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Archive for October, 2008

This image is from ASBO Jesus.

This will be my short attempt to explain what I think about the Church. My ideas may be a bit different from many, but I would love to engage.

My introduction paragraph follows…. We are not under the Old Covenant but the New (Hebrews 8-9). Because of that, I don’t need to borrow anything, okay let me rephrase that, I shouldn’t borrow anything from the Old Covenant to shape my ecclesiology. There is radical discontinuity. Which simply means…. I don’t have to obey anything in the Old Testament unless it is transferred to the New, by Christ, the Apostles or other authors of the New Testament. Some may feel this is false, but I promise you, your theology drives you to that point, not the scriptures. In his book “All Old Testament Laws CanceledMr. Gibson says:

There is discontinuity in practice between the Old Testament vs the New Testament since they contain 2 separate laws (although many of the same commands are transferred). And, there is continuity in doctrine/faith between them since God never changes. (Also, there is continuity in God’s one, eternal plan in Christ which organizes all the covenants and the whole bible).

I believe this to be a key to interpreting the scriptures and what is to be practiced by the Church. We are not Jews, we have never been Jews and the Old Covenant was given to Israel and them alone. It has been abolished, it has ceased and has been replaced by the New Covenant Law of God (1 Corinthians 9:21).

Okay, with that out the way I want to bring up three points:

1. The Old Covenant had a mediating group.

To get to God you had to come through the Levites under the Old Covenant. Only they could light the lampstand, change the shew-bread, keep the incense burning, and offer sacrifices on behalf of the people.  Today we are all priest (1 Peter 2) with one High Priest who is alive forever (Heb 9:11). Pastors and elders don’t replace or assume the responsibility of the levitical priest, THE ENTIRE Church does and our High Priest is Jesus. Not to mention Moses was the first mediator. A Senior Pastor doesn’t replace Moses. Jesus does, for he is a mediator of a “Better Covenant”. To try to use Moses instructions from Jethro to lead the Church today is a gross misinterpretation of those verses. We don’t see Jesus or the Apostles every condoning such a hierarchy as a matter of fact he tells us to stay away from such hierarchical structures (Matthew 23).

2. The Old Covenant Had a Place of Worship

The temple was the only authorized place to offer sacrifices and to hear from God. No one else was authorized to offer up sacrifices and no other place was authorized. Our church buildings do not replace the temple or tabernacle. The Church which is made up of every single building does. We now Worship the Father through the Son and that in spirit and in truth (John 4). We offer up sacrifices of praise (Hebrews 13:15) through Christ. And because He is always heard we don’t have to worry like they did in the Old Covenant  if our sacrifice is accepted, because Jesus makes it acceptable by mediating for us perpetually (Hebrews 8).

3. The Need for a Professionalized Group

Finally the storehouse is gone, the need for a professionalized group is gone, and the need to pay that group is gone. Why? Because as New Covenant believers we are not under a Theocracy. That theocracy has been replaced with a gracious covenant where every nation, tongue and tribe is brought into relationship with God. The priest were commissioned by God to do a work and mediate on his behalf and they were commanded not to work, for they HAD TO be available for service to the people on behalf of God. Today we are priest and all hold the same mediating positions! Though we function differently due to our gifting doesn’t mean that there is a select class. The Church is not the storehouse, that is superimposing the Old, dead covenant unto the new living Church of God. There is no continuity between the two.

This is brief because I don’t want to lose you; however, we live under a New Covenant that is in opposition to what it is discontinued from. To take Old Covenant examples and superimpose them on the Church is to do a disservice to what Jesus purchased with His own blood. The Old Covenant was ratifed with the blood of bulls and goats “once Moses sprinkled the tablets he also sprinkled the people”. Today we are covered by the blood of the living God. He has created something new, and the last time I checked new really means new!

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We interrupt this program to bring you a Public Service Announcement! This just in….. Paul the Apostle does not agree with must of us who proclaim others are preaching a “false” gospel. Let me repeat that Apostle Paul does not agree.

Okay seriously. We have to be careful on two fronts. The first is the word heretic. I have been called to the table on this one. The second one is the term a “false Gospel”. Mr. Alan Knox does a great job describing what Paul means about heresy in this post (which convicted me by the way). I want to focus on the false Gospel one. Here is the text (I will be brief I promise)

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

There is a context here. Paul is dealing with a select group of individual. This Judaizers have crept in and are spying out the freedom of the Gentiles. They are saying “unless one be circumcised, there is no way that God will accept them”. This isn’t the message passed down to Paul from Christ Himself. Jesus has obliterated the Old Covenant and all of the laws that go along with it (NCT) and the way to God is faith (which Paul makes clear in chapter 3 was always God unfolding plan by Abraham the father of the Jews being saved before circumcision).

