What legacy are you leaving?

 What legacy are you leaving?

Like it or not, like yourself or not, like your surroundings or not, we’re all leaving something behind for others to discover, and in time for others to follow. Have you ever thought about what you’re leaving behind as a result of what you have made a priority in your life in general, or even in your life today?

There is a common refrain that goes something like this:

“Yesterday is gone, tomorrow never comes, yet today is upon us”

It’s a simple reminder of the fact that the real impact our lives have upon others is directly related to what we find ourselves doing in the present- that all that matters is what we are preoccupied with now- in the present place in time we find ourselves. The above refrain is echoed in many Bible passages like these below:

“This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” [Psalms 118:24]  

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” [Matthew 6:34]

“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]

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” [James 4:13, 14]

In a similar vein as the title to this post is another seemingly similar statement:

“How can I be remembered after I die?” Now may I ask you, Is this actually saying the same thing as “What legacy are you leaving?” No it is not. One statement is pondering the potential impact of our lives in others after we pass while the other is a selfish way of making sure we’re never forgotten after we die.

As I was researching for this article I came upon another article called, “How to be remembered after you die” which listed these potential ways/steps:

  • Get published
  • Become a politician
  • Invent something
  • Excel at a skill or talent
  • Start something
  • Gift something

Think these over for a minute. Would you admit that despite the pursuit of any of these things, that being remembered from them would be an adequate legacy for one claiming to be a Christian? In other words, would you be satisfied if as a Christian you were remembered by others as one who:

  • Wrote a book or a series of books (even if based upon God)
  • Ran for public office (when the Bible speaks of a higher calling in being ambassadors for Christ)
  • Inventing something intellectual or mechanical to which you were given credit
  • Being the worlds most renown sports figure in a particular “game”
  • As being a renown philanthropist (a financially generous person)
  • As starting something (a successful business, organization or “ministry”)

Once again, “Would you be satisfied if as a Christian if you were remembered by any of the six reasons above?”

If your answer is “yes,” I assure you that you have entirely failed to realize what God Himself has called every Christian to make a priority in their lives according to the Bible itself. That priority cannot be you, anything you create, anything you do or anything at all- that priority must be HIM!

Although most people would not accept this fact, all of the above “reasons for remembrance” actually leave little to no benefit spiritually speaking after one has left this world. All of them steer people’s attention at least partially if not entirely upon the deceased individual and not upon Jesus Himself.

Do you realize that despite Jesus-

“who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, (He set aside many of His divine privileges) but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” [Philippians 2:6-8]

Immediately preceding the above verse is this:

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,” which relates directly to the previous verses that speak of doing nothing selfishly or for one’s interests alone but for the interests of others. (verse 3, 4) This equates to being “obedient” as it states in verse 12 where it says of these believers what we could only dream of today:

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (verses 12, 13)

In Philippians 2:1, 2 we find specific commands but one especially noteworthy one: “intent on one purpose.” This purpose is to be carried out with the proper attitude (verse 5), appropriate actions (verse 3, 4), necessary reverence (verse 12, 13), ongoing contentment (verse 14), and as a result “appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.” (verses 15, 16).  Then note the subtle command for them to be “poured out for others” even as he was for them when Paul says;

“You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me” (verse 18)

The one purpose

The one purpose to which they were called was for the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even as today, and despite what so many claim around us, the proclamation of Christ suffers because people who claim Him do not “always obey” in the manner this chapter prescribes. Even Paul, sharing herein what so many have claimed is a letter based upon joy makes this startling revelation and sad refrain;

“For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare”    And why is this?

“For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” [Philippians 2:20, 21]

I want to post a comment I made recently again because it fits perfectly herein:

 

“God isn’t looking for men who will use His name to do His work their own way. He’s looking for men who will die to their own way that He might use them”

Seeing is believing (the wrong things)

If we want to discover the impression of others lives we only need to look for their footprints upon society. For example, what are the “fruits” of those who:

  • Write self-titled books one after another (they may promote some truth, but they also promote themselves)
  • Get involved in local governments where they can only attempt to pass laws that legislate morality and which forbid one to preach the gospel.
  • Invent something that makes our lives “easier” or more convenient.
  • Give monies to secular or religious causes (almost all of which do not directly relate to proclaiming the gospel but rather promote and spread the inventions of men (churches, institutions and methodologies)
  • Establish religious organizations that compete with Jesus for souls, resources and impact upon society (which is synonymous with starting one’s own “ministry”) which has ZERO scriptural basis or precedent.
  • All of the above allow for and even necessitate allegiances with this world system that is diametrically opposed to both Jesus and the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Together they all equal wood, hay and stubble. They will all be first shaken, and subsequently burned up.

Then we find here and there the faithful few who with Jesus willingly choose to make themselves of “no reputation.” These alone have discovered a secret, a secret within the confines of a special intimate relationship that they have alone with their Father through Jesus Christ. These have an altogether different approach to spiritual things which goes something like this, “not my will be done, but yours.”

To continue to pursue paths and directions outside of Scriptural precedent is unwise and even dangerous. Forming secular allegiances or even religious ecumenical societies without considering the consequence to the one purpose of God is to remain in denial. And to pursue both with a passion that equates to the military might of nations consumed with killing for their own aims and ends…..is to join hands and hearts with the enemy. I woke this morning to read of the passing of one such individual whose lasting legacy includes these sad truths:

  • Despite being “ordained” in the Reformed Church of America, a worldly trend altogether earthly in nature, Robert Schuller sold a softer, gentler  message which borrowed heavily from the father of the feel good gospel, Norman Vincent Peale.
  • Habitually taught the power of “positive thinking”
  • Mentored men like Rick Warren (of Purpose Driven fame) and Bill Hybels (Willow Creek Church) who regularly compromise the truth.
  • His crowning achievement was the construction of his Crystal Cathedral Church megachurch which he eventually lost to bankruptcy and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County, CA.

Add to this quotes from his popular book called Self-Esteem: The New Reformation:

  • “Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem” (page 14)
  • “I found myself immediately attracted to Pope Paul John II, when upon his election to the Papacy, his published speeches invariably called attention to the need for recognizing the dignity of the human being as a child of God” (page 17)
  • “Do not say that the central core of the human soul is wickedness. Positive Christianity does not hold to human depravity but to human inability” (page 67)
  • “To be born again means that we must be changed from a negative  to a positive self-image- from inferiority to self-esteem, from fear to love, from doubt to trust” (page 68)

Much more could be said, but isn’t necessary. This man counseled presidents and yet didn’t even possess in either words nor actions the true gospel of Jesus Christ. That was and is his legacy, like it or not.

A crucified man or woman does not leave works of brick and mortar, does not abandon nor reject Scriptural truth, does not involve himself in earthly affairs, ecumenical pursuits, nor leave items that those who control can boast about and sell for profit after they pass on. The real fruit of a crucified life is as follows:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” [Galatians 5:22, 23]

Is this enough for you?

May this be your own, and my own lasting legacy for Jesus’ sake.

