Let’s get into our Bibles and get connected to its power. Its words are charged with life!
When we get into our Bibles, it’s not that the Spirit of God makes the words come to life, because the word of God is already alive and active, and has been since He first spoke them. Rather, the Spirit uses God’s living and active word to make us alive and active for Him.
Do you want to be alive and active for God? Get connected!
Leadership is determined by the extent you influence regardless of rank. And, contrary to how most local churches and denominations have been structured and governed, the New Testament church did not use or require hierarchy when it came to leadership. The elders, whether apostles, prophets, evangelists or pastors and teachers, had no rank in the body of Christ. The respect due to them was by virtue of their calling to a particular role of servanthood in the body of Christ. Rank and titles did not exist, only roles.
The honor and respect that anyone received was the fruit that came from an environment of mutual submission. This atmosphere allowed for the recognition of one another’s roles. And, not only was this the case, but to further reinforce this counter-worldly-thinking, Paul said “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are in fact indispensable, and the parts of the body that we think are less honorable are treated with special honor, and we make our less attractive parts more attractive. However, our attractive parts don’t need this. But God has put the body together and has given special honor to the parts that lack it, so that there might be no disharmony in the body, but that its parts should have the same concern for each other” (1Cor. 12:22-25).
Those in the Body of Christ who were more mature were able to assist the Chief Shepherd as elders in shepherding the flock. God’s word, whether written or spoken, was the only authority. Consequently the elders had no more or less authority than anyone else. And yet, through their maturity and experience in the knowledge of God’s word they were able to be useful guides to each other and especially the young in the flock.
Sadly, this style of church was eroded over time by the desire for control and power among its leaders. And, in time, the church began taking on the very leadership styles of this world that Jesus told them, in Matthew 20:25-27 and 23:2-12, to stay away from. In these passages you will see that Jesus not only taught that we aren’t to lord it over one another, but also that we are not to even have authority over one another, nor use titles, because we are all brothers. See for yourself:
“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister (servant); And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant (slave)” (Matt. 20:25-27).
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat … But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:2-12).
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.
Why is it that there are so many messages on the subject of godly women submitting to their husbands and husbands being the spiritual head of the home? Is it because this message is so hard to swallow that we need to keep being reminded of it? I think if we had half a chance to consider how this so-called truth hasn’t improved the lives of Christian married women, we’d chuck it out for something better.
I took my older kids to see the Hunger Games movie. In the beginning of the film, the people of the districts are given a televised message by the mayor. This message is propaganda that serves as an important reminder as to the necessity of the games. Of course, it’s a twisted message that is presented as truth. A message cloaked as truth, if presented often enough, is all too easily embraced by the people.
People follow influential leaders like sheep and this is true of Christians as well. We were given minds to reason and the Holy Spirit and Scripture for instruction, but we too easily accept the majority opinion as truth and fact. This traditional message that says that the husband is the spiritual head of the home is like a pair of shoes that are too tight and cause discomfort and harm. They need to be replaced with a pair that fit and support the feet.
Earlier on in our marriage, when my husband and I disagreed on a matter, he would sometimes play the trump card that he was the leader of the home and it was my role to submit. I have written a chapter in my book, Happy Moms, Happy Homes, titled “Who’s in Control?” Here is an excerpt from that chapter:
Through books, testimonies, and searching the Scriptures, I began learning and experiencing more of the Spirit. I became more attuned to His leading. For me, it became a surrendered life. I no longer wanted to be the one in control, because God knew how to do things better.
Then I got married. My husband and I didn’t live the Christian life as well as we thought we did. We thought we were more Christ-like than we really were. Marriage brought out all our imperfections. When we couldn’t agree on something, the issue of submission would sometimes follow. Neither of us knew exactly how submission was meant to function in the marriage. I, especially, had doubts….
