It is so easy to get so caught up in the flow that we fail to recognize just how far away from shore we have been carried. The words of Jesus are pretty darn clear, but oftentimes in our zealousness for our faith, we often get pulled away from the basics and eventually end up living in a way that we believe is honoring to God, but is actually contradictory to everything he has taught us. In this post, I have offered just four examples. There and hundreds of teachings contained in the 4 Gospels of the New Testament, teachings that, if we obeyed, would absolutely flip our lives and world upside-down for the glory of God and the good of all people.
What the Church as a whole and Evangelicals in particular desperately need in this age is a return to the plain teachings of Jesus. We need to be willing to set aside out theological debates and meanderings for a season and focus on simply reading, conforming, and obeying the will of Christ, both as revealed in Scripture and as we are led by his Spirit. The world is desperately longing to encounter Jesus through us and for far too long we have been giving them a cheap knock off that we have exported under his name.
But it's clear to everyone that what is passing for Christianity today is almost totally divorced from the teachings of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that we would all turn our faces towards our risen Savior and seek to selflessly follow his commands. I am convinced that the Jesus' way is the only way that will heal our broken world. I am convinced that the whole earth is groaning as it waits for men and women to take of their crosses and follow in the way of redemption. I am convinced that when those of us who call ourselves "Christian" re-orient ourselves in Jesus, the power of God will flow through us in an unprecedented and miraculous way that will bring salvation to the ends of the earth.
Oh how I long for that day. It's that simple. Followers follow, and those who don't follow aren't followers. To follow Jesus means to follow Jesus into a society where justice rules, where love shapes everything. To follow Jesus means to take up his dream and work for it.
The views expressed in this piece are exclusively those of the author and not of any of the organizations that he represents. US Edition U. News U.
Five Truths About the Holy Spirit
God Will Guide Your Steps in this Life
Today is National Voter Registration Day! You belong to God through Jesus Christ. This is true of you personally and also of the church. Whatever else it may be, the church is the church of God: the church that comes from God, is governed by God, and belongs to God.
Your individual church belongs to the triune God. This basic truth makes a huge difference in the way we think and act with respect to the church, especially in times of conflict. For example:. Only one opinion really matters, the opinion that belongs to God. The church is not first of all a vehicle for my self-expression, or professional security, or enjoyment, or whatever. As we care before God, we remembered that we were on holy ground. Before the majesty of God, we humbled ourselves and shared together in common humility.
A Biblical Decision-Making Guide: 76 Bibles Verses About Making Choices
Antagonists vying for ownership of the church became fellow seekers for the will of the One who truly owns the church. Winning no longer mattered, except for the victory of God. What is this entity that belongs to God? On the simplest level, a church is a gathering of people who belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Wherever Christians come together in Christ, there is a church. But this is just the beginning. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul speaks of the church in striking and surprising language:.
For years I read this passage as speaking about me as an individual Christian. But the emphasis in chapter 3 is different. Here the temple of God is the church, the gathered fellowship of believers. Those who labor as church-planters are in the construction business, so to speak So when we come to verse 16, we know that the temple of which Paul speaks is not the individual believer but the assembly of believers. The first three chapters of 1 Corinthians have to do, not with threats to individual believers, but with the threat of division in the church at Corinth.
When believers gather together, God is with them through his Spirit. The power of God is available so the church can be strengthened. Paul will have much more to say about this in chapters They easily think of the church in human terms. I know pastors who have seemed almost willing to destroy a particular church in order to defend their reputation or career.
How sad this is! And, given the threat of 1 Corinthians , how ill advised. Though he felt sure that he could defeat his foes, he also believed that this fight would seriously damage the church. His career, his income, his reputation. So he resigned. With this in mind, we will do everything in our power both to honor and to protect the church, even if it involves self-sacrifice. Are you thinking of your church as the temple of God? A church that belongs to God ends up being spoken of, and sometimes even thought of, as the personal property of some individual.
- Tangled Web (TodaysGirls.com)!
- Breath Test & Gastroenterology.
- Tulasi Das.
That which exists for the sake and glory of Christ ends up as a personality cult with the pastor as the dominant star. The tendency of Christians to over-identify with their leaders is an old one.
In fact, it goes back to the earliest years of the church. In the letter we know as 1 Corinthians, Paul gets right to the point after his opening address:. Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. Of course love and appreciation for Christians leaders is a fine thing. But when this love and appreciation becomes divisive or idolatrous, then we have a real problem. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul seeks to set the Corinthians right by helping them to have a right understanding of Christian leadership:.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each.
It seems that the Corinthians were divided especially into the group that supported Paul and the group that identified with Apollos, a more articulate preacher and one who might have had greater appeal among the more educated and wealthier Corinthians. Yet in their devotion to a human leader, the Corinthians were missing the point.
