Sunday, April 19, 2015

From My Facebook Posts


An astronaut climbs into the replica spaceship and goes through all the procedures. He does that again and again and again until he knows exactly what to do. The simulator has taught him what he needs to know. Then the day of blast-off comes and the real spaceship is ready to go. But the astronaut demands that the simulator and the real spaceship are joined together for the trip into space.
The NASA officials inform him that the simulator cannot fly and every time he climbed into that simulator he was learning about the real spaceship. There is no need for that simulator, and in fact its usefulness and mission are now over.
Some believers are like that astronaut. They want to reach back into the Old Testament and attach it to the New Testament. The Old Testament was just a simulator in which sinners practiced the blood atonement but that was only until the Lamb of God came and shed His blood. There is now no need for the Old Covenant because it has fulfilled its mission which was to teach sinners about the blood atonement. And they rehearsed it again and again and again. But when the real and eternal blood was shed the rehearsal is not necessary.

The simulation is over. The Lamb of God has died.

 
Redeemer, Creator, Jehovah Rophe,
The Strong and Mighty Tower, the Author of faith.
Lilly of the Valley, Bright Morning Star,
Blessed Hope, that’s what You are.

Chosen One of Israel, God’s Holy Son,
The Christ and Messiah, Anointed One.
The Living Word of God, Faithful and True,
Jesus, Savior are You.

You save me, delivered me and called me Your own.
You now are preparing my eternal home.
You said you’d be with me both now and always,
Jesus, You’re worthy of praise.

 
One true glimpse of the cross, unimpeded by religion and human dilution and empowered by the Spirit, will break a sinner and remake him in Christ’s image.
 

We have such a fallen view of God sometimes. This marks the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 innocent people. Did you read what I just wrote? I said “innocent people”. There are no innocent people in God’s eyes and in truth all are guilty. How could anyone be so cruel and evil as to destroy the lives of these people?
Well one day Christ will come and destroy the entire planet and most of its inhabitants. You see, all things must be seen through a divine prism which is the Word of God. We do not rejoice in murder, but we who are His understand things through His truth and not the fallen compassion even God’s enemies can show. True compassion begins and ends with the cross. All others are fallen.

 
I Pet.5: … Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

We have been so desensitized to the things of the Spirit through this fallen culture that we are blind to much truth. The fallen nature of men refuses humility and loves human exaltation. Many things we deem innocuous are in fact poison to our spirits. Things like competitive sports train us to win, win, win and to be champions and let all the world know it. That seems so benign and yet it subtly and openly trains our hearts in ways that remove any true humility in the Spirit.
But we are exhorted to be clothed with humility which seems like an enormous spiritual task. But how many of us truly seek that kind of abject humility so that we are hidden in His likeness and not ours? How many of us really understand what true humility actually is? And if a believer is walking in spiritual humility will he get offended at all about anything, especially any insult or slight to himself?
And the Scripture clearly tells us that God will give more of His grace to those that are clothed in humility. But we live in a culture which has shifted our thought patterns and has sown seeds of fallen fruit. And much of it has become so familiar to us that we no longer investigate many things to see if they are of God because we are numb to all of it. We have been instructed to live completely in moderation, but does that have any effect upon what we buy or we wear or what we eat or where we live? But all that must begin in the heart.
When our hearts are completely surrendered to Him, and when we have purposefully put our flesh to a certain death, then and only then can we please Him. The mindset and heart attitude we call humility pleases God and is a necessary component of worship and all things spiritual. This humility is not confined to how we feel when we understand our redemption although that is at the core. This kind of humility is spiritual power disguised as timidity and graciousness and meekness. It affects every area of our lives because it resides in our hearts and wields God’s power in and through us.
And oh how many infinite reasons we have for being truly humble people. I can truthfully say before God and the Holy Spirit I have absolutely nothing of myself whereof I can offer the slightest boast. Without Christ I am not just worthless, but I am an aggressive enemy who would strut my sinfulness and mock the holiness of my Creator. So here I stand. Washed in the royal blood of God and made a child of the Living Father God. I am a broken man who is so proud many times it pains my heart before Him. Oh Precious Father, help us to see what we cannot see. Help us to understand that which we cannot understand. Teach us, our Father, what it means to walk in the humility which led Christ to walk as a man. Oh my…oh my. How we love you Jesus and how we are in desperate need of Your Spirit to do more of His work and ministry within us. This is no task…it is our living joy.

