Imagination Station

 

This post is meant to be the follow up and conclusion to the previous post, Imitation Game. Sadly, it denotes the continual downhill slide of many who profess Christ, as well as their eventual demise if they refuse to repent. May it be otherwise.

I can only imagine. Yes, we’ve heard it before, sung it, thought it out, dreamed it, and for many, their imaginations have indeed become present reality.

Our imaginations can be a powerful force in one of two directions. They can take the form of a motivator toward some noble end, and to the contrary, act as a force to commit the most heinous of crimes. When it comes to our imaginations, the vital need is the ability to be able to distinguish between fact and fiction- not just what may become possible, but whether what we imagine is actually even permissible before God. Just because we can think up and fantasize over some potential pleasant scenarios for our individual or corporate futures, that does not make those thoughts sanctioned of heaven.

It is safe to say that all of us as Christians have and do ponder our own lives and think about where they might take us or what avenues of service we might pursue. Sadly, most of us have convinced ourselves that this is actually a decision we are free to make on our own. However, this is by no means the truth. A simple reminder here may help:

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs His steps” [Proverbs 16:9]

Notice how our minds play a part in our decision making. As the verse above states though, this is not always a good thing. Our minds have been corrupted by sin just like the rest of us. This is why the Bible states in 1 Corinthians 2:14-16;

“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ”

“…..you, lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind” [Ephesians 4:22,23]

Yes, there is a point to these verses on the proper source we need to utilize in our thinking. For if our natural thinking is corrupt, than we ought not utilize that source to think upon anything at all for we will not come to the proper conclusions our Father is steering us toward. Rather, we will lean upon other natural considerations such as these:

• What is in my best interest
• What do I like to do
• How much money do I need
• Is this a safe place

In most people’s imaginations these are the things that matter most in this life. But might I ask, “If I have indeed been bought with a price and am no longer my own as a Christian, do I even have a right to decide any of the above or set the parameters for what I will or will not do?” In reality, other than my likes and dislikes, I really can’t know the other answers at all now can I?” No I cannot.

“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 6:20]

Here is the sad reality these days. As foundational as the truth above is in the Scriptures, hardly a professing Christian can be found who’s life actually echoes this truth. Now if for some reason you think your life does, might I ask you:

Do you allow God to decide where you will live, who you will marry, who your friends will be, where you will work, what you will drive, how you will spend your time and how you will spend the money He entrusts you with? All the time, without reservation? You do, great. So I suppose you would also forego all of the above tomorrow if He asked you as well. That’s not so easy now is it?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not claiming that I always obey the standard above. Nonetheless, this is His standard and He alone has the right to do with me and what I possess however and whenever He desires to. Our aim should always be to follow wherever He leads regardless of what that may cost us. This is what true obedient living before Him entails.

Our station in life/where we belong

Definitions of station:

1. A regular stopping place
2. A place or building where a specified activity or service is based
3. A company involved in broadcasting of a specific kind
4. The place where someone or something stands or is placed

Now before I work through the above, we have already shown how God Himself has the right to determine our individual stations in life amongst other things. Now this process can be simplified to some extent if we understand what God is after from us in this life in a general sense. To discover this we only need to return to the beginning of what God established in the New Testament for His people. What do we find there- in the early ekklesias (assemblies)?

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people” [Acts 2:42-47]

Herein we have a picture of one of the first gathered assemblies of Christians. Even after assemblies were established and functioning in other regions such as Corinth, Ephesus and Philippi, each followed a similar pattern according to what Paul the apostle set in place.

