Monday, May 27, 2013

As He is, so Are We in this World


I Jn.4: 17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

I Pet.2: 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

In almost forty years of being a believer, and in being a preacher for 35 years, I believe I have seen almost everything as it pertains to church life and practice. In that time I have watched as the church has concentrated on numbers and growth, and I have seen colossal structures be erected because some bank thought it was a good investment and it could make great sums on the interest. I have seen certain preachers reach god-like status, and Christian television has become a huge business. I have seen prayer reduced to some perfunctory religious observance, and instead of denying self the church would teach members how to fulfill themselves.

And I have seen the office of elder or bishop be transformed from a humble, praying, and shepherding ministry to a sort of campus CEO who has his hands in almost every endeavor within the church. I have watched as great sums of money were entrusted to American churches which resulted in bigger and more technologically modern buildings as well as larger and larger staffs. Many churches began schools which also expanded membership and made more funds available. The youth ministry became a huge endeavor with all kinds of activities and some churches even built large and modern youth centers which include expensive sports arenas.

I have seen churches become embroiled in political movements and debates, and certain preachers became darlings of some political party. Some preachers would even become radio and television commentators and leave preaching Christ. Many would champion certain moral issues and even join hands with heretics and infidels in order to bring America back to some fairy tale existence. I have seen churches lend their buildings to political rallies and political panel discussions as well as being voting places. It has happened almost overnight and it is now accepted as the norm. In fact it is now embraced as God’s will altogether.

And now it is the year 2013 and everything has changed. The western culture is now by and large the church culture as well. Salt can be purchased at the store and light is turned on by a switch, but those two commodities are in short supply within the church. Yes the church consumes much salt and the auditoriums are filled with light however in the Spirit there is a great want of those things. The church has become very relevant and in the process we have lost our way.

But the path laid out for every believer and the true church has always been very clear. It is so clear and defined in such simple terms that we have rejected it and sought more sophisticated and relevant paths. There are two phrases in the two portions of Scripture that illuminate that path. “As He is so are we in this world” and “that ye should follow his steps” describe, define, and command the path to us all. And therein have we failed not only to pursue that path, but we have failed to even consider it in these modern times. And since we have not been walking humbly along that divine path the church has earned two monikers: unremarkable and religious.

But let us imagine that we had just been given the Spirit on that Day of Pentecost. Let’s imagine that we ourselves are the first generation of the church. Yes we know we must preach Jesus and His gospel, that would be our mission. But what template could we embrace as it pertained to how we should speak and how we should think and how we should live as well? There is one and only one template available to us: We must find out what Jesus was like and what He lived and taught and by God’s Spirit we must strive to emulate Him in all our ways. Now those words seem very simple and a straight spiritual line between two points, but somewhere along the way the church has lost that vision and created a much more complex and culturally focused vision. And layers upon layers of religious culture have been laid upon the lives of professing believers until there is little difference between believers and unbelievers. In fact, if the unbeliever is pro-life and pro-traditional marriage and fiscally conservative and attends church there is actually no difference.

After 38 years of being a believer I believe that the church should have as it mission to spread the gospel and teach all the teachings of Jesus and strive to follow Him. We must once again learn of Him whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. We must be consumed with learning of our Master and Redeemer. Instead of just knowing about Him, we must endeavor to know Him personally. And knowing Him in all His ways and in all His teachings and in all His commands must propel us to live lives that not only mirror His person, but which are actually Him living through us. That is not some novel idea which can be marketed as Sunday School material complete with all kinds of visual aids, but that is what we should have been doing all along.

This is what should be reverberating from our pulpits. This is what mature believers should be teaching the new borns. This is what the elders of the church should be exemplifying. This, my friends, is Christianity.

I exhort us all to put away childish and carnal things. Away with all this conservative nonsense and political activism. Away with selfish desires and the lure of material things. Away with striving for the temporal and not the eternal. Away with good advice and moral issues. Everything we are, everything we believe, everything we think, and everything we live must found in the person of Jesus Christ. Everything. And in order to make that a reality on any level we must do two things. We must set our hearts to seek Him in all His ways, and we must be in a continual state of emulating what we have learned in the power of His Spirit.

