Thursday, January 22, 2015

Teachings of Jesus - Part VIII

Matt.10: 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.

Eph.5: But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

Rev.18: And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

There are a growing number of believers who do not belong to nor attend and organized, local church. It started out as a curiosity, then it became a small phenomenon, but now it is turning into somewhat of a movement. Let me say that I thank God for some local churches that have not bowed the knee to Baal and are ministered to by a sincere man of God. But they have become few and far between and there are many believers who have not found such a gathering place.
And the situation being as it is more and more believers have separated themselves from a local organized church and now find fellowship with other believers within other types of media or in homes. But let me also say that just withdrawing from a local gathering does not mean you are spiritual or that you are seeking God. The two things are not completely bound together. We still must seek Christ even more so and to tell you the truth in many ways we have become free in the Spirit and led to places we could not find within a compromised church. And let me also admit that I was a part of that church at one time.
I am convinced that most of the organized church has become part of the Babylonian system that exists all around us. And in so doing that organized 501c business does not represent Christ nor His body. The organized church has moved so far away from Jesus that we cannot fully understand the gravity of the situation. In so many ways that which we call the “church” is not even Christian anymore. It has morphed into a religious club full of fellowship and music and activities and organization and it operates far more in that construct than it does in the Spirit. And those of you who still attend a local church must prayerfully ask yourselves some questions. Would I attend if I did not have friends. Does the pastor deeply challenge me spiritually? What place does prayer have in the gatherings?

I Tim.6: If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

So what are we to do? The Scriptures tell us to come out and to withdraw from those who do not teach nor hold to the words of Jesus. That covers much ground in today’s culturally imprisoned church organizations. Many of us have been at our wit’s end and have searched the mind of the Spirit and have felt a call to withdraw. It is painful and lonely and there is a battle against bitterness and self righteousness as well as spiritual lethargy. But again, what can we do? Many of us have found miraculous fellowship via Facebook, blogs, and other avenues. Believe me when I tell you I would never have believed it. I never desired to go on Facebook and it was only because my youngest son signed me up. I had found likeminded brethren on my blog and on other blogs, but again I was surprised at the number of brothers and sisters with whom I found spiritual fellowship and spiritual nourishment.
I sincerely believe the western church is part of Babylon, and if that is so than we have no other option than to come out from her lest we be a partaker of her sins. Sadly, very sadly, it has come down to this.
Jn.6: 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

Think on this statement: “That you also have seen me and believe not.” What an incredibly indictment. These people had seen and heard Jesus and yet they would not open their hearts to Him. They attended His teachings and the saw and heard of His miracles and yet they remained in unbelief. That scenario exists today as well.
Millions go back and forth to church and are baptized church members and yet are in a state of unbelief. You see unbelief is not just confined to atheists or pagans. It runs rampant throughout the American church community. In fact the more I see and understand the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament as a whole the more I am convinced that more church members live in belief that we might even think. It is pandemic.
And one of the most deceptive features of unbelief is that many people think they believe when in fact they are lost and in a spiritual state of unbelief. Think about that. I was raised in church and we went almost every Sunday morning. We participated in church activities and I was a member of the youth group. My mother was the choir director, I completed three years of catechism and was confirmed as a member, and I was an acolyte. And yet I was living in a state of unbelief. I was not saved.
And when the Spirit finally reached my heart and I believed on Christ and I was born again I realized almost immediately that I had been a part of a religious system which soothes the consciences of the lost and deceives people into thinking they believe. That is a monstrous deception indeed. And that is where tens of millions of people are today. They live in unbelief and yet think they are Christians just because they go to a Christian church and denomination. But there are many like me who were raised in all kinds of different churches. They come from Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist, and almost every other denomination and church and after being born again testify of their walk in darkness even while attending a church.
But these people had been with Jesus and heard His name and heard His teachings and yet were still in unbelief. You see the spiritual battleground is in the heart. So often men have made church membership, or baptism, or communion, or good works, or systematic theology the battleground for salvation when all the time it is within the heart. The Spirit draws men to Christ but men must allow the Spirit access into their hearts before they can truly believe. The Scriptures admonish us not to harden our hearts. Regardless of any theological teaching to the contararyevery man has a God given free will. This is not just some divine marionette show where God manipulates the string to amuse Himself. This is serious spiritual business.
After I was born again people thought I had become unhinged, and because I had led such a wicked life they assumed I had found a crutch that would help me mend my ways. They just could not understand. I was naive back then and I literally assumed that when I shared Jesus with my friends they would quickly believe like me. I was wrong. After my final court date I went to a friend’s apartment where a handful of my former friends gathered to see me. I told them that if I had offered them some pills they would take them simply on the basis of my word, and yet I share Jesus and they resist. Back then I thought the change in my life and the passion of my witness would be irresistible. I now know only the Spirit can open a heart to Christ and that only when a sinner truly seeks will that heart open.
Look across America. Churches by the hundreds of thousands stand in every city and town, and yet how many are born again? I have pastored Baptist churches and I would wonder how many were truly born again. Oh they said they believed the Bible and they were against tobacco and alcohol and they waived the flag and they voted in business meetings, but how many were born again? Were they consumed with Christ personally? I am not suggesting that every born again believer is always on the mountain top and seeking Christ’s face with passion every moment, but there is a vast sea of church members in which that never happens at all. And what are we to make of that?
I would say to people after I was saved, “Do you believe in Jesus?” and many would reply yes, they do. And I would say, “I don’t mean just believe, have you born again?” And they would look at me very strange. Even in church when a person consistently speaks about Jesus he is an oddball. Listen to the Sunday morning banter and see if you hear conversation about Jesus. You might hear a “God is so good” phrase tossed out once in a while, but to have a deeply spiritual sharing about Jesus is a rarity. In fact, and sadly so, those kinds of conversations rarely take place in the pulpit. When was the last time you witnessed a preacher break down emotionally as he shared Jesus from the pulpit? So how is it we can weep over the death of our precious dog and yet we can be in control as we speak about our precious Savior?
I would suggest there are two reasons for that astounding phenomenon. One is that so many believers are not seeking Christ with all their hearts and their hearts have become spiritually cold. The other reason is that many church members have not met the Living Christ and they are in a state of unbelief. And there are many, many believers today who can testify that they themselves were once a part of that group and yet now are alive in Jesus Christ! Thank God for His grace!
You can eat the church and eat the fellowship and eat the pastor and eat the doctrine and eat the country, but if you do not eat the Bread from Heaven you will not die because you are already dead.
Lk.14: 25 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,
26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

