none http://thechurchunderground.net New Testament Christianity Sun, 18 Sep 2016 14:07:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 The necessity of ever increasing faith/conclusion http://thechurchunderground.net/2016/the-necessity-of-ever-increasing-faithconclusion/ Sun, 18 Sep 2016 14:07:27 +0000 http://thechurchunderground.net/?p=4189  In the last two posts I quoted and explained part of the passage in 2 Peter chapter 1 where some of the fruits of a faithful Christian are listed. I showed how these originate first from having a true knowledge of who Jesus Christ actually is, and by trusting in God's precious promises we can live in a manner that exhibits godliness in this world. It's important to remember that this godly living is contrasted with the various lusts that are present everywhere in this evil world. 

 The purpose of this concluding article is to show how a professing Christian who is in earnest to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [2 Peter 3:18] should interact with other professing believers. There is much confusion in relation to this matter as Peter well knew when he wrote:

"Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things (the coming of the Lord and destruction of this present world-2 Peter 3:1013), be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction" [2 Peter 3:14-16] 

 Lets face it, we live in a world where even if individuals don't claim to be an expert in spiritual things, they still far too often present themselves as such through their speaking and writing. It was recently brought to my attention that a very well known "Christian Reformed" apologist had been touting his doctorate credentials for years despite them never having been actually earned. That is an outright deception and farce that even his Reformed friends were unwilling to challenge him about. This ought to come as little suprise as my own experience has proven that the only people these reformed "experts" ever answer to is their own kind. Here's a suggestion to those folks: If you're unwilling to have a comment section where other Christians can challenge you according to 1 Peter 3:15 please keep your mouth shut- at least online. Despite the many of you touting your great insights, none of you openly challenged your own Calvanisic authority in James White for his blatant hypocrisy- cowards! I lose more respect for you guys by the day. 

This age of information and technology has allowed just about anyone to post words or videos of themselves promulagating just about any supposed "truth" they think others need to know about. Sadly, many if not most are mistaken about their claims and the Christian community excels in error just as much as any other. The very fact that all of these individualistic "ministries" exist is proof positive that many professing Christians have abandoned God's means of fellowship, encouragement, worship and preparation for leadership. They have either substituted participation in a local ekklesia for the counterfeit of man's church, or maybe worse, have just started doing whatever they think is right for their own self-titled ministry that centers around themselves. 

 The book of Peter partially addresses people who are a danger to those who desire to grow in grace. First, Peter on several occasions calls out false teachers and prophets and explains their true characters. (See 2 Peter 2 in its entirety) These people are not all that difficult to spot and expose, provided we are not still living for ourselves and our selfish desires. I'll explain the reasons for this a little later. For now I'd like to focus upon another group of people, those closest to us, sometimes even our family members or friends who claim to be born again in Christ. 

 Everytime I see or hear a brother or sister fall into sin I think this thought- this never had to happen. The reason I believe this is true is this- the manner we have chosen to interact as believers does not resemble that of the New Testament and we suffer individual and corporate consequences when we choose to neglect to follow Scripture. Here are some of the ways present practice and Scripture differ.

  • We have emphasized "going" far more than "obeying" or "being" to one another. Christians shared their very lives together daily in the 1st century and yet we barely spend a few hours together every week. That is proof positive how little we really care for one another or really believe we are responsible and accountable to one another. By the way, what type of Christian wouldn't want to spend daily life with their fellow Christians? I'll tell you, those who refuse to change and are holding onto sin, they hate real intimacy. 
  • For the most part we have jettisoned spontaneous fellowship and mutual sharing for far lesser things. Regardless of whether we are studying the Bible, a book or having a church service, a man or men are prominent and most of the local body is silent. This is the exact opposite of what is commanded in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and is reminiscent of a disfunctional spiritual body. 
  • Individual professing Christians live like they are individuals. Their whole world revolves around them, their belongings, their work, their own aspirations, dreams and desires. All of these are foreign to 1st century Christianity. Every Christian is a member of both the universal body of believers and a local body of believers- even if those other believers are unknown to him or her. We are commanded to assemble along geographical lines because these are the only Scriptural distinctions that exist (names do not). Because we are united with those believers (seen or unseen) everything we do affects those other believers for better or for worse and also affects our corporate testimony as believers in any locale. The very word "mine" is the antithesis of reality as we are merely stewards of God's possessions as He owns all. Again, if we loved to the point of laying down our lives as Jesus commanded friends will do, my local spiritual families concerns will always trump my own. This happens regularly as the concerns of the local assembly rarely if ever triumph over a better neighborhood, higher income or the fulfillment of personal desires or goals which always seem to call from other cities or even countries. 
  • We far too often make excuses for sin. Whether it's the "their just young" or "kids will be kids" excuse, we rarely deal with sin as we ought to. The standard of righteousness for kids and adults is exactly the same-perfecton. Yes, we ought to be merciful when need be and we ought to offer a stiff rebuke when that is warranted. The problem with sin in individuals results from the casual attitude we have with it and those who live in it, and the manner we have chosen to fellowship and serve one another. Neither I or you will ever really know each other gathering for a few hours a week and either of us could easily hide our sin. That's not true for those who seek God together daily, they really know one another and by their actions prove their devotion to God's desires verses the world's poison that free time far too often leads to. 
  • Professing Christians everywhere are building the earthly at the expense of the heavenly. Please, outside of Christians who are being persecuted in various nations, show me a single exampe of Christians who meet daily, build each other up in the faith, love and serve one another, preach the gospel to their neighbors and who refuse to name themselves or start "ministries" after themselves or their members. Such New Testament fellowships are that rare. How little we care. 

Like produces Like

 However we decide to live from day to day, that is the expression of Christ we are offering to this world who desperately needs Him. Have you really ever thought much about that? That if you prioritize church attendance than that is what your friends will think is Christian. That if you neglect to tell others the truth about sin that it really won't seem all that serious to them. That if you drink beer, smoke or practice other worldly things that those who supposedly "receive Christ" will think your example of a Christians behavior is acceptable. This is serious folks- and yet all this compromise could have been avoided and future compromise avoided as well. 

It's really simple

 It's really simple if one counts the cost of being Jesus' disciple. That's the problem we have these days, we not only preach a false gospel without repentance, we extend a freedom among the saints that brings all manner of polution among the family of God. Things not need be this way. God never intended they be this way. We've made things this way. We are to blame. 

You cannot reform what God made perfect

 Many of us are aware of the many ways professing Christians have attempted to bring lasting change among God's people. This proves that many of these people are well aware that serious problems do exist among the family of God- or at least amidst this thing we call church.These ideas, many of which have been outside additions to church have included many things such as:

  • Focus on the Family
  • Compassion International
  • Promise Keepers 
  • Youth with a Mission
  • Answers in Genesis
  • Creation Research Institute
  • Campus Crusade for Christ
  • Young Life
  • Navigators
  • Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc. 
  • Intervarsity Christian Fellowship

 Now add to these organizations the more recent methods/movements used in reforming the church and its people:

  • Purpose Driven Paradigm 
  • Church Growth Movement (evidenced by mega churches)
  • NAR (New Apostolic Reformation)
  • Word Faith Movement
  • Emergent Church

Now add to these the biggest of the bad-

  • World Vision
  • Samaritan's Purse
  • Habitat for Humanity

and just the plain ecumenical bad-

  • World Council of Churches
  • World Student Christian Federation
  • The Vatican, Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity
  • World YMCA

 In reality, thousands upon thousands of these orgnizations have been started worldwide for a variety of reasons, some sincere, others for more deceptive purposes. But several things are consistent amongst them all and they relate to our study. Now just ask yourself these things:

Who owns, controls or runs these supposed "Christian" organizations? 

Whose name(s) are upon the official documents? 

Are these people really Christians or qualified for leadership? 

Who decides exactly how these organizations are to function? 

How are these organizations supported? (manpower and money?) 

The Great Addition

 For the purposes of this article I am going to refer to the organizations above as The Great Addition. For quite obviously the people who decided these organizations were and are necessary must be equally convinced that what Jesus has established in His death, resurrection and ascension was not and is not adequate to fulfill His intents and purposes on this earth. For if what Jesus established through local New Testament fellowships was adequate, then why are these people adding all these earthly entities to what Jesus said was finished? I thought Jesus said that through a true knowledge of Him we have everything we need for life and godliness? (2 Peter 1:3) Is Jesus a liar? 

Sadly, similar to the excuses people make for participating in church related activities, the same excuse is used to perpetuate these manmade organizations and movements. They do so much good or so the participants think. But have they ever really thought about where these organizations actually lead people to? Here are just a few facts:

  • Every so-called "Christian" institution always compromises the Christian gospel message more and more the longer they exist. Their is not one single exception. 
  • Every so-called "Christian" organization competes directly with Jesus for the souls of men, their resources ($) and influence upon society as a whole. (in their own name)
  • Every so-called "Christian" organization fractures the body of Christ and is perpetuating sectarianism. 
  • Every so-called "Christian" organization is established by man, controlled by man and have men's agendas at the center of them. 
  • Every so-called "Christian" organization is therefore the invention of man, they are fleshly enterprises that only aid to suppress the truth of what God has established prior with their own versions of what they claim is good and righteous. 

 Looking for a section of verses that seem to adequately describe the foolishness of exchanging what God has done perfectly for a substitute these verses came to mind;

"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God (by acknowledging His perfect plan and resources for His people) or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations (that what they created could aid God's purposes) and their foolish heart was darkened (they became more and more deceived the longer they persisted in their own ways and inventions). Professing to be wise they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God (the glory exhibited through the perfect work of what is spiritual and heavenly in nature) for an image in the form of corruptible man (earthly religious institutions) and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures" (which amounts to idolatry). 

 "Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God (the local geographical ekklesia for the establishing of the saints and Christian service) for a lie (the substitution of churches and religious institutions in the place of local ekklesias) and worshipped and served the creature (what man has created) rather than the Creator (and what He died to establish for all time) who is blessed forever. Amen" 

The Great Reduction

 There is always something spiritually significant when God uses a man or a few men to fulfill His purposes. This principle is found throughout the Scriptures- the principle of reduction or division. It is this principle mankind truly hates. 

 From the tower of Babel forward, mankind has always thought he knew better than God, that he was capable of ruling his own life, that his own imagination and ingenuity would be an adequate substitute for God. For various reasons and seasons sometimes God just let man alone and let him be the recipient of his own devices. Eventually though, God's jealousy for His own creation brought an eventual judgment, a judgment that constantly divides that which is holy from that which is unholy. Although this process has never ceased from the very beginning of mankind, some are paying attention, while most people are not. Their seems to be two ongoing and persistant camps: those who continue to walk with God as He separates them time and time again, and those who refuse to be separated and redouble their efforts in uniting mankind. (often under their own titled banner or creation)

 Now my audience likely knows that those desiring to unite mankind through their own efforts like ecumenism and syncretism are not from God. They use God's name, but by their very actions they deny Him. But our concern here is about how and with whom we need to separate that our faith might be ever increasing and not hindered by those who refuse to walk along God's dividing lines. 

 Some time back, a Christian friend asked me this question in relation to community living: (I'm paraphrasing her question)

"How can we live more like 1st Century believers, beyond a mere gathering together more often?" 

 First, just gathering together more often will not necessitate change in anyone, nor make us individually or corportely more faithful. The Christian life is not about simply helping one another or obeying one or more particular commands. The Scripture say in Romans 14;

"For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die we are the Lord's" [Romans 14:7, 8] and 

"For the kingdom of God is not (merely) eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" 

 Can I submit something before you all?  That true Christianity is not merely cultivating an individual righteousnes, and an individual peace. In addition to this and equally important, Christianity is all about cultivating a corporate expression of righteousness, one which abounds in a corporate peace which is exemplified by joyful saints before the world around them. This is what God is after, and ought be be about what we're after as well. 

 I've previously mentioned that the Scriptures teach that their is both an acceptable and unacceptable manner of service before God. This is spoken about in many places to include Romans 12:1 and two chapters later we read in Romans 14:18; 

"For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men" 

Might want to read the verse above again. Acceptable to whom? God and men (fellow believers). And what beliefs/behaviors might this particular verse be referring to? What exemplifies this acceptable lifestyle? For the sake of brevity lets just relate what some acceptable practices are evident within this particular chapter (Romans 14). 

  • Accepting those who are weak and not judging them (vs.1-4)
  • Allowing for differing convictions provided every persons decisions are prompted by service to Christ (vs. 5-7)
  • Not placing a stumbling block in a brother's way (vs. 13)

 We can learn a whole lot from these simple principles. Imagine no more arguments about those who do and don't celebrate Christmas? What about allowing others to form their own convictions over time?  What about sacrificing some of my own liberties for my fellow brothers or sisters (even for a season) to show my care for them and keep them from stumbling? 

These are not difficult practices, that is unless an individual is still living for themselves. Then they have both an agenda that is both corporate and individual which places themselves either above or more important than the other believers around them. That is the person whose faith in Christ ought to be questioned, for Jesus plainly states the manner all who are considering following Him must live:

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" [Luke 9:23]

"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple" [Luke 14:26]

"Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" [Luke 14:27] 

Two things ought to be noted just here. First, these words were not spoken exclusively to the disciples Jesus chose. They were spoken to the multitudes of people within the sound of Jesus' voice- He was speaking to crowds. He was telling them their was a cost to following Him, that it would cost them and that they ought to consider just what that cost might be. That no one could ever be a priority in their lives over Him- not even any member of their family, and especially themselves!

Secondly, the word disciple does not denote some special type of believer (as in a mature believer). The word disciple in the Scriptures is equated to being a Christian- one who has chosen to follow Christ- one who has considered the implications of identifying with Christ and is willing to abide by the potential consequences. 

Summation

 The answer to my friend's question is simple. Every single person professing Christian faith needs to judge themselves by these verses about discipleship to see whether they are truly even in the faith. That's where this starts. The only reason the professing Christian world has so many difficulties and fails to advance in this spiritual war is due to the false professions of faith just about everywhere one looks. False professions lead to false practices which is turn ultimately lead to deception. Men are needed who will never compromise God's truth, nor tolerate those in their midst who do. 

It is obvious who fails the test because these people do not and have not counted the cost and this shows clearly in their lives. Their aim, their object, their passion in life is clearly not Jesus Christ and therefore will be centered the only other place it can be- on themselves and upon their own desires. They will be forever talking about their plans, their possessions, their ministries and their lives. As we have noted again and again, a Christian (disciple) DOES NOT and CANNOT live for themselves. 

Much more could be said. But those who know Jesus have counted the cost, and they long for the very things their Father longs for. From day one they have learned and are living, not my will, but Thy will be done. 

Decrease through Division

 A study of the life of Jesus here on earth reveals some startling truths and events. A perfect man being hated. His closest companions abandoning Him. Suffering wrong for doing right. God in the flesh, making himself of no reputation. Over and over, day by day, He becomes more and more isolated, more and more alone. In the end only His Father is left, only His Father's will is in sight. 

Has this been so with you? Are you better than Him? 

Everything God does is bringing you to your end, that Jesus might become all- in you. More faith means more dependence, which can only result as we are stripped of all we hold dear. Are you up for that Christian? Are you encouraging others along such lines? 

It's imperative that we follow Jesus with others who have truly counted the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. The original design of small localized fellowships of believers is the vehicle through which we will grow in grace and in the true knowledge of Jesus Christ. Not in one of numerous man made settings will His will be accomplished, but in the perfect design outlined clearly in the pages of the New Testament. 

 Is God calling His children to a degree of Christian participation and activity among other professing believers in whatever manner they choose? I think not. God's calling for our lives, first sharing the totality of our lives for the sake of the local brethren daily, then offering our lives daily for the sake of Jesus Christ in whatever manner He chooses.  Anything less is compromise, anything less cannot rightfully be called Christian. 

-the end

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The necessity of ever increasing faith/Part 2 http://thechurchunderground.net/2016/the-necessity-of-ever-increasing-faithpart-2/ Sun, 21 Aug 2016 16:43:35 +0000 http://thechurchunderground.net/?p=4160  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

 

 

 

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The necessity of ever increasing faith http://thechurchunderground.net/2016/the-necessity-of-ever-increasing-faith/ Sun, 21 Aug 2016 16:21:46 +0000 http://thechurchunderground.net/?p=4141  "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these [His power and a true knowledge of Him] He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust" 

"Now for this very reason also [as a result of what God has done], applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self control, perseverence, and in your perseverence, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love" 

"For IF these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" 

"For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his former purification from his former sins" 

 Reading the above passage in 2 Peter chapter 1 as of recent, I noticed something unique about the passage above I had not formerly noticed. That both in the opening paragraph and the summation are the words true knowledge emphasized. As we can see above in the former, it is a true knowledge of who Jesus is which has allowed us to be partakers of everything we need as believers- everything that concerns this present life and our need to become godly citizens. In short, this means that those who call themselves His have no excuse for falling short of what God desires for them as He has provided everything they need in this present life. This is also reiterated in 2 Timothy 2:19 where it states; 

"The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness." 

 Now we know that in this age and other ages there are many people who claim to know God, but despite this they do not have a true understanding of His will and work at all, but rather a warped view of truth and therefore cannot as the 2nd reference speaks, be useful or fruitful in their so-called service to Him. The real Christian life starts and ends with a true understanding of Christ, not anything that falls short of that or even exceeds this. This is also reiterated by John the apostle in 1 John  1:9 where it sates; 

"Anyone who goes to far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son" Once again, we see here that there is a true knowledge and then an opposing knowledge of Christ that is false and does not coincide with the truth, nor encompass real faith in Jesus Christ. Simple enough. 

 Now look above again in the first paragraph and notice the other place a similar phrase is used. Twice the words "has granted to us" are used, again speaking to that which God has done within those who have a true knowledge of Him. The progression of these likeminded statements would be ordered something like this: 

1. An individual comes to a true knowledge about who Jesus Christ is and what He has done in history past. 

2. As a result of this revelation, this same individual recognizes that through Jesus everything they need for this life and living a godly lifestyle has been provided. 

3. Everything provided is given through precious and magnificent promises. 

4. That every individual professing Christian is called upon to embrace (believe by faith) the promises of God if they are to become godlike in character and escape the corruption that is in this world through lust. 

 Now the above truths have been made abundantly clear in the passage above. But if for some reason some are prone to forget this or who might minimize them, the following warning is given in verse 10: 

"Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom will be abundantly supplied to you" 

 I suppose the reverse could be said as well, if you lack the character qualities above in verses 5-7. Just as their are very specific truths that encompass the faith once delivered, so are their various practices that echo those beliefs in those who have a true knowledge of Him.  

In the Beginning, God

 Some time ago I met a man who exclaimed in urgency, "Believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ" and thou shalt be saved." Actuallly I think I heard this refrain quite a few times before I actually did believe upon Him, and a few more before I understood the ramifications of that belief. But what I came to understand is this…..that God Himself had done something on my behalf, that I had a responsibility to believe this by faith and then subsequently live my life forward by faith in Him. Just as that was true for Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, it's just as true for you and me today. 

