I Am Preaching the Faith I Once Tried To Destroy

I used to tell people they had to go to church.  I was a pastor.  I didn’t tell them that they had to go to my church (though that’s what I wanted them to do).  Like everyone else, I just assumed that going to church was what Christians were supposed to do.  After all, there it was in the Bible.  Of course, there were other things in New Testament church weren’t going on in my church (no church has everything happening in it that was happening in the New Testament church), but I just accepted the discomfort that this thought brought me because of my assumption that church was necessary.

It never occurred to me that church might be something, like temple sacrifices, that God meant only for a time.  Over the years I began to see that Jesus and the apostles taught much more about the kingdom of God than they did about church.  Once I realized that the kingdom had come just when they said it would (i.e. around late 1st Century A.D.), everything made sense.

I could then see why church actually had a stifling effect on faith rather than an energizing effect.  Church life promoted church life – not kingdom life.  Church life is going to the meetings and tithing.  Kingdom life is doing the right things in life and being generous with others.  I cannot think of a single church I could go to this Sunday that would tell me how to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  Rather, they would tell me how to be a follower of their church.  They think they’re serving Jesus, so to them, going to church is going to Jesus.  In New Testament days, however, the church indeed was the body of Christ, for the apostles kept it from splintering.  But since the apostles, that one body has split into over 30,000 factions and therefore represents, if anything, a dismembered and mutilated body of Christ.  The church of the New Testament could rightly claim to be the body of Christ, representing Him in the earth as one body.  No church today can make that claim.

When people go to church today, their faith in Jesus gets smothered by faith in other Christians.  It’s people operating in the fear of man, not the fear of God.  And sooner or later, those people let them down.  When that happens, people find that they can be wounded as easily in church as they can by living in the world. 

I now gladly tell people that they should walk with God and forget about walking with other Christians.  I realize that they do not need to go to church.  I realize that God is not commanding them to go to church.  Moreover, I realize that if they went to church it would weaken their faith.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Devotion to an unseen, omnipresent God will have far more of a righteous effect on a person than going to a meeting or two a week with other people.

If someone wants to hear about Jesus, by all means let them go to a church that preaches Him.  Once they hear and believe, however, they should walk away in liberty and not become subject to the bondage that church attendance has become.  Stand fast in liberty in which Christ has made us free!

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The Church Age Is Over

The church was an apostolic community which was preparing for, and was to give way to, the kingdom of God.  Unlike the church and the temple and tabernacle before it, the kingdom of God would endure forever.  Yes, there are still churches today but God does not work through them; He works through His kingdom.  His kingdom permeates the world, including churches, which is why it sometimes appears that He still works in churches.  Nonetheless, it is apparent that no church is governed by Him because in due time they all show corruption. 

Jesus and the apostles warned that at the end of the apostolic age there would be a great apostasy.  That would be the last sign before Jesus’ coming.  Indeed the apostasy came.  Jesus returned – as God, not as man – and true believers heard the shout of the archangel in their hearts.  They walked with Him in humility.  The rest of the churchgoers chose leaders for themselves – or in many cases, leaders imposed themselves on the churchgoers – and thus the institution of the church was formed.  It is that institution that has been passed down from generation to generation.  It is a desolate house, though as long as they preach Jesus, there are some who come to believe.

We live in the age of the kingdom of God.  It is Jesus the King whom we serve.  He has no need of separate congregations for He walks with all His people in the midst of the earth.  We who speak in the name of Christ should be proclaiming this kingdom – not church.  Church is as antiquated a form of worship as is Jerusalem’s ancient temple.

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We Are Town Criers – Not the Mayor

Today the earth is filled with supposed cities of the Lord, each with its own humanly-appointed mayor.  I am speaking, of course, of the local churches – large and small – that fill our landscape.  Each has its own head, whether that be a pastor, a board of elders, or whatever.  God is not impressed.

There is only one city of the living God, and its mayor is One.  We who speak in the name of Christ are but town criers – yet what a glorious role for us to have!

To us who know Him is given the privilege of declaring His glory.  God forbid we should sit in His chair.

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Altering the Name of This Blog

When I began this blog on March 4, 2010, it was titled “Blog for the Lord Jesus to Christian Leaders.”  I am now revising it to “A Bible Reader’s Guide to Jesus.”   This blog is an adjunct to my primary blog, A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus.  This adjunct began as a way to speak to those who had greater knowledge of the Bible (the primary blog assumes minimum biblical literacy) and who had authority in the Christian movement.  While I will still sometimes speak through this blog to Christian leaders, my broader and primary focus will be to those who are familiar with the Bible – whether they are considered a Christian leader or not.

(By the way, while the title of the blog changes, the URL remains the same.  This is just the way WordPress, the mechanism through which the blog is managed and published, works.)

This slight alteration in focus broadens the audience, but, more importantly, allows me to write more positively.  Christian or institutional leadership is something I hope will cease.  That is, I hope that churches will free their people to walk with the Lord and that church leaders will step down from having authority over any believers and walk away from their churches, leaving them to disappear.  Therefore, I will always be appealing to Christian leaders that they repent and transform themselves into Christlike followers – the path I myself took.  Writing to Bible readers (which will, of course, include the former group) allows me to praise the Lord and extol His goodness in a vocabulary that will be understood and appreciated by a group of people who may or may not be in church leadership.  Repentance therefore will be part, and not the whole of, the messages.

This will continue to be a subsidiary blog to Blog for the Lord Jesus, which is written to the broadest possible audience: all my fellow human beings.

