Preach Dependence on God and Independence from People

Through the practice of church today, people are taught to be dependent on each other, making them independent of God.

The church and its ministers present themselves as God’s intermediaries, calling themselves the body of Christ.  Then they tell new believers that association with church is a must: “One must not be separated from the body of Christ.”  Such practices inculcate not the fear of God but rather the fear of man.  Besides that, the churches are not even connected to each other – there are thousands of denominations, each claiming legitimacy but not granting it to all the others.  Are they not being hypocritical when they then tell others not to be separated from the body of Christ?

If you teach someone to depend on other believers, you doom him to disappointment.  God, on the other hand, never lies.

If you would preach Christ and see Him glorified, declare His sufficiency to every new believer.  Stress that God will be the new believer’s “all in all.”  Emphasize that “the arm of flesh” will fail us; only God’s arm is strong enough to save.

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Where Do You Worship?

Where do you worship and where do you tell others to worship?

In His dialogue with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar, didn’t Jesus make clear that He was forever eliminating physical location as an aspect of worship?  Why then do we have “places of worship?” 

And didn’t the apostle Paul make clear that living a life of sacrifice to God is what constitutes the kind of worship Jesus was defining?  Why then do we organize, lead, or attend “worship services?”

Have we not nullified the word of God with our traditions?

God have mercy on us.  Let us repent, and worship Him as He wishes.

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How Do We Promote the Word of God?

We who speak in the name of Christ promote the word of God by continually emphasizing the fact that God speaks.  As the living God, He is not mute like an idol.  He is “the Word.”

He speaks through the Scriptures.  He speaks through creation.  Most importantly, He speaks by His Holy Spirit to human hearts. 

We must not peddle the word of God (2 Cor 2:17).  We must not adulterate the word of God (2 Cor 4:2). 

Our whole purpose in declaring the word of God is to make known to people that He is speaking to them directly, apart from us.

Thus, we must tell people not to look to our word for direction in their lives – they must look to His word.

We must insist to them that they can hear Him without having to listen to us. 

We must be silent when it’s time for them to listen to Him.

Preach Jesus Christ.  Tell people to listen to Him!

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Do You Warn People About God’s Judgments?

We are all being judged by the God who loves us.  And those of us who speak in the name of Christ come under even stricter judgment. 

It is an awesome and fearful thing to recognize that every thought, every word that comes out of our mouths is subject to the judgment of an almighty and holy God.

We have no right to be cavalier about these things.  It is not even in our interest to regard them lightly.

Not only must we keep our own way pure, we must not shrink from declaring to those who listen to us the necessity of their repenting of their sins, too.  Even though everyone is going to heaven, our behavior still matters very much.  If you have not warned sinners, ask for His forgiveness.

Let us ask Him to guard our hearts and watch our thoughts that we might not sin against Him.  And all the more so since we speak to others in His name.

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Do You Study the Words of Jesus?

Do you study the Sermon on the Mount?  Do you teach it?

What do you make of Matthew 7:13-14 in particular?

Are Jesus’ words an important part of what you study, live, and teach?

We are true disciples of Jesus only when His words are more precious to us than our own thoughts (Isaiah 55:6-11 and John 8:31-32).

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Daniel 12:3 – Leading the Many to Righteousness

Do you lead people to righteousness – or do you lead them to your church?

Do you lead people to righteousness – or do you lead them to your programs?

Do you lead people to righteousness – or do you lead them to be faithful churchgoers and supporters of your ministry?

Some of you will say that your churches and your programs and your ministries will lead people to righteousness, but in your hearts you know better.  Your people suffer from the same sins as society in general.  That’s actually because you’ve made them your people instead of letting them be the Lord’s.  You can’t cleanse them; He can.  Your presence can’t protect them; His will.

Put away your man-made religion and lead the people to righteousness.  Lead them to faith in an omnipresent Jesus.

If You Believe People Are Going to Hell, Why Do You Spend Time on Anything Else?

If you honestly believe that some people are going to hell when they die, why would you preach or work on any other subject?  What on earth could be as important as spending an eternity in physical torment and away from the presence of God?

I don’t believe anyone is going to hell when they die.  I believe that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant word of God and that it teaches that everyone is going to heaven.  Therefore, I don’t agree with those preachers (and there aren’t very many of them these days) who preach nothing but warnings for people to repent lest they go to hell.  (I agree with them, by the way, that we should all repent, but I don’t believe that eternity in hell is the penalty for not repenting.)  Nevertheless, I respect these preachers much more than those who preach about “Five ways to get a better job,” or “Three steps to self-esteem,” or “Tithing will help your finances,” while holding to a statement of faith that says some people are going to hell.  The former group of preachers is acting consistent with their belief; the latter is not.