 
No amount of scholastic attainment, or exquisite understanding of Biblical theology, or able and profound exposition of brilliant and stirring eloquence, can atone for the absence of a deep impassioned sympathetic love for human souls.

 
Rev.13: And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
If any man have an ear, let him hear.

Before God said “Let there be light” God knew the cross was waiting. Can you even imagine such a love? It soars way past our feeble definitions of love. No sentimentality or saccharine here. This is a love about which man has never known. None of us would do something we knew would end up causing us great suffering and death. And if we knew it would be for our enemies we would shun the slightest inconvenience.
But God spoke into existence the creation He knew would one day demand His Son. We tend to dismiss some of it because after all He is God. And in the back of our minds we know He knew Christ would resurrect. And with that kind of thinking we render the gospel a divine play. But even the slightest hint of that kind of thinking removes the eternal pathos embedded within the cross. You could search and seek and seek and search for all eternity and still you would not understand all of the divine love exhibited in the cross. It is a colossal mystery.
And yet God saw it coming and created us anyway. And Jesus, God manifested in the flesh, came knowing the cross was His destiny. “Oh yes,” you say, “But He knew He would rise again!” You do not have a clue, and until we understand we do not have a clue, we can never touch the hem of the cross garment. It is an impossibility to over emphasize the cross of Jesus Christ. It is an unfathomable treasure of all the mysteries of God’s kingdom. It is the purest expression of God’s love. It is the open revelation of the Divine Being. It is the mystery in which all other mysteries live. It stands apart from created time. Its power is past finding out. It is the place of eternal birth.
But the price was unthinkable. To say the price was high is to diminish the price that was paid. It was there, on Golgotha’s hill, which was created by God Himself, that God Himself suffered and died at the hands of His created enemies. The nails, the hammer, the fists, the thorns, the spit, the spear, the planks, the voices, the eyes, were all created by that writhing Lamb. Can you even dare to ponder it? Can you stop and gaze with your heart’s eye and look upon it? Dare you enter into it looking to understand its life changing love?
Before the worlds were ever made the Lamb created Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, Jericho, Bethsaida, Jerusalem, and yes, Calvary. And then He came and walked among His creation disguised as one of us. And with His face set like a flint He went to Jerusalem seeking and embracing His own death. What is man that Thou art mindful of Him? Golgotha was no surprise. In fact it was the final scene of redemption’s plan. This was in God’s heart before Adam was ever made. Who can know it? Who among us dare to insist we understand all its fullness?
The most wonderful thing the cross can do for us is to break us completely. And when we no longer have any strength of our own, perhaps then we can understand the first portion of an eternal crucifixion whose glory will shine forever and forever. Amen.

 
Prayerlessness denies the existence of God.

 I truly believe the most despicable sin I have committed since I became a believer is when I have not prayed. That shames me to my very core.

 Gal.6: 17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

Paul states that he has scars in His service for the Lord Jesus. And given that Paul grows weary of disputes about the law which minimizes the cross. So those scars, received by beatings, remind Paul of whose servant he is and what his calling will always be. The word translated “marks” is “stigma” in the Greek. Those who truly follow Jesus must live with His stigma.
We should be kind and loving and humanitarian, but there are unbelievers who are also those things. Jesus must be openly our Lord and that Lordship must be communicated through life actions as well as words. You are in no danger of having His stigma if others do not know Jesus is your Lord. I do not speak of being aggressive and irritating, but we should lovingly communicate Christ to others. How shall they believe in whom they have not heard?
There are things about which we should not get into disputes. I have my own list of things that I consider counterproductive to the gospel. Yes, we should confront serious error, but certain arguments do not promote Christ and His gospel. You will not hear me argue about the rapture or the creation day or many other incidentals. They seem to promote clashes which most times lead nowhere.
But Paul refers to the Lordship of Christ and how his service to his Master has had consequences even in his own body. Paul lives with the stigma of Christ. But please know that having that kind of stigma takes more than just a church membership or a baptism certificate or taking certain moral stands. It even takes more than just lip service or handing out tracts. To walk in His shadow and with His stigma takes much prayer…much prayer. It means you are walking in the Spirit and your heart and mind are being controlled by that Spirit.
That path is not easy. It does not open up just because we desire it to be open. In fact we can be kind and polite and generous and yet not be walking in the Spirit and therefore His stigma is absent. This is the fine china of a spiritual life. This must be our hunger, our pursuit, and our unquenchable thirst daily. It must be our very life. And we can never know His stigma while we are still alive. We must die. We must die. We must die. And He then must rise up from our death and live through us. That is no small task and few there be that seek it and fewer still there be that find it.

