Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Freeing a Slave


Matt.23: 25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

When the slaves were set free in America many times the former masters did not provide for them a new life. Millions of slaves, although now free, had to fend for themselves in a white and prejudiced world. Yes, they were now free legally but they remained enslaved in a world of bigotry and segregation. And many times inside they still saw themselves as slaves or at least as subservient to white people. The repercussions of the horror of slavery continues to reverberate all the way down to today.

Yes, the country has made great progress. Through education, sports, and many black Americans who refused to allow prejudice to keep them down, society has changed significantly. It is very sad that the church was never a leading entity in the post slavery fight for equality and justice, in fact it was sometimes a barrier or at least ambivalent. And much of the prosperity movement in the American church has enslaved black believers by appealing to their greed. And that lust for material things and personal wealth is obvious in all races, however in the black community there are unmistakable residual effects from being kept in poverty through the decades. They had been free from outward slavery but now they have been enslaved inwardly. But make no mistake, millions of white people have been enslaved as well.

But spiritual slavery cannot be overcome through proclamations and edicts. And it cannot be overcome through any outward adjustments or freedoms. Jesus clearly teaches us that true spiritual freedom can only come from the inside first and then it will affect us outwardly. The first and most important step is faith in Jesus Christ which sets the spirit free and makes a sinner a new creation in Christ. Without that everything else is just religion, insidious and deadly.

But after we are set free from the eternal penalty of sin through Jesus Christ our Lord, it is imperative we replace the inward rot with the new wine of God’s Word and the power of God’s Spirit. How often has the church created an assembly line evangelism which manipulates sinners into a surface profession of faith only to move on to the next project? Even if a person genuinely believes on Christ and is saved, he still is in desperate need of an inward cleansing and metamorphosis. This is called sanctification and it is also called discipleship. But so often if the person gives up smoking or begins to come to church or has some other observable change they are treated as if they had arrived. Nothing can be further from the truth.

The heart, or the inward man, is a powerful force all its own. When a person enjoys some outward victories which run far ahead of any substantive inward spiritual changes, the evil one convinces him of his spiritual strength. And that begins a dangerous path which so often leads to shipwreck. But, sadly, the church in general has become consumed with the outside and deals infrequently with the inside. And even taking it a giant step downward, the church now calls professing believers to an outward set of moral and economic principles and those who adhere to the party line are deemed “faithful Bible believers”. That is another man made phrase which presents an air of superiority and eschews the humility necessary to be a follower of Jesus.

The overwhelming essence of the faith called Christianity is an inward faith. It is birthed by faith inside the heart and soul of a believing sinner, and there it either grows or stagnates. The outward manifestations are revelations of that inward dynamic. But there is a danger when the outward becomes the pursuit and the cause rather than the effect and the natural residual flow. So when a sinner who is demonstrably immoral believes on Jesus and is born again and he leaves that immoral life, it must be because he has been changed from the inside out. But in today’s brand of Christianity in the west we preach, we strive, and we concentrate on certain moral standards and ecclesiastical parameters. So if you have given up some bad habits, and if you are nominally faithful to a local assembly, you are unquestionably a believer in good standing. But that standard lacks the power of the Spirit and parades the outside of the cup and assumes something about the inside of the cup which may not be true.

And since the church has adopted a political fetish, these moral issues, although restricted to a few, are now the gold standard for being a disciple. And love and grace and humility and mercy are not considered moral in this new construct at least when compared to abortion or traditional marriage. Those have become the gospel itself. So conservative people who share those moral perspectives can and do sit in evangelical pews weekly and feel good about themselves while millions may be sitting in eternal peril. But the preacher and the evil one, working in concert, have convinced these people that gays and liberals and socialists are the ones who stand under the weight of God’s wrath while the common hard working heterosexual capitalist may not be perfect but he is surely better than those miscreants. And that kind of Christianity is a recipe for spiritual death.