I won’t expound much here, but these gentleman that Paul refers to, are men who are maliciously pushing people back under the Old Covenant. They are disguising themselves as brothers but once they get in they were causing schisms in the Church by forcing the Galatians to be circumcised and simultaneously teaching them that Paul’s gospel was false and that the Apostles in Jerusalem has never endorsed such a liberal view of God.

So this isn’t error, or misinterpretation, this clear maliciousness. The Jerusalem Council has already taken place, the Apostles have already agreed with Paul, James standing up and running down what the Church expects of the gentile converts (Acts 15) but these men undermine Paul and the other Apostles by maliciously (I want to reiterate that) teaching a gospel contrary to the one handed down to Paul which in turn means they are undermining the Trinity! This is why Paul says let them be accursed. For our brothers and sister who are in error, but teach that Christ is the only way to God, but may manipulate the facts a little because of error not malice, we have to be more gracious. When I first came to know the Lord I was very confused. And God saw my confusion and over the last 14 years I have been a work in progress. Lets measure others with the same grace.

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One of the questions that I used to ask Derrick and Angela was about their spiritual covering.  It was a genuine question given my ecclesiology.  The question after decoded from its spiritual jargon is really “which pastor are you sitting under”. Derrick would tell me that he wasn’t in need of such “covering” because he was mature in the faith and would quote Ephesians 4 as backup. He said that “the purpose of these gifts was for maturity, once a person is mature then what”. I didn’t have an answer, so that led me to study more on my own about the subject and I began to wonder what was the purpose of those gifts? I came to conclusion that it wasn’t for a Christian to sit under a “pastor” for the rest of his/her life. Either the goal is to (a) Get them healthy and mature that they can function on their own or (b) get them healthy and mature so that they can become leaders and make disciples, sort of like a manufacturing line, fresh disciples should be being produced.

Now I am sort of in the same boat. And I am being asked “who got you covered” my answer is quite simple, “the same person who has your pastor covered”. That person should be the Holy Spirit. Not to mention every single Christian. I wrote something a while back called “Submitted to All Under the Authority of Christ“. You see we believe in hierarchy not giftedness. We believe that every Christian should be under someone else’s “Authority” depending on what type of Church you go to that could be different individuals. A Senior Pastor, a group of elders, a Pope, a Bishop, an Apostle or a Prophet. So it really depends. But the same problem comes up. Exactly who authority are they under? If they are where the buck stops, then who has them covered and the problem begins there. If you say no one then you believe that one Christian is closer to God than the other. If you say the Church then all believers are free to function as they please and Derrick has the right answer.

What I find strikingly odd are the responses (or stones) thrown at such endeavors. What I mean is this. I have good brothers in the Lord that I love. “Pastors” that I read, listen to quite a bit on my IPOD, and honor as solid brothers in the Lord. However, if Christians decide to gather more “freely” it seems that you might as well had elected a gay bishop. Here are some concerns I hear:

1. Where is Church discipline in that

2. Where is the accountability

3. Who is going to “pastor”

It is funny that people believe that Organization is synonymous with Christianity. Most of that is derived from John Calvin’s ecclesiology. I have no desire to “live in sin” nor does anyone I have met or talked to who meet in a more simple format. Nobody wants to run buckwild with no accountability, and no one I know despises leadership. These are common misconceptions that I myself held to strongly. Elders are those mature men who are homegrown recognized by their service, discipline is dealing with your brother prayerfully going to him about his sin and then if it gets to that point breaking fellowship with him/her. Accountability comes in asking the tough questions everyday. I meet with a brother once a week. My wife and I get it in daily as we challenge each other, and I got a slew of good brothers like BLD, Tyris and Howard who I have a responsibility to stay open with and pour my life out and be exposed to.

Covering is not the issue, control is. People want to ensure that you are controlled not really cared for and the disciple met to care for one another. They led by serving and was recognized as elder brothers (not Elder Positions) because of their service and faithful handling of the word. Sin was dealt with because they were in each others lives. No one escaped under the radar as in most traditional churches, and it seems like they lived to meet each other needs and to challenge each other to live for Jesus by being salt and light. Let me know what you think.