[P.S. In July 2010 I added the words “and His Kingdom” to the name of the blog because I thought it made my point about Jesus clearer:  if you would know Him, you must act on what He says.  He is not looking for mere lip service.]

The High Places

Are you sacrificing on the high places as if the Lord has not established a central place for the worship of His name?

The Lord has no need of high places.  He has proclaimed that since the coming of Jesus we are to worship in spirit and in truth.  Not in Jerusalem.  Not in Samaria.  Not in any high place you may choose.  We are to worship Him in spirit and in truth which is to say at all times and in all places.

If you have a place that you call church, you have a high place.

Forsake the high places of your gatherings – and worship in the spirit of His gathering.

 

 

The Houses of Baal

Every locale in the land of Canaan had its house of worship.  Though the Israelites were given but one place to worship, they took up this practice.  It was a curse to them because it detracted from the true worship of Yahweh.

In the earth today there are houses of “worship” set up for the Lord God of heaven and earth.  He does not want them.  He wants the light of the glory of the knowledge of Jesus Christ in every place.  He wants His omnipresence honored; He does not want it limited by these “houses.”

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.  In the coming of His kingdom, He reclaimed it all for His name.  This is His house in which we are to worship Him all the days of our lives.  We should not try to build Him a smaller one.

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Malachi 1:10

Why doesn’t someone shut the church doors?  This is what the Lord asks today. 

Everyone knows that churchgoers have the same sins as society at large.  What good is the churchgoing if it doesn’t produce more righteous people?

Through Malachi, the Lord had to point out that the Israelites were going through useless religious exercises.  They would have been better off if the priests had shut the gates and said, “No more sacrifice; go get your lives right in the sight of the Lord!”

Will you do that today?  Do you love the people enough to tell them to stop wasting their time and God’s?

Tell them to live for Jesus, always doing what’s right in His eyes – that’s what matters.

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Why Do You Add to the Gospel?

You know the gospel.  It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of the kingdom of God. 

Why then do you add to the gospel by telling believers that they should go to church?

Instead of pointing converts to the Lord, you point them to the church.  The Lord did not instruct us to do this.  And for good reason.  The church does not draw believers to the Lord; it draws believers to itself.  It needs believers in order to survive.  It consumes believers.  The Lord, by contrast, does not need believers in order to survive.  Believers need Him in order to survive.

Search the Scriptures and you will see that our churchgoing today is not a commandment of God; it is a tradition of men that makes people neglect the commandments of God.

Let’s get back to the gospel in its purity.  It is the power of God to save mankind.

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A Den of Thieves

Some translations render the phrase as “robbers’ den” but the meaning is the same as “den of thieves.”  Jesus used it when He was confronting the money changers and those who were buying and selling at the temple in Jerusalem.  The temple was supposed to be God’s house.  Perversely, it had become place of business instead.  In judging the behavior, Jesus was borrowing this phrase from Jeremiah who had used it on behalf of the Lord hundreds of years before when a similar perversion was taking place.

There were probably lots of conventional thieves or robbers dwelling in Judea and surrounding regions in those days.  We have no record of Jesus confronting any of them.  Someone could say, “Why didn’t He go after the real crooks?”   The reason is that everyone already knew that what the “real” crooks were doing was wrong – even the crooks themselves.  When it came to business affairs in God’s temple, however, Jesus had to make it clear that such activities were not God’s will.

The religious leaders who allowed the money-making activities in the temple were doubly wrong (that is, twice as wrong as the “real” crooks):  they were stealing and they were doing it in God’s name.  It’s bad enough to have your money confiscated from you by a thief, but to have him say that he’s doing it in God’s name is demeaning to you and blasphemous of God.

Think of how much business takes place in the church today.  I’m not just talking about the books, tapes, CD’s, etc.  I’m also talking about the tithing sermons, pledge drives, and capital campaigns.  There’s no meaningful difference in these two categories, for both take money and return a product or service which must please the consumer.  All this money changing hands has nothing to do with serving God and everything to do with funding a way of life for man-made organizations.  We justify it all, telling ourselves that God’s ministry cannot go on without the money.  The reality is that our ministries as we’ve conceived them cannot go on without the money.  God’s ministry is never constrained by money.

Please stop and think about how many figurative tables the Lord would have to overturn today if He were to re-enact the scene at the temple that day.  In what ministry today does money not change hands?

How Did We Go from Shiloh to Ichabod?

The naming of the baby Ichabod spoke to Israel’s despair in losing the ark of the covenant that was at Shiloh.  How did Israel go from the glory of His presence to the shame of His departure?

The answer is straightforward: Israel did not walk in the ways of the Lord and dishonored His presence.  Israel’s priests were corrupt.  The Lord is righteous and His people cannot expect His glory to shine among them if they live according to their own selfish desires.

Do you remember a place in your life that was filled with the Lord’s glory?  It was wonderful.  You walked with Him, basking in His love and full of gratitude for His forgiveness of you.  Your soul was a garden and new things grew every day.  What happened?  You wandered from Him.  You drifted away.  You didn’t love righteousness and hate sin (Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9).  Temptations are subtle and we can fall prey to them so casually.  By the time we catch ourselves, we may have wandered a long way away from the Lord.

Cleanse your heart.  Put away your sins, your vanities, and your trivialities.  Run to Him and He will receive you with a full and happy heart.  He is generous with His love and does not hold grudges.  But you must come with a pure heart.  He does not bless sin.