 
Jn.19: Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

This was the Creator of the Universe. There He is…shamed and mocked and scorned like some pitiful fool. Like some pitiful fool. And yet it was for pitiful fools like you and like me He stands there and takes, no embraces, the beating and the insults and the mock laughter. And the Spirit is there recording it so all can see it forever. And He, the Lamb of God, knows it will be recorded forever.
They punched Him. The spit upon that wondrous face. They plucked His beard. They whipped Him. They dressed Him as a mock king. It was unfair. It was inhuman. It was tragic beyond words even in the natural. And yet in the spirit realm the angels looked with horror! They can never really understand the depth of what happened here, and without the Spirit neither can we. But when that Spirit enters your being and makes you a child of God you become more and more aware of what happened and who it was for which Christ endured such things.
And yet this can never be completely surrounded by a human mind. And it is that very mystery which enlightens our hearts again and again and again. The sufferings of Christ must never get stale and relegated to dust filled doctrines. His sufferings must penetrate our hearts again and again and again. It is those wounds and that mocking which have our names written all over them. I can see just how wicked I was when I see just how punished He was. And somehow the Spirit feeds me another sliver of illumination about His love. It is a glorious journey to point your heart toward Christ and understand again and again and again just how He suffered and bled and died. That is our redemption. That is our life. That is His glory…forever. Selah and amen.

 Of what use is preaching by men whose consuming purpose is to gain fame and prosperity and to make and keep disciples of their own? Much of western Christianity is a multi-level marketing scheme no different than Amway or Herbalife. But many churches are more successful than some of these secular companies.

 
Rom.10: 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

How can sinners be saved under the preaching of another Jesus and another gospel? There is more to this modern day compromise than just an earthly deception. Men like Joel Osteen and thousands like him are drawing men to a false gospel headed by a false Christ and in so doing men’s souls will be damned. Paul calls them “false apostles, deceitful workers” and the Spirit says:
Gal.1: But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
This is very strong language in the Greek. It indicates God reserves a special damnation for false preachers of a false gospel. I have no human words to convey to you the severity about which the Spirit speaks of these men and their self serving gospel. We show love to sinners, but to men and women of this ilk we rebuke soundly and with the harshest of terms. A sinner can only be saved through faith, but when that faith is placed upon sinking sand that sinner will perish as will the person to whom he listened. We are seeing a literal sea of people who are believing a false gospel and following ministers of Satan. Of Satan, you ask?
II Cor.11: 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
This, my dear friends, is no difference of opinion or some minor doctrinal squabble. This cuts to the very core of redemption and its consequences are eternal. The Spirit Himself calls these men and women “ministers of Satan”. Can there be any more serious accusation? He does not say compromisers or double minded or worldly. No, He calls them the very ministers of Satan. And they operate with smiles and positive speeches and messages that uplift the human condition and they insist that within every person there is a great reservoir of goodness. It is a lie from the very pit of hell and it deceives men’s hearts and damns their souls. Is that too harsh for your sensibilities? Well then you must take it up with Paul, or better yet question the wisdom of the Spirit. I think you dare not enter into those dangerous waters.

And so we have church building bursting at the seams. And we have membership rolls growing exponentially. And we have large and accomplished church staffs. And we have professional music ministries. And we have polished oratorical thespians. And we have local banks thankful for the billions they hold in church loans. And we have pew dwellers who love their church and their country. It is all so wonderful to the natural and religious man.
But when we uncover all the fluff and activity and earthly power we will find another Jesus and another gospel. Can it really be possible that Satan has come and sown so many tares among the wheat? Can it be possible that Satan has manipulated the entire western ecclesiastical construct to this extent? Can it be possible that men’s hearts have been so deceived that they desire the things of this world and still believe they are following Jesus? Can it be possible that so many nice and charming men and women are workers of iniquity?
Well there is only one way to evaluate those questions. Hold up the mirror of the Word – all of it – and see if the western church is even attempting to adhere to it. Do not read their statement of faith and be satisfied with things they know will please those who are looking for such things. Listen to their words and look at their lifestyles. Remember, when a man speaks from both sides of his mouth in truth he is only speaking from one side. His and not God’s.
 