I say again: if you really believe that people are going to hell, shame on you if you work on anything other than warning people about that outcome 365 days a year.  But if you don’t constantly warn people about that outcome, you have no moral right to say you hold the belief.

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How Did the Dead Get From Sheol to Heaven?

If you know your Old Testament, you know that the dead always went down to Sheol.  You also know that the Greeks called this underworld Hades; thus, the Septuagint renders Sheol as Hades, and the New Testament follows suit. 

When did people stop going down to Sheol and start going up to heaven? 

The answer is when Jesus came again (i.e. in the coming of the kingdom of God) which occurred sometime in the late 1st Century A.D.  He brought in a new heavens and a new earth in which there is no sea (for the sea gave up its dead).  This had been prophesied by Isaiah long before, but it was prophesied again just before its occurrence by the book of Revelation.  We therefore now live in that new heavens and new earth in which the righteousness of the kingdom dwells.  People go up to heaven when they die for there is no longer a destination below.

If you do not believe that the last trumpet has sounded (1 Cor 15), and that the dead do indeed go to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess 4), then you must believe that the dead still all descend to Sheol, and therefore that death still has its sting.  I urge you to reconsider.

For a longer post on this subject, see Everyone Is Going to Heaven 

For those who would like a fuller explanation from the Bible that everyone is going to heaven, I am posting online a book:  The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.

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Isaiah 2:3

What do you teach about this verse?  How do we “go up” to the house of the Lord.?

I have heard it taught as a call to church attendance but you probably know that is off base.  For one thing, the verse speaks of “house” not “houses” of the Lord.

This house of the Lord is none other than the heavenly Jerusalem where our Lord dwells in glory.  The transportation we take to get there is not automobile but rather faith.

This verse is obviously a summons to worship.  I hope you have been using it as a summons to worship the Lord on His holy hill.  What use do the people have for our ant hills when they have the mighty and majestic mountain of the Lord before them?  What use do they have of our sermons when they can hear from the great Teacher themselves if they will but listen by faith in their conscience?

Yes, indeed, this is a divine summons to worship.  Let us sound it with all of our hearts.  We who speak for Christ on earth are His trumpets, blasting forth the call that the King is seated on His throne and will dispense wisdom to all His subjects who approach Him in humility and with a view to doing what is right.

Mark 4:33-34

Jesus explains everything privately to His own disciples.  This is the hidden manna.  This is the table He prepares in the midst of our enemies.

Are you a disciple of Jesus?  Does he explain things privately to you?

What about your disciples?  Do you tell them that Jesus will explain Himself privately in their hearts – or do you retain the role of explainer for yourself?

People do not need us as teachers because every person can have Him as Teacher.  Let’s proclaim Jesus Christ and His instruction, for it is far more edifying than ours – no matter how well-intentioned we are.

The apostles did not try to explain His teaching as much as they explained who He was so that people could listen for His teaching.  We are not better than the apostles, are we?

Revelation 14:6 (The Eternal Gospel)

What is the eternal gospel?  It is the gospel we preach: that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to faithful men and women who bore witness to this truth with their mouths, with their pens, and with their lives.  It is the gospel of the Son of God, the gospel of the Messiah of Israel, and the gospel of the kingdom of God.  This gospel was declared by Jesus Himself, and it had been preliminarily declared by his cousin John the Baptist. 

The kingdom is eternal and it is here.  Therefore, we shall always be declaring the kingdom of heaven on earth.  Those who walk in truth and righteousness are those who see and seek the kingdom.  The good news never ends.

The eternal gospel is that all men shall be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  The eternal gospel is that God has fulfilled all prophecy in the coming of His kingdom.  Not a jot or tittle remains unfulfilled.  The eternal gospel is that Jesus Christ came again, just as He promised, just when He promised.  The eternal gospel is that we may be saved from the judgment and wrath brought on by our sins by walking in faith and obedience to Jesus Christ.

The eternal gospel has nothing to do with regularly attending church, church programs, sacraments, church growth, or anything of the kind.  These things obstruct access to the kingdom of God because they divert attention from the omnipresent Jesus, and there is no good news in them.

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The Heavens Are Telling of the Glory of God

These words from Psalm 19 have often been used to evoke awe for God’s hand in the work of creation.  And, indeed, His work is worthy of all such awe.

There is, however, a greater meaning to which the words refer – that is, the glory of the heavens to which Jesus ascended after His resurrection.  At that point, the heavens began declaring the glory of God in a whole new way.  The seed of the woman, who had been bruised on the heel, had overcome the seed of the serpent and was now sitting at the right hand of Power.