As in the days of Noah, man

 We live in days reminiscent of the days of Noah. Days as normal as ever or so we like to think, and yet destruction was and is likely right at the door. And as you might recall, it was not those who sat around casually as if all was well who were spared by God, but those who knew the times in which they lived and were prepared for them. 

In the end times, God

 In this season God is working, but for the most part in ways most of those who profess Him fail to see or are willing to acknowledge. The primary reason for this is simple: most of those in this world either no longer acknowledge Him or those who profess to believe in Him either do not recognize the promises He's given, refuse to believe those promises or warp His promises into something He never said or intended His people to trust in. Although God has allowed these warped understandings of Him and what He has done to continue for many a season (often as a judgment upon those who embrace them) a season is coming and is now here where time is running out and many will be caught unawares and why- because they chose to prefer the alternate to the true, what they personally prefered verses that which they knew would cost them their lives. 

As of first importance, God

 Three things every Christian ought to know are these:

  • Everything that God has intended in creation and up until the fulfillment of the ages will be accomplished- perfectly. 
  • God Himself is using all of the difficuties, sufferings and even evil in this world to accomplish those ends. 
  • As the difficulties escalate, the cost to us personally will rise dramatically

Case in point. 

 Whether one is willing to admit this or not, there are some professions which God has never sanctioned for a Christian and which are contrary to the desires He has for His children. I am not saying that their are never exceptions but that because He has called us to live separate from this world their are simply occupations that do not coincide with one's faith and practices in Christ. At one time those might have been relegated to a small list of things, but today's evil is so rampant and so extensive that many of this world's occupations are littered if not entirely taken over by evil agendas and compromising positions. One simply cannot participate in these occupations without compromising their faith in Christ, or worse, promoting an altogether antichrist agenda. As an example, we have thousands upon thousands of professing Christians attempting to enter into various fields of teaching and education around the globe. Whether you trust me or not, even a cursory search of where these teaching agendas originate ought to make one think twice about participating. None of them have God's intentions even remotely at their center and even the so-called "Christian" schools are just businesses using Jesus' name to their own ends. In reality, no "Christian" school even exists, only people can be Christians and just because the Bible or spiritual things taught or discussed does not change these facts. To believe any such thing as a Christian school to exist is to believe a lie and be deceived to one extent or another. To believe a Christian needs to attend or pay money to learn how to live as a Christian is even more silly. And finally, to believe God is actually glorified or honored when professing Christians sell their spiritual gifts to their brothers or sisters for money (whether that be through books, conferences or by being a paid professional Christian) is simly ridiculous. I promise you this. God has never once desired any of His children to become what has been termed a "professional Christian" of any variety, nor has He ever told anyone to go build some religious institution or empire and rule over it and His people. This is the work of an enemy and those who remain within these places will perish along with them.  

 Now whether you agree with my paragraph or not isn't necessarily relevant now. But I assure you of this, we need not fret as we see the escalating calamity coming our way as Peter says in 1 Peter 4:12;

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice in exultation" 

 The fact is, we've been living on easy street for way too long here in America and our spiritual lives and testimony are suffering greatly as a result.   Don't think for a minute that prayers to "spare America" or "make America great again" even register in heaven. Are these what Jesus died for? Did Jesus die so you and I could live a happy selfish care free life? God forbid our Savior be reduced to this. 

God is closing the doors and turning back time

 For many years I found myself questioning the purpose of the imagery found in the book of Revelation and specifically in relation to the battle of Armageddon. It's as if all of our grand technology either gets wiped out or disabled and the armies of the nations have to come and battle against the Lord in hand to hand combat. Now whether you persoanally subscribe to such a literal scenario is not my point. What is important is to recognize that in this juncture of history God is intervening, He is beginning to set things in order, even things which seem adverse to us and which would cause His people to suffer. The very things He allows, whether that includes an economic crash, a third world war, the loss of personal freedoms or Christians becoming the targets of this worlds hostility- ALL of this is for our own good, IF we acknowledge it coming from Him and prepare ourselves beforehand. Otherwise, God's sleeping people will be taken by suprise and perish in the war just as in any other.  

Our responsibilities

1. Recognize God's actual promises (What a true knowledge of Him promises) 

2. Believe in these promises (as a means of becoming useful and fruitful) 

3. Reject all counterfeit promises (the means whereby I keep myself separate and sanctified) 

True and False Promises

 Just as there are truths and lies within any segment of the societies with which we reside, so are there truths and lies within the framework of what is called "Chistianity" or better yet, "Christiandom." I use the latter term to denote the totality of what is being called Christian throughout the world, whether it be true or false. 

 The verses above in 2 Peter make it quite clear that there is a standard of living to which all professing Christians ought to seek and will seek, that is, if they have really been born from above. These people will not merely have a right and true knowledge of God's character and Person, but will also to one degree or another exhibit the character traits of Jesus Christ Himself. In short, there is no such thing as a Christian who either fails to:

1) Exhibit these traits (diligence, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love) 

2) Are increasing in these qualities

 The proof of this is easily seen in verse 1:8 where the phrase neither useless and the word fruitful are used. To be neither useless means to be useful, just as fruitful would relate the the bearing of fruit (which all of the above qualities represent, ie; fruits of the Spirit. The warning in verse 1:9 and the admonition in verse 1:10 are for those who had seemingly forgotten these necessities, as are the reminders so often reiterted by Peter the apostle. Just as in days and seasons past, God's people regularly either forgot the many blessings bestowed upon them by Almighty God, took them for granted or simply stopped following His direction for them (which led to idolatry). Whether the professers amongst Christiandom recognize this or not, this is exactly where we find ourselves today. 

True Faith

 True faith originates with God, is about God and must have only His ends in sight. Just as we have received Christ Jesus the Lord (by faith), so must we walk in Him (in regular dependence upon Him through His promises) by faith. This faith has absolutely nothing to do with our desires, what we aim to do for Him or whatever we might utilize in our service to Him. 

 Now if we look over the following chapter of this letter we find a progression of error that follows the warning below and goes something like this (1-9)

 Peter's reminder was exclusively the content of the truth, that which he says is not one any man's particular interpretation (2 Peter 1:12; 20, 21)

1) But false prophets arose (2 Peter 2:1)

2) False teachers among the true saints (2 Peter 2:1)

3) Many people will follow the false prophets (2 Peter 2:2)

4) These professors will be exploited (2 Peter 2:3)

5) These professors will be judged (2 Peter 2:9)

 Contrary to those who exhibit the quality character traits above which prove good fruit, the people who follow these false prophets and teachers participate in the truth being maligned (2 Peter 2:2) because they embrace what is sensual (what tickles their senses) verses what is true objectively (known through the prophetic words of Scripture and the testimony of the apostles and prophets themselves (2 Peter 2:19-21; 3:2). It seems apparent that the reason Peter was constantly reminding them of these very things was because some were straying from both the sure testimony of the apostles as well as the foundation of the Scriptures themselves. Verses 2:12-19 lists a littany of various forms of disobedience (equates to ungodly living) and this as a result of their failure to believe in the promises of God which:

6) Allow them to become partakers of the divine nature

7) As a result of 6, escape the lusts that are in this world,  many of which are expressed within 2:12-19 above. The verdict upon those who once seemed free from this world's lusts only to return to them is thus;

"For it would have been better  for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them" (2 Peter 2:21, 22) 

….and the admonition to those who continued in faith (obedience)-

 "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, (that these false teachers will arise and mislead many into sin) be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfatsness, but grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity" (2 Peter 3:17, 18) 

 As God Himself uses the escalating difficulties of life and an ever increasing hostility among unbelievers in general toward those who believe, the division among those who cling to the truth and those who cling and tout lies will become all the more apparent. This will necessitate closer relationships, more mutual sharing and a likely return to more smaller and spontaneous gatherings for fellowship. This will also likely necessitate having to abandon certain occupations, superficial relationships, even familial ones, and everything not directly associated with our service in Christ. 

 This is what I would like to discuss next, the cost of being an equal member of the body of Christ and how embracing this truth personally will affect both the household of faith and those we long to aid with the truth. 

*see part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sinless Perfectionism? http://thechurchunderground.net/2015/sinless-perfectionism/ Mon, 15 Jun 2015 22:43:36 +0000 http://thechurchunderground.net/?p=3987 Sinless Perfectionism

 If any of you read the prior post, "Lessons from life," you are fully aware that I do believe a perfect unity is possible among Christians this side of heaven. Whether that does or does not amount to my personal belief in the above title is more or less insignificant. Obviously despite what you or I might presently believe is possible, we still ought to seek in eanest that which still eludes us. This much we know.

 My personal beliefs aside, the purpose of this post is to address what many these days are claiming and whether those claims are based upon reality or not and the problems that occur due to those who make such claims.

 It's somewhat ironic that just prior to meeting some local folks who believe they can live free from sin I had wrote the prior post. Sadly, having withdrawn myself from formally meeting with them, I'm now writing this post. Hopefully I can shed a little light on the subject matter without leaning to one extreme or the other. That's where the problems among believer's usually reside, with a portion of truth taken to one extreme or another.

What is meant when a person claims "sinless perfectionism" for themselves?

 The terms "sinless perfection" derived from the so-called holiness movement and the beliefs of John Wesley who believed and promoted "a second work of grace" after one's born again experience of salvation. This belief is still widely promoted today with varying twists and changes through the roots of what became Wesley's beliefs through the Wesleyan, Methodist and Nazarene churches (called therein at times "entire sanctification") and within the Penecostal movement ("baptism of the Holy Spirit"). Strickly speaking, a second work of grace in either form above does not actually exist as so many suppose. This error results from failing to recognize the book of Acts as historical in nature (in which many transitions were taking place) and not primarily a doctrinal book as many of the other New Testament books are known to be. The only difference between the camps above is the one side believes in the "supernatural gifts"  (miracles, speaking in tongues etc) while the other camp generally does not. Another story for another time. One thing is sure though- their are not parts or portions of Christianity that are supernatural while others parts are not. ALL of the true Christian life and experience is supernatural, for Christianity is Christ Himself believed and lived out. For to me to live IS CHRIST. (Philippians 1:21).

1. Although Wesley used the terms "sinless perfection" he did not prefer them, nor did he define the words as many do today. For example, he did not teach salvation by perfection and that it was no longer possible to violate the will of God as a Christian. He did not equate perfection as sinlessness.  

2.  Any professing Christian who claims that after conversion they no longer sin. (this could mean they don't ever sin or it isn't possible for them to sin). Within the groups or individuals who claim such, still there are a few who do believe they make "mistakes" but don't label those mistakes as sin. Others in this camp separate willful sinning with sinning in ignorance.

3. Professing Christians who do believe they can still sin and do on occasion, but their salvation is contingent upon their confession of any and all known willful sin. These folks obviously reject any believer being eternally secure in their faith and often quote the book of Hebrews in an attempt to scare people into living an ongoing obedient life.

 I'm sure their are other varient explanations although I'd like to focus upon #2 and #3. These are the folks we're most likely to meet these days- many of whom have become bold street preachers for Jesus' sake- or so they like to posit themselves.

My personal short lived experience

 For a few weeks I met with some local folks who by all appearances were very serious about serving the Lord. I had been praying about meeting some people to do some "street ministry" with and one day I happened upon a couple of these guys standing outside a local church. They really weren't protesting anything about this church in particular and held signs which said things like, "Sinners go to hell" and "Saints go to heaven." I later discovered at least part of the reason why: they took issue with the multitudes of people they would meet who claimed to be saved and yet continued to sin if it really didn't matter at all. I also take issue with people who seem to minimize sin in their lives which prompted a couple of meetings with these guys and eventually with those with whom they regularly met with during the week.

 Initially I had little reservation as I find professing Christians who take God and His Word seriously very refreshing. They followed a similar pattern of worship, fellowship, service, sharing and outreach very much like I would and do myself. I really had no serious concerns until one of the elders offered me a book by someone he knew in another state who he was obviously in touch with. It goes without saying that he would likely endorse the majority of the content of a book he recommended as would those in this fellowship he is a part of. I read the book and found these serious concerns within it:

  • On page 2 this confident statement is spoken: "If Jesus is the answer to every question (in your life), then nothing in this book will offend you; but only help you overcome faithfully to the end and be saved"  This quote gives the appearance that the author is speaking directly from God and that the contents in the book are most assuredly from God Himself. This made me pay all the more attention to what the author was stating therein.
  • In chapter 2 I have my first serious issue with his supposedly speaking from God where he writes: "Forsaking the assembly is willful sin against the Savior, and will result in our damnation"  The verses he uses to prove this are some of the "sinless crowds" favorites in Hebrews 10:23-29 which read;

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."

"For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?"

 First, the author makes several assumptions in his logic which cannot be proven such as:

  1. To leave what he (the author) believes constitutes a properly established local New Testament church constitutes sin or willful sin. This text doesn't state this at all. It aslo assumes that all Christians either are, could be or should be part of a New Testament assembly where they live- and that such an assembly has been previously established. This is another assumption that cannot in any way be proven.
  2. Nor do these verses equate any willful sin with damnation. That is also a far reaching claim not established in these verses.
  3. The actual warning in this text refers to the willful sin of "apostacy" and not to any particular willful sinning. When one turns their back on Christ who is their only hope, that is synonomous with blasheming the Holy Spirit and would no doubt include a neglect and refusal to continue in fellowship with true believers. This is what these Jewish Christians were being tempted to do….yet the author of Hebrews ends this chapter with this;

"But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul" [Hebrews 10:39]

Note: Regardless of whether one believes "once saved, always saved" or not, (something the author I'm quoting rejects), it still doesn't change the actual text. I agree with him that the real Christian will persevere in faith, I disagree with the remainder of his conclusions which these texts do not prove. This alone is a serious problem for him based upon his original statement above in his book (the first quote above in blue type). Personally, I now have a problem with his book- and with him, and maybe even with fellowship with him! Frankly, whether I or someone else investigates him, what he claims in his book or leaves a fellowship he might endorse and find Scripturally based, that just makes us wise and cautious. That hardly makes one apostate or damned.

  • The author continues later in chapter 2: "You need it, your family needs it, and you don't qualify as part of Christ's bride unless you are striving to obey ALL His will according to His program"

 Here the author is once again referring to being part of a local church (ekklesia)- even if one has to start one or move to another location where one exists. Note above how he adds striving to "obeying ALL" (his caps) and being a part of a local church as a condition for membership in the body of Christ. In other words, he's saying that you cannot be a Christian unless you are part of a local church. Is this what the Bible teaches? I remember some others in the book of Galatians who were also adding conditions to the gospel of grace alone- Paul didn't speak too well of those guys if you recall. The author reiterates his point on the next page by adding this:

"The bottom line is that Christ's present program is the local New Testament Church, and unless we are striving to follow Him through His program, we will be counted an offender and unbeliever"  Again, I agree that a New Testament ekklesia is God's program for this and every age (what he wrongly calls church), but just because someone either ignorantly or even willfully attends a church does not make God count them as an unbeliever! Almost every Christian I know was saved by the means of the Word in a church! That doesn't make church right or justify it in any way. It does prove God as being much bigger and wiser than we're ever going to be though. Even despite the warnings of remaining in Babylon (or the parts of it within institutionalized religion) and receiving plagues as a result- those results (ends) haven't occurred yet. To make the judgment above by the author is neither wise, nor is it correct. It is once again an exaggeration of his own mind and theology, not by any means Scriptural fact.

  • In chapter 3 the author attempts to address order in the local assembly by stating some basic characteristics he believes constitutes such. In his description he makes three false statements:
  1. "The head elder is called the bishop or pastor"
  2. "The associate elders are called Deacons"
  3. "Taking up the collection of tithes and offerings"

 NO. No single religious title ever existed for any member of the body of Christ. They are called by their first name and should never be given any special significance by using a title. Has the author never read Matthew 23:8-12? A title is associated with pride which verse 12's summary of this passage makes evident:

"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted"

Furthermore, tithes and offerings have nothing to do with New Testament Christianity. The warnings in Hebrews are specifically given to those people who would hold to what was passing away in the Old Covenant for that which was better in the new in Christ. Granted, this may have been a mere slip wherein he meant "giving generously"  (2 Corinthians 9:6, 7). Nonetheless, this is a serious error a mature believer ought never to make as it confuses people as to their actual obligations before God. 

Finally I want to touch upon the authors views on authority by once again quoting some of his own words within this particular chapter.

  1. "God has ordained five realms of authority: parents over children, husbands over wives, bishops and deacons over churches….."
  2. "God is testing to see if we can keep rank, or if we will revert to self-preservation and self-government when the going gets tough"

 Sadly, the author isn't the only one who confuses what Hebrews 13:7 actually says. The whole concept of one Christian being over another or obeying other Christians is not what the Bible teaches. Christians are family, they do, and should submit to one another and respect the elders among them. That said, Christians do not obey men but God alone. The whole concept of "over" is what had led to our modern day religious hierarchies and the false clergy/laity distinctions. Rank is also an Old Covenant practice- one which Jesus roundly condemned in Matthew 20:25-28;

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many"

Ongoing Concerns

 Despite my concerns over the book, I didn't make issue over it, for the author was not part of the local fellowship, nor did he have any direct influence upon my life. My real concern was whether the local folk believed these things and how that would affect my ability to worship, serve or fellowship with them all.

In time, all things come to light

 As a Christian I am very quick to grant others the benefit of the doubt and I'm slow to voice my concerns unless I believe them to be absolutely necessary. I know that in time people will speak what they really believe in their hearts for that comes about as naturally as breathing.

 I began meeting with the local folks and enjoyed the simple times we spent together on Sundays and during the week. Little by little I met the few families and eventually came to see and understand what they really believed- or at least what I needed to understand.

 A few weeks in and after Sunday morning fellowship, we sat around the table after brunch and had our usual chat among the men. As is typical, one by one the guys start talking about what they believe, and up arises the perfection rhetoric. As is my custom, I ask a few questions and out comes an answer I was hardly anticipating: you must be perfect to go to heaven. Huh? Did I hear you right- you others agree with that too? Yep, all of them. Right then and there I knew there was no going forward from here, not with them anyways, but for reasons I don't think most of them presently understand. Hopefully they will read this, if for no other reason, to understand why I cannot continue along the trajectory in which they are pointed and traversing. Here's why.

The message of reconciliation

 I think I mentioned earlier how I appreciated these folks living in a practical manner that appeared to be Scripturally supported. There were many things these individuals put into practice that few other professing Christians have or will do. By all appearances these folks seemed very sincere and desirious to be obedient to God. The way they lived was commendable and I can see how I was attracted to this type of devotedness. All this said, why was I still concerned? Why did I wake night after night lacking peace and wondering what was wrong in the midst of it all?

 Thinking back, and despite the practical expression of Scriptural Christianity being so evident, I starting thinking about what these people were proclaiming to others. What message were they sharing and what was the result of that message?

 In what I believed was likely a providential appointment I was afforded an opportunity to watch a few of the street preachers these men in this group looked up to. Afterwards I watched a few of their own videos on U-tube- something I find highly suspect in itself (posting one's self and preaching publicly). What did I discover? Pointing out lots of people's apparent sins, telling them to repent and numerous rushes to judgment even as far as telling individuals they would be going to hell. Is any of this the gospel? Just what part of all this was good news I wondered?

