has that path of religion you chose led you regularly into a fuller and deeper revelation of Jesus Christ wherein you:
- Are you being diligent in all things which encompass your faith?
- Are you morally excellent?
- Are you increasing in a true knowledge of Him?
- Are you self-controlled?
- Are you persevering in trial, testings and persecutions?
- Are you growing in godliness, brotherly kindness and love?
Even if you might conclude that these are actually true for you through your church related experience, that in itself will not justify you nor your position. For even if these things are yours and increasing (which God Himself says is necessary) how do you know this is true for every other professing believer with whom you might have fellowship? Especially if you only share a few hours with these others once a week? Seeing that we are called to share our lives with local believers daily and be subject and accountable one to another, that makes the above impossible to know through the modern day precedent of church and church related activities. That is the result of claiming one's foundation is based upon Jesus when in reality it is not. It is based upon church (an invention of men) where self-made religious authorities use Jesus' name for their own benefit. Where a man (pastor or priest) is center stage, rest assured that Jesus is neither presiding over those people, governing and guiding their actions nor providing for them. When the bottom falls out, and it will, those who remain will suffer the consequences of their own choices. Remember what Jesus says:
Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them…..
If you are truly a born again Christian, the Father will constantly be testing you in regard to your true allegiances. Even though I made the contrast of Jesus' heavenly ekklesia and mans earthly churches above, ultimately the real contrast lies between what God commands and what we ourselves desire. This is easily proven by the responses professing Christians offer as to why they continue to promote the concept of church despite its practices being foreign to Scripture- they like them and they think they do so much good.
There is a daily cost to being a Christian, a cost associated with being founded upon the rock of Christ Jesus and a wholehearted allegiance and devotion to Him and no other. That cost is our lives, which by the way includes our desires and the manner in which we are prone to think.
Coming: The necessity of ever increasing faith/conclusion