Go from Ichabod to Shiloh.  Return to your first love:  Jesus.

Who Is On the Lord’s Side?

This is the question that Moses asked when the Israelites had turned aside to form and worship a golden calf.  The people had grown weary of waiting for Moses to descend from the mountain of the Lord.  They went to his brother Aaron and pressed him to make them an idol to worship.  (They had been removed from Egypt but the Egypt had not been removed from them.)

When Moses returned to see this horrid sight, he asked his question.  It was, however, a call to service as much as it was a question.  The sons of Levi responded to the call.  They went through the camp and about 3,000 were slain that day. 

The sons of Levi were standing with Moses against the entirety of the Hebrew camp.  Numbers were not on their side.  Popularity was certainly not on their side.  But they were on the Lord’s side, and that’s what mattered.

Will you be on the Lord’s side?  Jesus Christ is calling for you to take a stand for Him in the midst of this fallen and decaying generation of which we are a part.  It is an awful thing to answer His call…but not nearly as awful as refusing it.

Our warfare is not with flesh and blood, but rather with the selfish desires which wage war against our souls.  Be strong for Jesus.  Though the world be against us, yet we overcome through Him who loves us.

Do not side with people, even if they call themselves the people of the Lord.  Side with Him.  Eventually, everyone else will join you.

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Jeremiah 15:19

It is time for us to return to the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is past time.

As you return to the Lord, He will restore your soul in righteousness and make you to stand before Him in holiness.

If you, as a Christian leader, will separate the precious from the worthless; that is, if you will separate the Lord Himself from the church and all its trappings that smother and obscure the truth of His personal presence throughout the earth, then you will be His spokesperson.

Others may turn to you, but you must not capitulate to them.  Be strong.  Be zealous for the Lord as He has been zealous for you.

Our gospel is not about an organization or an institution, no matter how large or small; it is about a Person.  His name is Jesus.  Serve Him!

Isaiah 51:2

Like Abraham, Jesus was one when called.  Abraham was unique; Jesus was particularly unique.

Like Sarah to Abraham, the New Testament church was a bride to Christ.  As Sarah bore a child to Abraham in her old age, so the bride of Christ – in the old age of ancient Israel – birthed the kingdom of God from which would come myriad believers in manifold generations.  As Sarah suffered pain in the process, so the New Testament church endured persecution to the end…even dying in childbirth.

The story of Abraham and Sarah is a great one.  A man and a woman, both in advanced age and well past the normal time for child-bearing.  Miraculously, they give birth and from that one child comes forth nations.

Even so, the story of Christ is immeasurably greater!  He wasn’t just at an advanced age before He had a child – He had died!  Moreover, He had died unmarried!  Talk about being past the time for childbearing!  And His descendants are many more than Abraham’s.  Oh, the glory of the Lord and His works.  There is none like Him, yet the story of Abraham and Sarah (as do the rest of the stories in the Bible) gives us a way to begin to think about Him.

The New Testament Church Gave Its Life To Birth the Kingdom of God

We often think of the apostles as giving their testimony – that is, bearing witness – to what they had seen and heard of Jesus the Christ.  And we are right to do so.  We should also think, however, about those who believed them.  They, too, were bearing witness.  These New Testament believers were the jurors who believed the apostles’ testimony.  They heard the call of Jesus and responded.  For this reason we call them church, which comes from a Greek word meaning “called out.”

The apostles suffered persecution, but so did many of the New Testament believers.  Their collective witness strengthens our faith immeasurably.  We owe them all a debt.

The very documents we call the New Testament were born of the relationship between the apostles and those who believed the apostles’ testimony.  All lived for Christ at great peril to their fortunes, their honor, and their very lives.  It’s as if the New Testament pages we read were stained not just in Jesus’ blood (uniquely precious as it was) but also in the blood of the apostles and the saints they served.

This glorious New Testament church did not risk its collective life so that we could attend a worship service on Sunday instead of Saturday.  Nor did it lay down its life so that we could divide into tens of thousands of factions.  And it certainly did not lay down its life so that we could say that the kingdom’s coming which they saw as imminent has not yet occurred.  No, brothers and sisters, it did not lay down its life for any of these things.  Rather, it laid down its life to see the kingdom of God come to the earth in untold glory.  That kingdom is here now.  When we seek it and enter it, we honor their sacrifice.

Forsake the assembling of your separate Christian gatherings.  Run to the King.  And pray that those who have followed you to this point will follow you to Him.

Where is He?  He’s standing before you now.

God’s Temple in the Book of Revelation

In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the apostle John describes God’s new and eternal temple.  Unlike the first temple which had but one entry point, this temple has twelve gates.  There are three on each of the temple’s four sides, so that there is abundant access from any direction.  These twelve gates are always open – they never close.  Only repentant ones may enter, for liars remain on the outside and cannot enter.  The temple is in fact the Lord God Himself.

This is the kingdom of God in the midst of the earth in which we dwell.  His gates are always open to us, but we cannot enter with unclean tongues or hearts.  God invites us into His kingdom.  We are foolish to settle ourselves in tents outside that we call church.  What He calls His church are those who dwell in this temple, who walk in the light of the Lamb.

Those of us who preach Christ should preach the current presence of this temple for all who will believe in Him and live a life of repentance from their sins.  God forbid we should say it is only for when they die, or for a later age.  Jesus gave His life to provide it, and His followers died to tell about it, so that it might become available to all those who would be obedient to the Lord in any age thereafter.  This certainly includes us.

