5Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. (2Cor 5:)
You are not who you suppose yourself to be. If you have any degree of self-awareness you have discovered this about yourself. There is who you want to be, and there is who you ought to be, there is who you are working to be, and there is who you pretend to be. Your hope is to be the person you present yourself to be. But the fact is, you are a different person day by day and year by year. There are parts of you that remain the same, but there are parts you just can't grab hold of and make them be what you want them to be. And if we're aware, we find trying to control our true nature is like trying to herd a flock of wild geese into a cage.
What is true of us, our person, is also true of our view of God, both individually, and culturally. We see, both in times past, and now in various lands, the worship of God performed in many different ways. The American Indian, as an example, viewed God as a spirit that lives in all things, and therefore all things including the inanimate were considered sacred. Every part of an animal or a fish was respected, and was believed to have sacrificed itself for our, the human's, sake. Today we still see this to a degree in the tree worshipers such as those in Europe, and even here in the US. In India there is a temple dedicated to rats, and it is believed those who feed the rats are especially blessed. The Mayans, when confronted by the Spanish Conquistadors, sacrificed 2,000 slaves to their god in hopes of winning favor and being successful in war. Many cultures we see has dedicated and sacrificed its very best, often its virgins, to the creature, real or imaginary, it saw to be a god.
Strong's says of the word mammon: "Of Chaldee origin (confidence, that is, figuratively wealth, personified); mammonas, that is, avarice (deified): - mammon.
Is it any different today? What is your god, your mammon in which you trust? What are you proving yourself to be the unfaithful servant to attain? This unfaithful servant wanted money. The Pharisees cherished their reputation above everything. Maybe your mammon is your ball games, or your car, or your reputation in the church, or your children and family, or your TV programs. What is it you center your life around? What is it you most desire? That is your mammon, the god that you serve.
God told His people not to partake of the world around them, not to serve their Gods. But the gods of the world were too appealing to these people, so they too turned to them. Did they run from God and deny Him? Did they abandon their national tradition when they turned to worship other gods? Not at all. They continued to perform their functions at their synagogue, to partake of the Temple festivities and formalities. They were "loyal" Jews. They merely "compromised" their religion. They reworked it so it fit their desires instead of God's demands.
16As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee. 17But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. 18But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine. (Jer 44:)
30Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD. 31And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. 32And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. (Ezek 33:)
Today, when you think of cultures or religions where God is referred to often and when strict formality encompassing God is practiced, what do you think of? For myself I think of the Muslims, and the Hindus, and certain Jewish sects where even their dress and their behavior is a constant reflection of their belief in God or a god. In spite of their situation they will perform their forms of worship at the appropriate time, and in the proper manner, and they don't care what anyone thinks of them for having done so. Do you know any Christian who will do such a thing? No fair counting those who are outcast of "Proper" Christian society such as the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Traditional Catholics.
I think we all will concede that there is more to the worship and the expressions of God then that of faith, of dedication, or of song and writing about Him.
We, all those of the Protestant churches, know that the Catholics are distant from the will of God. Whatever the Catholics do, we are not to do. Does this fit your understanding of the Catholic church at all? (Please keep in mind that I'm only looking at what should be done, nor condoning all actions by any group just because I might approve of those specifically mentioned). What do you think of when you consider the Catholic church? Of course you think of angels, Mary, rosary beads, saints, icons, and the Pope; but what else sets the Catholic church apart from the Mainstream churches? How about the confessional? Do you think of an angry God who will punish sinners, Christian or otherwise? Do you think about fasting, or, sacrificing for Lent, or long, intense prayers several times a day where they pray for the souls of the lost? Since all these things are associated with an outcast religion we will have to avoid them, or at least severely limit them if we want to be approved in God's eyes.
What about those groups who are obviously disassociated with, and looked down upon by the Fundamentalists churches. Let's consider the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons. What do you think of when you think of these groups? Do you think of isolation from the things of this world? Do you think of taking care of one's own, that is, the church and the welfare of the members of the church? Do you think of polite, considerate, well dressed people who risk their reputation and even their lives spreading the Gospel as they see it to be? Do you think of churches that are run by the people without having paid ministers and high upkeep, allowing more money to be spent on the poor of the community? This being so, let's make sure our decent and approved church has none of these features.