The end of the sermon nears. The preacher gives the gospel and prays for the Spirit to convict hearts. He invites people to come down to the altar to speak with a worker. A young man walks down to the front and shakes the outstretched hand of an altar worker. The man asks him his name and why he has come. The young man tells him that he wants to be saved. The altar worker looks him straight in the eye and says, “Have you counted the cost, son?”
Can you even conceive of such a thing? I have been in altar training sessions and they are designed to help altar workers quickly lead people in a sinner’s prayer after quoting a few verses to which they nod. The key is to always close the deal. No talk of sacrifice of counting the cost. That may turn away folks and we certainly don’t want that. And many times, after the altar worker showers this stranger with all kinds of assurances that he is now saved, the pastor may read a decision card to which the crowd says amen or applauds.
But that is not the way of Jesus nor is it the path to true discipleship. Can a person become saved without becoming a disciple? I guess that depends on how you define disciple. If you suggest that a person can get his ticket to heaven punched and then show little or no interest in following Jesus then I would say that is unbiblical at best. While it is true that some people get born again and it takes them some time for fruit to become visible, but eventually it does. That is sometimes true. But if we contend that a saved person can show no fruit then that is a very dangerous doctrine to promote since it might give false assurance to unsaved sinners.
The carnal and religious mind thinks that you will judged fit for heaven if your good works outweigh your bad, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Scriptures teach that all our so called “good works” are filthy rags in the sight of a Holy God. To attach merit to our works is to diminish the complete and finished work of Jesus at Calvary. Let us not even entertain such a monstrous falsehood! The shed blood and death of Jesus paid for the sins of the world in full. Can you even comprehend such a thing? It seems like a phrase used in Sunday School but it is in fact the greatest mystery of all eternity. What a child can understand is unfathomable in depth and immeasurable in scope and infinitely profound in its spiritual essence.
And here we enter into a paradox. This salvation purchased by Christ is offered free by faith alone. But this kind of faith can only come if we truly understand what we are believing. The gospel has been so watered down that even unbelievers can embrace it without being born again which is just a religious exercise with no eternal power. And then there are those who attach some religious ceremony or human works which again render that gospel powerless. But there is a sacred ground which stands upon grace alone but which counts the cost. It seems like an incongruent paradox but it is the everlasting gospel which only the Spirit can reveal to a human heart. Those of us who have been born again, even those without any theological training, know exactly what Jesus is saying.
Many of us were redeemed in the midst of a compromised church community, but by God’s grace we have come to realize we were being called to deeper waters. And to our shame we discovered we had been living mostly for ourselves and in many ways in defiance of the teachings of Jesus. I can speak for myself I was horrified! And the more I sought the Scriptures and the revelation of the Spirit the more I saw my utter need of repentance. In fact, I am still deeply in the midst of that journey.
And now we come to the word “cost”. Liars who call themselves preachers dress in fine linen and dine in the finest restaurants and fly in private jets and store up large sums of money for themselves. And what cost is there in that? But leaving that absurdity with which we should not compare ourselves, let us bring that word to our own spiritual neighborhood. Jesus said to count the cost. What cost is that about which He speaks? You would think that in a culture consumed with money and pleasure a true disciple would be remarkably different in almost every way than the fallen kingdom around us. And you would be right.
But look around and do you see professing believers eschewing the love of money? Do they buy the same cars as the unbelievers? Do they move into the same houses? Do they seek the same entertainment? Do they spend unreasonable time in prayer? Do they seek the Lord’s presence with passion outside the church? So just what does it “cost” to follow Jesus in America? Well, in the current acceptable form of discipleship it costs nothing at all. In fact the slightest attack on our western lifestyle will be met with outrage, voting registrations, and if need be war. My heart grieves at such a thing.
But as the Lord so accurately points out the church deserves to be mocked because we have rejected the foundation and built our own unfinished spiritual building. People refer to the church as “You know the one on Main Street” or “The one with such a pretty building” or “First such and such church”. Now stop for a minute and think about how people would describe a church that met in homes all across a town. How could they describe it to others? They might have to describe certain people and the way they speak and act. “You know, those people who feed the homeless and visit prisoners and love those gay people and who are always speaking about Jesus.” Do you see the utter disconnect with what we have today?
That is because we have made a treaty with the world and by such a treaty we thrive in a costless construct which in many ways behaves like the Elks club. Organization, buildings, meetings, patriotism, and an overt embracing of capitalism in all its glory. And now when we say cost we mean the 10 dollars to get into a “Christian” concert. Oh my…