 

-the end

The cost of true fellowship/conclusion

The cost of true fellowship/conclusion

I ended the previous post with this statement:

 “Christian fellowship is something that is done within the context of what He is building spiritually, not within the context of what man has and continues to build on earth”

The majority of the professing Christian world entirely disagrees with the above statement. Their “fellowship” is predominately found within the confines of structures man has built, regardless of the denomination (brand name). Most people consider this a moot point-they would say it doesn’t really matter where one meets but only whether Jesus is present. To this I partly agree. Still, “Would you say that fellowship is an event to which you attend or a lifestyle in which you live?” Let’s look over some verses in the Bible that relate to or express Christian fellowship and how they read.

“…what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” [1 John 1:3]

John the apostle is of course talking about those individuals who personally walked with the Lord Jesus and their responsibility to pass along the truth concerning Him, the Word of Life (1 John 1:1). Paul the apostle also met Jesus upon the Damascus road, but more importantly was given a revelation of Jesus by Him which he was called to preach among first the Jews, then primarily the Gentiles. This gospel, which Jude considered to be “the faith” needed to be defended and passed along to subsequent generations. Paul passed the truth about Jesus unto many others including Timothy to whom he admonished:

“Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which are in Christ Jesus” [2 Timothy 1:13, 14]   also,

“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” [2 Timothy 2:2]

The principle of passing down the truth, “the faith once delivered” and the importance thereof cannot be overstated. Unless some of God’s people purposefully safeguard the truths and practice of the faith, they will become corrupted over time or even lost to future generations. This obviously would include the non-negotiables we discussed earlier as well.

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” [1 John 1:6, 7]

We have already talked about our need to “abide” in this relationship and that this enables to offer to others what our Father is working into and through us. We also need to note that true fellowship is with people who are walking in the light, they are not actively living in sin or darkness. Regardless of where people meet for fellowship, it’s important to know that the participants are walking in the light.

“Take care, brethren, that there not be any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 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 3:12, 13]

The warning above is very serious. Obviously Jesus thinks that anything short of seeking Him daily among one another is a dangerous risk that can invite deception. Do you seek Him daily and whenever you can amongst the brethren?

“What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” [1 Corinthians 14:26]

This verse is specifically relating to when a local group of Christians gather in a specific locale. Notice that “each one has” something to offer (out of their spiritual giftedness), the assembly is not taught nor directed by any specific individual or is their an exact routine or preplanned agenda. That’s specifically due to the fellowship participants being led by the Holy Spirit and not by a man or a group of leaders.

“Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” [1 Thessalonians 2:8]

This is the right attitude. Not merely just sharing the truths of God but each others hurt, pains and even material goods as our Father leads each one.

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives  for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” [1 John 3:16-18]

This is part of denying oneself and taking up one’s cross. We look for ways to help serve one another’s needs.

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” [Philippians 2:1, 2]

Here is a picture of a growing assembly of believers who are focused on Christ and growing together.

“…..so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” [1 Corinthians 12:25, 26]

A true picture of sharing amongst believers. No one individual is primary as only Jesus is center stage. All have the same care one for another.

“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and their be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are divisions among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided?” [1 Corinthians 1:10-13]

Paul is obviously condemning their secular distinctions here. In today’s language it would read, “I am Baptist,” “I am Penecostal,” or “I am Lutheran.” Any religious distinction or name (denomination) or earthly title is prohibited as they divide the body of Christ. Truth is what binds and separates the true Christians from the false. Even a religious title such as “Pastor” or “Priest” or “Reverend” is also condemned as that places prominence upon one believer over another. That is not showing the SAME CARE one for another as the verse above describes.

God’s people fellowship in the Spirit and on a heavenly plane altogether. Anything earthly that diminishes or shrouds that reality must be rejected and abandoned.

“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 17:23]

This is the desire of Jesus herein and the result of the totality of the above verses being lived amongst Christians. This is how God is calling every one of His sons and daughters to fellowship and to live, in this like manner. Now you may ask, “Where do I find such fellowship?”

 You have to be prepared yourself

Seriously, “Have you ever considered the cost to you personally to live all of the above?”  That’s exactly what you will have to do if you want to know and live in the beauty of the “fellowship of the saints.” It is not something you can attend, it is something you must become. You have to embrace God’s truth as it is, count the cost of being His disciple and walk in the manner of life in which He has prescribed. Only after you do, can you take upon yourself the responsibility of being a channel for this type of fellowship, something many, many people around the globe have already chosen to do.

No person, Christian or otherwise, can contribute to what they themselves have no knowledge of. Just as one must believe and repent before seeing the kingdom of God, so must each deny themselves, abandon their own dreams and desires and allow Jesus to lead you where He would. Just as if you are entering heaven itself, nothing of the former life can be brought with you. It is the Bible, God’s people and Jesus from now on- all else must be left behind.

Once Your Father has adequately prepared you, then you can start to pray for someone to join you upon this road. One here, two there, maybe three gathering together in His name. You are not looking for the masses, you are not trying to build or be anything at all, you are simply gathering and fellowshipping IN HIS NAME.

In due time, and provided you stay the course and remain worthy, Father might use your life to help show others the ONE VEHICLE through which His will is accomplished-that which supports His truth. That is the place where true fellowship is established, truth is lived and spoken- where the world will take notice, and where God Himself is given His rightful glory.

 

-the end

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cost of true fellowship/Part 3

… The cost of true fellowship/Part 3

Over the last couple of articles we’ve talked a lot about the ingredients that lead to proper Christian fellowship. We talked about the necessity to abide in Christ, our need to be willing to give more than to receive, that fellowship isn’t somewhere we go but something we do, that it must be orchestrated by God Himself and not man, that true fellowship necessitates our willingness to allow mutual participation and that this type of fellowship will have supernatural results, and one I forgot- that the purpose of this fellowship is for the mutual edification of the saints.

Sounds exciting doesn’t it. You might now be asking, “Just where might such a fellowship be found?”  and “Wouldn’t that be contradicting your statement above that fellowship isn’t somewhere we go?”

My point above about “fellowship is not somewhere we go” does not mean that this fellowship is not found in particular places- it most certainly is. A home, a restaurant, a city park or out in the middle of a desert- the location matters little. What matters is that we understand that fellowship isn’t found over there but within the relationships with have with our Father and others believers in our lives. You do not have Biblical fellowship with people you do not know about as fellowship requires intimacy and interaction. It is much more than showing up where other Christians choose to meet.

Called out for a reason

I want to reiterate exactly what I wrote in my last post under this title once again:

“Our Father did not call you, me or anyone else out of institutions for no reason. Sure, over time we each receive the various revelations He alone can show us, but that doesn’t mean we are all called to exactly the same service. There are specific truths we all need to embrace uniformly, but within that context God has a unique purpose and plan for us as individuals as well”

A Picture of Biblical Fellowship

When we Christians think of fellowship we automatically think of some scheduled event at a particular place. That is the way we have been taught to think. But are those gatherings representative with what we find in the New Testament as fellowship or are there differences? Here’s the list again:

  • Our individual responsibility to abide in Christ (to cultivate our own relationship with God)
  • To be willing to give more than we receive
  • Emphasize what we do (contribute) to the other saints more than where we go (to a place)
  • The participants are called and orchestrated by God, not men
  • We must allow mutual participation
  • We will witness supernatural results
  • Mutually edifying to the saints

The truth is in. Most of today’s modern day church functions operate nothing like the above. First, those who attend these functions rarely know each other or generally have superficial relationships. How often have you asked your friends how their relationship with Father is or what He has taught them recently? For the most part we have no idea what’s going on with those we claim to have fellowship with- we don’t see them enough to know so.