I do find it interesting that in times past it was common to see preachers of all denominations standing on soap boxes on corners preaching the Word. They would travel in their old beat-up cars or little horse-drawn wagons and preach wherever people would gather to listen. But now such actions are associated with the "outcasts," we don't see it any more in this country. I wonder why?
There are two more groups of outcasts we see frequently at airports and other such high-intensity gathering places. These are, first the Hari Krishnas that can hardly be called a Christian sect, and there are the Moonies, that do classify themselves as Christian, but it's a wonder they can. We find there is something about the Moonies, and their message, that is vaguely familiar, and reminiscent of some (I'm minimizing here, I hope you know that) of the churches of today. To them God is all about Love. Hmm, interesting.
Except for the last group, we find that the modern Fundamental, Mainstream churches have indeed been able to separate themselves from what could possibly be seen as aspects of those churches classified as undesirable in the eyes of God. Now, let's take a look at how the "proper" churches conduct themselves that make them special in God's eyes so we will know what we are to do in order to better express God:
catechism during the week). I find there are many ways these churches are different from one another, albeit the differences are minor; and there are many ways these churches are very much the same. One of these ways is that they are highly elitist, that is they each feel they, and only they are the right church, and that all others are either all the way out of the will of God, or just barely acceptable in the eyes of God. But, of course, this can be said of every denomination, sect, and segment of the fragmented Church.
When in church I find that the sermon, what little there is of the sermon any more ( the one and a half to two hour, and even all night on occasion sermon has become 15 to 45 minutes) is more of a social instruction using the Bible as a reference than a lesson on the Bible and on how to better fulfill God's demands. Much of the time is spent reading community notices, showing pictures and movies, guest speakers talking about the great work they're doing in whatever field thy might be involved in, reading passages in unison off a piece of paper handed to everyone at the door, and singing songs that no one is even aware of the words they're saying, nor do they care.
Before and after the main part of the service, what is on the heart and the lips of everyone, including the pastor? Is it the things they have learned about Jesus in service or through the week? Is it the excitement one feels about their Spiritual growth and the interaction they had with other Christians they encountered during the week? Or is the conversation about the weather, the parties one went to, the TV program they watched, the car they bought, or about their families and what's new in their lives?
Expressing Jesus. When we're in town, do we talk to people about the Lord as we stand in line at the checkout counter where those around us will have a hard time escaping? What about at the barber shop or the hair dresser where we have a captive audience for long periods of time. Do we just stop and talk about our Lord and how He has guided us and effected us lately?
How about at home? Do we sit around the table sharing our joys and our griefs with our friends and family? Do we have Bible readings together where the children hang on our every word as we read the wonderful messages our God has delivered to us? Do we sit around the piano or guitar and have family sing-a-longs where we sing the praises of our Lord? Or, is it more likely we sit in different rooms watching our TV, playing video games and eating TV dinners by ourselves?
Tell me, what is the difference between your life now as one saved and in love with the Lord, and what it was before you even knew about the Lord? Can you name a difference?
Today we, the Christian serve God in name only. Our dollar bill still has written on it "In God We Trust." We learned that our god is that in which we trust. What god is it we trust in? Is it the dollar bill that states that we trust in the God? Or is it the mammon upon which these words are printed our trust lies? That dollar bill is worth less than the paper it's printed on, and our words to the effect that we trust in God is worth no more than those words. We neither trust in God, nor do we believe in the God that the Bible tells us of.
In times past, before I was converted (and I don't mean came forward, signed a pledge, or was baptized; these did nothing but make me appear to be a Christian, both to others, and to myself), I was afraid to speak of Jesus or the Bible even to others in my church. This, remember, was in a day when such behavior was much more accepted than it is today. Even then, in the Pentecostal church I attended and belonged, conversation involving the Bible and the Lord was restricted to the Sunday School class room and the sanctuary. The name of the Lord was rarely heard outside of the church.