Now, I had no fear in submitting to the Lord, but I did have a few misgivings about submitting to my husband in every situation. How could I let him take the place of God? Was it biblical that I should be controlled by him? Was it my duty just to submit? Well, through it all, the Lord was teaching us both a hard lesson. At the end of the day, the Lord wanted to be the One in control of both of us.
When considering God’s revelation given to us in the Bible, it is correctly argued that He only gave us what He intended to communicate. It wasn’t His intention to give us further details and information that we often enquire about.
With this in mind, some who wish to keep a faith in both the Bible and the idea of evolution, argue that instead of passing on all the details of evolution in Genesis, God created a simple story with a representative character for the beginning of mankind and called him Adam. And, this was so that God could focus on the main messages that He wanted to communicate like Him being the Creator, and later about Abraham and the promise of a Seed. According to this argument then, Genesis is part literal and part fiction with the creation stories of Adam & Eve (and probably the story of Noah) the most difficult to swallow as altogether factual.
In effect, what they are saying is that in the Book of Beginnings, commonly known as Genesis, where we are told about our beginnings, starts out with a simple fabricated story. Doesn’t it seem absurd for God to go against the intention of His book and start us off with poetic vagueness about our beginnings? And, what’s more, with a story that in the light of evolutionary science hardly explains the beginnings properly at all. Or perhaps this sounds plausible to some, thinking God wouldn’t want to leave someone with the long-winded details of “Your dad was a Neanderthal and before that…all the way back to dust (or whatever their version is).”
Some suggest that the evolution story, with the complexities that it involves, wouldn’t have been grasped by early man. (No doubt! We still don’t grasp it today!) However, putting sarcasm aside, if you don’t need all the details of modern science to teach the basic story of evolution to little kids, then these are no arguments as to why it couldn’t have been communicated back then either. Who can’t grasp the “Land Before Time” level of communication!? You don’t need the understanding of the modern man to believe basic ideas. For example, the book of Leviticus is full of laws on hygiene that would not have been completely understood until modern advancement in medicine. Yet they believed and obeyed a message that modern medicine only now fully understands.
Believing God’s written word that has been inspirationally flawless for thousands of years seems far more logical than following a theory that for all its noise and influence has absolutely no real evidence and runs contrary to God’s word. Now, had the theory of evolution produced proof, we would have needed to reconsider our understanding of the Word of God. Because, make no mistake, God’s word would remain flawless. Yet, despite no proof for evolution we have many today who would want to marry the two.
Government has laws so that the people it serves can happily co-exist. Now, imagine God became one of our citizens. What would He want government to legislate? Do we think that He thinks differently now to when He gave laws to His people Israel? Sure, the covenant He made with them is over, but the wisdom, truth and principles of love and justice found in God’s word still reflect His nature, as do the related blessings and curses and the sacrificial system. God has not gone soft on the law! Jesus on the cross is God’s attitude about the law and sin, and His dying didn’t change God’s attitude to these either. What we see demonstrated is both His love for us when Jesus took our punishment, and His justice satisfied.
Some may feel that we are expecting too much from people who are spiritually blind to walk in the light of God’s laws. However, rather than spiritual blindness, it’s the flesh, our selfishness, and seared consciences that keep us from doing what is right. Spiritual blindness is the inability to see that it’s our disconnection to a loving God that prevents us from doing what is right, and to find meaning in life. That doesn’t excuse us from the laws of God. We shouldn’t have less or a “softer” set of laws for unbelievers because they are spiritually blind. In fact God’s word says that the law exists for the unrighteous not the righteous. You see, besides, that they show God’s wisdom, love and guidance, God’s laws exist for unbelievers to see their shortcoming and lead them to Christ.
Also, we shouldn’t have less law to tolerate mans weakness, because without changed hearts, this would create anarchy to God’s laws. Rather, we should have all the laws that God would, so that men, women and children can learn of God’s ways and they can at least be outwardly protected from man’s sinful nature that needs to be kept in check. Governments should simply reflect God’s laws. On the one hand these are quite detailed, while on the other they can be summed up in showing love. Those without God’s love in them need to be governed by the detail, while those with God’s love rejoice in the love shown in the detail.