Once you have seen His beautiful face, and once you have been touched by His wondrous grace, your heart may be prone to wander sometimes, and the cares of this world may choke your spiritual air sometimes, and the flames of your fire may become embers sometimes, but if you have seen Him and have been changed by Him you…can…never…forget.
 

I Cor.1: 17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

The preaching of the cross has become blasé in today’s fast paced – church growth atmosphere. It may find a spot amidst the statement of faith, but is it the core of the pulpit? You see, the cross demands the believer to slow down and leave this world and meditate and envision and gaze and embrace that event and the Figure which is central to it. The cross never elicits a desire for money and material things and individual human power and that is why it continues tom drift silently into the background of the church as a whole.
Watch the secular television shows have some famous preacher and they will discuss gay marriage and abortion and President Obama and Israel but the cross remains uninteresting and without discussion. It is a downer for today’s upbeat culture which thrives on dreams and positive thinking and human achievement. And the Sunday gatherings are designed to uplift the human spirit and make people want to come back because they feel good as they leave. Introspection? Contrition? Repentance? Or a deep and heart rendering vision of the Messiah as He writhed in pain for our sins?
You may as well resign yourself that if you desire the Spirit to do that kind of ministry in your heart you must seek it personally or through other outlets than church. Sad, but true.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Baking a Cake

BAKING A CAKE FOR SINNERS

A bakery owned by professing believers refused to bake a cake for a gay couple. The cake, I believe, was going to be used at their wedding. There was much discussion about this. Let me add my perspective by this narrative.
A man walks into your bakery and orders a cake. But you have just been informed that tomorrow this man would publicly deny Jesus using foul language. Would you still bake his cake and sell it to him?
Well Jesus did not bake that man a cake. He washed his feet.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Communion

COMMUNION

Last night I led a Communion observance online on Facebook. Can you even imagine such a thing? Several years ago when David, my youngest son, signed me up for Facebook I thought it was kinda like a dating site. But I have found believers read and post there and in a few years I have found fellowship there. And in the past month I felt led of the Spirit to lead a Communion service online there.
I had never heard of an online Lord's Supper but I went by faith knowing that with the Spirit there is no time or space which can hinder Him. And so it was a glorious time in Christ. We will be observing it again on the last Saturday in April. Everyone brings their own juice or wine and bread and you just go to me timeline on Facebook. I post some worship music in order to prepare our hearts and then I post a devotional concerning Communion. Then I post about the bread along with a worship song, and then a devotional about the blood along with a worship song, and then a final prayer with a hymn.
There are prayers throughout and we wait for everyone. It was a genuine miracle. I invite you to join us at the end of April. My FB name is of course Rick Frueh. E-mail me at spcrick@msn.com with a friend request. Below are some of my devotionals.


Before we remember our Lord Jesus in the elements please allow me the undeserved privilege of sharing a devotional concerning Jesus and the glory of His cross. What tongue can do it justice? What mind can ascend to its holiness? The world is unconcerned and religion clings to Cain’s works and most of the church practices a self serving form without the substance. But this is Jesus. There is nothing within the elements themselves, but there is the presence of God Himself in this observance. Baptism happens but once, but our Lord gave us a gift which we can experience as often as we desire.

The cross itself is a great mystery. And within that mystery are other mysteries. The Incarnation, the love of God, the grace of God, and other mysteries are all unfurled in the cross. The unregenerate man sees nothing and the religious man see jewelry. Place yourself at the scene. Blood and seat and odor and moaning and wounds. There is nothing that would draw fondness or even curiosity. In fact it is repulsive in the extreme. And when we realize Who it is that is being tortured and mocked and slain we are shocked and repulsed as well we should be. This is man’s worst in full display as well as God’s best in full display. The schemes of men can never defeat the purposes of God and the acts of men have provided redemption for multitudes.

Do not deceive yourself. This was not just for thieves and murderers and adulterers and vicious criminals. This was for vicious criminals like you and like me who hid behind self righteous cloaks while dead men’s bones rattled inside our own hearts. Yes, this bloody sacrifice was provided and offered for deep and unworthy sinners like us. And who can really know such a thing in all its glory and wonder? That a Holy God would come in the likeness of one of us and then die at all, much less die upon the cross and in public for all to see and for some to mock is the highest of mysteries.

