The church versus the Church Part 2

 

God’s intent, based solely on Biblical context, was to restore His chosen people to a place of prominence in the world.  But due to their rebellion, the way to kingdom reality was blocked by the hardening of their hearts.  The Jews wanted a status position where they become the conquerors instead of the conquered.  As one studies the Scripture, one can readily see the intent of Kingdom building in God’s plan, but due to the sinfulness of His people, God had to first deal with their rebellious heart.  Zachariah’s prophesy was a basic continuation of Old Testament prophesies that Israel would be delivered from their physical enemies.  When that was accomplished, the Jews would be able to serve Him without fear.  They would be before God in “…holiness and righteousness,” all the days of their life. (Luke 1:67-75)  That was God’s plan, but due to the sinfulness of His people, their physical deliverance would not be achieved until their hearts were changed.  To bring about that change, Jesus would come as a Savior, not a physical deliverer.  For the Jewish people to understand what the ministry of the Messiah would be, a forerunner would come to change the people’s concept of why the Messiah was coming.  Instead of looking for a physical deliverance, they needed to see the importance of a changed heart.  John the Baptizer would present Jesus as the “lamb of God” who would take away their sins. (John 1:29)  John was stressing the importance of changing their preconceived notions by way of repentance.

The Apostle Paul, understanding the foundation of the Christian faith, made a proclamation that the only thing that really mattered was, “… Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2).  Whenever the Church loses sight of the Cross, its foundation will be in jeopardy.  Whenever the Church manipulates Scripture to promote an excitement transfusion, it has lost its power.  Whenever the Church proclaims financial prosperity while ignoring fiscal responsibility, it has misdirected the use of God’s money.  Whenever the Church stresses physical healing over spiritual healing, it has lost its vision.  Whenever the Church seeks signs and wonders instead of displaying Holiness, it has become a broken vessel.

The majority of agnostics and non-believers are witnessing the displays of the “people’s church”, rather than God’s Church.  The alarming thing is the actions of the people’s church are getting all the attention, while God’s Church experiences collateral damage. One of the problems that face the Church today is how it responds to the “rebellious church.”  If it fails to address false doctrines by not promoting Biblical truths, it will negatively answer Jesus question, “…nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)  The true Church will be defined by how it responds to its identity crisis.

The conduct of the people’s church invites ridicule.   It hurts to see God’s Church the recipient of ridicule because of unbiblical actions by those who claim to be Believers. The media, from the news conglomerates to the entertainment industry, are exposing the people’s church for what it is, but the tragedy is they think that it is God’s Church that they are exposing.  Believers are anticipating an external challenge to the Church, when we need to look within the Christian circle.  Satan realizes that the best way to derail the true Church is to build new tracks on which the people’s church will travel farther and farther away from God’s intent.

 

The church versus the Church, Part 1

 

There have always been itching ears and searching eyes that scan the spiritual horizon waiting for some sign that God will manifest Himself in a new and exciting way.  Every few years there is a resurgence of distorted Biblical truths that seem to bring a ray of hope to the floundering church.  I am reminded of the Biblical Jews that were waiting for the Messiah who would set them free from the bondage of oppression.  This would be done by setting up an earthly kingdom that was ruled by God Himself.  When the Jewish people saw their physical dilemmas, they reverted to the hope that someone would come who would lead them back to a place of prominence in their world.  To help the process along, the Pharisees begin promoting their own interpretation of the Law and Prophets.  Regulations and extra Biblical teachings were promoted to evidence that God was still in charge.  The problem was the Jewish people exchanged hope for a continuing mountain-valley experience.  Every new or expanded “truth” was met with excitement.  But soon it turned into disappointment and a searching for yet another movement that would excite them into hopeful expectations.

