Category Archives: Inscriptions

Gospel Relationships

There is a vast difference between the relational fellowship of the saints of God and those of a religious social club. The revelation of this difference lies at the heart of 1 John 1:3:

That which [the incarnational Son of God] we have seen and heard we declare to you so that you also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

This is the biblical definition of our relationship with God and with one another. John prefaced this statement with the declaration of the incarnational Word: “For the life was manifested and we have seen and bear witness and show to you that eternal life that was with the Father and was manifested to us” (1 Jn 1:2). John wanted to focus the attention of His readers on the “incarnational Word” with which he had commenced his epistle:

That which was from the beginning, that we have heard, that we have seen with our eyes, that we have looked [Gr., gazed] upon and our hands have handled, we proclaim concerning the Word of Life (1 Jn 1:1).

A more clear statement in any language could not have been made that explains the fellowship (relationship) of the saints with God and one another. The saints’ relationship with one another is a fellowship that is based on the gospel fact that “in the beginning was the Word … and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:1,14). And since all the saints have obeyed the gospel of this incarnate Word, then He, not ourselves, is always the foundation of our relationships with one another.   There can be no other foundation for true Christian relationships.

Christians are drawn together because of their common obedience to the incarnational offering of the Word on the cross, His burial for our hope, resurrection, and His present reign over all things.   Connection (fellowship) with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit through our common obedience to this gospel is what establishes our relationship with God and one another. Our obedience to the gospel of the incarnational Son of God is the impetus, the foundation, the eternal bond of fellowship that we have with the eternal Word of Life, and thus, the guarantee of living forever.   The Christians’ relationships with one another is far beyond the relationship of friendship.

We hear a great deal today about relationships in the religious world. Religions throughout the world have invented every possible stimulus to produce relationships among the members of their respective churches. We have heard on numerous occasions the statement that “Christianity is about relationships.” And, it is. However, are the relationships of religion truly based on the incarnational and resurrected Word of Life that the members have obeyed in their burial and resurrection with the Word of Life? Or, are they manufactured relationships through relational encounters of the members with one another in order to enhance friendships?

If our relationship with one another is not first based on our obedience to the gospel of the Word of Life, then we will become a religious social club when we come together in assembly as friends.   If our relationships are simply fabricated and maintained by the art of human relational mechanisms of psychology, then the gospel soon passes from being the primary purpose for which we come together in assembly. We must remember that the relationships that gospel-obedient Christians have with one another goes far beyond friendships. There is something much deeper in the relationships of gospel-obedient disciples than having “good buddies,” or being faithful in attendance at the local church social club.

The bond of the relationships that gospel-obedient disciples have with one another is not initially based on their friendships with one another. John clarified that we have a relationship (fellowship) with one another because of our common obedience to the gospel of the Word of Life. Paul explained that “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Co 12:13). And because baptized disciples are one body, they organically function as a body of relational disciples (See 1 Co 12:15-27).

Cult members have strong relationships with one another. They are driven together because of their great respect for, or fear of, the leader of the cult.   Religions often lean toward cultism in the sense that the “pastor” is the attraction of the hour of assembly and center of reference for the faith of the members. Assemblies that are generated and maintained around a dynamic personality can never be the relational fellowship that is so natural with gospel-obedient saints. Gospel-obedient saints are drawn to one another because of their common obedience of the gospel of the Word of Life. They are relational before they show up at any assembly that is designed to promote relationships. In other words, the relationships that Christians have with one another are divinely generated, not humanly manufactured. If one simply wants to be a co-religionist with other religionists, then he can simply “join the church of his choice.” But when one joins himself to Jesus through obedience to the gospel, he is added by God to a family of gospel-obedient disciples (At 2:47).

Religionists assemble in order to experience either a relational or experiential event that would enhance their relationships with one another. But gospel-obedient saints come together in assembly because they have established a relationship (fellowship) with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit through their obedience to the gospel.   They were baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit into a covenant relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). Their motivation for assembly, therefore, is not to establish a greater relationship (fellowship) with one another and God, but to celebrate the fact that they already have a gospel-obedient relationship with one another and God because they have been baptized into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Their individual addition to the body of members has brought them into a relationship of a gospel-obedient family of disciples.

It is for this reason that we question the assembly of those who have come together with little desire to celebrate the gospel through the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. By this we mean that those who assemble on the first day of the week and fail to partake of the communal (fellowship) Supper of the incarnational Word of Life, have either forgotten, or never established the purpose for which the saints assemble in the first place. If we assemble without the Supper, then we are simply renewing our friendships with one another. Our assembly has become no different than the assembly of the local “Rotary Club.”   If our purpose is simply to come together with the saints in order to reestablish our relationships, then we have become a religious social club that can cerebrate nothing greater than our friendship with one another. If we have come together to fulfill our narcissistic desire to enjoy a Sunday-morning entertainment event, then we have failed to come together for the purpose of honoring the incarnational Son who came in the flesh in order to establish our covenant relationship with Him.

Saints who come together simply to reestablishing relationships, experience an emotional event (speaking in tongues, or concerts), or simply out of obedience to law, have not yet understood the purpose for the saints’ assembly. If they have lost their way in this matter, then they are not drawn in attendance to the Table of the Lord. Their assembly simply becomes an attendance to a Hollywood experience. If Jesus does not take center stage for our assemblies, then our assemblies have become narcissistic productions in order that we “get something out of the Sunday morning event.” Those who fail to show up at the Table of the gospel have identified themselves to have lost their motivation by the gospel of Jesus.

The early disciples came together in a relational manner in order to experience together the celebration of the Word of Life.   It was this Word that the early apostles handled, touched and gazed upon. Because of their relationship (fellowship) with the Father through the incarnational Son, the saints came together to remember and celebrate the incarnational sacrifice and risen Word who came down out of heaven into this world in order to take us out of this world. The saints in Ephesus remembered and celebrated this gospel event every first day of the week in a fellowship meal that surrounded the Supper of the Lord (At 20:7).

The “breaking of bread” among the early disciples was a fellowship meal that they enjoyed with one another in their remembrance of the blood and body of the Lord. The Holy Spirit reminded the Corinthian saints that their participation in the feast was a relational (fellowship) experience.

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not the fellowship of the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, it is not the fellowship of the body of Christ? (1 Co 10:16).

The Corinthians started to marginalize, or corrupt the Lord’s Supper during this love feast. They turned the “breaking of bread” into a drunken occasion where they revealed their inconsiderate relationships for one another. Because their assemblies digressed into pleasing themselves (narcissism), they were not able to celebrate the Lord’s Supper that should have revealed their fellowship with the Lord and one another (See 1 Co 11:20,21). In other words, their dysfunctional relationships with one another in assembly revealed that they had a dysfunctional relationship with the One who should always be the center of attraction for every assembly. They had lost their way for coming together for a love feast that should have been an expression of their love for one another (See 1 Co 11-14).

