In the last 2 years the American people have been inundated with political rhetoric and viewpoints. I have heard that many are thinking of not even voting, for they find both candidates undesirable. There is a lot of anger, stress and opposition within America. The election is important, and we all must exercise our constitution rights. Voting is more than just a right it is also a responsibility. While I agree that all eligible people should be registered and vote; there is more to voting than casting a ballot. As Believers we are commanded to respect and honor those civil authorities over us [Romans 13]. We are to “render unto Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. We live in two worlds, as believers were are to be “pilgrims and aliens” for we seek a city whose builder and maker is God; having said that we do live life in the earthly existence so we can just ignore civil issues. I have been in a dilemma as many of you asking “how do I exercise my citizenship in America, while remaining faithful to trusting God?” Well I know that Caesar is always going to be Caesar, therefore I must seek what God’s will is in all things. Our voting responsibility means that we must be informed about each candidate, and seek to understand what God is doing in our country. As the Holy Spirit illuminates your understanding through reading and listening to the abundance of material – you have to ask “How does God want me to vote?” Let me give you two examples from scripture that will show you that God’s choice isn’t necessarily man’s choice. The first is when Israel wanted to be like all the other nations and have a king. Samuel told them they didn’t need a king, they had Jehovah. Pressed by the people, God instructed Samuel to let the people have a king. God gave them King Saul, he was the tallest and most impressive “candidate,” needless to say, Saul last a year before the Holy Spirit was removed from him by God. [1 Samuel 9-11] The second example was King Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. The Father in heaven chose to elevate Nebuchadnezzar to a lofty position as the greatest kingdom to ever exist. God used the Babylonians as His instrument of discipline towards the unfaithful Israelites. The reigning king Zedekiah was flabbergasted that Jeremiah would proclaim such a thing to the people of Judah. The point I am trying to make is that people want a king of their own liking and supportive of their own agenda and issues. However, God is the reigning King and will remain so. We may not like what He is doing – but we must accept His judgment and person He chooses to raise to power. Now I know that the situation for my two examples is opposite. God chose Nebuchadnezzar to discipline an unfaithful, carnal people of God. They went into captivity for 70 years – only 4600 people were saved after the disciplining of God. I don’t think I have to explain the condition of America. But I do want you to know why we are in such a condition. I believe that the “Church” is the fault. The Church has followed the demise of Israel then; it stands to reason any people who refuse to live for the Lord will be the object of His punishment and anger. If we want to see the morality and ethics of our nation changed to a biblical standard, then it starts with us. We must live out what we say lives in us. Jesus Christ is the difference maker, not an elected official. I am reminded of how the early Church was persecuted terribly by the “Caesar’s” yet they turned the known would upside down with the Gospel. Who do you vote for? Be educated on the candidates, be fervent in prayer and listen to the Holy Spirit being convinced of what God in doing in our midst – then vote accordingly and leave the results to God.
Tag Archives: church
Amos 6-9; the prophet from the South brings the full verdict of God upon Israel in the North. Israel has departed from serving God since they were removed by God from Judah in 2 Kings 17. Jeroboam led the 10 tribes to serve Baal and pagan gods of the Canaanites. God has had enough of His people and their idolatrous ways. What caused the tribes to forget God? Was it just that they forgot because they were drawn away into pagan sensuous idol worship? Was it because of Solomon’s extravagant lifestyle and tax burden on the people? I think it was because the people became comfortable. No battles or wars to fight. The enemy had become unrecognizable, for Israel now lived among the pagan people. Also I think that Israel was living an affluent lifestyle. They had no need of God; they could provide for themselves. In chapter 6 we read of the “ease” of the people. They slept on beds of ivory, sprawl out on couches, ate from the flocks, drank from the sacrificial bowls, anointed themselves with the oils and listened to the songs composed for them. The sacred things became common place. No longer was there the “fear of God” among the nation. Israel had become arrogant, prideful and irreverent. The Calm Before the Storm – surely for God would raise up Assyria to punish them. In Israel’s arrogance, they missed the warning signs from God. In Chapter 7, we get the illustration of a Plum-Line; God was going to measure with His standard, what was true. I remember using a plumb-line and a chalk line. One is used to get things vertically correct, the latter is to draw a horizontal line accurately. It is Amos and his intercession that prevents God from unleashing His wrath. Even in discipline, intercession is listened to by the Father. However, even God has a limit of long-suffering [7:8].