“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 11:1]

“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 assembly” [1 Corinthians 5:17]

Now it ought to be safe to conclude that when the Bible speaks of seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, this is not merely some profession of faith without encompassing any action.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” [Matthew 6:33]

It is also safe to conclude that the words “all these things” speaks of two specific things as the context makes obvious: food and clothing. Again, this does not and could not refer to anything in particular we think we want or need. That would be likened to bargaining with God: “I’ll give you 10% God provided I can do what I want with the rest of what I have.” Such is the foolishness of man’s human reasoning. Even so, below Paul once again is instructing Timothy with these similar words, “If we have food and clothing we shall be content.” [See 1 Timothy 6:6-8]

What I would like you all to see is this. God has a manner of providing for His people that He long ago set in motion. This is not merely a manner for one’s natural needs to be met alone (food and clothing) but also for His children’s spiritual needs to be met as well. Furthermore, the result of His children obeying this particular pattern amounts to them becoming individual “lights to the world” [Philipians 2:15] and corporately “a city on a hill” in a specific geographical location. [Matthew 5:14]

I propose to you that it is our obedience to the pattern Jesus Himself (through Paul the apostle) set in motion that equates to our seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. This is without question the most effective manner in which all three of God’s aims (individual growth, corporate growth and a witness to this world) are accomplished.

Despite the latter statement above being so obviously true, most professing Christians would just assume imagine another entirely different scenario for themselves. A scenario where provided they do their particular religious duties, they are still free to live and decide life’s choices for themselves. Within these choices, man has imagined a manner in which he can seek God, appease his conscience and yet still control his own destiny in this world. Enter the imagination station.

The Imagination Station

Every Christian as they grow older has to make a decision in regard to where they will reside. Many factors contribute to this decision, most of which coincide with what we believe is in our best interest. Sadly, our naturally unrenewed mind doesn’t quite view our best interest the way our Father does. He isn’t guessing about what’s best- He knows and has already made that clear to us- we just aren’t listening.
Many factors contribute to our self-imagined lifestyle whether that be the country we live in, the present cultural climate, prior precedent or even advice or counsel from other people we know and respect.
Our Father wants our top priority to be our interaction locally with other believers. That is what is in our best interest both practically and spiritually. What He doesn’t want is what most of us want- our own independent lives that are not subject to His scrutiny through a local body of believers. That’s the last thing our flesh wants. Our station initially is among a local body of saints and in service to those people. Everything else in life must come secondary to this and be in their best interest- the best interest of the local body of believers. This is the example we find in the New Testament, that people stayed in the geographical locations where God placed them. Now obviously there are exceptions to this rule such as “sent ones” etc; but generally speaking Christians do not move away from their closest relationships. Individuals move away from these relationships when they place their own worldly selfish interests above the spiritual well being of the local family of God. In other words, things like preferences (climate), work ($) and safety trump God’s instruction and commands.

I’d like you to place yourself within the picture above- as one who likely moved off to another location away from those who initially spoke the truth to you. Seeing this is most likely what you chose to do (because you sought independence, either willfully or unwittingly) you will likely compound that mistake with these following mistakes as well.
• Chances are you moved away to pursue a particular station (job) in life or decided to attend some form of higher education. The first choice removes you from people you know and know you and subjects you to entirely new relationships which may or may not be helpful or beneficial. Either way, you will no longer be in a safe environment where all of your practical and spiritual needs can be met. You attempt to convince yourself this is or was necessary when in fact is is not. You have violated a first principle of christian service in placing your own needs as more important than others by moving away.

• Now that your environment has completely changed, you feel obligated to find some form of fellowship with other Christians. This will almost always consist of finding your station amongst a local institutionalized church which will not function in the manner God has shown in Acts chapter 2. The whole process of building friendships will have to start over and no longer will you have the blessing of your close knit family helping to look after your personal needs if you have some. Remember that you are in this position because you chose to move away- you sought an independent lifestyle.

• Now that you have found a group of believers in church, you will have to submit yourself to their way of doing things or lose your welcome. It will become their responsibility to broadcast their version of the gospel and your responsibility to fit into to the various molds/programs they have available. In other words, you will have to find your station within the institutional framework, thus promoting something that not only conflicts with traditional Biblical Christianity but in fact opposes that. All this and more because you chose to be independent.

It is only in our imagination that we believe we are called to live independent lives as Christians. The New Testament never exhibits this kind of behavior and in all places and manner opposes this. As Christians, we are called to be interdependent with one another (living intertwined lives daily one with another).

