Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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Thanks again Pastor John for responding to my questions - and I have no doubt that you speak with love, even though tough words may still be necessary sometimes.
One thing that strikes me is that I feel like these ministers don't really know that underlying reason (seeking more money and work out of people) themselves, for preaching the Great Commission to their congregation. I have a hard time believing that my current pastor actually, in his mind, is seeking money. But maybe I'm even too wide-eyed to see that. I do sense that he feels the pressure to "grow the church," and so now we are entering a season of "aggressively evangelizing" and bringing people "into God's house", and he sees me as one of the "people connectors" who is "gifted" to evangelize. Wow. Everything in me has started turning upside down in the last few weeks, and I feel all these sayings so empty - I can't connect with it anymore. But I have such a hunger for the truth, I want to understand how to read and even explain the Scriptures, I want to understand why these people who have the holy Spirit, and seem to mean so very well, can be so far from the truth!
It may be that the pastor of the church you attend is one of God's wonderful children who has been caught up in the system and is being used by it. In any case, I am sure that he does not know what drives that system: the love of money, envy of the glory of God, pride, etc. Satan is the secret lord of Christianity.
I would not accuse any minister of knowingly doing what I told you was happening, though knowing human nature, there probably are a few who have a good idea about what it really is and yet keep going with it. I think that just about all Christian ministers would resign today if they found out the truth of the matter . . . and come to think of it, that is what God wants them to do--to find out the truth of the matter and get out of there and come to Him.
It seems to me that across the board, whatever Jesus said to his disciples in the Bible, gets automatically transferred over onto us, today - if Jesus said it to them, then he's saying it to us now. That seems to be the assumption. Which brings me to a question about this following Scripture: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another" (John 13:35). Is Jesus NOT speaking to us, here, as well? Are we not actually disciples of his until he tells us so?
There is no harm in applying anything Jesus said to his disciples to ourselves if doing so motivates us to walk more uprightly and is not used to manipulate people to work harder for that institution that God hates: Christianity. The Spirit itself will tell us to love one another; it will not, however, tell you to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" unless you are given power to do that.
Please know that I am just so starved for truth and understanding - I am not trying to "test" you or anything - tonight actually I was telling a friend that I know I need to leave my church. I'm trying to figure out what to say, how to do it, whether to bring up these issues I now disagree with from their teachings, etc... it's because my life has been so intertwined with some of them, and I really love and care for them -it's going to be hard to disengage completely!
I would not encourage you to "disengage completely" at all, unless clinging to that fellowship is not God's will. If that is the case, then refusing to disengage will harm you and them. And if God does not approve of it, then the fellowship you hold onto is not a fellowship in the light, but a fellowship in the flesh. My inclination is to encourage you to be as close to the people you know as possible, yet be perfectly faithful to Jesus and the mercy he is offering you, and perfectly sincere with your friends. Do not be afraid of them finding out anything Jesus is teaching you. If it is the truth, IT will protect YOU; you will not have to protect it.
But, please, whatever you do, be fully persuaded in your own mind about it. You will not be able to overcome the pressure against the truth with half a heart. You do not have to know all the Scriptures about anything, but you must know that what you feel in your heart is right. And I think that you are at that point now, even though you certainly do want to understand the Scriptures concerning the doctrine. After all, Christ did say through David, "I am understanding; I have strength."
Another random question about this from 1 Cor 13: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." Since speaking in tongues means that I have the holy Ghost, the new birth, how could I NOT have love and only be a resounding noise? This Scripture makes it seem optional, to speak in tongues - or like it could be an empty thing. What is Paul referring to here, in reality?
I have seen a lot of people fall from the righteousness of God and become "clanging cymbals". Solomon said that everything in its place and time is beautiful; so, the "clanging" here simply means that it isn't time to do it. At another time, and under different circumstances, that same "clanging" would be beautiful to God.
What Paul is describing here is a person who has drifted away from the commandments of God, and yet he continues to worship with the saints around him, hiding his sin and making a show of being faithful. James said the same thing this way: "If you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, do not glory and lie against the truth." Peter described such misguided believers this way: "Spots they are, and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deception while they feast with you", and then he calls them "cursed children". That is, they are really children of God and were once made pure by the blood of the Lamb, but now they are cursed because of their stubborn refusal to confess their sin.