Both Paul and Apollos were equally servants of God though they may have different functions. God is the main thing. God is the Master of the servants. God is the only one who can cause the church to grow. God is the owner of the church, whether seen as a field or a building. Here is a measure for determining the health of leadership in a church: How do the members talk about the leaders? Are they drawing up sides for and or against their leaders? Do they pit some leaders against others? Or do they see all leaders as servants of the One who really matters? I confess that, during my years as pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, I found it easy to get too entangled with the church I served.
Though God had called me to the Irvine church and though he blessed my ministry there, I was not nearly as essential to the church as I might have thought. God could take care of this church just fine without me. Though God used me at Irvine, I was not necessary to the life and health of the church. In practice, it sometimes is not easy for a pastor or other leader to seek the glory of Christ in a church, especially when we find ourselves in the midst of conflict.
I know from personal experience how difficult this can be. About fifteen years ago I was in the midst of one the hardest times in my ministry at Irvine Presbyterian Church. From my point of view, she was not fulfilling her job description in many, many ways. From her point of view, I was being imperious and unsupportive. Though I tried everything I could think of to make things work out, they were going south faster than a goose in November. During this time, Shirley began to lobby the troops on her side. She complained about how I was mistreating her. She was clearly trying to divide the church and was doing a fine job of it.
I must confess that I was sorely tempted to join the game and beat her at it. I wanted to get people on my side. I wanted people to know the truth and defend me. The church started to become all about me,. We were going the way of the splintered Corinthian church.
Everything came to a head at a meeting of our congregation. The elders of the church were recommending that we dismiss Shirley from our staff. In the congregational debate, many people chewed me out for what they perceived to be my management flaws. These were people who believed they knew the truth because they had heard it from Shirley. The temptation to divide and conquer the church was huge for me.
I owned my failures and tried to listen to what people were saying to me. Frankly, it was excruciating. But I sensed that my job as pastor was to help the church be unified in Christ, not divided in order to defend me. Many of my supporters sensed the same. Though they could have risen to my defense, they realized that it was not the time to do so. Wisely, they remained quiet, and so avoided a fight that could have deeply wounded our church. The congregation did, in the end, vote to dismiss Shirley. I left feeling, not vindicated, but ashamed and exhausted. Several friends gathered around to encourage me.
But I still felt as if I had been taken to the congregational woodshed for a beating. In the aftermath of that meeting, only a couple of people left our church, much to my surprise. In time, many of those who had scolded me actually came to apologize. But the greatest result of that whole debacle was not that I was somehow more highly regarded or more beloved or whatever. It was that our people ended up, truly, more united in Christ. But I do know that my effort, and the efforts of those who supported me, to focus on Christ and not on me helped move us toward such a positive result.
Nevertheless, I still look back on this whole experience, and the congregational meeting in particular, as one of the hardest times of my ministry. It required that I subordinate myself to a degree I had never done before. It required that I trust in God rather than my abilities to persuade and organize. Seek to unify rather than divide. Let the focus be upon him, with yourself as his servant. He and I became friends because we shared many of the same challenges as well as the same basic faith in Jesus Christ.
I always liked Jeff because he was humble, earnest, and a deeply caring servant of God. They had hymns and an organ, proudly so. Nevertheless, Jeff wanted to add a few more contemporary touches to the worship services, like praise songs and a more informal time of prayer. So, one Sunday, he made these slight changes. His elders were not happy with Jeff, however.
At the next board meeting there was a big fight, with two or three of the elders denouncing Jeff in demeaning ways. In the end, however, the board voted to sustain what Jeff had done, much to the dismay of the minority that had opposed him. Two days later, while Jeff was sitting in his office at church, he received an ominous looking letter from a law firm in town. Reading the letter, he was distressed to learn that one of his elders was suing him in civil court because of the changes he had made in worship. Another pastor friend of mine was sued by a former church leader for failing to lead the church in the right direction.
Sometimes this happens in my own denomination as particular churches decide to part company with us. In fact this was one of the problems facing the church in Corinth in the middle of the first century A. We learn from 1 Corinthians 6 that one member of the church had some sort of dispute with another member. But rather than work it out within the church, one of the believers sued the other in secular court.
This sort of behavior was common among the wealthy members of Corinthian society. Winning in court was usually more a matter of preserving honor than getting a financial settlement. And being held in honor was the highest value among the Corinthian elites. But the Apostle Paul was not pleased with what was happening in his church. When you have something against another Christian, why do you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter, instead of taking it to other Christians to decide who is right? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disagreements here on earth.
If you have legal disputes about such matters, why do you go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I am saying this to shame you. But instead, one Christian sues another—right in front of unbelievers! To have such lawsuits at all is a real defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that?