As many preachers of the Truth have learned, when the message becomes too close for comfort, people will lash out and criticize the messenger. Amos, is an outsider, just as many preachers are today in their churches. Preachers are seen just as Amos was “you’re not one of us.” In chapter 8, the image of a “summer Basket of Fruit” shows how quickly Israel’s lot will turn. Just as summer fruit doesn’t last, but spoils quickly, so would the fortunes of Israel. Their life of luxury would soon be over. Israel looks past the festivals to a time when they can resume their deceit, dishonesty and traitor tactics.
I wondered while reading the punishment of the Northern Kingdom, “why God didn’t give them into a period of exile” like Judah would later? The answer was again found in 2 Kings 17 – there was nothing redeemable about Israel. They had gone too far. Also, Judah was the covenant tribe of which the “Lion of Judah” would come. In Israel, there were 19 different dynasties, with 19 different kings – all for the most part had the epitaph of “they walk not in the ways of their father David.” They continually did evil in the sight of the Lord. Jehovah was tired of their festivals to idols and the neglect of His own festivals. He wold send a famine among the people – a famine for the Word of God. No bread or water, parched and dry spiritual lives. We can think of the 400 years of silence experienced at the end of the Old Testament as a season of dryness. In chapter 9, we find that the judgment on Israel in unavoidable – the nation of Israel would be known as the “Lost Tribes.” Yet even in all of the peril, the book closes with Hope of restoration.
Now the crux of this blog today is to speak to the condition of not only United States, but to all nation who forget the God is God, and fall into an earthly living of affluence and arrogance. There is a famine of the Word of God. Preachers don’t preach the Gospel or the true revelation of God, they will defer away from pronouncing judgment on congregational, community or countries sins. Christianity has become a “How to” or “self-Help” religion. I believe that there will be some more difficult and dark days ahead for our nation, and others who have sought – the “good Life” of the world and forfeited their souls. We have warnings today, we must listen, remember, repent and return. Israel didn’t and they were scattered to the four winds of the earth – this should teach us that “God is not a respecter of Persons!”
Falling In Love Again
The topic for this issue is “The Basics of Revitalization.” To answer the question I had to answer what is the basis for revitalization? Is it just trying to get the saints revived, or is it something much more. We all know that our Country and the world for that matter, needs a great revival. By that I mean the Church has to come back to its first love in the Lord Jesus Christ and desire to live holy consecrated lives. If the Church will get right, then there is the possibility for the communities, countries and world to become awakened to the sovereignty and Kingdom of God Jehovah. I began to ponder, really, what is the basis of revitalization. I thought I might write about some of the tenets of how revitalization needs to be approached or possibly talk about the requirements that need to be in place before revitalization should be attempted. But neither of those resonated with me. I didn’t want to talk about the pragmatism or the philosophy of revitalization; there are already enough books and articles to cover those topics. Instead, I think the most basic issue in revitalization is the subject/object itself – the Church. This is what drives me in revitalization attempts – the Church. We find that scripture supports revitalization. When we investigate both Old and New Testaments, we find that the Father is brokenhearted about Israel, his people failing in their commission to bring glory to Him and the Gospel to the nations. The same is said by Jesus when He gives John instructions to “write to the Churches” in Revelation. I will note two of the Churches and the message or ultimatum they are given later.
