Our Devotion Must be to Christ and not to Ourselves

Prayer

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.” James 4:11

 

The biblical model for our church is clearly laid out in Scripture. We may not agree with one another on how to implement His call, or even how to do our government. We may not agree on how we worship or on the subtle aspects of pre-millennial, post-millennial, pre-tribulation, or post-tribulation doctrine. However, those things we must agree on and what we must do cooperatively are found in His Word. It contains the big picture and call to the essentials of what a church is to be, which is acknowledging His supremacy in all that we do.

Understanding His supremacy means understanding His holiness. Yet, holiness is not a part of a lot of churches because we have forgotten why we are there and what the true role of the church is.

We have forgotten that the Lord of the universe has called us out and has set us apart for His use. We have replaced His holiness with our own experiences because we have forgotten our call, our definition, and the real biblical purpose. We have been placed in a church for a reason, and one of the main reasons is to be set apart for His purpose and not for our own. This is holiness. We have forgotten our adoption into His kingdom and the vision of what our church should be. We have replaced it with gothic cathedrals with magnificent stained glass pictures and architecture that screams, “God is holy,” yet the pews are empty; the teaching and discipleship are forsaken. We have moved the church so close to the consumer we have forgotten what we stand for. We have printed out ideas and motions as “core values” with Scripture that we think rivets His plan to a purpose, yet the people go untaught and continue to spread the disease of gossip and malice. Lust, greed, and power have taken over when peace, grace, forgiveness, and love are to be the route taken.

Well thought out functionally unhitched to the basics of why we do church misleads its members and community and displeases God! Even if the church grows, it is unhealthy church growth and misses the point of who and why we are.

We must see our unworthiness and inadequacy before our holy God and seek His forgiveness and restitution. We must not let our sin replace the call of the church to holiness. We must allow His grace to work within us and through us so we can be the church that is healthy, vibrant, and filled with love. The goal is to have His love and our love, all working together and all surrendered and poured out to holiness and purpose that is not forgotten. The church is about us as the Christians who are in Him, worshiping Him. It is not about our petty needs and us. The church was created for us to house His plan in our lives, to come together in community for worship, fellowship, teaching, and outreach. It is about us because it binds us together for Him. It is not about our replacing His desires and plans for ours, or putting the focus upon us. We are not the main characters in God’s drama of redemption, Christ is.

Thus, we must realize that the church is about our Lord Jesus Christ and His plan for redemption. It is about our coming together and modeling His character. We are the supporting cast of actors and extras that make the story come alive to those around us. The church is not a place for grandstanding our desires and personalities.

We need to depend on the cross because we fall way short of the expectations, obedience, and the law. Now, with grace, we can go through life empowered and indwelled by the Spirit. When we have a growing relationship with Christ, we can go through life without fear; we can have the comfort of His presence and help build His church as healthy, vibrant, and effective. Our response is passionate devotion and obedience. We cannot be devoted to principles or even doctrine if we are not devoted to the person and work of Christ. Our church is not a cause; it is a Person, the God and Creator of all things who loves us, who indwells in us, who empowers us, and who guides us according to His purposes.

Our devotion must be to Christ and not to ourselves, not to a principle or to an idea, and definitely not to trends.

We cannot pour out our lives for false passion and conviction for a goal that has no eternal purpose, one that does not glorify our Lord. When we run our churches by our personal agenda and principles, we go astray because our principles are not in the Lordship of Christ, they are within us. We become in “breach of the contract,” of His covenant of love and acceptance, rejecting it for self-interests that lead us nowhere! We need to receive the love of our Lord from the Holy Spirit, and not allow anything to get in His way!

Remember, your church can be healthy. The question is, what are you willing to do about it?

Yes, the Way is Narrow! P1

Matthew 7:13-20 P1

Why is it appealing to be open-minded to the point that everything is acceptable and permissible as long as no one is hurt? How does this philosophy destroy?

We live in an age where all ways and religions are accepted as equally valid and good. We are told that we, those who believe in ‘true Truth,’ are narrow minded and bigoted if we suggest anything else. However, political correctness aside, there is only One Way, and it is both the hardest way, and the easiest. Hard, because it cost our Lord so much; hard, because it requires us to surrender our Will; hard, because it is so easy, we think we do not need it. Jesus is the One and only Way, the gate that is narrow, the Way that is difficult, and to say otherwise neutralizes the Majesty and holiness of Jesus, His teaching, and it cheapens His Gospel (Matthew 7:13-20).

