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]

 

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