When we produce attractions to stimulate attendance, then our assemblies move away from a clear focus on the gospel. When people are not motivated in life by the gospel of Life, something other than the gospel must be the stimulus for them to attend the religious assemblies.

Gospel-obedient saints come together in assembly in order to celebrate the reason why they have a common bond with one another. It is because they have fellowship with one another through their common obedience to the gospel that they come together in assembly. Every Christian has a relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit because of his or her obedience to the gospel (Rm 6:3-6). And because this relationship has been established by obedience to the gospel, they have a relationship with one another before and after any assemblies.

Christians can come together because they are good friends. But their relationships with one another in friendship never has priority over their friendship with Jesus through their obedience to the gospel. In fact, the friendship (relationship) of Christians is based on Jesus, not simply on a relational friendship they might have with one another as neighbors in a community.

Those religious groups that minimized the observance of the Lord’s Supper in their assemblies have lost their way, if indeed they ever knew the way to a gospel covenant relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit through baptism into Christ. Because they have not focused on obedience to the gospel, their assemblies have often become narcissistic Hollywood productions, religious parties as some in Corinth, or simply the observance of ceremonial rituals that bring some comfort to those who are ridden with guilt.

Unless the gospel is preached and obeyed, assemblies will always be religious ceremonial exercises or concert experiences.   Unless the gospel of the incarnational Son of God is restored as the center of reference for assembly, the attendees will never realize the worshipful experience that results from an assembly that is focused totally on the resurrected and reigning Son of God who first brought them together in their common obedience to the gospel.

“Serpent Christians”

“Unlike Jesus, I don’t need a silly cross to save my people. I believe I’m the messiah of our time, I’m gonna save this nation like Jesus saved Christians. Except, I’ll be able to save you without some silly cross.”

 So said the leader of one the prominent political parties here in South Africa.   Such blasphemous statements remind us of the circumstances surrounding Herod when he allowed the people to say of him, “The voice of a god and not a man” (At 12:22). And then the Holy Spirit reported on the result of Herod’s arrogant behavior: “And immediately an angel of the Lord smote him because he did not give God the glory. And he was eaten by worms and died” (At 12:23).

In response to the preceding statement of the South African politician, Dr. Jan Venter wrote in the Farmer’s Weekly, the century-old weekly publication of South Africa, “Leaders who claim godlike qualities often face disastrous ends” (FW, April 13, 2018). Such a disastrous end came upon Herod. We have witnessed throughout history the same end of similar self-proclaimed demagogues.

God established governing authorities for the sake of the people of a nation.   Therefore, “let every soul [of a nation] be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God. The authorities that exist are ordained by God” (Rm 13:1). God ordained government, not specific government officials.

When some authorities called the apostles Peter and John into their council chambers and commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus, the apostles responded, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things that we have seen and heard(At 4:19,20). If ever our religious leaders of a country move into the political wings of government, and make statements as that which was voiced by the preceding opportunistic South African politician or Herod, then it is time to take a stand for truth.

Satan does not idly lurk quietly in a dim street alley awaiting for some unsuspecting innocent to wander where lions roar. He more often covertly rises in the ranks of the legislators of government who enact antichrist laws that reflect their unbelief. Before indifferent Christians finally realize that the “governing authorities” are commanding us “not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus,” it is sometimes too late. Before the indifferent realize it, they have lost their freedom. When Islam swept across North Africa in the seventh century, this antichrist faith swept Christianity off that part of the continent. When the atheistic communist regime of Mao se Tung rose to power in China, he too did house cleaning and sought to sweep Christianity out of China. It is not the work of Satan that is the problem. He is only doing his business. The problem is inert and inactive and indifferent Christians.

In one of our neighboring countries to the north of us, some secular politicians have begun to affect the churches of the nation. One example was the banning of land to be sold to religious groups for the construction of church buildings in the capital city. Another example would be in our country of residence. When anyone buys food from any of the major food suppliers, he or she unknowingly pays the Halaal price to a Muslim imam who must bless the food. This is a violation of any constitution that guarantees freedom of religion.   Christians in South Africa are not free from this ransom price that must be paid to the Muslim faith when they purchase food at any of the large food stores. The problem is ignorance on the part of the general public who mostly no nothing of this practice by the Muslim community. The rest of the citizenship of the country keep themselves in darkness by their own indifference.

Satan often works himself in by way of the back door. Those Christians who are indifferent—which indifference they pass off as being forbearing and patient—will always find themselves at the mercy of the devices of Satan. Christianity is a “militant” faith, but not by guns and suicide bombers. It is through a persistent stand for truth that enables Christians to be the preservative of society.

When Jesus said, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” He did not mean “indifferent as serpents,” and “idle as doves” (Mt 10:16). Those metaphors would make no sense. We must not forget that Jesus used the metaphor “wise as serpents,” not “wise as Solomon.” Serpents have a bite, and that bite has venom. A serpent will certainly be patient. He will not strike unless threatened. But if threatened, he will strike with a venomous bite.

It is quite interesting that Jesus would use the behavior of a serpent in reference to those who follow Him. Unfortunately, many of Jesus’ disciples today forget what Jesus said to His immediate followers: “Do no think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Mt 10:34). We never hear the subject of “Christian serpents” preached. We feel that most indifferent Christians have no desire to bite back with the truth when threatened … ever. But when the truth of the gospel is threatened, Christians must be reminded that it is time to sling the sword of the Spirit in standing up for the truth. When political “messiahs” arrogantly blaspheme the cross by which we are saved, it is time to bite back with the venom of the truth of God.

Church: The Serendipity of Loving Others

Because we as Christians are emotionally wired for community, we naturally seek out others who have likewise been spiritually born anew. “Church” is simply the plan of a Creator who designed us to function together socially as a collective of born again disciples of Christ. Though we are spiritually born anew individually into the universal body of Christ, it is not natural for us to function autonomously from the body in our spiritual relationship with all those who have likewise come individually into an obedient relationship with the Son of God.

Our innate desire to be with others who have been born again sends us as individuals on a quest.   We seek to function in fellowship with the “church of the firstborn ones” (Hb 12:23). It is for this reason that the body (church) is always defined in Scripture to be a relational function of all those individuals who have been individually born again, and thus lovingly function under the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. When our Founder stated that we would be identified by our love of one another, He was saying that we would be known by our relational function of love (Jn 13:34,35).

Jesus taught that His disciples would be defined by loving relationships, not as a legally defined corporate institution. Christians are identified by their mutual gratitude for the grace of God, not by the restriction of perfect law-keeping. Grace excludes justification through perfect keeping of law, but especially the restrictions of man-made laws (Rm 6:14). We are saved by grace through faith in God’s grace to save us (Ep 2:8).

