Us Four and No More

fe4d858c-fee7-4cc9-a1ed-749b426197a6

 

Us Four and No More

1 Corinthians 4:5

I would not give my church upbringing for anything. I learned so much Bible there, and it is where I gave my life to Christ. It was a loving church, for the most part, but like all churches, it had its problems. My mom always jokingly said that church would be a great place if it weren’t for the people. One glaring problem with the church I grew up in was that it was an “us four and no more” kind of church. They believed that if you weren’t us, meaning their variety of their denomination, you weren’t going to heaven. Sometimes they would even preach entire sermons and even sermon series’ about why other churches were wrong.

When dealing with the subject of other denominations and churches, we must keep in mind what Jesus said. In Matthew 7:3-5, He said, “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” We all get things wrong in scripture; we are human. That’s why I always encourage people to check everything I say against scripture because as I always told my kids, I could be wrong, I was once before. We can’t be so dogmatic about our beliefs that we are condemning others. I keep saying this because it is so important, the only doctrine that should divide us is that of salvation by grace, through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, nothing else!

This is what the church at Corinth was doing, so Paul had to reprimand them one more time. In 1 Corinthians 4:5 Paul said, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” A more literal translation of that first line would be, “Therefore do not go on judging anything before it’s time.” It’s not our job to judge the world. Let’s look back at the first three verses of Matthew, chapter 7, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Matthew 7:1-3. Many religious people would say that they are ready to be judged by the same measure, but are you…really? Are you so confident in your pre-tribulation view over their mid-tribulation view, or your dispensationalism view, or your predestination view that you would be willing to be judged on it?

Notice back in 1 Corinthians 4:5 that it says, “before the time.” There will be a time of judgment, and Christ will be the judge. We need to stop worrying about what others believe and start making sure our lives are straight, we need to get our house in order as the prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1, “In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” We will all die, and after this, the judgment.

What does 1 Corinthians 4:5 go on to say? “but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts.” We keep trying to judge each other, but when Christ judges us, He will bring to light all the things we thought were hidden in the dark, He will even show the motives of our hearts. But here’s the beautiful thing, 1 John 1:9 tells us, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” So, if we confess our sins, He will forgive them, but it doesn’t stop there. Look at Hebrews 8:12, “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” We always say, “forgive and forget,” but there’s a problem with that. We can forgive each other, and we should, but we can’t forget. One of the many beautiful things about God is that when He forgives us, He can forget what we have done, it’s kind of like selective amnesia. He even tells us, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12. If you want to be encouraged today, stop and read all of Psalm 103, what a blessing.

Paul ends our text verse with these words, “and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5. We often focus on the judgment of God, and we should, to some extent, but I love that Paul ended this verse about judgment with this line. We don’t need to praise ourselves; we don’t need to go around tooting our own horns, all our intelligence and insight comes from God, so we are nothing but His tools. My handsaw doesn’t praise itself when it cuts a straight line; it cuts a straight line when I guide it that way, so why do we praise ourselves when we do something great for God? James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” There’s a lot in scripture about humbling ourselves, that’s a blog in itself.

So, this all comes back, as so many things in the New Testament do, to unity. As the body of Christ, we must stop judging each other and start loving each other. 1 John 4:7-8 tells us, Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” If we do not love each other, we don’t know God! That’s a pretty bold statement, but true. Stop judging your brothers and sisters in Christ and start loving them, and then, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35.

Live in Harmony, Life’s Not a Solo

3077323593_fde8fb8106_m
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Live in Harmony; Life’s Not a Solo

1 Corinthians 1:10

 

Today, America is more divided than ever before. Each political party keeps saying they want “bipartisanship” but is unwilling to work towards it. The fact is, whether you like what President Trump is doing or not, he is our president, and we must stand behind him. In my lifetime there have been several presidents that I did not agree with, two, in particular, worried me about what would happen to this country in their administration. But the fact is that the Bible tells us in Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” So, as Christ followers, no matter what you think of a president, we must submit to him and pray for him. But the fact is if you are a Christ follower, you should be voting for leaders that follow biblical principles and, whether you like his policies or not, President Trump does stand for biblical principles.

