How Today’s Church Advertises Its Disobedience

Today’s churches declare that Jesus is Lord, but then demonstrate that they are not in submission to Him by how they are divided.

In New Testament days there was only one church.  Oh, they met in different places but it’s clear from the apostle’s writings that there was only one church in each city.  After all, there was the epistle to Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, and so on.  There were not letters to the Ephesian Baptists, the Ephesian Methodists, the Ephesian Presbyterians, and so on.  In fact, when the church in Corinth showed the initial signs of dividing along such lines, the apostle Paul rebuked it sharply (see 1 Corinthians chapters 1 through 3). 

Today’s churches exist in over 30,000 denominations, proving they they are no longer subject to a single Lord.  The first part of Ephesians 5:24 says that the church was subject to Christ.  Well, it has long since abandoned that subjection and gone off entirely in its own direction – or rather, directions. 

In the night before He was crucified, Jesus prayed that those who believed in Him would be one (John 17:22).  Earlier in His ministry, Jesus taught that any kingdom divided against itself would fall (Matthew 12:25).  How can today’s churches claim with a straight face that Jesus is their Lord?  Alas, when I was a pastor I used to claim that He was Lord of me and my church, too.  But He opened my eyes and I saw that I was serving myself more than I was serving Him.  Therefore, I repented.  That is, I changed.  I’m no longer a pastor.  I no longer have a church.  I no longer go to church.  Rather, I seek to obey the Lord.

The church doesn’t need reforming – it needs to be abandoned.  Instead of going to church, obey Jesus.  He said that we should turn from selfishness and love one another.  He also said that we should be humble.  Therefore, don’t associate with any group that thinks it’s holier than everyone else.  Instead, be holy in your behavior.  Husbands and wives, love each other and your children.  Children, honor your parents.  Live for morality, not for gain.  Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Off-Center Christianity

How far off center does modern-day Christianity have to become before we who know the Bible declare it to be so? 

The center of Christianity is Jesus.  Yet where is He in today’s Christianity?  He is given a back seat to church and ministry building. 

When David spoke in Psalm 27 of wanting to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of His life, God foresaw a time when His people would do just that.  We today live in that age – the day of Christ, the eternal age of the kingdom of God.  Yet, instead of proclaiming Christ as that eternal dwelling place for those who will humble themselves and live righteously, we build churches and call them the houses of the Lord.  This is idolatry just as surely as Aaron’s golden calf was idolatry.

Let us return to center by forsaking churches, programs, clergy, and every other facet of organized Christianity.  In its place let us seek only the King and His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) for this is what He has commanded us to do.

Cast aside off-center Christianity and return to Him from whom we have wandered so far (Isaiah 31:6).  Proclaim Christ and be done with lesser things.   

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Your House Is Left to You Desolate

In Matthew 23, Jesus made it abundantly clear that none of us should try to take His place as the leader of God’s people.  He denounced the Pharisees for taking the seat of Moses.  Then He instructed His disciples to avoid positions and titles of leadership.  Yet in spite of this clear warning we have thousands upon thousands of Christian denominations today, each with its own human leadership. 

The apostle Paul foresaw these divisions and spoke out against their first manifestations (1 Corinthians 1-3).  Yet he knew usurpers would come out of hiding after his departure (Acts 20:29-30).  It is upon the foundation of such self-appointed leaders that the institution of today’s Christian churches stand.  Yet Jesus is not ruling them.  Instead, He is ruling the kingdom of God which neither has nor needs any human leadership.

Thus, the houses of worship we see in the world today are left desolate by the Lord.  Be sure that when His word is preached and His name is glorified, He will be faithful.  But He is not being faithful to that institution; He is being faithful to His word, His name, and to those who believe in Him.  This faithfulness of His will be shown wherever His word is preached – whether in a church or not.  Churches have no bearing on the efficacy of His word.  As He said to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem so He says to every leader of a church today, “Your house is being left to you desolate!”  (Matthew 23:37-30)

Repent of your loyalty to any person, group, or name other than Jesus Christ Himself.  He alone is worthy of our obedience, and His name alone is worthy of glory (Zechariah 14:9).

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

All Is Vanity…Except…

“All is vanity,” declared the Preacher of Ecclesiastes.  He looked at the world of flesh and declared what any sane person would:  “It’s futile.”  The hope we see so dominant in the book of Isaiah is subdued in the book of Ecclesiastes.  Yet the Preacher does close his tome with the conclusion, “Fear God and keep His commandments.”  Thus he hopes for a solution to the dilemma he has described.

Like Job who said, “I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last He will take his stand on the earth,” while in the depths of his despair, the Preacher knows whom he has believed.  

You, too, know whom you have  believed.  Only you can see Him so much more clearly than could Job or the Preacher, for you have heard of the life of Jesus Christ – crucified and three days later raised from the dead.

Therefore, lay aside the way of life you inherited according to the flesh.  Live in the spirit.  That is, live life in this world in the light of the dimension you cannot see – where God dwells.  That is, live by faith.  Specifically, live by faith in Jesus.  He loved us and released us from our sins by His blood.  In the light of His loving and righteous eyes, there can be meaning in the midst of vanity, purpose in the midst of futility. 

Our purpose is to love at every opportunity, just as He did.  We do not build monuments, we relieve pain – the pain of human suffering.  Therefore, all is vanity, except that which is done out of love for Him.  Nothing you sow to Him is in vain, for in due time you shall reap.  Fear God and keep His commandments.  That is, revere Jesus in your heart every conscious moment and do what He says. 

Stop building things that will eventually crumble.  Instead, be kind to the hurting.  God will remember, and that is your foundation for the future.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible.

God Was Unwilling to Listen to Balaam…or Satan

When Balaam was hired to curse the people of Israel, God would not listen to him and, instead, turned Balaam’s curse into a blessing.

Similarly, when Satan spoke against humanity and said they deserved to be incarcerated forever in death due to their disobedience to God (which Satan himself had inspired), God would not listen to him and, instead, made the curse of death into a blessing.  (Balaam is a type of Satan – the erstwhile servant of God whose own disobedience has relegated him to a life of self-seeking, foolishness, and futility.)  Because of Jesus Christ, death no longer leads down to Sheol, but rather above to heaven.  It used to be that death was the worst thing that could happen to a human being.  Through Jesus Christ, it has become the best thing that could happen to a human being.  Praise be to our God!

Though death casts its shadow on every part of human existence, yet the light of God’s redemptive love overcomes it.

Therefore, you should never worry or fret when anyone criticizes or condemns you for it will always work to your good.  God’s love is so great that even bad things can work out for our good.  For this reason the apostle Paul could say that all things work together for good to those who love God.

Love endures all things.  Blessed be the name of the One who is love:  Jesus Christ our Lord.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible.

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Let Us Labor in Their Spirit

The prophets and the apostles are the foundation of all that we know of the Lord from the Scriptures, He Himself being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

They and all who labored with them were of sterling spirit.  They were human beings of whom the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:32-40). 

It was proverbial for a prophet to be persecuted, and the apostles fared no better.  Yet they never complained. 

Those of us who labor in the name of Christ should embrace the spirit of those who have labored before us.  If we do their work, in their spirit, we shall receive their persecutions, but, more importantly, their reward.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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We Have Entered into Their Labor

Those of us who labor for Christ benefit from all the labors of those before us.  There is so much for which we can be thankful.

First of all, the Scriptures themselves are available to us in abundance.  You can find them online, you can find them in bookstores, you can find them in libraries, you can find them almost anywhere.  The Scriptures are translated for us so that we don’t have to be able to read Hebrew or Greek.  Moreover, these translations come with an abundance of study tools.  Most notable among these are cross references of each verse to related verses and concordances which can list every word found in the Bible and its location.  But these are only the beginnings of our benefits.

Because others have labored before us, the word of God exists in more hearts.  Because others have labored before us, we have examples of ministry that achieves God’s blessing and ministry that does not.  Because others have labored before us, we can build on their knowledge and not have to plow again and again the same furrows.

Most of all, we can be thankful for those who have suffered loss to bring us the word of God.  Think of the persecutions of the prophets and apostles.  Think of the oppression of those who down through the ages since have stood up for God that we might also hear His word.

We must never think that we labor alone, and certainly never feel sorry for ourselves.  We have joined a great army of laborers and soldiers.  We benefit from all that they have been and all that they have done.  We stand on their shoulders and any victories we achieve should be shared with them.  We are part of something much larger than ourselves.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Psalm 69 – A Psalm of Christ

In Acts 1, Peter quoted from Psalm 69 (and from Psalm 109 as well) as he spoke of Judas.  He said that “the Scripture had to be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Jesus.”  If you read the psalm in its entirety, you see that its central subject is ostensibly David (the psalm’s author).  But, as with other psalms, David was looking ahead and prophesying of his descendant, the Messiah.  A reference to the enemies of the psalm’s central figure was where Peter made the connection to Judas.  Thus, the psalm “had to be fulfilled” regarding Judas because Judas had aligned himself against the Messiah.

The important point to see in Peter’s words is that Psalm 69 is being designated by his words as a “psalm of Christ.”  As you read the entire psalm, you will recognize other verses which are applied to Christ elsewhere in the New Testament.

Read this psalm for a greater appreciation of how Jesus constructed His interior thought patterns in His service to the Father.  This will enable you to similarly construct your thought patterns in your service to Christ.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Psalm 2 – A Psalm of Christ

Psalm 2 was referenced as a psalm of Christ in Acts 4 by Peter, John, and the rest of the early Jerusalem church as they prayed to God with its words.  It was also referenced as such by Paul in Acts 13.

As you read this psalm, you may also recognize that a number of it phrases show up throughout the New Testament even when a whole verse may not quoted outright.  These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Romans 1:4 where Jesus is said to have been declared the Son of God by virtue of the resurrection (the same point Paul made in Acts 13:39).
  • Hebrews 1:1-2 where Jesus is referred to as the heir of all things.
  • John 3:36 where the apostle John is quoting John the Baptist referring to the choice between obeying the Son and experiencing His wrath.
  • Hebrews 12:22 where the heavenly Mount Zion is mentioned.

As with the other “psalms of Christ,”  Psalm 2’s full meaning was not grasped prior to the resurrection of Jesus.  Even today, there is much more to be plumbed of its meaning for as the writer to the Hebrews says in 5:11, “As for Him, there is much more to say…”

Psalm 16 – A Psalm of Christ

In Acts 2:25-28, Peter quotes verses Psalm 16:8-11.  He makes the point that David was not speaking of himself, but rather prophesying the resurrection of the Messiah.

There are a total of 11 verses in this psalm.  Are we to assume that the first seven verses were about something else and only the last four refer to Christ?  Of course not.  Read the whole of Psalm 16:1-11 and see how the whole psalm speaks of Jesus and how He lived.

Remember: the apostles were with Him day and night.  If there had been discrepancies between what the Scriptures said and the way Jesus lived, they would not have been willing to lay down their lives for Him.  I am not speaking of their time with Him prior to His resurrection, for indeed they had their doubts on occasion.  However, once He was raised from the dead and showed them all that had been written about Him in the Scriptures – that’s the point at which they would have questioned any discrepancies.  No such questioning is reported.  Instead, they boldly declared that He was the One of whom the prophets had written.

There was no earthly glory for Jesus to grant His apostles – no riches, no honor, no spoils of war.  All He had to give was heavenly approval.  Therefore, we may know by their testimony that this psalm of Christ portrays Him accurately.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

The Psalms of Christ

In the forty days He had on earth between His resurrection and ascension, Jesus showed His disciples the things written about Him throughout the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24).

Jesus had ready spoken to His disciples during His earthly ministry, for example, about the Messiah in Psalm 110 (Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 20).  This forty-day teaching therefore was an elaboration, made possible by the resurrection, which cast an entirely unexpected light on these Scriptures for His disciples. 

Empowered with this knowledge, and with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the apostles began preaching on the day of Pentecost – and continually thereafter – constantly referring to these texts, which the revealed fullness of Jesus’ life had given grand new meaning. 

Do you think about Christ when you read the psalms?  If not,  you are not reading them as the apostles would have you read them. 

For example, in Acts 2 Peter says that it may indeed have appeared that David wrote Psalm 16 about himself.  However, it had now become clear that because David was a prophet, he had looked ahead and had been writing of the resurrection of his descendant – the Messiah.  (See also 1 Peter 1:10-12 which likely explains David thought processes as he wrote.)  Thus the apostles were taught by Jesus how to read the Scriptures in an entirely new light.  The “Psalms of David” could now be right called the “Psalms of Christ.”

We would do well to read the entire Old Testament through the eyes of the apostles, for it was the Lord Himself who gave sight to those eyes.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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The Similarities of David and Peter

The similarities between David in the Old Testament and Peter in the New Testament are striking.

David exhibited more zeal for God than anyone in his time.  Peter exhibited more zeal for Jesus than anyone in his time.

David was willing to take on the giant Goliath for the honor of God when everyone else was too afraid to fight.  Peter was willing to step out in the storm and walk on the water to Jesus merely on His command when everyone else was cowering in the boat.

David became the leader of the people of God because of the greatness of his heart for God.  Peter became the leading figure among the twelve apostles because of the greatness of his heart for Jesus.

David took up the sword for God.  Peter tried to take up the sword for Jesus.

When David sinned with Bathsheba it indicated his human frailty.  When Peter denied three times that he even knew the Lord it indicated his human frailty.

When David sinned, he repented and accepted his forgiveness…going on to serve his God.  When Peter sinned, he repented and accepted his forgiveness…going on to serve his Lord.

When David came to the end of his life, he made sure his entire legacy – both physical and spiritual – went toward furthering the cause of the Lord.  Consider, for example, how he laid out everything necessary for the temple’s construction before his son Solomon.  When Peter came to the end of his life, he made sure his entire legacy – it was entirely spiritual – went toward furthering the cause of the Lord (Read of the inheritance he left in 2 Peter 1).  Both men were determined that their service to God should survive them.

If David was a man after God’s own heart, and if David and Peter were this similar, what does it say about the identity of Jesus that He would bring into His inner circle someone so much like David?

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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For Whom Is the Tithe?

When God cried out through Malachi for the tithe to be given so that there would be food in His house, whose interest was He seeking?

Pastors today love to quote Malachi, which they use to equate the withholding of tithes from them to the robbing of God.  They believe God intended this Scripture for the material sustenance of the church.  Yet, the New Testament does not support this view for there are no passages that use Malachi to make this point.  Neither for that matter are there any verses that make this point on any other basis.  There is a reference to tithing in the book of Hebrews but its point would be that the tithe belongs to Jesus as the high priest according to the order of Melchizedek – not to the church.

Jesus should indeed be the recipient of such giving.  We live in the time of the kingdom of God.  Therefore, the house that God wants to have plenty of food is His house, which is the human race.  Therefore, when we give to the hungry or the thirsty, when we clothe the naked, when we invite the stranger, when we serve the sick, or visit those in prison we are giving to those in Jesus’ house.  He said when we have given to the least of His brethren, we have given unto Him.  (He made no reference to the church.)

The time for church ended with the coming of the kingdom of God.  For man-made churches (which all of them are today) to take from God’s tithe is to rob from the least of Jesus’ brethren for whom this surplus of abundance was intended.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Is Your House Doing Better Than God’s House?

If your family doing better than God’s family? 