When the Messiah did come, they did not recognize Him.  They thought Jesus was a prophet or great teacher that would reintroduce the Jewish Kingdom.  As quickly as they were exposed to the Truth, the Truth was adjusted and altered to promote a physical manifestation rather than a spiritual deliverance.  The people craved miracles that would help them grasp the reality of God.  Jesus knew that the heart of man was desperately wicked and the only hope for God’s chosen people was circumcision of the heart. (Romans 2:29)  Jesus realized that His greatest mission would be the “religious” community.  The Jews responded to Jesus as a supplier of their physical needs, rather than the “lamb of God” which would restore them to a right standing with God.  Jesus’ ministry in the Synagogues was short lived, for His message conflicted with their traditions.  For three years, Jesus reached out with the Love of God to a people who were indifferent to the real Truth.  Wherever He went, the religious authorities followed with contradictory teachings that confused the people.  Finally, the “religionists” crucified Him!  It wasn’t until after Jesus’ ascension that the real truth of God’s love was revealed.  In that “upper room” the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples, the unfiltered truth flooded their spirits, and the Church was born!

There is such a similarity today to the earthly ministry of Jesus.  Our religious institutions have developed communities of diversity.  The ability to recognize Biblical Truth has become a difficult task.  Doctrines of devils have disguised their way into the Church.  Laughing spirits have become a mockery unto the Lord.  Spiritual “drunkenness” has elevated the flesh into mocking displays of tainted truth.  The Church is eager to acknowledge sin in our country, but remains silent when it comes to sin in the Church.  When are we going to realize that as the Church goes, so goes our country!  When the Church fails to represent God, our country will represent Satan!  Believers must stop cultivating “Christian cults” and start planting and harvesting from the true seed of God’s Word.

There is a talk of a great revival coming, but it cannot become a reality while the counterfeit church is in session. God wants to visit His Church, but not until we turn the Church back to Him.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE ASKING?

 

We are all participants when it comes to prayer.  Our petitions are in the form of supplications, intercession, and requests.  If we are presumptuous enough, we “command” the Lord to fulfill the desires of our head, which we have mistaken for our heart.  Many of our prayers have time restraints.  Some people have an attitude that the Lord owes them something; after all, they are His children and He has a responsibility to supply all their needs (wants).  Not to digress from the purpose of this article, but I have a hard time familiarizing God to a structure that I believe shows dishonor and disrespect.  I have heard Believers call God their “Daddy” and Jesus their “Big Brother.”  Even though the concept is correct, He is much greater than any carnal labeling we can give Him.  Instead of bringing God down to our mental acceptance, let us learn to kneel in His presence with awe and respect, for He is “I AM.”  Jesus is our Savior and Lord; let us approach Him in humble adoration, for He is the Alpha and Omega.  To mentally humanize our relationship to the Triune God is to elevate ourselves to an almost equal status.  What follows is a dictate of wants, versus seeking what He wants.

We must ask ourselves how we fit into God’s purpose and plan for our lives.  When we realize what His objective is for us, we will better understand how to pray.  When we fail to grasp this truth, we will begin to act like a god and want God to endorse our agenda. Wrong teaching has influenced wrong actions.  We are not on this earth to determine our own direction, but to discover His direction for us.  Our prayers should center on His will, not on our will.  Know the Word and we will understand how to pray.  God gives us the desires of our heart, because He puts the desire there!  In the “Battle of Gethsemane” Jesus, as a man, realized that it was not a question of what He wanted, but what God wanted for Him.  Jesus requested for another way than the cross, but He quickly overruled that petition with “…nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42)

There are situations in life when we attempt to search for an escape clause or seek a road more traveled than the path we are on when, in reality, the Lord has us on that path for the fulfilling of His purpose.  It comes down to do we trust God?  James realized this truth by stressing the importance of knowing how to pray.  “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” (James 4:15)  Instead of seeking confirmation of our choices in life, let us desire what He desires.  Instead of bribing God with shallow promises like: “If He will heal me, I will do this and that for Him.”  Let us learn as Paul did, “…in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)  Let God do His work in us as He leads us through the valleys and mountain tops, all with the objective of creating a person who will exhibit His Kingdom.

Zacharias and Elizabeth had prayed long and hard that they might have a child, but all seemed to be for naught.  Finally, long after Elizabeth had passed her child bearing years, their prayers were finally answered.  They would have a son that would be the forerunner of the Messiah. (Luke 1:11-17)  If their prayer had been answered in their timing, they would have missed having a son whom Jesus would later declare as the greatest “Prophet” ever. (Luke 7:28)  Don’t miss out on what God has for you by framing your prayers around what (and when) you want; rather, about what God wants for you!