But I digress, this isn’t a blog on politics, it’s a blog about unity. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says a lot in just 41 words, take a look at it, “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” First, Paul is appealing to the Church, but not on his own authority, in the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. We all need to take this lesson from Paul; he never did anything in his own strength, he did it all in the authority and strength of Christ. Notice also that he doesn’t specify that this is to the church at Corinth, he says, “dear brothers and sisters.” You see, all of Paul’s letters were written to specific churches, but for the Church as a whole, because once that church was finished reading it to their body, they would pass it on to other church gatherings around the region. Eventually every church in the known world would have read it, and of course, some of them were included in the canon of scripture, and we all got to read them.

Paul goes on to say for what he is appealing to us. First, let’s look at that word appeal, exhort, or beseech, depending on your translation. It was translated from the Greek word παρακαλέω parakaléō, (par-ak-al-eh’-o) which the Strong’s Concordance translates as, “to call to one’s side, call for, summon.” So, this is a call to arms, if you will. Paul is summoning all Christ followers to come together and live in harmony with each other. After writing my first book, Cathedral Made of People, I realized how important unity of the Body of Christ is, so I began writing a second book that I am calling, One Church, One Body. In my research, for this second book, I started counting the verses that refer to Church unity and was astounded at my findings. What I realized is that about 10% of the verses in the New Testament talk about Church unity. Notice the capital “C,” Paul is not talking about the unity of your local church body, although sadly we aren’t even very good at getting that right, he isn’t even talking about the unity of one denomination, since there were no denominations at that time. When the Bible talks about Church unity, it is talking about the unity of the entire body…all believers!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should throw out all doctrine and stand around a campfire singing Kum Ba Yah. What I am saying is that there is only one doctrine that should divide us, the doctrine of salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. We need to set aside all our petty doctrinal differences, study the Bible literally and in the context of the whole Bible, which will in itself dispel most of those doctrines, and worship God together in spirit and in truth.

Right after Paul says to live in harmony with each other, he tags it with an exclamation by saying that we are to let NO divisions in the Church! Friends, there is no room for any division in the Body of Christ. If we are to function the way that God intended for us to function, we must drive out ALL division. Remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:15-21, 15 If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? 18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’” Don’t you see? A body can’t function correctly if some parts don’t cooperate, that’s why Paul continues to use this analogy throughout his writings.

So, if we are going to live in harmony and not allow any division in, how can we do this? Look how he finishes this verse, “Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” The Church, the Body of Christ, must be of one mind! We must be united in thought and purpose, and the only way we can do this is, as I just said, lay aside all of these doctrinal differences and worship God in Spirit and in Truth! We will talk more about what this means in the upcoming weeks.

A Stern Warning

37414238182_8cd4102a0e_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

A Stern Warning

Paul just finished telling us to imitate God and now, in the next 3 verses, he is telling us what not to do. Ephesians 5:3-5 says, Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.”

Look at the sins he lists here and the order in which he lists them: Sexual Immorality, Impurity, Greed. Then, after he tells us that we have no business doing these things, he continues the list with Obscene Stories, Foolish Talk, and Coarse Jokes. There are a lot of Christians out there today who believe that it is okay to cuss and use foul language. They say the Bible never says not to cuss, it just says not to take the Lord’s name in vain. Well, those Christians have obviously not read much of the Bible.

In this passage, it lumps dirty stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes with sexual immorality, impurity, and greed so I would say it is pretty important. The Greek word used here that has been translated as foolish talk isn’t used anywhere else in the Bible in this form, but the root words are. The root word translated as foolish is the Greek word μωρός mōrós, mo-ros’, which means, “Foolish, equivalent to impious, godless.” According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. So, this word could be translated as foolish, disrespectful to God, or godless talk, that opens the playing field quite a bit.

