We all grapple at various times in life to know what’s best and what’s true. And, then, often when we’ve found a particular truth, in say science or philosophy, we still find ourselves only in the shallow-end of fully grasping its value and potential.
Have you ever wondered if there is an author to this truth we search for? Someone who’ll help us find what we’re looking for and who can help us properly utilize what we find?
There is a man who makes an astonishing and all-encompassing declaration to be “the truth.” Such a claim implies that all truth starts with him no matter where it may now reside. It also implies that this truth is only really able to be truly held together by him. And, that only he knows the true way things work. This man is Jesus! If not, then where does truth come from?
When we separate truth from Jesus, both are distorted. Our view of Jesus is diminished and the full application of the truth squandered or misused. All truth is from Him and of Him and handled best by Him. An essential part of His truth is captured in God’s word, the Bible. Like a love letter, it serves as a means to knowing Him, and like a plumbline, it’s the guide for all other teaching.
Do you know the truth?!! Because, He knows you and loves you! Have you read His love letter lately?
How about these portions:
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to receive God’s punishment for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
Said another way:
“For our sake God made Jesus to be Everything Wrong who knew Nothing Wrong, so that in Jesus we might become what God calls Right.”
Man’s form of religion is full of rules and rituals in order to reach God or Karma or a state of perfection. At best, it’s merely a hollow shell with empty promises.
The Bible, by contrast, is not a burdensome book of religion; it’s the living Word of God. True Christianity is a dynamic ongoing relationship with the living Jesus Christ. As a result, we cannot treat the Bible as a book of mindless rules and build formulas out of scripture. Man, however, feels safe when the words that he reads are categorized, put into boxes, and formulas are built for instruction on how to live right.
If that is how we want to interpret scripture, then we strip the Bible of life.
Interpreting the Bible should be done in our relationship with its Author, Jesus Christ, who helps us interpret what is printed on its pages. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the living word of God can transform our corrupt minds and make us think and behave more like Christ.
When we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to be our Counselor, then we are in danger of misusing scripture. When we misuse scripture, we can easily damage people’s lives.
Each individual situation should be treated with individual care and prayer. Don’t rattle off scripture, because you might have grabbed the wrong one for that moment. We must not throw scripture around as we deem fit, because we might cause more harm than good and push people further away from God.
Besides putting verses in boxes, we must also be careful that we don’t place our own agenda onto our interpretation of the scriptures, because we can “see” what we want to see and miss what God is actually saying. That might require us to unlearn what we have been taught in our various churches and cultures and ask God to teach us afresh.
Many who appear to be apathetic Christians are in actual fact bored, burned-out or broken by religion. Any excitement that they once had as believers has long been snuffed out by what has masqueraded as Christianity, but really isn’t.
Instead of a dynamic relationship with Jesus that’s shared with other believers, they’ve been restricted to pews, messages and tea. They’re ever learning, but never really fully participating. Feeling uninvited and restricted for too long, some are now totally uninspired by what even the “best” preachers are saying and missionaries are doing.
Others are simply burned-out, having been burdened by the church to attend all sorts of meetings, behave in set ways and, to top it off, reach the lost. Operating outside of their calling, gifting and in their own strength for too long, they resemble sheep driven like cattle with overloaded wagons.
Now, if this is how we operate, it’s no wonder many outsiders see the sham that much of Christianity is and stay disinterested.
Then, sadder still, from among those who are bored and burned-out are those who have left their first love, mistakenly thinking Jesus to be the same as the church that had hurt or disappointed them. They’ve turned to the world to find satisfaction, only to be broken by its empty promises.
Maybe you’re a part of the masquerade. Maybe even leading it. If so, how long before you are a casualty too?
Whatever your condition, to each of His servants Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light!” This tells me that Jesus Himself wants to employ us, and with something that’s not harsh and burdensome, but instead a delight. Now, tell me, doesn’t that have the potential to interest you!?
False religion will cause you to lose out, while Jesus will empower you to serve Him and leave you supremely blessed (happy to be envied).