 

INSIDE OUT

 

My Granddaughter is just starting and completing her teenage years; at least, that is the attitude and action that she displays.  During her “right of passage” she displays all the characteristics of a person under construction, while at the same time exhibiting a “green card” mentality which permits her a trial role in womanhood.

I have found a growing number of new Believers who work from the outer man to the inner man.  In other words, they adopt the outward displays of a Christian, with the hope that the inner man will grow accustomed to his life changing display.  They go to church, pray, read their Bible, change their vocabulary, dress modestly, abstain from worldly vices, and generally display what is expected of a new Christian.  These things are all staples of the Believers walk.  The problem is we have put the cart before the horse. It is more than mimicking the outward displays of other Christians.  It is the changing of the heart.  It is not copying the life style of other Believers.  It is becoming the person God wants you to become.  It is not the mixing of two natures.  It is the birthing of the very nature of God.  It is not fitting into a new way of living.  It is a new and living way.  It is not a revising of one’s thoughts and actions.  It is having the mind of Christ and following His actions.  It is not a temporal excitement.  It is joy unspeakable and full of glory that leads into His presence.  It is not mind over matter.  It is spirit that really matters.

One of the causes of lukewarmness and inconsistency in Believers is works that have overshadowed faith.  Some believe if they follow the typical Christian pattern they are “saved” and have a place in eternity with God.  Salvation is not through observances and displays, but through the heart.  Going to church does not makes a person a Christian any more than standing in a garage  make you a car.  Playing a role does not make you a Christian.  A changed heart through the blood of Jesus Christ makes us a new creature.  A changed heart renews our mind which leads to a transformed person.  Holiness dwarfs prosperity.  Peace overshadows anxiety.  Truth transcends reason.

How many people have had an altar experience that was a result of an emotional coaxing instead of a broken heart responding to the Holy Spirit’s invitation?  Jesus’ teaching of the Sower is a classical illustration of how some people respond to God’s Word.  Satan will stand between the Word and the hearer.  He will bring confusion to the hearer which limits his understanding.  He will cause persecution and tribulation to keep the individual from solidifying the Truth.  He will allow money to choke out the Truth.  These are illustrations of “emotional hearers” that make up so many churches today.  Jesus then illustrated what constitutes the true Believer.  It is the person who receives the Word, understands the Word and bears fruit.  The Word goes to the heart and then is displayed through actions that spread to others. (Matthew 13:18-23)

My Granddaughter will learn soon enough that the way to adulthood is not through conforming to peer pressures and “tribal” membership, but submitting to the Potter that will mold her into the adult He desires. (Jeremiah 8:6)  True Believers are made from the heart outward, not the head downward.

 

 

 

FULFILLING TOMORROWS’ YESTERDAYS

 

Empty todays are a result of unproductive yesterdays.  What we do in the here and now will determine our future challenges.  How we see our days will have a direct influence on our attitude.  What we do with our time reflects our past, present, and future.  When we allow our time to be occupied with meaningless activities, it is sure to have a negative affect on us.  How many of us wear our Believer’s label on the inside, instead of being a walking, talking example of Jesus Christ?  Some Believers look into their rearview mirror and see unfulfilled promises, which results in displaying a depressive attitude for the day.  The effect of that emotional display feeds into tomorrow’s inactivity.  When we are not fulfilling our todays, yesterdays become our judge and tomorrows our fears.

One of the areas that Believers are afraid to acknowledge is DEPRESSION.  This is one of the most debilitating words in the Christian vocabulary.  For a Believer to admit to other Christians that they are depressed is very rare.  If they dare to hint they might have a problem, the doorway to judgment is opened.  Why is it so many judge others when they have never walked in their shoes?  When the Christian court is in session, the verdict and punishment of the suffering saint only solidifies their depression.   I would never make a guess at the number of Believers who are affected by depression, but it is more widespread than anyone could imagine.