The millions of gallons of blood drawn for the veins of goats and lambs and bulls could never wash away one sin forever. But the blood of this Scapegoat can make sinners like you and like me clean forever. Who can know such a thing? But he who has been plunged beneath its cleansing flood is not only awakened to its power, but he must sing its praises forever. Golgotha. There is our place of redemption. There was the blood applied. There we were raised from death to life everlasting. This is no religious talisman. This is the place that our eternity was changed and our redemption was sealed.

So as we begin this Communion service let us not discount its importance and the presence of the Precious Holy Spirit. We do not approach it with religious superstition, nor do we see it as adding to our eternal redemption. No, this is a spiritual feast, instituted by Christ the Lamb, and is fed to our hearts. This is another gift of grace where we can remember Jesus. Should we not stop from our busy earthly lives often and remember Him? But this is a special time unlike any other. This is worship at its zenith if we take our eyes off ourselves and off the world and we mentally and spiritually drown ourselves in His remembrance and His presence.

This is not a celebration of Passover. This is a celebration of Jesus who IS our Passover. Can you fully understand such an incredible love God has for His people? Not only has Christ suffered and died for us, and not only has the Holy Spirit drawn us the Jesus, and not only have we been born again in the Spirit and made partakers of this holy sacrifice, but Jesus Himself ordained an observance whereby we can remember Him and His cross. Even though others may misuse Communion let us never discount its sacred mission. Through it let us remember Him, and that, my friends, is the highest though ever allowed a human heart.

“Oh Dear Lord Jesus we enter into Your presence with hearts of faith and gratefulness. We bow before You majesty and we humbly thank You for Your redemption for our souls. May You receive the praise of our hearts as we partake of elements which represent Your body and blood. And we submit to the Spirit for only He can make us one regardless of distance between us as believers in Your name. Amen.”

 

I Cor.11: 23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

 

Here we see Jesus breaking the bread with His own hands. What a spectacle of amazement. This bread represents His body which is the Bread of Life come down from heaven and yet He Himself is breaking it for His followers. Jesus had said no man takes His life but He Himself lays it down. This, when understood, should present to us a sacred foreshadowing when He did it and a sacred remembrance today.

Oh how easy it was to tear a loaf apart, but oh what suffering there will be when His body is torn apart…for us. The giving of His body upon the cross is not just emotional sentimentality however it is filled with emotional sentimentality. The clearer we see the truth, and the clearer we see ourselves in that cross, the more we rejoice, the more we remember Him, and the more we experience a holy emotion. This sinless Lamb was not giving His body for His followers. No, that would come later. He was allowing His body to be shredded and tortured and murdered for miscreants and sinners who desired no part of Him.

And in His eternal plan God in the Person of the Holy Spirit would draw uncaring rebels like you and like me so that we could see with spirit eyes who He was and what He has done. So as we partake of the bread let us deeply remember everything about this sacrifice, and above all let us remember Him.

Let us pray: Lord we come to you without one plea. Without your sacrifice we would be condemned forever and yet here we are your very children. It is a miracle more wonderful than words could ever fully reveal. This bread represents your batter and bruised and torn body which you willingly gave for us. We bow in worship and glory and as we eat this bread our hearts are partaking of Your precious body. This we do in remembrance of You.

Now partake of that which represents His body…

 

I Cor.11: 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

 

Here we have a heart rendering scene. Jesus shares what He calls the “cup” to His disciples. This will not be a cup of blessing for Him, but it will be a cup of eternal blessing for all who drink of it. This will be a cup of suffering and anguish for the spotless Lamb of God. And this man, this God, will drink fully from it. The Scriptures speak of the “blood of God” and surely it is that. That God would come as a man is beyond us altogether, but that God would submit Himself to the fists and spittle and mocking of spiritual criminals cannot be understood by any natural mind.

And then we see the blood. Before the cross sinful men drew from the veins of God the crimson flood which carried in it eternal redemption. By the time the Lamb of God reached Golgotha He was a scarlet massacre. Who can even fathom such a sight! Who among us would not have the urge to hide our eyes, and yet because we have been cleansed by that sea of red we gaze at it will eyes full of tears and hearts full of love. What unregenerate man can understand those who see a man being tortured beyond recognition and yet bow in love and gratefulness? It is past knowing to the natural man.