Why not let yourselves be cheated? But instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your own Christian brothers and sisters. What is wrong with Christians suing other Christians in court? First, there should be sufficient wisdom in the church to solve conflicts. Notice that Paul assumes that disputes among Christians are the business of the church. Moreover, for Christians to sue each other in secular court looks terrible to observing unbelievers. Yesterday I examined a passage from 1 Corinthians 6, which instructed Christians to avoid solving their problems in secular court.
Let me quote that text again before suggesting some practical implications. In our time of history, this may be one of the most counter-cultural passages in all of Scripture. People sue each other right and left for the most trivial things. I realize that some Christians will be offended by the suggestion that we should let 1 Corinthians 6 guide our behavior when it comes to suing each other. There may be times when a church system is so dysfunctional and the damage done to people so significant that justice can only be found in the secular courts.
The tragic case of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church is one such example. Moreover, when the behavior of church officials is illegal, then justice requires legal action in criminal court. But Christian use of the courts to solve personal conflicts is nothing we should be proud of or seek to perpetuate. But Christian use of the courts is nothing we should be proud of or seek to perpetuate. Whatever else, secular lawsuits should be the last resort among Christians.
Moreover, there are times when a person should simply choose to lose rather than to sue. I think of another pastor friend of mine who was meanly and unjustly fired by his church board.
I expect he could have sued and received a significant settlement. But he chose not to press legal charges because he took 1 Corinthians 6 seriously. This was a truly Christ-like sacrifice on the part of my friend. His case illustrates the deeper point. We are to imitate the sacrificial example of Jesus Christ. As Jesus taught, we are to turn the other cheek, to walk the second mile Matthew Jesus modeled self-giving sacrifice through his death on the cross.
But our Lord teaches us, both by word and by deed, how to give up our lives so that we might gain true life, eternal life, life in all of its fullness. Christians with legal expertise can often assist us in finding just solutions that will keep us from lawsuits. I have seen this very thing happen in my own ministry, where lawyers were extraordinarily helpful in terribly conflicted situations. Competent Christian attorney can help us avoid lawsuits. Secular lawsuits must not be your first choice, or second, or third. The church, when functioning properly, is the place where true wrongs can and should be adjudicated.
Only if the church fails miserably in this duty might it be necessary in some cases for you to get secular legal help. But before you turn to the civil courts as a last resort, you need to ask the Lord whether he wants you simply to lose. I know this sounds strange. Yes, we may sacrifice our pride for a while. Yes, we may lose certain advantages, financial and otherwise.
You Are Now Operating On A Different Playing Field!
But what we gain, and what the church of Jesus Christ gains, may well be worth the cost. When Jeff found out that he was being sued, he did not call a lawyer. Instead he did the counter-cultural thing. We need to work this out in the Lord. They called him to act as a follower of Jesus Christ. They offered to help work out reconciliation.
The unhappy elder was finally willing to drop his suit. Though he and Jeff never fully agreed on what worship should be in their church, they were able to live together in Christian fellowship without recourse to lawsuits. Often people are not as spiritually mature as Jeff. They get caught up in a worldly effort to win. But the fact that we Christians fail to do what Scripture calls us to do is no argument for not trying to obey in the first place. We should make every effort to settle our disputes within the context of Christian community. And when this fails, there will be times when God will call us simply to lose rather than to fight on in the courts.
I like violins crooning the background and happy endings. But, I must confess that I get nervous about too much romance in weddings, of all places. And since I go to lots of weddings, usually with the best seat in the house, I get nervous a lot. It was absolutely wonderful, except for the tiny little problem that the couple I married divorced in less than a year. And in sucah a fellowship conflict is inevitable. Third, the Holy Spirit was the agent of creation. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.
Tangentially, one of the questions of Old Testament scholarship concerns the extent to which we are able to discover the distinct personhood of God the Holy Spirit from the Old Testament. In other words, can we understand the nature of His hypostasis in the Old Testament alone? This issue reminds us, incidentally, that it is helpful to read our Bibles backward.
- The Many Paths of Love.
- Hocus Pocus and the Pentacle Pendants (Celestial Seven);
- Making Career Decisions Within God's Will for Your Life.
He is the author of the new birth. Fifth, the Spirit is the author of the Scriptures. We have the same thing in the act of redemption, and we see it again in the divine act of giving to us the record in the Scriptures themselves. The doctrine of inspiration is entirely related to the work of God the Holy Spirit. The men who wrote the biblical books were not inventing things. Neither were they automatons.
But the authorship of Scripture was dual. It was, for instance, both Jeremiah and God, because Jeremiah was picked up and carried along. Concerning the identity of the Helper, we could go on ad infinitum , but we must be selective rather than exhaustive.