There is no shame in admitting depression.  In fact, the beginning of healing is expressing the truth.  To share horizontally is a step that will be difficult to take, for (sadly) one does not know whom to trust.  The best way to share is to start with the One who already knows what we are experiencing.  God sees those hurts and darkness that shrouds our being.  For God to work in our lives, He wants us to take the initiative.  When we come to Him, He is ready and able to start the process of dispelling depression.  God will not judge us, but love us and show us the road to recovery.  Depression comes from looking at our failures and seeing little or no hope.  Recovery comes from looking to the Author and Finisher of our faith.  When God fills our mental quicksand with the Rock of Ages, we can begin to see the light at the end of the “depression tunnel.”

Now the Believer needs to build upon his “Cornerstone.”  We need to rise up every morning and sing unto the Lord songs like, “This is the Day,” “Rise and Shine,” and “Praise Him, Praise Him.”  We need to tell Him how much we love Him.  We need to start our day in worship.  As we do, God will direct our way.  Simply put, we need to set our affection on Him.  Depression comes from separation; positive expression comes through fellowship with Him.

When we put things into perspective, our attitude will determine our altitude.  Let us fill our days with joy, so that our yesterday memories will be filled with happiness, and our tomorrows will be anticipated with excitement.  There are Believers who are afraid to admit they have depression.  Maybe they are waiting for someone to say, “I know what you are going through; let me tell you my story of victory.”

 

THE EMOTION CALLED JEALOUSY

 

All of us have faced some form of jealousy, either by being a recipient or an initiator.  If we have entertained jealousy, we rationalize it as only a fleeting thought that has no notable affect on us.  If we express jealousy, it is justified as a momentary lapse of judgment.   The problem is our conscience betrays our simplifying of the issue.  We can try to fool ourselves into believing our feelings are just a childish reaction, but our conscience overrules that notion and reveals a more deep seated problem.  The word Jealousy is sometimes used interchangeably with the word Envy. Jealousy can contain both a positive and negative connotation.  Simply put Jealousy is to emulate or covet earnestly what another displays. We don’t like to admit it, but there is a tendency in all of us to compare ourself with another, and this is bound to generate a stop gap in our spiritual lives.  Whenever we see someone exemplifying success beyond our achievements, there is an emotional reaction to nullify their works by centering on any of their possible negative areas.  Instead of being motivated to improve on the neglected areas in our lives, we attempt to expose the shortcomings in the “overachievers.”

We see in so many Believers a guilt complex that is used to lash out on others.  We all know the importance of staying focused.  We know the importance of studying the Bible.  We know the importance of spending premium time in prayer.  We know the importance of sharing the Truth, YET there are times we neglect to follow through with the intents of our heart.  When we witness the spiritual growth in others, it is sometime like a thorn in our side, for their progress is like a mirror that reflects our true condition.  We don’t like to be compared with anybody, but God has “ways and means” to get our attention. The positive purpose of jealousy is to bring us to the point of desiring to be all that God wants us to be.  When we see a brother or sister living a triumphant life, there should be a desire in us to emulate their spiritual walk.  It should cause us to regroup and rearrange our priorities so we, too, can experience the benefits of Kingdom living.  When we see someone walking in victory, we should be drawn to the same objective.  One of the reasons the Gentiles were adopted into God’s family was to entice the Jews to jealousy. (Romans 11:11)  By seeing what they were missing, they might rethink their theological beliefs.

Whatever God intends for good, Satan will try to use it for his good.  Jealousy can be used as a positive or a negative. How it is implemented depends on our spiritual status; if we are lacking in our spiritual growth, Satan will use it as a tool of division.  If we are practicing our faith, God will use it as a tool of spiritual development. Believers are not all on the same road, but I pray we all have the same destination. God loves us and will use whatever means we can understand to keep us focused.

When we see other Believers sold out for the Lord, we should all have a desire to pick up our pace as we pursue the Kingdom.  When we see others growing by leaps and bounds, it should rekindle our fire.  Positive jealousy brings a renewed strength to our lives.  Negative jealousy saps our strength.  Instead of finding fault in others, we need to examine ourselves.  When we neglect our own spiritual life, we will be susceptible to negative jealousy which looks for the speck in another’s eye, while rationalizing the beam in our own eye.

Are people drawing us to positive jealousy, where we desire to be better Christians?  Or are we envious of other Believers to the degree that we hope they will fail, which then will minimize our own failures?