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I am reading “Paul’s Idea of Community” by Robert Banks on page 53. He quotes 1 Corinthians 1:4-8:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

He then say:

This description has to do with the fundamental attitudes: patience, humility, tolerance, kindness, resilience, generosity, confidence, perseverance, optimism. Both here and elsewhere these attitudes detail not so much individual’s relationship to God as the interaction between Christian brothers and sisters. These attitudes should accompany their communication with one another and should also lead them into a real depth of relationship with one another.

If we can be honest. We live in an ever growing autonomous culture. America has an “I” and a “me” not to mention it starts with an “a”. I believe this is an ever growing mindset in the church as well. People would rather read the bible by themselves, pray by themselves, be accountable to themselves, and then go to “church” together. This has effected my greatly.

I think I would be a really good Christian if it were not for other Christians getting in my way all the time. They are like an obstacle course. Needy, impatient, critical, judgmental, gossipy, selfish, worrisome, they complain, they mistreat one another, they ignore one another needs, they would rather point a finger than carry a burden. Oh did I mention “they” is really me. The fundamental issue is one of love. I love Jesus more than I love Christians and I am starting to figure out that this is a false dichotomy. I can get along with Jesus just fine and I would rather spend more time with Him than with others. Me and Jesus understand each other. He doesn’t gossip about me, He doesn’t mistreat me, He doesn’t take my grace for granted. He meets my need, He asks for little in return, He is judgmental, He doesn’t ignore me I can go to Him anytime of the day, when I sin He doesn’t point the finger. When I have a burden He helps me carry it. Shoot! Why waste my time with Christians when I can just spend more time with Christ. He is a great bible study partner, because He knows all the answers, He is a great prayer partner, He says all the right things and never stumbles over His words, He knows exactly what I am thinking. Me and Jesus get along just fine! Just not so much with Christians.

There is only one problem. He elected the “Church”, redeemed the “Church”, and seals the “Church” made up of individuals. So we are His body and the way I love His body is the way I love Him. Christians and Christ are not mutually exclusive! I thought think I was taught this enough, or I just ignored it. Yeah I read it, but that was by myself and anyway Jesus understands that I would rather spend more time with Him anyway right? Again love is the issue. Christianity is a corporate work that can never be isolated.  How we relate to other believers is a direct reflection of what we think about God. Our blatant disregard for other Christians and the “one anothers” we are to fulfill as imperatives is a direct reflection of what we really think about what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

If other Christians are in our way, it is because we don’t understand the work of the Cross and what exactly Jesus accomplished and who exactly Jesus redeemed. He redeemed an us just as much as He redeemed an I if not more. Jesus had the church on His heart which is a collection of individuals. God foreknew the “Church”, the Spirit seals the “Church”. We can’t understand our relationship with Jesus without understanding our relationship, and the obligations that come with this relationship, with other redeemed individuals.

So once we understand that God not only reconciles us to Himself by Christ but in like manner He reconciles us to other Christians JUST AS MUCH. Our hearts, motives, and actions toward other believers is heightened. And the way we talk serve, and commit to one another is illuminated. I believe this is key. So now when I gossip I am gossiping about Christ, when I am unkind I am unkind to Christ, when I am impatient, unloving, non-gentle, rude, and unforgiving I am doing the same to Christ. Christ and the Christian is inseparable. This is a package deal. When I serve another Christian I am serving Christ, when I am loving, sacrificial, I refuse to gossip, I refuse to ignore, I am patient, gentle, kind and forgiving, I am doing the same to Christ.

I really want us to think about this. Whatever we do to another believer we do to Christ. We can’t say we love Christ and dislike a brother. The two are joined at the hip. That is why love is the “perfect bond of unity” as Colossians says. When we put on Christ (which is another imperative) as believers we have obligations to fulfill. So the next time you think a Christian is in the way and you want to push him/her aside, you best realize that you pushing Christ to the side. Whatever you do to His bride or say of His bride you do and say of Him!

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Dave Black has a really good article here . Below is an excerpt:

I wish you could read every word of it. I especially enjoyed his conclusion:

Let’s show our love for the world by loving them, visiting them, helping them, praying for them, ministering to them FREELY. Only then will they truly know the love of Jesus.

Why not live like Paul? Why not work with our own hands while using the gifts God has given us to share the good news with others? Why not care for our own needs without being a burden to others or the church of God?

Bingo! Every member of Christ’s Body is a minister. Every function is a ministry. This means, as Nathan implies, that all Christians are to be known by one word: servant. This service to others is an obligation, not an option. The Bible teaches the priesthood of all believers, and not merely a few.