It is only in our imagination that we believe institutional religion can somehow replace 1st century assemblies. How can something God never endorsed nor sanctioned replace what God has set in motion? In not a single instance nor situation is what man is building through earthly churches even remotely as effective as God’s design through local assemblies.

It is only in our imagination that we think we can serve God acceptably just a few hours a week or that this is all He requires of us. The Bible commands that we gather together daily for the purpose of mutual edification as we learn to lay down our lives as living sacrifices.

It is only in our imagination that we believe we owe God 10% of our money or our lives when in fact He owns 100% of us. How can we claim to be His without working toward this end?

The hardening of the heart

Most of us remember the story about how Moses came before Pharaoh in Exodus chapters 7-14 and and asked him to let God’s people Israel go free. You may also recall that it took one plague after another to get Pharaoh to finally give in, and even afterwards he still attempted to chase the Israelites down near the Red Sea after the fact.
You may or not remember the back and forth sequence between Pharaoh hardening his own heart and then God Himself also hardening Pharaoh’s heart. God’s action was simply the response to what Pharaoh himself chose to do- the more Pharaoh rejected God’s desire through Moses the harder his heart became and the more embittered he became toward his captives AND the more determined he was to rely upon his own solutions/ingenuity= magicians.

Most human beings are a lot like Pharaoh was. They like to be independent, they like to make their own decisions, utilize their own resources- all the while answering to no one. We assume wrongly that we can find our own place in this life, both practically and spiritually and in the end we can honor God as a result. “Our” results often speak for themselves and yet we double down anyway.

These days their are countless professing Christians that have done one or more of the following in Jesus’ name, seemingly without the slightest hesitation or care.

• Professing Christian leaders extolling the traditions of men over obedience to the commandments of God- thus making them of no effect. Every single church leader is actively participating in doing this to one extent or another.
• Christian leaders openly boasting about their personal achievements
• Spending and borrowing millions of dollars on facilities and thanking God for what he never told them to do or build.
• Hundreds if not thousands of self-proclaimed apostles and prophets
• Attributing bizarre manifestations like laughing, rolling on the ground, shaking and barking as the Holy Spirit.
• Attempts to “christianize” transcendental meditation and practices like Yoga
• Rejecting objective truth for subjective experience
• Telling people Jesus needed to be born again and went to hell to suffer for sin
• Promoting worldly marketing strategies to grow their churches
• Attempts to unify everything “christian” with apostate Rome
• The gospel of giving to God to get rich/prosperity gospel
• Practicing divination and witchcraft and calling it prophesy
• Attempts to borrow worldly secular programs like AA to help God’s people
• Imagining falling gold dust and glory clouds from heaven
• Sucking on the graves of so-called heroes of the faith
• 1000 other vile and blasphemous practices all by professing Christian people

All of the above are the direct result of two things:

1. People relying upon their own imaginations in their attempts to serve God.
2. A slow hardening of their hearts to the truth- a hardening that increases over time and becomes more pronounced, and if persisted in long enough, results in an entire rejection of God and His truth.

Back to Israel for a moment. Do you remember what God did to the generation of people whom He miraculously delivered from the bondage of Egypt? Well here are God’s words in Psalms 95:7-11. Take special note to the people’s claim in 7a followed by God’s declaration in 7b-11:

“For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand” (7a)

“Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work. For forty years I loathed that generation, and said they are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways. Therefore I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter My rest” (7b-11)

There is a very similar situation and pronouncement in Matthew 7:21-23;

“Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. And I will declare to them, “I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME , YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”

Now to those of you who may be tempted to resign such pronouncements to Israel alone may I add this from Hebrews 3. This also from verses 7-11 which this time do not begin with a self-confident vain imagination from men as before, but with God’s plain declaration:
“Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, (7a)

“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS, WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED ME BY TESTING ME, AND SAW MY WORKS FORTY YEARS. THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SAID, ‘THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS’; AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.’” (7b-11)

Now if for some reason you still don’t think this applies to professing Christians than God the Holy Spirit sums up the above text with this:

“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” [Hebrews 3:12]

Here’s the kicker folks. Everyone of these very serious problems (sins that stem from men’s imaginations) could have been isolated and avoided had people obeyed God from the start. Pick any one of the above and test it. Place every Christian within a small house assembly where they have to be held accountable. No opportunity to make a name for oneself there. No way to get rich. No way to build a world wide ministry platform. No way to compete with your brothers and sisters if you live what the Bible actually teaches. We the people are to blame for both allowing and even at times encouraging these lies.