Law challenges the relational nature of the body of Christ, for law sets aside mercy. But mercy rejoices over judgment according to law (Js 2:13). If we would seek to be under the legalities of the laws of man-made religious institutions, then there would continually be strife or competition among individual members of the universal collective (church). There would be continual dissention as to which lawgiver the members should follow in a legally structured organization. In our dissension as to which legally defined religious institution we would adhere, we would naturally denominate into our favorite groups. Lawgivers would choose their favorite names for their groups, and thus, offer options for us concerning which group to which we would “place membership.”

In legally defined institutions there is always competition “to climb a ladder of power” for influence and recognition. Where love should be exalted, seniority marginalizes the weak, or those who are unfamiliar with the accepted laws of the legally defined institution.   Lordship always encourages competition.   However, love always considers others before one’s self. Lordship always prevails in institutionally defined groups. But where fellowship is based on love, relational servanthood prevails. We must never forget that lordship among leaders in the body always marginalizes the Head of the body.

Legally defined institutions are defined by organizational structures that encourage lords, judges and lawgivers to reign. On the other hand, the New Testament definition of “Church” is the relational behavior of the members with one another that is based on love (Jn 13:34,35). The more legally we define the church of Christ, therefore, the less relational the members become in their patience with one another through love. The relationship between lawgivers and judges is always strained.

The more the members focus on maintaining the institutional ordinances that define a man-made religious organization, the less they function relationally. The more the body of Christ is defined by institutional structures, the more stringent we seek to maintain legal codes that define our existence. We become legally stringent because we are afraid that we will lose what we believe defines who we are.   Leadership in such institutional organizations turns from teaching the word of God to lords who see their duty to regiment the members of the body into conforming to legal structures that define the institution. Lords always function as regimenting leaders.

In lordship scenarios, relationships are always sacrificed in order to sustain the legalities that define the institution. It is for this reason that the religious institutions of men work contrary to the relational identity of those who have individually been born into the body of Christ. And it is also for this reason that the more we identify the body of Christ as a legal institution, the less relational the membership becomes, and subsequently, the more divided the members become in their debates over defining the legalities of the organized church. The problem with a legally defined church is that judges and lawgivers always seek to insert and bind their opinions. We thus end up squabbling over whose opinions must be legally bound in order to define who we are.

At the end of our journey in life, and when it is time for all of us to stand individually before the Creator in judgment, each one of us will not be held accountable for keeping or forsaking any legally bound opinions that were established by men to define a legal religious institution. Each one of us will be held accountable for his or her relational behavior with all other individuals of the body. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” are relational identities that are not enjoined on the members of the body through law (See Gl 5:22,23). They are inspired by love. Nevertheless, these are relational standards by which each member will be held accountable.   And because the degree of each of these qualities in our lives always falls short of perfection, there must always be grace to make us perfect in Christ. Being judged by relational abstracts, therefore, must always be by God’s grace and through our faith in Him to bring us into His glory (Rm 4:16).   Grace and mercy, therefore, must always reign in the hearts of body members in order that we be at peace with one another.

That which destroys peace in the body are relational dysfunctions as “fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, etc.” (Gl 5:19-21). These behavioral dysfunctions are not based on the love by which the disciples of Jesus are to be identified (Jn 13:34,35).   They identify those who are void of love for other members of the community of born again disciples.   These “works of the flesh” are relational dysfunctions for which we will be held accountable, since being identified by such character qualities and behavioral practices disqualifies one from cohabiting with others in eternity. Social dysfunctions of the body on earth make it impossible for one to transition into an eternal society that will dwell in peace in the presence of God.

Individuals are born into a fellowship wherein they are held together as one body because of the fruit of the Spirit that is emulated by each member. The members of the body are identified as the collective body of Christ because of their relational function with one another through love. Their function through relational identities, therefore, results from their love for one another (Jn 13:34,35).   When the New Testament historian stated, “Now all who believed were together and had all things in common,” he was defining the relational function of the body according to the implementation of the fruit of the Spirit, not the submission of those who were born again to a legally defined institution (See Act 2:44). Those first believers knew little or nothing about “church,” but they knew everything about Christ. And because they were obedient to Christ in their baptism for remission of their sins, they were church (At 2:38,41). They were born again through baptism into a relational function of love whereby each member was communally loved into eternal glory through the fruit of the Spirit. When members so function, any efforts to define the body through legal statues pales away under the power of love.

It is for this reason that we must first identify the church through love, and not by the adherence of the members to legal identities. Do not be mistaken. We seek to be obedient to the commandments of God, but being so obedient without the love that generates the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, is futile in reference to salvation. Perfect attendance without love will not take anyone to heav

BAPTISM: A Relational Response Of Faith

John did not initially write to believers. The New Testament book of John was written to those whom John urged to believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (Jn 20:30,31). If the unbelievers to whom he wrote believed, then they would have an eternal relationship with the Son of God. They could have this relationship if they followed through with what God required to be born again (Jn 3:3-5) John affirmed that belief in Jesus was the foundation upon which they could establish this eternal relationship with God. In this way, belief was relational in reference to their salvation.

We find throughout the New Testament the rest of the story about the “relational belief” about which John wrote. In reference to the eternal relationship into which his readers must come with the Son of God, John wrote briefly about the door of entry, that is, being born again (Jn 3:3-5). To be born into this relationship with the Son of God in whom one believed, a response to belief (obedience) was necessary on the part of the believer. Belief, therefore, could not be an end within itself.   It could not be a simple acceptance of facts. It had to be a relational response to what God required in order to connect with His Son. The eternal relationship with God that John desired that his readers have had to be a behavioral response to the intellectual information that he wrote in words.

How one establishes a relationship with God can only be defined by God, and thus, only in His word are we to determine how and what a relationship is with our Lord Jesus Christ. We have found that most people are more inclined to use the common religious definitions of the confused religious world to define how one establishes a behavioral relationship with Jesus. Common accepted theology of the majority is often easier to believe than opening one’s Bible to determine how God defines these matters and establishes His terms for being born again.

In order to explain what John meant when he introduced the subject of being “born again,” Jesus continued to explain at the end of His ministry what He meant by the term.   The declarative statement of Jesus in Mark 16:15 is a record of concluding thoughts of Jesus that revealed the seriousness of what is most important in one’s restoration to a relationship with God. Jesus’ statement was simple, but loaded with meaning when considered in the context of His entire message of the gospel.

Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Every theological wiggle possible has been made in the religious world to discount what Jesus meant in this statement. But the statement is blatantly clear. The meaning can be clearly understood in the context of the truth of the gospel of Jesus. If we do not consider the whole text of His message, and what the Holy Spirit explained in the whole of the New Testament, then belief becomes a simple legal recognition of facts with no resounding confession or repentance in one’s life. Baptism is subsequently relegated to a legalistic plunge into water in obedience to a command to “get baptized.” Such a conclusion is both impersonal and a denial to the truth of the gospel and the relationship that the Father seeks to have with those who believe on His Son.