By answering this question affirmatively , Moses left Pharoah’s palace to live with his fellow slaves, the Hebrews.  By answering this question affirmatively, Nehemiah forsook the comforts of life in the Persian capital and returned to Jerusalem to rebuild it.  By answering this question affirmatively, God Himself left the glory and honor of heaven to walk the earth as one of us.

God does not always ask us to do such dramatic things.  Perhaps He will simply ask us to share from our abundance with those who have need.

God’s house is the human race.  Is your family doing better than the human race? 

If you answered in the affirmative, do whatever He tells you.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Whose House Will You Serve?

Do you exist to serve God’s house or does He exist to serve your house?

Many today who proclaim Christ do so seeking their own houses.  They seek the growth and betterment of their own churches, their own ministries, their own families, their own lives.  And often they seek all these things in material terms: more people and money for their churches and ministries, more material goods for their families and their lives. 

If you would seek the good of God’s house you must seek spiritual blessings and you must seek for them to accrue to others.  Material things are indeed necessary for this life but are always to be kept in a place of lesser importance than spiritual things.

What makes this issue all the more confusing for many people is that what they perceive as God’s house is, in actuality, their own house.  Thus they think of their church as God’s church, their ministry as God’s ministry.  They are blind.  They cannot see God’s house and God’s ministry.  God’s house is humanity.  His ministry is that which edifies human beings.  I am speaking of the entirety of the human race – that which only God can be over. 

So I ask again:  Are you seeking God’s blessing on your house or are you seeking to be a blessing to God’s house? 

Here is good news:  If you seek to be a blessing to God’s house, He will take care of your house.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Do You Know What You Are Asking?

So often when we pray, we do not know what we are asking.

The mother of the sons of Zebedee (the apostles James and John) certainly did not know what she was asking when she asked Jesus if her sons could sit on His right and left when He came into His kingdom.  She thought she was asking for her sons to sit at a place of honor like that which was arrayed around King David in the earlier days of Israel.  She knew Jesus was the son of David and that He would reign over Israel.  What she did not know was that His path to the throne of glory led through the cross.  If she had known it, this mother may not have made this request for she was, in effect, requesting that her sons be persecuted to the point of cruel death.

Christ’s glory is the measure of underserved suffering He took upon Himself for the sake of God.  Similarly, to be close to Him in heaven James and John would have to take on considerable suffering beyond what they deserved as common sinners.

Earthly glory is one thing; heavenly glory is quite another.  Heavenly glory comes at a huge earthly price.  Those who love God, as James and John did, are willing to pay that price.  Let us try to be sure of what we are asking when we pray.  But neither let us shrink from suffering if it will bring Him glory.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

There Is No Longer Any Sea

Everything in the physical creation represents a spiritual reality.  The whole purpose of creation is to teach spiritual truth, so it is quite reasonable that every aspect of creation should be a teaching tool.

For example, the three-tiered arrangement of creation reflected the spiritual structure of the unseen realm.  There was the earth in which mankind would dwell, with the heavens above and the sea in which to descend.  This reflected the reality that above man were God and the angels.  Below man there was nothing, but the entrance of sin into the world altered that.  The depths now became the place to which the dead were consigned.  The Hebrews called it Sheol, the Greeks term was Hades.  The living at least had a fighting chance, if only they did not sin.  But once sin came, and it always did, one eventually had to go below…to the lowest place one could go in creation.

When Jesus Christ returned to earth in the kingdom of God at the close of the New Testament age, He brought in a new heavens and new earth.  The book of Revelation tells us that there was “no longer any sea.”  This is because the dead were all raised to heaven.  Therefore, the earth was now the lowest place in spiritual creation.  Satan was cast out of heaven.  Satan had thus gone from the highest place in creation to the lowest.  We, too, are in this lowest place with him as long as we live, but at death we rise above him!  Even on this earth, our authority is higher than his but our key to exercising that authority is righteousness.  If we do not walk in the spirit free from sin then our relationship with God is compromised and our authority in the earth is impaired.  But if we walk in the light, as Jesus Himself is the light, then Satan is bound. 

All of us on earth shall die, but none of us will descend.  There is no longer any sea.  You could also say that God has made us all to walk on water.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Satan’s Fall

In the original order of creation, Satan and his host were above humanity.  For this reason, he controlled the abode of the dead as well as the abode of the living (he is “the god of this world” – 2 Corinthians 4:4).  In the kingdom of God, however, resurrected humanity is above Satan.  That is why Satan no longer controls the dead – they have a higher authority than he does.

God created this universe to demonstrate His righteousness to the entire angelic realm – both the obedient and disobedient.  Through this creation, God demonstrates the superiority of faith, hope, and love as governing values – especially love.  He demonstrates that through mercy and forgiveness, true righteousness can be achieved.  He demonstrates in the most powerful way imaginable that good overcomes evil.  There are many other things He demonstrates as well, including the idea that trust in God trumps any knowledge that one might have.  This creation is all about teaching the angelic realm about the nature of God.

You and I have important roles in this drama.  What qualifies us?  We are human beings!  We are able to trust God.  We are able to personally demonstrate the power of faith, hope, and love in this world.  We are able to triumph over any obstacle that faces us through trust in God.  And that trust protects us in any area about which we are ignorant of God.

Jesus Christ is the central figure in this drama.  Through Him the order of the universe was rearranged – a new heavens and new earth, you could call it (in fact, that’s exactly what the Scriptures do call it – Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).  Many who were first are last (e.g. Satan), and many who were last are first (e.g. humanity).  All praise to Jesus Christ who has lifted us from the ash heap of earth…to an eternity in heaven. 

Satan began falling the moment God said “Let there be…”  You have no enemies in the human race, no matter what they or you may think.  Your only enemy is in the unseen realm, and it is Satan and his host.  Yet, he has fallen and you have more authority than he does.  Evil may triumph for a day, but mercy endures forever.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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What’s a Cocoon For?

Of course, a cocoon is the existence which a caterpillar takes on in order to become a butterfly.  The New Testament church was a cocoon.  That is, the structure of church that we see in the New Testament was the form through which God’s administration of the ancient nation of Israel was transformed into the kingdom of God.

God had used Moses to establish the multiplied descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob into the nation of Israel.  Once Israel’s greatest son, Jesus of Nazareth, was raised from the dead, God used the church as a transitional structure to give people time to adjust to the kingdom of God which the resurrected Jesus was bringing to earth when He returned as Almighty God (i.e. “in the glory of His Father”).

God always gives transition times.  It takes time for night to turn into day, and for day to become night.  There’s a transition between each of the four seasons.  God always gives us time to adjust.  Ancient Israel was a nation of sacrifice, ritual, and laws.  It dealt with matters of the flesh.  The kingdom of God was an entirely invisible kingdom of spiritual realities.  It would deal with matters of the heart.   Therefore, the brief church age was inserted between the much longer age of Israel and the eternal age of the kingdom of God.  Consider it a period of adjustment.

Since the kingdom of God arrived at the end of New Testament days, there is no longer any need for the cocoon.  Even so, we have pastors of empty cocoons all over the world today, presumably waiting on a Jesus who has already come into His glory!  They imitate the New Testament church only in its most superficial aspects.  When the butterfly comes, the cocoon should be abandoned.  

Ancient Israel was a caterpillar – it could only crawl.  The kingdom of God is a butterfly – it can fly!  Forget the caterpillar, forget the cocoon, seek the butterfly (Matthew 6:33)

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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What Is This New Teaching?

The wise and intelligent of this world have never gotten over the offense that God might have entered the world without checking with them first.

Paul preached the resurrected Jesus to the intellectual elites at Athens, that great center of learning and culture in the ancient world.  They were at least willing to grant that his teaching had novelty: no one else had ever brought a doctrine calling for service to a resurrected man in heaven!  They readily admitted they’d never heard anything like it.  They asked at the time, “What is this new teaching?” (Acts 17:19).

Even today, almost two thousand years later, there is still nothing like it.  There are all sorts of perceptions of God, all sorts of religions, but only the Scriptures of ancient Israel present the history of God becoming man, living among us, dying at our hand, being raised from the dead, and then returned to heaven.  The elites of the world still don’t get it.  Thus, it is still a new teaching!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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The Last in a Long Line of Prophets

Jesus Christ was a prophet of Israel.  He was the last and the greatest in a long line.  That line had begun with Moses who had said God would raise up after him a prophet from among the people (Deuteronomy 18).  God indeed raised up prophet after prophet – including Elijah and Elisha – until, over a thousand years later, the great prophet Jesus was raised up…from the dead!

Jesus now rules as King of the kingdom of God, and we have no more need of prophets to predict the coming of that kingdom.  The long-awaited kingdom is here.  At the end of the New Testament age, it ceased to be future.  It became present, and it shall always be so for Isaiah (another of Israel’s long line of prophets) told us that “of the increase of His government…there shall be no end.”

Cease waiting on the kingdom of God as a future reality.  Seek it and God’s righteousness today…for it is near you.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Today’s Churches Are Potemkin Villages

A village is where people live.  A Potemkin Village is where people pretend to live.  Like Potemkin Villages, churches today are mere facades of the one that we see in the New Testament.

Churches today use New Testament vocabulary, but don’t produce the same outcomes.

Churches today try to simulate New Testament outcomes, but don’t have the same power.

Churches today claim to have New Testament power, but pretend more righteousness than they actually produce.

The solution is not for the churches to try to do better.  Rather, the solution is for them to quit trying to do church at all.  They should seek what the New Testament church sought: the kingdom of God.  The difference for us is that the kingdom of God is already here while the New Testament church had to wait on it to come.  (See The Kingdom of God Is Here and Now.)

The New Testament church prepared to enter something that was not yet present.  We prepare to enter something that is everywhere present.

Potemkin Villages are useless, except to try to fool people who don’t know any better.  The New Testament sought the kingdom of God with its very life.  They would be the first to stand up today and say that church is not the object and never was the object.  Let us repent and seek the kingdom of God!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

 

Jesus Is Our Ezra

Ezra is a type of Christ.  According to Ezra 7:10, the priest Ezra set his heart to study the Law of Moses, to practice it, and to teach God’s statutes and ordinances in Israel.

Jesus grew up studying the Law of the Lord.  From this lifelong study He knew that the whole of the Law hung on the words, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and your neighbor as yourself.”  He also practiced it – all the way through to the pain of unwarranted conviction and undeserved crucifixion.  Lastly, He set His heart to teach the God’s statutes and ordinances in Israel.  This teaching effort was cut short by the crucifixion.

Though the crucifixion cut short Jesus’ teaching ministry, yet it was resumed upon His resurrection and ascension into heaven.  From there He teaches all who will listen.  And though He was not a priest when He was on earth, He took up the priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek once He resumed His place in heaven.

Thanks be to God that our Ezra reigns in heaven forever!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

Our David

David is one of the more well-known types of Christ.  Thus Jesus is our greater David.

David was a man after God’s heart.  Jesus was God’s heart.

David was anointed by Samuel.  Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit.

David was king of Israel.  Jesus is King of the Universe.

David’s throne was in Mount Zion, in Jerusalem.  Jesus’ throne is in Mount Zion, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

David was zealous for God.  Jesus’ zeal for God consumed Him.

David sought to build God a house.  Jesus built God a house.

There were challenges to David’s rule.  Such challenges always failed.  There are challenges to Jesus’ rule.  Such challenges will always fail.

David took his lineage from Abraham seriously.  Jesus took His lineage from David seriously.  And from Abraham as well.

Messiah was descended from David but also would be David’s lord – a riddle which Jesus loved to pose to His rabbinical antagonists.

David was not just a type of Christ, he was a physical ancestor of Christ.  Everyone expected Israel’s Messiah to be reminiscent of David.  The crucifixion was thus a stumbling block, but the resurrection surpassed all expectations – and solved the riddle.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

Our Moses

Moses is one of the most obvious types of Jesus in the Old Testament.  Moses himself even says in Deuteronomy 18, “God will raise up for you a prophet like me.”

Moses lived a quiet life before God called him to public ministry.  So did Jesus.

The Scripture says Moses was remarkably humble.  It also says Jesus was humble.

Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt.  Jesus leads His people out of slavery to sin.

Moses was a mediator between God and Israel.  Jesus is the mediator between God and the whole human race.

As mediator, Moses went up to Mount Sinai to meet God on behalf of the people.  Jesus went up to heaven to the right hand of God on behalf of the people.

The Law was given through Moses.  Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Our Joseph

Joseph was a type of Christ.  Therefore we can think of Jesus as “our Joseph.”

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him.  They could see that their father favored him.  As a result, they ostracized Joseph.  Their pique did not subside, however, and they eventually cast him down into a pit…and left him for dead.

Jesus likewise encountered jealousy from his fellow human beings.  They could see that God favored Jesus, doing things for Him that He didn’t do for anyone else.  Religious leaders ostracized Jesus, but it did not do any good for He was not disheartened by this nor did it discourage Him from continuing His ministry of kindness to people.  Finally, Jesus’ jealous contemporaries had him cruelly murdered.

Though left for dead, Joseph survived the pit and, after more trials and some considerable time, ended up second in command of all of Egypt.  When Joseph’s brothers came to him seeking food (for famine had struck their land), Joseph forgave them and gave them food.  They had thought Joseph was dead and didn’t recognize him at first.  Eventually, Joseph brought his entire family to Egypt for their well-being and safety.  He never retaliated against his brothers for their meanness toward him.  In fact, it’s hard to see how he could have treated them any better had they been kind to him in his early years.

Jesus, of course, demonstrates this same generosity of spirit to all of us.  He does not hold grudges about His crucifixion.  Rather, He sees it as the way He could bring His blessings on humanity.  We meant it for evil, but He meant it for good.  Though “left for dead,” He rose from the dead – never to die again.

Thanks be to God that Joseph helps us understand Jesus.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

Holier Than Thou Society

Would you join a society of holier-than-thou people?  No one in their right mind would, but people in their wrong mind do it all the time.

A church is a “holier than thou” society.  It’s a group of people who mutually agree to approve of each other in the name of God.  God, however, has not delegated to us His right to approve of people.  He retains that for Himself.  And He is well able to make an individual aware of when He approves of him without intervention from another human.

Read God’s indictment of the holier-than-thou people in Isaiah 65.

My challenge here is not so much to people in the pews as it is to the people in the pulpits.  Many people get involved in church because respected Christian leaders tell them that this is God’s will.  Those of us who speak in the name of Christ should be preaching Christ, not our parochial society of like-minded people that we’ve given His name – even if we call it church.  There is only one Christian leader deserving of respect and His name is Jesus (Matthew 23:10).

If we want holiness, we should be joining God – not some human society or organization.  Chuch is something He builds from those who believe in Him, and this church needs no human leadership. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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The One Pastor Who Won’t Fall to Sin

Unfortunately, it has become commonplace to hear of some pastor who has gone astray morally.  Such downfalls are often financial or sexual, but pastoral failings are not limited to these.  The shepherd’s flock is usually devastated by such revelations.  Some wounds take a long time to heal.  How many more such debacles have to occur before people realize that church is no longer a divine institution as it was in New Testament days?  The kingdom of God has come but today’s churches go on as man-made and, literally, godforsaken institutions.  They should put “Ichabod” on their doors (1 Samuel 4:16-22).  At least that way, the sheep would be warned.

There is one Shepherd who will never fall to sin.  His flock will never be scattered, or depressed, or devastated.  His name is Jesus and He lives today to pastor all who will submit to His loving care.  If you can have His care, why would you seek anyone else’s?