There is a reason Jesus uses the graphic illustration about “cutting off” in Mark chapter 9 when it comes to sin. He means it. If you toy with sin, it will first corrupt you, then deceive you, then harden you, then kill you.

Where every individual who professes Christ and yet tampers with sin is in this process, I do not know. I do know however, that the majority of them are well on their way sliding downwards with little help of any lasting redemption. If you harden your heart towards God’s truth and desire He will reciprocate that back to you. God will grant you just exactly what you desire in your inward parts- even if that desire is a king in the place of Jesus Himself. Isn’t that what God gave to Israel when they rejected Him through Samuel? (1 Samuel 8) Isn’t that exactly what will happen when the man of sin is revealed too? (2 Thessalonians 2: 1-12).

There is only one remedy for an unrenewed mind determined to imagine outside of God’s known intentions in the Scriptures. That remedy has never changed from the beginning. It is simply exercising faith in what God has set in motion and repentance of anything that may oppose that, thus Him. If you attempt to save yourself, you will have to live with yourself- and the consequences that will surely follow if you do.

“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. For we have become partakers of Christ, IF, we hold fast the BEGINNING of our assurance firm until the end” [Hebrews 3:13,14]

 

-the end

 

 

 

 

 

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The Imitation Game

 

Just how and when we arrived here is a mystery to most. Indeed changes have come, progress has been made- yet very few people question the origins of what has now become so commonplace amongst us. Never before have the efforts and imaginations of men triumphed as they are in these days, their influence and inventions sweeping the globe like a hurricane in its formative stages. Say what we might, the time of testing is soon to prove who is and is not standing upon a foundation soon to be shaken. The year is 2018.

I am speaking of the state of what people these days are calling Christian- an age which I personally find almost unrecognizable when looking back a mere thirty years. Can I ask you, “What happened to the ongoing call for Christians to live holy and separate lives from this world?” “Where are the courageous individuals who refuse to compromise the truths of God?” What ever happened to the ongoing call for individual and corporate repentance?” “Are we so blind to think we can jettison such foundational commands of God and still have a positive influence upon this evil age?” Sadly, most who profess to know God openly deny Him, not necessarily through their words but by their actions which expose them for who they really are.

“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” [Hebrews 4:13]

“I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds” [Jeremiah 17:10]

The verses above make two things very clear. First, regardless of whether one claims to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ or otherwise, God still sees all and judges men according to the manner in which they act in this life. This is reiterated over and over in the Bible as it is below in Romans 8:12, 13:

“So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; BUT IF by the Spirit YOU ARE putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live”

The Heart of the Matter/What really matters to God?

If I were to ask the average professing Christian the above question what might their responses be? What constitutes Christian obedience in this day and age? Does it resemble the obedience of 1st century saints or should it resemble them? Or are we merely just playing follow the leader and doing as we are told by those we call our pastor, priest or leader?

I suppose all of us as professing Christians want to look up to someone- that person or leader who seems to exemplify the very life of Jesus Himself. We desperately want to believe what we read in the Bible, that we really can have power and peace, that someone somewhere really can live as Jesus promises and triumph over the sin that so easily entangles us. We desperately want our lives to have influence and significance and far too often we take risks to insure that this comes to fruition. Those risks can either propel us further down the narrow road or steer us completely away from the path and purpose Jesus has for our lives. Can we know which direction is the proper one? Yes we can.