Today I'm a different person. I no longer have any interest at all in the things of this world. I like to play music, which I spend very little time doing, but I have no interest in listening to music any more. I like art, but I never take the time to paint any more. I like old classic cars, but I wouldn't want to own one. All I want to do now is read about the Lord, write these studies, and talk about the Lord. I enjoy sermons, and hearing about other people's experiences. I thought that when I broke through the barrier of shame and lack of understanding I would find many people ready and anxious to talk about Jesus. How wrong I was. On rare occasion I find such a person, but that person is either a part of one of the outcast denominations, or they have become frustrated with the church altogether and take part in no church activities.
How do you express God to the world? Where does God fit into your daily plans? If you made a list of priorities in your life, where would God be placed? When you only have five minutes to a day for yourself to do what you want to do most, what is it you choose to do? How about if you have an hour, or a day? What about your two weeks vacation? How much of that time do you devote to the Lord? The Lord is the center of your universe isn't He? Surely He is. You say He is don't you? You're not a liar are you?
Jesus lived on this earth in a fleshly body demonstrating God the Father to the world and to His disciples. During that three years He taught 12 men how to express God to the world as He was doing. Let's take a look into the teachings of Jesus and the lives of these twelve people who have shown us the way to express God. We read:
Then Jesus said to not be ashamed of Him. We're wearing His name tag, that is, we go by the name of Christian. That must show we're not ashamed of Him. Doesn't it? Do we talk freely about Him in school, at work, in the store, on the street? Well, maybe He means we should not feel ashamed of Him in our church gatherings. Do you think that's what He means?
12Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. (John 14:)
Here we have someone who is doing marvelous work in the name of Jesus. How can it be that this person was not known by Jesus? Don't these works prove that a person is in the will of God? But then again, we saw that Pharaoh's magicians could perform some of the miracles Moses performed. And we see that the Beast of Revelation will be performing great works and miracles. But will he be doing these miracles in the name of Jesus?
The works that we do are through the Holy Spirit. Right? The Christian shows his faith and his conversion by the mighty works that he does (John 14:12; Mark 16:17), as demonstrated by the person rejected in the parable above. I have a question: If it's the Holy Spirit who does the work, these mighty works, then why can't I, the baptized, Spirit filled Christian do any of these works? And further still, since it's the Holy Spirit who's responsible for doing these mighty works, and here's a person doing just that; who is at fault? Is it the man who was doing all he should be doing? Or is it the fault of the Holy Spirit that he must have in order to do the works in Jesus name? (Mark 9:39: John 14:13-14:)
Confusing isn't it? It is for me if I try to remain within the common doctrine I've been taught all my life.
If we have all three persons of the Godhead in us, then how can we fail to do as Jesus has commanded us to do? If we fail to personify God in the flesh, then is it our fault? Is it the fault of the Trinity? Or might it be more likely that we failed to do as we have been instructed, and we haven't been led by the Lord after all? And if the latter is true, then who will be standing before the Judgement seat alone and without council?
2Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart (2Cor 3:)
I now have the laws, and I understand them and the need for them; however I am far from finding the ability to overcome my fleshly ways and do as I know God insists that I do. I find, not peace, but a struggle within me. And, I believe, it's in the willingness to continuing to struggle that brings me any form of peace and confidence that I am in God's will. (Rom 7:--)
Paul said we are not only walking examples of the law, but of the Epistles as well. I have always heard the Epistles preached as if they were mere suggestions, directed mainly at the unbeliever. I can't fathom this. To me they are guide posts that tell me how well I am doing in my walk in the Lord. Some of the guidelines I see are like soft pylons that road workers use. Others are like brick walls I can't seem to scale. But I find them, the Epistles, written to me, not to some unbeliever who could care less about the Bible and will never read it.
I read all warning signs provided by God the same way I read street signs on the road I travel. They are warning me of danger, not everyone else not on the same road I'm on.
