Saturday, May 21, 2016

THE CRY OF LEGALISM

The results of people who love the grace of God, who embrace the grace of God, who want the grace of God without counting the cost is a people who justify living a sinful lifestyle that is contrary to what Jesus has revealed to us in the New Testament.

The other day I ran into a couple who claim to be citizens of the kingdom of God to the person of Jesus Christ. In our conversation it was revealed that they lived together outside of the marriage covenant. One of them had a sense of guilt that caused them to react a certain way. I never confronted them about this lifestyle or even mentioned the topic of sexual immorality however, I did mention the quote from Jesus when he told the woman who was caught in adultery that he didn’t condemn her but told her to leave her life of sin. After this was said one of them, with a sense of indignation, told me that they would come over to my house every day and remind me I was a sinner. (I wonder if this person would say something like this to Paul?) This person was not familiar with scripture such as, Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. - Galatians 6:1 (NIV) However, I wasn’t attempting to restore anyone, I was just trying to get to know them at this time.

I told this person I wouldn’t mind that reminder at all. However, this comment was not for my benefit, it was their way of trying to make me feel that I had no place to speak about sin within the lives of those who claim to be citizens of the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ the Lord because I was a sinner also. With this statement was the cry of legalism. Meaning Jesus saved us from living by the rules or laws therefore you cannot tell me what I can and cannot do when it comes to God’s will for my life. I have been set free from the law and I can now lean on the grace of God without consequence.

This kind of thinking is contrary to God’s word. Here’s what Paul said to believers, I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” – Gal. 5:21. This statement was directed towards believers not unbelievers therefore, it is directed towards us today.

Here’s the problem with this kind of thinking that hides behind the cry of legalism to justify a sinful lifestyle. If I was a thief before I became a citizen of God’s kingdom I would be asked to stop stealing in order to become a citizen of the kingdom of God. I could not continue to be a thief and at the same time be an ambassador of Christ as a citizen of his kingdom. Jesus said no one who puts his hands to the plow and looks back can be of service in the kingdom of God. In other words, if we want to be followers of Jesus as citizens of his kingdom we must leave our former life behind and take on the life He has for us. His kingdom come, his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. If I was a thief I must steal no longer. If I was a liar I must now tell the truth. If I was living a sexually immoral lifestyle I must now live in a lifestyle which is acceptable to God. If I was a greedy person I must stop being greedy. If I was an idolater I must now turn away from idols. If I was a slanderer I must stop slandering. If I was a drunkard I must stop getting drunk.

If you are a citizen of the kingdom of God through the person of Jesus Christ and do commit a sin that is contrary to the will of God but it is not a sin that is result of a certain lifestyle, we can say thank you Jesus for your grace. Thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you that you give me the opportunity to repent and change in order to please you. Thank you that you have set me free from continuing in this sin I committed. Thank you for making me a new creation and giving me the power, through your Holy Spirit, to resist my sinful human nature. Thank you that you have given me the ability to continually grow in your grace and reflect you to the world around me, your Holiness, your image, your godliness, and most of all your love.

People will be lovers of themselves, proud, without self-control, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. – 2 Timothy 3:2-5

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. - Romans 16:17 (NIV)

It is true that trying to fulfill the terms of the old covenant will not give you eternal life or doing good works. These are not valid ways to make yourself exceptable enough to become a citizen of Gods kingdom. However you can lose the gift of eternal life you received by faith through grace by living for your sinful human nature which has nothing to do with living under the Old Covenant or doing good deeds.

Luke 12:46 (NIV)
[45] But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. [46]  The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Institutionalized Religion of Modern day Christianity in the USA

Is modern day Christianity, in the USA, a reflection of what we see in the New Testament? Jesus left behind the apostles to make sure His message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God was passed on from one generation to the next until His second coming.

God, from the very beginning has established His relationship with humanity in the form of contracts or covenants. This is the reason we refer to the Old Covenant (Old Testament) and the New Covenant (New Testament). It is in these frame-works that defines and spells out His requirements for people and Him to enter into a relationship or covenant.