Israel was the Bride of Jehovah in the Old Testament; albeit a very unfaithful one. The Church is the Bride of Christ; Ephesians 5:25-29 is clear about what Christ desires the Bride to look like. The Church is the body of Christ in the world, just as Israel was the “Bride” in allegory in the book of Hosea. The ministry of revitalization in its fundamental goal is to restore the Bride of Christ to a healthy loving Bride to the Bridegroom. Scripture informs us that the Church belongs to Jesus, the Bridegroom; and that he will build the Church. There are great examples in scripture where the Church was triumphant [Especially in Acts]. There are glorious stories of how the people of Israel overcame great odds and enemies to win victory after victory through the power of God at work within their midst. When Yahweh is supremely worshiped by His people there is great wonder and power displayed. But – Oh that word, Israel did not remain true to the Father. It seems that mankind is always wandering and looking for some new adventure. Instead of being satisfied and content with the God of the universe, we look for cheap imitations or an easier way to being religious. It doesn’t take long for the Church to drift from God – Israel lasted only 40 days before they replaced God with a Golden Calf idol in Exodus 32-34. The book of Judges is a vicious cycle of faithful and unfaithfulness by God’s people. Surely, with Jesus the Son as the head of the Church; we New Testament Believers will learn from our Old Testament brethren, right? Wrong! For we find in Revelation 2 and 3 that there is another message, Jesus will in fact snuff out the Lamp of a particular local church if it is not representative of Him.
Jesus isn’t the only one that is passionate about the Church, the Apostle Paul filled his epistles to the “churches” with instructions and admonitions to live and act rightly according to the holiness of God. It is the local church that needs revitalization. There are so many books and models that have been developed to try and bring the local churches back to life. But just as Jesus addressed different “I have this against you” issues; so each local church must come to a “new reality”. Obviously the local churches did not see, or rejected the problems in their church, or Jesus would not have had to address them. NOTE: by now many of you have begun to debate with me about possible interpretations of the Revelation 2-3 passage. You may take a different position on why and how Jesus wrote to the churches, even taking a “they are examples” of church issues. Whichever way you want to address the passage I have referenced, you must acknowledge that JESUS WROTE TO THE CHURCH! The Church represents Christ, when the Bride no longer “loves” her groom; the Groom has every right and responsibility to call the Bride to account.
So the basis of Revitalization is about the Church body or Bride whichever metaphor you like, becoming alive again and falling in love with the Bridegroom, Jesus the Son of God. Revitalization is about recognizing the drift and departure from the Word of God; admitting that it is not on task of pleasing the Master; that it has become internally driven rather than outwardly; seeks its own will rather than the Will of the Father.
In Church Revitalization, there are three different audiences – plateaued, declining or dying Churches. The difference is, only a matter of degree of departure and remaining “Life” left in the Body.
In Revelation we are given seven Churches with varying degrees of problems and tribulations. Some are under attack, but most have “settled” for their particular state of being. In addressing the Church at Ephesus, the problem was it had lost its first love. Now we must remember that this church was founded by the grand Apostle Paul, was pastored by the great missionary pastor Timothy, Paul’s protégé. It was also the home church of the Beloved Apostle John and I believe the final resting place for Mary; Jesus’ mother. One would think with all that notoriety and prestige, surely this would be a Church that would be steadfast in faithfulness. But Jesus says, “I have this against you, you have lost your first love.” In other words, you have forgotten Me. Something every Church has to be careful about is the purpose for their existence. I would call Ephesus an Orthodox Church. They believe right, are solid on doctrine and truth, but have become mechanical in their worship and love for the Lord. It’s almost like an old married couple that forgot what brought them together in the first place and have settled for an EXISTENCE instead of a RELATIONSHIP. Ephesus was in need of a second honeymoon. Jesus spells it out this way – REMEMBER-REPENT-RETURN. The fire had got out of the marriage with Jesus! Ephesus had to get back that “Lovin Feeling.”
In the second church I want to address the church at Sardis. It is the DEAD church according to Jesus. But they think they are healthy and alive. This is a grave situation that needs a serious “Wake Up call.” The Church doesn’t even know they are dead, how sad a commentary! The Church had a Name in the community and among themselves that they were alive and healthy. An unreal reality had entrenched itself in the church. In Revitalization, the first order of business is KNOWING SOMETHING IS WRONG. A fresh, but honest assessment of the true condition must be diagnosed and embraced. Sardis is an “Unfinished Church.” It had been alive at one time, and there was still hope, but the cure is “Strengthen that which remains.” Usually in a Church there is a REMANANT that God can use to restore the Church, as was the case at Sardis. But in restoring the Church revitalization does not mean return it back to its heyday, but return it back to ministry for THE CURRENT DAY. Too many Churches live in the past. This is true of a lot of Brides. They remember their beauty and slim figures, but time has taken effect on their bodies. If you think about this a little, there is a great illustration here.