There are many hurdles to climb in order to even begin. First we must realize the depth of our need. We cannot sugar coat where we are and where we need to go. And we cannot feel a sense of self affirmation just because we can identify the compromises of the modern church. Our journey requires an uncommon humility that sees our own spiritual condition as in desperate need of an awakening, a revival, and all beginning with a genuine repentance. To be even more accurate, we must learn about true repentance all over again. The burden is light and the yoke is easy but the path requires much sacrifice and a denial of self.

Lk.2: 41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.

Everything in the Scriptures is written for a reason. This is an account of Mary and Joseph, as well as their 12 year old Jesus, leaving Nazareth and going to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. Only the men were required to go, but Mary made the pilgrimage as well (reminiscent of Hannah). The Feast itself lasted seven days, and the trip took approximately 2 long days from Nazareth to Jerusalem. As the entire large company left to return to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph accidentally left Jesus back in Jerusalem. After a day's journey they realized their mistake and returned to Jerusalem to find Jesus. They found Him in the Temple asking and answering questions with the most learned theologians. They then returned to Nazareth together.

Lk.2:45 - And when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him.

Let's put the whole event in perspective against the general backdrop of today's experience both collectively and personally. Think about it. Joseph and Mary took TWO WEEKS every year and went to Jerusalem. Not as a vacation, not on a cruise to see the Holy Land, and not continuing to earn a salary while they were there. They lost two weeks of wages, and the journey was approximately 60 MILES of walking over hard terrain with no accommodations (bathrooms, showers, restaurants, walk in clinics, hotels). And the entire trip was spiritual, not sentimental. It was an incredible sacrifice unto Jehovah and they were not wealthy.

Which of us would do such a thing today? Which of us would take two weeks out of our year, sign over our paycheck to missions, and go to a secluded camping place to do nothing but seek God? No recreation or traveling, just seeking Jesus. We would all think we were being punished by God.

OK, now they have observed the Passover, and they are leaving Jerusalem without Jesus. Hmm...religious people leaving the church and leaving Jesus behind. Does it bring up any present day parallels? Let us not assume that all the people that made that trip to Jerusalem were completely motivated by a desire to seek and please God. No, many had long since settled into a stagnant and perfunctory observance that Paul describes as "Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.". Look at today. So many "professing"(whatever that means) Christians continue to "go" to church, even give, maybe even serve in some capacity, yet their secret spiritual life has long since died out and they are sadly just "going through the motions". Many, if not most, evangelical church goers have spent as much quite time in prayer and Scripture devotion this week as has Hugh Hefner. How do we know that? Because we all have experienced that on some level and we know that it is a war to remain intimate with our Lord! And we do not sense the spirit of urgency among believers today about their devotional life!?

Lk.2:46 - And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the Temple...

Now Mary and Joseph return to Jerusalem and they search for THREE DAYS. How many of us can claim we have searched for Jesus for three days? One Day? A half an hour? Oh I know, we don't have to seek Him. He is right here is our statement of faith. This three days just adds to their inconvenience, but they are motivated by their love for Jesus. Motivated by their love for Jesus? Whatever does that mean in today's spiritual world? Excluding the "inconvenience" of getting up early on Sunday, where is the sacrifice? Food, clothing, money, sleep, entertainment? No, we believe today that God wants us to have all those things and that we are to give out of our abundance - never sacrifice. What do you think Mary and Joseph AND Jesus were doing on their way to Jerusalem? Praying, reading the Scriptures, and preparing their hearts for worship. What do we do before church? Most people barely make it to the building on time, much less pray, read the Scriptures, and prepare their heart for worship. So if we are not sacrificially preparing our hearts and seeking God early on Sunday mornings before corporate worship, can we assume that Sunday is an anomaly and Thursdays are better? Tuesdays? Saturdays?

The great preacher, Savanarola, refused to preach unless he was filled with the Holy Spirit. This would sometimes make the congregation wait and pray (good for them) before he would come out and preach. One time in particular he sent a deacon out to inform the people that he would not come out of his prayer closet until God filled him with the Spirit. The deacon dismissed everyone with prayer and asked everyone to pray. He told them that as soon as Savanarola came out he would call the church together. THREE DAYS later, the word was sent throughout the community, the preacher was coming out to preach. The church overflowed with believers and non-believers alike waiting to hear this "eccentric" preacher. As Savanarola preached the Word of God, the anointing of the Holy Spirit was so strong that believers repented, scores were saved, and revival broke out throughout the community for almost a year! (As a side note, Savanarola was martyred - by his own denomination!)