In these next posts I put to you three, of probably many, questions to consider around the contentious issue of governments making laws, and I discuss my thoughts around these questions. The first is, “Which of God’s laws should a government include in their list?” The framework for my consideration is Christian, where I consider God’s thoughts as supreme and best to follow. Secondly, in order to answer the first question, I ask, “What is a government’s mandate and jurisdiction?” Then finally, “Which of God’s laws should Christians be vocal about?”
Which of God’s laws a government should or shouldn’t legislate has to do with the mandate and jurisdiction of government. Some say that the government shouldn’t legislate on issues of morality. Obviously, such a blanket statement is absurd, what with possibilities of pedophilia, theft, murder, etc. Others say that adult consent is enough to decide whether something can be tolerated or not as long as it is not affecting anyone else. This, I’m afraid is a naïve idea of mankind, not realizing that everyone, especially the youth, is easily influenced both for good and for bad through witnessing peoples’ choices and behavior.
Pornography, homosexuality and adultery are examples of what has become rife because people influence people. And, when legalized, immorality grows even more rapidly. For example, the permitting of abortion has shaped society so much, that what was once outlawed, seen to be morally wrong and supported only by a minority, now has the U.S. divided down the middle. What is wrong is being called right, and worse, because it has been legalized, it has been established as right for our future generations. In a democratic country, legislation is swayed by the morality of its people. This does not mean that democracy is wrong, but rather that over time our laws reflect who we are.
(Interesting Article: Abortion Statistics and Trends…Out of the Long Dark Night by Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. NRL-ETF Director of Education & Research)
While we have taught and even encouraged complete dependency on Jesus as our Head with mutual submission to one another, in reality we have also erroneously instituted and taught hierarchical leadership in the Body of Christ as being Biblical. The two are at odds with each other in the Ecclesia and this hinders the flow of the Spirit. Instead of members growing into the full dynamic of a body where every member is in connection to the one head, Jesus, we have leadership with rank which easily and all too often short circuits the flow.
Through our leadership structures we have not only inadvertently created partial dependency on Christ, but we have also expected complete submission to leadership. This is one reason that we have a perpetual babyhood of believers in the Body of Christ. Granted, submitting does not necessarily mean agreeing, but mutual submission would at least allow for a two way street that our typical structures often hinder, especially when it’s not in the interests of leaders with so-called “authority over the flock”.
To those in the body of Christ in hierarchical leadership rather than relational leadership, I would say, “Come out of her my people.” That is, come out of the world’s ways of doing things. I would add to this, “Let my people go!” That is, don’t hold the body to ransom to a false leadership style. Be an elder amongst many elders and become one with the body. Let the Spirit teach and lead through you, but don’t presume to have rank leadership. You, like everyone else in the Body of Christ, should never have a hierarchical position in the Church, only a relational and functional one. There is One who is the Head! If we get out of Jesus’ way, He will be able to work in and through each member in the Body the way it was ordained to be.
We have patterns in our Christianity that follow the exact philosophies of this world. One of these is in the area of leadership. We are aware that we should not lord it over one another, but our structures have hierarchy and establish automatic preeminence in the body of Christ. Occasionally and refreshingly, I might add, a leader steps out of his role and gives free room for the Spirit to move in a group, or the Spirit simply bypasses the leadership and does amazing things through the body. When this happens we all enjoy the fruit that comes from submitting to the Only Head and one to another. Then, for some strange reason, we default back to our structures that allow someone positional leadership and our beautiful experience of being led as a body by Jesus Himself goes south. We are like kids playing dress-up, just temporarily wearing the clothes of the freedom in the Spirit and then we return to our own fashion of tradition.