Here's the facts

 To this day, I don't even know what any of these people believe the gospel actually is. I know this for sure- it's not telling people to repent or threatening them or making judgments against them. None of that is good news. I'm not saying there isn't a place and time for saying some of these things, although they alone do not comprise the gospel itself.

  • The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. That Jesus came to save sinners and to declare them righteous in His sight within the framework of a relationship with Him. Jesus declares sinful men righteous and that's really good news for those who own their own sad state before God as He sees them. Sure, the bad news of being hostile before God and alienated from Him due to sin must precede this, nevertheless, their is no gospel that tells people they must stop sinning in order that you can or might be saved. That is not the gospel.
  • The repentance that God requires that accompany's the good news of the gospel is not a ceasing from sin. That of course is God's ultimate intent for each of us, but the message of repentance in the gospel has more to do with owning our sin, seeing it as God sees it and being willing to renounce it. God is after a changed mind in relation to sin, initially as a sinner outside of Christ and an ongoing renewal of our minds as His children. Until an individual comes under the conviction of sin, owns it and is willing to renounce it, there is no reason to offer Christ as the solution to their hostility toward Him. That would be like trying to cover a severely sliced limb with a band aid- the ailing person will still die unless they treat the wound properly. Jesus isn't calling men who still view themselves as right or good or think they can solve their own problem with sin(s) – He's calling those who know they have sinned against Him and are willing to own that fact and who learn to rely upon Him to rid them of their sin.

I don't sin

 Yes, we have regular guys out there claiming they no longer sin. This would hardly be an issue if these guys standard for such a judgment was God's own and not their own reasoning and what they think and surmise to be sin in one's life. The truth be told, "it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends." [2 Corinthians 10:18] For example, just because an individual is unaware of present sin in their life does not make that a fact or equate to them being sinless. Many people claiming sinless perfection differentiate between willing sin (sin that some claim will damn a Christian if unconfessed) and sins of ignorance that they choose to call mistakes. Does God Himself make such a distinction? What about the people in these texts? Are they responsible for their sin even though they are blind and are acting in ignorance?

"And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of flogging, will receive but few" [Luke 12:47, 48]  Was only the one who knew his master's will responsible?

"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge" [Romans 10:1, 2] Does Israel's ignorance of God's righteousness excuse them? Of course not- that's why Paul prayed for their salvation.

"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing……" [2 Corinthians 4:3, 4]  Does the fact that our adversary the devil has blinded the eyes of these people excuse them of their sin or its punishment? No it does not.

 All sin has consequence and a penalty must be paid for sin. Those who claim "sinless perfection" now or have a similar understanding also believe things along these lines:

  • Jesus only forgave past sins prior to an individual being born again. Any subsequent sin must be confessed in order for God to forgive it. Unconfessed sin leads to damnation.
  • After an individuals conversion to Christ, they are expected to live conditionally perfect. Some verses quoted are 1 John 3:6-9 and 1 John 5:18. Needless to say their explanations for these verses do not take into consideration the totality of the book of 1st John.
  • Any willful sin leads to damnation. They quote the verses in Hebrews 10:26-29 often which is not referring to any willful sin but specifically the sin of apostacy to which the book of Hebrews speaks toward.
  • They differentiate willful sin from sins of ignorance and often justify the latter as if these are either insignificant sins or not even sins at all.
  • They reject the depravity of mankind and that all men are born with an inherited sinful nature.
  • They strongly emphasize the "free will" of mankind even prior to conversion. This often includes a rejection of the doctrine of Biblical Regeneration which grants us the ability to please God via a new heart and new mind; via a new creation.
  • They reject the exchanged life concept, the Doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement (that men receive the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ upon believing the gospel) and that Jesus bore the full wrath of all mankind's sins on the cross thus receiving the wrath of God in our place.
  • They believe every person must be conditionally perfect to go to heaven- therefore those who believe such also reject the cardinal Biblical doctrine of Justification by Faith.
  • Needless to say they do not believe and rally against the security of the believer (what some call "once saved always saved"

How people come to their own conclusions

 I once wrote the following heading and quote:

The Bible or you: Only one is both right and reasonable

"The only real Christians are those who are presently trusting in what Jesus Christ has in past history done on their behalf. For anyone and everyone else, their "faith" is a mixture of speculation, conjecture, superstition, promises of men, religious practice or tradition, various experiences and false hope. As such, this faith is not grounded upon what God has said, but rather upon what seems right and reasonable to them"

 I really believe this is what lies at the heart of the problem. We look about us and we see the rampant problems about us. We long to resolve these issues, whether those be practical or spiritual. It all seems so overwhelming. We know as believers we so often fall from what we claim and what our Father expects us to be. We see people everywhere professing His name and yet neglecting His words and failing or even refusing to be obedient. And just as we naturally want to do what is in our own best interest, so we attempt to use our natural thoughts and resources to serve God the way we think is best. That's the problem. Haven't we seen this time and time again? More church attendance for the neglectful? More threats of judgment for the wayward? More human and mechanical controls to keep order? More degrees to be wiser……more laws, more rules etc.

 One of the wisest statements ever said, or in this case sung was this:

"Blessed are the ones who understand, we've got nothing to bring but empty hands"

 If we are ever to understand the true Christian life, if we are ever to become what we ought, we will have to leave our ways, our ideas, our very selves behind. Jesus must become all. God is never, was never and will never be looking for our contribution. We either believe and obey what God has said and set in motion or we don't.

I can't sin

 "For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me" [Romans 7:15-17] 

 Obviously those claiming perfection cannot tolerate these verses applying to a regenerate person or to Paul the apostle as a believer. It would blow their claims right out of the water. It would mean that there is no longer a struggle with sin or either their is no source of sin where the struggle would originate. Of course such a claim by them is entirely disengenous if not an outright lie. We know for certain that sinners like to sin and only one born of above desires and practices what is good and righteous.  

"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me" [Romans 7:18-20]

 The only part of a Christian that cannot sin is the new creation in Christ, the source from where all goodness must stem. It is a matter of working out what God has worked inside of us……work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Paul is not negating his responsibilities for rejecting sin….."do not let sin reign" [Romans 6:12, 13], but is recognizing the source of sin within him as no longer having the principle rule over his life due to what Christ has done. That is no longer who he is……a man subject to the law, but rather dead to it and freed from it. (Romans 7:4) (Romans 8:2).

 "I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good" [Romans 7:21]

 Here is where these same folk seem to get lost and subsequently live in perpetual denial. Even if a soul were to reject this entire passage as it relating to Christians as a whole, the principle of sin still resides in every human being due to the corruption of humanity itself. Where does sin originate? Is our sin merey habits we have learned we need to alter? Is our sin the product of our upbringing or environment? Or rather, is their a principle of sin residing in our very being- a nature of sin albeit crucified,  which can still rear its head and tentacles if we fail to reckon it dead (Romans 6:11) and walk in the Spirit?

 Now obviously if an individual threw out of Scripture "men being dead in sin" and having inherited a fallen nature through the first created man (Adam) then we can also see how he could reach his conclusions about sin and even his own primary responsibility in ridding himself of it. We could furthermore see how a neutral man? might use his free will in an attempt to do as God commands- even as far as renouncing all known sin or wrongdoing. Frankly, I would find such a man exceptional as to his character, yet even more exceptionally deceived. If this were possible, what would be the point of Jesus dying for sins in the first place?

 First, such a man would be deluded about the origin of sin.

"All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man" (Mark 7:23)

"What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" (James 4:1)

"But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust" (James 1:14)

"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh…" (Romans 7:18)

"….for although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more…" [Philippians 3:4]  (sinful fleshly confidence was a possibility even for Paul himself)

 What purpose would denying oneself or reckoning oneself dead to sin have if our flesh/old nature had no detrimental effect upon our lives as Christians? But they do! (Galatians 5:17) The commands in these verses do not take into consideration whether we think we sin or not, they are commands which aid in restraining the sinful aspects of our lives that hinder our service in Christ. If those tendencies/possibilities were not real or did not exist such commands would be unecessary.

 "Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. EVERY good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow" (James 1:17)

"Blessed are the ones who understand, we've got nothing to bring but empty hands"

 If we are ever to understand the true Christian life, if we are ever to become what we ought, we will have to leave our ways, our ideas, our very selves behind. Jesus must become all. God is never, was never and will never be looking for our contribution. We either believe and obey what God has said and set in motion or we don't.

What Jesus set in motion: I cannot sin

 I can remember a time, not all that long ago when my life was steeped in sin. I had no desire to know God, no desire to serve Him and in fact for the most part deemed Him insignificant in my life. As long as things in life went the way of my own desire and direction, I had no need nor desire for Him to be part of it.

 Then something changed. I started facing some serious adversity and found myself in a place where I couldn't fix what I had done. It was only at this point did I begin to acknowledge that I may need the help of something or someone other than my own ingenuity.

 In what only seemed like a coincidence, a complete stranger entered my life. He told me a story about something God Himself had done for me. If you knew me up to that point, most of my friends had already abandoned me and my wild ways and hardly had a known a time of feeling so alone. God used the weakness of that moment and the care of a complete stranger to open my eyes to see myself for who I really was and where I was heading.

 As we all know, there is something about coming face to face with adversity that makes an individual look at life differently, to see things as they really are. That's what began in me on November 25, 1985 at 10:30 that evening. I saw, I believed and I've never been the same since.

 Rest assured, I have not lived a perfect life, far from it. And even where some of my convictions have changed over the years, there has always been this underlying current that has sustained me all along- that My Father would be faithful to me in relation to what He has promised- and He has been. Not necessarily as I had thought necessarily, but faithful nonetheless- to what He started and what He promises He'll bring to completion.

 "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died on their behalf."

 Understanding what Jesus has done in a finished work on our behalf motivates us in serving Him. He's calling us together in a work with Him-

"And working together with Him, (carrying the message of reconciliation), we are urged not to receive the grace of God in vain- and furthermore to-

"give no offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited……" [2 Corinthians 5]

 This is the life that "cannot sin," (not because sinning is not possible) but because we no longer want to sin due to the reasons above. It is a changed heart that understands the blessing God has given upon ones life and how much better that is compared with the temptations and sin all about us. In Genesis 39:9 Joseph faced a similar situation as us and explained it as such:

"There is no one greater in this house than I, (Joseph reiterates the blessing of God upon his life through his earthly master) and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. (Joseph here recognizes that despite the blessing of God that that blessing has limitations) How then could I do this great evil and sin against God? (Joseph recognizes that giving in to sin is an offense primarily against God Himself and that this would discredit him and God were he to sin in this manner). This is the attitude every professing Christian ought to have in the midst of trial and temptation.

Jesus came to put away sin- how is what matters

The three options:

1. I put away sin

 I once saw a Bible tract tiltled, "The Greatest Lie" and it spoke very succintly of what this lie was. Just as almost every unbelieving person would believe this same lie, many today, even among those claiming to be Christian believe it as well. That lie is believing that somehow if the "good" in their lives outweighs the "bad," that therefore they will be justified before God when they die- that God will not simply overlook their "sin," but furthermore reckon their "positive" traits or actions as "righteous."

 The fact is, most people believe that provided their good deeds outweigh their bad ones, everything will be ok the day they face God Himself on judgment day- and their dead wrong! The only real difference between the average sinner outside of Christ and a perfectionist who claims to know Him is this: the worldling hopes in vain their good will outweigh their bad, while the perfectionist has even a more daunting reality. They believe they have to live practically perfect to gain God's favor and think by their own will they can make this reality.

 My point in sharing this is this: Just as the unbelieving world predominately thinks that it is their own primary responsibility to make it to heaven, so do most if not all those with these perfectionist views believe the very same thing. Whether they believe "unconfessed sin" or any "willful sin" will keep one out of heaven, either way these people's confidence for salvation resides WITH THEM and THEIR ACTIONS. To them what seems to matter most is not the promises of God nor faith in the finished work of Christ, but simply their own willingness and effort they exert through willpower in their attempts to live perfectly. I won't speak for you, but when I read verses such as (Galatians 5:2-4) and (James 2:10), that isn't even remotely good news but the worst news of all! Not just because a soul could never have any real assurance of knowing God or staying within His favor, but worse- because the very merits of Christ are being rejected for lesser things! This IS the warning the book of Hebrews continually repeats and warns of!  

 The Bible is clear- salvation is of the Lord- "who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." This is the good news the perfectionists are still hoping to earn by their own works. It's the salvation of God, a salvation that the unbelieving world hates because they cannot earn their way into it. If a man can put away sin, Christ died needlessly.

2. He put away sin

 The Bible states in 1 John 3:5;

"You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin"

 John states this with this truth in mind found in Hebrews 10:11;

"Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified"

 As we can easily discover, their is much talk of the word perfect by those among the perfectionist crowd. Contrary to what is all too often assumed by some, the word perfect in the New Testament does not mean "unable to sin" or "sin free" even as if for a season of time. The word perfect is more accuratey rendered complete, mature, to accomplish God's ends in mind. It speaks of the ultimate goal God is after.

 In the verse above we have this dual aspect: on one hand "God has perfected" (a past tense statement) due to what He has done (finished) (See Hebrews 9:26) for those who are sanctified (who have trusted in Christ by faith). And although these people are sanctified now (set apart for God) the text literally says, "are being sanctified" (as in the sense of a progressive sanctification). These people have entered into Christ's perfect work and share in thus, though they themselves have yet to become practically perfect as of yet- they have yet to reach the goal God has in mind. The apostle Paul said as much in Philippians 3:12-14:

"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which alaso I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus"  

 Obviously Paul was not claiming to have become entirely free from sin in this life or even making that the focus of His attention. He was however throughout this passage speaking of our need to know Christ personally- and that despite our human tendency to place confidence in both the flesh and our present state or some former experience. To the contrary, Paul emphasizes our need to mature in the faith, die to self interests and trust Christ to ultimately conform us into His perfect image.

 Jesus has put away sin by the one perfect sacrifice of Himself. The only question is whether we have accepted His sacrifice by faith, or whether we have or do revert back to our own worthless and lesser sacrifices in exchange or in addition to His sacrifice. We are called to enter into His perfect provision, not to add or detract from what only He can provide. Our confidence must remain in Him alone.

3. We put away sin  

 "Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude, (a continual focus upon Christ and fellowship with Him) and if anything you have a different attitude (such as a focus upon my own supposed sin free lifestyle) God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same (mature) standard to which we have attained" [Philippians 3:15, 16]

 I don't know of any real Christians who think they can do as they please in this life because they "believe in Jesus" or said some prayer or walked down an isle in church. I know a lot of those people, yes, but those people are not Christians. Those are people who likely never came under the conviction of sin at all and were promised something from men that God had no obligation to honor. When we consider that neither churches, alter calls or even the religious hierarchy running them were ever a part of New Testament Christianity, we really shouldn't be suprised by all the false converts and religious sects spanning the globe. Men as a whole have rejected what Jesus died to establish- one Spirit filled body of interconnected living stones for which He alone is the head.

 Real Christians may not be perfect, but they do seek God's will regularly and will be growing from one season of faith unto another. They will have both failures and victories and will no doubt be disciplined at times as all God's children are. They will take God and His Word seriously and have a reverent fear for Who He is and long to discover their place among the family of God. And yes, they will no doubt be separated from their sin(s), sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly and learn to rely upon Jesus as their friend, brother and sole source of everything they need for life and godliness.

 The Christian life is not an effortless life……but there is a vast difference between what stems from our inherent corruption and from what God desires to produce from the Spirit of God within all true believers. Everything we need has been provided, and as we take the time to know our Father personally we will no doubt also learn to trust Him more and more as each day passes. This is not something we have to do, but something that becomes more and more precious to us as would any loving relationship we have known. To have Him is to have Life, to known Him is to trust Him and to be used by Him is to be trusted by Him. Let's not fail to press on as well my brothers and sisters.

Speaking or preaching isn't proof of anything

  I mentioned earlier how we as professing Christians have a tendency to overreact to our environments and as a result take various Scriptures out of their proper place. We have an epidemic of this in our day, from those who entirely reject any notion of being assured of salvation now, to those who practice a form of antinomianism (the belief that because salvation is of grace that Christians are no longer required to live by moral law- which in many cases leads to licentiousness). The perfectionist crowd has their own extremes as well, including their extreme view that those who claim to be sinners will ultimately end up in hell. Although it is true that only "saints by calling" will end up in heaven, just because someone claims to still sin periodically or calls themselves a sinner does not mean they are not a Christian or that they have "lost their salvation." It may simpy be an individuals manner of remaining humble before God. That is something most street preachers know very, very little about- not because they raise their voice or even dispute with others or defend what they believe is true. It's because they're not being honest about what is really going on inside themselves or being willing to identify with sinful human beings. Anybody can yell and scream at sinful people, very few can and will identify with their sin and struggles and help them get free from them. True love does tell people the unvarnished truth, but that must coincide with a willingness to die for others. That's the example Jesus set, not just speaking the truth but living that truth before others.

"Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth" [1 John 3:18]

 When I originally met the street preachers that day outside of the church holding their signs, I thought to myself: What message are these guys sending? What is the purpose of holding signs that say, "Sinners go to hell" and "Saints go to heaven?" Every Christian already knows this. You see, I didn't understand what they were actually trying to say by using those signs. That's the problem with crowds and refusing or failing to explain one's positions- people misunderstand our message, ignore the message and often even get angry over what they don't understand. Needless to say all of this could be avoided by simple smaller one on one or small group discussions with unbelievers.

 It took me three weeks and several interactions with these guys before I realized what these guys meant by the sign "Sinners go to hell." They didn't mean those individuals who were yet to know Christ personally, namely the unbelieving world, no, but they meant any person whatsoever that sinned- at all! That any unconfessed sin would instantly rekindle God's wrath against them until it was confessed and then subsequently forgiven by God. Needless to say such a lifestyle would lack any assurance of salvation whatsoever and likely turn a lifetime recipient of such a "faith" into a schizophrenic. Saved one day, unsaved the next, saved one moment, permanantly damned due to willfull sin the next. God being my Father one day, rejecting His son or daughter the next. If this doesn't sound quite right that's because is isn't. It's not the gospel at all, nor is this good news. That's because it places one's salvation clearly and almost exclusively upon an individuals works and their ability to live a sin free lifestyle. That's what happens when any person overemphasizes something such as "free will" in the lives of human beings. 

Conclusion

 Whether there is or can be anything resembling a Christian being perfect or sin free in this life is not the issue. The Scriptures never tell one to focus upon one's own life as if their own judgments are what constitute proper or righteous judgments about what is or is not Christian living. A person whose focus is themselves will only become more self centered and more self righteous- albeit with a religious veneer. These were the people who alienated Jesus the most and turned those seeking Jesus into twice the children of the devil that they were.

 The gospel of Jesus Christ is about what He has done-period. It doesn't matter what particular thing an individual might add to His finished work- circumcision, baptism or a perfect conditional lifestyle. Any addition to the gospel is not good news, it is not the gospel that Jesus died to impart and to which true believing Christians embrace. The gospel is good news and speaks of the gift that cannot and could not ever be earned or bought with anything we as human beings might offer. It is a free gift solely of grace and by which individuals receive exclusively by faith.