Then I turned over to my good brother Alan Knox. He has an Article called “Acts 20 and salaries for pastors” Below is an excerpt:

In the third part of Paul’s speech, he once again reminds the elders of his manner of living while he was among them. Then, in the fourth part of the speech, he again instructs the elders concerning how they should live after he departs and the reasons for this:

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:32-35 ESV)

Notice that Paul begins by pointing out his own practices. When he lived in Ephesus, he says that he did not desire anyone’s money (silver or gold). Paul is very specific that he worked “with his hands” (and apparently a different kind of work than the previous work that he said he did ‘in public and house to house’ – Acts 20:18-21) so that he could provide for himself and other people who were with him. In fact, Paul said that they were witnesses to how hard he worked with his hands in order to support himself.

Then, Paul turns his example around. He tells them, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak…” The phrase translated “we must” is usually translated “one must” or “it is necessary”. In other words, Paul is saying to these elders from Ephesus that it is necessary for them to work hard with their hands like he did so that they will be able to help those who cannot support themselves.

Paul did not expect these elders to receive financial support from others. Instead, he expected them to work so hard (in the same manner that he worked) that they would be able to support themselves and others too. Remember, Paul’s example for them was that he had worked hard enough to financial support himself and others. He reminded them of his example, and told them that it was necessary for them to do the same thing.

I think both Brother David and Alan bring up some good points. What are your thoughts?

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If you really want to lead die! If you really want to die serve! If you don’t want to serve you don’t want to die, if you don’t want to die you don’t want to lead, at least not biblically. Dying to ourselves is the epitome of the Christian journey! Jesus gives many references to death, the most outstanding is the paradox of “picking up your cross and die daily”. It is quoted often in scripture but I think the communal aspect is missing in it. Jesus died for a community not individuals. Jesus purchased the Church with His blood, not individuals. A collective unit of predestined, foreknew, elect individuals that would make up the whole. Jesus purchased in bulk. So when we see the picking up our cross, we may need to look at it in a more communal aspect. But this is for a later post.

I want to focus on dying or as Paul says “the giving up of one’s self”. Here in Ephesians is where it is at:

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

We all know this verse and we quote the three before it with great ease. For the most part we can all quote this one. But what is the practical outworking of this? Here comes another confession. When I started to deal heavily in theology man I wanted my wife to join with me. As a matter of fact I couldn’t understand why she was not excited about my new found truth. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to read Desiring God, The Holiness of God, and The Five Points of Calvinism, Future Grace, and The Gospel According to Jesus, The Mortification of Sin, The Christian’s Great Interest, and definitely Dr. Grudem’s ST! I was starting the handle the word with a great precision. Got me a couple of good Concordances, Lexicons, Dictionaries, started to read a little work on Greek. And for the most part Charity wasn’t interested.

I started challenging her with the scripture, quizzing her with my knowledge, trying to engage her. Yeah I loved her! I was washing her with the word wasn’t I? I was faithful, I didn’t yell as much (unless we disagreed about a theological position). Sure I loved her. So then I jumped up a few verses and started reading those to her. “Wives submit”. Now I never realized until quite recently that as this letter was being read for the first time, whoever had the responsibility to read it would have looked over to the WIVES not the husbands. This verse doesn’t say “Husbands command your wives to submit to you as on to the Lord”. Never, ever, ever does Paul tell husbands to tell their wives to submit? This is key

You see Paul is speaking to the women about submitting, not husbands about wives submitting. It wasn’t my job to bring this to my wives attention; it is the Holy Spirits’. If I coerce, this isn’t voluntary it is under compulsion. So what I am to do? Paul says it quite clearly “model Christ”! Whatever Christ does for His bride I am to do for mine.

Practically this looks like a servant ministry. My job is to lead my wife by example. Not just any example the example of the Lord Jesus who said “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many”. Jesus the Christ takes the INITIATIVE in serving. Jesus always gets the party started. Jesus pursues service! This is key so don’t miss me. He pursues the role of servant recklessly. He clothes himself in human flesh, lives a life of submission to His creation (His mother and father), lives to heal and minister to others, washes stinky feet, and then pursues the cross as the writer of Hebrews says “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross”.

Husbands do you have the mind of Christ? Let me ask, when was the last time you decided to recklessly pursue a role of a servant to your wife? When was the last time you told her to go get her a pedicure while you took care of the kids? When was the last time you argued with her to put the broom and mop down and watch some Lifetime while you scrubbed the stool, swept and mopped the floors, vacuumed the carpet, dust and polish the furniture? When was the last time you told her to go hang with her girls while you grocery shop? Sent her on a trip and you take days off work to keep the kids? Offered her to sit down first while you feed the kids and bring her, her plate and cleaned the kids up and put them in the bath, after washing the dishes?