The Ecclesia (or Church) is one way that God is able to govern and affect individuals, as well as all spheres of society. Christians (born-again believers), are able to bring personal and corporate issues to Him, as well as the social and environmental issues of this world. And, because Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth,” He is able to bring about God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven”.
The scope and change that the apostle Paul envisioned possible through prayer is seen in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 where he writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.” “First of all” clearly shows prayer to have been priority for the early church (ecclesia).
Blockages to Change
Our lack of faith that Jesus really is Lord of heaven and earth and wants to respond to our prayers is perhaps the reason why we see so little change around us. This kind of prayer is no longer a key part of many of our meetings and, where it is, not all the members of the ecclesia come to its meetings.
Then, sadly, meetings are high-jacked by well-meaning leaders whose own views, on the necessity of prayer and people’s involvement, often shapes the meetings. Thinking of themselves more highly than they should, they place themselves above others and circumvent the authority of the Head of the ecclesia. As a result, much of the potential of the gathered body of believers is lost. (For more on this, see my posts on Hierarchical Leadership – The Number One Hindrance in the Body of Christ.)
Creating an Environment for Prayer
Our meetings must allow each member to participate. When it comes to prayer, everyone should feel free to bring and share prayer requests. Also, room should be given for anyone to share a related word from God, or even a dream or vision from God, and also to lay hands on those in need.
Our prayers make a difference! Pray and watch and see His kingdom come and His will be done.
Jesus’ ecclesia is the most powerful group on earth, way above any parliament, congress or senate. And, amazingly, all Christians are called to be involved.
Ecclesia was a term used in ancient times for a political assembly of citizens who were “called-out” from a local community with the purpose of governing the community. Jesus uses this same term for His true followers in Matthew 16:18 when He says, “I will build my ecclesia”.
Built on a Foundation
That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, is the bedrock on which He builds His ecclesia. Through faith in Jesus, people are reborn and included. Effectively, He calls people and those who respond with faith are miraculously changed. They’re given a new spirit and God’s Spirit comes to live inside each one of them.
Nature of the Ecclesia
Members of His ecclesia are individually and corporately led by Jesus, filled with His Spirit and trained in His ways. They have a new outlook on life, recognizing that Jesus is really in charge of everything. And, God’s love is their key distinguishing mark.
The Task of the Ecclesia
Jesus’ ecclesia is light to a dark world. They exhibit God’s governance, pray for more of it to come and offer it to all by proclaiming God’s love and forgiveness of sins. In turn, more people are brought into relationship with the living God and under His loving rule. And, they automatically form part of Jesus’ ecclesia too.
The Kingdom of God is offered and not forced onto people. But where it is accepted, the light and life of the Kingdom begin to take hold and transform lives and communities. For more on bringing change into this world see my next post, The Ecclesia – “Thy Kingdom Come”.
(Essentially, Jesus is the only gateway into the kingdom in the analogy in John 10:9. This post uses the picture of a gateway for the ecclesia in a closely related, yet different way.)
In your intention to get on with reading or studying God’s word, have you ever skipped on past those words at the beginning of the epistles (letters) in the Bible that read something like, “Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”?
You will see that from the outset of the letter, no matter how the church was behaving, God said words to that effect. He was saying, “In Me are all the resources that you will need: My wisdom, strength, love, joy,… and I want to remind you that I am at peace with you and I want you to experience that peace.” It’s the Gospel in a Nutshell.
You see, the full weight of God’s anger toward the sin in their lives had been poured out on Jesus, justice had been served, God’s rightful anger satisfied, and through confessing their sin they had been forgiven and restored to God’s love.
God Greets You Every Day with the Gospel
Stop and ponder the next time you are reading these words at the beginning of a letter in the Bible and realize that these are God’s words to you. In fact, when you wake in the morning, know that God is personally saying, “Grace and peace to you!” (“Good morning!”)
Peace and Goodwill to All
God really does have peace and goodwill for all men! And, you, no matter who you are or how you feel, are one of them! Have you turned to Jesus and received forgiveness for your sin? A life of grace and peace awaits you.