Honestly, do most people come to places where fellowship is designed to give to others? Do most Christians even know that it is their responsibility to do so? Do they come wanting to contribute to the needs of the saints or are they looking for some kind of emotional high or spiritual fix?

I’ve got news for you all- having an open door policy and practicing inviting anybody and everybody into church through advertising is not God orchestrating who you fellowship with. Fellowship is among the people of God, it does not include unbelievers or believers whose lives are mired in sin. Using our human ingenuity and resources clouds God’s desire to “bring and remove” those who do and do not belong among the family of God. Needless to add, any large group of believers adds to the superficiality among them and doesn’t allow for any real intimacy at all. You cannot have everyone participating among large groups- it simply isn’t possible.

Supernatural results are not going to be witnessed where the above errors persist and are not corrected. Mutual edification comes from the truth being spoken and lived one to another, something the above scenarios do not exhibit. So you ask, “What do I do for Christian fellowship?”

True fellowship must revolve around specific Biblical truths

As Christians, we are called to acknowledge and believe very specific truths. For example, every truly born again Christian will acknowledge that salvation cannot be earned by one’s own merits, but rather as the Bible says, salvation is by grace, through faith. This is non-negotiable fact.

“…nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” [Galatians 2:16] [Ephesians 2:8, 9]  

There are other non-negotiable facts as well: such as the Triune nature of God and the deity of Christ (Jesus is God) and the virgin birth of Christ. Those who reject these truths are not acknowledging what the Bible clearly states as being particularly Christian. You cannot have fellowship as the Bible describes it when disunity exists in these essentials. I’m sure some of you would like to add to the essential list, I might too, but this list makes my point, no?

There are also many practical considerations that also affect one’s ability to have genuine fellowship. The first is a willingness to acknowledge that there is only one true faith, (“the faith”) which encompasses both specific doctrines and specific practices. Without individual Christians being willing to acknowledge this, men will likely settle for less than God’s best (true unity in Him- 1 Corinthians 1:10) for something that falls far short of that. This doesn’t mean we must become perfect first in order to fellowship, no, but we must be continually moving and aiming toward the unity prescribed in the aforementioned verse. Such a pursuit will stay off in most cases the potential for compromise or regression as a spiritual body.

“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was handed down to the saints” [Jude 3] 

Paul the apostle, who was given the totality of the revelation of “the faith” (Galatians 1:11, 12) often referred to that doctrinal and practical gospel as “my way(s) and/or traditions in Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:17, 11:2, 11:16, 14:33) It was these doctrines and practices that all local ekklesias were commanded to embrace and obey. (1 Corinthians 14:37).

The practical aspects of “the faith” include many things such as:

  • The command to fellowship- daily (Acts 2:46, 47)(Acts 17:11)(Hebrews 3:13)
  • The command to be prayerful (Matthew 6:6-8)(2 Corinthians 13:9)(James 5:16)
  • The command to be lights in the world (Matthew 5:13-16)(John 12:46)(Ephesians 4:8-17)
  • The command to deny ourselves and carry our cross (Luke 9:23-26)(2 Corinthians 4:11, 12)
  • The command to reject sin and live holy (Colossians 3:5-11)(Ephesians 1:4)(1 Peter 1:14-16)
  • The command to regularly repent (Mark 6:12)(Acts 17:30, 31)(Revelation 3:19)
  • The command to live separate from this world and what they value (1 Corinthians 6:14-18)(1 John 2:15-17)
  • Share one another’s joys and sorrows and material goods one with another (1 Corinthians 1:3-7)(Ephesians4:28)
  • Love one another AS Christ loves His bride (John 13:34, 35)(Philippians 2:3, 4)(1 John 4:7, 8)

…and ought to include things like these as well (though they are often ignored or rejected outright);

  • the settings we gather in (that are consistent with producing the above such as small groups of people)
  • the manner we interact (interactive fellowship as the Bible prescribes)
  • the ingredients of our interaction or potential ingredients (psalms, teachings, revelation, tongues, interpretations, judgments over what is spoken/taught, order among the people and participants)

You can read 1 Corinthians 14: 26-40 to gain a clear picture of how a  local assembly/ekklesia functions properly. Sorry if that doesn’t quite fit your typical church service. There are reasons for that and if you’re courageous you can discover them.

Obviously many more things could be added to this list. As Christians these are the type of things we share and teach one another during fellowship that we might be useful vessels in God’s service. The Bible is clear that those who refuse to obey what God commands are to be marked, admonished and even excommunicated from fellowship under some circumstances. The goal is to live out the “one faith” as Paul relayed it to us, that we might appears as lights in the world. The result of the above should look something like this;

“Do all things without grumbling and disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain or toil in vain” [Philippians 2:14-16]

Fellowship has an OBJECT and an AIM

There are lots of reasons why people seek out fellowship. They may be hurting, they may be lonely or they just trying to discover where they and their particular spiritual gifts fit among others. Some want a safe environment for their kids, want to meet nice people or just need a babysitter. There are a hundred reasons people “go here or there for fellowship” but the aim and object must be Jesus. Again, the object and aim of all fellowship must be to grow in intimacy with other Christians and God Himself. All other reasons must remain secondary to this.

The ekklesia is God’s one vehicle to display Himself

I think it’s safe to say that most Christians know that the people of God are supposed to corporately display Christ to this dying world. What they hardly if ever realize is this: That what most people are displaying in “their” churches and organizations is not exclusively Jesus as all, but a combination of sectarian attitudes, religious hierarchy and worldly resources which amount to building earthly kingdoms. Needless to say, if your fellowship revolves around any of the above, it is not the type of fellowship God intends for you as a Christian, but in fact, is a counterfeit.

“I write so you will know how to conduct yourself in the household of God, which is the ekklesia of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” [1 Timothy 3:15]

What is the pillar and support of the truth? Your church, no. Your religious organization, no. Your “ministry” pursuit, no. NOT YOUR ANYTHING. The pillar and support of the truth is His ekklesia- WHAT HE IS BUILDING- SPIRITUALLY!

When you finally come to terms with this, you might just be ready to fellowship with others who are seeking Him and not anything in addition to Him.

 Christian fellowship is something that is done within the context of what He is building spiritually, not within the context of what man has and continues to build on earth.

 

-to be continued in Part 4 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cost of true fellowship/Part 2

 The cost of true fellowship/2

For most people it takes many years to be willing to admit that the majority of their activities through church fell far short of our Father’s intentions for fellowship. It seems the longer one is attached to a specific manner of doing things the harder it is to break free from it. It’s extremely painful to first admit we’ve fallen far short of God’s intent, likely more painful to suffer the consequences of attempting to right the ship.

