Monday, July 19, 2004

"What About MY Life?"

One of the primary issues so prevalent in the American church today is the idea of practicality. Practicality is the quality of being useful. We ask questions such as, "How do I apply forgiveness to my life?" "What does joy look like lived out on a daily basis?" "How do I exhibit faith in times of trial, or when someone is in need?" These and thousands more questions like them permeate our churches. Pastors spend thousands of hours preparing and giving multi-part sermons on applying the principles of Christ to daily living. Again, this misses the whole point of Christ.

Luke 21:34-36 says,
"Be careful or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
Verse 34 especially hit me like a ton of bricks the other day as I read this chapter. The largest part of chapter 21 concerns signs of the end of the age, or signs of Christ’s return and rule. Jesus tells his disciples to be careful not to be weighed down with the anxieties of life because that will prevent them from being ready for the day of the LORD’s coming, and they will not be able to stand (in other words, be victorious) on that day. Jesus also told other stories about this lack of preparedness like the story of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25 or the story of the great banquet in Luke 14. So what does it mean?

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." --Matthew 6:25-34

This seems to be a popular passage of scripture. But the meaning is lost on most people. It has not been understood for thousands of years, and obviously, it was an issue before Jesus’ day as well. However, it has not always been this way. I have been made aware, from at least two separate sources, of a little bit of history. The first place I heard it was a Christian radio broadcast and the second was my Introduction to Philosophy class in college. The story is this. The first century Christians believed the time of Christ’s return was near. Jesus Christ himself had said he would be back soon. Many of these believers, because of this idea, devoted their time to praying, fasting, fellowship, and the teaching of the Apostles and leaders. This is reflected in Acts 2:42-47:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved.
This was characteristic of the first century church as well as the second century church. The attitude in the second century was, "well, God’s ‘soon’ may be a little longer than our ‘soon.’ We know, however, he is coming soon." So they continued to devote themselves to Christ and his kingdom.

However, in the third century a change of paradigm occurred. Now the Christians took on the attitude of, "Well, the first century believers thought Christ would return in their life times, but He did not. The second century church thought He would return during their life times for certain, but still we wait. Perhaps it is time we begin to prepare for a much longer stay." They made this paradigm change as if God had not been providing for them during the first two centuries. At this time, the focus of the believers moved from devotion to prayer and fellowship and teaching and growing in relationship with God to developing doctrine and theology and studying how to apply Biblical principles to daily life and jobs. The focus was no longer first on God’s "kingdom and his righteousness" but on how to practically live our lives in this world. The focus was marrying and giving in marriage, getting jobs and making a living, providing for family and protecting lifestyle. Today, much more of the focus is finding how to overcome stress and worry, to be joyful, to find time for God in the midst of our busy lives (all problems created by our lifestyle), but still the focus is on our lives and finding a place for God within them, not on God.

Often today, we only attempt to practically apply Matthew 6 to our lives while completely ignoring what Jesus Christ was actually saying in it. We try to stop worrying about whether we will be fed professing to believe God will provide a job to feed us. We try to stop worrying about our clothes professing to believe God will provide a good enough job for us to afford them. We try to stop worrying about a vehicle to drive or a house to live in professing to believe God will provide that loan we think we need. Jesus was speaking of something deeper than this lack of worry. He was attempting to move our focus away from those things which we think are so important, but truly are trivial. (We think our needs are the most important things in our lives to be fulfilled. God thinks our needs are simply those things he will automatically give us.) Jesus was attempting to shift our eyes from those things Satan was able to fix them on (i.e. ourselves, our situations, our survival, etc.) and fix them on what we were initially intended to be focused upon, God’s Kingdom. Jesus is speaking of a change in our world view.

I am a husband and hopefully one day will be a father. I do understand the tension and stress which comes from concern over providing for a family. I often wonder about what kind of job, or college degree, I should pursue, or even if I should. The LORD is leading me into a ministry which is rather unorthodox and I struggle with how I may provide for my family. The answer I receive from Him and his word is "You are not your family’s provider, I am." Somehow we have gotten the mistaken idea the man, or even today, the woman, of the house is the provider, or "bread-winner" when in actuality Jesus was trying to remind us God is the "bread-maker."