Jesus and God’s word, the Bible, are inseparable. When we separate them, they lose their purpose.
God’s Words Are Eternally Alive
God spoke the words of the Bible into being at various times in the distant past, yet they remain eternally alive. Time has not worn out their authority and power. What God said throughout the Bible stands as though He is still saying it.
Jesus Speaks to Us Too, but…
Now, it is true that Jesus personally speaks to those of us who know Him, yet He does not operate apart from God’s word, the Bible. Saying that having Jesus in one’s life means that one doesn’t need the word of God simply presents a disarmed notion of Jesus.
Here are some previous posts on God’s word, the Bible:
At this time in Church history it’s essential that the issue of the authority of God’s word be urgently addressed. Through neglect or undermining of God’s word, we are in danger of attributing aspects to God after our own imaginations. In this way your Jesus and mine can be quite different from each other’s, and worse, very different from the actual Jesus Himself.
God is not separate from His word
Just as one cannot separate a person from his words, even so, one cannot separate God from His. God’s person, character and standards have never changed; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. What He has said remains an eternal expression of who He is. Although His covenant with us is new, nevertheless, all of His word is alive. In fact, as we read it, He is speaking.
Also, if Jesus is the exact representation of God, then the Jesus that we have in our minds and experience had better match the words of God revealed in Scripture or we have a problem. As God incarnate, Jesus should match His words. God won’t contradict Himself.
As I see it, the Scriptures aren’t separate from God in the same way that creation is. For example, God made mountains separate from Himself so when I stand in awe of them I don’t worship the mountains, but God who made them. However when I interact with Scripture I am in immediate contact with God who remains connected to His word. The words may as well be a part of Him, like His hand touching me. Although creation is of God, it’s not essentially a part of Him. However, His word remains in essence a part of Him.
When Jesus touched someone with His hand, He was worshipped, not His hand. Similarly, when we read God’s word, we don’t worship the word, but God. It is God Himself presently speaking who I am in contact with and I worship. We would do well to worship at reading or hearing the words of the Bible, because where they are God is! They are inseparably one.
The word is an Essential Part
You cannot separate the scent from a hot roasted chicken. Without the scent, it’s not completely a hot roasted chicken. Even so, although the written word of God isn’t completely God, nevertheless it is certainly a part of Him. It is a part of the full expression of Him, and while as a part it is not worshipped, nevertheless, because it remains attached to Him, it is Himself that we are in touch with and we ought to worship.
God’s word has been revealed in part through the written word, and in fullness through Jesus. Almost like a limb on a body, the written part remains a part of Him. The full cannot contradict the part expression, neither the part the full expression. Part of the full expression is the part expression. By not receiving the part expression, we don’t have a part of the full expression.
If you take away the written word’s authority, then you misrepresent Jesus whose words they are. If Jesus is God and the scriptures are God-breathed, then by removing their authority, you have a fragmented representation of Jesus. And, His written word is essential to help us to avoid creating a puppet God to express our own imaginations.
Scripture for thought:
“ALL Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2Ti 3:16).
And, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow, as it judges the thoughts and purposes of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
Get Plugged In
Although He has much to say to each of us personally and corporately, nevertheless, like electricity constantly flowing through a wire, God’s written word too, is Himself eternally talking.
Concerning remedying your sinful behavior, don’t focus on being right-and-wrong-conscious, but rather be sold out to God with all of your heart and mind. Being right-and-wrong-conscious can put the emphasis on behavior where you might try to rectify things yourself and not fix the real issue of living from the wrong source. You see, when living from the Spirit, you won’t be occupied with wrong things anyway, because He automatically does what is right.Now, while it has been said that sin and addictions are best resolved by replacing the negative activity with better ones, unless I am living from Jesus as my source, it’s inevitable that I’ll succumb to further sin or addiction. Ultimately, there’s only one satisfying and meaningful way of life and that is living in a Spirit-filled relationship with God.