Jesus was struck down once – not for His own sin, but because of the sins of others.  He was raised from the dead, however, never to die again.  As He is lifted up, He draws all men to Himself.  He shepherds the one true flock of God. 

Stop putting your trust in human pastors – trust the One Pastor who will never fall to sin.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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The Church Is of No Value Against Fleshly Indulgence

If a person is going to live for God, he must have a way of overcoming fleshly indulgence.  The lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh have been sources of temptation since the time of Eve.  How are we to overcome them?  By beholding the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  That is, by looking unto Him who is unseen and seeking His approval at all times, we can be empowered to resist such temptation. 

To go to church, or be a part of a church, does not protect you from fleshly indulgence.  This is because no set of eyes there – no matter how many sets are there – are able to see into your heart where temptation operates.  Only Jesus Christ can see into your heart.  In fact, He can see more of it than you can.  As you relate to Him, and try to live uprightly before Him, He can give you the strength to resist every temptation.  There is no human being who can be with you all of the time.  And if you could find one who could, that person would not be able to see into your heart. 

Not only is it logically true that church is no value against fleshly indulgence, it is also empirically true.  That is, all the sins that beset society beset the church as well: adultery, sexual promiscuity of all kinds, even child abuse.  This fact is confirmed by the news on a regular basis. 

There is only one Person who can protect you from fleshly indulgence.  Your relationship with Jesus Christ – which includes staying conscious of His loving, righteous eyes at all times – is all the protection you will need from temptations of the flesh.  I am not saying that you won’t ever give in to temptation.  I am saying that you won’t ever give in to temptation while you have your eyes on Him.  If you fall to temptation, it will be because you lost sight of Him.  Stay strong and do not lose sight of Him.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Our Enoch

Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5 both briefly tell the story of Enoch and how he was a pattern for Christ.

Enoch “walked with God.”  Several thousand years after Enoch, the prophet Micah would write about what the Lord required of a human being:  To do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with his God.  Several hundred years after Micah, Jesus would echo this tripartite theme in his critique of the Pharisees (Matthew 23:23) when He told them they had neglected the important provisions of God’s law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  Faithfulness, of course, referred to the “walk with God.”

Enoch “was pleasing to God.”  If Enoch was pleasing to God, how much more Jesus was!  Jesus was “the Righteous One.”  Enoch, even though he was among the best of us, was still one of us – that is, one who had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Jesus was God’s sinless, beloved Son in whom He was well-pleased!

Enoch “was taken up.”  This is an enigmatic expression, leaving us uncertain of its complete meaning.  Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:13 that no one had, as of that time, ascended into heaven, so we know Enoch did not take up residence there when he was “taken up.”  But we can assume that his experience at death was far more pleasant than was customary (e.g. disease, foul play, old age).  Jesus was “taken up” in a way that no one had ever been taken up before.  He was raised from the dead, never to die again.  He was ushered fully into heaven and seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Enoch was great in the sight of God, but Jesus was infinitely greater.  When Jesus was taken up, it meant the whole human race would eventually be going up with Him!

Nevertheless, as a type (a foreshadowing), Enoch helps us to “see” Jesus.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

Our Adam

Through Adam, sin entered the world.  Through Jesus, life entered the world.

Because of Adam, we all die.  Because of Jesus, we’ll all live.

Like Adam, we all walk the earth.  Like Jesus, we shall all walk the heavens.

Adam’s companion was a helper made suitable to him.  Jesus’ companions are helpers made suitable to Him.

Adam did not lord his position over Eve.  Jesus calls us friends.

Adam was the beginning of something great.  Jesus was the beginning of something far greater.

Both Adam and Jesus were first-born’s.

As we have borne the image of Adam, so we shall bear the image of Jesus.

Adam is the first person described in the Bible.  Jesus is the last Person described in the Bible.

Because of Adam, we can understand Jesus better.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Our Abraham

Abraham was one of the great types of Christ in the Scriptures.

Abraham stood alone for God against the idolaters of his age.  Jesus stood alone for God against the idolaters of all ages.

Abraham was promised that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his seed, yet he was childless even into his old age.  Jesus was heir to the same promises but never even made it into old age.

Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.  Jesus believed God like no one ever had and He was reckoned “the Righteous One.”

Abraham finally bore a child according to the promise of God when his body was as good as dead.  Jesus bore children for God according to the promise after He actually was dead.

Abraham sojourned in the land of promise looking for a city with foundations, whose designer and maker was God.  Jesus sojourned on the earth, with no place to lay His head, looking forward to the joy of the heavenly Jerusalem set before Him.

Abraham was the progenitor of a great race of people.  Jesus became progenitor of an entirely new human race as the second, and last, Adam.

Abraham was the great example of faith…until the Greater Example came along.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Psalm 97:6

The verse had rich meaning as it was written under the Old Covenant.  The heavens, whether viewed at night or during the day, are glorious beyond description.  Their predictability and reliability only add to that glory.  Truly these works of God have been seen and admired by all peoples.

Though we could rest content with this understanding, God would have us see this verse in light of His great redemptive work through Christ.  That is, Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into the heavens.  At the last trumpet, He brought up all the dead to be with Him.  The angels of God marveled at this feat!

All heaven had witnessed the righteous life He had lived on earth – not reviling when reviled, not threatening when suffering abuse.  He was indeed the sinless, spotless, worthy Lamb of God, given for the sins of the world.  The angels rejoiced without measure when He was restored to His heavenly home in stupendous glory.  Just as the prophets had written in the Scriptures: the Christ was to suffer, and then would enter into His glory.  H was revealed in the flesh; He was vindicated in the spirit.  He suffered on earth; He was glorified in heaven.

The heavens spoken of here under the New Covenant understanding, as you can see, are the spiritual heavens.  Thus this verse, as so many did, foretold the Messiah to come.  Beginning from this Scripture – reminiscent of Philip in Acts 8 – you can preach Jesus to anyone.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ was revealed progressively.  Like the sun which makes its gradual entrance at dawn, Malachi’s sun of righteousness could not be revealed all at once lest His light blind every eye.

There were prophecies mentioned at the birth of Jesus of Nazareth but not much more until His baptism by John.  Even then, Jesus told no one He was the Messiah.  He simply did the things that Israel’s prophets had done (though to a greater degree) and was content with people’s description of Him as a “man of God.”  Even when His closest disciples realized (through Divine revelation) that He was the Messiah, He instructed them to tell no one.  Only after He was raised from the dead did the fact that He was the Messiah become a part of the kingdom gospel message He was preaching.

Throughout the apostolic age, more was revealed about Him.  The apostle Paul talked about the revelations he had received.  The apostle John began the last book of the Bible, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”  The full revelation of Jesus, however, was not to be given until the coming of the kingdom – that event which all the apostles said was imminent in that age. 

Looking back on this time from a two-thousand-year perspective, we can see what they were talking about.  Jesus of Nazareth hadn’t just been the Messiah, He had been God Himself.  The apostles had often come close to saying this in their writings, but they kept separate Father-Son construct because of its importance to our instruction.  Jesus fully demonstrated the role of the Son so that when He assumed the role of the Father, we could imitate before Him what He had done as a son.

Of course, Jesus Christ is still being revealed to us today as He will be for all eternity, for there is no end to the glories of our God.  The great sun of righteousness, however, has indeed dawned on humanity – that is, the truth that Messiah was God.  When you become aware that Jesus was God, you are having an experience like Peter did at Caesarea Philippi.  That is, something is being divinely revealed to you.  And you are not far from the kingdom.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Church Worship Is Idolatry

Some people worship church, thinking that they are worshiping God.  Worship of anything other than God Himself is idolatry.   

The woman at the well in Sychar brought up to Jesus a discrepancy between Samaritan worship and Jewish worship:  The Samaritans worshiped at their mountain and the Jews worshiped at Mount Zion.  Jesus replied that the time had come for the issue of worship’s place to be rendered obsolete.  Thus He said that “neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall you worship.”  How then do people today say that having a place of worship is important?

Jesus did not die so that Old Testament rituals could be replaced with New Testament rituals.  What would be the point of that?  Rather, Old Testament worship rituals were to be replaced with sacrificial living (Romans 12:1), doing good, and sharing (Hebrews 13:16).  Worship that had previously been focused on festivals and events would now be expressed through all our waking hours as we lived before the invisible Savior God.

By making worship something we do when we go to a designated place, we commit the sin of idolatry for we have reduced God to a time and place.  All idolatry creates idols or relics that become the objects of our devotion.  God wants to be the constant object of our devotion and it demeans Him to relegate our worship to representations of Him.

To say, as some do, that one cannot live a life of worship pleasing to God outside of a church context is to instruct people to place church on a level with God.  Idol worship always makes people forget about the omnipresent God.  This is why God always condemns it.  It is contrary to truth.  God allowed the Israelites to have a tabernacle, a temple, and related furniture and utensils of worship, but only on a temporary basis until an eternal and spiritual administration could be put in place.  Now that the eternal administration of the kingdom of God has been established, all that temporary equipment is obsolete.  It memory is useful as types and shadows of Christ and His kingdom, but to set up our own houses of worship, furniture, and utensils in its place is as much idolatry as if the Jews were to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and start sacrificing animals again.

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The Messiah Is God

Before the creation of the world, God created an identity for Himself that He would use to enter human history.  The first mention of this identity was at the judgment for sin in the garden of Eden.  God told the serpent that the seed of woman would overcome him.  This “seed of woman” was the Messiah.  God used many other names for Messiah besides Messiah itself:  the seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:18), the Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15), the Son of David (2 Sam 7:12-14), Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14), the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), the Branch (Jeremiah 33:15), the Breaker (Micah 2:13), and many more.   Thus the identity of Messiah was revealed piece by piece throughout the ages until the time of Jesus.

By the time of Jesus, expectations for the Messiah were high.  However, the specifics of expectation were all over the map.  No one had been able to piece together all the various prophecies about Messiah into one cohesive picture.  Most people were looking for an earthly king like David, only greater.  There were many pieces of the Messianic jigsaw puzzle, though, that just didn’t fit their perceptions (e.g. “He was despised and forsake of men” in Isaiah 53:3).

Jesus never proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah during His earthly life (though He did not deny it at His trial).  Only when He was raised from the dead did He give permission to His disciples to make the fact known.  Only when He was raised from the dead and seated in heaven could the combined prophecies begin to make sense.  For the remainder of that generation, the apostles proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, using all the Old Testament prophecies of His coming to tell the story.  This much the apostles told in past tense.  There were aspects of the Messianic prophecies, however, that were still in future tense at that time:  how Messiah would rule the whole world, how the kingdom of God fit into this rule, what judgment would be like, and so on.

As the apostolic age was drawing to a close, it had become apparent that Messiah was an even greater Personage than anyone seems to have foreseen.  So great, that some explanation was going to be needed about how the Messiah and God would relate in the final order.  That time was coming soon, so no one would have to wait long for the answer.  The answer, when it came, was stunning beyond description.

Messiah was an identity that God had used to live as a man on the earth, with all the limitations of a man.  Messiah was not a separate being from God.  Messiah was not even a separate person of God, for God is one.  Rather, Messiah was God.

God had created the identity of Messiah ahead of time so that He could live as a man without detection.  His purposes would have been compromised had people realized He was God while He was still on earth.  Only once He had returned to heaven, and the gospel had been preached in the whole world throughout that generation, was it time to reveal the secret He had kept to Himself all those ages: He did not send anyone to do His work – He came and did it Himself.

For more on this subject, see:

There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ

Posts to Date on the Trinity Versus Christ

Acts 13:22 (A Man After My Own Heart Who Will Do All My Will)

This passage explicitly describes King David, but it is clearly a type of Jesus Christ.

David’s great passion for God foreshadowed the heart of Jesus.  We see David’s enthusiasm for God in every phase of his life.  He was devoted to God as a shepherd boy, fending off lions and bears to protect his father’s flock.  He was devoted to God as soldier, slaying Goliath with a minimum of weaponry and a maximum of courage.  He was devoted to God as a king, putting Israel on the map with military victories and wise alliances.  He was devoted to God as a poet and musician, being the major figure behind the book of Psalms.  He was devoted to God as a benefactor, enabling Solomon to reign in unparalleled glory and peace.  But David was just a foreshadowing of Jesus, whose devotion greatly exceeded David’s.

We see Jesus as the person who is the ultimate fulfillment of these words: “A man after My own heart, who will do all My will.”  He who knew no sin was made to die on a cross for our sins, yet while suffering He uttered no threats and while being reviled He did not revile in return.  He didn’t surpass David’s example, however, that we might merely admire Him.  He did so that we might imitate Him.

As Jesus inspired this accolade from His Father (in typified form), let us see what kind of accolade our behavior might elicit from Jesus.  Oh, thanks be to God and praise be to God for His awe-inspiring example to us!

2 Chronicles 15:3

Hard times came on Israel when they went without the true God, teaching priests, and the law.  We face similar hard times today.

The true God – There are many false gods today:  gods of worldly success and gods of false worship.

Teaching priests – There are many faithless priests today: priests loyal to their own finances and not to the living God.

The law – There are many alternatives to the law of Jesus taught today: every sermon topic imaginable except Christ and Him crucified.

Things ought not to be this way.  We live in the kingdom of God.  The one true God reigns over it.  His name is Jesus and those of us who know it ought to be able to praise His name clearly enough for others to follow.  As for the law, He could not have been clearer:  we are to love one another as He loved us.

Let us cast aside our church and Christian identities and return in humility to our respective places in the family of man.  Let us live for the invisible King and thus demonstrate to all those around us that there is one true God, that we are faithful priests, that His law is love, and that all humanity is His kingdom.  That will be the beginning of the end of hard times.

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He Is Our Sabbath

Many Christians say that Sunday is the Sabbath.  Is that why Jesus died – so that the Sabbath could be moved from Saturday to Sunday?  God forbid that Jesus’ life should be so trivialized!

The Sabbath was intended to signify something.  Like all the rest of the Law of Moses with its feasts, rituals, and laws, it was intended to signify the coming Messiah.  The Sabbath would be God’s rest from all His redemptive work just as the seventh day had been His rest from the original creation.  When challenged about doing what the Pharisees considered unlawful on the Sabbath, Jesus replied that the Son of Man was Lord of the Sabbath.  This emphasized the Messianic foreshadowing for which the Sabbath was designed – and that on the eve of it fulfillment.

Isaiah 58 speaks of a Sabbath in which one stops doing things his own way, stops pursuing his own pleasures, and stops speaking his own words.  This is the life Jesus lived, and the life He calls us to imitate.  We are to be ceasing from our own ways and pursuing the ways of God (Is 55), forsaking our own interests to look our for the interests of others (1 Cor 10), and speaking as one who speaks the utterances of God (1 Pet 4).  This way of living, of course, is not to be a one-day-a-week affair.  It is a lifestyle we are to wholly embrace.  This is the Sabbath God intended.

Jesus Christ is our Sabbath.  Therefore, let us celebrate the Sabbath seven days a week.

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Who Is Your Brother?

Jesus died and rose from the dead so that He could be Lord of both the dead and the living.  Until the Second Coming, He sat at the right hand of the Father waiting for all His enemies to be made a footstool for His feet.  Once that happened, He became (once again) King of the Universe, Lord of all humanity, and Father of the brotherhood of man.  Therefore every man is your brother; every man is my brother.

Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan and what provoked Jesus to tell it?  A lawyer had challenged Him by asking what was necessary to inherit eternal life.  In response, Jesus asked him what his reading of the law seemed to say.  The lawyer answered with the commandments to love God and neighbor.  Jesus commended his answer but the lawyer went to on ask, “And who is my neighbor?”  You can almost hear Christians asking today, “And who is my brother?”  Both questions attempt to diminish the scope of God’s commandments.   

Jesus is not Lord of some – He is Lord of all.  Every knee shall bow; every tongue shall confess.  It is not our business to know when and how that happens for each of our brothers.  It is our job to love them.  And honor them.  All of them.

Let us repent of all spiritual arrogance and not waste any more time wondering if someone is our brother.  He is.

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Evidence That Demands a Lifestyle

You have heard that the evidence for the truth claims of Jesus Christ are so abundant that they demand a verdict. Indeed, they do…but they demand so much more than just a verdict.

Many people have rendered a verdict for Christ as if they think that this is the main thing Christ wants from us.  Is this “the big question” of life – who Jesus is?  And does He judge each of us primarily on the  basis of our answer to this question, rendering to secondary status how we lived, how we treated others, how we responded to His commandments?

If the only thing Christ wanted from us was a verdict, He would be making us judges and not doers.  He would be the doer of life and we would be the judges of life.  This idea is repugnant.

Jesus Christ is indeed the Doer and Judge of all life.  We, however, are also to be doers – not mere judges of His doing. 

If the evidence of Christ has compelled you to a verdict, fine.  But recognize that your verdict is to be the beginning of something not the end of something.  God is not looking for your approval.  He’s looking for a relationship whereby you may walk in a way that honors Him…and thereby add even more evidence to what has already been accumulated.

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1 Corinthians 3:11

Of course, Jesus Christ is the only foundation of faith.  Anyone who reads the Bible with devotion or who professes to be a Christian would heartily agree.  Yet, if you read Paul’s statement in context you will see that he was arguing against those people who rallied around specific Christian persons:  Paul, Apollos, Cephas.  Even “Christ” was the name of one faction who sought to have their purity humanly approved.  Paul’s argument for one foundation was not made in a vacuum – he was challenging these factions.

How are these factions any different from those which we see today in the self-described church?  They are not different.  And those who today promote themselves in Christ’s name are of the same spirit as those who promoted themselves in Christ’s name at Corinth.  What was only a handful of incipient denominations in Corinth has become over 30,000 in the early 21st Century.  Division is one of the most common marks of organized Christianity today.

Paul felt that to redress the Corinthians divisiveness, he must cut to the central issue:  People had begun to preach themselves instead of Christ.  And what was nascent in Paul’s day has been full-grown ever since: rampant self-promotion in the name of Christ. 

I call you to return to your roots.  Is Jesus Christ your foundation?  If so, why do you tell people they need to come to your church or follow your ministry?  Be true to Him and fulfill 2 Corinthians 4:5.

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Conviction Before Man or God?

In Romans 14:22-23 Paul says that faith is a conviction.  Moreover, he says, it is a conviction one has before God.  In our day and age, faith in common evangelical parlance has become perverted to a profession before men.  That is, if a person tells others, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior,” or “I am a born-again Christian,” or some other such phrase – and can make the statement credible to listeners – then that posture is considered faith.  This does not meet Paul’s standard.

It does not meet the standard, first of all, because it can hardly be called a conviction because it is hardly ever tested.  We can only be sure something is a conviction if it holds up against challenge.  Professing Christians generally receive acceptance from other professing Christians and yawns or groans from everyone else.  There’s no challenge.  By contrast, Satan always challenges faith. 

The second, and more important, failure to meet Paul’s standard is that such professions are not before God but rather before men.  True faith toward God produces signs which others can see, but its primary focus is God, not the signs.  Faith is the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11:6).

If we would have true faith before God, let us look to Jesus Christ with an open heart…and let Him see it.  And let us continue in this posture day after day because when we lose this posture, we lose faith.

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Bethel

As you probably know, “Bethel” means “house of God.”  Jacob had a dream in a city named Luz.  Through that dream he realized God’s presence in that place and so renamed it Bethel. 

Through the blood of His cross, Jesus Christ has marked all humanity as His own.  The heavens and the earth are now His house.  We live, therefore, in the house of God.

Do you know God is present?  We say He is omnipresent, but do you really believe that?  If you do, it changes your life like no other single thought can.

He is with you when you stand up and when you sit down.  He is with you when you go out and come in.  Once we have awakened like Jacob from our dreamlike state, we must rename the place in which we dwell as Bethel, for surely the Lord is in this place. 

Regarding the renaming of the place in which we dwell, I am speaking figuratively, of course.  It is the interior of our minds that must be re-mapped to acknowledge the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at all times and in all places.  Jacob lived under the old covenant and made an outward declaration to remind himself.  We live under the new covenant and pursue a constant inward awareness of the One Jacob longed to know.  That for which he wrestled has been given to us freely.  And much more.

If you are not living in Bethel, you are not yet awake.

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Immanuel

As you probably know, Immanuel (sometimes rendered Emmanuel) means “God with us.”  Matthew’s gospel quotes this prophecy from Isaiah 7:14, noting it as being fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ.  Of course, Matthew did not mean that Mary literally named her baby “Immanuel,” but rather that the meaning of his birth was that God was with us.

We know that God has always been “with us” in the sense that He supports us.  His desire for intimacy “with us,” however, goes much deeper.  Jesus walking the earth as one of humanity was a profound expression of that desire.  God in our flesh, dealing with our limitations, experiencing our life…and our death.  This, however, was just the first installment of His intense intimacy with us.  “Immanuel” meant much more.

Through the new covenant He has made with mankind, God now dwells in us and walks among us.  He is our God and we are His people.  Under the old covenant, it was Satan who freely walked the earth as we saw in the book of Job.  Now, however, the evil one is under our feet (Rom 16:20).

God’s is the voice we hear whispering in our hearts (1 Kings 19:12).  From there He judges the secrets of our heart (Romans 2:16) so that we may live for His approval and not the approval of others (1 Corinthians 4:5; Galatians 1:10; Romans 2:28-29).

We come to realize, therefore, that God’s desire to be with us is so great that He will pursue this end until the two become one (Mark 10:8).

Let us therefore repent of this hardness of heart and stop resisting Him who desires to be with us all the days and moments of our lives.  Let us answer the knocking He makes at our door (Revelation 3:20).

John 3:6 (Flesh Births Flesh, Spirit Births Spirit)

Jesus told Nicodemus, “That which is born of flesh is flesh; that which is born of spirit is spirit.”  Jesus seemed surprised that He had to clarify something so simple and basic for a learned rabbi like Nicodemus. 

It is clear that the spiritual world gives life to the physical world.  Take away the spirit from a person and the body begins decaying immediately.  Spirit is like the wind: we don’t know where it comes from and we don’t know where it’s going.  You can see the effect of the wind (such as leaves moving) but you can’t see the wind itself.  Neither can you put the wind in a bottle, for it would then cease to be wind.  So it is with the spirit.

Jesus is reminding Nicodemus of what he knows: flesh is impermanent.  The kingdom of God therefore cannot be based on flesh, it must be based on spirit.  That which is seen is impermanent; that which is unseen (not seen, invisible) is eternal.  The kingdom of God must therefore be of an unseen nature – like the wind.

God Himself is spirit – that is, unseen.  All the instructions of the Old Testament were written initially for the flesh.  This perspective would last only until Messiah would come and reveal its permanent and more important meaning.  Thus the Zion that the Lord would inhabit was not a hill in Jerusalem but the “hill”of heaven.  The unleavened bread that would nourish the Israelites for their journey would not be wafers but rather sincerity and truth.  The manna that would feed them daily would not come from the desert floor but be picked up from the surface of their barren hearts.  Thus is the transition of the entire Old Testament, even though we may still be  blind to parts of it.

Nicodemus, like most Israelites of his day, was looking for the coming of the kingdom of God.  Jesus was trying to wake him up to the fact that this kingdom could not possibly be of the flesh, for if it had, it would subject to the same sort of eventual corruption that had been seen throughout Old Testament history.  The kingdom of God, as contrasted from the kingdom of flesh, would come from above and be invisible. 

People who serve the church today and hope for its glorification are no different from the contemporaries of Nicodemus who served the temple and hoped for its glorification.  That which is born of flesh is flesh.

Since we have all been born of the spirit, let us live by the spirit (Gal 5:25).  We were all born of the spirit, not of our own will (John 1:13) but even before we were conceived in our mothers’ wombs (Ps 139).  If Jesus warned Nicodemus, who lived on the eve of the kingdom’s coming, not to build on flesh, how much more does He warn us who live in the eternal aftermath of its coming.

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In the Twinkling of an Eye Everyone Was Born Again

Paul was letting us know that it would happen in an instant and few would even notice.  He was speaking, of course, of the last trumpet, the coming of the Lord with His host of holy ones, the coming of the kingdom of God, establishment of the kingdom of heaven, the dawn of the day of the Lord, the fulfillment of the new covenant – that day of all days when the time of Israel will have been fulfilled and God’s Messiah would rule over all the nations.

Precisely when is the moment that night turns into day?  Only God can know because it happens in the twinkling of an eye.  Yet in that instant of which Paul wrote, the night of Adam became the day of Christ.  The night of Satan’s dominion became the day of Christ’s kingdom.  The night of stars in a dark sky became the day of the sun of righteousness – Jesus Christ our Lord.  From that instant, He became not just the King of the Jews, and not just the head of the church, but the King and Head of every single human being.  Every single one.

In that twinking of an eye, everyone was born again.  God gave a new heart to every person in the human race, for all generations to come (Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:8-12).  From that instant forward, God would be judging the secrets of men through Christ Jesus (Rom 2:16).  That moment was rapidly approaching in the waning days of the apostles.  The book of Hebrews says that what was obsolete and able to be shaken was about to be discarded (Heb 8:13; Heb 12:27) and with this the words of the prophet(Hag 2:6), the psalmist (Ps 102:26), and even the Lord Himself (Mark 13:25) agree.  So much happened in that instant!

It happened sometime in the late 1st Century A.D., invisible to human eyes but perceptible to pure human hearts.  This was according to the timetable that the Lord, His prophets, and His apostles had laid down.  That was the dawn and we have been living in the day of Christ ever since.

Oh, yes – and the eye that twinkled was God’s.

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Samson’s Riddle

Samson’s riddle spoke of Jesus Christ in a number of ways.

You recall the riddle:  “Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.”  Certainly what came out of the great and awesome Creator of the universe was the Bread of Life Himself.  And what came out the Almighty King of the universe was Someone sweet: gentle and humble in heart.  You could even say that it was from the carcass of the Lion of the tribe of Judah that the nations will feed themselves for eternity for He is their salvation.

The story in Judges says that Samson’s companions could not tell the riddle in three days.  Neither did anyone know of Jesus’ resurrection until it happened after three days.  Neither the riddle of Samson nor the riddle of Christ was solved by anyone who heard it – they had to be told the answer by the only one who knew it.

Consider also that Samson’s riddle itself was a type of the mystery of the gospel.  Both gave clues, both had only one solution, both were eventually revealed.  Of course, the gospel was a far more extensive and intricate riddle, woven throughout the Old Testament scriptures, but Samson’s riddle paved the way.  And Samson’s story itself was part of the Old Testament’s foreshadowing for he likewise killed more of God’s enemies in his death than he had in his life.

In our relationship with God, we sometimes face a paradox, a riddle, a mystery in life.  It is okay for us to be perplexed at such times, but we should never despair.  In due time we shall reap an understanding and God will reveal Himself strong…and sweet.

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The Gospel Was Hidden in Plain View

The good news of Jesus Christ was chronicled well in advance.  What we now call the Old Testament testifies abundantly about Him.  In fact, through John 5 and Luke 24 we know that Jesus taught that He Himself was the primary subject of these Scriptures.

So thoroughly did the Old Testament proclaim the gospel that the apostles had no need of a New Testament.  Yes, we have one, and need it, for it contains the apostles’ testimony.  But the apostles themselves did not have it because it was only assembled after they had all died, and they did not need it because the Old Testament Scriptures were sufficient for them.

Thus the story of Jesus was written in advance but in such a way that no one could fully understand it until He had been crucified and resurrected.  Similarly, the story of His Second Coming was written in advance – through the Old and New Testaments – but only understood once someone recognizes that the Messiah…was God!

The contrast between what the Scriptures say before Jesus and what they say after – and through the prism of – Jesus is staggering.  The more we repent in humility before Him the more light we can see emanating from its pages.  If you don’t see Jesus all over the Old Testament, you are not seeing it rightly.  Turn to the Lord that the veil  described in 2 Cor 3 may be taken away.

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He Will Feed Them Himself

In Ezekiel 34, God says that the day will come when He set one shepherd over His people, and that this shepherd will “feed them himself.” 

We live in that day.  Jesus is the one shepherd set over all humanity.  How does He feed us Himself? 

Jesus gave us His life.  We consumed Him, and He was no more…on the earth.  However, and more importantly, we continue to feed on His life for inspiration and direction for our own lives.  This is just what He spoke of when He said at the Last Supper that we should eat His flesh and drink His blood.

Something even greater was at work here, however.  It was that God was in Christ giving Himself.  That is, when God sent Jesus He was sending Himself.  God donned flesh and became to us Jesus of Nazareth.  We did not know who He was.  We knew this prophet from Galilee was anointed by God.  We had no idea that He was God Himself.  But looking back we can feed on that life, even feast on it, because of the unlimited glory it held, and holds, for us. 

God Himself became the bread of our life.  In the strength that this bread brings, we shall live forever.

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The Kingdom of Satan Has Become the Kingdom of our Lord

As Revelation 11 heralded, the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.  As Jesus had prophesied, the ruler of the world has been judged and cast out.  We are no longer to walk according to the kingdom of ignorance.  Instead, we are to walk according to the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).  Our Lord sees us!

Satan ruled the world from the beginning in cunning and darkness.  Whereas the Lord has always been willing to reveal Himself, and has done so repeatedly and in many various ways – most of all in His Son Jesus Christ – Satan continues to veil himself Acts 26:18).  The only power he wields in the world today is through that which our sins give him (Proverbs 5:22).  But that can be a lot.

Nevertheless, the Lord’s kingdom prevailed in the great war of the heavens at the Second Coming which occurred on schedule at the close of the apostolic (i.e. the New Testament) age.  (See Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.)  Therefore, we are no longer to make distinctions among humanity as if this one belongs to the Lord and that one doesn’t.  Before Jesus, we all belonged to Satan.  That’s why death had a sting.  That’s why everyone who died went below to Sheol (Hades).  Since Jesus, we all belong to God.  Death no longer has a sting.  Everyone who dies goes up to heaven.  (See Everyone Is Going to Heaven .)

Satan is weak.  Each human being is a son of God, and creation had long waited for the revealing of the sons of God.  Yes, many of us are blind and many are weak – but these are conditions which can be changed through the grace of the Lord.  Call to Him.  Let Him equip us with every spiritual weapon by which we might resist all temptations and do what is right in our daily lives.  This crushes Satan under our feet like powder for the Lord has already made him subject to us. 

Stop seeing the world (i.e., the kingdom of Satan) as dominant.  Indeed, it once was.  But it is now subject to the kingdom of God which is in our midst.  Let us repent of our sluggishness and take the world like the promised land, with Joshua of Nazareth at our head.