But in full disclosure I am still on a journey to fully discover that cost.

Jn.6: 26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

This teaching captures the western evangelical mindset in a nutshell. The church seeks their own best interests which they conveniently define as “God’s will”. It grows increasingly difficult for individuals to step back and peer through the Spirit and see the reality of what now passes for the faith. And as difficult as that is for the individual it is next to impossible for the church collectively. We have become a “people of the loaves”. It is our bellies which guide us and not the Spirit. Does that way too harsh and judgmental? Well that would only be accurate if indeed it were not true.
But notice the word “labor”. This western version of Christianity requires no labor at all. The closest thing to labor is the inconvenience of getting up early and getting dressed and travelling to church. From there it’s all gravy.
I have reached a point in this study of the teachings of Jesus where I am compelled to speak about the state of the western church which calls itself Christian. I realize it can get somewhat redundant, but considering the seriousness of the issue I suggest the Spirit wishes to address it often. There are those of us who have seen some of what the Spirit is revealing. And being imperfect and not wishing to present ourselves as the measuring stick, we have left the organized church. It’s like going to a restaurant smorgasbord and getting plate after place but finding nothing appealing at all until you have tasted everything. Would you go back anymore?
That is what has happened. I don’t mean the present ecclesiastical construct is a little unbalanced or needs some fine tuning. I am openly and Scripturally contending that the entire structure from the pastor to the membership to the buildings to the 501c to the staff to the salary packages to the voting and what happens during the gatherings is all wrong. Miracle Max said the prince was “almost dead” but in this case the church is completely dead. It has been completely swallowed up by the culture and the ideas of men.
The sentence in verse 29 sums up the will of God. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Such a concise summation and yet filled with eternal truth. If we are unwilling to unpack these kinds of truths then we will remain without any hunger for the meat that does not perish while we eat a steady diet of temporal meat that strengthens the flesh. These kinds of metaphors are astounding! Later in this chapter Jesus speaks of drinking His blood and eating His flesh which caused most to walk away from Him. At least these people were honest. Today we have an entire ecclesiastical crowd who have left Jesus yet still claim to believe in Him.
We want God to make loaves appear for us. We look for Him to wait on us. If we have to labor to make our own loaves we would much rather eat the loaves of the world. We want loaves, wherever they come from, to be delivered to us already to eat. Spiritual work is foreign to us. Our time is consumed with us and with others who mean something to us but Jesus can have an hour or two in a corporate setting where we can sit and enjoy the sensory laden pageant. But if you ask people what spiritual labor is you will probably receive an answer that has some human activity like building or working in a polling place or sending clothes to Good Will. But who could understand laboring in the prayer closet? Or laboring in the Word? Or laboring in seeking to know Jesus?
To believe on Jesus is much deeper than just acknowledging Him in a doctrinal sense. It is a simple equation in a sense, but it is unfathomably deep as well. You must find out who Jesus was and is by studying His Words and then you must obey Him. Seems pretty simple, right? But unbeknownst to the masses there is a literal ocean of eternal truth in Jesus which cannot be tapped without spiritual labor. Sometimes that labor comes freely and the Spirit guides you into fresh life giving revelation, and other times that labor is intense and frustrating and requires a relentless spirit. And after you receive a revelation of what seems to be a simple truth you then are challenged to die to yourself and live that truth.
There is such a thing as spiritual inertia. To start an authentic, self denying journey is very difficult. It’s not a downhill slide. But once you are engaged in that journey the meat you ingest strengthens and sustains you and beckons you to go further. I do not suggest that every day will be filled with wonder. No, there will be days when your labor does not seem to be producing much. But those are the days when we must persevere. Picture a man waiting at a train station. He waits and waits and becomes agitated. He was sure the train would have come by now. And then he cannot wait any longer so he leaves. No sooner does he leave than the trains comes from around the bend and picks up passengers at that station. The man missed the train.
Jesus is coming. Maybe soon and maybe a thousand years from now. But He is coming. Let us not grow weary in well doing and continue to labor to lay hold of Him. We now deal in Scriptural revelation through the power of the Spirit. We see through a glass darkly. We feast upon scraps but oh how glorious are these scraps! But there is coming a day when revelation meets complete reality and we will stand before Him and gaze upon Him. Oh my dear friends, if we only believed that with all our hearts and minds it would change our lives. Let us continue to labor for the Master. Let us not just eat the meat that He gives, but let us consume it carefully, relentlessly, and with passion.