There are verses all throughout the Bible that warn about the tongue. Jesus Himself talked a lot about it. Remember the story when the religious leaders were trying to trip Him up and asked why His disciples didn’t observe the tradition of washing the outside of their cup before drinking from it? Let’s look at the last part of Jesus’ answer in Matthew 15:16-20, 16 ‘Don’t you understand yet?’ Jesus asked. 17 ‘Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.’” Jesus told them straight up that what you put into your body doesn’t defile you. He is actually giving a little anatomy lesson here. You see, medically speaking, the digestive tract is outside the body. It is a hole that starts at your mouth and ends at your…well you get the picture. So, anything you eat is technically outside your body. Nutrients are absorbed into the body during the process of digestion, but the food itself is never inside the body. Therefore, what you put into your mouth could never defile you, it might make you sick, but it won’t defile you. Conversely, what comes out of your mouth can definitely defile you. I mean, look at the list, evil thoughts, murder, adultery, ALL sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. I know some are asking, how can I murder with my words? Well, what did Christ say about that? Look at Matthew 5:21-22, 21 ‘You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment] 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.’” In fact, we see this all throughout the Bible. What did John say in 1 John 3:15? 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” You see, what you say can and does defile you.

As Christ followers, we must watch what we say. The apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:10-12, 10 For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. 11 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” Notice he starts out by saying, “For the Scriptures say,” this is because Peter is quoting from Psalms 34:12-16. In both of these passages the Word of God tells us that if we want to live a long and prosperous life on this earth, we need to guard our tongues.

James also had a lot to say about watching your mouth, as my mom always said. Look at James 3:2-12, Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.” He makes it pretty clear, doesn’t he?

The Pastor I grew up underused to always say something that sums this up so nicely. He would say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people will ever open.” The simple fact is, why do you use foul language? Is it because you don’t want your friends to think you are different? We are called to be a peculiar people in 1 Peter 2:9. That doesn’t mean we should be so weird that people don’t want anything to do with us, we can’t win them if they don’t want what we have, but we also can’t be conformed to this world, Romans 12:2.

Let’s Be Grownups

27192679750_0eb4786c55_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Let’s Be Grownups

Last week we looked at what our Pastor’s jobs are and how he is not there to spoon feed us but to train us to do the work for ourselves. So, what happens when the body starts doing the work for itself? The next 4 verses tell us exactly that, this passage says in Ephesians 4:13-16, 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

What is it this passage is saying will continue? The training from the Pastor will continue, and it will continue until we become united in our faith. This is the first goal of God’s work through these offices of the church, working towards the edification of the saints. This lines up with both the ultimate purpose of God, seen in Ephesians 1:10 which says, And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth” and the mystery of God which was revealed through Paul in Ephesians 3:6, “And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.”

Notice that Paul calls it a unity of faith. He didn’t call it a unity of organization, but a spiritual unity around a common faith and knowledge of Christ. When I was 19 years old I joined a Christian musical drama group. I traveled with this group for 3 years, in fact, that is where Michelle and I met and married, the people we toured with on that team became our brothers and sisters in a very literal way and that is a spiritual unity that no one can break. We all went on with our lives and live all over the country. We all are from different backgrounds and denominations, but even though it has been over 30 years, if I find myself in Fayetteville, North Carolina, I know I can stop in on Dave and Sonja or Ken and Deb and it will be like we were never apart. And, the same goes for any other of the members of that group, there is a relationship there that can’t be broken. You see, when these spiritual leaders work together to train us to do the work for ourselves, we will become united in Christ and the result is an increased maturity and greater intimacy in our experience with God.

Paul goes on to tell us that, once we are mature and know how to study the Word of God for ourselves, we won’t be blown around by every wind of doctrine. You see, that is what has happened to the Church. We don’t know how to study the Word for ourselves, so we rely on what we are taught by men and accept whatever doctrine they are teaching. This is where all these denominations and divisions come from. We don’t have very many mature Christians anymore, there are a few mature Church leaders, but the Bible tells us that we all need to be mature.

Look at 1 Corinthians chapter 3, I won’t copy it here because it is the entire chapter, so stop and read through it before you read on. What does this chapter say? First Paul is rebuking the church at Corinth for not maturing. He said in verse 2, “I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready.” He goes on to tell them that the reason they are so immature is that they are controlled by their sinful nature. He said the proof of this is their jealousy and quarreling. He tells them in verse 4, “When one of you says, ‘I am a follower of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I follow Apollos,’ aren’t you acting just like people of the world?” Doesn’t that sound like today? Except, today it’s “I’m of Martin Luther” or “I follow John Calvin,” but isn’t it the same thing? Isn’t this just more spiritual immaturity? Paul goes on through Chapter 3 explaining to them that the men don’t matter, the only one who matters is Jesus Christ.

