Not Seeking Approval

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I’m Not Seeking Your Approval

1 Corinthians 4:1-4

I enjoy people. I like to talk with people; I like to interact with people. I enjoy just being around other people. I got my first management position when I was only 21 years old, and I wanted to be the best manager I could be. I showed up early for every shift, I stayed on top of the paperwork, and I got to know my employees very well. Now, here’s the thing, in my early days of managing I had a supervisor who told me, if my employees like me, I’m not doing my job. I didn’t agree with that philosophy then, and I don’t to this day but, in the early days, I went too far in the other direction. As I said, I enjoy the company of other people, and quite frankly, I like to be liked. As a result, I had a real problem with my employees taking advantage of me. If their productivity was down, I’d help them catch up; if they didn’t show up for work, I’d pick up the slack. My employees loved me, but it wasn’t long before I was doing most of their work. I even had two employees call off together one beautiful Spring day because “it’s too nice out to come to work today.”

I began to realize that my employees would like working with me and still respect me; it didn’t matter if they liked me as a person. I wasn’t there to be their friend. I began making them toe the line and would write them up if they didn’t. I began treating them the way I would treat my sons. If they did wrong, I would hold them accountable, but if they did right, I would praise them. I just began treating them fairly. As a result, they loved working for me. I would have employees call in sick, and when they realized I was the manager on duty, they would decide to come in because they didn’t want to leave me shorthanded. I was everyone’s favorite manager, even though I had fired more employees than any other manager. What it came down to is that I stopped caring what they thought of me and started caring about helping them do their jobs to the best of their abilities, things ran much more smoothly after that.

This is Paul’s point in the first four verses of 1 Corinthians 4. In verse 1, he tells the church at Corinth to look at Apollos and him as servants of Christ. If you are a pastor, an elder, or a church leader of any kind, you must remember that you are just a servant of Christ who has been put in charge of those people. Far too often, church leaders let their authority go to their head, but if we think of ourselves as a doulos, a bondservant for Christ, we will keep that pride in check.

The first thing Paul tells us about being a leader is that we must be faithful. You see, in trying to make my employees like me, I wasn’t faithful to my company. I was trying to pick up their slack, but one person can’t do everything well. We must be faithful to Christ in our leadership. The writer of Hebrews even told the Church, “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.” Hebrews 13:7. If a leader is not faithful, the Church will have no example to follow. As leaders, we must remember our place. We are here for no other reason than to glorify God. John put it best when he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30.

Paul goes on in verse 3 to say, “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point.” I love this; he says that he doesn’t care what human authority might think of him; he doesn’t even trust his own opinion on matters of Christ. The Psalmist summed this up in Psalm 146:3-10 when he said, Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners.     The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly. The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked. 10 The Lord will reign forever. He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations. Praise the Lord! We are to respect and pray for our human authority but don’t trust in them, their time on this earth, as well as their time in power,  is limited. Instead, put all your trust in the Lord, who created all things.

Paul finishes this thought by saying, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.” 1 Corinthians 4:4. Paul’s conscience is clear, he knows that he is right beyond a shadow of a doubt, but he tells the church at Corinth not to take his word for it. We need to seek the Lord in everything! I say this all the time; I’m glad so many read my blog and listen to my podcast and have read my book, but don’t take my word for it, seek it out yourself. There are many pastors that I love to listen to and read, but I have a responsibility to check everything they say against scripture. God does hold pastors responsible for what they teach, but He also holds us responsible for what we do with it.

Our Calling

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Our Calling

If you know Michelle and me, or if you have been following this blog or have read my book, Cathedral Made of People, you know that back in 2009 through 2014 God called us to plant a church in a small rural island community in Northwest Florida. That five years was a great time for us. We made a lot of good friends and saw many people come to Christ, as well as many people delivered from addictions to alcohol and drugs.

In 2014 we left Cedar Key and took jobs managing retirement communities. We left because we felt we had done as much as we could there, but it seems God has different plans. About a month ago we got an odd phone call from an old friend on Cedar Key inviting us to a revival. We hadn’t heard from him in years, and he knows that we now live in Los Angeles, so it was a bit strange that he called. We didn’t think much of it, but a few days later we heard from someone else on the Key asking us to help them with something. Now, I don’t believe in coincidences, so we asked God to show us if we need to go back there. We told Him that we were willing to go back, but only if that is what He wanted, some of you may know that Florida is our least favorite state. Also, all our grandkids live in Los Angeles. Well, two weeks later, with no warning or reason, my job let me go.