LK.2:48 - And when they saw Him they were amazed...

Mary and Joseph were amazed at the 12 year old Jesus. How amazed are they now, in 2013, while they bow before the risen Christ in worship and adoration? That's right, Mary and Joseph are right now worshipping their Lord and Savior! Do you ever wonder why we are moderately moved by worship music in church, and when it's over we all return to our homes (Nazareth?), change our clothes, and return to our former lives unchanged? I wonder what would happen if we all refused to leave the church building until we were filled with God's Spirit, and were AMAZED at Jesus? You know what? It might take THREE DAYS! But, sadly... we don't have that much time.

I have watched a documentary called “Grizzly Man” which is the controversial account of a man named Timothy Tidwell. He was consumed with Grizzly bears in Alaska, and he spent thirteen seasons watching and filming their activities. He was roundly criticized for being too close to those huge grizzly bears, but he so desired to know them that he was willing to endure the danger. One day the thing that many had feared became a reality, and one of the bears that so consumed Tidwell, consumed him.
Would to God that some of us would get so consumed with Jesus that one day we would be consumed by Him.
Oh God, make it so for Your glory.


Anonymous said...

It's recorded that the apostles died outside of Jerusalem and Israel. It's believed only one stayed in Jerusalem and all others were either killed or died of old age in India, Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, etc. The disciples had one pair of shoes and one coat and went out. And Jesus commanded them to shake the dust off their feet when a village did not receive the Word, and go to the next village.

Maybe some of us need to leave Babylon, if we were to be honest with ourselves.

I desperately want to press in to knowing and living for Jesus so much more, but the reality for me is, I made poor choices when I was first saved. My husband and I didn't come to the revelation of what appears to be that we all are living in compromise back then.

How can we, as christians get totally consumed with Him, unless we sacrifice all and go to the outmost reaches of the world? How can we be consumed with him, living in communities that are self-dependent, highly educated like the ancient grecians, have need of nothing, have every medical advancement at our beck and call, having all the comforts at our beck and call a quarter of a mile away from our homes? Could we do without a pharmacy within a five-minute drive away?

I hope I'm wrong in this, but, my conscience tells me that if we want "more" then we have to give up "more". This is a huge burden because it's almost too hard for any one to give up a comfortable lifestyle, a vehicle, living in security because we are all insured. We have car insurance in case of accidents and lawsuits against us, we have home insurance, some have life insurance. How can we in the West live like nomads (without insurance) with just "faith? Do any of us have that much faith, that we can forfeit it all and live one day at a time without the security of having ourselves restored when calamity strikes?

I believe going to the next level in our walk in these apostasy times means really making some serious changes. I speak to myself. I fear that we, in the West, on judgment day, will be rebuked for our inability to seize the moment and get out of her. And "her" is not just the churches. We already know that the western churches are becoming watered down and have no more power. I think the true calling for these last days is coming out of both the westernized church AND the westernized culture. I think we have to create our own new culture which is akin to the early church, where all believers were in unity and had all things in common.

Maybe a true remnant of true believers can emulate Jesus and reach people with the gospel here still. But if we are honest with ourselves, we would encourage our young people to leave Babylon and reach hungry and desperate people in the deep quarters of the earth who've never heard of Jesus, and keeping the energized young people in the Americas doing 'frozen dinner' church (reheating and reheating it again) to the same over-fed, over-entertained, over-culture saturated communities is like doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

I hope I'm wrong. I wish that it were so that God still has a plan for us here, even in this spoiled rebellious hedonistic culture. But, if we think we can live here and expect to be as passionate and dedicated to the gospel like the first apostles and willing to go anywhere when the Spirit calls us to go to Straight Street, it may be unrealistic.

There's a level of apostleship that I fear we, in the West, may never know. Whether that affects our personal walk and deep understanding of Jesus I don't know. I pray He has an answer for those of us here than can't leave, and that we can overcome the huge obstacles of prosperity and security that influence us every day and still be His Ambassadors in this culture.


Anonymous said...

"And one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us." But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?" "And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise." Luke 23:39-43

There is a popular saying within the church system that has reared its ugly head into a popular nondenominationl cliche...and it goes like this..."When other people look at us, we want them to desire what we have." Please allow me to paraphrase..."When other people see that we are Christians, they will become so enraptured with how great we are that they will "want" what we have and they will Christians as well."