The “belief” about which Jesus spoke was relational in that it must move one to respond to Jesus as the Christ and Son of God. The gospel (good news) must be received in mind (intellect) and in heart (emotional). It is God’s ultimatum for sinners to bring themselves into a relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Belief, therefore, is an emotional response and foundation in reference to the death of Jesus for our sins and His resurrection for our hope.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul explains, “I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand” (1 Co 15:1).   The word “stand” is metaphorical in reference to emotional security.   Belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (the gospel), therefore, is an emotional response to an intellectual knowledge of the event of the gospel that Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 15:3,4: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Co 15:3,4). One must intellectually know and believe that Jesus, as the Son of God, died for our sins. However, one’s intellectual belief in the death of the Son of God for our sins is not good enough. Intellectual belief is not relational in reference to connecting with the saving power of the gospel. There must be an emotional attachment to the event of the gospel in order to emotionally “stand” upon an assurance that we are saved by the event of the gospel.   Knowledge of facts must be combined with behavior.

This brings us to Jesus’ connection between belief, baptism and salvation. Jesus explained in Mark 16:15 that in order to be saved, baptism must occur in response to one’s intellectual and emotional response to the event of Jesus’ death for our sins and resurrection for our hope. Baptism is not a legality. It is a relational response to the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And when one relationally responds to his belief in the salvational work of Jesus at the cross, and in the resurrection, then the blessing of salvation comes into the life of the one who obeys the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. One is thus born again (Jn 3:3-5).

Paul explains the relational response of baptism to the gospel in Romans 6:3-6.   Notice carefully how he makes baptism a personal encounter with the death and resurrection of Jesus. He begins with a question: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death” (Rm 6:3). Jesus’ death was personal, and so is our baptism into His death. Paul explained: “We were buried with Him through baptism into death …” (Rm 6:4).   The preposition “with” makes the response of baptism relational in reference to our contact with the death of Jesus.   Baptism is not a ceremony. It is not a legal obedience to commands. It is establishing a personal connection with Jesus right at the cross of Jesus and in partnership with His resurrection.   If one cannot establish this relationship with Jesus at the cross, and in the resurrection, then he has no real, true and personal relationship with Jesus.

Jesus died for our sins at the cross. If one would establish a relationship with Jesus, then that is were the relationship truly begins. Only through baptism into His death can we be at the cross with Jesus. This is why Peter reminded those on Pentecost in Acts 2 that they must be baptized for remission of their sins (At 2:38). If the separation from God through sin remains in one’s life, then there can be no relationship with God against whom we sin (Is 59:2).

But Paul was not finished with his commentary on what Jesus meant in Mark 16:15.   Belief leads us to be “united together in the likeness of His [Christ’s] death,” and thus, “we will also be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rm 6:5). As “our old man was crucified with Him” at the cross in repentance, our new man walks in newness of life when we come forth from a grave of water (Rm 6:5,6). Paul, through the inspiration of the Spirit, could not have explained the relational obedience of baptism in a better way. There can be no relational walk with Jesus in the new life, if there is no death and burial of the old man.

At the end of His mission on earth, Jesus concluded with a relational statement to His disciples in reference to baptism. He commanded His disciples to “disciple all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). In this statement, Jesus used the Greek word eis. Eis is relational. In baptism, one comes into a relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is belief in Jesus as the Son of God that moves one to go to the cross with Christ. It is belief that takes one into a grave of water with Jesus in order to wash away sins that keep one separated from God (At 22:16).   It is belief that brings one forth from the grave into a resurrected life with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Unless one’s belief results in crucifixion and burial with Jesus, one has no true or personal relationship with the One who will return from heaven to collect His people who have been washed in His blood (1 Jn 1:7). Those who have not believed, gone to the cross, grave and experienced a resurrection with Jesus, do not have a redeeming relationship with the Christ who went to the cross and grave for them.

 

Organized Religion

Many of us live in highly organized business/industrial societies. Many churches in such societies have not escaped the influence of corporate organization. How one functions as an employer/employee in the business/industrial world, often determines how he views the church of our Lord. When the entire membership lives in such a society, it is almost natural for them to behave corporately. The extreme of this invasion of worldly organizationalism among the disciples of Jesus is the conclusion that if one is not a part of the “corporately organized religion,” then he is outside the religious “church loop,” or simply a rebel from within.

We must not assume that the stifling efforts of organized religion is something new.   The same religious environment prevailed during the era when the Son of God become flesh in order to reveal an organic movement of people outside the function of organized religion. Jesus did not come to establish an institution.   He came to empower individuals in their faith. His focus was on people (church), not organizational structures. He thus came to energize an organism of believers to function throughout the world.

When Jesus came in the fullness of time to begin an organic body (His church) in the midst of a very structured religious organization (Judaism), from the very beginning His ministry was in constant conflict with the authorities of the religious establishment (See Matthew 16:18,19). The establishment called His movement a “sect” simply because His disciples did not conform to the norm that defined the existing religious organization of the day (See Acts 24:5). The books of Matthew through John explain in detail the conflict between the Jewish religious leaders and Jesus as He initiated the organic function of His disciples. The book of Acts not only explains the organic function of His body of believers, but also the conflict that the Jewish religious leadership continued to have with what they considered a virus in their organized religion. Organized religion always considers organic function an infectious virus simply because those who function organically are not controlled by the earthly authorities of the organization.

Organized religion is defined by the existence of rulers and lords on earth. In order to prevent His organism from becoming an organization, Jesus said that there would be no rulers and lords among His disciples.   The function of the disciples would be as an organic body of servants (See Mark 10:42,43). An organization (institution) exists because there is a chain of authority on earth by men who seek to maintain the structure of an organization. There is thus pressure from these “powers that be” that everyone who claims to be a part of the organization must conform to their authority structures. Membership in the organization is required, and some sort of attendance to the meetings of the organization are required in order to be considered loyal (faithful) to “the powers that be.” Budgets and spreadsheets are necessary in order to disburse the income that comes into the common “treasury” of the organization.   In order that the leadership of the organized religion is perpetuated, diplomas and degrees that hang on the leaders’ office walls, which diplomas and degrees were earned at the accepted Bible training schools of the organization. A specific name is used by the organization in order that members easily identify the groups who are in fellowship with the organization worldwide.