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The Tower of Babel

At the dawn of creation, God had commanded humanity to fill the earth and subdue it.  There were, however, those who resisted the directive and sought to build for themselves a tower that would reach to heaven.  These people did not want to be scattered.  They wanted to remain attached to each other more than they wanted to remain attached to God.  They were determined to make a name for themselves.  The Lord’s judgment was to confuse their language so that they did not understand each other.  As a result, they abandoned the building and were scattered across the earth – the very scattering they had sought to avoid.

This story speaks of the church in our age (which is actually the kingdom age).  Its leaders have sought to make a name for themselves and keep the people together – all this in spite of the fact that Jesus commissioned His followers to be salt in the earth.  Salt does its work once it is scattered and applied.  These leaders seek to keep it in the bag.  The Lord’s judgment is to confuse their language and indeed there are over 30,000 Christian church denominations.  Even within a given denomination strife and confusion is commonplace, not rare.  So the Lord scatters them.  Church splits are as common as church formations.

What is the Lord telling us?  Serve His kingdom.  Do not try to build towers to heaven, which are really just kingdoms of men.  Rather, go into all the world and live righteously, giving praise to the name of Jesus Christ.  It’s just that simple.  It is we who have complicated it.

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The Feast of Temporary Housing

Depending on which translation of the Bible you use, it may be called the Feast (or Festival) of Tabernacles…or Booths…or Shelters…or Tents…or even something else.  While the translators have had difficulty settling on a single English word, all these words speak of temporary habitation.  The Lord designed this feast to commemorate the time when He brought Israel out of the land of Egypt and just before they were to enter into the land of Canaan.  While the Passover was to celebrate Israel’s deliverance from slavery, the Feast of Booths (just to pick one of the names) was to celebrate the temporary living quarters and resources the Lord provided on the way to the promised land.

The Feast of Booths therefore represents the church age – that time described in the New Testament, when the people had been delivered from their bondage to sin and the Law and were on their way to the promised land of the kingdom of God.  Today’s church with its bricks and mortar has a hard time fitting with this motif of temporariness.  Even house churches and small groups, if they seek commitments to the group from its followers, do not fit this motif.

Though Israel, because of its unbelief and disobedience, ended up spending forty years wandering around the desert between Egypt and the promised land, it had not been God’s intention for them to spend such an extended time in this state.  Similarly, there are churches today still waiting for the kingdom of God, wandering around in the desert of unbelief.  If they believed the Lord, they would disband, for who keeps living in a tent when a mansion has been provided for him?

The kingdom of God came exactly when Jesus, His apostles, and Israel’s prophets said it would come – at the end of the New Testament age (to use our terminology).  Thus the kingdom of God is in our midst now.  We don’t need to live in temporary shelters because the eternal temple of the kingdom of God is our designated habitation.  We enter the kingdom of God not by joining any group of people but rather by joining God – living before Him with an honest heart and an open ear.

The New Testament church stood up to the leaders of the nation of Israel and declared that something greater than Israel’s temple was present.  That same New Testament church would be the first to stand up today and say that the kingdom of God, which came after them, was greater than the spiritual structure that housed them.  That the church was a Feast of Booths preceeding the great and eternal promised land of the kingdom of God was a glory to Peter, John, Paul, Stephen, and all the rest.  That we would seek temporary shelter when permanent shelter has been provided for us at the cost of blood is a shame.

We are depriving people of God’s sanctuary if we are directing them to church instead of the kingdom of God.

Come to Our Church…or Go To the Lord?

I see signs everywhere, “Come to our church!”  Shouldn’t they be telling people, “Go to the Lord” instead?

People can come to church without repenting, but they cannot go to Him without repenting.  (And you know they need to repent!)

They can come to church without knowing Him, but they cannot go to Him without knowing Him.

They can come to church, fake it, and ignore Him the whole time, but they cannot go to Him and do these things.

They can come to church without getting cleansed, but they cannot go to Him without getting cleansed.

We have perverted the gospel message if are telling people to come to church instead of telling them to go to the Lord.

Why do you point people to broken cisterns which can hold no water and don’t point them to one and only fountain of living waters?

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2 Corinthians 4:5

Do you preach yourself instead of the Lord?  That is, do you preach your church or your ministry instead of the Lord’s?

Many today are preaching themselves instead of the Lord.  They seek followers for themselves.  They read their rankings to see how many sheep they have compared to others.

Oh, they will surely say that they seek disciples for the Lord but their actions indicate that they are interested in disciples for themselves.

If you truly seek followers for the Lord and not yourself you will not need to gather contact information because the Lord already knows where people are.  He simply wants them to turn to Him.  People can do this without joining your group.

Preach Jesus.  The people need His ministry.

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Saul Should Have Waited for Samuel

Samuel made an appointment to meet King Saul in Gilgal within a specified time period.  However, when the Israelites began scattering from him, Saul decided to go ahead and offer the sacrifice himself lest the people continue to abandon him.  As priest, Samuel was the appropriate person to offer the sacrifice.  The Lord was displeased with Saul’s cowardice and arrogance, and so He decided to replace him as king.

Similarly, some of the shepherds of God’s flock in the late first century A.D. grew weary of waiting on the Lord’s return and sought to prevent the scattering of the flocks upon which they had come to depend.  As a result, they took upon themselves activities which were rightfully only the Lord’s.  Thus they displeased the Lord and did not inherit the kingdom when it came.  Rather, they were relegated to overseeing the sheep who clung to them.  Their house was desolate, though they have handed it down from generation to generation.  The sheep who would follow only the Lord’s voice heard it when He came and walked away in peace with Him.  His sheep still walk with Him today.  Sometimes the sheep and goats are side by side, but the Lord has no problem distinguishing them.