 

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

 

If we were to take money out of the equation, how different would the Church be?  If pastoral services were rendered as a volunteer status, would there be empty pulpits?  If those producing Christian literature were asked to distribute their products free of charge, would anything be offered?  If Christian artists were asked to share their talents for gratis, would there be any concerts or recordings?  The marketing of Christianity has become big business.  Not only has the monetary pyramid become a symbol of contemporary Christianity, but it has involved a base of Believers who covet financial benefits as evidence of their active faith style.

Let’s look at it another way.  The undershepherd (Pastor) stresses financial giving to the local assembly, which is done by tithes, offerings, and gifts.  Out of the plate comes the paying of financial obligations, such as the Pastor’s financial package, building maintenance, and obligatory aid to supervisory leadership of the denominational church.  There is also the continuing fulfilling of pledges to organizations or individuals (Missionaries) who are reaching out to those the local church cannot reach.  If there is not a weekly deficit, there is the building program or upgrading of the cosmetic condition of the local church.

One of the comedic tragedies of the contemporary church is how much we desire to be like the New Testament Church.  The problem is we want to pick and choose only the areas that would fit into our comfort zones.  The Biblical Church was concerned with promoting the Gospel through their lives.  They did not try and copy the Jewish custom of building synagogues for the assembly of believers to hear the Pentateuch.  They met in homes to pray and discuss the letters of Paul and Peter and to hear what others experienced in their walk with Jesus.  Volunteerism was the pinnacle of service.  If someone had a financial need, they would dig into their robes and share whatever was necessary.  When they left their meetings, they exhibited what they were taught.  In Paul’s journeys, some of the churches he founded would send financial relief whenever the need would arise.  Paul was not always comfortable with these gestures and stated in I Corinthians 9:18 that when he preached the Gospel, he did it “…without charge, that I abuse not my power in the Gospel.”  One is hard pressed to find any inference where those involved in ministry were on the payroll of any church.  That is not to say that supporting those in ministry is forbidden in Scripture, rather, it is encouraged, but only as the need arises.  What concerns me is the abuse of financial receptivity.   Every Pastor needs to ask himself, “Am I truly doing what I am being paid to do?”  “Are my days filled with study and prayer?”  “Am I representing God, or promoting my own agenda?”  “Do my spiritual interests outweigh my daily carnal interests?”  Some Pastors hold the Bible in one hand and extend the other hand to receive “honorariums” for Baptizing, Marrying, and Burying.  Preaching series are usually from messages already presented by others.  Much of preaching today is keyed to catering to the wants of people, thus guaranteeing the financial sovereignty of the local body.

Maybe one of the reasons the Church is failing to exhibit the Kingdom of God is we are exhibiting a different kingdom.  If we would remove money from our “interests” list and begin to center on God’s Grace, we would experience the true riches of God’s Kingdom.  I know there are many faithful pastors that have recognized the hazards of striving for financial success, and as a result, have chosen to believe that God, and not money, will lead to a successful church.  They live as examples of the Scripture they preach.  I have lived at both ends of the spectrum, from living on little or nothing, to having a large financial package.  Many of my greatest blessings started when I refused or returned financial incentives.  Great (not necessarily large) churches are not built by money, but by humble servants who understand their reward is from above and not from what goes into their pockets.  Let us render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s! (Matt.22:21)

RELIGION IS ACTION!

 

Defining Biblical words with secular definitions is to humanize God’s Word as just another form of literature.  To use Webster’s dictionary, or any other explanatory publication, to address the meaning of a Scriptural word is to open the door to misinterpretation.  There are many Hebrew and Greek words that have little or no English equivalent.  Yet, we strive to produce an almost endless array of translations that attempt to transpose the Bible into a modern language that is easy to understand.  I have no problem with attempting to make the Bible a more user friendly book, but not at the expense of redefining its intended meaning.  The farther we travel from the original era of Biblical publications, the more we seem to have distanced ourselves from the intended purpose of God’s Word.  Recently, I wrote about “generation hopping,” which is taking Scripture intended for a specific time and purpose and reading it as if it were written for our generation.  It can be applied to us, but only through the Holy Spirit’s direction and leading.  Too many Christians are using the Bible as a self promoting book to cater to their every whim.  Well meaning Believers can find Scriptural support for both sides of an issue.  The use of the Bible to proclaim interpretive truth has caused many to mock the Holy Book.  The Bible has become a book that sits in the majority of American homes, but is read less than the daily newspaper.  So many translations conflict with each other, and as a result, more and more confused Christians don’t know what to believe.