The reason that this happens isn’t that strange. You see, we think that positional leadership is biblical and so we make room for it. Now, if you are anything like me, then alarm bells are ringing because you are sure, or in fact know that there are Bible verses that show positional hierarchy in the body. I would suggest after a good look at these texts in the context of all of Scripture, that they have been misinterpreted according to our worldly thinking. Texts that “obviously” show positional leadership in the church turn out, in actual fact, not to be showing that at all.
Many have experienced good leaders, but that doesn’t justify positional leadership. Surely mutual submission to one another has fostered the true brotherhood rather than positional leadership that easily gets in the way. Some argue that it is not in the doing away of positional leadership, but in the correct application of it. However, the fact is that you cannot reform what never had a biblical mandate in the first place. Mutual submission does not do away with leadership, it just fosters a better form of it.
The only authority anyone needs in the Church is the word of God. Where there are differences of opinion in interpreting God’s word, each need to be valued by allowing God in his time to show them the truth. For things not specifically prescribed in God’s word consensus is needed. Seeking consensus can take long and will require, love, patience and humility, but it is in this attitude that we can expect the Lord to bless us.
Doctrinal positions may differ and sometimes consensus cannot be reached on issues of say procedure. Room should be given for separate views or ways to be taken, and for the Lord to show His approval or disapproval of them. However, we should avoid meeting separately or enforcing our views on the group we are in, like happens in the denominational systems of today.
Churches and denominations have created an impasse for true unity, by holding on to different beliefs and practices that members are expected to adhere to. Any discussions outside the boundaries that are allowed in churches are generally muted by the immediate leaders who are often in no position to effect any real changes anyway. Should members believe otherwise, they are generally expected to keep it to themselves or leave quietly.
Around these issues, church leaders have simply become enforcers of the views that they have been brain washed into believing. (Sorry to be so harsh.) Why is it that, say for example, Methodist ministers think as they do as opposed to Pentecostal ministers? There’s no guessing as to what the flock ends up believing! Those who claim to be teaching God’s word, but are not accountable to it, or worse still, are given authority by their church’s established sets of beliefs, not only implement the divisions, but are protected in doing this too.
Now, each of these churches claims to be Christ’s church when they meet, but their differences only serve to prove that they often teach, outside of Christ’s authority, simply passing down what their founders had interpreted and passed on to them. Which church can claim to be right in every area? None! If so, we need to agree that unity based on doctrine has been a chasing after the wind, a futile exercise. In fact, it is a large contributor for ongoing schisms.
The Bible is God’s authority over all spheres of society and issues in life. Absurd as it may seem, but those in the church sphere need reminding of this too. Church history shows many small and large failures by the church to represent God properly. They are all as a result of not living in the light of God’s word. Drastic discrepancies between the Word of God and how the church conducts itself can develop and become engrained over time.
Appearing first as seeds of truth, incorrect interpretations or assumptions easily take root where the ground of our lives is barren of the Lord’s presence and the Word of God. Then, astonishingly, the lie can grow undetected for years among our plants of truth, even for decades or centuries. The unrecognized lie becomes so a part of life that thinking contrary to it seems wrong.
However, should someone venture upon the truth in God’s word that exposes the lie, he may feel compelled to take steps to uproot it, just as at the Reformation, and at other times, when the church needed to correct its ways. Sadly, in this process, we have often made our corrections at the expense of our unity. As a result, one of the worst weeds of all came about – the approval of division among ourselves to accommodate our differences.
This lie has become so entwined in our belief system that we can hardly imagine that it’s a weed at all. It seems so necessary and useful. But, when looking at God’s word, we see that a lot was tolerated in the early churches and things were very messy, yet dividing wasn’t an option. In contrast, today we have sterile environments where, like me, many members have kept silent on their views to keep the bond of peace. But this too is wrong if it’s only to maintain a false unity and keep a false peace around questionable doctrine and not around Jesus. There is a difference. In my next post I’ll share more on the mindset needed to once again embrace the unity that we have lost and begin to uproot the lie of division.