Lk.11: 23 He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.
24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.
25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.
26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

This principle is very profound. We cannot just be satisfied with cleaning up our lives without creating and nurturing a spiritual growth in our hearts. This man had gotten rid of an unclean spirit, but he did not replace that spirit with a more powerful spirit of righteousness. And eventually that unclean spirit returned only to find his original place of habitation all clean and neat, but empty. That unclean spirit came with friends and a greater demonic power.

Therein lies an important principle. It is not enough to plant good seed and then walk away. Soon the weeds will take over. When we become believing followers of Christ many things begin to change. And so often we become fixated on our outward changes and we ignore the inward man. The cart rides before the horse. And when we elevate the outward above the inward and place great weight upon that which is seen over that which is unseen, we immediately wade into the waters of self righteousness. Like a painter pointing people to an exhibition of the paintings of which he is most proud, but exerts great energy to hide his personal flaws, so does the church create great and swelling banners of morality and conservatism, yet sweeps the voluminous shortcomings and sins under the carpet.

It is quite the spectacle. When we seek the inward man we are faced with our own mortality and sinfulness placed against the august greatness and holiness of our Redeemer. It is within that sanctuary where we do real and painstaking and glorious business with Christ our Lord. It is in the majesty of that threshing floor where we are brought low and humbled as we worship the Exalted One. It is when we are alone with Christ in our inner life where we are who we really are and not the person we so often pretend to be. The church has become a playground for pretenders who easily scale the lower hills of earthly morals but refuse to even acknowledge the unscaled mountains of the life and person of Jesus Christ.

Moral tenants can be so easily embraced on the pages of written doctrines and printed sermons. But to exhibit Christ through an earthly life is a mystery which requires much more than picking some low hanging fruit. It begins with the denial of self, which is in and of itself a colossal task. Self is an accomplished deceiver and as soon as its lordship seems to be placed in jeopardy it can perform all kinds of maneuvers designed to deceive us into believing it has submitted. But like a possum, it is only playing dead. It can even transform itself into a form of religion and an outward show of self denial, but all the while it is only waiting for an opening to once again stretch its fallen wings.

The flesh relies on being measured by the outward appearance. It can claim to have ceased certain habits and even pick up a few more acceptable ones. But again, those are outward awards which applaud the ability of the flesh and often times leave smoldering the fires of the flesh just waiting to be stoked once more. Oh yes, the inward life of a true believer is not for the weak of heart or the quick fix sinner. This kind of inward warfare is vicious which not only does battle with the spirits of wickedness, but often is most bloody when the war is between you and you. That battle rages and can only be won when one or the other is put to death. Unconditional surrender is the only option, and to reach some earthly armistice is spiritual defeat.

But how often, you ask, must we fight this war? Every single day, and every single moment. But do not conclude that this kind of life is without rewards and only a hard taskmaster. Oh no, there are treasures in the Spirit that cannot be explained. There are experiences of power that take away your breath. There are entrances into His presence which are truly mystical and yet completely tethered to God’s Word. There are layers of revelation of Christ that are universal truths and yet personalized just for you. It is the incredible ministry of the Spirit.

So there are two paths placed before us. One is the well worn path that seeks outward reformation and recognition. It is the path which has many comrades and walks in the shade while avoiding the heat of the sun. Yes, it is what man would call the blessed life. Tickets are selling fast.

But there is another path that begins with a warning to count the cost. This path has great and exceeding promises which live in the realm of the Spirit, but few earthly promises. The blessings of this path are unspeakable and filled with glory, but they cannot be measured by worldly standards. The path demands sacrifice. This path is a labor of love, but a labor nonetheless. This path tests the will and is filled with temptations at every turn. This path is never crowded and there are few encouraging voices in the earth. If this is the path you wish to traverse you must understand that many have started and become weary and changed paths. Discouragement will be a constant companion. Your flesh will kick and scream and reason with you. Look around you, who is walking with you? Even the most committed believers you know have avoided such rough terrain. You must have made a serious mistake.