Michelle and I have come to realize that we have some unfinished business down there and God is sending us back to finish it, so we are preparing. We are asking for prayer and have some very specific prayer requests.

First, and foremost, that God will prepare the way for revival in Cedar Key. We are praying that the Holy Spirit will go before us and go with us. We are praying that He will begin now to prepare the hearts of the locals to receive His word and that He will prepare our hearts to carry it.

Second, Pray that we will be accepted back by the locals. They often don’t trust outsiders but when we were there for five years, they began to trust us. They are used to people leaving and coming back, so that shouldn’t change things, just pray for grace and favor. We love these people and truly want to reach the island for Christ.

Third, for our support. Michelle and I are not part of any denomination and don’t feel that God wants us to be. As such, we don’t have any funding to do mission work, so we are praying for financial support. If you feel led to help us financially, you can Click Here to go to my Patreon account and set up to support us monthly, but if you don’t feel led to do so, please pray for us. Your prayers are more important than money; we know that God will provide.

Here’s a little information about Cedar Key to help you know how best to pray. It is a very rural part of Northwest Florida. It is called the Hidden Coast and Nature’s Coast and is known as the only “Old Florida” left. For many years Cedar Key was a fishing village, fishing mainly for Mullet, but in 1995 when the State of Florida banned the use of gill nets, they lost their livelihood. Shortly after that the government came out and showed the fishermen how to farm-raised clams. Cedar Key is 11 miles from the mouth of the Suwanee River, this causes the water around the key to be brackish which encourages the growth of algae and plankton, and that’s what clams eat. This has made Cedar Key one of the largest producers of farm-raised clams in the Country.

I have told you all this history to help you realize that Cedar Key, very much, has a “Fishing Village” mentality. They work hard all day to party all night. Alcoholism and drug addiction, particularly meth, are very prevalent. In that town of fewer than 900 residents, there are already five churches, but they each run 30 to 40 people, and the people that need the help say they don’t feel welcome there. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the church members are trying to make them feel unwelcome, for the most part, but they don’t feel comfortable in a “church setting.”

When we planted the church there in 2009, we were looking to be more like the first Church, found in the New Testament, and while we did a pretty good job, we missed the mark in many areas. We did manage to have a church that ran 40 to 50 every week, and most of those people were addicts and alcoholics, but still ended up looking more like a modern church than I think God wanted.

We are not looking to start a religious organization; we are looking to start a gathering of the Church and to bring true revival to that area. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus told us to go and make disciples, not congregations. He wants us to make people who imitate Him, not an audience. We will not be incorporating or getting a 501c3; I believe that when a church does this, they are removing Christ from the position as the head of the body and replacing Him with the government. I don’t understand how churches can complain about government interference when they have literally signed up for it.

Again, please pray for us as we go and support us if you can. Our prayer for Cedar Key is that it will become a beacon for Christ. We want to see the Church come together as one body the way Christ intended us to be and to be effective in our world today.

I was talking to Michelle the other day and mentioned that, when we were a young married couple, we used to sing the hymn, Lord Send me Anywhere. We truly meant it but didn’t think it meant He would send us everywhere. In our lives, Michelle and I have seen God do great things; we are excited to see what He has for us. Thank you for your support and your prayer.

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.” Ephesians 6:18-19.

God Fights For Us

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

God Fights for Us

1 Corinthians 3:17

When my son Josh was in 7th grade, we were living in a small town in Indiana. One day he was in line at school, I believe they were in the lunch room, the kid behind him was joking around and gave him a shove. When he did, Josh fell into the kid in front of him. Clearly, Josh didn’t hurt the kid, he just bumped into him. This boy turned around and punched Josh in the nose, breaking it. Josh did not provoke it, nor did he retaliate, he just stood there holding his nose.

Well, to make matters worse, after they were both taken to the Principal’s office and had both explained their side of the story, they were both given three days of in-school suspension. When I found out what had happened, as a father, I was furious. I was mad at the kid who hit Josh, but even more angry that the school would punish him for this incident.