For those of us who have left institutions, this is where we find ourselves these days- on the outside looking for where we belong, asking ourselves the question, “What now?” That isn’t easily answered, though there are some things we do well to remember.

A Reminder

Everything we might desire or need within our lives as Christians is ultimately dependent upon how much we rely upon Jesus for everything. We have to diligently guard this special relationship and keep Jesus as the focal point and love of our lives. We cannot ever allow something or someone to take precedence over Him. That includes making any form of fellowship a priority over Him.

Called out for a reason

Our Father did not call you, me or anyone out of institutions for no reason. Sure, over time we each receive the various revelations He alone can show us, but that doesn’t mean we are all called to exactly the same service. There are specific truths we all need to embrace uniformly, but within that context God has a unique purpose and plan for us as individuals as well.

Despite the loneliness that each individual faces upon exiting the church, the very real temptation to immediately plug into some form of fellowship is almost always a mistake. The primary purpose for Him bringing us out is to set us aside so He can begin to teach us Himself without the distractions of other men. Getting out isn’t enough, there are things in us that need to come out too- stuff we adopted along the way in church that has nothing whatsoever to do with Life in Him. It is much more than simply conforming to a standard, anyone could just adjust I suppose, rather, He desires to transform our thinking entirely from what is earth bound to that which is heavenly in nature. This takes considerable time, in my case 15 years and counting.

These years are not without any fellowship, it’s just that God will rarely allow our efforts to cling to a person or groups of persons to last long in this stage. He knows what we need better than we do, and if we are to be fully prepared we have to accept His timing is best. Rest assured that if you have learned to abide in Him regularly, nothing you have or go without will escape His notice. You will be walking exactly as you ought to.

My ministry

I am sure that the last thing My Father had to pry out of my hands and heart was this desire I had for my own ministry. Just about everybody struggles with this one. We’re so convinced our ideas are just a little better than somebody else’s, but that doesn’t matter- they’re not better than God’s own. You must allow Him to bring you to the place where you have no agenda of your own and become entirely content even if He chooses to never use you again. When you have arrived here, maybe He might let you out for a glimpse of His will for your life. Maybe not.

The Wilderness

The wilderness experience, the road of seemingly never ending loneliness, broken friendships, multiple misunderstandings, crushed aspirations and the like- a road of stripping you down to where you likely despair of life itself is necessary. Any attempt to skirt the fiery trials He allows will only have you learning the same lessons over and over again. There is only one way out- straight ahead embracing the pain, accepting the heartache as if from a loving Father. He knows what it takes to bring you to the end of yourself, that He alone might have the sacrifice He’s always been after.

The cross/A friend for Life

Despite where we might be heading on any given day, we usually have an idea where we’re going and the means necessary to get there. Paul the apostle knew as much too- he knew that if there was any hope for fulfilling God’s will for his life he would have to admit;

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

(Paul was born into many privileges (Philippians 3:4-6) as are some of us. For some of us today that might mean wealth, prestige, influence or a whole host of other things. For a religious professional that would include a religious position, a spiritual title, institutional authority and likely quite the reputation as a religious professional) A first step in dying to oneself is foregoing all the obvious things that exalt us over our fellow men.

 …and may be found in Him, 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,

(Our individual testimony must be one of uncompromising justification in Christ. Anything or anyone who mixes the Law with Grace must be marked, refuted and rejected. There can be no ecumenical compromises with those who fail or pretend to share our love for the gospel itself) Another opportunity to die to self and embrace the hatred of those who call us narrow minded and bigoted.

…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;

(This becomes our primary message for anyone professing the name of Christ. That the road to intimacy with Father is filled with difficulty but well worth it in the end as our influence upon others will prove over time) This is where our Father grants us opportunities to embrace our sufferings instead of running from them. This becomes the primary test to see whether we really can be trusted in the heat of battle or whether we will quit when the going gets rough.

…in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

(…not heaven, but resurrection power to share Christ with the unsaved and equip the saints) God will only share His power with those who are DEAD serious about putting and keeping Him first in their life.

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 also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.

(An ongoing attitude of humility regardless of how our Father chooses to use us. A continual ongoing walk always discovering a deeper revelation of Christ and never arriving this side of heaven)

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” [Philippians 3:7-14]

(Paul’s eyes are on the prize- He sees everything in Christ, for Christ is his very Life.)

When He has brought you here, you will be prepared for whatever He has in store for you.

 

-continued in part 3

 

 

The cost of true fellowship/Part 1

 The cost of true fellowship/1

Although in a very similar vein, this author will not simply attempt to answer the question many others have previously asked God and other Christians around them: What is real fellowship and where can I find that? In addition I want to ask this additional question; “What is the cost of true fellowship?” I believe the answer to this question will circumvent the need for the previous questions altogether as they become answered through this question alone. How can I say that?

True Fellowship starts with the Father

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” [1 John 1:5-7]

Every real born again believer desires to fellowship with other Christians, that’s a given. What isn’t so easily recognized is what that constitutes in real life and how that particular fellowship is brought to fruition. Most of us have for years made the assumption that church attendance, bible study and a few social outings during the year represent true fellowship. Not only is this not true, in most cases the above are actually a hindrance to what John the apostle was calling “fellowship with Him and one another.”

At the Outset

Webster’s defines “fellowship” as follows:

  • A friendly relationship among people
  • The relationship of people who share interests or feelings
  • A group of people who share similar interests

Now can I ask a question. Would you consider this an accurate description of what the Bible denotes as Christian fellowship? I certainly hope not. It’s not as if some of the above isn’t a part of true fellowship among Christians, it certainly would be, but it would also be just as true for a ladies monthly breakfast, the Tuesday evening fishing club, a local AA meeting or any other social function for that matter, Christian or otherwise. What is it that specifically defines a Christians fellowship from these other forms of fellowship? That’s right, The Father, God Himself.

God alone defines fellowship

Regardless of what we might consider to be fellowship, in reality true fellowship can only be defined by God Himself. Seeing that fellowship is commanded in the Scriptures, wouldn’t it seem vital to understand what God Himself means when He talks of our fellowship with Him and one another?

The word for fellowship in the Bible is “koinonia.” Some synonymous words other than “fellowship” (as described above) would be:

  • contribution
  • participation
  • sharing

Obviously these words also denote aspects of fellowship. Ultimately though, what makes Christian fellowship unique?

A Supernatural Source

The Christian life is lived in the supernatural. Were it to stay on the natural plane or derive from our own resources it could not be so. Therefore Christian fellowship cannot and does not take into consideration our human thoughts about things, take into consideration our personal strengths or our soulish self centered tendencies. Only what derives from the Holy Spirit within us can contribute to the type of fellowship God requires and commands.

As fragile human beings whose natural tendency is to save ourselves and our abilities and reputation, it’s necessary for these “old nature” habits to be diminished as much as possible. The instrument of their destruction  is the cross of Christ. There is a reason Jesus says that whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:27) It is simply impossible to carry out what God requires unless all of our resources are kept in check. Do you by nature love your neighbor? Do you naturally want to forgive those who offend you? Do you place the interests of others around you above your own? Do you agree with Jesus that it is more blessed to give than receive? And finally, “Do you believe that all Christians can live in perfect harmony upon this earth together?” No you don’t, but until you do, you can never know true fellowship- at least not how our heavenly Father intends us to know it.

