Church – Option or Obedience, pt. 1

Introduction

We live in a time of great religious confusion, both within and without the church. Even the definition of the word “church” has become one of confusion for many (and will be addressed in later articles in this series).

Our time, though, is not without example. At the end of the Book of Judges we read, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25, NKJV). Israel was a theocracy, i.e., a nation was founded by God, to be governed by God, with it’s leaders appointed by and responsible to, God. We read of the promise He gave to Jacob in Genesis 35:10-12:

“And God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.’ So He called his name Israel. Also God said to him: ‘I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.’” (NKJV)

The first leader of Israel as a nation was Moses. After his death, God raised up Joshua as a secular governor and Eleazar (son of Aaron) son ministered as high priest.

Joshua was followed by a series of judges who served alongside a series of high priests. In Judges 2:10, the bible explains what follows, “When all that generation (to whom Moses personally ministered) had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.” (NKJV) The nation turned from God to serving idols, which began a cycle of sin, bondage and deliverance as God repeatedly raised up judges through whom He would deliver His people. This cycle continued until, as we read in the end of the book of Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Now, move forward to our day and the religious confusion that is rampant. Since our nation is not a theocracy, we do not have a central religious figure working alongside the government. In fact, our constitution forbids the state from interfering with the church. So, according to the constitution, we are free to worship (or not) as we choose without fear of the state.

The various religious groups, sects, denominations and non-denominations demonstrate that religious confusion is the case in our world.

For the most part, each claims that the other is wrong, if not in word, certainly in practice. Dogma has replaced doctrine and the commandments of men are taught in place of the bible. Inclusion is in, intolerance is out (as long as you agree with those who are “tolerant”; if not, they you are labeled as “intolerant”). People are “saved” because they walk the isle and are baptized in our building. Compliance to the Word of God is seen as legalism and compromise with the edicts of the world is adhered to as truth.

Certainly, the world has influenced the church instead of the church influencing the world. And because we have replace the Word of God with our own version of truth, “everyone does what was right in his own eyes.”

Solution

The solution to the religious confusion in our day is to return to the Lord and to the truth of His word. Simple yes, but painful most certainly. As with Israel, we can return from the bondage we currently suffer from by repenting and seeking Him with our whole heart. And therein is the pain. Too often we are all too willing to want without obedience.

God gives us the prescription we need from His word: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13, NKJV) Until we are willing to do this, we will continue in our religious confusion.

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Church – Option or Obedience?

I am planning on addressing in a series of blogs a subject that one of my good friends recently addressed in his blog. That problem is, for the lack of a better term, the problem with church, that is, the institution that is currently masquerading as the church and the true church.
I, unlike my friend, am not articulate or gifted writer. I realize my shortcomings and my inefficiencies in writing on this subject. So, I will write from an observational viewpoint, both as a former full time pastor and as one who is on the outside looking within (and looking for a place to call home).
I will probably raise questions which is good; however, my goal is to seek answers from the Word of God and not the opinions of men. I mean no disrespect to any by making this statement. I am just trying to clarify my intentions.
I also realize that we all have our “slant” towards proper interpretation (as we have been taught). But to be honest, the possibility of being wrong is very real for all of us (at least on some things, how ever unlikely …insert note of humor here to break tension…) and convictions regarding interpretations die hard (as well they should). It is important what we believe and why we believe it – it is a question of life and death. But it is also important to be teachable.
As I pray about this subject and outline issues that I believe must be address, I realize that there are a variety of topics that need to be address under this heading. So, while having no set schedule, posts will be up from time to time.
Unfortunately the solution is not as simple as, “because the bible says so.” I hope we can prayerfully examine the issues of our day so that together, we can properly discern by carful examination the truth as God defines it.
Think about it…

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Remembering to Remember

“And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:14, NKJV)

Here, in the first chapter of his first epistle to Timothy, Paul recounts his past: “…I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man…” Let’s look at the terms Paul used to describe his former self:

“A blasphemer.”  This word literally means, “abusive, speaking evil.”  It is always used in reference to God, speaking evil of Him, slandering His Name and Character.  Paul was a blasphemer because he denied the deity of Jesus Christ and forced others to deny Him, under threat of death, as well.