Michelle and I marched down to the school and gave that Principal a piece of our collective mind, but he stood his ground. He said that Josh was “rough housing” and was equally to blame. We made it clear that this was not true, that getting shoved isn’t “rough housing,” and that Josh was a victim, not an instigator. None the less, Josh had to serve the three days of in-school suspension and life went on. It was a great example of what I always told the kids as they were growing up. If they would say something wasn’t fare, I’d tell them, life isn’t fare, but we have to deal with it.

The point is that, as parents, Michelle and I were livid and marched right down to that school to defend our son. I’ll be honest, I’ve never wanted to hit a 12-year-old so bad, but I restrained myself…with the help of Michelle.

The Hebrew people of the Old Testament never thought of God as their Father, that’s why it was so strange for the disciples when Jesus gave them the model prayer in Matthew chapter 6. When He told them to Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.” Matthew 6:9. They had never been taught to think of God as their Father.

Later, we see that Paul embraced this thought system when he said, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” Romans 8 15. You see, the Hebrew people looked at God as an angry taskmaster, but He always wanted to be their loving Father. This term, “Abba! Father!” is a term of endearment, it’s like saying, daddy. And, notice that Paul says we were all adopted as sons. Paul wasn’t trying to cut down women here, he was showing us our place with God. You see, back then, the sons got all the inheritance, they figured that the daughters would marry men who got their inheritance. But Paul is telling us that we all, men and women, are adopted as sons. We all get the full inheritance! Isn’t that awesome?

So, in our passage today, 1 Corinthians 3:17, we read, “God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” God, our Father, our Daddy, will destroy anyone who tries to destroy His temple…His sons. That’s how much God loves you and me, He won’t just defend us, He will destroy anyone who tries to hurt us. And, in case you think that God has changed since the Old Testament times, Moses told the Hebrew people in Exodus 14:14, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” God wanted to be their Daddy, but they wouldn’t see Him that way.

Here’s the thing about God, He will never force us to love Him, He will never force us to obey Him. Why do you think He put the two trees in the middle of the garden? It wasn’t to tempt Adam and Eve; it was to give them the choice to love Him. You see, if you don’t give someone the choice, that isn’t love, it’s slavery.

What does John 3:16 say? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Do you see that word? He gave His only BEGOTTEN son. We are His adopted sons, but Jesus was His only begotten Son, and He gave Him for us. That’s how much God loves you and me. He gave the life of His only biological Son so we could be adopted…wow!

I recently had someone tell me that the God of the Old Testament was an angry God, always smiting people. So, I took him to my favorite verse, which happens to be in the Old Testament, Zephaniah 3:17, which says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Look at this verse. God isn’t up in heaven pronouncing judgement on us, He is living among us. The verse goes on to say that He is my Mighty Savior, that He takes Delight in me with Gladness, and that He Calms All my Fears. And, then, as if that isn’t enough, it says that God, the creator of the universe, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, will rejoice over me with joyful songs! When I read this verse, I think of a father holding his baby son in his arms and singing to him. That’s what God wants to do to me, that’s what God wants to do to all of us. Does that sound like an angry God to you? To me it sounds like a loving Father.

God Makes Us Grow

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

God Makes Us Grow

1 Corinthians 3:4-9

 

Michelle and I live in a 3rd-floor apartment about 20 miles east of Los Angeles. About six months ago, we were at a farmer’s market, and she saw a stand that sells succulents. She talked about how she wanted a succulent garden, so we bought six or seven of them and put them on our balcony.

For a couple of months, I was pretty faithful to go out there about once a week and water them. The problem was, to get to the balcony, I had to open the blinds, take the stick out of the top of the sliding glass door, take the other stick out of the bottom of it, unlock the door, open the door and screen, then go out and water the plants, if I remembered what I was doing by that point. Once I got them watered, I had to do all that in reverse. So, needless to say, I didn’t stay faithful to it for long.

Last week, Michelle opened the blinds and noticed all those succulents that had not been watered in about three or four months and then decided to go out there and water them herself. Yesterday I looked at them again, and they were green and perked up. That’s the beauty of succulents; they are really hard to kill.

Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:4-9 which says, 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? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.”

So, those baby Christians were arguing about who they followed. But do you see what Paul said? Paul might plant, and Apollos might water, but it is only God who can make the plants grow. You see, Michelle didn’t make those plants grow, she just watered them, God made them grow.