Churches that need revitalization are those “whose love have grown cold.” In both Churches, it was time for them to Repent – the first step after conviction of sin and departure. It takes humility and a willingness to swallow our pride. Most Churches can do Church, but then again Doing Church was never the task – the Bride was called to faithfulness to the Bridegroom – Be the Church, that all Our Savior wants.
Hosea 11-14 is our reading this week. God has made his case against Israel [Northern Kingdom]; The reason for the judgment on Israel is that they forgot God. The replaced Him with the pagan gods and instruments of “religion.” I believe that we are guilty of doing the same thing in our day. Mankind has to have tangible – physical things to hold on too. Yet our relationship with Jehovah is based on Faith – believing when we do not see the physical. The other reason for Israel to be judged is that they were unresponsive to the discipline of the Lord. I have learned that God does not let our sin go unchecked; just as a parent will try to restore proper behavior in a child, even so God desires to bring his people back. Whole the amount of discipline will change according to the situation and child, eventually if there isn’t a response and return, God must take drastic measures. In chapter 12, Yahweh brings memories to establish how He has cared for the Israelites. God birthed the nation from Abraham & Sarah; two people who were beyond reproducing years. From the impossible came God’s people. He birthed, raised and protected His people. His deliverance from Egypt was a memory that in the Old Testament was continually recounted. Israel, like many of us forget where we were and how far God has brought us. Israel and Judah forgot.
Israel is going to be the spoils of Assyria, as will Samaria. This did not have to be; but the rejection of God as god, forced the hand of God to act. The “Lost 10 tribes” of Israel even today is a stark reminder that God’s punishment was severe and everlasting. One would have thought that Judah [Southern Kingdom] would have taken notice of God’s judgment – but they didn’t. In fact other prophetic writing give indication, that Judah was okay with Israel getting “What they deserve.” Judah would say in essence “We are not like them!” Yet a mere 150 years later, Judah falls like Israel.
The fact that God uses a marriage illustration of Hosea and Gomer to show the “adulterous nation and people” is something we must take notice of today. While Israel was the “Bride” then; we are the Church and Bride now. What kind of Bride has the Church been? Ephesians 5:24-33 speaks clearly of what Christ desires out of the marriage; has the Church been faithful and content with Jesus? Is Jesus enough for us? Or do we seek after strange lovers? Could those lovers be Racism, Sub-humanism, relativism, hedonism, nationalism and individualism? Do we now live in the time of Judges 21:24, every man does that which is right in his own eyes? has the Church become an adulteress to Christ?
We live is a very dynamic changing culture; all throughout the globe mankind is living for self, survival and sensuality. While the idolatry and adulterous lifestyle then was regional, today we find the same thing is global. Today culture is driven by the whims and choices of “personal gods” not by the Word of God. Today there is the guise of “Tolerance”, yet intolerance is the course if another view doesn’t agree with “your” view. The unfaithful bride was purchased by Hosea, we the Bride of Christ have been purchased by Jesus at Calvary. God never stopped loving Israel, but because of His holiness and name, He had to judgment Israel. He cannot be God if He allows sin to continue. Jesus and His Bride the church is in similar situation. The Church is unfaithful, while it may be more subtle, drift and disobedience is happening now. Scripture reveals that the “Church” will be saved and will be at the marriage feast of the Bridegroom, oh that we would be that chaste bride, adorned in white; pure and untainted by the world we live.
The end of Hosea is our hope. Even though God had to judgment His people, it was not without hope of restoration. This is a message for the individual and the Church. All we like sheep have gone astray, each unto his own way; but God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all; and by His stripes we are healed. Judgment of sin has been done; now we must walk in the faith and hope of restoration of the new life that is ours in Christ.
Our reading this week is in Hosea 1-5. It is a sad book about a husband named Hosea, and an unfaithful wife named Gomer. It is an allegory of sorts for the unfaithful relationship of this couple is reflective of the relationship Jehovah had with His Bride – Israel. We know that God ‘birthed” Israel from an old couple in Abraham and Sarah. From their old age, God brought forth a great nation, which He declared to be His people. He cared for them, provided, and loved them with a jealous love.