Essential to these covenant structure is that God is Master, King, Lord, Suzerain or Ultimate Leader or whatever supreme title of leader there is. And the people He makes this covenant with are His servants, vassals, or whatever subservient title there is. Without exception God called these people out of their surroundings to himself and away from the kingdoms of man and the world.  “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”2 Corinthians 6:17-18 (NIV)”

Why? So that He could reach out to all of humanity through those He called to Himself. These people where to reflect the purposes and character of God. It was when these people began to enter into covenantal relationships with people without God and His Son, we find God’s message clouded, diminished and institutionalized religion takes hold.

The bible testifies to the fact that God has never broken these covenants He made with humanity however, people have never faithfully kept their side of the covenants. Adam and Eve violated their side. Noah and his descendants violated theirs. Abraham failed to trust God and His promises. The nation of Israel violated their covenant with God over and over again. However, God always kept His end of the deal and continues to do so.  “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 2:13 (NIV)” Even though people broke their covenant obligations to God, God still reaches out to people and invites them back. However, He never forces them to change and return to Him.

These violations took the form of rejecting God’s leadership and entering into covenants with themselves and the governments or nations that were not a part of God’s kingdom. We see this in the Old Testament and the New. Since those that call on Jesus are in the New Covenant we are therefore citizens of His Kingdom here on earth. This kingdom is not of this world. It’s from another place. It is structured in a completely different way from the Old Covenant nations and the nations of this world. As a matter of fact, Jesus told his disciples He didn’t want them to adopt any of the worlds way or the Old Covenant ways of living as citizens of His kingdom. To do so would allow yeast into the batch of dough. [28] He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” - Luke 11:28 (NIV)

James states, “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. - James 4:4 (NIV)” Paul had a companion named Demas. If Paul was a senior Pastor, Demas would have been an assistant Pastor. Paul mentions Demas in three of his letters to the church. Two of those references were positive. Where we would surmise that Demas was in good standing in the New Covenant. In the third reference, Demas is excoriated. Even though Demas didn’t sin against Paul directly, Paul called him out to the Christian community.  [10] for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica…- 2 Timothy 4:10 (NIV)” If being a friend with the world is hatred towards God, what is loving this world? At the least it is making God your enemy and hating God. John states it this way, “[15] Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. - 1 John 2:15 (NIV)” Do we see this taking place in churches today that claim Jesus as their Lord?

Jesus stated very specific terms in the New Covenant for those that wish to enter into this New Covenant God has made with humanity through His Son, Jesus Christ.
One of those terms was to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. (2 Cor 6) What does this look like? It is when we enter into a contract with the kingdoms of man, local governments, worldly institutions, as a body of believers (church), we promise to meet their demands even if it violates God’s word.

The most blatant violation of this New Covenant that God has made with those that call on Jesus as Lord and Savior is when the church makes a covenant with the kingdoms of man and invites worldly governing bodies to dictate to the local church how it will organize itself and demand who can and cannot vote on church issues. This contract, that churches enter into, is 501C3. The state mandates a constitution, a board of people and specific positions on that board. It also dictates who can vote even if a person shouldn’t be allowed to vote on church issues because they are too young.  This covenant is entered into for the purpose of money. “He (Jesus) said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued (money) among men is detestable in God's sight. - Luke 16:15 (NIV)” Jesus also tells His disciples to pay the taxes the kingdoms of man want from them however give God’s what is His and don’t surrender it to the world. i.e. His church and how He wants it to live.  

One of the results of this partnership is we give the devil a foot-hold into the body of Christ. The devil is still the god of the kingdoms of man.  