"So," you may ask, "in practical terms, what does this mean for our lives?" In Matthew 6 Christ tells us to devote ourselves to God and his righteousness. We have set ourselves up in a busy lifestyle running from thing to thing, event to event, place to place and trying to find time to fit God in and not get stressed out. Jesus said, echoing Solomon in Ecclesiastes, this is all meaningless. Practically speaking He says "Stop! Slow down, none of those things are even remotely as important as you have thought. All that matters is to ‘fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.’" (Ecclesiastes 12:13) We need to reshift our paradigm. The church needs to redirect its attention from how Christianity affects our lives to how we are reborn through Christ.

Jesus warned us in Luke 21 not to become weighed down with this life, but "when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8) We need to take heed the story of the great banquet so we do not fail to participate in the wedding feast of the Lamb because we were too busy with our own "lives." Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14) Are you certain you have found it? Are you certain you will find it? "LORD help me with my unbelief!!!"

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Dangerous Distinction

In a previous post, I addressed some "fine lines" I have begun to see in the life of a believer. In talking with my wife I was able to more clearly understand a very dangerous "fine line."

In my most recent post,
Faith, I wrote of the case when some people use the fact of God’s sovereignty, or his superiority to us in his ways and thoughts, as an excuse when they fail to see the miraculous work of God in a person’s life. Sometimes I think people fear being insensitive in accusing a person of lack of faith when they are not healed, or when they are not lifted from financial burden, or any number of other instances in a person’s life. So instead, we blame it on God. "Well, God knows best, and we cannot argue with Him." "Well, God is sovereign, and sometimes He has a different plan." "Well, God’s ways are higher than ours and we do not understand them."

These are all true, do not misunderstand me. However, this is where the dangerous distinction comes in between the people of God and those who labor in vain; the sheep and the goats to take from one of Jesus’ parables. The danger here is to be satisfied with this lack of knowledge. It is one thing to say and believe, "Well, God’s ways are higher than ours and we do not understand them." It is another thing entirely to say, "LORD, show me your ways and teach me your right paths." Both statements acknowledge the difference between the LORD’s ways and ours, but one statement desires to know God’s ways more deeply, while the other is satisfied with ignorance. Christ is not satisfied with ignorance. He told the goats to depart from Him because He never knew them.

In previous posts I have spoken of the necessity of the Holy Spirit in our walk with Christ. In
Let us Go a Little Deeper, Shall We I spoke of the difference between a requirement of Baptism of the Holy Spirit in power for salvation and the result of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in power for those who are saved. I have witnessed a similar "satisfaction" with salvation here as well. It is dangerous for someone to think themselves "saved" simply for the purpose of not going to hell, and thus not in need of the Holy Spirit. Why is it dangerous? Because "fire insurance" does not exist outside of your local insurance company. Salvation is so much deeper than this idea of not going to hell. Yet many become satisfied at this point and may not make much effort to go further, thinking they have the grace of the blood. Salvation is the simplest thing in the world, Christ and Him crucified, but it is foolish to think it is simplistic. Never get stuck thinking you are as deep as you can go, or will go, but eagerly seek more. Eagerly seek the greater gifts, for if you seek you will find. Eagerly seek the greater knowledge of Christ, for if you seek you will find. But repent of the mindset of this world, for truly, God’s ways are much higher than the ways of the world, and the world can never understand Him. Consequently, the world also can never enter into his rest.


The last couple of days, almost a week in reality, my wife has been sick. She came down with a fever last Wednesday and is still feeling the effects today. She had a fever almost exclusively for a couple of days, but by Saturday, other symptoms began to show. We took her to an immediate care facility Saturday afternoon. They diagnosed her with a kidney infection and prescribed some antibiotics. Beckie is feeling much better now, but is still recovering the strength she had lost to the fever. We give you praise, O LORD!