Inherent in any organized religion (institution) is a spirit of sectarianism, for each organized group of a worldwide network of groups must in some way maintain their identity as unique from all other religious organizations. Since competition for members is inherent in sectarianism, a unique name for the religious organization is thus necessary in order to identify the particular organization to which members give allegiance.   The validation of one’s relationship with Jesus is thus defined by one’s faithful allegiance to the religious organization of which he professes membership. It is thus incumbent on the accepted leaders of the institutional church to preserve the identity of their church by teaching the mandates of the organization that identifies its uniqueness. It is for this reason, that the preachers of the organized church are sanctioned with either “pastoral licenses,” diplomas or degrees from the accepted Bible schools of the religious organizations to which each particular group gives allegiance. Members are subsequently subjected to the sanctioned leaders by referring to them as “pastor,” “reverend,” “bishop,” etc. Authority is relinquished to the leadership by the membership, and by doing such the members have established a head of each local church, or the universal church, depending on how worldwide the organized church seeks to be networked according to Catholic Church organization of hierarchies.

In one statement of Holy Scripture the organized church is deemed contrary to the organic function of the universal membership of the body of Christ.

“. . . from whom [Christ] the whole body being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working of each part, causes growth of the body to the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16).

The words “every” and “each” assign individual ownership of the members of the body to one another. There can be no “eyes” or “feet” functioning separately or in control of the universal body. “If the foot says, ‘Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body . . .,’” then how would the whole body function as one body (1 Corinthians 12:15)? We must remember that “God has set the members, each one of them in the body, just as He has desired” (1 Corinthians 12:18). No man or group of men have the authority to set any part of the body above any other part of the body. The function of the body, therefore, is the business of Jesus as He directs the body from heaven through the authority of His word on earth (John 12:48; Romans 10:17). Therefore, there need be no rulers and lords on earth to command the organic function of the body. Upon the foundation of love, each part of the body is energized to function equally and in unity with all parts of the body (See John 13:34,35). No authorities on earth are needed.

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Research:

Biblical Research Library

www.africainternational.org

Book 47: Fellowship and Unity of the Organic Body

Book 55: Organic Function of the Body of Christ

 

Hydrophobia

We once concluded with the outpouring of our heart to an electric audience of attentive Bible lovers. After the lesson, one seemingly apprehensive, but convicted believer, stood up and valiantly said, “I want to be baptized right now!”

So after initial preparations for the event, both of us proceeded down into the water.   There was a sense of nervous apprehension in the willing subject who had declared his intentions to follow Jesus.   He was quite nervous with his first step into the water. As the subject was in the process of being laid back into the water in order to be immersed, arms and legs went flinging everywhere. Hands and feet grabbed after everything that was above water.   He was hydrophobic (terrified of water). After some reassuring persuasion, the self-confessed hydrophobic believer fought against his fears.   Nevertheless, we almost both went down into the water, he wide-eyed and struggling, and me not seeking to be rebaptized. What was so encouraging was that he overcame his fear of water in order to follow Jesus into the Jordan River.   He had not informed us before of his phobia. However, regardless of his phobia of water, he was determined to be baptized as Jesus had commanded.   After the experience, no one in the attentive audience let him pass without hugs and encouragement for his courage to overcome his fear of water in order to obey the gospel.

It is unfortunate today that there are thousands of “believers” who claim to be followers (disciples) of Jesus, but they do not have the courage to overcome their hydrophobia. They claim to be followers of Jesus, but they will not follow Him to Aenon where there was much water into which they would be immersed after the example of Jesus (John 3:23). They will not follow Jesus by obedience to His instructions to be baptized in order to be saved (Mark 16:16). And thus, they are not willing to be “of Christ” by baptism into His name (1 Corinthians 1:12,13).

Paul said, “Be imitators of me even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).   But there are hydrophobics today who will not follow Paul to the grave of water as he imitated Christ by following Him (Acts 22:16). Some hydrophobics today are so afraid of the water that they would never even “follow the crowd” of those who followed Peter’s instructions on the day of Pentecost to be “baptized for remission of sins’” (Acts 2:38). A crowd of about 3,000 men and women followed Peter’s instructions on that day to be immersed for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:41).   They followed his instructions right into and out of the water in obedience to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (See Romans 6:3-6). We are sure there are some who could not say as the Ethiopian eunuch, “See, here is water! What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Instead, some religious hydrophobics would say, “See, here is water! Get me out of here!”

Too many seem to forget that when a pagan idolater responded to what a Christian believed in the first century, he was not initially told to either repent or confess that Jesus was the Christ and Son of Christ. He was not initially informed about baptism. Pagan unbelievers were initially told what Paul said to the idolatrous Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your household will be saved.” (Acts 16:31). Idolatrous unbelievers had to first believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and then they were taught the rest of the story. Paul and Silas continued with the rest of the story to the Philippian jailor by speaking to him “the word of the Lord.” (Acts 16:32). And the result? “And immediately he [the jailor] was baptized, he and all his household.” (Acts 16:33). One must first believe in Jesus, and then obedience to the rest of the story will follow. And the rest of the story involves repentance and washing away of sins in the waters of baptism.

The entire gospel according to John was written that the idolatrous unbelievers to whom John wrote “might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing” they might have life through His name (John 20:31). In his book, John was not writing to believers.   He was writing to idolatrous unbelievers who knew nothing or little about the life and ministry of Jesus, especially the fact that Jesus was the Word (John 1:1-14), the Son of God who came down out of heaven for the salvation of man (John 3:13).   Idolatrous unbelievers must first, as the eunuch and idolatrous jailor, believe that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. After belief, that which was necessary to be born again would come (John 3:3-5).

It is highly unfortunate that so many throughout the religious world have twisted the gospel of John out of John’s purpose for which he wrote the book. His message, that was only to be the beginning of the message of the gospel, has been made the conclusion. We must not forget, however, that belief is only the beginning of one’s journey to do all that God requires of each individual in order to be saved. If one stops at the beginning, then no obedient repentance will occur (Luke 13:3). There will be no confession that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God (Romans 10:9).   There will be no baptism into Christ (Galatians 3:26-29).

When those on the day of Pentecost believed that they had crucified the Lord and Christ, they said to the apostles, “Men and brethren, what will we do?” (Acts 2:37).   The apostles did not leave them at belief by telling them that they were saved by “belief only.” Instead of allowing them to remain lost in a “state of belief,” Peter instructed that they follow through with their belief. We read the gospel according to John in order to believe that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. We read the book of Acts to find out where to go from belief.   Belief in the New Testament is more than a smile on one’s face, or a warm feeling. It is an inward activation to follow Jesus to the Jordan River in order to be immersed for the remission of all past sins. Once they believe, true believers will overcome their hydrophobia by asking, “Where is the water?”