The present problem

For many years most of us have been taught that fellowship is found over there or in some particular place. Whether that place be a church, a Bible study, a prayer meeting or other doesn’t really matter. We’ve been taught we need to go somewhere to find what we’re looking or searching for. Taking this to its logical conclusion each of us would be going somewhere in an attempt to receive something and so would everyone else in our particular group or setting. This of course brings up another question, “How can we fellowship if no one contributes and all come to receive?”

The next problem

For many years, most of our “fellowship” has been directed and structured by somebody else. All we think we really need to do is show up and we will can have fellowship with other people. There’s almost always somebody willing to lead and the rest can listen, right? Is that what God intends, is that fellowship?

“Church reduces worship & fellowship to a pilgrimage and a ritual as opposed to the spiritual reality of sharing our [real] lives together” -outside contribution

Returning to the definition of “koinonia” above, we find that true fellowship includes contribution, participation and sharing. That simply means that every individual Christian is responsible to contribute something to fellowship, they are required to participate in some capacity- they are required to share their spiritual gifts with the other Christians who are present.

A healthy body

This example is so simple it’s going to sound stupid. But it just might take this to wake people from the dead, from their superficial ideas about what fellowship really is before God.

In 1 Corinthians 12 we have an explanation of how spiritual gifts are used. The illustration used is a literal physical body where every member of that body is a necessary working part. Think about that-seriously. Consider your own physical body. Now remove a leg. Ouch. Thank might make life a little difficult, no? Uh, oh, now somebody else requires the other one. Before long the arms go too- didn’t see that coming did you? Then, slowly, almost without notice every part but a beating heart and one eye remains- and a shell of a body to replace the one that’s missing. What kind of body would that be? Would anybody alive believe this body could function properly? Are we so removed from reality that we cannot see that this is how Christians attempt to “fellowship” day after day, week after week in the man made shells of our own making? Yes, we are!

Where true fellowship begins

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door  and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” [Matthew 6:6]

All real spiritual fellowship starts here- with the Father. You cannot get truth secondhand, you must learn from God yourself if you are to be taught aright. It is in this “secret place” of communion with Him (fellowship with the Father) that all other fellowship is made possible.

When we gather with other saints we must be prepared to give, not expect to receive. Every healthy relationship we have or will ever have will be based upon this very same principle: it is better to give than receive. It is not something we should try to do, rather, it is something we must become as we abide in the inner sanctuary with Him. The reason chaos and instability exists among Christians is simple: they have not made abiding with Christ alone their first priority which will result in individuals placing their own needs in the assembly above the interests of their Lord. Only when one dies to their own interests via the cross will the evidence of God’s gifts among other believers become manifest. When all live with Him as their priority, the only possible result will be harmony with each contributing and all having their needs met.

In talking to Timothy about his responsibilities as a believer, Paul the apostle summarizes a section of his thoughts with these words:

“Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels , but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” [2 Timothy 2:21]

It is obvious that to be a contributing member of the body of Christ, to participate in the manner the Lord requires and to share one’s spiritual gifts with others certain things are required from the professing believer. It is not enough just to show up and think someone else will spoon feed you. We don’t have to go back far to discover what some of these responsibilities are within the family of God:

  • Abstain from wickedness (2 Timothy 2:19)
  • Avoiding worldly and empty chatter (2 Timothy 2:16)
  • Competing according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5)
  • Avoidance of being overly attentive to everyday affairs (2 Timothy 2:4)
  • A willingness to suffer hardship (2 Timothy 2:1)

Can I summarize the above for you? Our Father wants us to prioritize what He Himself says matters most. That we recognize that we are involved in a very real race/war with serious spiritual ramifications and that in order to be successful we will have to suffer through many difficulties if we are to succeed. That in order to be a vessel of gold or silver which He can use that we must abstain from wickedness and compete in the manner that He requires- not being sidetracked by what so often vies for our attention in worldly things.

= Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me (Paul), in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:13)

Can God trust you with His treasure? Are you one who has proven himself or herself worthy of His calling of you? Then brother or sister, you might be ready for real fellowship with Him and others.

 

-to be continued in part 2

 

Please: Stop quoting people

I’ve had enough! Does anybody believe the Bible anymore? Then why are we quoting all these people?

A few days back an untraditional “out of the box” Christian posted an article by A.W. Tozer called, “The waning authority of Christ in the churches.”  I’m sure you can find it online and here was my online comment to the blogger who posted it:

“I have a question. It’s not meant to be given as some kind of accusation but rather to make us think about why we do what we do.

“I’m in the habit of never quoting what another “Christian” says or has said in my writings or on my sites. The reasons I do this are as follows:

1. Every man ever quoted has been wrong on more than one front. They are fallible just like we are.

2. Many of the “Christians” people quote have had seriously questionable beliefs, many which some people consider to be heretical.

3. It tends to lead some people to either follow these men, their beliefs or what they say without investigating their claims to truth.

4. Quoting any man outside of the Bible is not necessary to discover the truth of God or buffet one’s arguments. If anything it actually diminishes to some degree, albeit likely small, what many claim is the authority of the Scriptures.

 In the last year I’ve seen man after man quoted on site after site, the majority of which are very dangerous influences. Some of these just have skewed beliefs while others are outright heretics. WHY DO WE QUOTE THESE PEOPLE? Is it simply because they have or do share a similar faith as our own in one manner or another? Is it because we think that their likeminded words will somehow encourage others or us? Do we actually know that the benefit in quoting these men outweighs the detriment of their errors and/or heresies? We cannot know this.

 I like parts of the article above and I can most certainly identify with some of it. But if you read with a discerning eye many errors exist in this short article. Can I offer just a few?

 To prove his point about Christ not having authority in the “churches” (something He (Jesus) has absolutely no need nor desire to have in the first place because He doesn’t dwell in houses made with hands) he uses as his example these things: Sunday School, a conference chairman, a foreign missions board, speaks of the Lord not controlling a church service, a theological school and tithing. What does ANY of the aforementioned have to do with Biblical New Testament Christianity? Exactly, nothing. The whole basis of his argument stems from the wrong platform(s) altogether. It tends to lead people to think that the “churches” (what man has built with bricks) needs to be reformed. But wouldn’t that be contrary to what Jesus said about the inability to put new wine into old wineskins?

 The part of this article I agree with is his reasons for a lack of Christ’s authority: custom, precedent and tradition. This is true. But that’s exactly what his examples are too! Do you see the problem? If you do, then you also see how his solution is untenable. It will take a whole lot more than just admitting and confessing we have grieved the Spirit and dishonored our Lord. That’s a good place to start. The real solution resides in discovering not just that Christ’s authority is lacking but the manner and vehicle through which Jesus’ authority is exercised. We can start that process by quoting the Bible itself and abandoning everything related to church as a whole and any author who’s solution falls short of that.