Paul said all things edify not. The word Paul uses here means "To build up," like a builder of a house. We are told to build on the foundation of the Apostles, to be a Temple that God can dwell in and do His work through. If we aren't building, then we're either rusting away, or we're deteriorating. We are to possess zeal toward our commitment to God and His work. If we don't feel this zeal, then perhaps we are not truly under the liberty Jesus provided, therefore, not under grace.
When raising a child, at one time or another we give that child liberty, then we watch to see how that child uses the liberty he has been given. If the child uses his liberty to go against what he has been taught to do, what happens to that child's liberty?
There is a purpose for the law. That purpose is to instruct us in what God desires and what He demands of us (Gal 3:24; Rom 3:30). The law is designed to show us what is sin. Without a law, there is no sin. We're taught that because Jesus died for sin, we don't have to concern ourself with sin any longer. That is far from what the Bible teaches us. The Jews understood what sin was, they had gone to school so-to-speak. The newborn Christian does not have that knowledge. We must first gain knowledge of sin, what sin does to ourselves and others, and what it does to God, before we can dismiss sin. If we have the law in our heart, we won't want to violate the law, to sin. For that reason, we can be given liberty. And because we are at liberty, we are also under grace. If our behavior demonstrates that we are not under the law of liberty, then we are no longer under grace. God demonstrates this principle in our everyday life, so we ought to, by nature, understand it. But we don't, because we enjoy the concepts preached to us better. It requires no change on our part.
Grace that comes as a gift, that we are freely given, does not have to be worked for. As Paul said, grace then is no longer grace. But if we fail to live up to the expectations of one given grace, then the grace will be taken from us. However, if we repent, and resume our efforts to warrant grace, then grace is not lost.
An example of the latter. I once gave a young boy a BB gun, with the stipulation that he not shoot it at anything but a target, and then only when I was with him. The BB gun was his, it was a free gift. One day I came home (he was a neighbor of mine) and saw him with an adult who lived with him shooting at a fence the other side of which lived another neighbor. Later I had the boy bring me the BB gun, and I broke it across my knee. As long as I could trust the boy to do what he was told, he was able to keep the gift I gave him. When he violated that trust, even though it was with a supposedly "responsible" adult, in other words someone who had authority over him, then he was no longer allowed to have the gift.
The Bible is filled with stipulations one has to live in accordance with if one wishes to retain the gift of grace they are given. These stipulations are not taught by those in authority, and they're not demonstrated by those who are in a position to teach them. But their lack is not excuse for us to ignore the stipulations, nor do they give us leave to disregard them.
Israel was given a land that belongs to God. As long as they proved themselves worthy of that land, as long as they respected the land and kept it up, they were allowed to own that land. When they stopped doing as they were told to do, their gift, that which they did not work for or deserve, was taken from them. We see this even clearer in the ejection of Adam and Eve when they decided to do their own thing rather than to please God. This should give us a picture of what God demands of us, but I'm afraid it doesn't.
21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. (John 14:)
9As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 11These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (John 15:)
How many times have you heard it said that there are no commandments. Yet we read over and over how we must keep the commandment in order to be saved or to see the Kingdom of Heaven. What causes this conflict?
The commandments smack of the law, and to the churches the law is passe. How can there be commandments if there is no more law?
Above I gave my opinion as to how our liberty and our grace should be viewed. Using the formula I've given, the commandments are still in effect, only not on stone but on the heart. Jesus said that love fulfills the law, therefore the commandments as well. Jesus said if we want to be His disciples we must love one another. And we see that we must love God. Love then is the commandment that covers all the law and the commandments. If we love, then we don't have to worry about any law or grace or any other of the things that have been given to us. How many times have you heard a sermon preached just on love and what it is, and the importance of it? I haven't. I hear sermons that include love in some vague way, but not on the absolute importance of it.
Jesus came to demonstrate love when all there existed was the law, that counters the law of love.
This article is about expressing God to the world. How do we do this? We, as a church, are not demonstrating God, but we demonstrate how sectarian, how judgmental, how condemning we can be to the world, and to one another, those who disagree with us. This is far from God. By our actions we are saying that God is a judging, condemning and a selfish God. We say God is love with our lips, but with our behavior we say He is anything but love.