That was nothing, however, when compared to the shouting and praise that occurred when he who had the power of death was cast down and the sea gave up her dead to the heavens.  Then Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the dead in Christ were raised to be seated at His table in the kingdom of God.  So great were those shouts of praise that they’re still resounding today.

Yes, the heavens are declaring the glory of God with a passion, clarity, and brilliance that is even greater than the physical skies we see.

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Matthew 20:1-16

When you get to heaven, will you be dismayed to learn that everyone goes to heaven? 

Will you complain to the Lord that you have labored in faith through the difficulties of life and that it’s not fair for unbelievers to get into heaven?

Will you be dismayed that the Lord is so generous?

I hope not.  I hope that you will be thrilled that not one sheep was lost, that everyone we wanted to be saved actually was.

But you don’t have to wait until you get to heaven to find out this good news.  Read Everyone Is Going to Heaven and search the Scriptures to see that it is so.

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John 12:32

Are you lifting up the Lord Jesus, or are you lifting up your own ministry?

He said that if He was lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself.  Why then are you seeking to draw people to your church or ministry?

Let us all lift up the Lord Jesus Christ alone that He may draw everyone  to Himself.  If their hearts are drawn toward Him, their hearts will be drawn toward heaven for that is where He is.  Then they will cease to set their minds on earthly things – things that lead only to destruction.

Cease building your individual kingdoms and lift up the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior – that He might draw all men to Himself and His kingdom.

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Candles and Candlesnuffers

The Lord lights candles; the churches snuff them out.

A candlesnuffer covers the flame and deprives it of oxygen, thus quenching it.  Churches seek to give covering to believers, depriving them of the oxygen of faith in the process.  Perhaps not all churches do this; certainly some are far more authoritarian than others.  Yet any church that tells a believer that church attendance is a commandment of God has begun the smothering process.  There is no such commandment.

When churches preach Jesus, they light candles.  When they seek members, they snuff them.  Oh, that churches would drop their efforts to attract and retain members and give all their attention to making Jesus known.  Alas, they’re more concerned with self-preservation than with proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.

Even a dimly burning wick, God will not extinguish.  He desires every human being to be a candle of the Lord.  If only the candlesnuffers could be removed, how bright a light in this dark world might His candles be!

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I Am But a Little Child

I am not as rich or as powerful or as wise as Solomon, and I am certainly not a king.  But we have a wisdom that even Solomon himself did not have.  We have the resurrected Son of David! 

Jesus Christ has become unto us wisdom from God.  We have no wisdom of ourselves – at least I don’t.  Knowing and revering Him is the only wisdom I have…but it’s more than enough.

Do I write this blog because I think I’m smart?  No.  Do I write it because I think I’m better than anyone else?  No.  How can I write some things so boldly?  Because they are simple truths that the Lord has revealed.  Woe to me if I do not make them known.

Solomon included in his prayer for wisdom the acknowledgement, “I am but a little child.”  Jesus said we should become as children if we want to inherit the kingdom.  I have found this quest liberating.  That’s why I heartily invite you to join it.  If you’ve already attained it, then be patient with me and I may eventually catch up with you.

Again, my declarations are not born of my intelligence (I’m not that smart); they are born of His truth…which is made available to all of us.

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Matthew 23:10

I call you “Christian Leaders” on this blog because this is what the world calls you, and it’s what you call yourselves.  It’s obvious from this verse, however, that there is only one leader of the people of God – our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

Why then do we wiggle around this verse, ignoring its obvious direction?

We should throw down our leadership roles and spend our lives praising Him.  If we did, men would turn to Him.  As it is, however, we keep trying to turn them to our leadership.  This negates His.  Tragedy!

Jesus Christ is the sole leader of the people of God.  He is not their chief leader – He is their sole leader.

Stop trying to be a Christian leader and go back to being Christ’s follower.  Therein is salvation – not just for you, but for those who listen to you.

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John 4:42

Do you long for the day when your followers come and tell you that they no longer need you because they have established a relationship with Jesus Himself?

If not, let me ask you this:  Did Jesus die on the cross so that His people could have a relationship with you…or with Him? 

Alas, a precious soul finally turns to God and prays to Him in sincere faith.  Then we smother that person with literature and instructions for church and classes, conscripting them into the purpose of sustaining and growing our organizations.  My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

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Do You Know Who Stands Among Us?

John the Baptist sought to help Israel recognize its Messiah.  They could see Him, but many did not recognize Him.