Research:   BAPTISM: A FAITH RESPONSE TO THE CROSS,   www.africainternational.org

 

Fellow Workers

There are fundamental concepts in the Scriptures concerning relationships that are often glaringly contrary to the accepted behavioral norms of the world in which we live. One of these Spirit-inspired norms is critical in defining how Christians are to relate with one another as the organic body of Christ. This is a relational norm is often the most violated mandate of all Scripture.   Jesus explained, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them.   And their great ones exercise authority over them. But it will not be so among you (Mark 10:42,43). No interpretation need be exercised to understand what Jesus meant in this statement. Nevertheless, this very clear principle in reference to relationships is a principle that is often ignored by those who seek to rule over their fellow disciples.   When it is ignored, the relationship that disciples must maintain with one another becomes very dysfunctional.

In order to explain the relational servitude by which His disciples were to function as His body, Jesus illustrated His teaching on relationships with the practice of slavery that was a common socioeconomic structure of the Roman Empire.   Jesus used the relationship of slaves (bondservants) with one another to define the relationship that Christians, as fellow slaves, would function with one another in His kingdom. Slaves were FELLOW bondservants (or, servants) (Matthew 18:28-35; 24:45-51). Jesus explained that the disciples’ relationships with one another must be as fellow slaves. They understood the slavery of the Roman Empire, and thus, they understood what Jesus meant when He spoke of them as fellow slaves of one another (Mark 10:44,45; see John 11:16). Being “fellow” meant that no disciple was given the right to have authority over any other disciple. Before His departure from them, therefore, Jesus reminded His disciples that all authority among all His fellow bondservants would always remain with Him (Matthew 28:18). Discipleship, therefore, meant serving one another as fellow workers in Christ, not being in positions of authority among slaves.

After the ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit took over in defining the relational function that the disciples had with one another. The Spirit first focused on the reason for the disciples’ relationship as fellow members of the body. They were “fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), and thus, “fellow heirs of the same body” (Ephesians 3:6). The Gentiles were “fellow citizens” in the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). Now if the disciples were called to be “fellows” in reference to their salvation and kingdom citizenship, then, as Jesus had previously stated, there were to be no lords or rulers among them. The definition of disciples being “fellows” in their relationship with one another dismisses the possibility that one “fellow” should rise up over his other “fellows” in Christ. There are no bosses among fellow heirs.

For example, Paul stated in reference to Andronicus and Junia, that they were his “fellow prisoners who are notable among the apostles” (Romans 16:7).   Being “notable” does not mean being exalted with authority over the apostles. They were fellow prisoners “among,” but not over one another in the kingdom. Aristarchus and Epaphras were likewise fellow prisoners with Paul in Rome (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 23).   So there are no lords or rulers among fellow prisoners.

“Fellow” means that we equally share in the same thing. Christians equally share together as heirs with Christ. If required, they equally share together as prisoners for Christ. They equally share together as citizens of the kingdom. And thus, they equally share together as “fellow bondservants” in their organic function as members of the body (Colossians 1:7).

Herein is the definition of the disciples’ relationship with one another as members of the body of Christ. The absence of lords and rulers among the disciples means that there is an equality among fellow citizens. Disciples cannot equally share as fellow workers if some “fellows” are designated with authority over their fellow disciples. As soon as one of the “fellows” assumes authority over his fellows in Christ, then the one who assumes authority has made his fellow bondservants his employees. In his assumption of authority, therefore, he has denied the fellowship of equality among the disciples (See 3 John 9,10).

Timothy was a fellow worker with Paul, though Paul was not a boss over Timothy (Romans 16:21). Paul would not rule over the faith of the Corinthians, but reminded them that he was a fellow worker with them (2 Corinthians 1:24). Titus was a partner and fellow worker with Paul (2 Corinthians 8:23). The two sisters, Euodia and Syntyche, were also fellow workers with Paul (Philippians 4:3). In their relationships with one another, the disciples in the New Testament were identified to be fellow workers, or servants (See Philemon 1,24; 3 John 8; Revelation 6:11). Being fellow workers meant that no one disciple had any authority over any other disciple.

This is the secret to the dynamic function of the body of Christ. If there are no lords or rulers among fellow members, then each fellow member must take ownership of his or her responsibility to be a functioning member in the body. All members must assume their responsibility to function equally, though equality does not mean in same way. We have different gifts (1 Corinthians 12:12-32). With the control and authority of only one Head, each fellow member assumes his or her role to function with his or her gift that was granted to them by the Head in order that the body function. Dysfunctions in the body come when members refuse to function as fellow parts of the body (See Ephesians 4:7,8,11-16).

There is no competition for power among equal fellow workers. If Paul had authority over Apollos, he, on one occasion, could have commanded him to go to Corinth (1 Corinthian 16:12). Since Apollos did not go when Paul requested, Apollos was not sinning against some apostolic authority that was supposedly invested in Paul. When Paul and Barnabas disagreed over taking John Mark on the second mission journey, Barnabas was not rebelling against any apostolic authority of Paul (Acts 15:36-41).   Paul, Apollos and Barnabas were all fellow workers, and thus, neither of them had any authority over the other, and neither had any authority over the function of the church as a whole. And for this reason, each of these men assumed their responsibility to use their gifts to be functioning fellow workers in the body of Christ.

We live in a world of lords and rulers. Our social environment makes it quite difficult for some disciples to leave the business boardroom of the corporate world and function in equity as fellow workers among the disciples. The boss in the boardroom often wants to treat his fellow workers in the body as his employees. The CEO of his own business often seeks to be the president of the body of Christ.   Those invested with authority in government sometimes seek the same among the disciples. However, leaders among the members of the body do not lead with authority. The notable leaders among us do not “lord over those entrusted” to them, but function as “examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). When disciples take ownership of their responsibility to function as fellow workers of the body, it is then that the body grows.

______________________

Research:

Book 19:   Servant Leadership

Book 37:   One Lord With All Authority

Biblical Research Library

www.africainternational.org

 

 

 

Divine Conversation

     “If We do this thing, then Our action will come with many risks.”

      “I know, but Our very existence and nature necessitates that We act.”

      “That’s true. If We do not act, then Our lack of action will be the very denial of Our existence. Our existence as one eternal divine entity would not be a reality if we did not create beings who would be terminal in the presence of Our eternality. As there is no light without darkness, then there is no eternality with finality. If Our eternality must be evidenced by those who can miss out on eternity by not conforming to the nature of who We are, then Our eternality would be the only reality, and thus, have no definition.   How can We say that We have existed for all eternity if there never existed those who were not eternal, for eternality is defined by that which is not eternal.”

      “So We are all in agreement that We must create. But if We create, then that which We create must in some way emulate the essence, nature, and character of who We are. Those We bring into the realm of terminableness must be created with the possibility of becoming eternal in Our presence. If Our created ones cannot become as We are in existence, then there will be those who conclude that We do not exist as We are.   As the origin of that which is terminal, the terminal must have the possibility of eternality. If not, then We have left ourselves with the task of continually creating in order to reveal Our power to create. And if this were the case, then the created would conclude that their existence was only the result of some natural process of spontaneous generation.”