The time of Hosea’s writing is before the fall of Israel, the Northern Kingdom. The divided kingdom has split the 12 tribes of Israel after Solomon’s reign into 10 northern tribes and 2 southern tribes. Jeroboam, in effort to keep the tribes of the north from returning to Jerusalem because of the Temple, built another place of worship at Mt. Gerizim. Quickly however, Israel [Northern kingdom] fell into apostasy, they may have had a “form” of Temple worship, but they lacked the heart for worship. Soon the Canaanite people and their immoral pagan deities worship led Israel into severe idolatry. We know of Ahab and Jezebel with the Baal prophets on Mt. Carmel and Elijah. I find it interesting, that even though Israel worshiped Jehovah, the one true God, they sought after other gods. Of course the other gods were more exciting that Jehovah. Ritualistic worship of Baal was anything but boring with temple prostitutes!
Baal appeases the sensual side of mankind. Now God tells Hosea to take a bride of harlotry – a blemished, tainted woman. Also to have children with her. This was reflective of what Israel [Northern Kingdom] was doing. In the naming of the three children, God identifies what He will do to the Northern Tribes. There is even some commentaries that hold that the name of the second and third children reflect the possibility that they were not even Hosea’s kids. It is obvious that the harlotry of Gomer is deeply ingrained, for Hosea in chapter 2 has to go and buy her back off a trade block – the price 15 shekels of silver, half the price for a slave.
Hosea and God have a deep love for their wives [Gomer and Israel]. The unfaithfulness of Gomer is directly reflected back to what Israel has been doing to God. God is a jealous God, but here we find that God is so compassionate and long-suffering, to go and bring Israel back to himself, and call the adulteress his wife.
Jehovah in chapter two lays out the conditions for returning for Israel. Hosea uses a very intimate description of physical attributes for what Israel must do – reflecting the body of a woman, giving herself to another lover. Obviously, God has had enough of the harlotry of Israel and her strange lovers. Israel has given herself to another [Baal] who uses her for sensual pleasures and intimacy that was meant only for God. There have been times where I have had to counsel with a couple over adultery or infidelity. The trust and hurt factors are over the top. Forgiveness can hardly be mentioned because of the gross sin of betrayal by the spouse [man or woman]. In chapter three, the symbolic marriage of Israel and God is expressed clearly. “Hosea is told to go and love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods. Israel and mankind in general has had consistent failure in obeying the first two commandments. 1st have no other gods, besides ME; and 2nd, make no idols/images. In Exodus 32-34 shortly after being delivered from Egypt and slavery, out in the wilderness of Sinai, while Moses received the Tablets of stone, Israel “rose up to play” – Adultery and idolatry have always been with us since the fall of mankind. We are never satisfied with God. We live today in such a physically sensual culture. Sex is the theme for most advertisements, movies and TV programs. There is always the slant of risqué questionable talk and innuendo. God loves us, I don’t know why, it seems that we only love Him when we need or want something from Him. The Church is an idolatrous people, we are not much different from the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day. The Church is not faithful – it has in recent times embraced “many lovers” of the world. Israel will be judged by God, even so the Church will too. When I think of the Church as the Bride of Jesus, who loved the church and gave himself up for her, so that He could present her in purity and white raiment, I cannot but help think how we have loved the gods of convenience, comfort, individualism and hedonism all the while saying we are the Bride of Christ. Judgment day came for Israel, it will for the Church as well. I know I have been sort of doom and gloom in this post, but we the church must face reality of our condition. While there are many local bodies that are still faithfully serving and loving the Lord, many are dying everyday because the Life has been blown out. [Revelation 2-3] It is Christ’s church and He will extinguish the light of the unfaithful.
The theme is Wake Up America – sounds like a very emphatic call for the Church. Yet most of what I have viewed today has been about Cinco De Mayo or Holocaust Remembrance. While the latter to holidays are worthy in their own right, I find a disparaging problem with America even willing to Prayer, not just for the country, church or cultural environment, but to pray period.