“An insolent man.” This word is defined as “a persecutor.”  Paul is referring to his persecuting Christians before his conversion.  To the church in Galatia, he wrote, “…I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.”  (Galatians 1:13, NKJV)

“An insolent man.”  This word means, “a violent, insolent man.”  Paul was a bully. He opposed and sought the torture and death of all who believed on Jesus.

Often, we cannot forget the past even though we have been forgiven.  And because we dwell on it, the enemy of our faith tries to make us feel guilty for that which we have been forgiven.  This is false guilt.  If God has forgiven us, and He will never remember our past sins, why should we feel guilty?  We shouldn’t.  But, alas, we often do.  We all have regrets, but we need not feel guilty about the past.  It’s forgiven, it’s gone.  We need not concern ourselves with it.

However, we should remember our past for one very good reason:  We realize the exceeding, abundant grace God has bestowed upon us.  Paul said it, “And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”

Now the question is, “how could God forgive someone who so publically denied Jesus Christ and murdered Christians?”  The answer is the mercy and grace of God. Paul deserved death. No one who knew his past would deny that.  Yet, God forgave Paul and bestowed His Grace upon him.  His unmerited favor toward one who in no way deserved it.

Now, one last question:  If God so abundantly forgive someone like Paul, why are you, O Christian, struggling with forgiveness?  God has bestowed upon you His mercy and grace, just like Paul.  Your sins are forgiven and He will never remember them.  And regret is just forgiveness unrealized.

Next time your thoughts start to bother you about the past, remember the exceedingly abundant Grace of God that He bestowed upon Paul.  And remember that He has shown us the same exceedingly abundant Grace with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

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A Word To Those Who Are Weary

“The Lord God has given Me The tongue of the learned, That I should know how to speak A word in season to him who is weary.” (Isaiah 50:4, NKJV)

“There are a lot of weary people in the world. They are worn out form the struggle of life and living. They are in desperate need of someone to speak a word in season. Some of them are Christians, many are not. Can we speak a word in season to them? Of course we can! All we have to do is be looking for them…”

Jon Clayton

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Who’s at Fault?

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered.” Ezekiel 34:2-5, NKJV

It seems a great mystery to many pastors (so-called) as to why people are fleeing the church. The answer really is simple:

  • They are sick of not being fed. They hear you quote a few verses, read a poem, and then talk about how great life can be if they just buy your book(s).
  • They are sick of your begging for money. You talk about how much God needs you money for his program, yet they see you living in million dollar homes.
  • They are sick of you twisting the Scriptures. Instead of declaring the grace of God, you enforce on them a new legalism that leaves them feeling guilty.
  • They are sick of you being a bully. Everything is good if they agree with you; but should they disagree, they are characterized as divisive and being led of the devil.

And you blame them for leaving. Am I missing something?

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A Must Read!

http://libertyforcaptives.com/2015/03/11/30-signs-of-legalism-a-checklist/comment-page-1/#comment-9859

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The Look of Love…

“He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” John 21:17, KJV

Perhaps no man fell farther than the Apostle Peter. I mean, he denied Jesus three times, even after publically declaring his willingness to die for Him! After the third time denying Jesus, Luke records for us, “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.” (Luke 22:61, KJV)

What do you think that look was? Sadness? Anger? A desire for revenge? I don’t think any of these apply. I believe that Jesus looked upon Peter with love. You see, Jesus knew Peter would fail, yet He loved him anyway. Luke continues, “And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:61-62, KJV).

I bring all this up because I wish to honor a friend of mine. He is probably one of the most honest people I know. I have known him for years, having attended church with him, even having the privilege of ministering with him. And in a day when men of God are afraid to admit sins or failures, he is an example of humility. His name? Joe Dallas.

Joe has a blog over at joedallas.com. If you haven’t read his blog, you should. It is an encouragement to all who have failed. Joe is brutally honest about his struggles and failures. And to see how God has restored him is truly an encouragement to all who believe that their failures have disqualified them from being used once again.

Of course, Joe correctly credits Jesus Christ with drawing him back to Him and restoring him to Christian Service, even beyond where he was before he fell away. But that’s just how our God works. That’s one reason why grace is so amazing.

Jesus made an amazing statement to Peter, before he denied Him: “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32, KJV)

Jesus prayed for Peter…and Joe…and you. And that is truly amazing…grace.

Think about it…

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