Going back to our main text, Paul says at the end of Ephesians 4:14 that, if you know the truth, you won’t be tricked by people who tell you things that just sound like the truth. He says that instead of being swayed by things that sound true, we will speak the truth in love and that, by doing this, we will become more and more like Christ. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did all throughout His ministry? He always spoke the truth in love. Paul goes on to remind us that we are all one body and that Christ is our head.

Paul ends this passage in verse 16 by reminding us that because Christ is our head, all of us different parts of the body fit together perfectly. Then he says, “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

You have your own special job within the body of Christ and we need each of us to be mature and do the job that Christ has assigned to us so the whole body will be healthy and grow full of love. So, let’s all get out there, put aside all our differences, get to work, do our special jobs, and grow in the love of Christ.

My Book is Here!

Front Cover Small
Available on Amazon

Well, it’s finally here. My book has been published and is available on Amazon in both paperback and electronic versions. My book is the same title as this blog and, although there will be some of the same content, it is different.

This book compares the early church we see in the New Testament to the Church today and looks at where we went wrong as well as what we can do to get back to where we should be. Together we are His house. Cathedral Made of People is a book to the Church and for the Church. Have you ever wondered why the Church today isn’t world changers like the early Church was? When studying to plant my first church, God led me to compare the Church today to the early Church of the New Testament. As I did this, I began to see vast differences that answered many questions for me. The first Church fought against religion, they focused on unity and were world changers, while the Church today is religious, divided, and largely ineffective. It is my goal through this book to awaken the Church to seek to be more like the Church of the New Testament.

Please read it and share it. If you are a pastor, share it with your church, if you are not a pastor, share it with your pastor. This is a message that we all need to hear and changes we all need to work on.

You can buy a copy by clicking on the link above, or contact me and I will ship you a copy. Also, and most important, pray for me and this book that the message will spread across the country and the world.

ONE!

6926571673_b052d39986_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

ONE!

You may be wondering what this week’s picture has to do with my topic. The birds pictured here are called Skimmers, and if you ever see them you will be left in awe of the way they fly. You see when they fly they move in waves as if they were one entity. It’s a beautiful thing to see. This week I want to speak again about Church unity. When the Bible speaks about unity of the Body, it isn’t talking about one local church body, it isn’t talking about one denomination, in fact, there were no denominations when the Bible was written, so when scripture speaks of the unity of the Body it is talking about the Church as a whole. As I’ve said before, the only doctrine that should divide the Church is that of salvation by God’s grace and through our life-changing faith, absolutely nothing else matters.

As I’m putting the final touches on my book I’ve been praying about whether or not God wants me to write a follow-up book and I feel He wants me to write one on Church Unity. While I was praying about this, just yesterday, God gave me a specific passage of scripture. I couldn’t remember exactly where this passage was found but planned on looking it up. As you may have noticed, I have been going straight through the book of Ephesians for a while now. Well, this morning I sat down to write this week’s blog, and wouldn’t you know, the next passage in the book is Ephesians 4:4-6, the very passage that God has been laying on my heart. It never ceases to amaze me how He puts affirmations in front of us every day. So, here’s that Passage, it says, For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”

Paul starts out this part of his letter by saying, “there is one body and one Spirit.” Do you see how important unity is? He starts out with unity of the Church. He says that we are one body, and there is one spirit. We have unity because we share one Spirit in Christ. Now, let’s look at each of these.

One Body, as we have seen many times before, the Church is often referred to as the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 describes it best where Paul compares the different gifts of the Holy Spirit to the different parts of the body. He starts out in verses 12-13 showing how even socioeconomic differences don’t separate us, 12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.” It doesn’t matter where we are from, if we are rich or poor, if we are slave or free, we are all part of the same body.

He goes on to talk about how, if the foot or ear says it doesn’t want to be part of the body, that doesn’t make it any less a part. So, we are all part of the same Body whether we want to admit it or not. Then he emphasizes how, since we are all different parts, we can’t all have the same gifts, look at verse 17, “If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?” So, if anyone tries to tell you that there is one Spiritual gift that we all should have, direct them to this passage.