The same is true today.  Among you stands one whom many of you do not recognize.  Yes, there are many of you – including the Christian leaders among you – who do not recognize that Jesus Christ is fully present in the earth today.  He has taken His stand on the earth as God Almighty and He will be standing this way for all eternity.  The heavens are His throne and the earth is His footstool. 

If you are looking for Him in the flesh, you are missing Him.  Indeed, we once knew Him in the flesh, but we know Him thus no longer ( 2 Corinthians 5:16). 

If the Lord Jesus Christ is fully present and filling the heavens and the earth, why do we act one way at church and another way elsewhere?  And why do you so reverently acknowledge the Lord’s presence in your church services but in few other places?

Let us put away our idols and know Him who stands among us.

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Give the People Back Their Time

Church activities demand time from time-starved people.  Most of the people who come to your church are busy.  Getting them involved in church programs just makes them busier.   When will they have time to simply wait upon the Lord?  When will they be able to meditate on His presence and His word?

Since you and I speak in the name of Christ, we should be trying to help them find Him – not make it harder.  How can we tell them to spend time with the Lord and then in the same breath demand that they spend time with our programs and ministries?  We’re suffocating them. 

Tell the people that they don’t have to spend time in your services or programs and to use that time to spend with God.  If they do it, they will hear from Him and be blessed.  And you can feel good about that.

Yes, you might lose your church in the process – but Jesus will be gaining His.  And you can feel good about that, too.

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Let God’s People Serve Him

You invite people to your church and try to get them involved in some volunteer activity.  You do this because you believe it is good for them to serve the Lord this way but also because you know it makes them more likely to stick with the church.  People with responsibilities and personal relationships at church make for more permanent members than those who just attend a worship service.  I know you do this because I used to do it when I was a pastor.  All my pastor friends did it, too.  We all mean well, but our motives aren’t pure.

The problem with this is that such service only burdens people who already come to us with responsibilities and personal relationships.  We’ve been deceived into thinking we’re helping them when we are only weighing them down.  Instead, we should tell them about Jesus, let them repent and live for Him.  If they do this, they will be serving God in their existing responsibilities and personal relationships.  And the redemption of society will have been begun.

We’ve unwittingly made people think that only when they’re serving the local church are they serving God – even if that makes them neglect family and work relationships which desperately need His redemption.  (Our solution to that problem is to have people invite their families and co-workers to church with them – how convenient for us!)

Therefore, which will it be:  Let the people serve God where they are, or make them come to us and serve our organizations?  (Do you want to have to give an account to God for having assigned His people extra duties?)

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Matthew 21:15

The chief priests and scribes were indignant when they saw even children shouting praise to Jesus.

These religious leaders saw Jesus as competition.  They neither wanted to follow Jesus themselves nor did they want any of their followers to follow Him.  This created a dilemma for them because the people were following Jesus in droves.  Thus the leaders were frustrated and became indignant. 

Do you become indignant when your followers go after Jesus instead of staying with you.  Pastors are always seeking to “close the back door” to their churches.  But what if the back door leads to Jesus?

After all, you’ve always said you want to lead them to the Lord.  If they find Him and follow Him, isn’t that success for you – even if they move away from you?

Or are you one of those Christian leaders who believes that anyone leaving their flock is usually backsliding or in some way disobeying God?  Then you can identify with the scribes and Pharisees.

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Matthew 23:2

Have you seated yourself in the chair of Jesus? 

The scribes and Pharisees had seated themselves in the chair of Moses.  They assumed that they had inherited his mantle, that they were his successors until Messiah came.  Similarly, today pastors and others have seated themselves in the Lord’s chair until His return.  Unfortunately for them, He has already returned and they don’t know it.  (For more on this, see Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again .)

More importantly, they presume to speak for the Lord when He is perfectly capable of speaking for Himself.  I know what this burden is like.  I used to be a pastor and feel the pressure to teach people how to live.  How liberating it is now to know that the reason I felt inadequate for that task is that I was.  Jesus is more than adequate if people will only turn to Him.  If people won’t turn to Him, your teaching is not going to help them anyway.

Our job is to call attention to Jesus.  If we succeed at that, He can teach the people (us included) all they need to know.

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Acts 8:35

Was it an act of Providence that the Ethiopian happened to be reading a passage of Scripture that referred to Jesus – or would Philip have begun preaching Jesus to him no matter which passage of Scripture the African had been reading?  I think it was the latter.

We know that the Scriptures are about Jesus.  After He was raised, He explained to His disciples how the Scriptures testified of Him.  It’s not just the prophecies about Messiah per se, but the types, examples, foreshadowings, patterns, allusions, symbols, and such with which the Holy Book is replete.