Sadly, I have heard this modern day cliche here within our religious contruct to the point of eastern mantra for the modern day spiritual church guru, so to speak. Sit in church on a given Sunday, and listen to the conversations, then you will understand the lives of these so called "called out ones." Then ask yourself....."what are they called out from?"

The Words of Scripture are true. Jesus was plotted against by the religious system of His day, using the Roman governmental system to enact their killing hearts. Jesus suffered on a tree between two thieves, mocked verbally by one, and the other, with a repentant soul, rebuking the other thief while acknowlegding Jesus as our living Redeemer. And in awe of these few passages, I find it wonderfully amazing that this repentant thief did not approach Jesus with a question, "Will you...", but instead, a profound, yet bold statement, "Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom."

(continued in the next entry)

Rick Frueh said...

" Sit in church on a given Sunday, and listen to the conversations, then you will understand the lives of these so called "called out ones."

I quietly listened to church conversations for three months in a Baptist church which averaged 3000 on Sunday mornings. I never heard one conversation about Jesus. Not one, and I heard one conversation that could even be considered spiritual.
Many football, many about cars, many about weather, many about jobs, many about money, many about politics, many about health, but none about Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Here in America, we have a religious system that exemplifies the our pride, we have developed a religion that perhaps God should take notice of....for we know better, do we not?

1. We keep track of attendence. Be sure to have that box checked off every Sunday as to not be accused of backsliding.

2. Make sure you have your name of every check for giving so the treasurer can keep track of how much you give. And if it is not enough, please be sure to be in church during the sermons on giving because the pastor has seen you are not giving enough according to his standards. Please feel guilty as you leave and make sure you take your giving off on your tax sheet. It is the American way.

3. Be sure to raise your hands during what man calls "worship" time to be seen by men, after all, we judge each other on our outward appearances. Does not "worship" mean to bow down or fall prostrate....and how many of us do that as the guitar strums loudly and the drum beat intensifies. Thankfully, we have a hearing specialist in our church so he can assist us when experience hearing loss.

4. Make sure you build yourself up for bringing a dish to share and whisper loudly, "Why isn't so and so here to help us serve, after all she is on our work list." A suble form of boasting and bragging about our wonderful self.

5. Leadership labels the sheep and fences them into different pens creating first, second, and third class christians. If you are not drunk in the spirit, practice the jewish feast, eat pork, or do yoga, then you are not even worthy of third class christian status....please do not come to our church for your manna because we will not accept your simplicity.

5. If you do not agree with our human idols...Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, Mike Bickle, John Hagee, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson....the list is endless, sorry to say....then you are less spiritual, not teachable, and not receiving the full counsel of god (I will not blaspheme God here). Please exit, for we the leadership know far better than you.....a no class christian.

6. "Please confide in us," says the leadership. And we will gossip, slander, and tale bear your name from here to kingdom come because you are the "worst" of sinners unlike us....never mind perversions that take place in secret their households....sometimes the blind men do see.

7. Here in America....we are all Christians and are entitled to whatever we desire because "We are kids of the king." What "king" are we really worshipping?

The list could go on and on, but there is one profound reality we must all face. Those two thieves beside Jesus represent all of us.
We can choose to be like the one thief and live a live of mockery (rebellion) or we can choose to be like the other thief and acknowledge who and what we really are and Who Christ really is.

Yesterday, I heard a farmer speaking loudly to his friends in the next booth at a restaurant, say, and I quote, "God left the church a long time ago."

As I looked down, my heart ached, as I found no valid argument within me. And I said to myself, "No, when I look around my church at the lives of these people, there is absolutely nothing that I want....however, when I read, study, and meditate upon the Word of God....oh, how Glorious is that precious Word, that I desire such a faith."

Lorena said...

"I have seen prayer reduced to some perfunctory religious observance, and instead of denying self the church would teach members how to fulfill themselves."

I believe that statement. Kind of like the word/faith beliefs only more subtle, with a different twist.
Maybe we look at somebody dressed fashionably and we want to look like that. Some of the buildings are masterpieces, almost, and a certain atmosphere exists in them Look how the Lord has blessed us...we must be really something in His eyes.
I remember the biggest excuse for ministers having the best was, 'we have to because we represent God'.

polar opposite.