Thursday, July 29, 2010

Incestuous Relationships in the Church

Sound like a tabloid expose’ on yet another church scandal?  This one is even more rampant than our Catholic brothers’ troubles.  However this insidious problem is flying below the radar and hasn’t even been detected by most involved.  Let me explain.

When Jesus prepared to leave His disciples, He commissioned them to reproduce, to make other disciples (followers) by teaching the way that leads to everlasting life that Jesus came to secure.  The pattern set forth was relational.

Now think of what is commonly practiced in church settings of all varieties in our day.  We have perfected the art of program driven relationships.  Members are minimally expected to gather once or twice a week at corporate events. It’s not uncommon for more high-impact congregations to expect their followers to additionally attend a small group once or twice a week. 

Evangelism has morphed to an event planned for a Saturday outreach into a targeted neighborhood. A“witness” is something you “do” (or feel inferior if you don’t do).  That’s not at all what Jesus had in mind.  He said in Acts 1:8 that we are to “be” witnesses.  Our everyday life brings Jesus in very close proximity to people who desperately need the savior.  In our lifetime, some have fought to keep the Ten Commandments out of our public schools and buildings.  No one is stopping us from bringing Jesus in to those places, they can’t.  Where we go He goes.

Typical believers are busy gathering with other believers to “do” religious things.  That’s program-driven community.  Who’s reaching out to the lost neighbors on our own street?  The church at large is preoccupied with an incestuous relationship with each other while lost outsiders are entering a Christ-less eternity right before our eyes.  Friends “these things ought not to be so.”

Most people I meet are busy; they’re not looking for one more demand to be put on their plate.  Many people I see do know the loneliness of wondering if anybody cares they exist.  The masses that followed Jesus didn’t do so because there was nothing better to do.  He touched them, spoke life into them, it felt hopeful and they followed Him.  Do you think His approach just may have been intentional?

Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America.  Insiders separated from outsiders, believers from unbelievers.  For those who venture inside the church doors, parents go one way, youth another (sometimes split again by gender) and the littlest children yet somewhere else.  I understand the concept to deliver truth that’s age-appropriate, but that doesn’t exempt the church from taking that same truth outside wherever hurting people are.

When I brought our core team to Crystal Lake last summer to survey the city, we went 2x2 on that Sunday morning to as many churches as we could, to get a pulse for the spiritual climate of the area.  We experienced a lot that morning.  Two of our young gals attended a small church meeting in a hotel setting.  After the service there were cookies set out, it was a great opportunity to meet people.  These gals were hoping to make a connection.  What they experienced was not only silence, but as the church goers talked with each other, they rotated their backs to these obvious “new people” so they could enjoy each other’s company.  The “norm”?  I hope not.  The “exception”?  I fear not.  Why?  “Because it’s Sunday, I already went out evangelizing with the church Saturday.”

“Christianity is not a religion it’s a relationship”.  Heard that one?  Oh, you mean with “other people” too?  What a concept, “be witnesses unto me”.  You are bringing Jesus in very close proximity with people every day.  Can they tell?  Are you wetting their appetite for the savior?  Or are you presenting a cloistered community called church, which they hope to avoid?

I double dog dare you to go visit a new church Sunday.  See what it feels like to be an “outsider”.  Maybe it will change the way you see and relate to people you don’t yet know.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Does The Bible Really Say That?