“Narrow gate” comes to us from Jesus using the illustration of two gates is from Ezra, and would be familiar to all first century Jews, as that passage is about coming back from captivity to rebuild the temple and the wall (Ezra 4). One leads to Life (water, food); the other, death (waste and dung).

The “wide gate” represents the beginning of the life of destruction as what is seemingly free and open, as it allows us to believe whatever we want. It does not require our Will, because our Will becomes the controlling factor. Materialism, hatred, refusing to forgive, prejudice and the rest of the rotten fruits will take hold and glue us to that destructive lifestyle, then rationalize it as good. It seems the easy path, but will soon be more difficult and destructive that we could have thought (2 Thess. 1:7-9; Rev. 20:15; 21:8).

The “narrow gate” represents the beginning to the “Way” that leads to life (Matt. 14:6; 16:24; 25:46; John 10:1-18).

The narrowness is not determined by God’s anger or callousness, rather by our free Will and sin that rebels (Matt. 6:14-20), so He has to chase after us. Many still refuse His Grace (Matt. 22:14).

Even though the Way is simple in concept, people, since the early Apostles and Judaizers (Jews who kept the Law, especially circumcision, while believing in Jesus), tried to add extra burdens on the Gospel of Grace. From circumcision to the scores of false teachers, Paul and Barnabas were plagued with this until Peter, through the Holy Spirit, set them straight (Acts 10-15).

The Christian life requires surrender of our Will, as in self-denial and obedience to Him (Rom. 6:3-7; 17-22).

Few people desire to be convicted or challenged in their thinking or comfort zone, which they see as confining or bigoted. It will change our behavior, which is the main theme of chapters 5, 6, and 7 (Matt. 28:19-20).

The Church is a Response to Grace

Colossians 1:15-23

We must be about how do I glorify Christ, not please our selves, and do this in all things—worship, relationships, our thought processes, how we make decisions, and how we institute and instigate the work of the church. It all must flow and come from Christ our Lord, our Leader and God, and from nowhere else. When we stop experiencing Jesus as our Lord, and He becomes only a figure in the sanctuary, then we will not be a purposeful or called Church for Him. When we are singing praise choruses and hymns that point to His Holiness and Greatness and as Head of our lives and church, do we mean it? Or, is it merely rhetoric and repetition that has no meaning behind it?

The church exists as a response to the grace of our Lord. Because of what He did, we are to glorify, magnify, praise His name, and then respond further from our worship of Him to our works for Him.

Remember that works have no saving construct; they are only the appreciation and response we are give to His majesty and redemption. Grace working in us will produce the work and will of our devotion and holiness to set us apart for His plan. Our response is to accept His teachings and love with joyful excitement, and replicate it in our lives, thoughts, and actions, and to grow and perfect the relationship and work He gives us.

Remember the Dead Sea; if all we do is allow Him to flow into us and not out, we will stagnate.

If we just try to go it alone without our Lord, we will fail. We cannot flow out if nothing flows in. The responsibility is clear; we are to allow His Spirit to flow in and out, as we are His tools, His children, and His love. When our faith becomes strong, we will not be moved from it, and that means we will not be moved away from Christ. This is what steadfastness is all about: not being shaken from our beliefs and faith in our Lord. When we stray off our path, we tend to substitute steadfastness with stubbornness that takes us far from the purpose and responsibility of the Lord’s church. Being firmly rooted in Christ means keeping to the integrity of Scripture and His teachings, for when we stray from that path, our church will stray away from His opportunities and call. Christ gives us the hope and opportunities to grow, learn, and abide in Him; we are to respond to the call and opportunities He gives with hope and joy.

The Slippery Slope P XI

Are you Watering Down His Word with Trends and the Ideas of Men? 

Perhaps not, you think. What about the preaching in your church? Is it Christ-centered or human-centered? Are you being seeker sensitive yet not communicating Christ’s Sovereignty and Lordship, His holiness and Supremacy (Col.1)?

Are psychology and the over-use of illustrations and stories taking the place of expository preaching?

There is nothing wrong with using the insights of science and behavioral science, as long as we come clean with the veracity of sin and personal responsibility. Are you just teaching popular topics that please people rather than going through the Scriptures verse by verse, thus not teaching? A church does not have to be liberal to water down the Word; it is done in conservative churches all of the time by the neglect of it! If your preaching is weak from a biblical standpoint, you have a Church of Perfidy!