When the Lord said that He would return before the entirety of His generation had passed away, all of His shepherds should have believed Him – though not all did.  And certainly all of us today should believe that He performed what He promised when He promised it – though not all will.  The Lord invites you to be among those who will believe.

GICNAT

Let His People Go!

The Israelites had become slaves in Egypt, assigned to the construction projects of Egypt’s king.  Moses came to Pharoah on behalf of the Lord and demanded, “Let My people go so that they might celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.”

Even so, the Holy Spirit today speaks on behalf of the Lord to all church leaders and commands them to let God’s people go that His people might celebrate a feast to Him in the wilderness.  What is today’s analogue to the wilderness?  Elsewhere.  That is, away from the rituals of church and into the course of daily living where the Lord longs to see righteousness.

God’s idea of worship is not a praise band or an organ.  Rather, it is a heart enthralled with Him.  God’s idea of teaching is not a sermon by a human to a congregation.  Rather, it is the Lord Himself sharing His thoughts with a quiet human heart.  God’s idea of service is not an hour up and down in a chair or pew.  Rather, it is every act of life performed as a loving sacrifice to the One who has given life to us all.

Pharoah did not want to let God’s people go because he had construction projects to complete.  Forsake your construction projects and free God’s people to worship and serve Him.  This is the kingdom of God – and the church of the New Testament gave its life that we might receive this glorious kingdom!

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The Golden Calf of Church

When the Israelites saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain where he was receiving the Ten Commandments, they gathered about Aaron saying, “Make us a god who will go before us for we do not know what has become of Moses.”  Aaron took their gold and made from it a calf for them to worship saying, “This is the god who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”

Similarly, in the last days of the apostles, believers grew weary of believing in the Lord’s return.  They turned to their leaders, also weak in faith, who received offerings and built the man-made church we see today.

That is, as Aaron made a golden calf for the Israelites, so the generation of leaders after the apostles established a permanent man-made church.  The apostles had said that the Lord would soon be coming in His kingdom and therefore had no reason to give instructions about how the church was to operate from generation to generation.  In fact, not only did they make no provision for the management of the church through successive generations (that would have been to doubt the Lord’s return), they specifically said that apostasy would mar the church in its very last days.  Thus the vulnerability to the error of Aaron.

Jesus intended the church to be a temporary structure which anticipated the kingdom of God.  There is indeed a permanent church – yea, an eternal one!  Its rolls, however, are invisible to the human eye for it consists of all those whose hearts truly belong to the Great Shepherd.  This is the kingdom of heaven and it quietly rules in the earth today.

In every generation there are those who worship the golden calf, and there are those who worship the living God.  Let us be among those who seek first the kingdom of the living God and His righteousness, casting aside every idol.

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GICNAT

Raise Up Offspring to Your Brother

Do you try to make disciples for your church – or do you try to make disciples for Jesus Christ?  If they’re your disciples, they sit before you.  If they’re His disciples, they sit before Him.  That’s a big difference.

Judah commanded Onan to raise up offspring to his fallen brother, but Onan was unwilling because he knew the offspring would not be his.  Do you preach Christ so as to make people go away praising Him, or to come back to you week after week?  That’s a big difference.

Paul had warned that after his departure from the region of Ephesus even some of the very church leaders to whom he was speaking would seek to draw away the disciples after themselves.  They did, and even to this day church leaders are seeking to draw disciples unto themselves.

“We travel over land and sea to make one proselyte, and when we do…”

We should only seek to make disciples for Him.  If we succeed, they will pray to Him – not come to our meetings.

Ask the Lord to forgive us for seeking disciples for ourselves.  And send the sheep His way as fast as you can for He has longed to hold them.

 

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Sitting at the Gates of the Kingdom of God

Multitudes are taught by today’s church leaders to sit at the gates of the kingdom of God.  Not intentionally, of course.  But when Lord bids us to seek His kingdom, and we do not teach the people how to enter, then we have effectively made them wait outside.

How does one enter the kingdom of God?  By living righteously…from the heart…in the light of Jesus our Lord.

By urging people to enter church instead of entering the kingdom, we do a disservice to them and we dishonor ourselves.  We’ve made them beggars when they were predestined to be children of the King, walking in His courts and basking in His presence daily.

Yet the Lord is able to bring them in even after all this.  Declare the glory of Jesus Christ.  Sing Him your praise.  Let the people and all the world hear your praise of His greatness and His majesty.  Let His house be full!

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The Problem with Organized Religion

The problem with organized religion is the organizers – they’re not God.  They’re human.  This is a problem because it means this religion is not being managed by God.

The participants in organized religion are not the problem.  They are just trying to learn how to serve God.  It’s the organizers who need to change.

While there are a few charlatans, most organizers of organized religion mean well.  And the organization is, to a large degree, simply passed down from one generation to another.  People mindlessly accept that the status quo, especially if it’s been passed down through generations, must be God’s plan.  The Scriptures reveal otherwise.

The Bible is full of promises from God that cover life and godliness.  The Scriptures are profitable for teaching and training in righteousness.  But there’s no section to which you may go which gives God’s instructions for how to manage a church.  Oh, yes, many churches or denominations will claim this or that scripture as their charter, but it doesn’t lead to any consistent pattern of church governance because they each choose different verses.