      “I know.   But creation comes with a risk.   If We do not take the risk, then We are an eternal anomaly without definition. Because of Our nature and being, therefore, it is necessary that We create. In creation of that which has the possibility of entering into eternity, the created must be given the freedom to make moral decisions—we must not create preprogrammed robots. If there were no risk in creating individuals who have the freedom to make moral choices, and thus have the possibility of eternality, then there would be no reason for creation. We would thus remain in eternity as We are, having not expressed Our love through creation.”

     “In order for those We create to emulate the true nature of who We are, then We are taking the risk that Our creation will go wrong. In fact, most of those we will allow to exist will take selfish control of the image after which We create them in order to make themselves, on their own volition, as We are.”

      “Yes, but it is a risk that is necessary. It is necessary in order to reveal to Our created ones that We are who We are in eternity. We must, therefore, plan the revelation of one of Us in a way that will evidence Our nature of love, and at the same time, offer them the possibility of eternality if they emulate in their lives Our nature of love. Since the risk of choice on the part of those We create infers the possibility of some exercising extreme hate, We must still take the risk of creating free-moral individuals. Unless those whom we create have the freedom to choose, they will never understand the extremity of Our love if they do not have the freedom to go extremely right or extremely wrong.”

      “So we must embed within their nature the instinct that their origin is extraterrestrial. After Our image they must be given an innate desire to search for Us in the terrestrial environment We will create for their temporary dwelling. In their search beyond themselves, some will conclude that there must be ‘something’ beyond their own existence. In their search, therefore, some will find Us. However, the fact that most will not discover Us in their search must not deter Us from creation. There will certainly be those whose search will not go beyond the limits of their imagination. Because these will not see beyond themselves, they will create in their imagination beings that are contrary to the very nature of who We are.”

      “Yes, those who create gods after their own earthly natures will go wrong. In fact, most of Our creation will go after the carnality of the environment that they create for themselves. Dominant individuals among them will rise up and dominate.   The instinctive nature We will place within them will be confused with their own carnality, and thus, they will seek to destroy their own kind. They will subsequently follow after the original rebellious one whom we will allow to roam among them for the purpose of destruction. Therefore, Our created beings will invent for themselves cults of death by which they would destroy their fellow man.”

     “But their religious cultures of death will manifest the extreme of Our culture of love by which We are identified. Their death cult will reveal that they have created a god after their own carnality and a religion that justifies their desires to dominate.”

      “The risk of freedom to choose comes with the possibility that Our creation will often throughout time turn on itself. Self-extermination will always be a possibility. However, if there are no extremes to the freedom of our creation, then there can be no final identity of who We are. If Our creation will follow the deceiver to the extreme of destroying themselves in the name of religion, then one of Us must reveal to humanity that We are not that way. We are an extreme culture of love, and thus, Our visitation among those whom We create must reveal Our love.”

      “We recognize that Our dilemma is that We must create because We are love.   Nevertheless, We must allow hate to exist in order that those who choose to be as We are, will understand that the environment in which they live cannot be their final destiny. Those who choose Us will be identified by the nature of who We are. The religions of hate and death that are invented by the carnally-minded will give the honest searcher the opportunity to conclude that We exist, and that Our existence is based on love, for We created because of love.”

      “In order for those who love to understand that We have everything under control, We must reveal to them that before We spoke one atom into existence, We had a plan to bring them out of their finite environment into an infinite existence of that which We are.”

      “Therefore,” spoke the Father, “we all agree that when We utter the words, ‘Let there be …,’ one of Us must have already volunteered by saying, ‘I will go.’”  

      “I will volunteer,” agreed the Son.

      “So We all agree,” repeated the Father.

      “Let the beginning begin,” replied the Spirit.

           

Alienated Urbanites

On wooden pews this side of comfort, we settled into an old “church building” that was built two hundred years before. The old Dutch architecture of the premises glowed with antiquity and reverence.   With the usual “church building culture” of yesteryear, the ornate pulpit was elevated so high that we assumed the preacher had to take oxygen in order to complete a full sermon. The hard and smooth worn wooden pews made spectators out of all of us as we quietly listened to expositions of Scripture resonate from the speaker of the hour. We sensed coolness in the atmosphere that was mixed with orthodoxy.   Nevertheless, we breathed an air of solemnity as we witnessed a tear here and there trickle down various cheeks.   And then we erroneously concluded, “This religion is cold and dead, and the spectators have no relationships with one another.”

We were cold dead wrong. Our judgment came two centuries too late. When the old church house was built two centuries before, the people were as neighborly as neighbors could be. It was a relational era in history when “church buildings” were actually meant to be only “places of community worship.” They were not designed to be four-walled factories to manufacture superficial relationships, nor the site of religious concerts.

We grew up as the last remnants of this type of rural neighborly culture in America.   When holidays came around, we remember when the entire rural community would come together to celebrate and commune.   When there was a school function, all the people in the region were present. Everyone! Well . . . almost everyone. (There was John who lived alone by himself down the road in an old debilitated shack.   We called him a “hermit” because he wanted to be left to himself. But in the entire farming community of the York District of Stafford Country of Kansas, there was only John who wanted to be alone. No church-house assembly with others would have changed John from being a hermit.)

Back in those days, when Sunday morning came, no one had any thought of allowing different church meetings to separate us as a community simply because we all shuttled ourselves off to sit on pews in different premises throughout the area.   We were still a connected community.   The premises where we all sat on Sunday were constructed for Bible teaching and worship of God. Places of worship were never constructed in an effort to establish relationships between the attendees of any particular community.   The people were already community with relationships before they showed up at the premises of their respective “church.” Communities were “one another” before they came together to worship with one another.

But the modern urban culture has changed us. Modern metropolitan existence has alienated us from one another as citizens.   In our efforts to chase money in the urban business world, community relationships are sacrificed for job promotions. In rushing from one appointment to another, we simply bypass one another. The consequence of our alienation is that the “hour of worship” on Sunday morning has become an effort to rewire our relationships. We seek to inject some relational experience into ourselves in order that a temporary and superficial connection sustain us until the next meeting. Some churches use Wednesday nights to check the wiring unless our relationships become frayed before Sunday. Our wiring is simply disconnected with too many “closing prayers.”