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The Apostles’ Teaching

You’ve read in Acts 2 how new disciples of Jesus were devoted to the apostles’ teaching.  And so it was throughout the New Testament: true believers were devoted to the apostles’ teaching.  The apostles were not unopposed in the church, but they were never opposed by true believers – only by the rebellious.

We today are beneficiaries of the New Testament which the apostles left.  Therefore, we, too, can be devoted to the apostles’ teaching.  I trust that you are.

When the apostles look forward in their writing, it is always to the Lord’s kingdom (The Second Coming, the day of the Lord, the new heavens and new earth, and so on).  They never look forward to the formalization of the church in order to wait on an ever-delaying Lord.  When they do look forward to the Lord’s coming, they often warn against false teachers who will seek to draw away disciples after themselves.

Where is there anything in the apostles’ teaching that would constitute the church administration we see in our day?  You cannot find it.  In fact, verses that could be applied to the administration of churches and denominations is so scant and conflicting that churches cannot even agree on a single form of church government.

A very important issue to the apostles was that the church be kept as one body of Christ.  Why then did they not leave in their teaching a means by which we could avoid having thousands upon thousands of denominations?

If there is no manual of church administration in the apostles’ teaching, why should anyone be administering churches?  If, in the apostles’ teaching, there are warnings of teachers who will seek to draw away the disciples after themselves, why should anyone follow any teacher who seeks the Lord’s disciples?  If the apostles’ teaching is filled with hope in the Lord’s soon coming, why should anyone – almost two thousand years later – say that He didn’t come?

The apostles’ teaching is worthy of our devotion.  They knew our God and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh and in the spirit.  Let those of us who know their teaching cease paying it lip service, and dedicate our lives to acting on all it teaches.

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From Christian Leaders to Christlike Followers

God does not need Christian leaders in this day.  Instead, He wishes to have followers who seek to imitate Him. 

He does not need you to watch over His people because He Himself is watching over His people.

He does not need you to be a shepherd for He Himself is Shepherd of His people.

It is an act of pride to say you are a Christian leader.  It is an act of humility to seek to be a Christlike follower.

Why would we call ourselves, or even allow ourselves to be called, leaders when He said in Matthew 23 that we should not be called leaders because He was the Leader?  How much more explicit could He possibly be on this issue?

Let us throw down our shepherd’s staff and bow in order that we might be His sheep.  If we do, others may follow us to Him and then we will have led in a productive way.

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The Stone Which the Builders Rejected

You must be familiar with the words of this post’s title which come from Psalm 118.  The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.  Alas, in this fallen world, this is the way it seems to happen.

God had chosen Joseph to prepare a salvation for all of his father’s family – yet his brothers rejected him.  God had chosen David because the king that all the people thought perfect for the role, wasn’t.  David’s older brothers mocked him for approaching the battle lines and expressing curiosity about a big thug who was taunting the armies of God.  And, of course, you are well familiar with how the leaders of Israel rejected Jesus who was the ultimate example of this verse.  They did not think Jesus a worthy stone, yet He turned out to be the chief corner stone of the final and eternal dwelling that God was building.

Builders are always rejecting God’s choice because they prefer building to obeying God.  As it was in the days of the Tower of Babel, so it was in the days of Jesus.  In that sense, it is not at all strange that we see today those who are building churches rejecting Jesus in the process.  Oh, they will pay Jesus lip service.  It’s all done in His name.  Yet the building is not for Him to inhabit.  Church builders today are attempting to build for God buildings He has not requested.  As Stephen would say, they are resisting the Holy Spirit just as their fathers had done.  I myself was one of those builders but in His mercy, God showed me where I erred. 

The corner stone of life is the invisible God.  In our age, that means the Lord Jesus Christ who needs no earthly temple, for He Himself fills the heavens and the earth.  Those who reject Him and build on any other foundation are building on a foundation of sand that will not withstand the floods that inevitably come.   

Repent and return to the Lord from whom you have deeply defected.  He will be merciful.  He waits with loving arms.  Stop building things for your purposes while saying that they are for His.  He has no need of a house, but He does knock on your door that He might come in and sup with you.

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Earthly Things and Heavenly Things

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “If you don’t believe Me when I tell you about things that occur on earth, how will you believe Me when I tell you about things that occur in heaven?”  Nicodemus had lived a while on the earth; he was a mature man.  He was also a wise man.  He knew how things worked, and was wise to the ways of the world.  Therefore, when Jesus would tell him about earthly things, he had some basis for testing (at least in his mind) what Jesus said before accepting it.  When it came to heavenly things, however, Nicodemus had never been there and had no understanding of how the place operated.  Therefore, he would have to take entirely on faith anything Jesus said to him about it.  Summarizing Jesus’ point to Nicodemus, believe the earthly things and it will give you a basis for believing the heavenly things; disbelieve the earthly things and you will never trust (and therefore never “see”)  the heavenly things.

The apostles demonstrate a positive response to what Jesus described.  They believed Jesus about the earthly things.  Therefore, they had the faith to accept Him on the heavenly things.  For example, the fact that Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God is a heavenly thing that the apostles had no way of corroborating from their own experience.  How would they know whether He sat on the left, right, behind, or somewhere else altogether?  Because Jesus had proven Himself faithful, however, on so many earthly things, they had no problem accepting that final piece of testimony about His destination.  Specifically, because they had seen for themselves that He had been born from the dead according to Psalm 2, it was quite natural for them to accept the testimony from Psalm 110 about where Jesus went once back in heaven.

We ourselves encounter the same dynamic when it comes to understanding the heavenly aspects of  the coming of the kingdom of God (which can also be called the coming of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus’ Second Coming, the day of the Lord, Judgment Day, and so on).  These heavenly things are described throughout the Scriptures, including the Old Testament prophets, the prophecies of our Lord, the references by the apostles, and the descriptions in the book of Revelation.  If we don’t accept the earthly aspects of Jesus’ salvation by faith, we will have no basis to accept all these testimonies of heavenly things. 

If someone does not truly walk by faith with Christ in the earth, they have a hard time believing that the kingdom has already come.  They are fleshly minded and are looking for fulfillment of these scriptures in physical form.  There are many such fleshly people in the earth today.  They do not walk by faith; they walk by sight.  Their trust is not in an invisible Lord but rather in a visible church of people.  They are on the wrong side of the classic dichotomy of fearing man versus fearing God.

We have ample reason to believe all the earthly aspects of our salvation.  Therefore, we should find it easy to take on faith the heavenly realities, such as the new heavens and new earth described in Isaiah and Revelation.  Yes, we in fact live in what the book of Hebrews called “the age to come” that was at that time “drawing near.”  Because we believe the prophets, the Lord, and the apostles about the when (which is an earthly thing we can understand), we can believe them about the what (which are heavenly things we have to take entirely on faith).

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Jezebel

Jezebel – she who used her identity as the king’s wife to wield power over God’s people, steal from the defenseless, and live in disobedience and defiance of God’s commandments.  She trusted in worldly cosmetics instead of inner moral beauty.  The name Jezebel is universally considered despicable today, but in her time people were intimidated by her power and yielded to her persuasion.

Likewise, the post-apostolic church (that is, the church as it has existed after New Testament times and still exists today) presents herself as the bride of Christ.  Yet, she is not faithful.  She serves her own needs.  She dominates the people of God, putting them into service for her own purposes.  Most church leaders don’t realize that they are caught up in this antichrist spirit.  Nonetheless, they are.  Their naive intentions are used by the church to enhance its reputation and authority.

The Lord asks, “Who is on my side?’  His next words are a command: “Throw her down!”

Live for the Lord Jesus Christ and throw down the harlot who devours God’s people (Revelation 2:20).

Where Are the Dead?

The Old Testament made clear that the dead – good and bad – slept below in Sheol.  (The Septuagint rendered it “Hades.”)  Jesus confirmed in John 3 that no one had ascended into heaven (meaning not even Enoch or Elijah landed there). 

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul declares that, notwithstanding doubters in Corinth, the dead would indeed be raised.  He states the point in the future tense: “the dead will be raised,” indicating that the dead were still asleep.  That the dead still slept was a point he confirmed elsewhere in chapter fifteen and also in chapter eleven.  In 1 Thessalonians 4 he again makes reference to the raising of the dead as a future event.  Moreover, 2 Timothy 2 he calls as false doctrine the teaching that the resurrection had already occurred.  In Hebrews it says that all things were not yet subjected to Christ (Hebrews 2) and that “the day” was still “drawing near” (Hebrews 10).  Since we have this overwhelming evidence that the dead had not been raised by the time of the writing of these letters, what makes you think they’re raised now?  And if you do say they’re raised now, aren’t you as much a heretic as those Paul criticized in 2 Timothy 2?

Relax.  The good news is that the trumpet of God did sound, that the Lord did come in His kingdom, and the dead were raised imperishable to heaven.  It all happened right on schedule, not too many years after Paul and Peter died.  Ever since then, we who die are caught up in the air to meet those who have preceded us.  Sheol was done away in the new heavens and new earth (there no longer being any sea, or lower compartment to creation,  according to Revelation’s account). 

On the other hand, if you say that Jesus has not come again, then how can you believe anyone besides Jesus is in heaven?  (If you’re not sure, see Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again )

The dead are now in heaven.  And you and I will be there one day, too.

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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“You Must Be Churched” = “You Must Be Circumcised”

Those who insist that believers should be involved in church are like those in New Testament times who insisted that believers should be circumcised. 

For a fuller comparison, read the book of Galatians substituting the words “church involvement” for the words “circumcision” or “circumcised.”

The rationale for each is identical.  In New Testament times, some people pointed to the Old Testament scriptures and, seeing circumcision practiced, said, “The Lord and His Scriptures call for circumcision.”  Today, some people point to the New Testament scriptures and, seeing church practiced, say, “The Lord and His Scriptures call for church involvement.”

In both cases, the readers are assuming that a practice God required in the previous age will also be required in the current age.  Moreover, they overlook that we live today in the kingdom of God in which no ritual practices are required.  The practice God wants is righteousness.  In fact, righteousness is what He has always wanted but He had to get humanity there by stages – particularly through the establishment of Israel and its Messiah.  This required the use of some rituals to help convey truth and have it passed from generation to generation.  Once Messiah had come, however, and His kingdom established, such practices could be discarded…and so they have been.

Church was a practice instituted to help people wait for and prepare for the kingdom of God.  Since the kingdom has already come , we no longer wait for it.  We must cleanse ourselves to enter it, but it is always here for us.  And even when we are not in it, we are still subject to it for it is the rule of the universe.

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Vashti and Esther

King Ahasuerus was holding a feast with his entire court, as well as dignitaries from his vast empire and officers from his formidable army, in attendance.  As the banquet was reaching its apex, the king sent for his wife to appear before the assembly.  He was proud of her and wanted to show her off.  Queen Vashti refused to come.  This created quite a stir and it was ultimately decided that the king was going to have to get a new queen who would be more collaborative.  A search was launched to find the very best candidate.  Eventually, that turned out to be Esther who proved herself to be a blessing to the king and the country.

Similarly, King Jesus called His subjects to come into His presence that He might have His court and angelic dignitaries see their glory.  Yet they refused.  So King Jesus decided to choose a new queen.  It is supposed that this happened when Israel rejected Him and He chose the church.  Rather, it happened when the church (which was spiritual Israel) rejected Him.  They preferred to walk in each other’s presence rather than His.  Thus He chose for entrance into the kingdom of God only those believers who were worthy.  This is what the final warnings were about in the messages to the churches in the book of Revelation.  Those who were found worthy entered the kingdom of God, the rest had to stay outside.  This is also what Jesus had predicted in His parable of the wheat and the tares.   All this happened at the expiration of the generation in which Jesus had lived…just as He had promised.

Our lesson today is to always walk in the presence of the Lord and His court.  We human beings are on display.  God Himself sees every secret of our hearts.  We must walk before Him constantly as an open book if we are to please Him.  Walking in the presence of other believers is meaningless; it is His presence and piercing eyes that cleanses our hearts from sin.  May we have the spirit of Esther and not of Vashti.

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Deuteronomy 18:15 – The Prophet Like Moses That God Would Literally Raise Up

We are accustomed to having Old Testament verses take on a spiritual meaning in the new covenant versus their physical or literal meaning under the old covenant.  For example, under the old covenant the Passover was a literal meal to be eaten and celebrated.  Under the new covenant, it symbolizes Christ and the deliverance He gives us from sin.  Similarly, under the old covenant animal sacrifices were to be made with actual animals being slaughtered before the temple altar.  Under the new covenant, Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

It is not always, however, a matter of going from literal to figurative interpretation.  For example, in Deuteronomy 18:15 Moses prophesied that God would raise up a prophet after him to whom the people must give the utmost obedience.  He was speaking of Christ and you even see this expectation in the New Testament gospels as some Jews were seeking to understand who “the Prophet” might be.  The promise had some fulfillment every time God raised up a prophet after Moses such as Elijah or Isaiah.  Nevertheless, it was widely understood that this prophecy would have its ultimate fulfillment in Messianic times.

When Jesus was raised from the dead, the meaning of the word “raised up” in the prophecy went not from literal to figurative, but from figurative to literal.  People had read that God would raise up a leader; most hadn’t consider that the possibility that He would literally RAISE HIM UP – and UP meaning all the way to heaven!   Truly the gospel was hidden in a mystery until Jesus came to reveal it.

We cannot, therefore, apply a wooden interpretive scheme to the Bible such as always look for the figurative and non-literal meaning.  Rather, we should look for the spiritual meaning as revealed by the Holy Spirit – especially since we live in the kingdom of God.

The Lord Wants the Pleasure of Teaching His People

We who know that the face of our Creator is found in Jesus of Nazareth do well to proclaim His name and tell of His glory. 

We must be careful, however, that we never assume His teaching role.  He is the Teacher of all humanity.  He is the One who holds class from the heavenly Zion into the heats of all mankind.  He is the one who makes known the paths of righteousness to every one of the lambs in His flock. 

We cannot teach anyone how to live.  We proclaim Him who teaches everyone how to live.

We do not know enough about righteousness to be teachers.  We are children who know the name of the Teacher.  Our goal is to let Him have the pleasure of teaching us, and anyone else who will listen.

If our brother sins, we can point Him back to Jesus the Teacher.  Nevertheless, we should do so in a spirit of gentleness, looking to ourselves lest we, too, be tempted.  All men know the Lord; He has seen to that. 

All over the world today, people are teaching in the name of the Lord, taking attention from the saints that is due the Lord only.  Let everyone be a disciple of His; let none of us be disciples of each other.

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The Spirit of Paul

Re-read the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians and refresh your apprehension of the spirit of Paul.  You probably know that spirit well since over half the New Testament came through him.

Where is the spirit of Paul today?  It is certainly not guiding the churches.  Or should we say, the churches are certainly not following it.  Paul was shocked to learn that factions were developing in the church at Corinth and he showed no tolerance for it.  He chastised them, calling them “fleshly men” and “babies in Christ.”  If the beginnings of fissure in the church of one city provoked him so, what would he do upon encountering the fractured world of denominational and nondenominational Christianity we see today? 

The churches of today profess allegiance to Paul but are rebellious to his direction.  He told the Corinthians he wanted to “know nothing but Christ” whereas today’s churches major on everything under the sun except Christ.

What would Paul say to the churches today?  “Flee idolatry and pursue the righteousness, peace, and joy that is the kingdom of God.”