Looking back at Ephesians 4, he goes on to say, One Spirit. There is only one Holy Spirit. According to the Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word is pneuma (pnyü’-mä) means “the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, coequal, coeternal with the Father and the Son. He is sometimes referred to in a way which emphasizes His personality and character (the “Holy” Spirit), He is sometimes referred to in a way which emphasizes his work and power (the Spirit of “Truth”), but He is never referred to as a depersonalized force.” So, there is no mistaking what Spirit Paul is talking about.

Next, he says there is One Hope of Our Calling. This is speaking to the unity or brotherhood, we have in the hope of our calling. The word “hope” here isn’t hope as in, “I hope this will happen,” this is an expectant hope, a sure thing. We have an expectant hope in our calling as believers; which draws us together and sets us apart from the world.

He then says, One Lord! Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something. In John 14:6 we read that Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” Did He sound “iffy” in that statement? Did He say, I am a way? No, Jesus is the one and only Lord. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Great I Am, the one who was and is and is to come. Praise God!

One Faith. This goes right along with one Lord. There is only one faith that will save your soul. Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” And, remember what Hebrews 11:6 says, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” We must have that one faith and it must be a life-changing faith. James tells us in James 2:14, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” Then he goes on to say in verse 17, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” So, you see, it can’t just be lip-service, it must be life-changing.

One Baptism. This is not speaking about water baptism, it is speaking about Spiritual baptism. Just like water baptism, spiritual baptism is separate from the salvation experience, in fact, there are several instances in scripture where someone had been a Christian for some time and later was baptized in the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 3:11 John the Baptizer said, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Acts 1:5 says, for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” And in Acts 11:16 we read, And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”

One Father of All! Here Paul is showing the hierarchy of the Godhead. He is a triune God which means He is one God with three separate parts that have three separate jobs, but The Father is overall. He goes on to say, “who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

Unity of the Body is paramount to the health of the Church. Jesus Himself said, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.” Matthew 12:25. We must get this right if the Church is to survive and make a difference in our world today.

How Do We Stop Division?

2275941179_8c583b8f46_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

How Do We End the Division?

A few weeks ago, we looked at how the Gentiles were separated from God by religion, then last week, in my blog titled “Let the Walls Come Down”, we talked about ending division in the body of Christ. Okay, so if we are going to end this division, how do we do it? The beauty is that, just like with salvation, Christ has ended it for us and all we need to do is accept what He has done.

Let’s pick up where we left off last week and look at the next two verses. Ephesians 2:15-16 says, 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.”

Paul starts out these two verses by letting us know that the first thing Christ did to stop the division was to end the system of law. You see, the law did nothing but divide the Church. The Bible is clear that the law was never meant to save us, it was meant to show us our need for God. If we try to keep the law, we will just end up sinning. Take a minute to read Romans chapter 7, Paul explains it very well in that chapter. We also read in Romans 8:3, “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” So, the Jewish people of the Old Testament were not saved by the law as some will try to tell you, they were saved by God’s grace, through their faith in the coming Messiah. If you question that, read Hebrews chapter 11, now take a close look at everyone mentioned in that “Hall of Faith”; Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the people of Israel, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel, every one of these people lived before Christ, they all lived during the Old Testament times and were all saved by their faith.

So, Christ ended division, first by ending religion. You see, the religious people of the Old Testament times were the ones who made salvation about keeping the law, just like the religious people today often do. Religion is manmade and always tries to make it about us. But, the truth is, we can’t save ourselves, without the death burial and resurrection of Jesus, we have no hope.

Paul finishes verse 15 by saying that Christ was able to end the division between the two divisive groups, “by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.” He made us all one body. I believe I showed you these verses last week, but they are worth looking at again, Galatians 3:26-29 says, 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” So, what exactly is this saying? It says that once we are in Christ, ALL division is gone. He says there is no more racial division, there is no more sexism, there is no more class envy, and why is that? Because we are all one in Christ!

So, Christ ended religion, He ended racism, sexism, classism…He ended all the isms. The reason we don’t see denominations in the New Testament is that Christ ended them when He died on the cross.