 The perfectionist crowd in my opinion is summed up perfectly within the framework of this verse in Colossians 2:23;

"These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are no value against fleshly indulgence" 

In other words, despite what it seems, their claims and actions cannot restrain the sinful nature of one's flesh. These individuals act as if Christ's finished work has little to no efficacy- they fail to recognize the manner one is freed from sin is not by "doing or not doing this or that" but by having died with Christ to their former manner of living. Just as its always been, one's faith must always be anchored in what Christ has done and never in what we do….. for God.

 No individual can believe in conditional acceptance by God via perfection and the following verse:

"Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness…" [Romans 4:4, 5]

These two positions are polar opposites and cannot be reconciled. One must renounce not only himself but his own efforts if one is to believe rightly upon Christ and His merits on one's behalf.

 A true born again blood bought saint will follow in the following footsteps in contrast to one's own attempts to earn heaven:

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God"

And with the following hope that no man nor devil can take away…..

"When Christ, who is our life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory"

 

-the end

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lessons from life http://thechurchunderground.net/2015/lessons-from-life/ Sun, 22 Feb 2015 20:34:24 +0000 http://thechurchunderground.net/?p=3896 Lessons from the past (The way it used to be)

  In all honesty, I don't really remember what prompted this study, only that I kept thinking about how often we as humans reminisce about our past and the reasons associated with why we do that. Obviously this study is not about living in the past (at least not literally) or dwelling in the past (whether that having been for the better or worse). What's done is done, but as we all know, the past is tied to our future in more ways than we might realize.

 Think for a minute about the last time you thought about your past. In all likelihood it was within the last 5 minutes. That's how often we think about what used to be or what was or what could have been. Our lives are "filled to overflowing" with past thoughts and events and I propose that although not always a positive thing, there is a reason why we keep looking back.

What has been lost

 Each of us as human beings have been shaped by God Himself through a series of people and events. We all look back upon both fond memories as well as the traumatic for one reason or another. As much as we might be attempting to learn from our past (a good thing of course) I suggest that another primary reason for this is a longing for something we now believe to be lost, despite our inability to pinpoint what that loss actually is.

 Regardless of who you meet from day to day, stick around them long enough and you're really likely to hear something from them along these lines, "Nothing's the way it used to be." Their sure is a lot of truth to that. But what are they actually saying? Isn't it more than just 50 cent fuel, 400 hp engines and the integrity and strength of most products previously made. Isn't it more than just wishing to be young again, living in the innocence of not knowing what we cannot now escape due to the media or some item that brings us back to our glory days? Why do people collect all manner of items unto themselves with a particular bent upon what is or seems to be rare? Isn't it because of the perceived value in those things- or is their more?

"The whole He hath made beautiful in its season; also, that knowledge He hath put in their heart without which man findeth not out the work that God hath done from the beginning even unto the end" [Ecclesiastes 3:11] YLT

"He has made everything appropriate (Lit: beautiful) in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that (in such a way that) man will not find out the work which God has done from beginning to the end"  NASB

 Without pretending to perfectly understand the above text to which scholars have some disagreement, I suggest it includes these pertinent things:

  • "The whole He hath made" refers to the whole of creation and all of the various forms of life He has made and the manner in which they intersect and interact.
  • "Beautiful in its season" looks back to verse 10 and coincides with the specific tasks God has given us during our lives.
  • "Knowledge (world, eternity) He hath put in their heart" speaks of that which is hidden (either past or present)- an innate knowledge of eternity itself to which mankind is ever attempting to comprehend and answer without resolution.

 When I speak of "what has been lost above" I am speaking to the Christian and the practice of what they call "the faith." We know that those without Christ will be continually looking to solve the dillemma of eternity, for they too have this awareness of eternity as well. Unlike those with faith, man and his ingenuity would take credit for both "what is now" and "what has been done." They will no doubt continue to revolt against the God they know exists and purpose to unite mankind in such a rebellion that "nothing will be impossible for them." (or so they will think) Genesis 11:6. 

 Little might you know, the instigators of this rebellion against God do follow in the footsteps of the past. Once again they will unite humanity against the Lord and His Christ:

"THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST" [Acts 4:26]  Also note that this rebellion will once again accomplish God's purposes exactly:  

….to do whatsoever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. [verse 28]

 Imagine being an unbeliever with this concept of eternity with no answer to it. On one hand we each age and know we will some day face that uncertain and fearful eternity. On the other, we attempt to grasp onto anything and everything that might prolong that reality like attempting to relive the past or hoping for some solution that might ease the pain of our dilemma. Eternity is fast approaching and we're all going there whether we are or are not prepared. That's a trauma they need to be ready to face-now.

 Sadly, the average professing Christian isn't much better off. They too have lost their way, the evidence of which stands upon thousands upon thousands of hills within the cities which we call our homes. They are testaments to the work of men's hands, and if the sheer number of them isn't proof positive of the value they place upon such, the vast investments in those structures most certainly do. Similar to their unregenerate neighbors who also go back to the beginning with their rebellion, most of the professing "Christian" world has returned to the practice of Old Testment law and tradition with an unbridled passion reminiscent of "the kings and rulers of the earth" above. Add to this the ever increasing departure from the facts of scripture and we see the apostacy our God warns of in full swing.

In the beginning God…..

 From the beginning it was God who put the seed of eternity within our hearts. Though we try, we cannot possibly comprehend the depth and width of such and despite this we keep pretending like we do. There is an uncertainty, an uneasiness about the future that God has intentionally placed within us. The answer to that uneasiness and uncertainty is not in a better life here on earth, not found in numbing its reality through the vanity of temporal pleasures whether they be sports teams or otherwise. They just shroud reality. Neither is it found in the next religious machinism, movement or in all the new fangled "revolutions" or "revelations" that drive our man made solutions. God hates them all. After all this, one would think men would desire to think clearly- nope.

 A God inspired and God designed problem can only be resolved by the designer Himself. Not by what He can do or even what He might desire us to do- but by Himself. We have left God behind, along with His perfect designs…..a long, long time ago.

 

What has been forgotten

"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;

…and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitations….

…that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him…..[Acts 17:24-27]

 The verses above are speaking far more than the obvious and most people's rejection of these truths. They speak of a timeline through which God has chosen to act- a "beginning to end scenario" if you will. Note that God is altogether separate from man, in need of nothing (we could do for Him). He is the One Who:

  • Gives to all men life and breath
  • He made the nations
  • Determines the length of time men will live
  • Determines where men will live

…..and why……that they would (might) seek God.

 What is important here is this: It is the things that God does that opens the door for men to seek Him. (Not the things we do or attempt to do for Him, but what He has chosen to do) in very specific ways and within very specific time frames. How do I know this? Because God has an end in sight that we cannot possibly accomplish, an end that began with a seed of eternity that was planted in our hearts from the very beginning……the very seed that brings both discontent, uneasiness and uncertainty apart from its solution. There is only one thing which could ever resolve such a dillemma within us, and its the same solution God Himself demanded from His own Son to purchase our redemption- perfection itself.

Lessons from the present: The way it is

 Looking at the above title from the outside as a non-Christian, one would probably say, "Great, another one of those self-absorbed Christians who think they know something." Frankly, most Christians arn't really offering much substance these days, and believe it or not your average unbeliever knows the difference.

 Most unbelievers could care less about "getting saved" or discovering and living an obedient life unto a God they quickly reject. They have no desire nor inclination to stop living selfishly and reliquish control of their lives. They are perfectly content living in their sins and with this interesting exception: almost all men ponder and consider their original origin and final destiny. This is more than a basic curiosity about life, it is the result of God "placing eternity in men's hearts."

 As Christians, we rarely give those who don't share our faith nearly enough credit. These are not ignorant people, but those like ourselves who also have questions and who are looking for answers. They live in the same world we do, they see and experience the same problems that affect us as individuals and as a united humanity. On some fronts they do more for the needy than many who claim to have "faith."

Torn between two worlds

 It's understandable when any person seeks out answers to the difficulties we each face in life, and those without Christ have lots of answers that they claim to have found and which they promote. Of course these answers are not a testimony to God nor toward what He has done but rather, to the ingenuity of men and what they themselves have supposedly discovered. Despite these answers which often include a particular view of the origin of humanity such as evolution, their remains a fascination concerning death and what comes after. It is here many unbelievers have an interest, not just because of the troubled times and the obvious ongoing conflicts between men and nations, but because of something deeper…..that uneasiness, that uncertainty, that fear of the unknown that God placed within their hearts. It is the one thing God prevents them from discovering outside of Him.

 There is no reason why an unbeliever would invest in eternity for they know not about such things. The work of eternity is in the hands of God's people, and despite what we may think, the unbelievers are well aware of this. Many of them, though still in their sins, are fairly familiar with what the Bible says and even the manner God requires His people to live in this world. Granted, they don't understand grace, though they are aware of the attitudes and actions God requires. The claim by those without faith that professing "Christians are hypocrites" is absolutely true about many people and is often based upon what these people know about the Bible. If that surprises you it shouldn't. They're looking and watching much more than we might think they are.

 In a very real sense the unbeliever has a legitimate reason for living it up in this world- they're simply enjoying the only option they know- they are propelled by a nature that cannot do otherwise. Unlike them, the Christian who is called to invest in eternity has no excuse. If he or she does otherwise that is hypocritical, that is the opposite of what God commands and the antithesis of all that the Bible reveals as having true faith. This is even more puzzling in light of another significant truth: a real Christian has the Holy Spirit living in them Who grants them revelation to "see the kingdom of God" and how that operates among the family of God. Furthermore, He also grants a glimpse of eternity from both perspectives as they come to realize God as the author of life in creation as well as the author of resurrection after physical death. Thus the uneasiness, uncertainty and fear that was once present is now removed for the future is sure for those trusting in Him.

 All of the above is some background information for what I want to share now.

God's ultimate aim for us is perfection: the absence of sin

 I've always been a rather passionate chap, I was the guy who never wanted the Bible study or prayer meeting to ever end. I could never understand the people who wanted to get right through this stuff so they could go to the movies or pursue something else. For most of the people I knew, something or someone else always seemed to take precedence over what I thought God had showed me mattered most. Anytime I tried to speak my mind or challenge what I thought was wrong I kept hearing people say things like, "We're all sinners," "Everybody does it," and "Nobody's perfect." I would think to myself, "But arn't we supposed to be perfect."

 Throughout the Bible we find verse after verse that denotes this process of growth from beginning to end. Every time I read these verses they never seem to fall short of God's intent- perfection for individual believers. In every instance the culmination is always this, nothing short of perfection.

"May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? [Romans 6:2]

"…..knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so we would no longer be slaves to sin…[Romans 6:6]

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable and perfect" [Romans 12:2]

"…..who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." [1 Corinthians 1:8]

"Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" [2 Corinthians 7:1]

"…..just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him" [Ephesians 1:4]

…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" [Ephesians 4:13]

"…..that He might present to Himself the ekklesia in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless" [Ephesians 5:27]

"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" [Philippians 1:6]

"…..who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself" [Philippians 3:21]

"…..yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach" [Colossians 1:22]

"We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ" [Colossians 1:28]

"…..so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints" [1 Thessalonians 3:13]

…and many, many more.

God is perfect, and so are His ways

 Throughout God's dealings with man we can easily see that God's standard is perfection. That perfection began with God's own character (Deuteronomy 32:3, 4), extended through His law (Psalm 19:7)(Romans 7:12), and was fulfilled by Jesus so He could become the author of salvation. (Hebrews 5:9, 10) God has a perfect plan and perfect will (Romans 12:2) – the consumation of which will be perfect children in a perfect paradise.

Eternity in their hearts

Try as we might, all men long to understand the "beginnings and ends" of their existence and yet eludes them all. For the sinner, he places his hope in this world and what he can make of it and in it. He foregoes what his heart really longs for, hindered by an ongoing unbelief in the only one capable of giving him sight. Even when he might look to those supposedly representing God for answers, he or she finds that in most cases they are just as inept of living free from the same things that bind them, whether they be natural or spiritual.

 The poor professing Christian might be worse off. Supposedly endowed with the very Spirit they claim enables them to triumph over all, they claim God's knowledge and power to triumph over sin only to be caught in the same quagmire as the world around them. Despite their touting the triumphs of Jesus, their lives rarely if ever reflect His life on earth or the tremendous promises that He says can raise His own above both death and destruction. They too have relinquished God's best, preferring to spout out their weak faith using the same excuses the world does like, "Nobody's perfect." That pretty much sums up where most of these folks focus is doesn't it?

The Holy Spirit- the seed of perfection

Believe it.  Both the Christian and unbeliever are desirious of the very same thing whether they realize this or not- and so are you. Think about it. When you go shopping, when you eat, when you buy a car, a computer or a hundred other things. When you long for a mate, when you have children and when you participate in any function that demands your attention. What is it that you are looking for, that's right- perfection!

 You can call this selfish, it most certainly is, but that's only because Adam's nature in us has corrupted what God gave as a perfect longing to all of mankind- a longing that can only lead to a perfect place, to the perfect God, to Him. You see, our longings aren't really for things, rather its for answers to questions like, "Why was I born," "Why am I here" and yes even, "What is my purpose?" Things are merely the substitutes that attempt to temper the void that the unbeliever pretends doesn't exist and the average professing Christian neglects and hides from. Even when men attempt to answer these questions for us or them its never sufficient, for only the revelation of Christ will bring assurance of the truth. All must seek God for themselves.

 As an unbeliever no one has hope. But those who possess the Holy Spirit have in their possession perfection itself, literally living within them. What is it that God desires most from us as a result? Our time, our money, even our best?

"He jealously desires the spirit which He has made to dwell within us" [James 4:5]

 Noting the varying translations of this verse, God has placed initially a human spirit (at birth) and the Holy Spirit (when we were spiritually regererated) within the bodies of Christians. We are called to live our lives by the Spirit of God in many passages, the Spirit that testifies with our human spirit that we are the children of God. (Romans 8:16, 17) It is only a result of living as such that our lives will be fruitful and lived within the perfection of God. That doesn't mean we are perfect now or free from sin (conditionally that is) but having the Holy Spirit living in us guarantees God's aim in redemption- the blameless, holy and perfect instruments He's after.

What we've forgotten

 God set in motion the guarantee of our perfection the very day He called us unto Himself. Although that perfection is guaranteed by God, their is a practical working out of that "perfect will" that we are responsible for and it does not include making excuses and settling for far less than God's best in and through us. Every single thing that was necessary for our redemption as well as a lifetime of fruitful service was provided in the past. It is merely our failure to recognize this and live in it, combined with our own ingenuity and human resources that hinder the perfection of God from becoming reality- now.

STOP MAKING EXCUSES

If Jesus says in Matthew 5:48;

"Therefore you are to be perfect, as Your heavenly Father is perfect"

He is more than adequate, more than capable, more than willing. Believe it.

 

Lessons from the future: The way it can be

 Just having talked to a faithful brother in the Lord today, a rather common refrain was once again brought up which revolved around some of the regrets we have as believers. Even though I did encourage him despite his concern, I couldn't help acknowledging that's exactly how I felt myself.

 All of us as Christians have regrets. But like many other things that can affect us adveresly, let's leave our past regrets in the past and dwell upon the goodness of God that we might learn to walk therein- today. Every day is new in Jesus and it can be with us as well provided we choose to make it so. That change of heart starts with a proper belief about what is really true.

 Recently I've been thinking about the perfection of God. Even when friends ask me how I've been doing lately I've been foregoing the typical answer of "ok" or "fine" and jumping right into "perfect." That usually garners a laugh or two- that is until the person on the other end of the phone realizes I'm not joking. Seeing that people already think I'm a little out there, I thought I might as well add this response to my repertoire.

 As funny as this seems, and considering God's own rather radical declarations, most Christians might as well be laughing just as hard about these things God Himself promises to His children:

"But seek first His kingdom and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tommorrow; for tommorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" [Matthew 6:33, 34]

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" [Matthew 7:7, 8]

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" [Matthew 11:28-30]

"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock (Myself) I will build My ekklesia, and the gates of hell will not overpower it" (them). [Matthew 16:18]

"Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." [Matthew 17:20, 21]

"Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life" [Mark 10:29, 30]

 Why would they be quietly and secretly laughing? Ask yourself, "How much of the above have you lived or are living presently living at this moment of your life? If you're not living all of the above, "Doesn't that warrant an investigation of why not?" For either God Himself is a liar (which means He isn't trustworthy) or the problem resides with you and I? Hopefully we're not so foolish to think outside the latter.

 Promises in the Bible are not always easy to understand. Some promises are for some people and not others. Some promises are conditional while others are not. Other promises relate to very specific things, times, nations or are fulfilled under very specific circumstances. Many if not most of the promises are misunderstood or ripped from their proper context. Take above the promise above in the book of Mark. What is this promise stating exactly? What does "will receive a hundred times as much in this age" actually mean? Does God want each of His children to be rich? Does God really want us to store up earthly treasures upon this earth? Despite what this verse seems to say, wouldn't both of the previous statements be contrary to other Bible passages?

The whole He hath made

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" [Romans 1:20]

The verse above is a divine indictment toward all of mankind. It might as well have said, "THEY KNOW I EXIST" by the evidence I have left for them through creation. God has not merely created the marvel of this world, He has done that in such a way that its existence could not be explained in any other rational way outside of the existence of Himself. Have you ever thought deeply about the marvel of creation? The manner the sun and the moon and the earth all work together? How storms create rain, ice and snow and the other way around? How all of the earths ecosystems are all intricately connected? Although we cannot possibly grasp the entire magnitude of what God has done, we do know this about what we have discovered so far- it's perfect! The fool says in his heart their is no God.

 Why is this so important to you and I? How does this relate to the perfection of God?

 God has reasons for our existence and He put His plan together for us before the beginning of time. God is in the business of redemption, redeeming a fallen world- not through partial or imperfect means, but with a perfect solution, through a perfect Savior.

 Most of us realize it was necessary for Jesus to perfectly fulfill His Father's law as a human being in order for Him to be able to condemn sin and free us from its grasp. He was the perfect lamb of God- an absolute necessity if we were to find forgiveness and ultimately share in His glory. This of course has been accomplished and becomes a reality for those who trust in His finished work on their behalf. "The hour has come (and gone now) for the Son of Man to be glorified" [John 12:23]

 Sadly, many people, even professing Christians are convinced that this is where the story ends. Huh what? This is the beginning folks, the SEED OF PERFECTION which has fallen into the ground and died:

"Truly, truly, I say to, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" [John 12:24]

 Oh Christian, "Do you not want to share His glory?" Do you not want to follow in His footsteps of suffering that you might share in that glory?