You see this is the leadership Jesus talks about. Leadership that is an emptying of one’s self for the benefit of the other, with no, and I do mean no, expectation of reciprocity. Jesus pursues us and serves us for our benefit, never for His. Jesus is no less glorious, Jesus is no less God, if He decided to stay in perfect union with the Father and let this world go to hell in a hand basket. He loses not one iota of glory. But He says this “no greater love has then this that a man lay down his life for his friends”. Jesus didn’t have to tell the disciple to submit, they saw Him model perfect submission to the Father and unconditional servant-like love towards them.

If you want to love your wife, pick up the mop and the broom. Take some time to relieve her of some of her duties. Put her feet in your hand as Jesus did His disciples! “Don’t look out for your own interests”. Pursue servant-hood recklessly! This is the leadership that Jesus the only begotten of the Father showed during His earthly ministry. Not a domineering, know it all! Not one who boasted about His leadership but one who boasted about serving. So to are we His friends if “we do what He says”. Lets love our wives by giving up ourselves. To be at their service, lets even “outdo each other in doing good”.

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I have never ever, ever, ever, ever, been a Michael Jackson fan. Sorry KM. I just didn’t grow up liking the dude. However, I can recall some of his songs because they dominated the airways and music videos. One was “Man in the Mirror” (or something like that). The lyrics says “I am looking at the man in the mirror. I am asking him to change his ways”. This song actually has more theological implications than I first realized.

If someone were to ask me what would you tell a Christian on his first day of the journey, that you didn’t realize to much, much later (really much). My answer would be to “stay in your lane”. I think “lane changing” is detrimental to Christian fellowship and personal growth/sanctification. If you look in the picture above, you might giggle. The man is going bald and is flabby, but to himself he sees Fabio or some other fella in the prime of life. If I were a betting man I would bet that he sees others much more critically than he sees himself.

To be honest this is a huge struggle and what has been convicting me a lot as of late. I started to reflect of all the things I have said about other Christians young and old, mature and immature, carnal and spiritual and how I have always saw myself in the upper echelon and others, well….. not so much. As if I have arrived and they still have much to grow in. How judgmental and critical I could be while ignoring overlooking my own sin. Again this is huge for me. And daily Jesus has been showing me through the Spirit and the scriptures just how much of my time is spent thinking about what others are believing, or what they are doing, or how they are living.

Well if any of you have raced before. The first thing you know not to do is to look back. Especially in a sprint. The prize is the finish line and your competition is the clock, not the guy in the next lane. So it is with us believers. Are competition is the race itself not does running along side of us. Way too much of my time has been spent worrying what others are believing or what other “false” teachers are teaching, or what “weak” books have been released. Or what Joel Olsteen is talking about, or what Paula White is doing. All the time I have ignored the fact that my mark is Christ and I won’t be measured on what they have done but what type of steward I was with the grace provided to me. My heart is heavy there. Here is what Paul says. I want to pull out a few things here. This is the NASB and encompasses a few verses:

8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul says something quite profound. The tone of this verse is a tension to attain something that he has not yet attained but with all of his energy was attempting to attain. For Paul this pressing involved Him and Christ and no one else. This fellowship with Jesus, this taking hold of, the mark was something that Paul could imagine and His life was invested in attaining it. This blog has spent a lot of time worrying about others, especially false teachers. Paul spends very little time in his epistles concerned about false teachers and the like and more time focusing the recipients on the one anothers and their personal behavior and how they are to live in light of their new found life in Christ. Put on Put Off in other words.

I close with this, I think as bloggers and believers, as we write and especially as we talk, lets focus on what Christ is doing in our lives and what we are doing for others in light of what Christ is doing in our lives. If we can find any room to talk about others, then I promised you the mirror is too far from our faces. If we look more attractive to ourselves while being critical of the appearance of others either the mirror is too far from our face or we are in denial. Our goal is to stay in our lane and to be honest with others about our struggles and shortcomings while HELPING others walk this great faith out until death or until our Lord returns. I hope to assit my brothers and sisters in the pursuit of our great prize, our great mark and the fellowship that Paul longs for. With that in mind there is too much in my own life to focus on. Paul seems to have an preoccupation with this and I hope too also.

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