The desire to live as Christ is right and noble, but only as we approach that desire in the manner in which God has set forth. If I approach God in a manner He has not sanctioned, He is no longer obligated to fulfill a promise that lies within the context of what He Himself has set in motion. Enter the imitation game.

The Imitation Game

You and I have been told by countless spiritual leaders that there is significance in what they themselves teach and are doing in the name of Jesus. We have been told that if we follow their lead or vision, we will find what God has for us individually- find our calling within the context of what God is doing through them. Is this really true?

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man” [Psalms 118:8]

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” [Proverbs 3:5, 6]

I’d like to prove my point above with a simple illustration.

Have you ever personally challenged anything your present leaders or corporate fellowship considers to be Christian? If you have, than you know full well how that will go over. If you are not part of the leadership team you are rarely if ever allowed to question or challenge what you are told by them is the truth. If you persist you will be labeled everything from a rebel, to a radical or worse. The leaders alone reserve the right to determine what is true and you are obligated to obey and follow them. They will uses verses like Hebrews 13:17 to justify your submission to them even when the word obey in the verse actually means “to be persuaded by.” The only people Christians should ever obey is God Himself. If you fail to recognize this and submit your will unreservedly unto your leaders you have now submitted to “their game plan.” You are now forced to find your significance and influence within the context of what they are building in Jesus’ name. You have now entered one of the many doors through which the imitation game begins. The entirety of your christian experience will now be viewed from within this context unless you ruthlessly and fearlessly tear yourself from the grasp of those keeping you in bondage to them and their wills. A reminder may be in order just here:

“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ? [Galatians 1:10]

Now that you have voluntarily enrolled yourself in this game, here are some of the rules you must play by depending upon which door you entered in by.

1. The door of institutional religion
• You must choose a preferred denomination in which to commit your loyalties
• You must never speak against the leaders within your preferred denomination
• You must never speak against or question the “official” doctrines of your denomination.
• You must “obey” those in leadership if you have any chance to take upon any added responsibility or opportunity to exercise your spiritual gifts within the context of said denomination.
• This door is run by religious professionals and self-professing leaders who sit atop a hierarchal structure condemned by Jesus Himself. Nonetheless, you must still submit to it/the leaders.

2. The door of professional learning
• Every religious school is owned and directed by someone behind the scenes. They exist for the purpose of furthering their own agendas which include training leaders to fulfill religious positions within their schools and churches. If you desire any such position you must follow their written or unwritten rules to qualify.
• Enrolling in a religious school guarantees you will disobey God and encourage others to do the same. Religious schools are in business to make a profit or in the least pay their employees and staff. This flies in the face of Jesus’ command to freely give to others as He has freely given to us.
• Walking through this door and garnering a religious position in a religious organization guarantees you will become someone God never intended you to be. Is God calling Christians to be professionals? Is He calling people to tower over or lord it over their brothers and sisters? Yet this is exactly what happens when the saints become divided into the classes of clergy and laity within religious organizations.
• Once you graduate you have supposedly been qualified for whatever position or duty you have studied for. This makes the school itself the arbitrator of who is and isn’t qualified for Christian service and removing that responsibility from God Himself.
• Learning itself isn’t a bad thing any more than wisdom or knowledge might be. That said, God makes plain that knowledge puffs up people’s pride and isn’t as valuable as knowing Jesus Christ personally and intimately.
• This door is run by people who obviously tout the merits of religious institutions despite their being absolutely ZERO scriptural merit or need for such institutions. By your assent and participation with the rules above, you prove by your actions that you agree with them.

3. The door of non-profit ministry organizations
• This door is for those who have either been rejected by traditional religion or who feel they can’t properly exercise their gifts within the traditional system.
• Allows individual professing Christians to name their own business empire and use Jesus’ name to promote it.
• This door affords these people the opportunity to do as they please without any direct supervision or a limited submission by those of their choosing.
• Allows any individual to exalt themselves as a leader by merely submitting the proper paperwork to the state agency or particular government thereby ignoring/skirting God’s qualification for elders/leaders etc.
• Detracts individual Christians away from what God is building in local assemblies and shifts the focus upon an institution men are building. The result amounts to these individuals competing with Jesus for the souls of men (their participation), the support of men (their financial resources) and notoriety in society (stealing the glory due God alone for themselves and what they have built).
• Has become the new replacement for old time religion and churches. Allows the participants to downplay doctrine and exalt subjective experiences in the place of objective scriptural truth.