And instead of leaving that vision forever the Lord Himself beckons us to remember. And His words say “Remember Me” and happy and eager we are to do so. The world can never understand the power of the blood, but to we who have been washed and made alive by its power we will never forget. It is to us the life force of all eternity, and He alone is our Savior.

Let us pray: Once again we are at You Supper which You gave to us. We are ever mindful of what this juice means. We can never fully fathom a love which drew the blood from Emmanuel’s veins. But what we do know humbles us and draws our hearts to worship You the Lamb which takes away our sins. You shed Your blood, Jesus, and as we drink of this symbol our hearts remember the blood You shed for us.

Let us drink of the juice which represents His blood…

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Chinese Church

This is what it truly means to gather in His name.
The American church service is a scam and a fraud,
 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Brothers and Sisters

I post regularly on Facebook and sometimes I will post here.

Rick Frueh

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Going to Church???

CAN YOU WALK WITH GOD
AND NOT "GO TO CHURCH"?
 
The phrase “going to church” is a misnomer and misleading. The word “church” itself has become a colloquialism for all sorts of things which in truth are not the church. In the Old Testament words and phrases like Tabernacle and Sanctuary and tent of meeting were used. They more accurately described what that building was used for. But today we call a building a “church” which not only is inaccurate but has over the years completely changed the meaning of the word church.
In the New Testament the Greek word “ecclesia” is translated “church” and it depicts a gathering, a group, or the called out ones. It has absolutely nothing to do with a building. In fact large buildings came into existence during the time of that carnal and wicked emperor Constantine. He built buildings for Christians as well as other pagan religions and believers adopted his self serving offering. Since then buildings have been built all over the world including large and ornate edifices that are now called a church. And so here we are.
The more correct question would be can a believer not interact and fellowship with other believers and still walk with Christ? To that I would say no. But there are many shut ins who derive their meat from the Scripture and perhaps a few visitors. The visitation from pastors to shut ins has become a lost practice but decades ago it was part of a pastor’s ministry. And if the religious organization (church) is large then good luck with having the pastor visit you for any reason. They have a staff member assigned for those mundane irritants.
But I do believe reading or hearing Biblical messages by a man of God must be a mainstay in a believer’s spiritual life. That can be done through the internet these days. I would strongly advise against Christian television. Most “churches” do not have any corporate prayer of any significance so you are not missing that. But now there are blogs and websites and FaceBook where you can interact and fellowship with other like minded believers. You see, many if not most of the “churches” in your area are man made constructs and follow the spirit of this world. They are patriotic and moralistic and money dependent as well as war supporting institutions which really have very little to do with Christ.
So the ultimate question is would God desire His people to gather in a local institution which is built and operates in the strength of man? Can that possibly be the will of the Spirit just so you can “punch your ticket” and say you “went to church”? I know scores of people who have grown spiritually because they left the institution commonly called church. They no longer sit under utilitarian messages designed to make you successful. They no longer have to endure 4th of July services filled with idolatry. They no longer have to be in the midst of pastor idolization. And many have found it a great blessing to use their money for missions and the ministry to the poor and not have it go to buildings and large staff. They feel like they have been set free.
But there is a responsibility that comes with leaving the institution known as church. You must feed your spirit. You must be in the Word. You must deepen your prayer life. You must fellowship with other believers somehow. And you must not allow your distaste for the system you left to puff you up. You must allow the Spirit to strip you of any pride or self righteousness. And any spiritual progress you make must make you grateful and more humble. And when you interact on the internet you will find those with whom you must break fellowship because some are self righteous and caustic, but the Spirit will also teach you that no one will completely agree with you. And when a believer has a different perspective about something, even something about which you feel strongly, if the brother or sister is humble and seems to love Jesus then you can overlook other things.
You are the church, or at least part of it. In these last days there are many ways to interact with other true yokefellow and to benefit spiritually from other’s gifts. But we must be diligent in our seeking of Christ. I personally have benefitted greatly from internet fellowship with other believers. I have written extensively about the compromises of the local “church” constructs” elsewhere so I will not belabor the point. But what good can it possibly be to sit in a pew and feel nothing but uncomfortable? What good can it be to hear ear tickling messages? When you go Sunday after Sunday only to revisit the same redundant construct you did the Sunday before is that of the Spirit? When no one weeps with repentance and the service is designed to be “uplifting” so people will return…is that of the Spirit?
I suggest all of pray without ceasing and allow the Spirit to use these internet forums to edify, convict, and exhort us as we continue in His Word and watch the power of the Word break us and remake us into His image.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Retouching the Cross

RETOUCHING THE CROSS

Matt.27: 28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

Jn.19: Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!