Isaiah 58:1 is the theme verse “Cry loudly, do not hold back; raise your voice like a trumpet, And declare to My people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins.” Obviously, the organizers have in mind a time of confession and repentance from known and secret sins, both for Israel, and the nations. But repentance happens individually. I am distraught with the cultural shift to unrestrained, unremorseful sinning for personal right and identity. I was talking with a pastor friend this week, I had to ask him, “is this the End of the Age?” He said something interesting, “I never expected things like this in my own time, but for my grandchildren’s time. I didn’t expect the change would happen so fast.”
This tells me that while he did expect a “falling away” he felt he would be okay. There is great forces of evil working and lurking over most of the world. An apathy has taken hold of people, where they just want to live out their days without fighting for what is biblical truth. The Church is a micro-cosmism of the culture, it saddens me that the Church isn’t more concerned about the Lost or the direction all of humanity is going. But rather wanting their own “felt needs” met at the expense of the generations that follow.
When I saw the theme Wake Up America, I immediately thought of Revelation 3:1-6, the church at Sardis. The dead church that thought it was alive. Jesus tells the Church to “Wake Up and strengthen that which remains, and which are about to die, for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.” Pretty much the Church had started something but did not have the desire or motivation to finish the task. I think of the Great Commission as something the Church has fallen short of completing.
If like my pastor friend thinks that these are the Last Days, and the time is short, what manner of people ought the Church be? There should be a sense of urgency about us. We must declare the Gospel and the warning of God that He will come and judge the world. I know a lot of people talk about prayer, but many only talk about it. Those days have to be over – the believers of this age must intercede for the rest of humanity. Wake Up Church, let your voice be heard over the noise of the culture!
This week we begin the final chapter of God’s revelation to believers and the world in the reading of the book of Revelation. The first two chapter will be our focus. In the first chapter we find the glory, power, authority and sovereignty of Jesus the Son of God revealed. Passages such as Colossians 1:15-18; John 1:1-4; Hebrews 1:2-4 and 1 John 1:1-4 reflect the final revelation to mankind through the Son Jesus Christ. In these first two chapters we begin to get a clear insight into the final culminating plan of God. However, we must not limit our thoughts to only the book of Revelation. The reader, to get a valid understanding of End Times and Eschatology must look at the Old Testament as well; Specifically, the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Joel and other Minor Prophets. Of course the New Testament books of Matthew, Luke, 1/2 Thessalonians are necessary too.
There is a specific audience John/Jesus is writing to, but specifically the message is to the “church” – and the seven churches of Asia Minor, a mail route in what is known as modern day Turkey. The Seven Churches has gained great commentary of recent years. But it found great application with one John Darby, who along with C.I. Scofield can be considered the fathers of “Dispensationalism.” Darby created an elaborate system of end times thought by ascribing each church mentioned in Rev. 2/3 as a period of time or era of the “Church” history. Darby uses the specifics of the messages to describe a condition of the church as it made its way through time since the Apostles until his day. The Last church described is the church of Laodicea, which is commonly known as the “lukewarm” church. If we are to adhere to Darby’s thought , then the “church” has been living in the last 200 plus years in a lukewarm state. many have bought into the Dispensational thought, to include many denominational schools. [Dallas Theological Seminary is an example] I hold to a different position. Since Jesus was specifically identifying problems within the churches and He is the Head of the Church; I believe that He was writing to the reader from a perspective of “conditions” churches could find themselves. In other words, rather than a church history; we have been given descriptions of “phases” a church may encounter in the life of the church. This message would find a universal; eternal application for all churches. In the case of the seven churches, not a single one of them endured; they all died. The message is one of warning and example to all future churches, not just the current churches being spoken to.
One of the problems with Revelation is the multiple genres used to write the book. We know that is it historical, narrative, prophetic and symbolic. Even so, when does the reader apply which literary principles to the passage being read? In other words, Revelation cannot be read as all literal, or symbolic or prophetic. This has caused great misinterpretation of the book, because someone applied the wrong literary principles of interpretation to a passage.
Back to our main chapter significance. The identification and description of Jesus is amazing. It was also used and applied to some degree to each of the churches. Some aspect of Christ’s description was used in the opening salutation to the church. Each one had a specific element of Christ that they needed to affirm.
It is interesting, that Jesus is very business like in His Revelation to John. Seemingly absent is the benevolent Jesus of the Gospels. This is to be understood. No longer is Christ bringing a message of love and peace; but one of warning and judgment.