4. The door of religious ecumenism and syncretism
• You must accept all Christian denominations as valid expressions of truth
• You must stop trying to convert people to your particular denominational bent
• Teach that subjective experience is the seedbed of truth for all
• Mysticism in all religions is what unites us all
• Recognize the divinity and goodness in all of humanity
• Tout universal salvation for all

5.   1-4 = The door of christianity without the cross life
• We must become worldly to win the world to our jesus
• We must never offend lest we scare people away from US
• We must be tolerant and accepting of everyone
• We emphasize having faith in our faith to get what we want
• We emphasize our relationship with the spirit at the expense of the Father and the Son
• We orchestrate worship services with repetitive songs/phrases that please us and aid us in feeding our flesh
• We put emphasis on the miraculous even though our miracles can’t be proven and our prophecies are rarely accurate
• We blindly follow our chosen leaders who cast their visions for us and mediate their gods new revelations to us
• No one has to be personally accountable provided they financially support the “ministry” and promote the worldly dreams of the leaders
• No matter what, we never emphasize the need for regular obedience to actual commands of God, daily repentance, denying of self in any manner and having to die to our selfish ways.

From generation to generation

In 2 Timothy 2:2 we find this command:

“The things which you have heard from me, in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”

Herein we must pay very close attention. This is not about your particular leader quoting this verse in regard to what he may be doing or teaching- nor should it be. This is Paul the apostle himself instructing Timothy to pass along the very things Paul taught him to others- to men who could be trusted with those things. Does this not immediately beckon the question, “What things did Timothy hear from Paul that he was supposed to teach others?” This is what matters, for these are the very same things we are supposed to teach others.

It is safe to say that what Paul encouraged Timothy to teach others was exactly what he had been taught by the Lord Jesus Himself. This would not be limited to what he specifically taught in these books to Timothy but to the entirety of what Paul expounded upon in all of his New Testament letters to various assemblies he helped establish. It ought to be further ascertained that these teachings ought not exceed those truths as these warnings make obvious:

“Now these things, brethren, 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” [1 Corinthians 4:6]

“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]

People, we can only give to others what we ourselves possess. We can only offer the type of help we ourselves have been given- only steer others in the direction we ourselves have embraced. Have you ever thought about this? In every sphere of life, whatever the subject matter, we can only offer to others what we ourselves have either learned or are presently exhibiting as the truth. There are no exceptions.

Let’s return to a question I asked earlier. What really matters to God? Is it acceptable to serve Him in any way we choose provided we do that in Jesus’ name? In other words, if others have taught us that God sanctions religious institutions does that make our participation within them acceptable?

God will hold each of us accountable for how we live out our faith. It won’t matter if we were taught wrongly by some leader we chose to sit under or allowed to rule over us. We alone will give an account of how we personally chose to obey God or whether we even did at all. The only thing that will matter in the end is whether we rightly discerned God’s will and whether we earnestly attempted to live that out and pass that along to others to carry on after we’re gone.

“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” [Romans 14:12]

“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” [Hebrews 9:27]

Man’s Imitation: The substitute for participation with Christ

Just about everywhere we look these days among those professing to be Christian is this call to imitate what Jesus did. In times past it was through the acronym WWJD (What would Jesus do) as a motivator to do right and these days it is far worse. First off, no one can actually do as Jesus did without His divine cooperation. Sure, we can attempt to play the part, like when we pretend to forgive those who have wronged us or fake actually loving our enemies. Neither of these are even remotely possible without the influence and power of the Holy Spirit within. Today it is wrongly assumed that Christians can do anything Jesus did and even more- completely ignoring the fact that the Holy Spirit gives to each Christian as He wills and not as a result of what we think, believe or demand from Him. God does not gift everyone of His children the same and for this reason alone every believer will not be able to carry out the same spiritual gifts or roles within the body of Christ. See 1 Corinthians chapter 12.