The reason for the Bible’s silence on this subject is that the Lord Himself is managing His church.  The man-made churches of organized religion are of no interest to God.  He cares intensely for the people in them, including their leaders.  But the structure itself is an obstacle to Him.  It distracts the members from focusing on Him and on His commands for righteous living.

Organized religion would serve God better if it quit trying to organize people for Him.  Rather, its leaders should proclaim the excellencies of God and let Him direct the people however He will.

If all the shepherds of organized religion were to release their flocks to the great Shepherd of the sheep, the factions of the body of Christ would fall away and the world would see Jesus with far greater clarity than they do now.

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Circling the Desert Instead of Entering the Promised Land

Like the Israelites who circled the desert in unbelief, today’s churches survive on manna but do not experience the milk and honey of the land of Canaan.  Each generation has its opportunity to enter the promised land of the kingdom of God.  Will our generation enter, or will we continue going around in circles?

If we are to go in, we must follow our Joshua (i.e. Jesus).  And we do not enter as a group, but rather individually.  Follow Jesus – He will take you there.

Church-Building Is Idolatry

The apostles left no instruction for how the church was to be organized after they all died.  The reason for this was that they expected the Lord to return before they all died.  Therefore, they only had to give instructions to the church of their generation.  After that, the Lord would have arrived in His kingdom and He would give whatever direction was required.  Indeed, that’s just the way it has happened.  The kingdom of God has come.  Jesus is reigning on His throne and shepherding His flock.  He has separated the sheep from the goats and He is not confused about which is which.

Meanwhile, weak humans, lacking the faith to accept these things, have sought to build Him churches.  Peter before them had tried to build a tabernacle for the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration.  The usual blueprints are the New Testament documents.  The problem is that no church has ever successfully imitated the New Testament church – much less surpassed it.  The reason for all the failure is that the New Testament church was a tent of waiting for the indestructible temple of the kingdom of God that would be descending from heaven.  Since that temple came very soon after the apostle John in the book of Revelation said it would come very soon, it has been in our midst sheltering all who love Jesus Christ with an undivided heart.  God doesn’t need the structure of the church because He has the structure of the kingdom.

This same apostle John warned us to guard ourselves from idols.  Man-made churches are idols for they distract from devotion to the living God.  Like the idols of old, they are objects of our making to which we become devoted.  They are like the high places in Israel, or the houses of Baal (meaning “lord”).  How can we establish such places of worship in the light of what  Jesus said to the Samaritan woman about places of worship?

Jesus Christ is everywhere and He wants to be worshiped everywhere.  He wants no representation of Himself to stand between us.  He wants no house made with human hands whether that be a cathedral building, a megachurch congregation, or a house church small group.  He doesn’t want families to come to one of these places and offer rituals in His name.  Rather, He wants the husband to love the wife, the wife to love the husband, the parents to love the children, and the children to honor the parents.  In other words, He wants righteousness.

We the leaders have tried to draw the people to ourselves when we should have been directing them to Him.

Our idols inspire rituals.  The living God inspires righteousness.

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Cisterns

Speaking for the Lord, Jeremiah said that God’s people had forsaken Him who was a fountain of living waters.  As if that wasn’t enough, they had hewn for themselves broken cisterns which could hold no water.  Their foolishness was staggering.  In a land where water was precious, they had turned away from a never-ending source of fresh water.  Then, and this was even more stunning, they had dug cisterns for themselves to hold rainwater – only the cisterns were broken and thus did not even work!

Likewise, we have forsaken the Lord.  Moreover, we have built for ourselves church after church – which can hold no water.  Oh, our hopes are always high when the new church starts.  But that hope always dries up as human frailties become manifest in the life of the congregation.  In the end, it is a gathering of human beings like any other – with no evidence of distinctively Divine blessing.

Let us forget about hewing cisterns – for our man-made cisterns are always broken.  Instead, let us seek the cisterns of the promised land.  Moses said they would be hewn cisterns which we did not dig.  That is, these are cisterns of the Lord’s own making.  These are hearts that have been circumcised by Him.  From the innermost part of each cistern shall flow rivers of living water.  This is the promised Holy Spirit in the heart of every believer.

Spiritual cisterns can be man-made or God-made.  One kind is useless; the other is dependable beyond measure.

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New Wineskins

Jesus pointed out that people did not put new wine into old wineskins because the old wineskins would burst, and the wine would be wasted.  Rather, people put new wine into fresh wineskins so that both the wine and the wineskin would be preserved.

Similarly, fresh outpourings of God’s grace will not be put into the structures of organized religion.  They cannot contain it, and will burst.  Rather, this grace will be poured into human hearts whose only organization consists of their individual connections to God.

This is the kingdom of God.  Since the New Testament, no church has been able to contain God’s grace.  All have burst.

New wine demands new wineskins.  Let God pour His grace where He will.  He who made the wine has also made the wineskin.

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Hebrews 10:25

Well, here it is: the only verse in the entire New Testament that even comes close to being  a commandment from God to attend church.  We trot it out whenever attendance falls off, hoping no one ever asks for more corroboration because we know there’s no more there.  People hardly ever do, so we skate by on that one verse.

Unfortunately for those who would like to enforce church attendance, “the day” has already come and so the admonition no longer applies.  (See the Introduction of A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom for posts that make this clear.)