"For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings" [Hebrews 2:10]

Beautiful in its time

"But when the fullness of the time came, God sent his Son" [Galatians 4:4]

 There is a time for everything…..and God is not in a hurry like we are. He knows the tasks which He has prepared for each of us, He knows how to prepare us for those tasks and knows what resources will be needed for their accomplishment. Sadly, two things happen when we don't wait upon God's timing:

1. We do things "for God" that He does not sanction.

2. We use our own resources/methods to bring those same things to fruition.

 Looking over the thousands of years since Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension, would you say God's people are nearer the perfection that God desires for us? Or would we have to conclude that we are as far away as from that as we have ever been? Such questions cannot be slighted anymore than those concerning His promises. They too warrant an explanation for what surely amounts to a failure on someone's part. Someone is to blame for stopping this train on the tracks or replacing it with another that is heading somewhere else.

Get on the right train

 If your not on the right train, you're bound to end up somewhere other than your destination. Jesus is the engine that is pulling His people exactly where He wants them to go. If you haven't figured it out yet, as a Christian you have absolutely no say in the matter. If you are His than you have absolutely no right to yourself.

He hath put eternity in their hearts

 In an earlier post we discussed how despite God placing this desire to understand "the ends of the earth" (eternity) or their "beginning and end" that this is beyond the reach of mortal men. This was specifically done that men might grope for God in their quest for that answer. We also discussed how Christians have some insight into this matter because those who have been born again can see the kingdom of God and how Jesus is both the Creator and their guarantor of life after death. As such, these Christians must become the ones who not only preach the message of truth and reconciliation but live in a manner that is consistent with those truths. Jesus says;

"Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth. As you sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me." [John 17:17-23]

 Uh, oh, there's that word perfection again! Except this time its not just talking about God the Father and Jesus, it's not just talking about His children also, it's not just talking about people who will become believer's through His children, it's talking about perfection in this world, in this life among all of these people! This is easily proven by the part of verse 23 which says, "that the world may know that You sent Me." Where this statement is found is crucial. It shows us that a perfect practical unity is indeed possible in this life amongst believers.

 If indeed a perfect possible unity is possible among those of faith, then only one question remains to be asked:

How might perfect practical unity be accomplished among us? I am so glad you asked. If you don't mind, I'd like to answer that by answering why it's not happening, why Christians are not united and as a result not convincing the world that God the Father sent Jesus to them.

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" [James 1:2-8]

 We fail to live in the manner God desires for two primary reasons. First, we flat out don't believe this is possible. This of course is based predominately upon what we see as continual disunity amongst those who claim to be Christians. This is exactly the opposite of how Christians are called to live by faith, a faith that does not take into consideration things like whether something seems possible or what we happen to think or presently see about us.

 Secondly, and tied to faith is the manner we are to share the glory that Jesus promises us in John 17. On one hand we already share His glory due to the deposit of the Holy Spirit in us which is given as a pledge of our inheritance. You can find this truth here (Romans 8:30) but practically living in God's glory is an entirely different thing. How and when was Jesus glorified? Was it not after His death and resurrection? Was that not when the fruit of His labors was born? When the Holy Spirit was sent forth in power? Was not that when we witnessed the true unity of the Spirit amongst those believers in the upper room and afterwards?

Read again John 17:22;

"The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, and the result of that glory is that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know….."

A Simple Equation

+ Belief in what God's Word says and not our own preconceived notions about the truth or what we see with our eyes.

+ Belief that our sufferings are the means to fruitful living and individual effectiveness and power.

+ Belief that our collective sufferings lead to fruitful living, power and influence in society.

= A willingness to embrace one's sufferings leading to the death of one's old self, a death which in turn leads to glory and in glory God's power is made manifest. The problem we face today among God's people is UNBELIEF and UNWILLINGNESS which are both equated by God to be DISOBEDIENCE.

"For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His" [2 Chronicles 16:9]

Do you dare be one of them?

 

-the end

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For better or for worse/Part 2 http://thechurchunderground.net/2015/for-better-or-for-worsepart-2/ Thu, 22 Jan 2015 20:37:53 +0000 http://thechurchunderground.net/?p=3875 For better or for worse/Part 2

 I can't speak for the general Christian populous out there, but I try to keep my life relatively simple where I can. It's important to me to not exceed a single credit card, retain a P.O. Box for my mail, have separate ministry and business phones and make sure all of my belongings can fit into a 10X10 storage unit. I have a dream to live out of a _____2500 4X4 with an attached camper on the back. Yeh I know, that kinds of explains why I've yet to been married- and that's just for starters! Depending upon your own ideas of simplicity you might find this to be better, or possibly quite worse for your own tastes.

 All laughs aside (laughing with or at me for now), the reason for the above is quite simple: I want to be as mobile and available in God's service as I can possibly be. Plus, I just don't want all the headaches that come with all that stuff you own.

 I'm slow to change my ways, as are most having breached the fifty year plateau. I threatened to take my I-Phone back numerous times in the 1st week and I'm ashamed of the adverse emails I sent Apple in relation to their lack of instructional information on these devices. They reminded me of a time my dad suggested I become a computer programmer (he was a computer engineer) and why- because I have a knack for seeing what is so obvious to the simple and so complicated to the wise. That will be my theme in this 2nd and final installment of "For better or for worse."

 As most now know, we live in a push button society, and I have to admit, the Delete button is no doubt my favorite- or the 'flick of a finger" method of closing out a page on my new phone. A problem remains though, despite what we try to erase online, it lingers still and somebody is bound to discover it in time. And though we can't change what we've said or done, we can allow God to change who we can become. That's a grace we do well to take advantage of while there's still time.

 I want to offer some simple questions and ask you to simply think about what you presently believe about them. I'm not looking for an answer from you. This is simply offered in the hope that you might seriously consider what you presently believe in light of two things:

1. What the Bible actually says (not what some people tell us it says wrongly)

2. The experiential evidence in your own life that should echo the truths of the Bible

Why?

 We live in a society that is changing at near lightning speed. We are being fed all kinds of information from all manner of sources- a literal bombardment of various ideas, theories and claims from various people, organizations and even people who claim to be representing God. It is vital that we have the ability to discern truth from error and keep our focus on what matters most lest we be carried away into an unfruitful life or worse, one of deception. The technological advances of the day can be helpful under certain circumstances, just as they can just as easily becomes idols which lull us into more self-pleasing and worthless chatter and vain pursuits. We have to know with absolute certainty whether the choices we make are truly from God and therefore beneficial to Him and others, or whether they're in fact steering us away from God and His intentions for us and His people. In short, we must know whether our decisions are for the better or rather for the worse.

Question: Where did you receive what you believe to be the truth about life and eternity?

 Most people who profess to be Christians would claim they initially heard about God from their parents, a religious professional or a chuch they may have attended. For some it may have been all of the above. But how do you know what these people, most of whom are likely well meaning, are telling you truth? Can you trust them or is their a better way?

 I am certainly not opposed to learning about God from others anymore than I am opposed to telling or teaching others the truth about God myself. The problem is that I can only transmit to you information, information you have to process before God yourself. You have to seek God as an individual and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. You have to learn to trust Him in forming your own convictions- no one can or should attempt to do that for you. I don't think my friend Noah would have appreciated me telling him what to do in regard to his many decisions. I never even considered doing that. I spent more time helping him to think about and understand the potential implications of each decision he was considering. He thanked me specifically for both.

 Have you really met Jesus? Has He really become your life, your everything? Or is He simply a means to your own ends in this world and the next? 

 No supeficial or intellectual pursuit of Jesus will ever really satisfy one's soul. Jesus wants to own you and until He does, you will fall far short of His intentions for your life and your place among His people- not to mention heaven itself. You cannot exclusively live for yourself and be a Christian.   

 Read your Bible and ask God for a spiritual revelation in relation to His real purpose for you in this life. Once He shows you that, nothing will ever matter more than Him again. Then your life can be better- In Him.

Question: What is salvation and how does one obtain it?

 The modern day concept of salvation is warped beyond recognition. Most people think salvation is God's promise of heaven and a blissful eternity. They  are told to simply say a prayer to receive Jesus and then they're on their way to heaven. How they live in this world seems more or less irrelevant after the fact. Is this really the gospel? Does God save people just to get them to heaven or to be used for His purposes and will?  

 Salvation is actually three fold: A daily deliverance from sin, a future state exempt of sin and a past act of God wherein He calls individuals unto Himself. In all three salvation equates to Jesus Himself, for in Him is life eternal and he who has the Son has life. Salvation is received when an individual believes the good news of the gospel and turns from their sinful lifestyle.

 May I repeat what was said earlier- If you are truly saved by God's grace, you no longer own yourself. You are now a slave to righteousness and are obligated to be useful in your Master's service. In His service, not in what you think or others tell you is His service. That's also something you must seek Him about.

Read your Bible and ask God to show you what salvation actually entails. He is faithful and will do it. But will you obey what He reveals to you? If you do your life might get better, if you don't, it will surely end much worse.

Question: Is their a specific manner in which God desires Christians to lives and if so what does that entail and prohibit?  

 Most professing Christians believe regular attendance at a church is a necessary part of their Christian life. In fact, most of these people believe their Christian lives should revolve around church and church related activities. Most think and are taught  that their are things they "should and should not do" though few are taught directly from God Himself. Most just follow the instructions of those they call "Christian leaders" (whether they be authors, musicians, self-professed Christian leaders or leaders of their own religious organizations or empires. Most just follow unquestionably the dictates of their local church pastor or priest.

 God is not the author of any organized religion. All institutional religion is authored by men and is inspired and empowered by the devil himself. Not a single person, professional or otherwise can prove that any religion is from God Himself or that He sanctions them in any manner whatsoever. The Bible itself doesn't sanction religious institutions either, they are the inventions of men that divide the body of Christ and control men's lives and keep them enslaved to a system in contrast to Jesus Himself. The leaders in these places use Jesus' name as a means- a means to their own selfish ends.

 God has made clear the manner He desires His people to live and fellowship and what hinders and competes with that fellowship- anything and anyone who attempts to build earthly kingdoms. All religious institutions fall into this category.

Read your Bible and ask God to show you specifically what He desires for your life. Allow Him to form convictions in your heart that are from Him and refrain at all costs from following the religious status quo. God is shaking anything and everything not directly tied to Him and in time all religious instutions will fail. He will lead you to those with whom to fellowship with in due time, for certain amounts of time and for reasons He alone knows. Your job is not to try to figure His ways out but simply to obey when shown the truth.

Question: Is their a specific manner in which God desires Christians to reach out to a needy world and its people?

 Most professing Christians never even question those they allow to lead them. Far too often they are caught up in some leaders vision and therefore fail to listen to God for themselves. They end up being a recruit for someone else's idea that may or may not even be from God. This is how many ecumenical pursuits have begun and are advanced, even though none of them are actually inspired or directed by God. They are nothing but human ingenuity.

 The non-stop litany of various spiritual pursuits, conferences and so-called miracle working crusades are a farce. The proof of this is easily seen in the manner the the leaders promote themselves and the agendas they promote. They are just another manner in which people are recruited to some leaders particular outreach. As is typical, the average person has no ability to question what is being said or taught by the self-professed leaders.

Read your Bible and ask God to give you the courage to reach out to those closest to you-your own family members first, any other Christians you know and then your neighbors- in that order. Stop pretending that religious attendance and participation in religious rituals/traditions equates to obeying God. It doesn't.  

Question: Is your present experience as a Christian echoing the lifestyle of those written about in the 1st century?

 If you have chosen to obey God as the Bible directs you and as you hear from Him you will:

  • Have the promise of salvation and the assurance of it/Him (John 5:24) (1 John 5:11-13)
  • Listen to others, but only obey God as He directs you (Proverbs 12:15) (John 10:3-5) (Galatians 5:16)
  • Refrain from earthly pursuits- co-labor with Christ in what He is building spiritually in others (1 John 2:15-17) (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
  • Learn to cast off that which hinders your service for Him, not as a law but as a labor of love (Hebrews 12:1, 2) (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15)
  • Be willing to be hated, slandered, shamed and even killed if need be- (Matthew 10:24, 25)

…..then you will be like Jesus, then you will be worthy of the calling to which you have been called….. and only then.

 If you pursue a better life in this world, you will never know Jesus as you ought to know Him or as you could know Him. Such a pursuit will frustrate any previous spiritual progress and choke whatever He aims to accomplish within you. You must come to Christ without reservation, without expectation, without the hope of bettering yourself or your circumstances here on earth. That is the heart He requires, that is the vessel He can use.

 Serving God doesn't guarantee one's life will become better, at least as far as appearances go. In fact, as far as appearances go, it's very likely to become worse. Just as God the Father took pleasure in crushing Jesus (due to the blessed results that would follow) so He takes pleasure in breaking us from all that we are now into all that He can make us. Contrary to modern day belief, the process is a downward trend. In Christianity and in God's service, the way up is down and all who claim otherwise are deluded and liars. We are His handiwork; a work He begins, He sustains and He brings to completion.

 Our part in the great work of redemption is this: To trust Him regardless of our lot and to cultivate an intimate friendship with Him who gave all for us that we might follow in His footsteps. That is where true hope and happiness resides, the better life- that which has learned to abide above regardless of circumstances here on earth. Amen?

Jesus still says today;

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" [Matthew 11:29] 

and why…

"The world and its lusts are passing away, but the one who does the will of God abides forever" [1 John 2:17]

 

-the end

 

  

 

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For better or for worse/Part 1 http://thechurchunderground.net/2015/for-better-or-for-worsepart-1/ Thu, 22 Jan 2015 01:07:18 +0000 http://thechurchunderground.net/?p=3845  For better or for worse/Part 1   

 A few days back a younger believer and I had an opportunity to sit face to face and discuss some rather major decisions he would soon have to make. He was being wise by consulting many counselors in this regard to which I considered myself privileged to be one. At stake was more than the risk of going into debt, it was something far more important- the will of God as it concerned the plans He had for this young man. He knew these decisions could impact his life for the better, or maybe for the worse. He was wise in asking for assistance from others who had similar experiences prior to His own.

 I faced a similar dillemma a few weeks ago when I purchased my first I-Phone. I bought one specifically due to a navigational APP I could only use on a smart phone. Sure, this may seem kind of trivial but in reality this decision could have either been for the better or worse as well. Actually, all decisions are for the better or worse, at least in the interim. I'll retun to these thoughts a little later.

  Within the Scriptures we have an instance where some new Christians were actually having fellowship that actually made them worse off. In other words, they would have been better off not attempting to fellowship at all. 

"But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse" [1 Corinthians 11:17]

 Of all the indictments Paul the apostle could have uttered concerning the fellowship of the saints, this had to really hurt. He had just given them some specific instructions on the manner they were to gather together and had recently commended them with this thought below:

"Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you" [1 Corinthians 11:2]

 If the extreme contrast of the commendation and condemnation sound familiar, it may be that they echo a similar refrain from John the apostle:

"To the angel of the ekklesia in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

'I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and that you put to test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary.

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place-unless you repent" [Revelation 2:1-5]  

What can we learn from such contrasts

  • Obedience is always present tense. Regardless of how we may have obeyed in the past, what matters is whether we are being obedient now.
  • Disobedience is often promoted through people who claim to be Christian leaders that are false and must be called out.
  • Disobedience is a sure recipe for us loving other things more than Jesus.
  • Restoration in faithfulness to an obedient life recognizes from where one has gone wrong and a retun to those deeds/practices.
  • True love for Jesus is proven through the things above.

 Backing up to 1 Corinthians 10:33 we discover the character of a real Christ centered leader:

….just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. The principle of renouncing oneself to the benefit of others was spoken by Jesus Himself here in John 12:24:

"Truly, truly, I say to you unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." It is only due to this principle being a reality in Paul's life that he had the courage to say to these Corinthians;

"Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" [1 Corinthians 11:1]

 Although these Corinthians to whom Paul spoke had been faithful to his prior instructions, they obviously had parted course at a later date with some of his instructions- what he called "my ways" or "the traditions." The passage in between the commendation and the condemnation details the topic of headship and how that is lived out during fellowship. Without delving into the issus of head coverings here, I want to focus in upon what Paul states in verse 1 Corinthians 11:16 where Paul says;

"But if one is inclined to be contentious (argumentative), we have no other practice (custom), nor have the ekklesias of God"

 The problem Paul is addressing is this: There are consistent customs that each local ekklesia practices. Whether anyone likes these practices is not up for discussion, nor whether they can or cannot be altered. They ought to be practiced in all ekklesias. This said, the issue of headship is two fold: it must first be recognized, then practiced.

THE REASONS MATTERS GOT WORSE IN FELLOWSHIP

"For in the first place, when you come together as an ekklesia, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For their must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despite the ekklesia of God and shame those who have nothing.? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you. [1 Corinthians 11:18-22]  Note the specific issues Paul notes are prevalent within this assembly:

  • There are divisive people among them
  • These people form cliques or groups within a group (much like religions or denominations within the body of Christ) -called factions
  • This divisiveness proves who the faithful people really are
  • The unfaithful people are exhibiting selfishness by eating prematurely, eating in excess so others went without, getting drunk and towering over saints as if they were more important.

 All of the above are serious problems within any local fellowship. The answer to all of them resides in every Christian dying to their own selfish interests and seeking the profit of the many instead. Obviously each individual Christian is in varying stages of this process which is why some people need to be approved within each fellowship to safeguard the saints from doctrinal and practical errors.

Decisions, decisions and more decisions

 Our primary problem in all of our decisions is having left our first love. Remember how Jesus said we do that. By returning to the deeds we did at first- at the beginning.  

 There is no escape making decisions in this life. We all must make them, though there are some things to keep in mind before we choose for better or for worse. After my friend Noah above initially described his first decisional dillemma, I asked him to think about his decision in light of being a part of a New Testament local assembly. An assembly gathering and practicing as Paul the apostle prescribed them to gather and practice. He kind of wondered for a moment where I might be going and then I interjected something like this in relation to his considering going further into debt at school:

Here's the scenario I made up for him.

 Noah, you are fellowshipping regularly with a local body of believers. You are actively involved helping many of the younger children in your fellowship. You are committed to these people and personally responsible to them and they to you. Each of your gifts are mutually exercised and mutually shared. You are learning to lay down your lives one for another. These people know you, they know your level of commitment to God, to them and to His calling upon your life. Do you think they care about your needs? Do you think they might shore up a lack if indeed their is one?

 Exchange that scenario for this one. You attend church week after week. You come and go as you please and participate in a few programs and activities. Most of the people there don't know you and even if they do arn't necessarily committed to you or you to them. They have no idea what plans you have for the future, whether or not you are trustworthy or even living in willful sin. What are the odds they help pay for your schooling?

 You see where I'm going no doubt. It is truly tragic that I even have to offer such a comparison. This says nothing of the near worthlessness of a degree in some form of "Christian" ministry which is altogether unnecessary and an almost complete waste of money. Is it any wonder Jesus says to us;

"Therefore remember from WHERE you have fallen and repent and do the deeds you did at first……."

The proof of my love to God and others

 One of the APPS that came installed on my I-Phone was a compass. It's one of the only one's I merely had to look at to find out where I was at any given time. It's truly hard to get lost when you have a working compass in your possession. You basically have to ignore the pointed arrow and just assume that if you wander around long enough that eventually you'll make it home. I'm not joking in the least when I say that the majority of professing Christians are practicing this very thing. They assume they will arrive in heaven despite choosing any road or methodolgy they want to get there. They ignore God's written compass where their first love has told them precisely how to sit at His feet, walk with their brothers and sisters and stand against their adversaries. It won't be pretty in the end if this continues, it isn't pretty now.