But if your eyes are on that Celestial City you will find strength. If you believe your life abides in heaven you can make it. If the things of this world are strangely dim you can resist temptation. But remember the most important part of this path. Jesus is not only walking it with you, He has already walked it once before. Look at Him. Listen to Him. Love Him. Worship Him. With each step He will empower you to take another. And one more thing. The path I just described cannot be found here on earth. It is inside you. Your freedom from the slavery of sin is within you.

Do I sound like a dreamer?

Ps.126: When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.
2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.
3 The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.


Amy said...

Thank you. The path of discipleship and sanctification is lonely, but when you enter the path, you must press forward. We are called to be the salt and light to the world. We have Jesus and his beautiful gift of salvation. How selfish would it be to not share that! Run to the sinners. Put on the full armour of God and be fruitful. And most of all, be love.

Anonymous said...

Amen. This sentence in this blog post explains it all for me: "The overwhelmind essence of the faith called Christianity is an inward faith. It is birthed by faith inside of the heart and soul of a believing sinner, and there it either grows or stagnates".

I should avoid reading all news to give my soul peace, but am still fighting my inner man trying to understand why so many christians react the way they do. And I look at myself in this as well. I feel I am a lone voice sometimes when I hear the hateful accusatory attacks towards public figures from christians. I want to see a Church where I can run to for refuge. But, that's not happening. One instance is how the so many christians used one man as a verbal target continually these past 4 years. That is President Obama. For some very odd reason, christians (majority) have basically taken one man and besmirched him personally; what I don't understand is why just this one man? There are so many in this culture who don't proclaim their love for the Lord, or who are extreme liberals. But they've somehow dodged the indiscriminate accusations from christians.

When I was a kid, I used to stand up to bullies when a weaker kid was taunted. I was just a nominal christian then. Not born-again. And I didn't ask the weaker kid being taunted if he was a true christian or not. I just defended him based on the fact that he was being cruelly treated by others.

I find that today, some christians seem to think it's OK to bully people. If they think they have socialist leanings, are for gay/abortion rights, etc., christians feel it's free reign to taunt and yell, comment on christian sites about the man's unchristian behavior, over and over and over. They disparage one man on sites without allowing said man to defend himself. Jesus said that what we do to others we do to Him. Jesus never said they had to be believers.

The tragic example shown by the church, in the way it's pointed it's finger, and in the way it's not corrected or rebuked christian sites for making outlandish accusations towards the President will be in history books, unless the Lord comes soon.

It is tragic. I have cried, reading what supposed christians write in regards to one man. Who will be their next target? The thing is, the Church's problems aren't about doctrinal divisions. It's about how gullible we all are. It's so easy to join the bully club and be part of the 'clique' bullying one human being, not others who are in the same ranks, but just that one man. Where were the harsh judgmental words towards previous Democrat Presidents? Never have there been since now. Why? What propelled the church to decide it's time to attack now?

Our faith should be an inward faith. And when we see a soul being bullied, our first Holy Spirit reaction should be to pray for that individual, and carry a burden of prayer for that and all those who are being publicly bullied, humiliated. These men and women didn't become public figures so they could spread the gospel. They became public figures so they could serve the elect in a temporal way, of which the "church" enjoys many a benefit from.

Rick Frueh said...

"For some very odd reason, christians (majority) have basically taken one man and besmirched him personally; what I don't understand is why just this one man?"

Besides being consumed with politics, there are three basic and underlying reasons. Economics, race, and nationalism. The carnal man needs someone and something to hate, and President Obama serves that purpose. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Just finishing my post from previous anonmymous post. THank you for allowing me to share this thought.

My church life is all but dissolved because there are no people who will stand for truth, and stand for those who can't defend themselves. Instead of becoming light to the world, the western church has all but become a hound, an attack squad, carnival barkers who get involved in politics, the politics of men who would protect the rich, remove help from the helpless, and befriend real estate moguls, wealthy philanthropists, influential wealthy church leaders, all to pick on a certain few leaders who NEVER once used, exploited the Name of Jesus to get the popular vote.