To be fair, here is the bloggers reply:

“Hi Michael, welcome. Should I allow your comment to be published on my site? You would agree that you do not have perfect theology? I have yet to meet or read the man who does. In almost 700 articles on this site, almost 90% of them are written by me. I am very particular as to who I would quote. I think your main point on this particular article is countered by Tozer himself who acknowledges his own guilt of participation in the system. We agree on custom, precedent and tradition. If you have read just a few of my articles you will see that we probably agree. You can quote me if you like Michael although fresh manna is better”

My response (here only): Obviously he was very cordial and was courageous enough to post my comment on his blog. That was nice. But their are huge differences between the author and myself- the least of which is the fact that I’m still alive and can be held accountable for my errors and renounce them when necessary. Dead men cannot do either. Their errors remain for all to see and be deceived through- unless a wise man avoids his errors altogether and encourages others to follow suit. It appears this blogger has failed in the same place most others do- they deem that imperfection is somehow acceptable when before God it never is. God’s standard is perfection, and when a man can no longer renounce himself and his errors he needs someone to do that in his stead. The continual quoting of dead authors contributes far more error to the cause of Christ than it ever does good. That is not superstition but fact. Even a brief visit to any local “Christian” bookstore by a discerning believer will show most of what they sell to have little to no real benefit.

In the end, notice what is oddly missing from his response- the answer to my question. That’s because their is no justifiable answer to the incessant quoting of “Christian” authors in light of the sufficiency of Scripture and the additional reasons I share above and below.

 The battle for or against the Bible

Once again I’ve recently had the unfortunate experience of being directed to a man’s wisdom from a bloggers recent post. Sadly, this wasn’t all, the site aggressively promoted Catholicism and its false Jesus and false gospel. How can this happen? How can professing Christians seem so oblivious to the damage such a recommendation can cause?

If your not up to speed, an all out attack against the Bible is well under way. At times its “versions” of the “Bible” littered with New Age themes and words such as The Message translation- it’s so bad it can’t even be justifiably called a paraphrase version. Then we have the multitudes of people obsessed with “experiencing Jesus” who throw Scripture to the wind and practice all manner of “spiritual disciplines” (see: dead works) in the hope of attaining union with God. One after another quotes some new revelation, a personal prophesy or wild experience the rest of us are supposed to believe because “they say so.” This includes a vast majority of those within the Emergent camp but also includes those involved in Purpose Driven, Word Faith and New Apostolic Reformation streams of s0-called Christianity as well. If that wasn’t bad enough, even the real saints are being deceived too.

The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life

“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 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]

Despite how obvious it is that Paul is speaking of the law as the letter herein, one professing Christian after another equates it to the Bible as a whole. Purposefully or otherwise, these too demean God’s Word and relegate it to some lesser form of authority than God Himself. These never cease with these claims, along with ones eerily similar to past Gnostics who had just a little more wisdom than the rest of us. Of course their answer to their special wisdom is due not to Scriptural fact (which is the means whereby we discern truth from error) but rather by their personal experiences. They simply expect others to believe what they say without any reasonable manner in which to judge what they say. Pay attention: These people aren’t simply deceived, they are dangerous.

The subtle drift from truth

Another favorite of the crowds above is this verse in John 5:39, 40:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”

I can’t begin to tell you how many times professing Christians have used this verse to demean and discount the Scriptures as if they are somehow separate from or lesser than God Himself. Let me ask you something, “Is any statement Jesus made in the Scriptures any less authorative than the very same statement spoken today were He speaking to you directly?” Obviously not. The truth is the truth. The parameters of what is termed “the faith once delivered” is finished- it was created through God’s authority and is sustained by that same authority for all time. Despite this, many people feel as if the Bible is somehow restricting their freedom and preventing them from freely serving God as they would choose. Guess what people, it is (meaning He is) – and for very good reasons. One of those reasons is this: not every manner we choose to approach God is acceptable, nor is every sacrifice acceptable.

Experiencing God

There is no avoiding this, those who drift away from the importance of objective truth will lean in favor of personal subjective revelation. At times this starts with a sincere desire to know Him more or more intimately, at other times one is tempted to utilize “forbidden fruit” in their search of what is spiritual in nature. But keep this in mind: It is the origin of something that determines its end whether good or bad, righteous or unrighteous. Just as “flesh and spirit” are contrasted in John 3:6, so is the Holy Spirit opposed to all other spirits which are not of God. Look at this next text closely:

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully” [2 Corinthians 11:3, 4]    

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'”   …..then in verse 6;  

“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate……”          

  What can we learn from these passages?

  • The warning is that we might not be led astray as Eve was. How was she led astray- By rejecting what she knew in her mind was God’s prohibition (Genesis 3:2, 3) and based upon what she “saw with her eyes” she believed the serpents lies.
  • Her mind was led astray as she relied upon “her own judgments” about matters instead of the command of God.
  • Instead of simply obeying a simple command she “reached for” took the initiative of her own will. Her sin was first in deciding to disobey God- her action of eating the fruit the result of that.
  • Our Father has never told us to stop thinking and simply rely upon some form of subjective revelation. The warning in Proverbs 3:5, 6 refers to our human understanding in Adam (the mind corrupted by sin) not the mind of Christ all believers partake of.

Fast forward

Our Father has made abundantly clear what is and is not permissible for His children. He has called each one of us by grace, through faith and within the framework of a body of believers He is presently bringing together as one. Within this body dynamic their is a proper manner of functioning and there is a manner of functioning that is not proper, but in reality is very deceptive and dangerous. Paul’s warning above is given due to the very likelihood that some “saints” will drift away from the faith (Hebrews 2:1) because they give “their attention” to people (for if one comes– as above) who preach a different Jesus, are propelled by a different spirit and share a different gospel. These individuals will be offering what they say is a better way for you to have what it is you desire. They prey upon basic instincts and needs to convince you to “take of their fruit” and thus “experience” what you have always wanted. On many occasions they promise a deeper fellowship or union with God.

Every solution has an origin….and destination

We talked a post or so back about God Himself being the originator and finisher of all truth. That all of that truth is encompassed within the Person of Jesus Christ. We are called and commanded to walk with Him, to obey Him and to walk in intimacy with Him. Although most “Christians would agree with this last statement, men everywhere are suggesting all manner of ways/methodologies to use in order to accomplish this. Here are just a few authors found on “Christian” internet sites that have nothing to do with the Scriptures or the faith once delivered. ALL OF THEM claim to have discovered a better way to intimacy with God- despite the fact that “their ways” are no where sanctioned by God Himself.