When we read about imitating God in Ephesians 5:1 it is primary referring to the attitude we are to have toward one another in love- echoing Christs love for us. There is no mention of spiritual gifts here or some universal command that suggests all Christians will be able to act in a universal manner. That simply is not true. It is true that the Holy Spirit can and does enable us to perform the will of God- but that ability is also based upon conditional promises as we shall see.

Those who tout the merits of merely imitating Jesus (by faith of course), rarely if ever discuss the two primary necessities that must precede any genuine work of the Holy Spirit and which culminates in God’s will being accomplished (not my will or our corporate will either). Those two things are listed below.

1. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” [John 15:5]

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

Where these foundational truths are not taught and embraced we can know for certain that the origin of the so-called results from whatever form of faith is being exercised is not from God the Holy Spirit. Even when the conditions are met, all spiritual results are still within the context of “Thy will be done” regardless of how or what men may claim or desire. For example, God does not always desire that everyone who seeks healing for an illness is always made whole. If this were actually true we could simply keep praying and avoid death entirely. Death is the ultimate result of the disease of sin is it not?

Participation with Christ’s death

Jesus did not die simply so we could imitate (copy) His lifestyle. If we had the power to do so it would never had been necessary to be born again and receive an entirely new nature via the Holy Spirit. It is true that Jesus has a done a work in those He has called unto himself. But that work must be both accepted and embraced by faith by us as individuals.

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord (by faith), so walk in Him (by faith), having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” [Colossians 2:6, 7]

Notice several things here. First, notice the progression. Faith in conversion, faith to be built up and faith to become established. Then notice this important phrase: as you were instructed. Once again, this instruction is not in relation to your particular leader(s) desires, vision or will for you- it is specifically referring to Paul the apostles instructions- the same as those given to Timothy and all assemblies. The following verse actually shows Paul sending Timothy to Corinth to do this very thing- to teach them what Paul taught to him:

“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 and in every assembly” [1 Corinthians 4:17]

Now is this what we see in today’s religious institutions and through today’s pastors and priests? Are they really teaching you Pauls ways or are they promoting their own vision and methodologies that stem from their own imaginations and will? Once again, if they have succumbed to pleasing men (whether saved or unsaved) rest assured they are no longer being obedient to what God says he requires of a true shepherd.

Today’s false prophets and teachers cannot afford to tell you the whole truth. The truth is not popular (with this world or carnal believers) and will always cost the true believer their lives. Do you get that? Yes, that is God’s ultimate goal, that is why Jesus came and died for you- not to merely get you or I to heaven, but that we might be a useful sacrificial lamb in the time we have remaining upon this earth.

“ThereforeI urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual (or reasonable) service of worship” [Romans 12:1] Worship is not limited to a period of time spent singing worship songs- it’s more rightly a life laid down for Jesus’ sake. This is true worship.

The truth be told, regardless of what men may speak, claim or even supposedly attempt to prove, their is no real Christianity without actively participating in what Christ has done on behalf of His people. Teaching the truth (doctrine) is necessary- not to fill our heads alone, but to be embraced and subsequently exhibit a real life resurrection as a result. No one who refuses to die with Christ (practically and daily) can ever possess resurrection power personally or be used in any significant fashion in their attempt to influence others. Exempt of a personal cross, whatever people say, claim or present before you is simply a sham and a counterfeit of the highest order.

One last question. If none of the points in the doors 1-5 above in bold can be proven to be valid expressions of Biblical Christianity, then where do you suppose they derive from and why are they so popular?

May this be the Christian’s earnest plea before their Father regardless of what it may cost them:

“For the love of Christ controls me, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that I who live might no longer live for myself, but for Him who died and rose again on my behalf” [2 Corinthians 5:14, 15]