This episode brought up some interesting questions to me. I have rebuked sickness in others and myself before, and it has left. I could not do it with this. We prayed, we rebuked sickness and infection, we did everything we could think of spiritually. Still, the fever remained. It caused me to question the validity of the message I have presented in some of the other posts. Thankfully, God is still faithful even in the midst of my doubt.

I asked Him why we did not see the healing in Beckie we expected. The message of the power and authority of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers has been a powerful and enlightening message, but when I needed the power most, it failed. He reminded me of the story in which the disciples were attempting to drive out a demon but were unable to do so. Jesus came over and immediately the demon was exorcised. What was the reason? Let me recount the story.

Mark 9:14-29
When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

"What are you arguing with them about?" he asked.

A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed of a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not."

"O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me."

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, "How long has he been like this?"

"From childhood," he answered. It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

"’If you can’?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you come out of him and never enter him again."

The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He’s dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn’t we drive it out?"

He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer."

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question was this: "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. 21But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."

So here I am, like the disciples, asking why I could not drive out the sickness, and Christ tells me the same thing, "Because you have so little faith...this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." When you read the story, you do not see Jesus gathering the elders and praying for a long time, fasting, tearing his clothes, or going through any other motions. He just simply rebukes the demon. So, He did not need prayer and fasting, did he?

Yes, he did! He came in prepared with prayer and fasting. His lifestyle was one of prayer and fasting. He was in intimate communion with the Holy Spirit through continuous prayer and/or fasting. And I was not. This is the message He was giving to the disciples: live your lives in such a way so as to not be taken by surprise. Be prepared at all times through prayer and fasting. Then when you are presented with a situation, you can take care of it rather than be overcome with doubt.

As I tried to rebuke the infection, and it would not go, my response was a feeling of doubt. Thoughts began to come to mind like, "Why doesn’t God do this?" "Am I doing something wrong?" "Maybe it is not God’s desire to outright heal her." I experienced many different thoughts which stymied my faith, for I had so little. You see, Romans 10:17 says faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ. We can only hear his word when we are in prayer. This is what prayer is, conversation with the LORD. Fasting helps us to drown out the rest of the world and hear Him more clearly. Thus our faith is bolstered through prayer and fasting as we make Christ the center of our lives. LORD I confess to you I have not made you the center of my life.

I have too often been guilty of giving token prayer and fasting, but not making it a discipline in my life. Those who make it a discipline, who seek the LORD always and fully, see marvelous things occur in their lives. Those who do not find themselves riddled with doubt, often unwilling to address the deeper needs and subjects, and excusing this with appeals to the sovereignty of God or "His ways are higher than ours."

Have you ever heard the excuse, "Well, God is sovereign?" Yes, He is, but that has little to do with why we do not see healings or the miraculous. He has already told us we will see miraculous things in our lives if we follow Him. He said ask anything in my name and it will be given to you. He did not qualify this with, "except for such and such a time when I decide not to." God is sovereign, and his sovereign decision is to give without sparing to his people. So then, in the receiving of gifts such as healing, the question comes back to this: "am I one of your people, God?" Oh, LORD, I so want to be.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Fine Lines

This last weekend, I had the opportunity to speak to a friend of mine while on a trip to New Mexico. He is involved in some exciting things with the body of Christ and taking people deeper in their faith. During the course of our conversation, my friend, unwittingly perhaps (thanks RP), confirmed a whole range of characteristics God had been revealing to me about our Christian walk. RP was speaking of the "fine line" between interdependence and codependence. Interdependence is a quality of relationship whereby the people relating tend to work together to beneficially affect everyone involved. Each member has something significant to share and they use what they have to build up the others while also being built up. This is a healthy relationship among members and is characteristic of the manner in which the parts of the human body work together.