 Unless you have forgotten, as a professing Christian you are not your own.

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" [1 Corinthians 6:19,20]

What makes a decision better and what makes a decision worse

 If I am not my own, I need to know what God is doing upon this earth and align myself accordingly. I need to stop building my own desired lifestyle upon this sin filled earth and consider my ways in light of what Jesus is building in the Spirit. I need to consider more than my personal comfort level and be willing to forego that for the sake of others in need. Isn't that the example Jesus left for me?

 My decisions should always take into consideration those with whom I have local fellowship. To do otherwise is to act as an individual outside of the  primary manner in which God provides for and prepares His children for service. These decisions prove who is and is not still self-oriented and still alive unto themselves.

 The statement above is where the real war wages. It is not meant to be some lawful mandate that local elders enforce upon the other saints. It is simply the manner in which the saints are protected from making poor decisions and proves their allegiance is first to the local gathering of saints and its outreach and expression.

 The importance of having specific goals- His 

  Within the context of any building project, I need to consider the cost of finishing what I've started. Like others, I have have a host of uncompleted projects, many of which I only thought were of God. Unlike my friend Noah who sought out counsel from others, I just jumped right on in expecting God to bless what I thought was His vision for my life. In some cases He cut off my intent, in others He let me suffer the consequences of failing to keep Him first.  

The question of God's will

 I once read a book on the subject of God's will that was almost three hundred pages long. Do you know what I remember about that book, yep, how long it was. I kept thinking, it has to be easier than this God- and it is.

 There is no such thing as figuring out God's will for your life. You simply obey Him day by day, moment by moment and as one former godly artist sang, "He'll take care of the rest." That said, obeying Him isn't doing whatever we please for Him at any given moment of time. It is proving our love and allegiance to Him through a local expression of the saints. Nothing should trump this desire, nor should we allow any leader, any parent, any friend or so-called Christian to deter us from it.

 Most professing Christians problem with God's will is they don't really want to obey Him. Obeying Him would mean denying their self interests and placing the interests of others as more important than their own. It would mean being vunerable with others regarding our true selves, how we spend the money we make and how we spend our free time. It would mean reconsidering the whole concept of "church" and church related activities and abandoning everything that didn't square with the Scriptures. Simply said, if you truly want God's will, you will walk, live and die like Jesus did. Still want some of that?  

Trust in God is proven through experience

  Those who trust God wait upon Him. Those who don't trust God take matters into their own hands. It really is that simple. We live in a world where mankind can never be satisfied. Even his religion must change to keep it fresh and interesting. The message of the cross is nothing more than a symbol these days, and a false one at that.

The goal is God Himself

 Not too long ago I overheard two men discussing all the wonderful things their church had and was accomplishing for Jesus. It was the last church I had attended years prior, one which welcomed all manner of secular and worldly programs among the saints. The whole conversation made my sick, I could barely refrain from walking over and telling them how pathetic they really were and how little those around them really cared about their so-called outreaches. Such is a perfect illustration of finding joy and satisfaction in what we call "ministry" at the expense of Jesus Himself.

 God is not the least interested in what we think we are doing for Him. He is very concerned with the manner in which we are doing it, and the resources we are using to accomplish His work. How many times have we heard things like "My pastor is different" or "our church is accomplishing so much good." Really? You sure about that?  When did God start sanctioning professional ministers? One's who rule over people and earthly edifices? Where is the concept of "church" in the New Testament? Since when is your standard of good equivalent to God's standard of righteousness?

IT IS GOD ALONE WHO IS PERFECT- BOTH IN CHARACTER AND TRUTH

He does not leave anything to chance or the imaginations of men- He has prepared everything beforehand for us-

we simply need to walk in it.

 "As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him" [Psalms 18:30]

 

-to be continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Matter of Extremes http://thechurchunderground.net/2013/a-matter-of-extremes/ Wed, 03 Apr 2013 21:45:30 +0000 http://thechurchunderground.net/?p=3703 A Matter of Extremes

"Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son" [2 John 1:9]

  The verse above denotes two very primary things we must be careful to recognize. First, their is such a thing as "the teaching of Christ" which is the totality of what Jesus came to both teach and exhibit before His disciples- what John mentions several times in verse one and again in verse four as "the truth." It is clear in the above verse that their were in his day either individuals or groups of people that were straying from this truth or even bringing forth other teachings that opposed what Jesus said was the truth. It is only those who abide within the parameters of what Jesus says is the truth that are the true children of God.

 We can see that these teachings (doctrines) of Jesus Christ Himself are learned progressively over time by the verse that precedes it:

"Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, (or what we have worked for) but that you may receive a full reward" [2 John 1:8]  John is obviously not talking about specific behaviors but beliefs- for beliefs separate who really is of Christ and those who carry about deception and the spirit of antichrist. There was to be an ongoing revelation of the truth in Jesus Christ that was to be accepted and lived out (abiding in the teaching) before God and men. There is a similar admonition in Philippians 3 that gives us a specific example of abiding in one of these teachings here:

…and may be found in Him (in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ),  not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith…

 Paul the apostle is of course talking about an individual being justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Then he describes the reason why we were justified…that I may know Him…and the manner through which we can know Him…through the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. In other words, we press on in order to practically live out what Jesus Christ has accomplished through His finished work…but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  It is a daily process of being conformed to Jesus through death, a process even Paul was in:

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind (his own past efforts in trying to be made righteous by the law (his own efforts) and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." He goes on to say in relation to those who are mature; "Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude (those who are less mature) God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that standard to which we have attained." [Philippians 3:9-16]

Of first importance, their is a standard from God

  I marvel everytime I hear someone make a statement that appears to minimize, trivialize or plain reject what God has made clear in His inspired Word. This isn't just confined to those who are not Christians, it extends to many who say they are believers in Jesus Christ. What many of these people fail to understand is to believe in Jesus one must believe in the truth for Jesus says about Himself, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" [John 14:6]

 Christians would not be suprised that unbelievers would reject Jesus being the only way for an individual to have a relationship with God. To them, that's plain unfair and intolerant to the views of other people and other people's religions. Christians know these people are deceived, they are stuck in their own thinking which blinds them from seeing with spiritual eyes the standard of exclusiveness in and through Jesus Christ. It is impossible for them to find the way to God, discover His truth and receive the life God offers to them. Until they are born-again spiritually, they will never discover and live out God's one standard.

 For some reason, many of those professing a faith in Jesus Christ also seem to think that God has never had any universal standard which applies to mankind. We only need to look back in our Bibles to see that surely at one point in history God's Law was a standard that all Israel was commanded to uphold and live out. Within the framework of this standard, their were blessings for those who kept the standard and there were consequences for those who didn't. In the end, we do now realize it was impossible for them to keep such a standard- the very thing they promised God they would do.

 Looking ahead to our day, we know that through our union with Christ in regeneration, we have been crucified to the law and been re-created anew where that law can have no claims upon us. These people rightfully see that God's law was not able to make a man perfect and that God in His providence chose to supersede that Law with a new law- the law of life in Christ Jesus;

"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do (make us perfect) weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." [Romans 8:1-4]

 The above is an awesome promise and much encouragement can be drawn from it. Jesus has accomplished something for us we could have never done and God's true sons and daughters are the receipients of such grace toward them. Amen.

 If we continue along in this very chapter in Romans, we see clearly that those having received this Spirit of life in Christ Jesus are those who walk by the Spirit. Among other things, the Spirit of God is able to:

  • Give life to our mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in us [Romans 8:11]
  • Aid us in putting to death the fleshly deeds of the body [Romans 8:13]
  • Lead us [Romans 8:14]
  • Testifies with our human spirit we are children of God [Romans 8:16]
  • Leads us into suffering with Christ [Romans 8:17, 18]
  • Helps our weaknesses, such as in prayer [Romans 8:26, 27]

 It goes without saying that within this book of Romans and many others the Law of God and the Law of the Spirit (Law of Love) are contrasted. This is especially noted in the book of Hebrews where it shows the law of God through the Old Covenant to be obsolete for Christians and soon to disappear entirely:

When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. [Hebrews 8:13]  We know that God has provided a new, bettter and living way through the New Covenant in Jesus and through His blood.

 The reason I'm writing about this contrast is simple: Many Christians believe that because we are no longer under the law (true), and no longer live by the law (also true) that God no longer has any universal standards that govern His people. In other words, the people of God's sole responsibility is to "walk and live by the Spirit" and any written rules that might govern our actions will breed death. This extreme error stems partially from this verese below where Paul talks about his adequacy being in God Himself;

….who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. [2 Corinthians 3:6]

 Recently someone I know attempted to equate "the letter" as "the Bible" which is not true. Such a statement would make the apostle's words to say, "The Bible kills," meaning any literal obedience to a standard that the Bible itself calls "truth" will kill a Christian's spiritual life. Certainly, any standard without the enlightening and empowering abilities of the Spirit would prove to be a vain cause for all. It would just amount to more dead orthodoxy and would never produce the fruit of the Spirit in anyone.

The letter that kills

"Or do you not know, brethren,  that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?" and then verse 4: "Therefore my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God"

 The sin that originated in our sinful nature and taking opportunity through the law sentenced us to death. This is the letter that killed us (past tense) – made us guilty before God and sentenced us to death. The question now is this: Is a Christian still subject to this letter of the law or not? Answer: Of course not, that's what the verse above states, that we have died in the Person of Jesus Christ (Crucified with Him) brought beyond the realm of Adam where we were subject to the letter of the Law. That letter which kills has no reach nor claim upon one who has been re-created in Christ. In other words, their is no letter that can kill a Christian! Therefore, the Bible cannot be the letter that kills, that is, unless one is an unbeliever still in their sins.

What is God's standard?

 In the first century, the twelve apostles Jesus' chose were meant to be the standard truth bearers before those who would come into the kingdom. It is true that the Spirit was poured out upon an assembly of one hundred and twenty and yet we find in Acts 2:42 these words:

"They (the brethren) were continually devoting themselves to the apostle's teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" The fact that these twelve had walked with Jesus Himself allowed them a special authority and privilege others do not possess today. They were given the task of formulating the foundations of the New Testament Ekklesia and what we know today as the Bible via direct revelation from God as the Spirit of God moved upon them. So special were these twelve that their names will be permanantly inscribed for eternity upon the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem. Wow!

"And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." [Revelation 21:14]  That should bring new insight to the words, "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, no?"

 In those times, it was absolutely necessary for the Holy Spirit to give these men the ability to say and write exactly what was necessary and true for all time. The apostle Paul in defending his apostleship said;

"For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from a man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ" [Galatians 1:11, 12] and

"Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations , for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me- to keep me from exalting myself!" [2 Corinthians 12:7]

 In a similar manner Paul says;

"But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter has been to the circumcised…..(for He who effectively worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectively worked for me also to the Gentiles) [Galatians 2:7, 8] 

 These were special men, used in  special circumstances and with a special responsibility and authority that will never be replicated again- live with it. You really don't want to suffer that much anyway do you?

God's means of revelation

 "For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him." [Ephesians 1:15-17]

 In our day, there are two opposing sides to this issue of revelation and where it originates and how it is learned. This subject matter is little different than many other issues concerning Christians with one similarity- both sides have a tendency toward extremes in their positions. Before we continue, listed below are a few other extreme positions people have taken and used to justify their choice to separate from other professing Christians:

  • One "Christian" denomination claiming authority over all of the rest. Catholicism claims to be the only true expression of Christianity upon the earth. In reality though, no denomination nor "Christian" religion has any authority from God whatsoever over anything or anybody.
  • Because of the many errors within Catholicism, a new movement arose to challenge the claims of Catholic doctrine. Initially this was a noble endeavor by individual men until a new denomination called Protestantism was established which adopted many of the Catholic errors. No matter what you call it, Christianity cannot be highjacked nor contained within an institutional shell. Any such form or name amounts to sectarianism which God condemns for His people.
  • One system of belief over another. Whether it's called Calvanism, Arminianism, Reformed etc is irrelevant. All such titles and systems that attempt to draw a line or box around God's truths are man-made in nature and set men one against the other.
  • The claim that some of the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible have ceased and no longer operate in this age- cessationism. This extreme arose because of both faulty exegesis as well as the many claims of these gifts which are proven to be false in nature.
  • Counting the obvious excessive and chaotic experiences of some people as spiritual gifts instead of what they really are- fleshly and demonic manifestations.  
  • Taking Jesus' command to "call no one your leader, teacher, father" etc to mean not allowing anyone to lead, teach or act in a fatherly manner one to another. The prohibition is against naming someone any of the above because that clouds the equality all Christians share- not carrying out the functions themselves.
  • Those who complain about Christians who judge the actions and words of other professing believers. Not only is opposition to this extreme, it is actually commanded for Christians to judge the actions and beliefs of other believers.
  • Labeling someone who is mistaken about a truth, doctrine or practice a heretic. Most of us are way too quick to label other professing believers who disagree with us. They may be, but a thorough investigation would be helpful first.
  • An attempt to erase the roles God gave to men and women since creation in the name of "equality." Men and women are equal in Christ although that does not include the sharing of specific roles God has given to each.
  • Using the fact that many "professional ministers" receive salaries to condemn any christians from receiving monies from believers. If any believer so desires, it is never wrong to give financial compensation to someone you believe is helping you spiritually or performing a service you believe is valuable to the body of Christ.
  • Promoting love to such an extent that sin doesn't get judged properly or adequately. Love and justice are two sides of a coin. They must work together for either to be fully appreciated.
  • Creating and promoting what has been termed "Christian psychology." Any form of so-called psychology that uses or combines any secular materials or theories from this world is not Christian. It must be rejected outright for a believer.
  • Allowing elders in a fellowship to make command decisions without notifying the saints and involving them. Elders are supposed to oversee others, not lord it over others. There is a difference.
  • So-called leaders equating or comparing the authority they have through a church with Jesus' authority. These are by no means the same thing. A churches authority is given by men, God's authority by him alone. The first is recognized by title and position, the latter by faithfulness before God.
  • Individuals or groups starting their own "ministries" separate from and isolated from a local ekklesia that is overseen by elders. This detracts from all service stemming from a local ekklesia and further divides the local character of ekklesias in specific geographical locations.
  • Those claiming that only the King James version of the Bible to be authorative. Like other versions, the KJ is not a perfect translation and has errors in translation that are easily proven. That doesn't make the original wording as revealed by the Holy Spirit any less authorative.
  • Claiming that because the Bible shows the typical fellowship to be an open interactive group of believers, this negates the need for any didactic teaching. God gave both the function and spiritual gift of teaching for a reason.
  • The failure of modern day churches and the Biblical presence of house churches mandates the need and command to fellowship in homes. This may be a good idea although where the saints gather for fellowship isn't really the primary issue.
  • An attempt to show "living by the Bible" as opposed to "living by the Spirit."  They are not in opposition but in perfect harmony when the word is rightly divided and practiced in obedience.
  • Replacing the proclamation of the gospel with good works or humanitarian aid. It's good to help other with service projects, but never at the expense of the gospel or making it secondary to anything else.

How far is too far?

 Just how do we decide which of the issues above, if any, give us a warrant to separate from others who claim to be Christians?

 Regardless if an individual or group of believers fall into or embrace one of the extremes above or a hundred others, these extremes are dangerous and highly deceptive. When we look over the thousands upon thousands of various denominations these days, it becomes obvious that our adversary the devil has been highly successful and not only keeping Christians from each other, but worse, opposed to one another. It should always be our desire to embrace all who name the name of Christ provided they truly have been recreated by God and have the Spirit of God living within them. The only real Christian fellowship can be among actual Christians and not merely those who may name or claim to be such.

It begins with a standard

 Above, one of the extremes I listed was this: An attempt to show that living by the Spirit is opposed to living by an authorative Bible. This refrain, or one similar to it has become very common in these days among many who call themselves Christians. They are under the impression that the Bible just fills people's heads with a bunch of intellectual words and knowledge that end up making people prideful and opposed to one another. They make it a regular habit of demeaning the Scriptures, the very Scriptures Jesus and His apostles often quoted and pointed people towards. They have come to believe that their is a better way to live out their Christianity that they claim is more in line with the Spirit of God. In most cases, this so-called better spiritual way involves various subjective experiences, most of which neither resemble God's ways, nor are they proven authentic through Scripture. In most cases, if someone claims to have a revelation from God it is simply believed as the truth. It or they are rarely ever tested as God commands to make sure the origin of their words or actions are truly from God. In most of these cases, the individuals who claim these revelations (direct words from God) present themselves as leaders who are different from other believers because they have special knowledge from God that others don't. Therefore, they regularly discount not only the Bible itself but those who still claim it as their authority and standard for living as a Christian.

 In reality, living and walking by the Spirit is no more opposed to the Bible than it is to knowledge or reason. One cannot even be saved without the knowledge of the Holy One and what He requires. It is man's reasoning of the facts of God's Word (the truth) combined by the leading and convicting power of the Holy Spirit that brings men to salvation. By no means are they in opposition.

Most Christians would agree that in order for anyone to properly understand the true spirit in the Scriptures they must possess the Holy Spirit. This is why an unbeliever cannot discern th Bible as a believer can- "for to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God" [1 Corinthians 2:10] which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words"

 No one reading the Scriptures rightly will question our need to be continually walking by the Spirit of God- that is a command. [Romans 8:14] [Galatians 5:16] The debate rests upon how we go about practicing doing that. For those who discount the Scriptures, there answer to this is found within either special revelatory or spiritual experiences they say are from God. Needless to say, this is both cavalier and dangerous. How can I know what someone else "hears" or "experiences" is from God? Even if they are convinced, how can they convince others of the same- exactly, they can't, and why would they believe them? Just because they say so or claim so?

 I believe God anticipated this very problem which is why tongues had  to be interpreted and prophesy was to be judged by others. This is made clear in 1 Corinthians 14:27-29. It was never to be assumed that what was spoken was truly from God.

 In complete contrast to this is the objective command of God: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if their is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things" Then this summation verse which is a much better answer to how to walk by the Spirit of God;

"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace shall be with you" [Philippians 4:8, 9]

 It goes without saying that learning, receiving and hearing are steps in obedience. They are in no way contrary to being led of the Spirit and in fact coincide directly with the Spirit. Even seeing (through other's godly examples) is a matter in which Paul combines with walking by the Spirit. How can this be?

 Christians are indwelt by the very Spirit of God. They don't read the Bible from the vantage point or position of one under the law (or letter) because by their very nature they are "born of the Spirit." Therefore walking by the Spirit is simply what results when we obey the words of God, words that through this very Spirit are what?

"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words I have spoken to you are spirit and life" [John 6:63]

"However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you" [Romans 8:9]

 The very words we find in the Bible are spirit and life to a Christian. All Scripture is inspired and profitable for whom? In this verse the man of God. But not only as the Scriptures states;

"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" [Hebrews 4:12]  I discovered the above the day I was born again!