We have all heard the phrases, “I am tired of religion,”  “I am not a religious person,” or “I desire a relationship, not a religion.”  To so many, religion has become a set of rules and regulations.  If that is what religion is all about, I would probably be leading the chants.  Instead of adopting a secular definition of religion, what does the Bible say religion is?  The words religion or religious are used only seven times in Scripture (King James Version), and only in the New Testament.  Basically, RELIGION IS AN OUTWARD IDENTIFICATION OF WHAT ONE BELIEVES.  It is the exhibiting for all to see what has transpired as a result of accepting God’s invitation to be part of His life.  As water baptism displays the inner grace that one experiences in the new birth, so religion exhibits the same evidence.  Religion is walking the talk.  James states that “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the World.” (James 1:27)  Religion is not a liturgy and ritualistic performance, but an outward action for others to see.  It is the exclamation point of what you believe.  If there is no action, one’s religion is non-existent.  The Apostle Paul told the Galatians that in the Jewish religion he had persecuted the church and tried to wipe it out. (Galatians 1:13)  What we see is Paul demonstrating what he believed at that time to be Truth.  Later, Paul took it upon himself to demonstrate his new life in Jesus.  Religion was an action that evidenced what he believed.  Paul’s life was a journey of revelation, from persecuting Believers to developing Believers.  To see his growth and action is to see his religion displayed.

The Encarta College Dictionary defines religion as, “People’s beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature and worship of a deity.”  If we are to base our lives on this definition, we could easily say that the United States is a religious country.  But if we are to use the Biblical understanding, then our supposedly Christian nation is not very religious.  Just as faith without works is dead, religion without action is not religion at all.

 

 

BEYOND THE ROPES

 

Years ago, we used to vacation along the New Jersey shore.  The thing we looked forward to most was body surfacing and fighting the relentless pounding of the waves.  We would dive under the big ones, and come up just in time to get our lungs full of air before the next big wave would be upon us.  Sometimes we would go beyond the ropes that were framing the swimming area.  Inevitably, the life guard’s whistle would blow, and he would signal that we were out too far.  We hated to turn back, but it was for our own safety.

I have watched the Church enjoy the excitement of Biblical obedience.  I have seen it riding the swells of revealed truth.  I have seen it explore the depths of reality.  I have seen it breathe in the Heavenly air.  I have even seen it experience the crashing reality of powers that tend to take its breath away.  I have seen it rise above the raging challenges to an atmosphere of security.  I have also watched the Church venture beyond its safety zones into areas that are filled with undertows and rip tides.  What concerns me so much is that the “lifeguards” (Pastors, Teachers, Evangelist) are not blowing their whistles.

In the last few years, there has been a resurgence of “end time” teaching.  More and more Believers are being caught up with discovering the signs for the return of the Lord.  Speculation has dwarfed Truth.  Emotions have ignited theories.  The Bible has been misused to support human conjectures.  To take Scripture out of context is as dangerous as denying the inerrancy of the Word.  The interest in future events has been at the expense of learning how to live in the here and now.

In studying Scripture, we must learn to read it as it was intended to be read by those in the first century.  Today, we read it as if it was meant for us as the primary reader.  It is for us today, but its initial intent was to men like Theophilus (Luke 1:3, Acts 1:1) and to the early church scattered throughout Asia Minor.  When Jesus warned the crowds of the destruction of Jerusalem and its surrounding geography, all seemed to point to the fall of Jerusalem and dispensational Judaism in AD 70.  The Jews had revolted against Rome beginning in AD 66, mainly because of the desecration of the Temple by the Romans.  During the Jewish uprising, many Roman soldiers were killed.  In AD 70, Titus and the Roman army besieged Jerusalem, cutting off their food and water.  Many died of starvation and disease.  Finally, a full out attack was waged and Jerusalem fell.  The Temple was destroyed.  Josephus, a contemporary of those times, recorded in gruesome terms what transpired.  Over one million people died, of which the majority were Jews.  97,000 Jews were captured and sold into slavery.  (THE JEWISH WARS by Flavius Josephus)  Many Christians had scattered well before the destruction of Jerusalem.  They had spread out into Asia Minor and other parts of the Mediterranean area.