Paul preached faith.  The wolves he said would come in after him preached a doctrine of man-made church.  Choose which of these you will embrace for they have nothing to do with each other.  The churches claim Paul’s legacy but do not have his spirit.

If Paul were here today he would tell us to forget about church altogether and pursue the kingdom of God instead.

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Read the Old Testament the Way the Apostles Did

In the time of the apostles, the Old Testament was their Bible.  It wasn’t until after they died that their own writings were collected, assembled into what is called the New Testament, and added to the Bible.  Therefore, whenever you see the apostles referring to, or quoting the Scriptures, they are talking about what we call the Old Testament.

The apostles had a particular way of reading the Old Testament.  It was the way Jesus had taught them.  In the last chapter of Luke, Jesus makes clear to His apostles (and Luke makes clear to his readers) that the Old Testament was full of information about Jesus.  The apostles, like all good Jews of that day, had previously seen the Old Testament as a collection of law, history, and some prophecies about Israel including some references to a Messiah.  In the light of Jesus’ resurrection, however, they came to see almost the entirety of the Old Testament as describing the work of Messiah.   

Through the gospels and letters of the New Testament, we see examples of how the apostles came to see Jesus in the Old Testament by the way they quoted it.  They didn’t merely see Him in the obvious prophecies that had been made about Messiah being born in the line of David.  They saw Him as the Passover that Israel celebrated, the manna in the desert, the rock that followed them, the serpent that Moses lifted, the ladder that Jacob had dreamed, the Shepherd that David extolled, the temple that Solomon built, the wisdom that the Queen of Sheba came to hear, and much more.  In fact, even the entire New Testament itself is incapable of explicitly reporting every reference to Jesus in the Old Testament.  The left us the path, however, to finding the rest. 

Learning about Jesus nourishes our faith.  Why should we study anything else in the Old Testament except to look for Jesus?

The apostles had a particular way of reading the Old Testament.  They abandoned the historic method of reading it according to the flesh.  Instead, they read it in the light of what they called the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We would do well to read it the same way.

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“After My Departure”

The apostles did not expect good things to happen to the church after they departed.  On the contrary, they frequently warned of the apostasy that would come in the absence of their direction.  The comfort was that the Lord was coming soon in His kingdom and therefore each believer should hold firm to what he’d been taught, looking for the day of the Lord (also called “the day of Christ”).  Thus Paul had warned the elders at Ephesus about what would happen after his departure.  Sure enough, by the time John wrote Revelation, the church at Ephesus was receiving a rebuke from Jesus.  Yet He told them to return to their first love, reminding all who had heard the Olivet discourse of His prophecy that the ones who did not let their hearts grow cold could endure to the end and be saved in the coming of the kingdom.

Jesus and His apostles were unified in their view that the demise of the church would coincide with the coming of the kingdom.  Paul and Peter became convinced that they would not survive to see it.  There was always the question about whether John would live to see it, given what Jesus had said to Peter about him.  Since the apostolic witness on this point is consistent and abundant, why do people act today as if the Lord or the apostles had established some sort of transfer of power that would allow the church to be administered generation after generation waiting on a kingdom whose coming was still supposed to be considered imminent almost two thousand years later?

It’s much easier to believe the New Testament on this point:  The kingdom of God came in the midst of an apostate church at the end of the apostolic age.  All church traditions handed down from that point, which would have been around the late 1st Century A.D., would therefore be questionable.  The kingdom has been in the earth since then.  If we’re seeking Jesus, we’ll find Him in the kingdom, not church. 

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Unless Your Righteousness Surpasses That of the Evangelicals…

The spirit of the Pharisees animates Evangelicalism today.  I say that in a positive and negative sense.

What could be the positive sense?  The Pharisees were those Israelites in the time of Jesus most zealous for the Law of Moses.  While they certainly misapplied their knowledge of Moses, they had more knowledge of his law than anyone else.  Once one of them saw the light – surely the apostle Paul comes to your mind – they could be as ferocious for the truth in the spirit of love as they had been ferocious for misunderstanding in the spirit of hypocrisy.  Grant this to the Pharisees as well:  they had far more hope in God than their rival faction the Sadducees.  The Sadducees swore allegiance to the Scriptures but could not accept the idea of people being resurrected.  The Pharisees made it an essential element of their doctrine.  As Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “Salvation is of the Jews” and the Pharisees had the zeal to be the Jews of all Jews.

Similarly, Evangelicals in our time swear allegiance to the Bible and to the Lord like no other.  And I should be clear that I am defining Evangelicalism in its broadest sense, so I include Charismatics and Pentecostals when I speak of them.  These are all people who will tell the world unashamedly that the Bible is the word of God and has not an error in it.  They are absolutely right about this.  Where they err is in their obedience to the Bible.  Like the Pharisees, their obedience is focused on petty things – like not cussing or saying a blessing before eating a meal.  Jesus prefaced His teaching on the Lord’s prayer by saying prayer should not be vain repetition, and yet that’s just how many Evangelicals pray that prayer – by rote group repetition.  Also like the Pharisees, they neglect the commandments of God for their own man-made commandments.  This includes insistence on church affiliation, participation, and financial support – none of which Jesus ever commanded.

If the Evangelicals ever recover the spirit that provoked them to come to Jesus in the first place, they will find the kingdom of God and then will be like the head of a household who brings out of his treasure things new and old.  May the spirit of that great recovered Pharisee Paul himself animate them.  If that happens, our world will be rocked like nothing we have ever seen.

In the meantime, know that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Evangelicals, you will not enjoy the rule of God.

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The Spirit of the Judaizers

The spirit of the Judaizers animates the church today. 

In New Testament times, the Judaizers objected to the gospel of grace that Paul and the others apostles preached on the grounds that faith alone was not enough.  Judaizers believed that converts should also practice circumcision according to the Law of Moses.  Their argument was that circumcision had been established by God and could not be abandoned.  The book of Galatians provides a clear, complete, and compelling view of the apostolic argument against the Judaizers.  In summary it was: the grace of God is sufficient.

Today, the spirit of the Judaizers is still alive in those who practice and preach church attendance.  They say that trusting God is not enough, believers need to be in subjection to other believers.  They also say that church was established by God and cannot be abandoned.  In spirit, the book of Galatians provides a clear, complete, and compelling view of what the apostolic argument against this sort of thinking would be.  The apostles are not here to speak for themselves so we must read their words and catch their spirit.  Their message was of liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17). 

Today’s church leaders claim the Bible as their authority for mandating  church.  But they overlook the fact that in New Testament times the Old Testament was all the Bible that people had – and the Judaizers claimed its authority for mandating circumcision.  I urge you to re-read the book of Galatians and see that the spirit that animated the Judaizers then is the same spirit that animates church leaders today.

Be like the men of Issachar who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.

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Yes, I Am a Recovering Christian Leader

Yes, I am a recovering Christian leader (to borrow from the 12-step lexicon).  I was a pastor.  I sought to get people to come to my church.  I thought I was doing it for God, but I should have known better.

I told people that they needed God.  That was true, and I believed it.  What I wasn’t admitting to them, however, was that I needed them.  I needed them in the church when I preached because I would be embarrassed if my church was empty or only had a few coming.  I needed their tithes because without them I couldn’t pay the bills.  I needed them to volunteer because without their time commitments we couldn’t have enough programs to attract more people.

I liked to think that I had surrendered my life to a calling to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, but there was so much I that I had to do to sustain the church that only a fraction of my time went to the original purpose.  There was new member visitation, worship team practice, board meetings, and programs of every description: for youth, for women, for men, for couples, for singles, and on and on it went.

There are successful churches and there are struggling churches.  I’ve been part of both.  Those that do well operate on sound business principles, those that struggle don’t.  In other words, church success has nothing to do with Divine presence and church failure has nothing to do with Divine absence.  Church was an instrument of God in the New Testament, but it’s been a strictly human arrangement ever since – as evidenced by its divided nature (“A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand”).  Any church’s success or failure today can be explained by sociological, not theological, principles.

The point is that church is a structure God has not used since New Testament times.  He blesses faith wherever and whenever He finds it in a human heart.  If that person happens to be in church, fine.  If that person is somewhere else, fine.   People pay attention to church structure, but God doesn’t care.  He’s looking for faith in individual human hearts.

Once I realized that God had abandoned the structure of the church, I did, too.  I have never regretted it.  It is a beast that consumes the resources of people who want to serve God.  I know this not just from the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, but from my own personal experience.

Having repented of my pastoring, I am now free to praise His holy name – which is precisely what I was wanting to do all along.  Only now, I don’t need people to give me anything or do anything for me in order to accomplish that.

I explain more about how I walked away from being  a pastor in I Left My Church by Letting It Leave Me.

“Great Is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Artemis was a great Greek goddess of antiquity.  Some Bibles render the name as Diana, which was the similar Roman deity.  During New Testament times, there was a great temple to her honor in the city of Ephesus.  As the apostle Paul won converts among the Ephesians, artisans in the city became alarmed.  Silversmiths made lots of money producing idols for a consuming pagan public.  Worship of a God who disdained objects of worship was a frightful prospect to these entrepreneurs.  At one point, a great commotion arose as the tradesmen, quite fearful of losing business as more of the public abandoned such idol worship, stirred up the citizens by appealing to their civic pride.  “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” they would shout.  Certainly the reputation of the city of Ephesus was elevated by hosting a temple whose glory was known far and wide in the ancient world.  The crowd was worked into a frenzy at the time, but was eventually calmed.

The same spirits at work in those days are at work today.  That is, there are those whose livelihood or sense of well-being depends on the trade associated with the church.  Just as people were provoked to shout, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” some today are provoked to claim, “Great is the church of Jesus Christ!”  At the root of it all, however, is still the love of money.  Church is a business and many people make a living from it.  Thus church is today’s version of idol worship.  It substitutes objectification of God for loyalty to God.  It substitutes worship of structures, organizations, and relationships for worship of God.  It substitutes practice of religious rituals and participation in meetings and programs for the practice of the commandments of God.

When you hear people shout, “Great are the works of our hands!” (regardless of what those works are) know that it is God they are rejecting for the sake of their works.  Don’t join them, and don’t be dismayed by them.  They are fighting against the truth, and that is always a losing battle.

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Noah’s Ark in the New Testament Flood of Judgments

The church of the New Testament was God’s chosen vessel for delivering those who were willing to be delivered from the flood of great judgments upon Israel and the world of that time.  So great was the judgment against the nation of Israel that its third great temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.  Not one stone was left upon another.  The judgments upon the rest of the world were also severe: wars, famines, earthquakes.

As Noah built his ark, Christ built His church.  As Noah led in those to be saved, so Christ led in those He was saving.  As Noah led everyone off the ark to live in a new world after the flood, so Jesus led everyone out of the church to live in the kingdom of God on earth.  Noah’s ark was not built for reuse.  Neither was the church designed for multi-generation use.  It was designed for apostolic times only.  Jesus had promised that some who had seen Him in His earthly life would see Him coming in His kingdom.  We can be confident that it happened just as He said it would (2 Corinthians 5:16).

We who live after Noah have no more need of an ark.  We who live after Christ and His apostles have no more need of a church.  We have the kingdom of God which endures forever.  Let us seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and anything else we need will be provided to us.

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The Yoke of Grace Versus the Yoke of Law

The Scriptures speak of the yoke which Jesus gives: the yoke of grace.  His yoke is easy and His load is light.  The Scriptures also speak of the yoke of the law of Moses – a yoke which according to the apostle Peter, “Neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear.”  The Jews of Jesus’ day had good reason to speak this way about the yoke of the law for they had attempted with great effort to keep it.  Do not think that they brushed it off.  They embraced it and gave themselves to it as completely as they knew how.  Yet this still was not enough.  It was an onerous burden.  The process turned many of them into Pharisees, including the apostle Paul.  Thus when Jesus came offering the yoke of the kingdom of heaven they grasp it with all their heart – none more famously than Peter. 

Believers did not grasp the yoke of grace simply because it was easier.  They embraced it was better and because it was God’s plan.  The yoke of the law had prepared them for it.  Therefore, when God said the time for the kingdom had come, they were ready.  Yes, some, like Paul, were slower to accept.  But once they understood that the lighter yoke actually resulted in greater service and glory to God, there was no reason not to accept it with all one’s heart!

Today people are pursuing God as if under a yoke of law.  They go to church regularly, they endure religious rituals, they put their faith in their piety.  As a result, they are burdened and joyless.  Would that they threw off the yoke of law and embraced the yoke of grace.  This yoke of grace is still easy and the load is still light.  It consists of the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.  

Live in the light of Jesus.  Acknowledge His presence wherever you go.  Do not bow down to religious institutions or authorities of any kind.  Be done with lesser things and serve the King of Kings.

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Another Pharoah Who Knew Not Joseph

During Joseph’s time in Egypt, his wisdom came to be appreciated by the country’s leader.  Joseph was elevated to Pharoah’s right hand, ruling over the entire Egyptian realm.  In a subsequent generation, however, another king arose to rule Egypt who did not remember or appreciate the benefits Joseph had brought to that land.  Thus this pharaoh enslaved the descendants of Joseph and his family – that is, the Hebrews.

Similarly, in our generation we see spiritual leaders who do not exalt Jesus.  They subjugate people in the name of God.  Those strong in faith do not subject themselves to such human rule for the resurrected Lord is able to rule through His kingdom all those who trust Him in this generation.  However, the weak in faith yield to these pharaohs, giving them prominence which distracts from the glory of the Lord.  By doing so, the weak in faith enslave themselves and do not enjoy the ever-increasing glory of  God.

Let us not live in the bondage of an Egypt which has believers ruling over other believers.  Instead, let us live in the promised land of the liberty of the Lord where each believer answers only to God Himself.

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When the Egyptians Attempted It, They Were Drowned

In the book of Hebrews when great feats of Old Testament faith were recalled, the writer spoke of the great miracle at the Red Sea.  The Israelites had fled their slavery in Egypt, but Pharoah’s army was in hot pursuit.  It appeared that the Israelites were cornered at the Read Sea, but God split the sea such that the Israelites were able to cross as though they were passing through dry land.  Subsequently, the Egyptians attempted to chase them through the path God had made.  However, the Egyptians were drowned in the process as God allowed the waters to return to normal.  The lesson was obvious: faith makes a way that unbelief cannot follow.

We see this pattern reenacted before us in the experience of the church since the days of the apostles.  Church in New Testament days was an instrument of God.  It resulted from the preaching of the apostles who bore witness to what they eyes had seen, their ears had heard, and their hands had handled of Jesus of Nazareth, the resurrected Son of God and Messiah of Israel.  The apostles bore witness to Jesus and this church bore witness to the apostles, leaving as inheritance to every generation since, the documents we call the New Testament.  These documents not only are the written testimony regarding the Lord, sworn in blood, they are the key to understanding the Old Testament.  Praise be to God for this church, for they escaped the slavery of sin and of the law and glorified the God of Israel, Creator of heaven and earth, and Redeemer of all humanity.

Churches in every generation since have attempted to follow that same path, but without the same spiritual success.  That is because churches in generations since the apostles have made their attempts in the flesh and not in the spirit.  That is, they have not acted in faith, but rather in unbelief.  They have not believed the Lord’s promise that He would return before the generation of Jesus and His apostles had passed away.  Thus they continue to look for a Jesus according to the flesh.  Though humanity has known Jesus in the flesh, we know Him thus no longer.  He is God Almighty…and He is here in our midst, reigning in His kingdom!