 Any attempt to separate Jesus' authority outside of the word with Jesus' authority through His very words are not wise. Just because the Bible isn't Jesus Himself, nor the faithful man of God exercising Jesus' authority Jesus either, does not negate Jesus' authority through the Bible nor through the man of God. Where the Spirit is present and working there is the potential for Jesus' authority to be exercised.

 God's standards are plainly written in His inerrant and infallible words within this book we call the Bible. Due to being indwelt by the Spirit of God who is always willing, we are capable of fulfilling all of God's requirements from day to day as we simply abide and cultivate our relationship with Him. These requirements, rightly understood within their proper frameworks and contexts (rightly divided) are the absolute and universal will of God for all Christians. We do not obey these standards to merit anything as Jesus has already fulfilled the requirement of the law for us- we're merely carrying out the practical living out in the Spirit what He has already finished. Ultimately He will conform our humble state of imperfection into the state of His perfection by the power He has in Himself. [Philippians 3:20, 21]

Some thoughts to consider

  •  God had Moses write a book to the people of Israel. It was for the purpose of reminding them of God and the manner He commanded them to live.
  • They were to obey exactly what was written in the book.
  • The book was equated as God's very words to them and therefore authorative.
  • Jesus had many of those He chose write letters to Christians in various locales after His resurrection.
  • The contents of these letters were to be considered authorative as well and were not to be questioned. Paul specifically said his revelations were not from men, but from God Himself.
  • God has His own books from which the names of His children and their works are written.

 The notes above are not meant to be a defense of the Bible. That is not the purpose of this writing. It should be noted that God has specifically used books and letters to teach His people many things, but primarily to reveal the very person of His Son throughout the history of men on earth.

The revelation of Jesus Christ in the Bible

  Although some would  simply use the Bible as a means for how to live as a Christian, it is actually so much more. The Bible allows us to see Jesus in his acts of creation, the beauty and intricacy of humanity and nature, His heart in choosing the lowly Israel and His power in sustaining them. It reveals to us His choice in laying aside His divine perogatives to become a human being, to live and die an acceptable sacrifice for a dying race, and in doing so prove His triumph over sin and the grave. It reveals the divine favor being wound up in service and self-denial, and allows the weakest of all who carry a cross to experience His life in resurrection- individual men as His apostles, prophets and even the lowliest servants as ambassadors throughout the earth. It reveals our Lord as a friend, as a brother, a provider and defender, a trustworthy Savior, worthy of our allegiance and obedience.

 In all, it reveals Him as one who knows the end from the beginning, who's ultimate mission was carrying out the will of His Father for all to see. This and a thousand other things, from the natural to the infinite, these describe the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Bible, Him who was, who is, and who is to come.

Those who refuse to recognize God's standard are not recognized

 The apostle Paul made very clear that God's will for His children in the New Covenant was one he received by revelation and that is was to be lived in a consistent manner amongst all believers. This is found in many places to include these here:

"For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every ekklesia" [1 Corinthians 4:17]

"Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you" [1 Corinthians 11:2]

In regard to head coverings: "But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the ekklesias of God" [1 Corinthins 11:16]  Note: My use of this verse is not meant to be for or against head coverings but to show a consistent pattern in every ekklesia.

…..as in all the ekklesias of the saints [1 Corinthians 14:33

"If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, (a reference to maturity) let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment." [1 Corinthians 14:37]

Now note this next verse carefully (which could be considered a summation of the verses above since this theme is reiterated so many times in this book):

"But if anyone does not recognize this (that what he is teaching are the Lord's commandments) he is not to be recognized" [1 Corinthians 14:38]

 Note that sandwiched among the verses are these here in 1 Corinthians 11:17-19:

"But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as an ekklesia, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For their must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may be evident among you."

 Earlier in this book in 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul shares his heart for those in Corinth- that they all be agreed and have no divisions among them. Despite this, divisions did exist and why, so those who God approved as leaders could become evident, as well as those who claimed to be leaders having their supposed authority "not recognized" anymore by the local saints. The divisions (factions) disclosed just who was teaching Paul's ways among the ekklesia and who was not or who had strayed from those ways which he says are in Christ.

Not for the better, but for the worse

 One thing we know about religious extremes is this- those extremes never make anything better but only worse. I challenge you to look over the extremes I listed earlier and see if this is true. In every one of those extremes, the result has not ended up in the body of Christ being unified, more pwerful or more effective as a witness. The exact opposite has resulted instead.

My ways are not your ways

 Since the very beginning man has relied wrongly upon his own ingenuity and wisdom in his attempts to serve God. Denominations, churches, "ministries," positional and titled leadership, hierarchies, clergy/laity distinctions, programs and a thousand other things all stem from man's imaginations and make things worse, not better. Let's look at a specific example.

 Most of the so-called "Christian" populous in America sees that they are losing what used to be "their" country or so they thought. Sin is running rampant through the streets, abortion, crime, poverty and suicide are ever increasing by the day. So what might we do to fix such a problem? What do the experts say?

 The experts, who include the likes of James Dobson, James Robison and David Barton would  have us unite with anyone at any cost to fight the culture war they are obsessed with. The prominence of the gospel message and the manner in which is to be proclaimed has long been abandoned by these men if they ever even practiced it at all. In the place of truth (once again, what Paul calls his ways which are in Christ) are these men and their man made plans and objectives. They prey upon the fears of the naiive who see these adverse trends and attempt to recruit them into their own unscriptural plans and intentions, the biggest of which is fighting a culture war in America for the purpose of saving this country. In their desperation to do so, any allegiance has now become acceptable (to them, not to God) such as working with the secular government, Mormons celebrities such as Glen Beck and the entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church which was proven apostate long ago. Add to this the leaders in organizations (religious institutions are manmade) such as the New Apostolic Reformation and Word Faith and what could possibly go wrong? Spice that up with power hitters such as Rick Perry and Sarah Palin (both with NAR roots) and how can they fail? I think I know why.

"Why are the nations in an uproar and the people's devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers counsel together, against the Lord and against His annointed, "Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!" [Psalms 2:2]

"Hold them guilty, O' God; by their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, for they are rebellious against You" [Psalms 5:10]

 "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing His own mind" [Proverbs 18:3]

 When men abandon the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures, they will automatically default to reliance upon their own carnal minds and solutions. This is exactly what we're witnessing within the ecumenical movement and in hundreds of "christian" organizations and churches worldwide. Not only will these extreme measures not ever work, by their very compromising nature they are opposed to God Himself despite their continually beseeching Him for favor upon their own plans. If He does answer them, it will only lead them further down the road where their affections really reside.

A Hiding Place

 The only safe place for any Christian in these trying times is in an intimate and growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Herein will the saints of God remain within the framework of God's revelation to His people.

 There are many people claiming to know God who refuse to abide by what Paul claims are "his ways in Christ." We do not need a new revelation to know what these ways are. We simply need to pick up our Bible and by the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer accept and obey what our Father would reveal to us about His Son and how we would interact with Him and one another.

 Beware of those who would minimize Paul's ways for their own ways, his revelation in Christ with their own so-called revelations. Remember, it is only those who remain within the teaching of Christ that are proven over time to be Jesus' disciples and the instruments of His favor and grace. Be sure you're among them.

"Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you."

"Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you." [2 Peter 1:10-12]

 

What we practice is what we believe. Does that line up with Paul's ways, or our own ways?

 

_the end

 

 

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Deception through Definition http://thechurchunderground.net/2013/deception-through-definition/ http://thechurchunderground.net/2013/deception-through-definition/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 22:12:07 +0000 http://thechurchunderground.net/?p=3506 Deception through Definition

 Yesterday I was once again approached by someone who noticed me being occupied with studying. This usually prompts curiosity in others which usually leads to the typical question, "What are you studying?" Even at my age most people still make the assumption that I'm busy doing some form of homework, and to a degree that is true. I'm studying the heart of my Maker and searching out His good, acceptable and perfect will for my life and His Ekklesia.

 As of late, my heart has been drawn to the obvious trend these days among those professing Christ to either misuse terms or purposefully re-define what God has actually said in the scriptures. This is no small matter as God uses specific words and terms that have precise definitions on purpose. He wants us to be absolutely sure we hear His voice accurately and understand His will for our individual and interconnected lives.

 Considering the many verses in the scriptures that warn us about deception and being deceived, it would seem that the use of words and their terms would be an obvious avenue in which deception could be introduced either in ignorance or purposefully. Consider these examples where men acted in ignorance towards God:

So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an alter with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you" [Acts 17:22, 23]

"Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them (his Jewish countrymen) that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God." [Romans 10:1-3]

 In the first instance we find Gentiles who although religious were neither worshipping properly nor were they worshipping the one true God. In the second example we also have religious people, this time Jews who although they were claiming to know the real God were attempting to earn their own righteousness before Him. In both instances these individuals were attempting to worship God but due to their ignorance they were approaching God upon the wrong basis and therefore their actions were unacceptable. Paul's desire was for their salvation and so attempted to show them the errors of their ways and direct them accordingly.

 In our day, millions upon millions of people have assumed that their approach to God as they have chosen to describe and approach Him is acceptable. Despite their basis for their "belief" in God, they seem unconcerned that all around them are others who disagree with them. They seem more than content with some religious leader, a few friends or family in their church or denomination agreeing with them. It seems to escape their notice that much of what these people believe directly conflicts with what the Bible teaches and in many cases is the polar opposite of what Jesus Himself taught. How can this be? Deception.

"There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" [Proverbs 14:12]

Two verses later we read this:

"The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps"

 The two verses go hand in hand. The very people who think they know what is right are often the very people who are wrong in their beliefs. The reason for this is obvious: They fail to investigate thoroughly the path in which they walk and whether those who are leading them are embracing what is true.  

Truth in Definition

 Many people discount "the truth" as if it has very little bearing upon their lives. Some like to live in a dream world where every individual has their own version of the truth- that their truth can differ from your truth etc. If that's your stand these days, I'd like you to consider one or more of the following scenarios. I aim to answer the question, "Just how dependent are we as human beings upon truth?"

1. Let's say a teenager wants to stay out late on a particular night but needs permission from their parents. The parents decision will be based upon many things, the primary one being convinced their son or daughter is being truthful to them. If not, or even if the parents doubt the childs sincerity the desired result will not be accomodated for them. The parent or authority needs the facts to make a rationale decision.

2. Your car or truck needs immediate mechanical help. The decision to take your vehicle to a particular auto shop will be based upon many things to include pricing, location, the speed of the repair etc. The prior concerns matter little if trust is not or has not been previously established.

3. What we do with the money we control is a concern for all of us. Whether we choose to invest it in the stock market, a business or place it in a particular financial institution involves many decisions. The interest, the risk and the penalties for withdrawal are just a few. As important as these are, they matter little until we trust those who promise to trust us with our money.

4. Are you married? Out of all of the concerns you may have taken prior to getting married I'm sure one ruled over the rest. Trust. You can't hope to spend the remainder of your life with someone you might be able to trust. That goes for both of you.

5. You are facing a serious medical emergency that threatens your life. There are numerous opinions and suggestions as to your best chance for survival. Although you may trust your present doctor you likely will invest other options available. This is predominately due to the seriousness of the situation. You want more than someone's opinion and likely will do some extra searching and studying the particular ailment you have been diagnosed with. It is absolutely imperative that you make the right decision for your life depends upon it. You likely won't settle for the common cure until you have all the facts in hand. Once you have the facts and apply them to your specific situation you can then seek out a professional doctor to perform the desired procedure.

 The five examples above are only a few of the hundred scenarios I could have listed. Take the trust factor out out of the equation and life becomes instantaneously chaotic and uncertain. The wisest decisions any human being can make are those based upon fact and coinciding with what we know to be true. That is always the safest place.

 In each situation above the truth can be skirted. What does stay out late mean? (1) What does it mean if a mechanic tells says you have an oil leak? (2) What is a financial advantage?(3) What defines a marriage? (4) What characterizes a life threatening situation? (5) Until the specific terms are defined no one can know where they stand in relation to the specific situation at hand. Terms must be defined if the truth is to be ascertained. We cannot properly interpret what is not clearly defined. 

 Lines of demarcation/specific character traits

 The more precise a definition, the more visible are the parameters that define it. For example, money denotes a whole host of things from a 2010 Lincoln penney to Monopoly money. A Federal Reserve Note is known as one of several types of bills used in American currency. The bills are found in denominations of hundreds, fifties, twenties, tens, fives, ones etc. This noted, there are only two types of 1943 Lincoln pennies, one steel, one copper. The steel coins are worth little, the copper coins valued near $100,000 each. There are only twelve known to be in circulation. They have specific characteristics that the other likeminded pennies do not have.

The results of improper diagnosis

 Most mechanics if honest will tell you that diagnosing a vehicle's trouble is the hardest part of fixing the problem. That's because the trouble can be an individual issue or a combination of problems. It's also due to having little or no idea how the owner of a vehicle has maintained it or how it may have been abused in the past. The origin of the vehicle and the number of owners and miles also contribute. It takes a seasoned veteran, often one familiar with the type of trouble and the make of vehicle to quickly discover what the issues actually are and fix them properly. If the problem is not diagnosed properly or effectively many adverse things can result including added troubles and additional expense and time without your ride.

Improper diagnosis leads to ineffective solutions

 I thank God I've been quite healthy most of my life thus far. I know others who have battled many physical ailments over the years- ailments which if misdiagnosed prolong the problems and at times compound them. Nobody likes a mechanic playing guessing games with our vehicle for we know that almost always means being that much more inconvenienced. How much more troubling is this if our health is on the line. There is a certain degree of guesswork in any field I suppose, though each of us would just assume avoid as much of that as possible. We want a right diagnosis of our problem and want it fixed as soon as absolutely possible.

Suffering from another's ignorance

 Earlier I offered a couple of examples in relation to people worshipping in ignorance. In a very similar manner as these folks did, your neighborhood mechanic as well as your local doctor can and do at times act with a similar ignorance when it comes to dealing with your particular problems. Although this is not always intentional, at times there are simply others factors that enter the equation (state and federal regulations, the availability of resources, the cost of those resources, time restraints, amounts of expertise, operational standards etc). Because someone else owns that particular business they retain the right to serve you in the manner they desire and at times these and other factors will cause you harm. If that happens you're very likely going to want to blame someone for your additional suffering.

Suffering from another's deception

  No one likes to admit that they have been taken advantage of by someone else in their time of need. We would just assume everyone out there has a good heart and proper motives and would never do us wrong- never purposely take advantage of us. We know better don't we?

 The fact is, where mankind can gain an advantage over someone else he or she is going to take that means of advantage. Like it or not, that's just human nature. We are by nature consumed with ourselves and everything we do is driven by a love for self. Don't think for a minute that doesn't include your neighborhood mechanic or your family physician- it absolutely does.

 At times the deception above may be as minor as trying to convince you to buy something you don't really need. At other times it will be failing to inform you of a service you need but cannot afford. At it's worst, your trusted "friend" will outright lie to you for one reason or another. Kinda like our wonderful government not telling us what "they know" we don't need to hear. The deception goes on, most people entirely oblivious to the fact, prefering to remain ignorant themselves verses face the truth. That's exactly how and why an oil leak becomes a engine repair and a common cold turns into a hospital stay.

The greatest deception of all

 "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

"Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight! [Isaiah 5:20, 21]

 Notice the above verses closely. Who are those who substitute good with evil? It is those who think they are wise!

 Now we know who the author of all deception is and how he and his deceivers operate from 2 Corinthians 11:13-15:

"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not suprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds"

 This verse make it quite obvious that those individuals who are purposefully deceiving others, those calling good evil and evil good are those professing faith in God! Not only, but calling themselves leaders at that! That is a bold claim for a false apostle but it also makes it that much easier for the true saints to spot these people. As deceivers their goal would be to deceive as many as possible and they would therefore need to infiltrate as far into Christiandom as possible, preferably into leadership positions where they would have a voice.

 The reason I call this the greatest deception is simple. Jesus Himself claims to be the truth in John 14:6 and has come to testift to the truth. The latter was through numerous testimonies (John 5:30-40) and even before Pilate here:

"You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice" [John 18:37]

 False apostles and prophets also claim to be testifying to the truth. They also talk of God, claim to represent Him, claim to be leaders in the church, claim to perform miracles and quote the Bible. Like real believers they read scripture, talk of fellowship, offer up prayers and encourage others to share the word with others and yet…..one very noticeable trait persists throughout their actions….. that of substitution.

What deceivers attempt to substitute

  • The false gospel (intellectual belief) verses trust in Christ through faith and repentance
  • Man centered messages verses cross-centered truth/deny self
  • Decisional regeneration verses God's sovereignty in election
  • Fleshly manifestations verses real Spirit led actions.
  • Earthly church verses a heavenly spiritual ekklesia

 We could do a complete study upon any of the above substitutions but for now I'd like to focus upon this one here:

Deception through definition

 Many examples could be offered but let's use one common to man- church. Is it possible that despite the majority of those professing faith in Jesus Christ worldwide who think that Christianity revolves around church, that this might not be true? That this might in fact be a substitute of the devil himself?

 If all we have to do was prove that the word church did not exist in the 1st century that would be easy. The English language didn't even exist then. Most religious leaders and all scholars will agree that the word "church" was translated from the Greek word "ekklesia." Knowing that this Greek word was translated into an English word we should attempt to define the two words in order to make sure they mean the same thing. As I've already shown in an article called "What is the Church, really?" I've already proven they do not mean the same thing and in fact are almost complete opposites. Furthermore, a couple of the definitions for "church" (there are several) are even prohibited by God; namely religious hierarchy and denominationalism. Both the hierarchal authority found in religions as well as the sectarian nature of denominations are scripturally forbidden. Just these two problems alone should be of great concern to anyone who claims to be a Christian.

Obvious concerns overlooked

 When we attempt to discover what God is saying or has actually said, how do we diagnose that problem? How can we know for sure whether "church" is an acceptable substitute for "ekklesia?"

 In the opening paragraph I mentioned how someone approached me last night as I was studying. The discussion eventually went to what I was writing for my internet site and a comparison between church and ekklesia. Although they listened, I could discern that they wern't exactly agreeing with my explanation. Even when I explained that nothing "churchlike" can even be found within New Testament Christianity it didn't faze them at all. In the end I got the typical response from the average church goer toward my comparison, "Well, I like church." That's sad, that's tragic. In other words, despite mountains of evidence that ekklesia was wrongly translated into church, the fact that Christians never built buildings for over two hundred years after Jesus' incarnation and the traditions of men cancelling out many of God's commandments through church, they still say things like, "Well, it does so much good." Really? Seriously? This response and attitude my friends, may be the greatest evidence of all.

An improper diagnosis

 Although not an adequate excuse, you average Christian is not aware that the word church was wrongly translated from the word ekklesia, nor that the words have opposing definitions. Most have never known anything other than church as a means for them to grow as a believer. They just assume, ignorantly, that those who are leaders in the church have things figured out and will explain to them what they need to know. For the most part the majority of professing believers think their Christian lives should revolve around church and that God expects them to be part of one.