The same "clangers" of Paul are the ones "glorying" in the holy Ghost that James mentioned, and they are also Peter's "cursed children" of God who worship with the saints as if all is right. What those fallen saints are doing is good, but it is done in the wrong time and under the wrong circumstances. Paul warned the saints in Corinth not to drink of the Spirit "unworthily" because the power of the Spirit is such that it can kill us if we do, just as easily as it can heal us.
Finally, the topic of tonight's meeting with my fellow believing girlfriends (cell group) - all of whom I think have the holy Spirit - Mark 2:1-12 - about the paralytic who was lowered down to Jesus through the roof, and healed. The point was made that the 4 men who carried the paralytic up the roof and then down through it, were desperate to bring this man to Jesus, because they had faith for him to be touched/healed. The point was made, we too need to BRING people to Jesus, we need to have the faith and the heart for the lost in our lives who need God, we need to connect with others (i.e., the 4) to help us bring that person to Jesus, we need to overcome whatever obstacles might arise (like the packed house, and needing to get up to the roof), and we need to build our faith for what Jesus will do for them (healing/spiritual touch, etc...) I can see how any well-meaning minister would interpret that to mean this is for us now, too - of course that's all I've ever known of the faith - it needs to be shared, people need to be reached with the Gospel, and that's what there is to "do" for Jesus - but how else can I read that passage and NOT take away the sense that I should be doing the same as those 4 men?
Think about it. Those four friends of the sick man were friends of the sick man. What does this really tell us? It tells us, first of all, that those men did not go out into the streets of Capernaum and drag in a sick man who didn't want to be there. They were not out hunting for sick bodies to be healed.
Beyond that, I congratulate your friends for whatever love they have in their hearts for sinners. If they are moved by the Spirit to try to bring them to Christ, I would never want to put a stumbling block before them. But if they are motivated to pursue sinners because of a doctrine they have been persuaded to embrace, and if they pursue sinners because they are afraid not to (which is most often the case), then they are typical Christians and are getting in God's way.
Remember what Jesus told the Pharisees? The Pharisees had "hearts for sinners", too. Jesus told them that they would go to great expense and effort to make one convert, "and when he is made, he is twice as much a child of hell as yourselves." Some people are experts at converting souls . . to Christianity. They are completely failures at converting souls to Christ; that is, leading them to receive the baptism of the holy Ghost.
I will never forget (I hope) the time I found, when I was about your age, the Scripture from Hosea 10:1: "Israel is an empty vine . . ." Do you know what an empty vine is, A.M.? I thought I did, too, until I read this verse. An empty vine, I thought, was a vine that produced no fruit. But look at the next words in that verse: "Israel is an empty vine; he brings forth fruit to himself." I was amazed at what God was saying here. Israel was converting many Gentiles to itself, bearing much fruit and thinking that it was increasing the number of those who belonged to God. But to what were those Gentiles really being converted? God says here that He was getting nothing out of it. As far as what God received from their religious efforts was concerned, Israel was an empty vine, even as their numbers grew. They were producing fruit, but only to their own brand of religion.
This is the spirit behind Christian evangelism. This is the devilish wisdom behind your pastor's "church growth" program. This is the wicked spirit that would use you for its glory, seeing that you love people and that people are attracted to you. But if you allow Satan to use you to bear fruit to Christianity, to what have you won them? They may, if they are sincere and if Jesus calls them, receive the Spirit at some point along the way, but is that what you led them to? I think not. I think their hearts just kept crying out to Jesus, in spite of what you led them to, and that he had mercy on them and loved them. And I think that every one who does not keep crying out and seeking for Jesus has been made twice as much a child of hell as the ones who converted him to Christianity in the first place.
Forgive me for the barrage of questions... everything that comes to my attention now has such a heightened significance. I know what I need to do. I just want to do it with more understanding than I had when I became a part of Christianity! With love,A.M.
Yes, and you MUST have more understanding than you had then. Understanding is strength.