It's funny how the church, who got on the political bandwagon, made a distinction between the 'good' and 'bad' leaders. To them, the good leaders are those who support their agendas and who make claim they are followers of Jesus, in other words, EXPLOIT the bible to gain votes. Some don't even have to say "Jesus"; they just say God, and the church jumps right on their wagon. These 'good' leaders may not personally live up to the christian standard, but if they are helping the christian cause, so all is good?

Yet, those christians on the 'good' bandwagon look down their noses at those who are not yet 'called' or who have never been truly exposed to the Word of God, or who may yet be 'called'.

These past 4 years has been a fruitful lesson for me. I have seen how easy it is for the church to be led down the wrong path. I agree with Rick Frueh here, that it's not the church's place to be politically involved. Instead of being a voice of clarity and love, compassion, and mercy, the church has become a voice like Satan who brings up certain men's sins to God every day. They want to be like the accuser of souls. And, my whole point here is how many in the church did not once write, speak out against the hateful rhetoric against one man, who never applied for a job based on his christian record, but by his political accomplishments. Yet the hounds of the church were unleashed on him like a legion of demons, stating the US would be harshly condemned by God because of his actions.

This has to be the biggest church delusion of this century; what I wonder is, if the church leaders don't repent, how will unbelievers ever want to be part of it?

So, in parting here, I have to say, I love President Obama, his family, wife Michelle and two sweet daughters, just like I love all those in government, on both sides, who work tirelessly to keep the infrastructure going so we christians can enjoy the fruit of their labors. And the church does enjoy it, even though they would dare not admit it. Instead of thanksgiving, complaint.

I thought we as a church took our responsibilies seriously and prayed for all souls, those lost, not lost, in between and so on. Jesus' love is so strong, no words can describe it, and His love for these leaders is just as strong. The church has trashed those that Jesus loves and it's a travesty.

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Frueh;

While I acknowledge the power of your words and understand the need to find the planks within our own eyes rather than focusing on the motes in our own. However, as usual, the question is: how to create the spirit of righteousness?

The vitriol against President Obama is undeserved and unfitting of fellow Christians, even if he believes in gay marriage, abortion and war, none of which are fitting towards the Christian faith. Yet, would it be appropriate to also condemn some of the evangelicals who denounced Governor Romney as an apostate, a heretic, because he is a Mormon, although from reports, he is a good man in his personal life, generous to charity, and a believer in Jesus, albeit a Jesus we may not recognize.

Can we accept Muslims and even celebrate their holidays, as the Obamas and the conference of interfaith Alliance do, if such is celebrated as loving our neighbor and refusal to condemn their spiritual beliefs, even if we'd view them as apostasy?

Jesus loves all and accepts all, so should we do likewise and always tolerate rather than condemn, or does that take us down the path of becoming like the Rob Bells of this world, in which even Hell is erased, where the gift of redemption and salvation is given even to those who actively reject God and his Word? What is the balance that should be struck between loving acceptance and total acceptance?

Rick Frueh said...

You have identified the exact problem with being invovled with politics. It always leads to compromise, and because most evangelicals supported Romney is why I point to that compromise. However, even though President Obama claims to be a Christian he is by no means an evaneglcial.
If we as believers are not to refrian form such a depsicable system as American politics, then just what are we supposed to avoid?

Anonymous said...

We are to be witnesses to Jesus toward all men and to be ambassadors of reconciliation via the Gospel. We do not fight against men's sins, actually not fight against flesh and blood at all, but fight by intercession against the spiritual blindness and bondage that keeps men from obeying the gospel. The Word is our weapon and it is powerful. So we love men for Christ's sake enough to preach the gospel and live a witness lifestyle, but we don't have to be preoccupied with their sins. We warn and speak against sin and coming judgment for the disobedient. The Holy Spirit convicts. We need to quit trying to "Change" people and be truly humble, but also truly brave enough to be loyal to Christ even when that is not the popular sentiment.

We should never "accept" sin or sinful behavior; but we must pick the right battle. The battle is for the revelation of Jesus and obedience to the gospel (Acts 2:38-39) not to change the outward man.