Church is useless in this age.  Let every believer in Jesus Christ believe.  He is the invisible God and we should walk before Him in humility all the days and hours of our lives wherever we are and wherever we happen to go.  The glory of His kingdom cannot be contained by a church.

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Factions Are a Deed of the Flesh

According to Galatians 5, factions are a deed of the flesh.  They are not, therefore, a fruit of the spirit.  Thus you can know that churches today are not of the spirit but rather of the flesh.

The flesh has to do with the world that can be seen, of course, while the spirit embraces the heavenly dimension that we cannot see.

It is clear that today’s church, having factions, is “of the flesh.”  There are thousands upon thousands of denominations of Christianity.  The number of these factions is almost uncountable.  More fundamentally, however, today’s church in total is itself a faction because it separates itself from society at large.  To make matters worse, today’s church considers itself holy while it considers society at large unholy.

Some will argue that the church of the New Testament separated itself from society at large and it was called holy.  This is true, but that was before the kingdom of God came which removed all distinctions between Jew and Gentile in its complete renewal of creation.  The New Testament church longed for and looked for the kingdom which is now ours to enter.  God’s kingdom came at the end of the apostolic age and has been available to all humanity every since.  The church of the New Testament was privileged just as ancient Israel was privileged, but in the better covenant of the kingdom of God, all nations receive the privileges.  As evidence of the difference, remember that the apostles would not allow the church to be divided under their watch; once they were gone and the kingdom had come, the church has never stopped dividing.  The New Testament church – which can also be called the apostolic church – was truly an organism created and sustained by God.  The church (or churches) since are, by contrast, institutions of man.

Consider the united church during New Testament days and the divided church ever since.  Doesn’t that indicate to you that a profound change took place between those two time periods?  What else could account for it save the coming of the Lord in His kingdom which the New Testament had prophesied.  It even prophesied the falling away of the church in the last days of the apostles that would birth the divisions.  That “falling away from the Lord” still animates the church today.

When the perfect came, the partial was to be done away – the partial would simply become a faction.  Indeed, that’s what the church after the apostles became and thus it has remained down to our day.  Let us abandon all factions for they are a deed of the flesh.  Walk in the spirit and be one with your brother and sister human beings.  There is but one family of God.

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Do You Know Who Is Obeying God?

Christian leader, do you know who in your congregation is obeying God and who is not?  If you do not know, how can you be their spiritual leader?

You not only don’t know who in your flock is being obedient and who is being disobedient, you don’t know it about the people you are seeking to visit and join your church either.  For all you know, they could be living relatively righteous lives without going to church and then fall into sin with a member of your church.  It’s happened.

You cannot see the secrets of human hearts, and therefore you are in no position to know whether a congregant needs a rebuke or a pat on the back.  A person’s thought life alone is completely out of your purview.  And then there’s the fact that they are only in your church for a portion of the 168 hours in a week.  You don’t know what they are doing the rest of the time.  Are you beginning to recognize that you are completely inadequate to be a spiritual shepherd to these people.

I will tell you who is not inadequate:  Jesus our Lord.  Let Him shepherd the sheep.  And while your at it, join the flock.  You need shepherding, too.

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Do You Teach Holiness?

Christian leaders, do you teach holiness?  You know from the book of Hebrews that holiness, or sanctification,  is required for anyone to see the Lord.

As important as holiness is, none of us is qualified to teach it. We can tell people about the one who is holy, but only He can teach it, and only He can impart it to them.

“You shall be holy for I am holy.”  You know these words of the Lord.  Yes, they are sobering.

Because we know that holiness is essential for God’s people and because we know that we ourselves are not capable of teaching it, we should recognize that the Lord must teach His people.  Therefore, we should stand aside and let Him.  Equally important, we need to sit for this teaching ourselves because we need His holiness as much as anyone.

How strange that some people should call men of the cloth holy – as if our institutions could impart holiness by designating someone for ministry.  It is not those who are affiliated with human institutions who are holy but rather those who are affiliated with the Lord.

Let us abandon these God-forsaken institutions and walk in His cleansing light.

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Why Do You Lord It Over God’s Flock?

Why do you accept a role overseeing a portion of God’s flock when He said that whoever would be great in His kingdom should be as a servant and a child?

You have not usurped His role as shepherd maliciously or even consciously.  It was just tradition.  It’s the way things have been handed down to you. But the Scriptures tell us differently, and it is the Scriptures to which we must be true.

Deep down you know that you should not be lording it over God’s people.  You are one of God’s children, but He has not put you in charge of others for He is fully capable of being Father to them all.  Besides that, you have spiritual struggles of your own – which makes you the blind leading the blind.  Tradition has misled you, but God’s word will guide you rightly.

Tradition told you that this role of leadership was appropriate, but God’s word tells you not to be called rabbi, teacher, father, or leader.  Do you think that because your title is a synonym and not literally one of these four words that you will be excused?

Peter said that when the Chief Shepherd appeared, He would award the faithful shepherds.  He did appear, just when He said He would, and all who were sanctified saw Him as He was: God Almighty.

Seek God to learn how He would have you to serve people without having spiritual authority over them.

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Where Does Repentance Fit Into Your Ministry?

Do you tell people they should repent?  Do you emphasize the point, or gloss over it?  Are you afraid people won’t follow you if you talk too much about repentance?

As a Christian leader, you know that repentance was an essential element of the good news message.  From John the Baptist, through Jesus, and all the apostles, the gospel was consistently preached:  Repent and believe!  This came from a rich tradition, for the Old Testament prophets were noted for their consistent call for wayward Israel to return to the Lord.  Of course, their work was built on the foundation of Moses who could be quite strong in his denunciations of the Israelites.  In fact, his frustration with them on one occasion caused him to be deprived of personally entering the promised land.  Even Moses, however, wasn’t the beginning, for Noah, and Enoch before him, had also called for repentance.

Thus the Bible reveals the centrality of repentance to the message of God.  How could anyone speak in God’s name and ignore it?

Let me ask also about repentance in your own life.  How important is it to you in your walk with God?  How can you walk with God without it?

If repentance is not relevant in your personal life, it would not likely be relevant in your ministry.

If We Are Faithless, He Remains Faithful

Christian leader, you remember these words written from Paul to Timothy.  Given the context, it sounds rather like he was quoting them in the same way we might quote a poem or hymn.  Do you trust these words?  They are powerful!

These words confirm what we know deep in our hearts:  that God’s faithfulness to us does not depend on our faithfulness to Him.  If it did, what straits we would be in!  On the contrary, our faithfulness to Him depends on His faithfulness to us.

Let’s assume you’ve bought a present for one of your children.  Would you tell them that if they will believe that you bought it for them, then you will give it to them, but if they don’t believe then you will throw it away?  Of course not.  You tell them that you have bought it for them.  If they believe you, they can be excited and happy immediately and look forward to receiving, opening, and using it.  If they don’t believe you, then they have no immediate joy and hope.  They’ll still eventually receive the present from you and enjoy it, but they will have missed out on some of the hope and joy they could have had.

Even so, the atheist will receive life in heaven just as we will.  The difference is that we who believe have been given the privilege of knowing and looking forward to it.  The atheist deprives himself of joy and blessing in this life.

Jesus Christ is faithful, even when we are faithless. 

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There Are No Factions in the Kingdom of God

In the last days, the church was a Jewish sect.  Even before that, there was a division between the descendants of Abraham and all the rest of humanity.  With the coming of the kingdom of God, however, all factions, parties, and divisions were done away.  The kingdom came at the close of the apostolic age in spiritual glory and wonder, away from the fleshly eyes of worldly viewing.  No more would God be dealing with the one race, the descendants of one man.  The kingdom of God brought a renewal in which there was no such thing as Jew or Gentile, slave or free, Greek or barbarian.  We are all one in Christ and hence all divisions have been washed away.
 
Therefore, when you separate yourself from your fellow-man claiming that you have the God that they are without, you become a faction, a party, a division.  You thus separate yourself from the grace of God – doing yourself and your neighbor a wrong.  Instead, you should see Christ in your neighbor.  If he does not see Christ in himself, then be patient with him until He does.  Remain one with him in spirit and in heart.  Do not lord your awareness over him.
 
When you present yourself to the world as the church or as a Christian, you present Christ as a faction in the world.  He is not a faction.  He is the God who fills the heavens and the earth.  He gives us each breath we take.  In Him we all live and move and have our being.  Therefore, speak of Christ as a shared inheritance of humanity – not as the province of any subset of humans.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
As the New Testament saints looked to the Old Testament for types, so we in the kingdom must look to the New Testament for types.  The church in the New Testament is a type of the kingdom of God.  That is, as the apostles urged the New Testament church to live in peace without divisions, so should we as a human race seek to live in peace without divisions.  As God perfected the church, so we should let Him perfect the human race.  As Paul told the church in Corinth, they should not divide – not even in the name of Christ (1 Cor 1:12).
 
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The “Instead of Going to Church, Pray” 30-Day Challenge

Christian leaders, here’s a challenge for you to issue to your flocks:  Ask your people to spend the next 30 days giving all their church time directly to God.  That is, if they would spend two hours total on Sunday morning at church (service time, commute time, and prep time), then have them spend that time alone with the Lord.  Have them do the same for every church program and activity over the next month.  In other words, you won’t see them for thirty days, but God will be seeing them instead.  If you have a media or traveling ministry, ask your followers to give the time directly to God that they would spend reading, watching, or listening to your materials.  In both cases, have them give all the money that they would be giving you directly to the poor.  When the thirty days are up, ask them what they learned from the experience.
 
Do you think it would be acceptable to God for you to conduct such an experiment?  Would He mind having the people come directly to Him?  Would He protest if the money would be going to the poor?
 
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Why Do You Distract Believers?

Christian leaders, why do you distract those who believe in the Lord?  You seek them for your congregations.  You lay the burdens of volunteer work and financial responsibility for your ministry on them.  You thus rob them of two precious resources: time and money.  The Lord wants to be able to direct the deployment of their treasure Himself.  
 
And why do you tell the people they must relate to you as their pastor and to fellow believers as their brothers – as if you were all part of some elite subset of humanity?  Do these people who are interested in Christ not have enough human relationships already?  
 
Recognize that you have not just distracted these followers of Christ – you have distracted yourself as well.  Your ministry is a beast that requires your constant feeding lest it consume you.  Return yourself to the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.  He will bless you beyond measure if you do.
 
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In Christ

Many of you are familiar with the “in Christ” scriptures.  This refers to passages where this brief phrase (and similar ones such as “in Him”) occur.  Paul used them extensively to make known the great things God has done for those in Christ.  You’ll recall that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away and new things have come.”  And this is but one example.

In New Testament days it was believers who were in Christ, who thus were the first fruits of God’s harvest, the earnest on His inheritance, and were consequently allowed to taste the powers of the age to come.  When that new age came, with the coming of the promised kingdom, the whole world came under the authority of Christ.  Therefore, it was no longer just the church who received these benefits, but the whole of humanity.  All things became new.  Jesus wasn’t just at the right hand of God anymore; He was sitting on the throne.  Yes, there was a place of refuge in the midst of the judgments of the earth for those faithful and obedient to the Lord.  But even those who were disobedient were only a process of repentance away from entrance into the temple of the Lord’s peace. 

Thus today, every person is in Christ and every person is new inside.  No, they are not all showing it – but then for years you’ve seen professed believers in your ministry that didn’t always show it.  For years, we have told believers who they were in Christ so that they might be encouraged.  Knowing of the kingdom’s reach, you should now tell every person who they are in Christ that they might become believers.  Believing won’t make it so; rather, they can believe it because it is so.

The whole world is in Christ.  If this is not so, then Jesus did not come when He promised and we are all still in our sins.  Yet He did come when He promised, so I say again: every human being is in Christ.

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Are You Great or Least in the Kingdom of God?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus laid out for us the qualifications for greatness in the kingdom of God.  They are to keep and teach all the commandments of the Law.  How are you doing with that?  Of course, Jesus meant to keep and teach them in the grace and truth He brought through them, not the fleshly way they were originally laid down by Moses (i.e. circumcision of the heart not the flesh, unleavened bread of sincerity and truth and not literal crackers, Jesus as our lamb and not a woolly mammal, and so on).  Even so, how are you doing with that?

That, by the way, is only a rhetorical question from me because it’s none of my business where you stand.  I ask because I see hardly any Christian leaders today who seem to measure themselves in these terms.  It is an awesome standard Jesus has laid upon us.  We should at least acknowledge that this is the measuring stick.

Instead of pursuing Jesus’ standard, it appears many Christian leaders have simply constructed alternative forms of Christianity.  Some focus on building the biggest, most successful church.  Others focus on having the purest doctrine.  Others focus on having the warmest fellowship of believers.  It’s amazing how many alternatives exist, and how zealously they are pursued.

If you are one of those Christian leaders, I hope you will reconsider Jesus’s words and your own direction in life.  There may be time to make things right before you see Him in heaven.

I Want to See Christian Leaders Become Christlike Servants

Who am I to hope that Christian leaders will be transformed into Christlike servants?  I am a nobody.  Just a person, an ordinary human being.  In spirituality, I’m a little child, hardly knowing how to come in or go out – at best, one of the least of His kingdom.  This modesty is in no way false.

Yet I do long to see this transformation.  Christian leaders are over believers; Christlike servants are under them.  Christian leaders seek to draw the Lord’s believers to their respective causes; Christlike servants send believers to their Lord.  Christian leaders trust in their Christian identities; Christlike servants trust the Lord.

The transformation I hope for is possible, for the Lord wants us all to be Christlike servants.  And, of course, nothing is impossible with God.

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Lone Ranger Christian

The epithet “Lone Ranger Christian” is often tossed from the pulpit in an attempt to stigmatize any believer in Jesus who does not honor church.  Church is a social phenomenon so it’s natural for such a point to be well received by this audience.  They’re there – they want others there with them.  Rare is the church that doesn’t want to grow.  The more the merrier, and all that.

Consequently, the pastor’s argument against “Lone Ranger Christianity” is relatively weak and doesn’t consist of much more than the epithet.  Oh, he’ll throw in some lines about how we all need each other, but neglect the fact that most people who don’t come to church have plenty of relationships and aren’t recluses.  He’ll also throw in some Scripture, but not too much since the New Testament lacks any commandment regarding church attendance.  The closest it comes is Hebrews 10:25 which no church today practices because they all assemble separately when the verse calls for assembling together.  (For more, see my post on Hebrews 10:25.)

Aside from the weakness of the argument against “Lone Ranger Christianity” is the fact that this is exactly the kind of Christianity that was practiced by its Namesake and Founder.  That is, you do not see Jesus submitting Himself and His plans to others.  You do not see Him with a “home church” as base.  He does not have a pastor or elders to whom He submits.  (Well, He did eventually submit to elders but they had Him crucified – in part precisely because He had been a Lone Ranger and had not submitted His teaching to their authority.)  Jesus’ ministry was primarily conducted from town to town and on the roads in between.  Yes, He would go to a synagogue to teach and, yes, He would go to the temple and celebrate Israel’s feasts, but as for what we call church life today – He practiced none of it, taught none of it, and commanded none of it.  Therefore, the Hero of our faith was…the original Lone Ranger Christian.  How then do we follow in His steps without taking on His attitude?

Church is no longer of the Lord, and hasn’t been for a long time.  Seek His kingdom and His righteousness instead.  It is better to be alone and serving the Lord than together with others serving someone else.