Let’s leave aside for the moment, however, the issue of the coming of the day of the Lord.  Even apart from that issue, it is hypocritical of us to announce this scripture as a summons to Sunday worship services at the local church because we do not even obey it ourselves.  Here’s why: The scripture says that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.  We never do it together; we always do it separately.  In any given city, even in small ones, there is a Baptist gathering, a Methodist gathering, a Presbyterian gathering, a Roman Catholic gathering, a Greek Orthodox gathering, a non-denominational gathering, and on and on – sometimes right across the street from each other!

The New Testament church did not divide up this way.  When the first sign of fissures began to show, Paul rebuked them strongly (1 Corinthians 1-3).  There was one church per city.  Has this even been tried in our day?  Yes…and to much failure.  What then are we to do?  Acknowledge that the day of the  Lord – the kingdom of God – has come.  Thus we should seek the Lord, seek His kingdom – not try to build houses named Ichabod.

At the very least, let us admit that Hebrews 10:25 is not a call to church attendance, but rather an indictment of our disobedience to the Lord who called us to be one.  Thus, the Bible verse that is most often used to compel church attendance actually condemns it in our day.

I do not fault the sheep for they merely want to know more about Jesus.  We shepherds, however, should know better.  We have been wrong to make the sheep choose among us.  We should not be calling the sheep to ourselves but rather directing them to Him who is their true Shepherd.

2 Corinthians 11:2

Paul knew  that the bride (i.e., those who believed in Christ) was betrothed to Christ alone.  Paul was zealous that no man – not even if he was an apostle – be allowed to lay claim to her.  The bride was to be kept pure for Him who was to come. 

Even so, we must see that the bride in every generation is treated just as respectfully.  No one else can lay claim to her.  And we certainly are not to dismember her.  Yet that is what we have attempted to do.  We have torn her limb from limb and given her pieces to every willing ruler.  We have treated her like the concubine in Judges.  There are over thirty thousand pieces (denominations) and counting.

Yet the Lord knows those who are His and He has kept them.

The prohibition against adultery was important enough to be among the ten commandments.  Thus, the metaphor of bride was intended to communicate something sacred and unique to all who would serve the Lord and His bride.

We who serve are merely attendants to the bridegroom.  The bride is His.

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The Church Is the Lord’s, and the Fullness Thereof

The Lord reigns over His church.  I don’t mean the visible churches which you can see.  The church you can see is divided into over thirty thousand different bodies (called denominations).  I mean the church you cannot see.

The Lord reigns over those hearts that are truly His.  He knows who loves Him.  He knows who calls on Him in sincerity and truth.  He feeds them hidden manna.  With strengthened hearts, they do His will.

He is a good Shepherd and there is not a single sheep lost from His flock.  Do not fret about the Lord’s flock, for He is tending it.  Instead, speak boldly of Him.  Speak of His righteousness, speak of His judgments, speak of His love, speak of His holy presence in every human situation.

Let us not think even for a moment that a single sheep is ours.  The fullness is His.

The Curse of Churchianity

Christians use the epithet “churchianity” when they want to express their dismay about church programs and activities detracting from Jesus Himself.  Their indignation is just.  They know that the Light of the world should not be obscured by human institutions – yet He often is.

If churchianity is a blight on true Christianity, why then don’t we abandon it?  Probably because too many people have a vested interest in maintaining it.

What if, however, we didn’t just hack away at the leaves of churchianity, but went instead for its roots?  Indeed, like a noxious weed it keeps coming back no matter how much we trim it.  Let us cut away its taproot – which is the man-made church.  Let the flower of Christ grow among us.  He will tend His vine; He will build His church.  That is, trust Him who is invisible to build His invisible church in our midst.

Let us not try to steady God’s ark as Uzzah did.

Declare the reality of Jesus.  That is, preach Christ and let Him do the rest.  You know churchianity is cursed and it has brought trouble on every good work you have ever done for God.

Stop trying to organize people for God.  Stop trying to get them to belong to you and your group.  Instead, tell them to repent and turn to God.  Then He will direct them as He will.  If they listen, they won’t be part of your church; they’ll be part of His.

Flee churchianity and pursue Christ.

Obsolete Structures

Bible history reveals that when God does a new thing, the previous structure is made obsolete.  For example, when Moses’s tabernacle came, the primitive altars were done away.  When Solomon’s temple came, the tabernacle remained but a memory.  When the church came in New Testament times, God allowed the temple to be destroyed by the Romans.  And when the kingdom of God came, the church was no longer needed. 

The kingdom of God came just when the Scriptures said it would: before the generation of Jesus’ contemporaries had completely passed away.  For more on this, see The Kingdom of God Is Here and Now  and Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again

Ever since that time, the church has belonged to Jesus.  He came for His bride just as the prophets and apostles had said He would.  The church invisible, therefore, is the only one that matters today.  We should not waste time tending to man-made churches.  The Second Coming revealed Jesus to be God and He is therefore omnipresent.  He does not need tabernacles made with human hands. 

When God does a new thing, it is vain to pursue the obsolescent structure.  God’s eternal new thing is His kingdom.  Let’s seek it (Matthew 6:33).

For more, see Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church .

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A Saving Knowledge of Jesus Christ

What is a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

Is it a transaction that occurs in time in which a person, through the Holy Spirit, becomes aware of who Jesus is, and then sincerely declares loyalty to Him as Lord – a transaction upon which the person may look back as the day of personal salvation?

Or is it an ongoing awareness, through the Holy Spirit, of Jesus’ omnipresence as Lord, accompanied by reverent behavior in light of that presence – a never-ending day of personal salvation?

To put it more compactly, does “a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ” refer to a point in time, or a continuing awareness?