[6] And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. - Luke 4:6 (NIV)

[19] We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. - 1 John 5:19 (NIV)

[4] The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. - 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV)

Jesus warned us about what the pursuit of money could do to His people. The devil knows that through money he could get a foothold into the people of God and influence the message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

[24] “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. - Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

That is why after this statement Jesus reassures us by saying, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:33 (NIV)”
Jesus told us His kingdom was not of this world. (John 18:36) We are to be citizens of that kingdom and aliens within the kingdoms of man. That kingdom for Christians today is the body of Christ throughout the entire world. (1 Pet 2:9) Jesus wants the citizens of His kingdom (which is not of this world) to be content with their basic needs being met. (Matt. 6:19-21, 25-32) We see this same sentiment expressed by Paul to Timothy. [8] But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. - 1 Timothy 6:8 (NIV) The context of this verse is Paul speaking to Timothy as to how they could lead a life that doesn’t cloud the message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God by money. When he states “we” we know specifically Paul is referring to himself and Timothy for sure. Can we expand this verse to include all believers? I would say yes. Because as a citizen of God’s kingdom we are all on the same level playing field. Every part of the body of Christ is as valuable as the next. No one has any privilege that another doesn’t have. The writer of Hebrews reflects this same sentiment. 

[5] Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” - Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

[2] Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; - 1 Peter 5:2 (NIV)

[10] For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. - 1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV)

Early in church history, the enemy of the church, has used the kingdoms of man and its wealth to entice the church to enter into an unequally yoked relationship. This resulted in the message of the gospel of the kingdom of God to become clouded and the church that Jesus wanted to leave behind has become an institutionalize religion. Where communities of believers adopted the Old Testament hierarchical system. Which in turn instituted the practice of tithing. In the New Testament tithing is not required of the saints. It was part of the Levitical OT. However, because the institutionalized church has adopted the ways of the world to govern itself, it needs the same thing that the world needs to maintain its ways of doing things, money. Therefore, by necessity the institutionalized church leaders needed to convince and justify the demand of the tithe from the saints.

When we survey the NT the collecting of money from the saints was to meet the needs of the saints in the body of Christ only. Jesus and Paul spelled out what “needs” look like. These needs were not six figure salaries. It wasn’t to profit off the message of eternal life which was given to humanity for free. It wasn’t to start Christian banking institutions so that they could charge interest to fellow saints. It wasn’t to build large buildings and all the accessories that go to maintain them. It wasn’t to put on elaborate stage shows or massive holiday displays. The collection of money from the saints in the NT was to meet the needs of the saints. Do we see this in the church today? Yes but it is a minuscule part of the giving.

[13] Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. [14] At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, [15] as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” – 2 Cor. 8:13-15

Today we have this hierarchical system in the local churches where the senior pastor tells the congregants whether poor or rich to tithe, because it’s God’s will. Without exception every church I’ve been in on a Sunday service, there was a call coming from the stage to prepare for the giving of our tithe and offerings.  In the meantime, that pastor stands in line for the next iPhone and people in his church stand in line for food stamps.  But they still need to tithe because God has commanded it and to be a really obedient Christian you will do this so that your communication line to God won’t be clogged and you become an ineffective Christian. Remember the widow’s mite, they preach it to justify their non-new testament expectation of those that follow Jesus and the writings of the New Testament to tithe.

The story of the widows two copper coins was not about tithing. As a matter of fact, the word ‘tithe’ isn’t even used in the story. It was an illustration Jesus was using to teach us that a citizen in the kingdom of God should put their very existence in God’s hands. It’s easy to give God our thought life. You know that thing we call “correct doctrinal understanding”. We convince ourselves that if we understand what God wants and declare I believe that in my heart, it somehow gives us a pass so we really don’t have to go and sell everything we have and give it to the poor and really follow Jesus. Could you imagine if every follower of Jesus really did this. We would have to get along if not just to survive. Sin would be less of an issue in the church because we would suffer. We really would know what effective prayer is. You know how we sometimes make that event in our life about money or possessions a total God thing when it really was a flesh thing, however, we label it a God thing so we can feel better about ourselves and fit in with the other Christians. They in turn encourage you in this delusion. I’ve been there and done that.

