It goes without saying does it not, that at some point along our journey as a believer in Jesus that we have asked God or thought to ourselves this question, “How can I help?”
In the preceding posts I have hinted at how we have often went about attempting to help God accomplish His own work and how in almost every instance our help has actually become a detriment to what God is actually doing. I’ve attempted to note some of the ways in which we do this but here I would like to share the specific errors that most professing believers make and the results of making those mistakes. After this, we’ll spend some time talking about how and what we are capable of doing and actually commanded to participate in as co-workers in Christ.
#1 Error Allowing any other human being to usurp the place of Jesus in my life.
“He who loves father or mother (can I add spouse, friend, pastor or priest) more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” [Matthew 10:37]
Jesus has made it more than plain that no relationship can become more important than our relationship with Him. It’s more than just the fact that this is due Him, it’s also because only Jesus will steer and teach us aright as He alone is perfect in every respect. To regard any other human being with the same love and willing submission is to invite trouble and likely deceive ourselves in some manner. Here’s what results when we do this.
- Instead of seeking God Himself and asking Him where He wants us to serve and in what capacity, we are quick to run to those we deem to be spiritual “authorities” instead. In turn, those who think they have God’s authority over others will attempt to place us where they believe we belong. Sadly, that place will be somewhere within what they have and are teaching as God’s manner of service within an institutional paradigm. One adverse result of this is our serving not just other Christians but also the entity through which those authorities belong. The majority of professing Christians are caught up in this paradigm, one which stems from Old Covenant practices and which were never ushered into New Testament realities.
- No man is a mediator between man and God but Jesus alone. The spirit which attempts to place oneself between man and God is the spirit of antichrist for it attempts to usurp the place of our reliance upon Jesus with someone else. This spirit of antichrist is all the more obvious with those who regularly make themselves or allow themselves to become the central focal point of any fellowship- the place of preeminence only Jesus Himself deserves. That is exactly what the majority of today’s “Pastors” and “Priests” do.
- Thinking or allowing anyone other than the Spirit of God to be the primary teacher of truth in my life. We can and do learn from others, though no one person should ever become our primary source of information or biblical instruction. The result of this happening is all too obvious: We become dependent upon what God is supposedly speaking to and through this individual and rely more upon that person than our own dependence upon God and personal study. When enough people do this, that individual is exalted beyond their proper place and measure and the result becomes the promotion of themselves through books, audio tapes and conference circuits. The more other people exalt “their” spiritual heroes with praise and monetary gain, the more power and influence they have over other people.
#2 Error Believing without evidence
“The naïve believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps” [Proverbs 14;15]
I think I can confidently say that just about anything can and has become a part of a Christian’s belief system these days despite it not squaring with the scriptures. It seems as if even the “untouchable” doctrines such as Justification, Propitiation and even the nature of God Himself have been taken to the woodshed and reformatted to fit the likings of modern day man. Sadder still, professing Christians are found to be among those attempting to implement these changes. It is as the verse above makes clear, the naïve and senseless who would judge God’s very own words and truth.
It was once said that “evidence demands a verdict” and this is true. Furthermore, evidence is a absolute prerequisite in order to prove one’s case if indicted in any particular matter. In case we have forgotten, all of mankind is indicted due to the inherent nature of sin that they possess- a nature which breeds selfishness and rebellion in the hearts of men. No matter what you may think of yourself, we each need to know exactly what God says and how to escape the judgment of God upon ourselves. To stand before God Almighty without the slightest clue as to His righteous requirements would be to prove His justice as well as His condemnation of us just. We need to know NOW what those requirements are……the biblical facts He’s given for us to discover and embrace.
Just because religious men say or claim any of the following does not make that true:
- That they are Christians
- That they are called to a particular place or service
- That they possess certain spiritual gifts or abilities
- That they have authority over other believers
- That the Bible says this or that
The Bible is chock full of warnings about false brethren and those who purposefully deceive others into believing lies. It doesn’t matter if you or I participate in all kinds of religious endeavors (going to church, talking about supposed miracles, jumping up and down praising God) if our lives do not coincide with being obedient to what God requires.