Ever hear the statement, “I went to that church and no one greeted me.” The one making such a statement “went to church” with the wrong expectations. Spectator assemblies of disconnected people do not establish relationships. The one who has made such a statement usually had few relationships before he or she showed up at the doors of the sanctuary.   Those who have strong relationships with others do not show up at the assembly in order to “get something.”   They show up to give worship to God.   If we seek to establish “one another relationships” at an assembly where worship is to be poured out, then we are out of touch with those with whom we should already have a relationship.   Assemblies of the saints were never intended to establish relationships. They exist because relationships already existed. The early saints were together daily because they already had a relationship with one another because their common obedience to the gospel (Acts 2:46). They were not together in order to establish relationships with one another. For this reason, it is never the prime objective of the cross-cleansed community of God to construct cathedrals where relationships are to be established.

And in the context of this subject, Hebrews 10:24,25 has since the beginning of the alienated community been twisted out of its historical relational context. The entire context of the Hebrew letter is about maintaining a vertical relationship with Jesus who is the Son of God and our high priest. The context of 10:24,25 is that those who have this vertical relationship with Him should already be in a horizontal relationship with one another. When we take our community relationships with one another that we already have outside our assemblies, and bring such into our assemblies, then expression love is manifested for one another. The connected must then determine in assembly how their love for one another is to go into action through good works in our communities.

There is nothing about legalities in a genuine relationship that is built on love. If our community as “church” exists because we are pushed together by a legal command, then the premises in which we assemble becomes cold and orthodox. Our assembly becomes theatrical. We will get nothing out of being with one another if we are legally driven to one another. But if we are drawn to one another through love, then regardless of the premises, we will explode into worship of the One who shed blood to make us one united body. Physical premises then become irrelevant to our assemblies.   They are convenient, but they are not the foundation upon which we establish our community with one another as the children of God. It is for this reason that the saints who meet under a tree have as much a relationship with one another as those who meet in an air-conditioned/heated orthodox cathedral. Places and premises mean nothing in reference to the “peculiar” people who are precious in the heart of the Prince of Peace who poured out His blood for them. When we are connected with one another outside our assemblies, then our worship, as Jesus explained, can take place anywhere and at any time (John 4:1-38).

____________________

Reading:

www.africainternational.org

Biblical Research Library

Book 35:   Worship God

Book 36:   Worship Freely

Book 43:   Exercising Sobriety & Self-Control

 

 

 

 

Frustrated Discipleship

The problem with experiential religion is that it does not challenge us to change our behavior because we validate our religiosity with the experiences of our lives, particularly our assemblies with others who are of a similar belief. We thus live as frustrated disciples who have a difficult time in directing our behavior according to the instructions of the word of God.

The primary problem is that the experientialist is seeking faith-confirming assemblies that conform to his narcissistic (self-centered) psychology. He is not looking for the God of the Bible who is seeking true worshipers who would come to Him on His terms (See John 4:24).   And in particular, he is not seeking a God who gives commands and demands obedience.

If one uses the word “boring” in reference to any assembled worship of God, then the bored should know that they are seeking an assembly that pleases themselves.   Such narcissistic “worship” could not be further from the true worship that Abraham experienced with his family in his wanderings, and David with his sheep in quiet meadows.

When our assemblies must be choreographed in order that we not become bored, then we can be assured of one specific truth: We are focusing on what we want, and thus we have become immune to what God instructs us through His word. In satisfying our experiential desires, we personally push God and His word away in our efforts to create a “worship” that awakens the spiritual deadness of unchanged lives. God’s word, therefore, becomes peripheral to our assemblies, for our faith is validated by our self-imposed emotional experiences we idolize in our assemblies. The experientialist can continued with an unchanged life in walking away from an exciting assembly.   But those who are legally dead spiritually, and do the same. Dead legalism experiential assemblies have one thing in common: Both reasons for assembly of the legalist and the experientialist allow the adherents to continue unholy living outside the “hour of worship.” With the switch of a “closing prayer,” both go on their way, having been justified by either the legal performance or experiential ecstasy of the assembly.

Adherents of experiential religion can arrive at the altar on Sunday morning with a drunken hangover, but still feel justified before their god if they have an emotionally driven experience in assembly. The legalist does the same in a different way. As long as legalities have been performed, the attendee who may be living in adultery before the assembly has justified himself to go home and continue the same adulterous relationship after the assembly. The arguing of the husband and wife before the “opening prayer,” continues on the way home after the “closing prayer.”   The religious experientialists has a particular problem with such “double tongued” religiosity. As long as the experientialist can validate a superficial spiritual relationship with the god he has created in his mind, which god he supposes condones an unrighteous life-style, then no change in life is necessary. This is the spirit of idolatry. To the experientialist the Holy Spirit writes: “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, IS A LIAR. And the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). But to the legalist, the Holy Spirit writes: “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). The experientialist seeks to be a disciple by minimizing, or being ignorant of, the commandments of God after the “opening prayer” and before the “closing prayer,” while the legalist seeks to be legally correct in his assemblies while minimizing or ignoring the needs of his brother before the “opening prayer” and after the “closing prayer.”

In reference to discipleship, experiential religionists have a particular problem in being led by a false validation of faith. Since the commandments of God are minimized as the foundation of faith for the experientialist, he then must find something to take the place of his Bible (the commandments of God). He thus substitutes Baal for Bible. The spirit of idolatry takes over. The imagined and exciting god who moves the experientialist to hysteria in assembly becomes the validation of his religiosity in life. Every Sunday experience is an event to resurrect the “emotional idol” that validates one’s faith until the idol is raised again the following Sunday.

John 6 is a record of time of truth in the ministry of Jesus. When people could no longer “experience” the free handouts of fish and bread, they left Jesus (John 6:64-66). The experience of filling bellies with fish and bread will sustain a physical life, but it takes the words of Jesus to produce and sustain eternal life (John 6:63,68; Romans 10:17). But many of the people who wanted to be disciples could not handle the words. They thus turned away from Jesus (John 6:66).

In their carnality, some of the Corinthians made the experience of tongues and prophecy the center-of-reference for their assemblies (1 Corinthians 14). They were so drawn to the experiences, that confusion characterized their assemblies. The unbeliever who might visit their assemblies, Paul wrote, had enough sense to conclude that they had all gone mad in their narcissistic assemblies (1 Corinthians 14:23).

We must never forget that it takes commandments, not experiential concerts, to draw us closer to the One who can preserve us for eternity. Idolatry is defined as something outside us that is used to spark an emotional response within us. Worship is defined as a spirit of gratitude within us that pours out thanksgiving to the God in whom we live, move and have our being. Grateful hearts need no outside stimulus to worship.   If our assembled worship is diminished when the electrical power goes out, then we know we have created an idol.   Failure to pay the electricity bill may reveal that one has created an idol that must be plugged in before it can be set up as Nebuchadnezzar’s great idol, and come alive and be played before the people. Sometimes it is best to fall into the company of God-tamed lions than to bow down before the idols of men (See Daniel 3).

Continued research:

Experiential Religion vs Word-Based Faith

Book 44, Biblical Research Library

www.africainternational.org