In my writings during this book I will deliberately stay with what Revelation says, rather than try to incorporate a blog on the End times themes. Next week we will look at the Churches themselves, however briefly.
1 Corinthians 10-14, Paul gets to a very important part of his “admonition letter” to the Corinthian church. Being carnal as they were, they had distorted much of the “communal practices.” Paul addresses their conduct with each other, inside and out of the congregation. Since the Corinthians were so bent on “Giftedness” they developed an attitude of superiority of gifts between each other. The normal path for most Christian importance is the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” or as in this case the loudest voice gets the most notice. Paul uses the example of rebellion in the life of Israel as a nation to remind the church not to fall into the trap of thinking that they were more important than the God the served. The church displayed arrogance and stubbornness towards righteousness and holiness. Churches today are more about the individualism of the Gospel instead of the Corporate Church mission. Many times the topic of the Lord’s Supper is thought of only in chapter 11, but Paul speaks to the ordinance in Chapter 10 – of how the Church in a communal way celebrated together the Eucharist. As Paul indicated that there were division and cliques in the church, it became evident in how they looked at spiritual gifts and rated the public gifts as superior, while other more private gifts were looked upon as inferior. The church also took a stance on people of wealth and prominence over the poor and lower class. Churches today do the same thing, giving precedence to the prestigious according to man than the godliness of the lowly. Churches want the money and the prominence over those that are seen as the undesirables. This prejudice shows up in how the observed the “agape or love feast” – those of stature were having a “questionable” banquet before the Lord’s Supper with a predetermined guest list. After a riotous type of meal, they church would come together, some being drunk from the previous feast, now tried to appear holy by affiliating with others in the church. Paul exposes the nature of the Lord’s Supper as mockery and hypocrisy because only at the Lord’s Supper table did some members have any association with those seen as inferior.
The conduct of the church was deplorable allowing open sin and idolatry to govern the day. The women of the church must have been very vocal, to the point of disruption, for Paul tells them to “shut up” and talk to your husbands at home. The issue of tongues and gifts of the Spirit are topics that dominate these chapters. There is even today question about whether the Spirit Gifts are cessation [current for today or only for the time of the Apostles] or not. The question of tongues today finds great controversy or whether Paul is talking about languages or ecstatic utterance. I understand that Paul is talking about both. In public though Paul lays down specific guidelines for the display of “Tongues.” the tongues gift had developed into a “spiritual elitism” among those that exercised the gift. Paul however, brings back the argument that tongues are for the edification of the Church and the Lord. If a unsaved person is in the midst, they would be overcome by confusion at the erratic display of tongues. Paul talks of this issue both in Chapter 12 and 14. It is interesting that he bridges the topic with the “love chapter” – I show you a better way. In chapter 12, Paul addresses the priority of the “body” to function. It isn’t those parts that are always on display publicly that are most important, but the hidden parts [behind the scenes] doing the work. Something that is paramount for believers, the Holy Spirit is the gift giver, men should not seek gifts, but accept the position that the Spirit has placed us in the body. Christian conduct is not a “holiness ladder” to climb. In other words, people don’t necessarily go from new christian to teacher to deacon to preacher. God has His ministry for each of us.
The correction in Lord Supper observance, ties directly into the “gifts” controversy. The point Paul states in Chapter 14 – for times he says “for edification” [3, 4, 12, and 26]. In America I think we have fallen into the “spiritual individualism” syndrome as well. We adopt a philosophy that we are the most important thing – our individual needs out weigh the needs of the congregation. This is so wrong. Jesus died for the Church – we must find our roots back to the original intent of the Church. The Church as the Bride of Christ, must show itself to be chaste, pure, without spot or blemish before the world and the Father. John 13:34-35 is repeated, by this all men will know that you are my disciples – in the love that you have one for another. The Corinthian church had forgotten that they were the church with a mission, the church with its various and different parts was and is the organism that Jesus will use to bring the lost to salvation and glory to the Father. This is a message every church needs to practice today. We can’t be prejudice to others, especially in the Church. We are His Church, He is the designer, our willingness to accept people unlike us will be the testimony in the community – people all people need to know that the Church is a “safe place” where they can cast their burdens and baggage down, without ridicule or judgment.