There have been millions of crucifixions, but no one crucifixion has been so detailed as the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ. We have a detailed narrative which begins at His arrest and follows Him all the way until His death on the cross. And in the natural it is a very gruesome scenario. And just in the natural we are aware that He was innocent of any charges to say nothing of the death penalty. But in order to understand and attempt embrace the totality of what we are witnessing through the written word we must be aware that this was God in the flesh. And this God man was completely holy and without sin so it is an understatement to say He deserved no punishment.
Jesus had washed the disciple’s feet a few days ago, and the night before He was arrested He instituted what we now call the Lord’s Supper or communion. That supper would present a redemptive picture for what He would endure and what He would pay for in His own body.
But now He willingly submitted Himself to the hands of wicked men. And these men spared nothing and showed no mercy. They stripped Him of His clothes and wrapped Him in a purple robe in order to mock Him as a king. They made a ring of very sharp thorns and crushed it down upon His head, and they put a reed in His right hand and bowed down and mocked Him. Now in the natural this was humiliation at is zenith, but to understand that Jesus was the Son of God then this humiliation becomes mind boggling. And to further understand that Jesus would soon give His life for the same men who were mocking Him is beyond anything we can understand.
It is difficult to imagine what a human figure would look like after such a beating and such savagery. The Scriptures declare He did not even resemble a human being. But His sufferings were far from just physical. It is my personal belief that the first slap or punch or mocking is where His redemptive sufferings began. In fact, it was when He sweat great drops of blood in the garden which began His redemptive sufferings. And they lasted until the last breath escaped from His lips. And within each slap and punch, or with the thorns or when they plucked out His beard, or when they lashed His back, within all of the abuse our sins were being placed upon Him. He was the sin bearer, the scapegoat, the bronze serpent, and He was the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world.
And then after a world of savage torture He was laid down upon two Roman planks. It is fitting and metaphorical that it was carried out by Roman soldiers. This was an earthly kingdom that was consumed with power and violence and money and was pagan at its core. The Roman religion was practical and their gods in their view helped them and their country. Does it not have a modern day ring to it? Yes, you say, but we believe in one God? Do we? Visit a thousand Christian churches across America and you may well hear several hundred different gods being preached even though they all call them Jesus. And all those churches believe their god helps them achieve their own dreams. You see, we live in a modern day Roman Empire.
So they laid Him down and stretched out his arms. And they drove a nail through each hand or wrist. And they placed one foot on top of the other and drove a spike through them both. He was now impaled on a Roman cross just as many thousands of criminals had been before Him. He was now contemptible…a scourge and an object to be mocked. They raised up the cross which bore the Lamb and they placed it in the hole already dug with a thud! There He is. Earth has rejected Him and He is now temporarily separated from heaven as well. He alone must bear the awful pain and punishment for sins He never committed. And for six hours He would hang there. What a scene! What a spectacle! This is human brutality at its finest. And like hangings of old a crowd would gather and watch a human being bear an agony known only to those who experience it and about which none lived to tell. Beside all the wounds and the awful pain of the nails it was almost impossible to breathe. One would have to press hard on the nail which pierced the feet and lift up one’s body weight in order to gasp a short breath. It was an excruciating process.
But the pain of the flesh can never compare with the pain of sin. The crowd saw a Jew but God saw a Lamb. Who among us can know the pain of sin? We all can testify of the results of sin and how we paid on earth somehow because we had sinned, but to experience the pain of eternal divine judgment we cannot tell. But only the Spirit can illuminate a human understanding as to who this Jew was. Before we are born again we see a good teacher and a kind man and a victim of injustice. But when the Spirit of God reveals to your heart who Jesus is, was, and always will be then the eyes of your understanding are opened for the very first time. And please allow me to say from experience you will never, you can never, be the same again. To the world it is foolishness, but to us who are redeemed it is the power of God.