Codependence is a term many of us have heard with regard to drug and alcohol abuse. A codependent is a person who relies upon another, or even manipulates the other, to have some need filled. In the drug or alcohol cultures, this need is a fix, or supply of drugs or alcohol to feed the addiction, or simply the empowerment to continue in the addiction. Unfortunately, all too often we see this same codependency exhibited in churches throughout the nation. Large (or small, I do not mean to discriminate) groups of people gather together every Sunday to be fed and ministered to by a pastor, worship leader, Sunday school leader, etc. They come and get their "religion" fix, or "forgiveness" fix, or "music" fix, each week. Whether it be in a drug addicted human body or a "church" addicted body of Christ, this relationship is dangerous to the proper functioning of the body, and tends to lead to death.

We can see the "fine line" here between someone in church who is ministered to while also ministering, and the one who only just soaks up the ministry being handed out. No wonder we have so many pastors who suffer from stress and burn out, as well as any number of other sinful activities. They are like a battery we use up, throw out, and replace. Sometimes we hook them up to the "charger" (retreats, pastor’s conferences, etc.), but generally we are only interested in what they provide us.

This is not, however, the subject of this post. My subject here is "fine lines." The LORD has been showing me many different "fine lines" in this relationship we have with Him. One such "fine line" could be delineated from my
first post. The "fine line" between reaction to heresy in the church and identification by that reaction. For instance, most of us are somewhat familiar with the fact Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic priest who, after reading the Bible, realized much of the Roman Catholic doctrine was flawed. When he was unable to affect change within the church, he left. I do not see this to be a problem. The problem was how his followers then identified themselves with Luther rather than the Christ Luther found. Thus we have the Lutherans. The Calvinists formed in much the same way. In fact we can trace nearly any denomination to such reaction and identification. Why are the Baptists called Baptists? It is because they identify themselves with the issue of baptism, and that by immersion. Why do we have Pentecostals? Because these people identify themselves with the issue of Holy Spirit power as seen at Pentecost. I could go on. The key question here is whether the body of Christ will go where God is and then follow him, or will the body go where God is and then let Him carry on without us as we cherish the teaching rather than the Teacher.

My second post also showed a "fine line." A doctrine is being taught in churches in various places adding baptism of the Holy Spirit to the requirements for salvation. Can you see the "fine line?" The baptism of the Holy Spirit in power is not a requirement of salvation, but an evidence of it. I will not rehash the post I previously had written but you can read it
here. Jesus said miraculous things would follow those who believed in Him. This does not mean we must exhibit the power of the Holy Spirit to become saved, but we can see how easily it would be to fall into this doctrine.

Another "fine line" can be seen in the idea of the trinity of God. I also covered this some in a
previous post. It is equally easy to fall into the fallacy claiming there to be three equal gods unified in purpose as it is to fall into the fallacy claiming the three manifestations of God are simply Him revealing himself in different ways in different contexts.

So what is the purpose of all this? Why do we need to know about "fine lines?" Simply this: Jesus said, "wide is the gate and broad is the path which leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14) Jesus also said, "Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord. Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!’" (Matthew 7:22-23) This word "knew" indicates deeply intimate knowledge, the kind which is mutual. I infer from this the previous verse can also mean we did not know Him. "Why do I say this" you ask? Because Christ is God and He knows us better than we know ourselves since He knit us together in the womb. So when He says in Matthew He never knew us, I think He means we never entered into relationship with Him and got to know Him.

We start to flirt with the danger of "fine lines" when we forsake intimate knowledge of Christ through the Holy Spirit for doctrines and teachings which rest on the vain understanding of finite men. The road is narrow, and not just anybody travels it. Frequently people stray from the narrow path into heresy simply by taking a scripture out of context. This is the importance of the Holy Spirit: He never takes scripture out of context, but reveals the full truth of Christ to the hearts of God’s people. Because he is one and unified, He will never tell one group of people one way is right and tell another group a different way is right. Only one way exists. That way is full knowledge (intimacy) of Christ.