 Similar to those who blindly believe the neighborhood auto mechanic, these naaive ones are also blindly trusting in others who haven't earned that trust. They are making a most serious mistake in assuming that those calling themselves "experts" or "religious professionals" know what they are talking about and will therefore always tell them the truth. Anyone who does this should read the opening two bible verses in this study at least twice daily- maybe more. Jesus has never once called any believer to blidly follow any man but actually does say about Himself, "Follow Me."

 Whoever assumes that "church" is an adequate substitute for "ekklesia" does not take God nor His words seriously. How can any man accurately know what God is speaking or desires if they redefine God's own words or definitions? Answer: you can't. 1 Timothy 3:15 states that Jesus' Ekklesia is the pillar and support (foundation) of the truth. In other words, the people who compose His family are together the pillar and support of the truth. Note what also comprises this verse….so that you will know how to conduct yourself in the household of God. This part of this verse makes it obvious that His family does not operate by "anything goes" or what "we like or prefer." There is a specific manner in which God's people are to express His truth…..a common confession if you will. (vs.16) I may even need to remind some of you that the word household here has nothing to do with any location or building where the saints choose to meet but rather the expression of the totality of the saints together.

Improper diagnosis leads to ineffective solutions

 Ever heard this statement in church in relation to people not getting along, "Well, nobody's perfect." I want to scream everytime I hear that. Well of course that's true- but that's not the issue! That's an excuse for bad behavior!

 Let me ask a few questions to those still attending church. Then I'll give you your answer.  

1. How do you make sure adultery and immorality are not among the saints? Your answer: You can't.

2. How do you keep the teenagers regularly seeking God faithfully? Your answer: You can't.

3. How do the saints powerfully impact their neighbors and communities? Your answer: You don't.

 Sure, you probably won't admit to all this, nonetheless, I know it's true. It you don't believe it, then you're simply a liar or in denial. The reason is simple: You cannot reap the benefits and promises of God if you refuse to acknowledge what God actually says! If you're intent upon doing things you're own way you will reap the consequences of what you do. That's exactly what is happening through every single church. Whether in ignorance or in willful rebellion makes little difference- you will, you do reap what you are sowing. God promises that too.

 Everyone who attends a church is aware of the many problems that exist. But the solutions that are created to deal with the problems are only superficial- they never address the root of the problem.  Jeremiah states something along these lines in relation to the prophets and priests of his day;

"They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace"

 Just a few verses prior we find one of the reasons for this lack of concern for the people;

"To whom shall I speak and give warning that they may hear? Behold, their ears are closed and they cannot listen. Behold, the word of the Lord has become a reproach to them; they have no delight in it" [vs10]

 Exactly. Where those who claim to lead fail to acknowledge the words of God the people merely follow. In the absence of God's word something will have to fill that void and what better thing than something (anything actually) that caters to man's sinful and selfish nature? Welcome to the Church Growth Movement, Emergent Church, Word Faith Doctrines, New Apostolic Reformation or any other "ministry" entirely absent of the centrality of the cross of Jesus Christ. That goes for your church as well- especially if you refuse to tell people they must deny their carnal natures and selfish desires to even be a true Christian. Is that the message you're proclaiming?

Our church isn't like that

 The above refrain sounds familiar doesn't it? Maybe like this:

"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like the other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' [Luke 18:10-12]

 What was this Pharisees problem? First, he compared himself to other people. He judged himself as better than other people. See Matthew 7:1-6. It was the spirit of his judgment that was wrong. Secondly, he boasted in his own righteous acts. He failed to understand that his own standard of righteousness wasn't adequate before God. He was far more interested in the humble spirit that was exhibited by the person this Pharisee was quick to condemn. Lastly, this Pharisee failed to see his own self righteousness. Instead of seeing all men as helpless sinners in need of mercy, he categorized himself as being different than "them."

 We exercize this very same judgmental spirit through "our" and "my" church. The very fact that men choose names to describe themselves proves they arn't like "those other christians" and don't want to be. It doesn't matter that the bible only recognizes one ekklesia in a given locale- they conveniently ignore that fact and multiply the sectartian spirit among believers that much more. They fail to discern the local body of believers. 

 It is certainly true that the manner some churches function is closer to the New Testament pattern than others. But again, is that the issue? If their is no scriptural warrant for any place called church whatsoever, especially one which is named and divides the local body through sectarianism, does it really matter what comes after? Does it matter to God if we proclaim and advance something that is not and was not ever part of His heart and intentions for His people- that derives from a mistranslated definition of what He desires? You are seriously deceived if you think that is in any way acceptable to the God who pays strict attention to the little details we so often ignore.

Suffering from another's ignorance

 The majority of what comprises Christiandom these days has become so commonplace it is rarely if ever questioned. Consider the ease in which we send our children to become professional Christian leaders, musicians or even magicians. For the most part if someone has done it before that almost always means a green light and full speed ahead. One in a thousand will stand and confront today's religious status quo, especially all things church.

 Consider the ease and frequency of those wanting to start "a church," "a ministry" or a "christian organization" these days. Would it be fair to assume a few new one's daily, a hundred monthly or thousands each year? What are these amounting to? Is their really justification for all this building we're doing in Jesus' name or might this just be ignorance on our part.

 Just this morning I talked with a friend who said the church he attends recently built an addition onto their building that cost over one million dollars. When all was said and done, the addition only added approximately forty seats for those who attend religious services once a week. Now that's ignorance.

Suffering from another's deception

 For some strange reason most human beings think that their religious leaders have their best interests in mind. I really wonder at times how they can possibly come to such a conclusion. Could it be because they have a high position within the churches hierarchy that God Himself forbids. Might it be because they consume the majority of speaking and teaching functions in opposition to the interactive fellowships of the 1st century? Could it be because they receive a paid salary which makes them a target as to the real reasons behind why they preach and teach? Might it be because they stand before and over the other saints despite God calling all believers equal? Could it be the continual redefining of terms and neglect to speak to you the real truth that keeps you deceived and subserviant to their selfish desires? Could it be that in every way their lives don't characterize an individual who is dying unto themself as Jesus requires?

 The truth be told, religious leaders in formal institutions are almost always self serving.

  • If they choreograph your meetings they are self serving.
  • If they make decisions for you they are self serving.
  • If they encourage you to build buildings, name them and disseminate that name they are self serving.
  • If they call themselves by some title they are self serving.
  • If they have a religious office they are self serving.
  • If they require you to tithe they are self serving.
  • If they rule over you in any fashion they are self serving.
  • If they are preeminent more that Jesus they are self serving.
  • If they fail to remind you that you must carry the cross of Jesus Christ daily they are self serving.
  • If anyone claiming to be a religious leader is not laying their life down for you they are self serving.

 Many people who practice the above are ignorant and many more using you for their own selfish aims. ALL OF THEM ARE DECEIVED. If any Christian practices the opposite of what the Bible characterizes as New Testament Christianity those people are deceiving you.

 An interesting verse is found in 1 Corinthians 4:6;

"Now these things, brethren, (that we are servants, stewards and trustworthy) I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other"

 What is Paul saying here? Remember earlier in chapter 1-3 Paul was correcting them for forming allegiances with men that divided them one from another. Chapter 2 makes clear that this was a result of relying upon their own man-made wisdom instead of upon God. In this verse we find one result of these sectarian divisions in that certain individual believers were becoming arrogant in behalf of one against another (person or group of believers). A comparison today would be any believer defending one group of Christians against another. How were they doing this? By exceeding what is written. By failing to remain within the framework of what constitutes proper beliefs and actions as the people of God. What were these things? Paul sums them up in the last verse of this chapter by saying this:

"For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every ekklesia" [1 Corinthians 4:17]

 When the professing people of God refuse to remain within the proper framework of what constitutes proper biblical Christianity (what Paul calls my ways) they will replace those ways with their own ways.  When those proper ways are substituted for man's ways those ways will breed animosity from one religious sect against another. It is not a matter of which sect is right and which is wrong (which is the war they fight) but rather whether each or all of them have abandoned the "my ways" of apostolic tradition. That is the issue. Paul makes it very clear by using himself and Apollos as an example who the people are who exemplify proper service, stewardship and trustworthiness- those who remain within the framework of what is written. The opposite would also be true: Those who exceed what is written are not exercizing proper service, stewardship or trustworthiness!

 Notice what also characterized (defined) these people who exceeded what is written.

  • They consider themselves superior to others. (either through beliefs or practice) (vs.7)
  • They failed to recognize that all abilities come from God. (vs.7)
  • They boasted as if they didn't receive from God (vs.7) which amounts to relying upon their own resources and wisdom (we mentioned this earlier).
  • They boasted as if they had everything they needed (vs.8) See: Revelation 3:14-19. Who were these Nicolations? They were those leaders among God's people who were ruling over the saints.

  When we consider the example of the apostles in 1 Corinthians 4:9-17 this cannot be remotely compared with those who claim to be our leaders in churches today. They have absolutely nothing in common, just as those within this passage to whom he was referring had nothing in common with him. This was not to be considered acceptable which is why he admonished them with, "Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me." (vs.16) and sent Timothy to them to show them what that actually entailed. (vs.17).

 As professing believers in Christ, we like to fancy ourselves in performing certain ministry pursuits that align with our own dreams and desires. We would convince ourselves that because we are sincere that God will with certainty accept our various offerings. This isn't even remotely true. The fact is, that whether before or after one confesses Christ unto salvation, man's works are all still considered filthy rags. God's judgments upon our sinful selfish nature don't change after conversion. We still have absolutely nothing to offer Him. The decree still goes forth: There is NONE righteous, not even one, not even you. It's long past due that these "professors" start to take God and His words much more seriously as the day draweth nearer.

 The apostle John spoke these sobering words in Revelation 22:18, 19;

"I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophesy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues of this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophesy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book"

 Only one question remains and it's addressed to everyone who continues to redefine God's words unabated. In light of the antonyms most closely associated with the term definition being ambiguity, vagueness and nonsense, "Do you actually believe God is going to overlook your careless use of what He actually says, or will you rather be the recipient of His judgments above?"  

May you reap what you sow.

 

-the end

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A day in the Life/02/05/2013 http://thechurchunderground.net/2013/a-day-in-the-life01052013/ http://thechurchunderground.net/2013/a-day-in-the-life01052013/#comments Wed, 06 Feb 2013 15:15:01 +0000 http://thechurchunderground.net/?p=3509  This morning I awoke early and couldn't keep from thinking about all the wonderful ways in which our Father brought together a host of individual lives yesterday, the way those lives intersected one another and how God chose to use these people in making Himself known among them. I'd like to share these experiences with you in the hope of reminding you just how important even the small details in our lives can become. This article will be known as the first "fruits" of my hope that some of you will also contribute to this ongoing series of A day in the Life.

 Although the majority of those reading this are relatively new friends of mine; nonetheless I have made it a point to be fairly transparent as to my present circumstances in life with you all. Most of you know I hardly work in the winter months and that brings about some difficulties in making ends meet. I can't do a lot of running around so I usually sit in restaurants and internet cafes where I have access to free internet services. This provides me a place to read, write and study as well as real time ministry opportunities with the people I often meet. Yeh I know, sounds kind of boring to some of you although much more usually transpires than meets the eye. Below is such an example.

 Most days I spend some time in prayer in the morning although on this particular day I got up a little later than usual and that disrupted my routine. I was off to the cafe where I often go for some decafe coffee and some breakfast sanwiches I often trade for a few minutes of snow shoveling when that need arises. I grabbed my joe and proceeded to write a letter to the eight of you I consider my likeminded brothers in the faith. The letter I proceeded to write was called A Request for Definition. Although I decided to wait in sending it due to some prayer concerns a couple of you sent to me (I didn't want to cloud those concerns) it was a request in relation to properly defining particular biblical terms that are often taken out of context or re-defined by professing believers. An example would be "church" which we all know came from the Greek word "ekklesia" and despite most Christians lives revolving around this word, ekklesia doesn't mean church. The improper translation has had an enormously adverse effect upon what God initially intended for His people in general. I want to create a listing of biblical terms and their proper definitions on my site and was asking for your help. I'll send it along in a few days or so.  

 Having put off sending the above to you I started thinking about another project on the back burner. Most of you also know my site is fairly anonymous- no one really knows who I am except a few people. I don't advertise it or track who frequents it and have no desire to. I simply ask that God leads those He knows need such truths to it and that they learn from Him as a result. I've never once in the almost eighteen months its been up received even one negative comment about what I write. Considering that my beliefs are contrary to what almost every professing believer accepts through church this is quite remarkable. It makes me feel as if I'm hiding a little more than I should and even some of you have encouraged me to get out of the closet- be a little more transparent with who I am through my site. As a compromise of sorts, I'm considering making up some cards (similar to business cards) that have several of my friend's "out of the box" internet sites upon them. Yesterday I asked a few of you if I could include yours as well. So far Michael in Idaho, Christopher in Michigan, Dan in Texas, Jim in Washington St and Beresford in England all gave me permission to use their sites along with my own. It's meant to stimulate a little more interaction for each of us and direct others to the truths we each hold so dear. Enough said.

It's mid morning and I'm receiving prayer concerns from Mark and Christopher. I spend some time replying to them and praying for their particular concerns. I'm reminded of how important it is to ask our brothers when we have need and not to minimize nor trivialize our problems. Christopher wrote about this recently and a comment was left yesterday by our friend Mickey in PA on Chris' site that said something along the lines of "praying now" which I appreciated. That's the exact attitude and urgency we need to have one to another. Don't wait, pray now when our brother's and sister's are in need. Shortly thereafter I read a few of Ian's posts, made comments and prayed for him. I especially appreciated his blog called "Why does God whisper to us?" which delineates many pertinent things. A must read for all believers at ianvincent.com.

 It is now early evening and a young gal named Brooke shows up at the pizza joint. I had a few words with her the other day but the conversation was cut short. I really wanted to rekindle it and when the door was opened I approached the counter and after a brief opening chat asked her a question like, "How many really quality friendships do you have?"  She said she had four- and I told her that was quite the blessing to have that many people who really cared about her. That is rare for most people these days. I used that question as a means to open the door for the discussion I share with people about the contrasts between "church" and "ekklesia" and God's real heart for His people. As it turns out, she was attending a church I used to attend many years back and I knew her "pastor." I proceeded on for some time offering illustration after illustration between the biblical differences and then she seemed to get it as she said the word- relationship! You gotta love it when they make your point for you. It just shows that God is working and revealing Himself. In between serving a couple of customers I continued and the conversation turned to my close friends over the internet and how those relationships were brought together. I told her their is a difference between what man is attempting to build in his own wisdom through church and an open door policy and what Jesus says He will build- His Ekklesia. I showed her that what man builds becomes chaotic for only God knows which body parts fit together, how they fit and when they need to come together. I showed her that this is exactly what He did with my relationships over the internet and that each of us not only knew He brought us together but each of us seemed as if we had known each other for long periods of time and even spoke that one to another. I told her that only God knew beforehand what was necessary to prepare each of us for what He wanted to bring to us and compared that to a husband and wife being united. We were then interrupted again as the dinner rush was on so I went back to my table and wrote her a little note with my internet site address upon it- she requested it from me.

 Checking my email another newer friend Steve in Indiana sends me a post called, "How the Church rejects the Truth." Another good read at Indywatchman.com- I think that's right. Steve is bringing up awesome insights and using real life examples from his persoanl business to explain them. Most of the things he's sharing I'm aware of and then he makes this statement about definitions:

"Many times just to define a word or term is enough to spark a change in direction; and definitions are definitely a part of the integrity of life and equipment. Many times a wrong definition lies at the core of serious problems; and to assume a definition that has been accepted by generations before you, without ever knowing or searching it out for yourself is the worst kind of ignorance"

  Was I suprised that Steve's very thoughts were right along the lines of what I had written earlier in my Request for Definition or my next article to be called Deception through Definition?" Sure, a little. But then again God is good, no? Steve later goes on to define "church" and shows how it differs from "ekklesia." No, not a coincidence, not at all.

 I'm praising God for all of this, praying for Brooke and a young man is sitting to my left. He appears to have a bible so I ask, "What are you reading?" This leads to a half-hour conversation about the very things Brooke and I were talking about, buffeted by an emphasis upon "properly defining our words." We have some fairly good interaction despite his ongoing justifications and "I thinks" (got to love those) and I just kept quoting the scriptures through 1 Corinthians and proving not him, but his "leaders" to be in error- that their claims and actions were actually the traditions of men (salaries, tiltes, positions, hierarchy etc) and that these didn't echo New Testament Christianity but rather stemmed from Old Covenant practices superceded in Christ. He couldn't deny it and finally gave up and asked for my internet site as he was leaving. He works in the building next door and welcomed him to chat/fellowship once again in the future. He is 23 years old and his name is Nathan.

 Nathan heads out and I notice Brooke seems free again. I walk up to the counter and immediately share a living example of how God orchestrated our lives as Christians using Steve's email to me as an example. It couldn't have fit more perfectly within our conversation. She seemed pleased about it. The manager Bob walks up and tries to make fun of me and my hand gestures while speaking- I do that alot when I'm talking. Bob means well, we joke one to another although we've had some serious chats too. I think he also is interested in the real Christian life and is well aware of what he calls my "religious" beliefs. Well not quite bob, but that's a start. I'm relatively sure God is opening that door as well. I talk a little more with Brooke and I give her the note I wrote her on her way out the door to go home.

 Back at the table I'm reading a few more mails and looking up some things in the Word. The owner Matt walks over and sits down at my table. He's done this twice today already although it usually only lasts a couple of minutes due to his responsibilities as the owner of the restaurant. He knows I'm a Christian and he asks me how my conversation went with Nathan- must have noticed I was speaking to him. I explained the situation and what I spoke to him. I then used that conversation to direct him to what God actually says in the scriptures about sin, righteousness and judgment. Earlier I had spoken to him as well about my newest article I'm writing, Deception through Definition and used that as an illustration to contrast God's love, peace and righteousness with how this world defines those words. I showed Matt that we as humans are quick to label people generally "good" if people are reasonably moral and honest etc and yet that is not how God defines righteousness. I showed him that God's standard was perfection, and unfolded the gospel of faith and repentance to him- even using the verse in John 3 about the wind of the Spirit and how that properly illustrates (defines) those born spiritually of God. He listened intently smiling the whole time. I've known Matt for a while now, but this is the first time I was able to specifically ask him if he has ever truly trusted in Christ. He admitted that he had not. The night came to a close, we all parted ways and yet my work wasn't quite finished.

 I drove off to a spot in town where I like to pray and committed all these things as well as all of you to our Father who art in heaven. He is the true orchestrator of all events, the one who convicts, the one who establishes and the one who saves. None of that is any our business, and yet He uses us to plant seeds, to water fields and even to call others to repentance.

 In the days to come, I hope that all of you come to earnestly expect from God even as our brother Paul in the book of Philippians did. His life was riddled with affliction and perplexity and yet he persisted. He was mocked, judged and forsaken and yet he endured. His life was one of daily beig delivered to death and yet he earnestly expected from the God of heaven in the midst of it all.

 A day in the Life, a day of living in and for Jesus who is that Life. Have a day you would like to share? A day according to your own expectation and hope? Send it along would you. Many a sinner and many a saint need to hear how you sail in the wind friend, and with Whom it is you sail.

the end, and yet….. 

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