In believing in Jesus, the issue of righteousness (standing acquitted before God) is settled at the cross once and for all and no amount of error on my part can untangle that. Not only am I acquitted for life, but I am placed into Christ’s death and resurrection, immediately dying to sin and to God’s law, and rising again to a new life. I am born again and made into a new person. And, what’s more, I am joined irreversibly to Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes to live in me, giving me the ability to do what I used to fail to do. He also comes teach me and enable me to live the life that Jesus has planned for me.
Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension have made forgiveness of our sins, re-birth to a new life and His empowering of us possible so that we can have productive lives for God’s kingdom. Only, I need to remember that I cannot live apart from Him as my source. In actual fact, living from Jesus as my source is my sole purpose in life. It’s in Him that I get His vision for my life and His strength to carry it out.
So, focus on building your relationship with God as your new source of life. Then, if you should sin, and you probably will, simply recognize that you have lost touch with God as your new source of life and start relying on Him again. Remember, as far as our sin is concerned, both God’s wrath and the law have been satisfied through Christ’s death so that we can be free to enjoy life by the Spirit. No matter how often you fail don’t let your errors stop you. Rather relish in the abounding mercy and grace that there is to pick you up and empower you to succeed again.
So, living in the Spirit is the Bible Code for Life. “…we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom 7:6 ).
(If you haven’t yet, THE GOOD NEWS is that you can receive Jesus as your savior. He is God’s free gift to acquit you from sin and give you a new life in the Spirit. This, despite the life that you have led, because He loves you! You see, the Bible says in 1Timothy 1:15, “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners …” Go to God and ask to be forgiven and for a new life in Him).
Despite revivals and the like, the church, without the Spirit and the word, has a propensity to fall away from the simplicity of faith in Jesus. Whether through mixing things like cultural values or tradition with God’s word or simply through bad interpretation, we have inadvertently complicated what should be easy to attain. Whatever our reasons, extras like special places, buildings, special days, titles, clothing, status, gender roles and in cases even issues of preeminent race have been added back at different times. Despite the presumable good intentions, these add-ons serve only to weaken faith, because Jesus alone is the source of our faith and the accompanied life of faith.
Many churches, whether new or traditional, have these unnecessary and distracting add-ons. It seems inevitable that man will concoct something extra to try and make the unseen faith in Christ more tangible. He wants to support his faith with things, but unfortunately he may be substituting his faith with them. Now, some stuff may be harmless, but when it is “forced” onto people, alarm bells should ring in your head. Even courses, programs and meetings can be unnecessary.
Some have gravitated to equating the shadows of the Old Testament with the New Covenant in Christ. The earthly Jerusalem is revered, garments are worn, horns are blown, certain jargon is used, particular days are esteemed, and special feasts are kept. These have an appearance of being helpful and give the participants both a sense and an appearance of maturity. Yet, all the while they’re nothing more than shadows keeping them from Jesus. They are diversions from the source, and keep one in a state of infancy.
Although generally neutral in and of themselves, it’s the meaning and the weight that we so easily attach to them that causes problems. The necessity of any add-on is determined by asking whether it will really help you in your walk with God. Ask yourself if it is Biblically founded. Often, they simply create a religious atmosphere giving you the illusion of a richer relationship with Him. For example, walking into a church building can give one a sense of awe and reverence that is Biblically unfounded. Now, I don’t advocate getting rid of buildings, but rather correcting our view of them. They are no more or less religious than a school building. So, while in some cases things should be removed if they have no real usefulness, in others the status that they carry needs to be reconsidered.
Now, I certainly don’t wish to destabilize the faith of those who practice with any add-ons. Rather, each person should determine for themselves what is irrelevant and what is useful to their faith. However, I would like to warn that we avoid imposing things on others while being watchful that they aren’t imposed on us. Also, if you feel someone is trapped by add-ons, pray, and should the Lord wish to use you, teach them correctly and wean them from non-Biblical thinking that is robbing them from maturing in Christ.
While giving room for a wide range of expression, let’s avoid the pitfalls of add-ons. Let’s do all that we can to make it clear that God Himself has been made completely accessible through the blood of Jesus, and that by God’s Spirit, Jesus alone wishes to be our source of light and life.