Jesus’ primary ministry was to the Jews.  It is only after they rejected Him that the Gentiles were offered God’s salvation plan.  Much of Jesus’ teaching was to those Jews who would come to believe in Him.  We must understand this or we will continue to promote an unintended purpose of the Word.  Paul’s Epistles were written to the Gentiles (non-Jews).  Peter’s letters were written to the converted Jews.  Paul presents the Gospel teachings in a manner that those who read them will gain a greater understanding of what Jesus taught and how it would apply to the non-Jews.  Let us not jump generations by updating Scripture to fulfill our agendas.  Do not misunderstand what I am saying.  The Word is for today, but we must understand the original intent and purpose of the Scripture, and then let the Holy Spirit lead us in understanding our generational application.

Let us stop swimming beyond the ropes and listen to the whistle of warning, and come back to the safety of God’s intended Word!

RESUMING THE RACE

 

What a joy it is to see new Believers get excited about their life in Christ.  There is an exuberance of emotions that dwarfs anything they had previously experienced.  They have a desire to pursue anything that will assist them in their spiritual journey.  They can’t get enough of the Word.  Their prayer life is an on going conversation with God.  They see things in a whole new perspective.  Every time the doors of their worship centers are opened, they are there.  Filled to overflowing, they then look for opportunities to share their faith.  They search for those who resemble their “old creature” and offer them a life line that will lift them from the miry clay onto a rock of unfaltering Truth.  They experience a lifestyle that is based upon a relationship instead of a religion.  Everyday is an opportunity to climb to new heights.  They don’t know how to “play” church for they realize they are the Church.  Their words are the language of the Kingdom, not the world.  They don’t blend in; they stand out. Their countenance radiates their new life in Christ.  They are so contagious that they affect all those with whom they come into contact.  These followers of Jesus are not finger pointers but hand raisers.  They do not judge others; rather, they witness about the love of God.

What I do not understand is how we start off sprinting for the Kingdom, but quickly revert to jogging.  Before we realize it, we are just walking, and then we simply stop exerting spiritual energy and stand still.  Finally, we just sit on our faith and become a spectator.  Where has our zeal gone?  Why is it so easy to lose our excitement for the faith?  God has not limited our “showers” of blessings, but we have put up our umbrellas of indifference.  WHY?

Much of the responsibility for our faded zeal is directly related to our lack of interest in one another.  The Bible commands us to seek after those things “where-with one may edify another.”  (Romans 14:19)  We are called upon to help people grow in the faith. (Romans 15:2)  We are called to love each other, which is an ingredient to building up one in the faith. (I Corinthians 8:1)  Sharing the Word with one another is a form of edification. (II Corinthians 10:8)  Our whole objective in life should be to help the unbeliever experience Jesus Christ and to assist Believers in their spiritual walk. The goal of the Ministry Gifts is to edify the Believer. (Ephesians 4:12)  The Bible is full of examples where the Believer is called upon to prefer one another before himself.  Instead of self serving, let us be a waiter and serve one another.  Let us see the opportunity to help each other as an evidence of the reality of our faith.  Instead of continually asking God to bless us, let us learn to be a blessing to others, and then we will experience the blessings of the Kingdom.

When we lose the vision of reaching out to others, it won’t be long before we will become spectators instead of participants in the race of life.  Remember when you responded to God’s invitation through someone else’s prompting?  Remember when you were losing your spiritual stamina and someone was there to encourage you?  Remember when you felt discouraged and someone cared enough to bring you a dose of encouragement?  How about that time you felt no one cared about you, and just when you were ready to throw in the towel a “care package” arrived in the in the form of a concerned friend?  Maybe its time we became a Life Guard to struggling Believers.  Let us get spiritually excited once again by reaching out to others!