This is the heart of the vision of the reviving body. Christ is seeking those who seek more intimate knowledge and will turn from the wickedness of their own hearts and their own understanding from the midst of the millions who claim to be His and cry out "Lord, Lord." These cannot help but be unified in purpose. Drop the arguments over baptism, for baptism will flow from Christ. Stop arguing over the Holy Spirit, for He also has been sent of Christ. Do not be concerned over the Great Commission, for it too will be fulfilled in Christ when we let Him rule in our lives by his salvation. All of these discussions are deviations from the "fine lines" upon which we can only remain through the sustaining guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The Vision

One day, during my quiet time, approximately 4 years ago, I saw a man sitting on a couch. This man was fat. I did not see his actual weight, but he was so much so, he could not move on his own. He could not get up from sitting and was stuck where he was. The look on his face was completely lethargic. He had no motivation, his eyes were distant and hopeless.

Suddenly, he began to rise from the couch. As he did so, the fat fell away from his body in chunks. Slowly, he rose to his feet. When he was fully standing, all of the fat had fallen away from his body and he was the picture of athleticism. His body was muscular and fit. He exuded strength and determination. The lethargy in his eyes was replaced with utter motivation and desire. He was ready and excited to perform his task.

When I had seen this picture, I asked the LORD, "What does this mean?"

He responded to me, "This is my church, especially in America. It is fat, unproductive and lethargic."

He went on to describe to me He was moving amongst the people of his church to see who was willing to truly humble themselves before him, and seek the LORD with all of their heart. This remnant He would raise up out of the masses and strengthen with power from the Holy Spirit. They would be strong, doing feats of all kinds in the LORD; healings would be common place, resurrections as well. Feats of strength as with Samson would be seen and they would boldly profess the Gospel without fear. The body would truly do as Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, for I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)

The LORD continued to describe the scene. The fat which fell away from the body were people, traditions, programs, and methods. Whatever was not of God would fall off of the body and would not hinder its work any longer. The Lord said many people would not be comfortable with what He was doing and would choose to stay within their comfort zones. Churches as we know them today would continue on as they have, but God would raise his people out from them, so the world would see the difference between the people of God and those content with their "church." Many would choose not to submit their lives to the LORD and would continue on in their ways, and they will think to themselves "We are still the people of God." It will be as Jesus said, "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" (Matthew 7:19-23)

Remember the words of II Chronicles 7:14: "...if my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." It is the sin and wickedness of God’s people from which we must repent. We, God’s people, have sinned and turned away from our Father. He is looking for those who will humble themselves before Him, seek Him wholeheartedly, and turn away from those things we have set up before Him. This includes church, and our preferences for it.

Take heed the warning. Seek God’s face. Do not harden your heart and chase after that with which you are familiar. Christ’s church is being prepared, and it will be ready!

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Let us Go a Little Deeper, Shall We

"A little science estranges men from God, but much science leads them back to Him."
Louis Pasteur

At the risk of doing much violence to the term ‘science,’ I will posit it simply means knowledge, and at the most it is a system for gaining knowledge. Thus, according to Louis Pasteur, a little bit of knowledge tends to estrange men from God. However, more of it will lead a man back. Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." The God-inspired awe of the created universe birthed what we consider modern science. Yet, just as Pasteur claimed, the small advances in knowledge which were made began to draw men from the Creator. Today, as knowledge increases, we again see the grand nature of creation, though as Paul says in Romans, many suppress this knowledge by their wickedness, even though what may be known about God is plain to them. Unfortunately, this problem is not relegated to the fields of the natural sciences, but has also infiltrated the field of theology.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we have rejected the Holy Spirit, and the revelation which He provides, in favor of our academic study of God via natural means and natural reason. In reality, we have displaced our fear of the LORD with fear of academia and science, and we have become futile in our thinking. Many today believe the Holy Spirit was only meant for the early church and He no longer has a place with us. Perhaps somehow we have evolved passed the need for the living God to reside in us.