Verse 16 goes on to say that he brought us together as ONE BODY. So, how did He do that? As this verse goes on to say “Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross” Christ’s death on the cross ended denominations, it ended division, it ended religion. Religion and division were hung on the cross with Christ!

Paul ends this passage by saying, “and our hostility toward each other was put to death.” Friends, if you belong to a church group who are hostile toward anyone, you need to leave, it’s that simple. And, it’s time to ask ourselves, “has my hostility towards others been put to death?” If the answer isn’t a resounding YES, even if you had to hesitate for a moment to think about it, then you need to take care of that right now. Lay the burden of hostility, hate, and division at the feet of Jesus. As it says in Psalm 55:22, “Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”

Here’s the thing, it’s not really our doctrines that divide us, it’s our pride. You see, we have developed these doctrines and will fight for them to the death. Many of which were contrived by taking scripture out of context, or even worse, someone came up with an idea and then took scripture out of context to back it up. I’ll say it again, the only doctrine that matters is salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ…absolutely nothing else matters! Paul told the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.” Again, nothing else matters!

Let The Walls Come Down

35067734874_c159ef8b27_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Let the Walls Come Down

Far too often people accuse Christians as being racist, prejudiced, or sexist and sadly that is often the truth. I have even heard pastors and other people who identify as Christians try to take scripture out of context to defend their bigoted beliefs. Ephesians 2:13-14 tells us, 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. 14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” You must realize, at that time Jew and Gentile were the big racial division, Jews hated Gentiles and vice versa.

Do you see what it says in verse 14? It says that “Christ himself has brought peace to us.” Then, it goes on to say that He united all races on the cross. It says He broke down the walls of division. By now you know that I love music and there is a song from the 90s that I love. It’s by the artist, Steve Green and the song is called, “Let the Walls Come Down”, the song says:

All throughout the spirit realm a fearsome battle rages
The fates of men and nations hang suspended in the fray
Walls designed by Satan in the twilight of the ages
Now stand as great divisions all across the world today

Walls not born of government nor strife amid the nations
But walls within our churches and between denominations
Stones of dry tradition carved in fear and laid in pride
Become a dismal prison to those withering inside

Chorus:
Let the walls come down
Let the walls come down
Let the walls that divide us
And hide us come down
If in Christ we agree
Let us seek unity
Let the walls
Let the walls come down
Let the walls
Let the walls come down

Here’s the thing, Paul said in Galatians 3:26-28, 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” How much clearer could he be? There is NO division in Christ!

We see this again in Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 12, he is comparing the Church to a human body. He is talking about how we all have different spiritual gifts and abilities and how each of these gifts represents different parts of this body. In verses 26 and 27 he says, 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” I want to be clear because I never want to look like I’m taking anything out of context. This passage is talking about the gifts of the Spirit not different races, but these two verses apply to both. We are all different parts of the same body; no part is better than the next and no part is dispensable. If one suffers, we all suffer and if one is blessed, we are all blessed.

In 1 Corinthians 1:10, right at the beginning of the letter, Paul pleads with the Church to get along, he says, “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” Do you see that? He says there is to be NO division in the Church!

I’m going to move away from the topic of racial division for a minute. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it. If you are a Christ follower, you are my brother or sister. The only thing that should divide us is, do you believe in salvation by God’s grace, through your life-changing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Absolutely nothing else matters! If the Church is going to survive, if we are to make an impact on our world today, we must tear down the walls of prejudice, racism, sexism, and denomination. This is the only way we will survive!

As a whole, racism and sexism have been removed from the Church today. Sadly, there are still people calling themselves Christians who are ignorant, and there will always be ignorant people out there. But we must stop the division of denominations! Again, I’m not talking about ecumenicalism. I’m not talking about throwing out all doctrine and standing around a campfire and singing kumbaya.

The problem is that most of the doctrines that divide the different Christian denominations were derived by someone taking something out of context, or even worse, someone coming up with a doctrine, then taking scripture out of context to validate it. I wrote one of my earlier blogs titled, “An Example” on one of these divisive doctrines, that of dispensationalism. I chose that specific doctrine because it was one I was taught my whole life and believed most of my life. But, when I put away everything I was taught by men and took the Bible literally, in context, as a whole, I saw the truth.