Does God require a Christian go to church? Does He require you give money to a financial institution? Does He require you to follow and obey any religious authority? If you believe any of this than you are both naïve and without sense. God Himself never mandated any of the above- men did and do and you believed them- without the facts.
#3 Following a previous precedent
When we fail to discover God’s heart by ascertaining biblical facts, by default we will look for a shortcut which will allow us to serve God in a manner we personally prefer. These shortcuts will circumvent many of the checks and balances God has placed in the midst of what He is building. Here are some examples:
1) Some individuals have been gifted to write spiritual songs and hymns and have a heart to praise God. These are gifts that God has given and yet they have been corrupted through these mediums God has never endorsed.
- A religious position in church called a “music minister.”
- Christian colleges having classes to prepare people for this “position.”
- These same colleges preparing students for “music ministry”
- Leads to said “ministers” and others pursuing “professional music careers.”
- The above careers lead to the exaltation of certain musicians at the expense of others, selling what God has given them for free, naming themselves (exalting their name, advertising their name and selling their name) all to religious people who are also deceived.
- Those who have succeeded in such endeavors praise God for something He never did nor sanctions and give hearty approval to others who practice them.
- The initial lie that certain men and woman could have a special function among the saints led to this similar error and all of the “attachments” that stemmed from it. Needless to say, God doesn’t need professionals of any kind in His service and we see plainly the type of people He chose to make His name known to others- the least of these (that doesn’t mean they were not gifted, talented or even educated as many of them were) it simply means that all of these things were considered to be of little value compared to knowing Christ Himself.
2) A young man has a desire to teach the Bible to others. Instead of seeking God as to how he might be equipped to perform such a work in service he forgoes that and asks his pastor how he did it. He will now be steered toward:
- A college where all manner of religious indoctrination will take place
- Professors with their own opinions they will state as fact
- A lie that convinces young men that a degree “qualifies” them to instruct others.
- A similar lie that he or she has “earned the right” to have authority over others in a church due to a certificate given by men.
- The lie that he is somehow “set apart” as different than the average believer now that he or she is educated.
God doesn’t need men nor woman who are gifted or educated. He needs and desires to use people who above all things want to know Him and by becoming identified with Him can be of use in His service. In other words, the less you are the more you can be in Him. If you want to be a professional please keep God’s name out of it.
3) Every truly born again believer desires to be useful and effective in their service in Christ. Due largely to the abandonment of following the pattern of co-laboring with one another in a geographical location to discover and express Jesus as the Christ, instead we’ve allowed ourselves to be carried along by the mandates of men that amount to little more than the religious traditions and practices above. It is not just that the practices above have no scriptural warrant, it’s that they do not, indeed cannot fulfill the need each of us have in sharing life together as Jesus would have us. Can I share a personal example of how I became sidetracked into attempting to start a ministry of my own because of my frustrations with the status quo of religion? I think you might just identify with this.
From the very beginning of God’s call upon my life I was very passionate about the things of God. I wanted so desperately to be found faithful and I was willing to do anything if I could just prove my loyalty and love for Him. I remember participating in everything I was asked and joined every group I could find to seek after God and participate with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I often found myself “going beyond” even what I was asked and even challenging those who were supposedly wiser and more mature than I. I can remember many times when I believed my Father had spoken to me about a particular thing only to be shunned and silenced by others who towered over me. Year after year these thoughts would arise and my hope would return only to be crushed by someone telling me “we didn’t do things that way” or “we don’t allow that around here.” For a while I was wondering whether I had lost my mind or whether this really was the voice of God I was hearing.
I was blessed to a degree over these years by one particular thing that set me apart from the practice of many other professing Christians. I was not born again through an institutional paradigm but through a para-church group that shared daily fellowship. For me, “For me to live is Christ” was a very real reality, so much so that every church service I ever attended barely raised my eyebrows. I was used to the real thing interacting outside in the real world in real life situations. Eventually I left this group of men on the west coast to return to my home here in Michigan. Although I tried to find a similar “ministry” I could not and was surprised how difficult it was to find anyone who wanted to fellowship along the lines of what to me seemed to coincide with what the scriptures taught as daily interaction with the saints.