As is our custom we try and make anything uncomfortable smoother and more palatable. When we say Jesus died for our sins we seem to minimize two features of His sacrifice. We seem to gloss over His sufferings, and we seem to gloss over the depth of our sin. The way and extent of His sufferings are past finding out. He suffered eternal punishment for the sins of the world. Oh how that sounds like hyperbole and yet it is true for all eternity. I cannot fully understand how person can suffer for sins at all much less the sins of the entire world. He bore our pain. He bore our curse. He bore our guilt. He bore our blame. He bore our disgrace. He bore our punishment. He bore the eternal sentence about which we so richly deserved. And the word “bore” means a profound and indescribably suffering.
When a redeemed person looks at the cross he or she is filled with awe and wonder and gratefulness and pain and worship and a hundred other emotions and enlightenments. For forty years I have heard about the cross, I have read about the cross, and I have preached about the cross and yet I still am overwhelmed by its beauty and wonder and the redemption I have found in it. The sufferings were far above what is common to man. They can only be truly understood by the One who endured them, but we are graciously called to embrace and seek them in all their glory.
But is so many ways we say the word “sin” with a layer of safety. It is a catch all word, but let us unpack it a little and reveal the vileness of sin and what our Blessed Savior took upon Himself. Sometimes we like to equate sin with lying or stealing or cursing or even some sexual infidelity, and yes all those fall under that heading. But that is not all of what Jesus took upon Himself. Think about infant rape. Think about child murder. Think about beheading. Think about ripping a child from its mother’s womb. Think about purposely infecting a person with a deadly disease. Think about killing one hundred thousand people with one bomb. These and other more heinous sins were all placed upon the Scapegoat.
But please do not minimize your own sins just because you deem the sin of others greater. Your sins and mine are worthy of eternal punishment. The most commendable unregenerate sinner is vile beyond words when revealed in the light of a Holy God’s glory. Can you now just shake your head in awe and wonder when you think that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”? This event, this cross, is a selfless act of such magnitude that it stands alone not only as the only path to God, but what act of compassion can compare? That which we call the Incarnation represents that God came in the form of a man. That is a divine miracle worthy of our awe and worship.
I have presented all that and I hope you have been edified as I have in writing it. But I want to return to the title of my post. There are many, many, many, and many more preachers and teachers who have retouched the cross to make it more pleasant to the human taste and sensibilities. They wish to remove the blood or at least sanitize it. They will not reveal the gruesomeness of the cross. They much prefer it as jewelry than they do as a bloody vision filled with the smell of pain and sweat and fresh blood mingling with dried blood. That should not be articulated in mixed company. You can speak of success and prosperity and fulfilling your dreams but the cross needs some retouching lest it offends us. Just what kind of manmade religion is that which the church now embraces?
Yes there are heretics which deny that Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, but I speak of the modern church which loves it professional praise and worship times but never hears about the viciousness of the cross. And if they do hear some of it then Easter is the “appropriate” time. That way we can spray fake blood on a man and let it entertain us before we leave church and fill our bellies once more. But a steady diet of the cross? Please, we have bigger fish to fry.
The word “cross” can be used as some redemptive talisman but to describe it with some morbid detail does not minister to the flesh. To the natural man it just relives history instead of looking forward to a prosperous earthly life. And that is why the colors need to be pastels, and the sounds need to be muffled, and the darkness needs to lifted, and the sin needs to be theological, and the entire event needs to be stuffed and placed upon the wall of doctrinal taxidermy. That way we can say we are orthodox without any personal introspection and without entering into the fellowship of His sufferings.
But the very worst and most sacrilegious thing the church can ever do is to soften the preaching of the cross. The word is commonplace but the vision is sacred. It is now served on a platter of humanism and theological hubris but without the spiritual pungency which can pierce the spirit and lead men to repentance and worship. The cross when preached in all its glory can set the captive free and bring the prodigal back home. It is our shelter and our refuge. It is where we see Jesus most clearly. It breaks the prideful heart and mends the broken heart. It is not just the symbol of our faith. It is the very center of our faith for if there was no cross there can never be eternal life.
But let us never avert our eyes form the startling reality of His sufferings and death. The wounds and the thorns and the blood and the death are used of the Spirit to make us whole. But if we retouch that sacred cross in order to pacify and buffer and protect us from the visceral realities of true spirituality then all we have left is human reasoning with Jesus pasted on top. And that, my friends, is spiritual death.