Jn.5: 41 I receive not honour from men.

Mk.7: He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

The western culture has robbed the church of what it means to exalt and honor the Lord Jesus. This individualist culture that is permeated with gimmicks, advertisements, and trinkets has seeped into the church. Like a sports team churches, preachers, and ministries, have their logos and T-shirts and jewelry and stickers and an array of other novelties. In fact the name and caricature of Jesus is imprinted on such things including tattoos. But because we live in a culture of gaud we cannot see it for what it is.
If you attend a “Christian” concert you will see the trinket tables selling all kinds of things. And the performers are well remunerated for their talents. Can we not see that the entire construct is fleshly and against the teachings of Jesus? I believe it would fill us with horror if we really understood how God felt about the side show carnival much of the church has become. The money changers of old had nothing on the western evangelical church.
Gone is the sense of sacred and hallowed. Gone is an atmosphere of holiness and awe. The Scripture tell us that Esau sought repentance diligently and with many tears and yet he could not recover the birthright he had sold. How many professing believers today seek repentance? How many seek it diligently with tears? The Word of God has become a good advice book and a road map for earthly prosperity.
And Jesus rides in the passenger seat of your life and watches you drive. For the most part there is little authentic conversation. The Word tells us that God desires obedience rather than sacrifice and yet the church is filled on Sunday mornings with excitement and the sacrifice of praise after a week filled with spiritual lethargy and disobedience. There are many lips waiting in line to honor Christ, but few lives that diligently seek to honor Him. We have settled into a cultural faith which costs nothing, says nothing, follows nothing, hears nothing, and uses almost all of its passion on family, occupation, recreation, education, competition, and country. If there is anything left over it goes to Jesus, or at least to the church.
And even in the pulpit men receive honor from men. Parading secular titles like “Dr” men love the best seats at banquets and conferences. To hear a preacher introduced is like hearing the accolades of the angel Gabriel. Read his bio and you will want to bow in his presence. The larger the church, the more glorious the spectacle. The more books he has written elicit the greater homage. Good lighting and good makeup and a good sound system help create the desired aura. The Man of God steps behind the sacred desk and prepares to deliver a divine message to the eager masses. And afterward his majesty makes himself available to sign books and Bibles. It is so cultural, so capitalist, so rock concert, so celebrity, and provides an event complete with the obligatory feasting afterward on the way home. Meaningless…no wait…fleshly…no wait…entertaining…no wait…insulting to a holy God. Yes, that’s it.
So what does a life and a heart look like when it honors Christ? You might get a hundred different answers from evangelicals and that should tell you something. But the majority of pew dwellers are really not interested in that question at all and especially if you are going to use terms like “sacrifice” and self denial” and “surrender” and “forsake all”. Those kinds of expressions run counter to the culture inside and outside of the evangelical community. The concept now revolves around how God can honor us and not how we can honor Him. In fact even when the pulpit discusses honoring God it always carries with it a reciprocal promise that will benefit you because you honored Christ. I guess the martyrs were not paying attention that day.
But as it pertains to honoring Christ our lips are last in line. Man looks upon the outward appearance but God sees the heart. It is our hearts that honor Christ and our lips and lives will follow suit. There is so much emphasis upon the outer man and little upon the inner man. You see you can get up and get dressed and “go to church” and look just everyone else without addressing anything in your heart. That is completely between you and God. But to honor Christ we must come with a broken and contrite heart. And that, my friends, is a labor of love which only the Spirit can accomplish. All we can do is open or close the door.

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