The former cannot save from sin, for we have seen many who have had that transaction subsequently fall in spite of it.  The latter always saves from sin, for the Lord vanquishes evil with His eyes (Proverbs 20:8).

Continual awareness of the Lord is the knowledge that saves from sin.

See also:  Practicing the Presence of God 

                   Everyone Is Going to Heaven 

                   Walking in the Spirit and Not in the Flesh 

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Worship Services?

I saw a sign noting the times for worship services at a church.  Why do we use these terms as if these meetings were service to God.  This is not the kind of service God desires. 

Romans 12:1-2 makes it clear that the service of worship that God desires is a life lived in holy sacrifice to Him.  Therefore, service to God is laying down our lives for those around us, especially for the least of His brethren.

When we have these meetings and call them “worship services” we deprive the sheep of knowing and understanding the true worship service God desires.  If we really wanted them to worship Him, we would tell them about Jesus and then send them out to worship the rest of the week…by loving their spouse, caring for their children, serving their employer, helping the poor, and so on.

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If He Can Revive You, He Can Revive Them More Easily

Do you long to see others become zealous for Christ?  Does your heart ache to see the people you lead become more devoted to righteous living? 

The surest and quickest way to revival in the people you lead is to have revival in your own heart and life.  If you would have others around you become more alive, become even more alive yourself first.  Ask God to turn the fullness of His light on you, so that others may be brightened by its reflection.

If you want others to be revived while you stay as you are, it is a much harder road.

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Why Revival Tarries

Why do we not see revival even though many claim to pray for it?  Surely one reason that is many of those seeking revival are not seeking souls for God as much as they are seeking members for their church.

Genuine revival would mean that people are seeking God, repenting of their sins, and laying down their lives for those around them.  Marriages would be strengthened and families would be restored.  None of this correlates with church attendance.  If it did, then righteousness would grow as churches grow.  But everyone knows it does not.

If you truly seek revival, pray that eyes would be opened to God and that people would turn to Him in love and humility – that people would live fully for God their Creator.  It is not a relationship with us that will save them; it is a relationship with Him.

Are You Neglecting Christ?

How many things are you doing in your ministry that have little or nothing to do with Christ?

He is our reason for being.  He was our beginning and He will be our end.  Where is He in your life today?

Like Martha we stew and fret, pursuing many works in the hope of pleasing Him.  Mary, sitting quietly at His feet and listening to His word, had it right.

Is Paul not a model for us?  If for him Christ was life itself (Philippians 1:21), why are our lives filled with so many things other than Christ?

I am not saying that you are neglecting Christ.  I am asking you to ask Him if you are.

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“Fully Devoted Followers of Christ?”

Many churches today have embraced the mission of “turning irreligious people into full devoted followers of Christ.”  As mission statements go, it is a particularly fine one.  It’s succinct and well-constructed.  Moreover, it reminds one of how Jesus declared His own mission by saying that He did not come to call the righteous, but rather sinners to repentance.  The problem is that while these two mission statements sound similar on the surface, they are actually very different…and when pursued, produce very different outcomes.

Jesus’ statement speaks for itself so I won’t elaborate on it.  The modern-day church mission statement, however, is synonymous with “turn nonchurchgoers into churchgoers.”  This is a very different mission than the one Jesus declared.   

Churchgoers are no more righteous than nonchurchgoers.  Statistical research as well as your own personal experience bears this out.  At best, going to church makes one a “hearer of the word.”  Hearing the word, however, is no substitute for doing the word.  The primary problem with society today is not that it has not heard the word, but rather that it does not do the word that it has heard.  If society is not doing the word it has heard and the churches are not doing the word they have heard, what good is churchgoing?

We have thought that church attendance was either something God commanded, or that it was a preliminary necessity to keeping God’s commands.  The truth is that it is neither.  Making people into churchgoers is a distraction to making them into righteous people.  If someone truly becomes a “fully devoted follower of Christ” he or she will be following Christ – not church. 

For a nonchurchgoer to become a churchgoer requires no repentance.  For a sinner to become righteous cannot be accomplished without repentance.  Let’s stop leading people to church and instead lead them to Christ, making sure that they know that repentance is the means to accomplish this transformation.

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Where to Start?

Blog for the Lord Jesus exists to draw attention to the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God – our Lord Jesus Christ.

We who speak in His name are to draw attention to Him, not ourselves – just as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:5.  God is revealing today that the pathway to revival, to a great awakening, is to return to Him from whom we have deeply defected – that is, return to our first love:  Jesus.

Through centuries of tradition upon tradition, we have lost sight of Him who released us from our sins by His blood.  We have been caught up in building all sorts of tabernacles for Him.  Not only does He not need these tabernacles, they obscure His light.  We have unwittingly made our traditions more important than the commandments of God.  It is time that we repent.  And if we as Christian leaders repent, we have reason to hope that those who listen to us will repent as well.  And thus we can have the revival, the awakening, that we so desire and that He so deserves.

Then our hearts will thrill because we will see the bountiful harvest for which we have labored.  Then we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  But even if they do not believe us, we will know that we have obeyed Him.  And that is enough for us.  For this is our relationship with God: that we love Him and keep His commandments.

Now is the time to go back to His light and let it shine in all its glory.  Declare the omnipresent Jesus.  Declare the One who will answer to whoever calls on His name in sincerity and truth.  Declare the One who stands triumphant over death, ruling the heavens and the earth:  Jesus Christ, Savior of the world.