The Bible is going to be opened many times in many places this very week alone.  How many of those times will result in Jesus being declared boldly as He was by Philip that day on the desert road to Gaza?

Do you ever open the Scriptures without seeing Jesus?  Is there anything more important to declare?  Has enough been said about Jesus so that preachers should move on to different subjects?

Philip had it right…and any of the books of the Old Testament would have served his purpose.  How much more those of the New Testament!  Let’s imitate Philip.

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John 3:30

Have you thought about what John the Baptist felt as he spoke these words?

John had powerful ministry.  Crowds came out to the wilderness to hear him preach.  He did not have a “feel good” ministry.  He was crying out for everyone to repent – everyone from the king, to the religious leaders, to the lowliest of society.  No one escaped his call.  This makes his success in drawing huge crowds all the more amazing.  No one else in the entire nation had a following like his.  Had he decided to lead a revolt against the Romans, it is clear that the hearts of the people would have been with him.

Nonetheless, John was pleased when his followers began leaving him to follow Jesus.  Let that sink in.  How many Christian ministers do you know who feel that way?

Let’s be like John the Baptist.  Let’s rejoice when anyone we’ve told about Jesus ignores us and walks with Him.

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1 John 2:27

Do you tell people that they can hear Jesus directly and have no need of intermediaries?

Do you declare the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit in the heart of every believer to teach and to guide?

Do you tell them that this anointing comes from Jesus and not from association with you and your ministry?

I hope your answer was yes to these questions for many today do not proclaim the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.  They seek to create dependency on their own ministries.  This is not pleasing to the Lord for it is not helpful to the believers.  Believers have the right – and the need – to live in dependency on Him alone. 

Imagine a world where believers keep pure hearts before the Lord, following Him at every juncture.  Oh, how different that world would be from the one we now see.

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2 John 1:9

Why do you go farther than the teaching of Christ?

The teaching of Christ is enough to save the whole world.  He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His character.  All things came into being through His word and they hold together for the same reason.

Why do we say then that people have to join our church or “sow seed” into our ministry?  Why do we even promote a connection with ourselves at all when it is only a connection with Him that will save them?

If every Christian minister were to stop every other ministry activity except to declare the glory of Jesus Christ for one year, we would see the world changed in more dramatic fashion than ever before witnessed.  The effect would make all prior revivals and awakenings seem small by comparison.

We have gone way too far from abiding in the teaching of Christ.

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Matthew 22:36

Jesus was a teacher.  He still is!

In the gospels, He taught from earth.  Today, He teaches from heaven.

He knows what the Scriptures mean.  He can sum them up and break them down.  More importantly, He is greater than the Scriptures.  While nothing He says will ever contradict the Scriptures, His utterances are certainly not limited to them.  In one breath, He pulled from the over 23,000 verses of the Old Testament the two that are the most important.  And one of them was from Leviticus!

Stand aside (and stand in awe), letting the Teacher teach.  It is better to be His disciple alongside others than to attempt to be their teacher.

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John 3:10

Nicodemus had come to Jesus by night, presumably because he did not want anyone to know that he, a great teacher in Israel, was interested in better understanding this itinerant Galilean.  Jesus was not impressed by the great man or his reputation.  In fact, He posed a challenge to Nicodemus: “How can you be the teacher of Israel and not understand these things?”

Jesus poses a similar question to us today, so let us ask ourselves: How can we purport to be Christian teachers when we don’t understand all the things Jesus is saying?

Nicodemus would have done better to use his influence to get his followers to follow Jesus instead.  Similarly, we should seek to have everyone who follows us transfer their allegiance to the great Teacher. 

Preach Jesus…and let Him do the teaching.

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Ezra 7:10 – Seeing Jesus

God came to earth to live as a man – Jesus of Nazareth.  He was an Israelite and lived under the law of Moses.  He studied that law and sought to live it.  He was tempted in all things as we are – yet without sin.  He was crucified and buried.  He was raised from the dead on the third day and reigns now in heaven, teaching that very law to His disciples.

The law of Moses can be summarized as the requirement to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength…and love our neighbor as ourselves.  If Jesus’ words abide in your heart, you are truly a disciple of His.  You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.  Then you will be an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit.

Jesus followed Ezra’s pattern, but He is greater than Ezra.  He is now seated on the mountain of heaven, teaching His Sermon on the Mount to all who will listen.

Those of us who speak in the name of Christ are not the teachers.  He is the Teacher.  He is our Ezra.  Let us not teach; rather, let us proclaim the Teacher.