What would it be like if we were in this sermon on the mount environment? We would see God feeding us like he does the birds. Would that be enough for us? Must we have more?
We would see our sandals never wearing out. Would that be enough for us? Or must we have more?
We would always have water to drink. Would that be enough for us? Must we have more?
I can imagine it but the world has gotten a tremendous foothold in the churches across the USA today. My concern is the echo of Jesus words about when He return. “Will he find faith on the earth?”  When I’m confronted with the truth of Jesus statement, I immediately go to “Thank God for His grace!” Now Do I say this as an escape hatch to justify not changing? If I get enough people to think this way, I’ll feel even more justified in not changing. Is this a way the devil gets a foothold into the body of Christ? However, if I was sincere change would be a part of my life style. Would it look like what we see in the NT? It’s hard to do alone.  

Now that we have these churches amassing great wealth we began to justify killing people to protect this thing that God finds detestable, especially when it diminishes Jesus and the message of the gospel of the kingdom of God. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle* within you? [2] You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.James 4:1-2 When Jesus says give even more to the person that wants to rob you. He means it. However, Since the nation I live in says I can, the church leaders like their wealth so they play mental gymnastics with God’s word, now I know that’s not what Jesus really meant because in the first century they did things different. Therefore, I can take up arms and kill that intruder and be justified.

People still stole back then as they do now. Killing others in self-defense was justify in the nations of that time.  Remember Jesus said that He wanted your very life. [28] He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” - Luke 11:28 (NIV) It’s a requirement to be a citizen of His Kingdom, which is not of this earth. If your death meant the salvation of your robber or killer, would their eternal life be less valuable then your material possessions, your loved one’s or even your physical life? Will he find faith on the earth?

[26] “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. - Luke 14:26 (NIV)

[37] “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; - Matthew 10:37 (NIV)

[30] “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. - Matthew 12:30 (NIV)

It just seems like a numbers game with the way evangelism is done in order to get more bodies in the church seats. People are invited to a “Billy Graham” type of event. The altar call is given. People respond. People are asked to give a sinners’ prayer and mean it and then they’re saved. They go home saved, supposedly. I can’t remember ever witnessing someone (me included) being lead to the Lord and not once did I here that part of the gospel of the kingdom of God were someone spelled out the cost. I volunteered at a Graham crusade. My job was to lead respondents in the sinner prayer. In my preparation for this event no one told me to make sure the individuals praying understood the cost of becoming a citizen of His Kingdom, as Jesus spelled it out.

[28] “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? - Luke 14:28 (NIV)

The gospel of the kingdom of God, that Jesus preached from the beginning and the apostle carried on, has become the gospel of the individual plan of salvation. There is a plan of salvation however it’s just one part of the gospel of the kingdom of God. What is left out is the cost. The institutionalized religion that is done in the name of Jesus has failed to show people the whole contract. People are signing on without really knowing what it will cost them. The individual plan of salvation is the beginning. It’s the entry point into becoming a citizen of the kingdom of God. But the individual plan of salvation without the cost is no plan of salvation at all. Since Jesus didn’t leave it out why do we think we can? It’s probably the reason for the sin that’s so rampant in the church today. Just ask a pastor. It’s probably the reason for the false doctrines we see today, that have invaded the body of Christ. No one is telling the truth about the cost therefore people are just at the doorway for most of their walk before they fall away or they just put on a facade. There are a tremendous amount of unfinished building dotting the landscape in the evangelical world of the USA.  
This is the result of people being seen as a source, which in turn dehumanizes them, therefore their eternal well-being becomes secondary. When we dehumanize fellow brothers and sisters in Christ it becomes easier to adopt the ways of the world. Which tells us it’s ok to kill them in order to protect your possession, family, country and your life. All for the things of this world. Jesus said, “I am not of this world.”

The institutionalized religion done in Jesus name has taken the New Covenant has adopted the Old Covenants ways. The New Covenant has become the individuals plan of salvation instead of the gospel of the Kingdom of God and all that it entails. We reflect a clouded gospel message. We’ve adopted the ways of the world. Will he find faith on the earth?

We All Have Unclean Hands

Jesus said to them,  “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the ...