The scripture in John.5:22 clearly says "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son". In Acts 5 regarding Ananias & Sapphira, the Holy Spirit intentionally did not mention judgment, though some might draw the conclusion. I think we need to be careful not to draw conclusions where the Holy Spirit clearly omits details or words. What we do know about those two is this; Vs.3 says their issue was the effect of "Satan filing their heart" which let them think they could get away with lying to God. We don't know their age or health, only that they were likely mature and well off enough to own land and pretend to give its whole value to ministry. The shock of the unexpected exposure of his heinous crime of lying to God Vs. 5 says, caused them each to "fall down and give up the ghost." Usually the grief of gross blatant sin wears on the conscious of a man till the restless tormented individual's health finally fails and they die a sad withered death. All we know was the news was so serious that "great fear" came upon everyone standing by. It might have been so great as to stop the liar's heart. We don't know more than the scripture records. We know from John.3:16-17 it was not God's plan to send Jesus to condemn the world but His great love that sent Him to save whosoever would believe in Him. If a person rejects or refuses to believe the grace of God, they place themselves under the law. So we can not say God judged them, but they fell under the law of "bearing false witness". Regarding the improper irreverence with which some Corinthians observed the Lord's supper; the words "judge" & "judgment" are mentioned several times. The  sickness and premature deaths some Corinthians experienced, Paul said, were because those people "ate & drank in an unworthy manner, not discerning the Lord's body." Jesus bore stripes in His body to pay for and provide healing for man. Even today, some people suffer chronic illness or die prematurely because they don't discern their healing is in Jesus' body. The passage does say we would NOT be judged if we would judge ourselves (1 Co.11:31). There are actually two different Greek words used in that verse. Half of the translations translate both words as judge. The other half make the distinction. The first Greek word means to discern and separate. The second is best translated judge. If we discern sin in our life and deal with it appropriately, we "would not be judged". If a person fails to discern the body of Christ, fails to "do this in remembrance of Jesus" they place themselves under the jurisdiction of the law. The judgment demanded of the law was met in Jesus Christ. He paid the price in full, once for all, and redeemed us from the curse of the law. Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. V32 says that "when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord." It doesn't say we're judged by the Lord. We're judged by the law and chastened by the Lord. Chastened (in the Greek) means to train up a child by a parent. Being trained by a loving dad should be an entirely different experience than being sentenced by a judge. If I jump out of a tall building, my hurt will be because I came under the law of gravity, not because God was punishing or condemning me. Our preconceived ideas, or assumptions, can place the consequences of our actions on God rather than realizing the onus that falls on man for failing to believe and place himself under the amazing Grace of God. Hope this sheds some light on just how good our God is toward us.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

God Isn't Judging You!

I have heard it said in Christian circles that "if God doesn’t judge America He is going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."  Give me a break.  Just because something sounds edgy, or is repeated all over, doesn’t make it true.

First of all, God won’t judge America, or you, and He certainly will never apologize to Sodom.  God patiently acquiesced while Abraham negotiated the threshold down to ten righteous.  God probably would have spared Sodom if Abraham pressed the number even lower.  There are more than ten righteous in America.  But the absolute truth is John 5:22 says God doesn’t judge anyone!  He has deferred all judgment to Jesus.  Jesus said in Jn.12:47 “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”

Ro.3:23 is a well know verse, especially to those who have been trained in evangelism.  “All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God”.  Did you notice there are two different tense in that verse?  “Have sinned” is past tense.  Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, all people are born in a sinful condition, “there is none righteous, no not one.”  And we “fall short” is present tense.  Even after we confess our sin and enter into a right relationship with God by Jesus Christ, we still make mistakes.  Jesus doesn’t go to the cross again, it’s finished.  So what now?

V.25 continues by saying that God made Jesus to be the “propitiation by His blood. That esoteric term means an act of graciousness.  It further refers to an item called the Mercy Seat.  When God instructed Moses to fashion the Ark of the Covenant that contained the two stone law tablets, He told Moses to fashion a solid gold lid called the Mercy Seat.  God then said that whole item would be referred to as The Throne of God.

Under the old covenant law, once each year the high priest would offer an atonement sacrifice for all the people’s sin.  He would sprinkle the innocent blood on that gold Mercy Seat.  It provided a “covering” for one year, and then it had to be repeated, year after year.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, shed His blood once for all – all time, all people, all sin.  The bible says in Hebrews 4:14-16 that our high priest, Jesus, is now seated at the right hand of God.  We are invited to come confidently to His throne of Grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help when we need it most.

We will indeed all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  The law will demand payment for our sin. The righteous judge Jesus will say “I am the propitiation”, I have paid the price in full for them.  Mercy triumphs over judgment because of the blood of Jesus.  Not because of anything you have done or have managed not to do in your lifetime.

You can hear a full teaching on this topic with expanded insights at our website just click on “podcasts” and select “The Original Jesus”.  He's just that into you!  The extravagant, radical Grace of God really is Amazing.

Happy Father's Day Paul! We Love You! -The Team at THE WELL