1. “I have said that the ultimate goal of spiritual growth is for the individual to become as one with God…..it is for the individual to become totally, wholly God”  M. Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled

2. “Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God”  Henri Nouwen in Sabbatical Journey

3. “I’m glad that as a conservative evangelical who still believes in biblical inerrancy and penal substitution, I’ve gotton over my Catholic phobia, and I’ve been studying contemplative prayer, practicing lectio divina, valuing monastic retreats, and worshipping through ancient liturgy. I appreciate Bernard of Clairvaux’s provocative insights. I’m drawn to Brother Lawrence’s profoundly simple ways to practice God’s presence. I’m intrigued and enticed by Julian of Norwich’s mysterious appearings of Jesus”  Larry Crab in Real Church

4. “And I believe by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian traditions we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own traditions, because they have gone, from the natural point of view, so much deeper into this than we have”  Thomas Merton in Lost Christianity

5.  “We should without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer”  Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline

6.  “Mystical awakening in all the great religious traditions, including Christianity, involves arriving at an experience of unity or nondualism. In Zen its known as Samadhi…..transcendence and immanence are not separate. The divine is one. The dancer and all the dances are one” Sue Monk Kidd in The Dance of the Dissident Daughter

7. “What Jesus does is declare that he, and he alone, is saving everybody. And then he leaves the door way, way open” Rob Bell in Love Wins

8. “Western Christianity has (for the last few centuries) said relatively little about mindfulness to meditative practices, about which Zen Buddhism has said much. To talk about different things is not to contradict one another; it is, rather, to have much to offer one another, on occasion at least”  Brian McLaren in A Generous Orthodoxy

9. “If you want success, if you want wisdom, if you want to be prosperous and healthy, you’re going to have to do more than meditate and believe; you must boldly declare words of faith and victory over yourself and your family” Joel Osteen in Your Best Life Now 

10. “Personal computers have brand names. But inside every PC is an Intel chip and an operating system, Windows,” Warren says. “The Purpose Driven paradigm is the Intel chip for the 21st-century church and the Windows system of the 21st-century church.”  Rick Warren, Christianity Today

What we have within these ten quotes above are some of the most irreverent, blasphemous, arrogant and deceptive statements ever made by individuals professing faith in Jesus Christ. And these individual statements spoken or written by these individuals could be backed up with many, many more that could easily be found in the public domain. These are not minor little mistakes or misjudgments by these individuals- these are bold statements that contradict the very fabric of New Testament Christianity and are without question opposed to that.

It would have been easy to add a hundred more living authors to this list, but why do that? These are merely some of the more obvious quotes from people who long ago abandoned “the faith once delivered.” But even those who haven’t abandoned the faith are still speaking lies from the grave- like the example I offered above. It doesn’t matter if bloggers or site owners are using discretion with the authors they use if those authors are speaking error or have lived their lives in error. Either way, those bloggers are driving people to those authors as an authoritive resource for the truth. That’s the problem. A few occasional good quotes from an author do not erase even a single serious error anymore than our good works will suffice to make us fit for heaven. We need to live in today with the living and let those who have passed remain there.

All Christians are sojourning upon this earth to a destination not made with hands which God has prepared for them. Whether we have planted our tent in a particular city or nation, spiritually speaking we are still hopefully moving in the direction of deeper intimacy with Him. That intimacy is hindered by every form of error and what Christians unnecessarily utilize in the advancement of Christ. That’s includes more than the traditions of men found in all institutions, it includes anything and everything tainted with sin and those things that detract our individual attention away from Jesus Christ. That’s exactly what pointing people to men does. Would any real Christian who has left this physical world want you directing people to them? I certainly wouldn’t.

How did denominationalism get started in the first place? Wasn’t it due to men failing to seek God daily for “fresh manna?” Wasn’t it because they neglected to rely upon “words from God” and preferred to rely upon the words of men instead?

One last illustration

Every day each of us as believers has questions in regard to what our Father desires to do within the framework of our lives. People everywhere are offering “solutions” which basically amount to anything and everything under the sun. In reality though, it isn’t all that difficult.

Jesus is building His ekklesia. This we know. He’s building this universally in the heavens and also on a smaller local scale- in individual geographical regions. He’s building it right where you are. It doesn’t matter if you are the only one there or if a hundred other people are there with you. Your task is simple: to work with God to be that ekklesia to those around you as He leads you. Sounds simple right, but yet there are ramifications that we so often don’t recognize, that we prefer not to recognize. That’s my next posts topic: The cost of true fellowship.

If every day you and I would simply act as if we were part of a local ekklesia where we live it would make so much of a difference. If we anticipated sitting in someone’s living room, sharing the truth, our lives and one another. It would revolutionize us and those around us. Just you, just me, just Jesus. Have we need of anything more? And this is my point. If we don’t need any book other than the Bible in that setting, if we don’t need anything other than Jesus and one another, then why do we think they are necessary outside of that setting?

No Christian is needful of any man’s book or blog for that matter. What we need is Life itself- the Life that is found within the few living and breathing faithful servants of God still to be found on earth today. I want to hear what our Father is speaking to you in the now. “What has Jesus spoken to you or taught you today?”

 

 -the end

Anticipation

Anticipation

Webster’s definition:

  • A feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen
  •  The act of preparing for something.

The subject matter of this study was prompted by a special friend, one who shares not one, but actually several specific things in which we both eagerly anticipate. I want to devote this study, not just in word and thought, but in spirit to that particular individual.  🙂

There is something wonderfully unique about those things we as individuals anticipate- as well as the anticipation itself.  

Anticipation doesn’t just arrive on the scene, it has both a starting point and an eventual end in mind. It’s like a seed we plant in the ground, we know that in time and with the right kind and right amount of nurturing, that seed will result in the fulfillment of what we anticipate.

The things we anticipate have an origin, a purpose and a destination. Consider the story of Simeon and his prophesy found in Luke 2:25-32;

“And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking or the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

NOW LORD,

You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,

According to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all people’s, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people, Israel.”

Obviously in the story above, the origin of Simeon’s anticipation was God Himself. It was God who gave Him the promise which he anticipated fulfilling. The purpose of that promise was to herald the young child as the Messiah, not only the Savior of the Jews but also of the Gentiles too. It was a personal revelation- it was something only he (Simeon) was called to, it was something only he could fulfill.

Being a faithful Jew himself (described herein as a devout and righteous man), Simeon would have been looking for and anticipating his messiah. There is no doubt that Simeon would not have been able to differentiate between one child and another were it not for the Holy Spirit guiding him and instructing him. It is obvious that Simeon not only knew of the responsibilities he was given by God, but precisely when and how to carry the task out that he had been given. Oh if only this could be said of us and those things we also anticipate.

Anticipation overload (the result of weak or misguided faith)

At times we find ourselves anticipating things which are not in our best interest or in the will of God. Instead of anticipating what God has promised or things in which we can know are scripturally correct or permissible, we find ourselves fantasizing about what could be. This could include anything from an inappropriate relationship, an unhealthy pursuit of this worlds things or a fixation upon something we know is sinful or even dangerous. The evidence of such unhealthy and hurtful choices is found in three specific ways: an absence of faith, little to no specific guidance from God and a preoccupation with, and tendency to take matters into one’s own hands to bring about what one anticipates.

A right and righteous anticipation (the result of a strong faith in what God has promised)

Most if not all of the things we anticipate are personal desires as Christians or things which benefit another believer, the body of Christ as a whole or God Himself. These things are permissible in Him and include such things as:

  • A desire for a mate
  • A desire for a restored friendship/relationship
  • A desire for the restoration of a sinning brother or sister
  • A desire to witness the fruit of our labors/other Christians established
  • A desire to see God’s body brought into unity
  • A desire to witness the salvation of a soul(s)
  • A desire to see local ekklesias established
  • A desire to see Jesus return for His own

Take your pick, each of us as Christians has something on this list we anticipate, if not most or all of the above list.