However, the Holy Spirit is the key to a successful walk with Christ. He is the power by which we must live our lives. Jesus promised this power would be sent. Without Him, we remain mired in our futile thinking and wickedness. In rejecting the Holy Spirit, we declare the sufficiency of our flesh to bring us closer to God. For the Spirit is what puts to death the flesh in our own hearts. Sin and the sinful flesh cannot live in the presence of the glory of the Almighty God. Therefore, the presence of the Holy Spirit living in us is what brings us to full repentance and empowers us in our new walk with Christ. He is the Counselor from whom we learn the deep secrets of the Almighty. He is the mark of authority declaring to all of the principalities and powers of this world, "I am a child of the Almighty God and of his Son, Jesus Christ! You will submit to me!" It is because of his presence in us we see the miraculous; people healed, the dead risen, venomous snakes powerless against us, poison will be as water, we will speak in new languages. How little we see of this! And Jesus said these things would follow those who believe.

If these things will follow those who believe, and we do not see them, what must we conclude.

As is widely accepted throughout Christian theology, God has the characteristic of being three in one. That is to say, the Almighty God of the universe is one God manifested in three persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I have always known this. I have not always believed it. You see, Satan is a scheming, twisting devil. He comes in to speak to us and gets us to think only of part of this. After all, it stretches our feeble, 3-dimensional minds to really hold onto the three in one characteristic of God anyway. So he gets us to think only of the three. Then, it is a simple step for us to attempt to find a hierarchy. So we reason God the Father to be at the top. Of course, we imagine, no son is as great as his father, so, though Jesus is near to his Father, He is still a little lower. We then also conclude the Holy Spirit is low rung on the ladder. I know I have at times subconsciously considered Him a glorified messenger angel. I would imagine most of you reading this have had similar ideas. Let me attempt to clear this up right now: ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, NO HIERARCHY EXISTS IN THE PERSON OF GOD! All three are equal in stature and unified in purpose!

Basically what this means is a person cannot reject or refuse the Holy Spirit and still accept God. Jesus said the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Why did He single out the Holy Spirit? David in pleading forgiveness of God begged Him to, "take not your Holy Spirit from me." It is because the Holy Spirit is how God resides with us. If we reject Him, or minimalize Him, or despitefully use Him, we are refusing salvation itself. One cannot accept Christ and reject the Holy Spirit. Let me be clear here. I am not adding a new feature to or claiming Christ’s blood is insufficient for salvation. It would be as easy to fall to this side as it has been to claim the Holy Spirit is optional. No, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in power is evidence of salvation! Nothing happens without leaving evidence; the Holy Spirit is the evidence.

Jesus Christ is clear on the matter. In Mark he tells what will follow those who believe. He tells us in Luke this power would come from on high. He told us He must go that the Counselor may come. In Acts, his words were fulfilled and we see it is the Holy Spirit which brings these signs. When Peter went to Cornelius’ house, he was amazed when the Holy Spirit came in power even before water baptism, without the Judaic customs, and before he had even led the people in a prayer of salvation. It was proof of the salvation which fell on that house. One can sense the urgency often present among the Apostles when the Gospel is preached in a new area to see the Holy Spirit come on the people in power as evidence of their belief.

God is moving in and out amongst the people of his church to find those whose hearts are set on Him. Just as those who claimed to be Israelites were not all sons of Abraham (John 8:39), so also not everyone who claims to be Christian belong to Christ. Remember the words of God in II Chronicles 7:14, humble yourselves, do not exalt your teaching or your learning, repent and fully seek the fullness of God. This is what He desires. The time is short. His church will be made ready.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The Sin of Denominationalism

John 17:20-23: "20My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. 22I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: 23I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me."

I am going to define sin for the purposes of this post to be disobedience to the will and command of God. As an example of this definition, I will appeal to Original Sin. It was the will of God man should not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God, being who He is and desiring intimate relationship with mankind told Adam his mind from the very start: "...but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:17) However, Adam disobeyed God, giving into sinful desire which when conceived gave birth to sin, which, as God foretold, when it was full grown gave birth to death. (James 1:15)

Now, we have been born into this sin. We do not come into the world innocent, just waiting for the first time we disobey to be made guilty. God said, again in Genesis, "...every inclination of [man’s] heart is evil from childhood." (8:21) David, in Psalms, says, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (51:5) And again, "Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies." (58:3) We are born birthing sin into the world by our desire. Every aspect of our being has been effected. Our intellect is skewed, our emotions are violent and out of control, and it is this total perversion from which Jesus came to free us. He succeeded in his mission, conquering the power of sin and death to bring freedom to his people!