See also:  How to Be in the One True Church

The Sin of Diotrephes

John’s third letter tells among its few lines the even shorter story of Diotrephes.  And a disturbing story it was.

It seems the apostle John couldn’t even get a hearing in Diotrephes’ church.  And indeed it was on the verge of becoming the church of Diotrephes instead of the church of the Lord.  Paul had warned the elders of Ephesus that some from among them would draw away the disciples after themselves.  John, in another letter, had warned that antichrists would arise in the last hour.  Diotrephes is a specific example of that which the apostles – and the Lord Himself – had warned: the falling away of church leaders just before the Lord’s return. 

If you seek followers for your church or ministry, you have inherited the sin of Diotrephes.  You probably are not drawing disciples of the Lord to yourself knowingly.  You think you are doing it for Him.  But recognize now that the Lord has chosen His people for Himself, not for us. 

Let us be done with the sin of Diotrephes.  That is, let us be done with the sin of wanting to be “first among them.”  Jesus Himself had warned us not to be called “Rabbi, Teacher, Leader, or Father” – all titles He reserved for Himself.  Again, let us flee from being over any disciple of the Lord.  They are His.

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The Church Is in Rebellion Against Jesus

The church proclaims that Jesus is Lord, but it does not practice this truth.  In fact, it rebels against Him.

Jesus says “Come unto Me,” while the church says, “Come unto us.”

Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” while the church says, “Seek first church.”

Jesus says, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine,” while the church says, “If you abide in church, then you are Jesus’ disciples.”

It is the saddest and strangest irony that the church works at cross purposes with the very Lord it professes to serve.

It was not always this way.  The church of the New Testament – that is, the apostolic church – was faithful to Him.  Since the end of that age, however, the church fell away and God’s kingdom came to replace it.  Wherever an individual walks yoked with Jesus – there is the kingdom of God.

We Who Had Sweet Fellowship Together

Such sad words that David writes here.  He describes a very painful moment. 

This is not the distance that separates two who do not know each other.  Rather, it is the estrangement of two who were once very close.

Imagine how Jesus felt, having been with the apostolic church every step of their persecuted and glorious journey.  So intimate was He with His church, and so closely did He identify with it, that in His challenging rebuke to Saul of Taurus He had cried out, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”  The church was His bride.  He loved her as He loved His own flesh.

Imagine then how He felt as the apostles dwindled in number due to their faithful witness in the face of the ultimate persecution.  The love of many of the remaining grew cold and church leaders, loving to be first, began to draw the disciples to themselves.  He was not surprised for He had foreseen the apostasy, and He had warned through His apostles that it would happen.  Yet as with Judas, knowing ahead of time did not lessen the severity of His wound.  This rejection did not come from those who never knew Him.  Rather, it came from His companions and familiar friends, those who had walked with Him in the house of God in the throng.

Then there came the moment when there was a great separation of sheep and goats, invisible to earth but fully visible to heaven. The Lord chose His glorious church which was without spot or wrinkle, gladly giving them the kingdom; He simulataneously cast aside those who had chosen earthly structure and worldly power, and left them outside His kingdom. 

Decide today whose spiritual descendants you will be: whether those who set their minds on a heavenly Shepherd or those who set their minds on earthly shepherds.  Least of all, should you be like those earthly shepherds who sought the sheep for themselves.  Peter denied the Lord, but he did not betray Him and he did not take money for his betrayal as Judas had.  May God have mercy on us all.

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Reform the Clergy or Eliminate It?

You may wonder if I address Christian leaders in hope of reforming the clergy or eliminating it.  My hope is that it will be eliminated in the flesh and reformed in the spirit.

By eliminated in the flesh, I mean that I hope the church and all its clergy go away.  The church robs believers of their God-given liberty and enslaves them to the needs and purposes of the church.  This is true whether the church is worldwide in scope, is a local nondenominational church, or even a house church of a few people.  Church was only ordained by God for New Testament times.  Since then His kingdom has prevailed.  And since then, the church has fought the kingdom for the hearts of believers, telling all who would listen, “Those of you who would serve God must serve me.”   

By reformed in the spirit, I mean that every person in the clergy who knows Jesus Christ will praise Him daily and tell others of His goodness.  This does not require a paid position in a church or ministry.  In fact, spreading the gospel should not be a way of making money.  Otherwise, those of us who speak of Him are simply peddlers of God’s word.  We who know something of the Scriptures can freely share what we know as we have occasion.  But we must always respect every other person’s relationship with the Lord and never insert ourselves between Him and the person (which is what church does).

Therefore, I urge all of you who are considered Christian clergy: cast aside your ministerial title and status.  Live for the Lord, and sing His praise.  And if that means that you will sell hot dogs instead of passing the offering plate for your income, then know that you will have exchanged shame for glory.

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The Perfect Has Come

The great love chapter of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13) tells us that “when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”  Of course, Paul was speaking of the discarding of church structure (including all the communication protocols he was in the midst of describing when he digressed on the subject of love) that would occur when the eternal kingdom of God arrived.

This doing away with something of lesser value when something of greater value comes on the scene was very much in keeping with biblical standards.  Moses’ tabernacle replaced the occasional altar of sacrifice offered by the patriarchs.  Then the temple replaced Moses’ tabernacle.  Then the church of the New Testament replaced the temple.  Lastly, the kingdom of God replaced the church.

The reason that church life has been such a frustration to people who love the Lord ever since New Testament times, is that God did away with it when He brought in His kingdom shortly after the last of the New Testament documents was written – just as He promised.  The church was a partial structure, intended only for apostolic times.  For this reason, the apostles never gave instructions for its perpetuation beyond their generation.  And for this reason, the structure of church has bedeviled believers for generations.  Jesus has offered Himself – and been found – through every generation since the apostles, but as soon as believers shift their focus from Jesus to church, the mischief begins.  Instead, believers should be seeking Jesus in His kingdom.  He is its king!  (As for the church, they allow Him to be king in name only.)

The kingdom of God is perfect.  It cannot be shaken.  The reason is cannot be shaken is that it is not administered by human hands.  Because it cannot be shaken, the kingdom has endured through every generation, even when the church has been violently shaken.  Church needs to go the way of the patriarchs’ altars and Moses’ tabernacle.  That is, it needs to be lost to history.  Unfortunately, it continues with us to this day like the ruins of the temple called the Wailing Wall with the hopeful chanting of prayers for the coming of a Messiah who has already come, and for the restoration of a Jerusalem that already sits secure from any human encroachment or corruption – fortified and glorified in the heavenly dimension.

Be done with the partial.  It consumes attention belonging to the perfect.  Let the partial burn on the ash heap outside the gates of our glorious Jerusalem.

Among you stands One whom you do not know!  He is the Perfect One.  Bow down to Him.  And to Him only.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Do Not Bring People into Bondage

You know how the Judaizers were following Paul and seeking to bring his converts into bondage.  I can’t imagine that they were doing this with consciously malicious motives.  Rather, they were doing what they thought was right before God – just as Paul himself had been persecuting Christians before his conversion, thinking he was doing God a service.

It’s common for people to think they are serving God when they are actually doing the opposite.  Consider the most dramatic example of all: the Jewish leaders who turned Jesus over to the Romans for crucifixion “for the good of the nation.” 

Similarly, you think you are helping God by seeking to attract people to your church.  It doesn’t seem like bondage to you.  In fact, it seems like the opposite.  You think you are setting them free. Instead, you are just helping them exchange their irreligious bondage for a religious bondage.  They are still bound to sin.  Only an awareness of Jesus can free them from sin.  You can tell them about Jesus, but you can’t give them the freedom.  Moreover, if they think joining you is what gives them the freedom, they will miss Jesus and remain bound.

Set them free.  Tell them to stop serving you and your church so that they can go back to the world from which they came and serve Him there.

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He Sets Aside the First Covenant to Establish the Second

Jesus set aside the original covenant which included animal sacrifice and temple worship.  He replaced it with a new and better covenant wherein worship consists of doing the will of God in our daily lives (Romans 12:1-2). 

It was inevitable in that in the generation that followed the apostles, leaders arose who did not know Jesus.  Like the pharaoh who arose not knowing Joseph (Acts 7:18), these leaders subjugated the disciples (Acts 20:30) to themselves.  By doing so, these leaders shut off the kingdom of God from the disciples and did not enter themselves (Matthew 23:13).

God had intended all along to replace the first covenant with the second because it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin (Hebrews 10:4).  It merely a system instituted for a time until the more permanent administration of the eternal covenant could be established  (Hebrews 9:9-10; 13:20-21).

Apostolic Covering

Have you ever been asked if you have an apostolic covering?  Not all segments of the church have had to deal with the issue of “covering” so you may not be aware of this.  Yet the argument takes other forms in other segments of the church so that it is found in some form everywhere. 

Here’s a universal way of stating the issue: “To whom will you, as a Christian, be submitted so that you are protected from entering into spiritual error?”  The premise is that an individual cannot live his life exclusively with the Lord.  He must be in fellowship with other believers lest he go astray. 

Of course, all this is pure folly.  If fellowship or covering was sufficient to protect against error we wouldn’t have all the sin we have in the churches today: child molestation, adultery, divorce, greed, and on and on the list goes, including every sin known to mankind.  Sometimes the churches with the most covering have the most sins.

People who press you about covering are after something.  They either want your money, your allegiance, or your praise – and maybe they want all of these things. 

The next time someone asks you about your apostolic covering or fellowship, tell them that the apostle and high priest of your confession is the Lord Jesus Christ and you enjoy the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

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Go Back to Your Beginnings

Go back to your beginnings with the Lord.  Remember that sense of blessing that you had? 

Go back to the gospel of Jesus Christ that was preached to you.  Remember how you thought and felt in that moment?

It is other gospels you have heard since then that have blown you off course.  Other influences have entered into your life and brought you into bondage whereas it was Christ who had made you free.

Go back to the purity and simplicity of devotion to Jesus Christ that you once had.  You loved Him above all others and you were prepared to do anything to serve Him.

You did not learn about church and all its trappings from the Spirit who taught you about Jesus.

If you go back to your beginnings, and reinforce those truths that He Himself has made known to you, then you can walk closely with Him once again.

Remember:  Jesus first.  Jesus last.  Jesus always.

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Indivisible Kingdom

The kingdom of God cannot be divided.  It is the kingdom that cannot be shaken.  This is what we have needed, because everything that can be shaken is being shaken.   And certainly the church has demonstrated in every generation that it can be shaken.

The church was even shaken at the end of the apostles’ generation.  The Lord had told them this would be so.  Thus they were not surprised.  And thus they warned those to whom they spoke and wrote. 

Because they knew the church would be shaken and divided, they gave no instructions for its maintenance and operation after their deaths.  Did Noah leave instructions for how his ark was to be used for future journeys?

Here is the choice before you, Christian leader:  a divided and ever-dividing church…or an indivisible kingdom?  Which will you have?

Choose this day whom you will serve.  As for me, I will serve the Lord and His indivisible kingdom.

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Do You Love Church More Than the Kingdom?

Why do you cling to church instead of embracing the kingdom?  Was not the church God’s ark of salvation to carry His people into the promised land of the kingdom?

When the perfect is come, the partial is done away.  Why do you continue to hold fast to the partial?  Do you need more evidence that the church is not the perfect?  Look around you.

What have you thought, or even said, about the Jews who would not let go of the temple when He who was greater than the temple came on the scene?  Because they loved the temple more than the new thing God was doing, they were left with what they loved – only it had become empty of the Lord.  Ichabod.

He who gave the tabernacle in the wilderness gave the temple to replace it.  He who gave the temple gave the church to replace it.  He who gave the church gave the kingdom to replace it.  Embrace the kingdom.  That’s where God is now.

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Disband the Brothers

If you are a Christian leader, you probably have a band of followers.  If so, disband them.   Disband them that they might be of a band with the Lord instead.  He is the only true Christian leader (Matthew 23:10). 

The Lord does not bond to people through you.  He bonds to people directly.  He is the living God.

Jesus desires all men to live together in harmony.  That goal is hard enough without you or I taking people and binding them to ourselves in the name of the Lord.  This only creates more relationships and more temptations for them.  Now they have to spread their energy across double the human demands.  Moreover, they’ll be expecting your band of brothers to treat them better than their natural band of brothers – and in that regard they will often be sorely disappointed. 

We have no call to try to create the family of God.  The true family of God is humanity – of which people are already a part.  Our role is to praise Him, calling attention to His omnipresence and His moral excellence!  If we do that, brothers will bond and the family of God will find peace.

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The Parable of the Unjust Steward

If you have believers in the Lord devoted to you as their spiritual leader for the Lord, then you would do well to mimic the steward in Jesus’ parable who was found squandering his master’s possessions. 

Let the Lord’s servants go to Him that they might serve Him.  During their time with  you, you laid burdens upon them, usually in the name of the Lord.  Maybe it was about church attendance.  Maybe it was about volunteer service in church, ministry, or organization programs.  Maybe it was financial commitments you asked them to make to you or your organization for the Lord’s sake.  In any case, free them from these obligations.  Set them completely at liberty and you will find other comfort and care for yourself when they have all gone.

Above all, however, be sure to let them go.  They are the Lord’s sheep and you and I should never have taken them – even if we were well-intentioned.  We may have been blind, but now we see.  The earth is the Lord’s and the sheep are the Lord’s.  He is able to care for them.  We may proclaim Him.  In fact, we should proclaim Him.  But we cannot take His place.  He alone is the Shepherd, the Pastor, the Ruler, and the Teacher of the people.

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Israel Is a Type of Humanity

If you are a Christian leader, you know that the Bible is filled with shadows and types.  Israel in the Old Testament is a type of humanity in the kingdom of God.

When Jesus is king, Israel flourishes as it did under David and Solomon.  When people disregard Jesus and seek other gods, the experience resembles that of Israel under its weaker kings.  When every person does what is right in their own eyes, the earth resembles Israel in the days of the book of Judges when there was no king in Israel.

Note that I did not say Israel was a type of the church.  Rather it is a type of all humanity.  In this context, the northern kingdom of Israel which split off from the house of Judah is a type of today’s church. 

Thus the post-apostolic church needs to forsake its separated identity and return to the Lion of the tribe of Judah as its King.  If it truly wanted to serve the Lord’s anointed, it would serve only Jesus and not set up kings (be they called pastor, pope, or anything else) of their own, declaring (falsely) that they are the true kingdom of Israel.

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The Divided Kingdom Is a Sign

If you’re a Christian leader, you know your Bible.  You know that the Lord gives signs.  The divided church is a sign to us.  Specifically, it’s a sign that the kingdom has come to replace it.

The prophets and apostles, and the Lord Himself, told us that the church’s last days would be marred by apostasy even though some believers would remain true.  The beginnings of this were even documented in the New Testament, especially the book of Revelation.  That fracturing has never stopped.  Today there are over 30,000 Christian denominations.  Do you now see that this is a sign that the physical church is not the kingdom of God?

A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.  There is no more divided kingdom on earth than the self-identified church!  How could it possibly be the Lord’s?

There was one who restrained the divisions in the days of the apostles, but once He was taken away there was nothing to prevent the continual dividing.  Thus the splintering continues even to this day. 

The kingdom of God, by contrast, is not divided at all.  It would be impossible for the Lord’s kingdom to be divided.  Thus, let the sign of the earth’s divided church alert you to stop seeking the church…and start seeking the kingdom!

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