Our responsibility in anticipation

We each find ourselves in varying daily circumstances and within those we carry with us what we anticipate. In many cases the very spiritual gifts God has given us relate directly to some of the above. Take one of the many instances where Paul the apostle was anticipating a return upon his labors:

…..through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake…..[Romans 1:5]

“I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented thus far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles” [Romans 1:13] and some of his responsibilities:

“God is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you” [Romans 1:9, 10]

Note the anticipation of the fruit he desired to find in them- also note the anticipation within the anticipation: “I have planned to come to you” and “I may succeed in coming to you.” These statements are important for one simple reason. Just like Simeon above, it was not up to Paul in deciding the how and when he would be the instrument of God’s using or choosing. He could only “succeed” after God Himself opened the various doors that were before Him. So it was for Simeon, so it was for Paul, so it is for us too.

Anticipation = Longing for comfort, and ultimately perfection

Simeon above was looking for “the consolation of Israel,” He was anticipating the only One he knew who was capable of bringing what His people had always lacked- peace and comfort. Isn’t that the very same burden we have too, regardless of which of the many things we anticipate from the list above? Wouldn’t we also desire to live in peace, have comfort in our hurts and pains and extend that same comfort to other members of His body? I would certainly hope so.

As we noted prior, everything we anticipate has an origin, purpose and ultimate destination. We know as Christians that all of what we anticipate rightly stems from God. He is the Creator of all things, thus making us as individual souls, each a unique person through which He has instilled certain spiritual gifts. Those gifts have very specific purposes, some are for our own edification, most given for the sake of others and ALL to the glory of God to which both we and those gifts will someday return. This leaves God as the origin (Alpha) and destination or end (Omega) and our purpose now is left to the Spirit of God to reveal, empower and fulfill His work over time. (See: Luke 2:26, 1 Corinthians 2;10), (Romans 15:13, Ephesians 3;16), (John 14:26). Much like Simon and Paul, only after they “saw” the fulfillment of what they anticipated were they able to find lasting comfort and peace. This of course is not to say we cannot be comforted in trials per say, we most certainly can be and are, but there is another kind of peace that only results from finally obtaining what we have long anticipated. This verse explains it well:  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life” [Proverbs 13:12]

According to Your Word/Which you have prepared

These two phrases in our opening verses in Luke should ring some bells for the average Christian. Do you know how many times similar statements like “according to Your word” are found in the Scriptures? Statements like “It is written” or “Thus says the Lord” etc. A whole bunch. And what is the significance of such a statement in these passages where these phrases are found? Doesn’t this speak to God’s overall sovereignty in man’s affairs? That the aim of God the Father’s instruments, whether that be Simeon, Paul, you or I or even Jesus Himself was to hear and obey in order to fulfill something?

The phrase “Which you have prepared” speaks much of the same thing. Isn’t this ultimately what we are called to live out before Him;

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we would walk in them” [Ephesians 2:10]  and even…

“For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the people’s of Israel, (meaning just about everybody) to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” [Acts 4:27, 28]

Staying the course

Nearing the end of Paul’s earthly life he speaks these words;

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith….”

Obviously there was a very specific course in which Paul was supposed to run upon until “he finished that course.” Earlier in 1 Corinthians we find that Paul wasn’t just running around blindly but rather competed in this race in a very specific manner- he knew both what he was aiming for and the manner he must keep himself fit for the service God required of him. To not do the above could have easily led to him being disqualified altogether:

“Therefore I run in such away, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” [1 Corinthians 10:26, 27]

Paul knew what God had called him to. It was given to him via revelation. All of us as Christians are gifted in specific ways as well. Those ways are the very things he desires to use in and through us with this qualification: WE MUST BE PREPARED for what GOD HAS PREPARED BEFOREHAND. It doesn’t matter how zealous one might be to realize any of the desires I’ve listed above. If they haven’t been adequately prepared the perfection God intends to bring about will not be realized.

It’s interesting to note that even Paul knew he couldn’t go it alone and that he needed help in realizing what he anticipated happening;

“For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine” [Romans 1:11, 12]  and

“Yes, I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Christ Jesus, according to my earnest hope and expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” [Philippians 1:19, 20]

The signposts along the way

In most instances when we’re driving, if we turn before or after our exit were going to get lost. We may likely get turned around eventually, but all sorts of resources have been wasted and this almost always disrupts what was a previous time schedule. Paying attention is crucial! Who hasn’t missed blessings or opportunities because we were not keeping alert? (Ephesians 6:18)(Colossians 4:2)(1 Peter 5:8) If we truly are prepared for the task or responsibility at hand, our Father will show the way and provide the resources. Our primary responsibility is to keep the goal in sight and continue to abide in the place and in the manner He has taught each of us.

After a little more thought, I suppose the signposts themselves become like little cheerleaders urging us on toward our desires, they become like the first fruits of what will eventually become reality. I suppose they also represent God’s very personal and intimate involvement in our concerns, for the fulfillment of such honors Him and brings about praise unto His name.

If perhaps, now

What real Christian doesn’t want to be used in His Father’s service? Their is no such a person- we all want to be used to bring glory to our Father.

I can’t speak for you, but there were more than a few times where I thought I knew what God was doing in my life specifically and was I wrong! Sometimes I learned this soon afterwards, at other times it took another decade before I saw the light. That’s a whole lot more running around than was necessary I assure you. Most of those mistakes in judgment were do to a reliance upon self-confidence or my own ingenuity which always opposes God’s own designs. It doesn’t matter what I’m anticipating if my desires do not square with Scripture and His will for my life.

I can honestly say that I have many if not all of the same desires I used to have, and still anticipate many of the same things I did 20 years ago. But this is not the same season, this is not the same race, not the same man running. In patience and perseverance have I found my way. In due time the season of “now” will be upon me.

Now Lord

No, this is not how you talk to your Father as you anticipate your desire. If for some reason you persisted with such foolishness, God may have given you a whole lot more than you bargained for. He loves you that much. Needless to say, the waiting will just start all over and last that much longer.

“Now Lord” is the jubilant exclamation of seeing with one’s eyes the literal fulfillment of what you anticipate. It is recognizing after many long seasons of faithful devotion, ongoing perseverance through trial and a continuous pursuit of taking heaven by storm in prayer, that Your Father really knows best after all.  It is that which afterwards witnesses in real time God’s good, acceptable and perfect will for your life here on earth.

Now to Him

Without question our greatest anticipation is still yet to be realized. That when that very moment arrives, we see with our literal eyes the One with whom our sins have crucified. Just the thought arrests one thoughts and leaves one speechless, just as it will.

While waiting for our Lord’s precious return, He knows the plans He has for us and exactly how and when those will be brought to fulfillment. The desires we have are not a matter of simply enjoying life, though they are blessings, but more, they are part of the process of preparation both before and after the fulfillment of all we anticipate.

Our Father cries out to any who will listen, TRUST ME. I am more than all you need and desire. I AM YOUR EVERYTHING.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power which works within us, to Him be the glory in the ekklesia and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” [Ephesians 3:20, 21]

 

-the end