I apologize for those of you who follow this blog and were looking for my post for the week – I have been to Celebrate Recovery in Tennessee and didn’t get to post my normal Thursday post. Anyway here is it.
In Luke chapters 4-8 we find a very difficult time for Jesus and His ministry. The odd part about it, is that the conflict comes from His presence and activity while attending the synagogue on the Sabbath. It was Jesus’ normal routine to visit the Temple when He could, and to attend the local Synagogue when He was in town.
After the Temptations in the wilderness [just a thought, Satan defeated man in the Garden under ideal conditions for man; yet when he tempts Jesus in the Wilderness – under extreme conditions, he fails; thank You Jesus! Also Satan couldn’t defeat the Father- hence cast out of Heaven; so he goes after then Son – another failure.] which are an attempt by Satan to get Jesus to get “the Crown without the Cross.” You know we really do have an awesome Savior!
Jesus enters into the synagogue on the Sabbath and reads Isiah 61:1-2; sits down and says this “day these words have been fulfilled in your hearing.” Rather than reflect on what was said, the people disregard the prophecy fulfillment because they “know Jesus” as the carpenter’s son and his family. Often people disregard a testimony or miracle right before them because of either familiarity with the person or the thing said or done violates the senses of the mind.
An often overlooked passage is Luke 4:25-27; Jesus came for many reasons, one of them was to bring a final indictment upon the Jews for failure to accept the prophets and the Word of God. Jesus uses two Old Testament stories to show how that the Jews just aren’t all that and a bag of chips! The willingness to help the widow [gentile] and Naaman [gentile] when there were plenty of Jews He could have helped; reveals that God is a God that loves all people, and that if we think that God HAS TO DO for us because of who WE ARE; we are really mistaken. Obviously those who got it, were offended. Hmm, preaching of the word in the synagogue [church] being offensive? Over the course of the next few chapters we see that this trend of Savior on the Sabbath in the Synagogue repeated over and over. As I read the difficulties that Jesus experienced while “going to Church,” I wondered if He ever got tired of going to Church on the Sabbath, because of all the drama?
In chapter 5, Jesus gets great fallout over forgiving sin, not over healing the lame guy. The Church has often been the source of frustration and great conflict for pastors, prophets and the Word of God. Paul experienced the same things while on his missionary journeys. The Trouble making Judaizers followed him just as the Jews, Pharisees, Sadducees and religious leaders followed Jesus, not because they wanted to know more about the Kingdom of God, but that they might find fault with Him. News flash the same thing happens today.
Word for us who have to deal with all the junk of the Church today; Jesus never stopped loving and healing the people – neither should we! Jesus continued to minister to those around Him. The healings and miracles of catching fish and casting out demons didn’t stop because people [religious people] couldn’t wrap their minds and hearts around the love of Christ. His works of healing and great words of teaching affirmed Him as the Promised Messiah; yet there were skeptics that even though the facts substantiate Jesus, they asked “Are you the Christ, or is there another?” Even John the Baptist was found to have doubts. Jesus is ridiculed for the company He keeps, of course the Religious leaders wanted Jesus to BE WHAT THEY WANTED not who He was. Today many still try to claim Jesus as their own, yet try to twist Him and make Him FIT what they think a Savior and Lord should be. When the Bible and Jesus do not support the ways of “the people” they walk away in disgust.
In chapters 7-8, we have Jesus teaching in His favorite way – Parables. We sort of understand parables today, only because Jesus gave us insight into the parable. The story of the centurion salve healing reflects back onto the healing of Naaman earlier except with a twist. The Jews were okay with Jesus healing this Gentile, for he was a great contributor to the synagogue. Really, not much has changed. I know that Pastors and Churches will pressure what is or isn’t done based on the acceptance of those who “give the most” rather than what is right by God’s Word. Even though the synagogues and churches are messed up; Jesus died for the Church, it is His Bride. He will build His Church and Present His Bride [Church] pure, unblemished, chaste and adorned in radiant White to the Father. Yeah we’re messed up, but God hasn’t given up on us – let’s not give up on us either!