What made this even more difficult was the ability God had given me to see the state of things around me and what would be viable solutions to those problems. It was at this time I decided to take a drastic turn that many others before me had also taken. I was to start my own ministry and in the process solve not only many of the problems amongst believers but also my own need to be led of God without all the hindrances of so-called leaders within institutionalism. I had never been more convinced that I had finally discovered both God’s will for His people as well as His individual call upon my life as well. In the end it was His will, not that I succeed in my endeavors, but that I come to the end of myself and come to realize what is God’s responsibility and not my own. He allowed me to succeed to a degree, then crushed every hope that I had placed in my own strength, ingenuity, imagination and ministry in an instant. I had never been more shocked than in that moment, the moment His reality came knocking upon the door of my heart to see what I had so often overlooked.
“Blessed are you, ____________, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are ____________, and upon this rock I will build My Ekklesia; and the gates of hell will not overpower it.” [Matthew 16:18]
I made clear in an earlier post that co-laboring with Christ involves helping to build what Jesus is building in local ekklesias. This far exceeds just getting a few people together in an area for Christian fellowship just as the verse above has meaning far beyond Jesus being the foundation of what He builds. What we need to see and understand in order to be a co-laborer with Christ is this:
1) Jesus is building something upon Himself as the foundation. He is building ONE BODY, though found throughout specific geographical regions. In whatever manner my building attempts to divide HIS ONE BODY I can be sure I am out of sync with what Jesus is building.
2) He is building something in the Spirit so only Spirit derived resources can be used in building it. Where the emphasis of my building is upon the natural I can be sure I am out of sync with what Jesus is building.
3) He is building something in which the gates of hell will not prevail over. If sin and failure permeates what we’re building that is the proof our building is either defective or being done improperly. Continual failure indicates I am out of sync with what Jesus is building.
A picture of heaven
It might help us all to think what will be transpiring when we finally arrive at our final resting place in the arms of Jesus. In that place all that will matter is Him, what went before will be completely overshadowed and forgotten by the reality of His Person in our midst. Just as sin cannot be present in the brightness of His glory, so only will that remain that coincides and is in harmony with His character and intentions. I think we can rest assured that all that will remain is the souls of men and the Words of God Himself. All of eternity will devoted to knowing Him more and more and discovering one revelation after another of His marvelous mercy and grace.
Sometimes reflecting upon the conclusion of a matter can help us see a clearer picture of the manner we are to arrive at our destination:
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power He has even to subject all things to Himself” [Philippians 3:20, 21]
In the above verse we can find several pertinent points as they relate to God’s intentions for us.
1) We have been given a spiritual position in heaven and should live in a manner consistent with that reality. Paul states it like this:
“Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” [Colossians 3:1, 2]
Attempting to build the kingdom of God with bricks is not only impossible it is entirely conflicting with this verse above and exhibits outright disobedience.
2) Our relationship with Christ and toward other saints raised above is one of humility. The instrument that keeps us humble is the daily cross of Jesus Christ in which we are called to embrace. Peter states it like this:
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He might exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care upon Him because He cares for you” [1 Peter 5:6, 7]
This is the exact opposite of attempting to be known or recognized by our own efforts among men. When we remain humble, God calls us into service as we are prepared for the tasks which He has prepared beforehand. (Ephesians 2:10)
1+2=3: Setting our minds on the things above with a spirit of humility is subjecting ourselves to Him. Just as Jesus will culminate this process of conforming us to the body of His glory, so we too now participate in this very process one to another for Jesus’ sake. It is His power working through us as individuals (as we abide above) and corporately through various forms of mutual expressions of love whereby Jesus is expressed among us and outward towards a needy world. The only thing which remains is the centrality and preeminence of Jesus in our midst and learning how to express that through multiple acts of “one anothering” as those opportunities present themselves.
How often have we heard and chuckled at the phrase, “You can’t take it with you when you go?” Well friend, why are you still here building for God? You’re not getting settled in this awful place are you? Get up at once, throw off those earthly chains and fly to your heavenly rest in Him, that is, IF you have been raised above. It is from this perfect place of rest and peace that He truly becomes our one desire, our one true love- our everything.
Jesus and His Words, heaven can hardly contain them. Can that be said of you?
-to be continued in Part 2