When I started writing my book, which should be coming out soon, I asked many pastors why they were part of whatever denomination they belonged to. I kept getting the same answer, they would say, “I am, fill in your denomination, because of how we interpret scripture.” I then would ask them, “Do you believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, verbally inspired word of God?” Well, not surprisingly, they all said yes, so I went on to ask them, “Are you perfect?” They all answered no so I said, “So, if you are not perfect, then your imperfect interpretation would make scripture no longer perfect.”

You see, the Bible never says that we are to interpret it. We must start taking the word of God literally, in context, as a whole. The problem is that this approach takes a lot of time and effort and it is easier to believe what other people are telling us. We, that is all Christians, must start doing the work. We must do the hard work as it says in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” The thing is, we should want to. This is the book that God wrote to us, if you love God, you should long to read His book.

It is my belief that if we all were to do this. If we all were to study the word of God literally, in context, as a whole, we would all believe pretty much the same thing, and the walls of division would start coming down.

God’s Masterpiece

40882764920_2cb7574464_o

 

God’s Masterpiece

You’ve heard me say before that we are not saved by our good works, but we are saved for good works. Well, I don’t ever want to say anything without backing it up with scripture, so let’s look at what the Bible says about this concept. We always go to Ephesians 2:8-9 but let’s add verse 10 to the mix. So, Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us, God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

This passage lays to rest any false teaching that we might be saved by our good works, let’s look at it. Verse 8 starts out by telling us that we are saved by God’s grace, through our faith in Him. We know that grace is a gift that we can’t earn, it is unmerited favor. So, if I give you a dollar, that’s grace, but if I give you a dollar for raking the leaves in my yard, I have a very small yard, that is not grace, it is payment for services rendered. So, if we get salvation as a result of the good works we do, it isn’t grace its payment.

Okay, so what about faith? Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” This is telling us that faith is believing in something that we can’t see. But, as we’ve discussed before, faith must be life-changing. Too many people today are trusting in their faith instead of the one they are supposed to have faith in. Faith that is not life-changing is not faith at all. Matthew 7:22-23 says, 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” So, clearly believing isn’t enough. In fact, this tells us that there are church leaders and even people working miracles and casting out demons who aren’t even saved. How is this possible? James 2:14-17 says, 14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” In fact, James 2:19 tells us that Satin himself has faith, look what it says, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”

So, the Bible is clear that we are saved by God’s grace, and the salvation comes as a result of our life-changing faith, but it even goes further. He goes on to say that you can’t take credit for it. And why is that? Because “it is a gift from God”. And, he says that, since it is a gift from God, you can’t brag about it either. Let’s face it, if you earned your salvation by not sinning, then bragged about it, you just committed a sin and are no longer worthy of the salvation you earned. That system wouldn’t make any sense.

Like I was saying at the beginning, we usually stop there, but let’s look at verse 10 in conjunction with these verses. Verse 10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” This is the good stuff. “We are God’s masterpiece”, isn’t that amazing? He isn’t talking to all humans. He isn’t saying that our bodies or our minds are God’s masterpiece, he is saying that our redemption is His masterpiece. Because, He has taken us, these broken and even dead blobs and made us a new creation. That is truly beautiful!

But, why did He recreate us? He recreated us “so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” And, what are those good things? To answer that we need to go back to long ago, Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” God recreated us to carry out His plan…to do the good things He has planned.

The Picture at the top of this blog is me and my oldest grandson, Micah. He is five and a half years old and accepted Christ as his savior this year, he is a masterpiece. Isn’t it truly awesome how God made salvation so simple that even a child can understand, and not only that, but He said that we must come to Him as children? We must trust Him like a child trusts a parent.

These three verses make it infinitely clear that we were not saved by our good works, but we are saved to do the things He planned for us long ago, we were saved for good works!

Matthew 5:14-16 tells us, 14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Now more than ever the world needs to see our good works. We must be that shining city on a hill. We must become the beacon of God’s love to the world. We must be His masterpiece. The only hope for our world today is a Great Revival, another Great Awakening, and the only way that will happen is if the Church will tear down their walls of division and come together as the Body of Christ. Then, and only then, will we be that light to this dying world.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