The night before His passion, Jesus echoed the will of the Father in his prayer for unity among the believers. He gave to us the glory with which He was entrusted, the power His Father promised, the Holy Spirit, who would be given to believers to "guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." (John 16:13-15) So it is the will of God we should be one, just as God is one, and the method He chose to accomplish this is to send the Holy Spirit who will instruct us in Him.

Today, we have lost sight of this. We no longer look to the Holy Spirit for this guidance. Instead, we trust in our own perverted intellects to study the Bible according to the tools our forebears left us: concordances, sermons, study guides, commentaries, devotionals, Bible studies, manuscripts; the resources are endless. All of these are written to tell us what the scriptures mean. Many of them are written to expound on and quote from previous resources. None of them are considered canonical (that is God-breathed) as the scriptures are. And how many differing viewpoints exist: Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Reformed, Orthodox, Church of Christ, Brethren in Christ, Mennonite, Assemblies of God, Four Square, non-denominational, Catholic, Roman Catholic, Traditionalist Catholic, dispensationalist, etc. etc. etc. "A house divided against itself will fall." (Luke 11:17)

Where do these come from? We know God is one. He provided one way of salvation. He provided one Spirit. That Spirit says nothing but what He hears. God is not divided against Himself. So how is it his body finds itself so splintered and opposed to itself? It is because we have broken its back: we have severed the spinal cord. Jesus is the head, we are the body, and the Holy Spirit is the nervous system. And we have rejected Him. We have become complacent in our worldly studies of the transcendent God. Our God, who formed us for communion, gave his life to restore this communion, desires desperately to speak directly with his people, and provided the means, through the Spirit, to do so. Instead, we have told Him, "We can determine what You have said on our own. We have our own resources. We do not need your Spirit any longer." And we repeat the sin of the Garden, rejecting God for our own path to knowledge. Sin #1.

I have heard many of the new pseudo-arguments used to build a facade of unity between the splintered denominations, and primarily they boil down to one: "Everyone has different preferences, and each church style serves its own purpose." Here we see secular humanist relativism in the body of Christ. In reality, this argument does nothing to unite God’s people. Instead, we have formed church in our image, and forgotten it is Christ’s body, and as such is his to determine what is done. Sin #2.

How many board meetings do we need? And why so few deep prayer meetings? Even the prayer meetings we do initiate are guided with our pre-decided agendas. Have any of you noticed how difficult it is for a community of leaders from various churches to come together, and how quickly they decide to go separate ways? We spend our time discussing where we should go next while God waits up the path, already with the plan and all the resources to accomplish it, looking back to see if we will look at Him and see where He is. Finally, if we do come to consensus on what sounds appropriate, we head off on our merry way, while our Father with mercy, if not also irritation, sighs and goes after us once again to bail us out of our next mess and attempt to steer us back to the path. However, it is like directing a deaf and blind person, for remember, we have chosen to reject his Spirit, the link through which we hear his voice.

Does this sound familiar? It is the very story of the Israelites. The whole of the Old Testament is the story of this continual merry-go-round. I tell you the truth, God did not remain on that ride forever, instead reserving for Himself his remnant and rejecting the rest. He is preparing to exit the ride once again. Will you be a part of the remnant?

"If my people...will...turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven..." (2 Chronicles 7:14)


Hello world of blogging! I am excited to get this show on the road and will be starting soon with the first posts. I pray the Lord will bless you with these words, and they will find their way to your heart, and change the way you not only think about this relationship we share, but also the way you live it. The Spirit of the Holy God is moving about in the body of Jesus Christ. He is searching...searching for the remnant of his people. May He find you and bless you richly with all the joy, wonder, awe, power, love, faith, and glory He has promised those who would believe.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with you all.

2 Corinthians 13:14