I think we all do this at some point in our lives; it’s human nature. We see some Pastor or Evangelist and place them on a pedestal. Sadly, that is what has happened to most of the body of Christ today, only instead of Paul and Apollos, we say “I am of Calvin” or “I am of Wesley.” We need to realize that it is the same thing that the church at Corinth was doing. We are as much spiritual babies as they were. Calvin may plant, and Wesley may water, but only God can give the increase. We get so caught up in listening to what men have told us that we don’t do the work of studying it for ourselves.

The problem is that the pastors today think it is their job to spoon feed us, but we can’t blame them, that’s the only option we give them. As we talked about last week, we leave a church because “we weren’t being fed there.” Here’s a news flash, it’s not your pastors’ job to feed you! We also talked last week about needing to take some time to desire the sincere milk of the word of God. If we do that, we will grow up and learn how to feed ourselves. We can’t be satisfied with being fed for the rest of our lives, we must work towards feeding ourselves, and that’s your pastor’s job, to get you to that point.

So, if we grow up and learn to feed ourselves, we won’t find ourselves following the teaching of men, we will follow the teaching of God. We will learn to do the work of studying the Bible in the context of the whole Bible. We will study the original language; we will read and study the entire Bible; we will look at the history of what was going on at that time. Again, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t listen to the preaching of men, but we must do the work of checking what they say against the truth of scripture. We must study it even further than they taught us. We must “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.” 2 Timothy 2:15.

What it all comes down to is that we need to choose who we will follow. Joshua posed this question way back in the early part of the Old Testament, when he said, 14 “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15.

If you put anything or anyone above God, that thing or person is an idol. If you say, “I am of Calvin” or “I am of Wesley,” you are making those men an idol, whether you realize it or not. So, stop now and ask yourself, “Who am I going to serve?” Am I going to serve Calvin? Am I going to serve Wesley? Or, am I going to serve God? As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord!

Boast in the Lord

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Boast in The Lord

1 Corinthians 1:30-31

I used to work with a guy named Rob. I think we have all worked with a Rob or two in our lives. You know this guy, completely full of himself, confident that he is the best thing since sliced bread, and sure that the company could never run without him. Almost daily, Rob would bestow upon me the legends of his greatness and the great things he had accomplished for the company. Yes, Rob was a legend in his own mind. I often wondered how Rob was able to accomplish all this greatness since all I ever saw him do was sit at his desk and shop on eBay, but I didn’t dare say anything since he was my direct supervisor and regularly reminded me of that. Well, eight months later, after he had worked for two years with the company, he put in his notice and left. As he was leaving, he told me that he never stays with a company more than two years, I think that’s about how long it takes them to realize that he is full of hot air.

After Rob left, I was promoted into his position as General Manager. Right away I started realizing that all those great things Rob had said he did were actually executed by others, many of them before he even worked there, he just took the credit for them all. There were many things wrong with the physical building that he said couldn’t be corrected. But once our team realized they could do what it took, within reason, and that their opinion was valued, we were able to fix them all as a team.

We all know people like Rob, and we think, how can a person take credit for what others have accomplished, but don’t we, on occasion, do this with God? I would never ask God for the gift of healing because so many men and women who I believe God gave that gift to eventually started making it about themselves. I love something I heard at Bethel Church in Redding, California recently. One of the pastors said, “Healing is not about the anointed man of God, it’s about the anointed God of man.” Because of so many people who have made the spiritual gift of healing about them, many churches have pushed the Holy Spirit out of their gatherings. I grew up in a church like this. The Holy Spirit was talked about in vague terms, but you don’t dare mention His gifts.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, 30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.’” Did you see that? God made Christ wisdom itself for our benefit. So, what exactly does Christ do for us? First, and most importantly, He makes us right with God. You see; the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the only thing that can make us right with God. No matter what anyone tells you, you can not be good enough to be made right with God. The Bible says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12. It doesn’t matter how good you are, or how much money you have given for starving children or aids, you are a sinner just by being born. Look at Psalm 51:5, “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” And, Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” And, Jeremiah 17:9, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

So, we can’t be good enough, but the beautiful thing is that we don’t have to. What does it say in Romans 6:23? “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” So, what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 1:30 is that thanks to Christ, we don’t have to try to get right with God. What else did Christ do for us? He made us PURE, He made us HOLY, and He made us FREE!!! It doesn’t get any better than that! Let’s look at those three words.

Pure: The Greek word in this verse translated as pure is the word, ἁγιασμός hagiasmós, hag-ee-as-mos; which means; purity, holiness, and sanctification. The blood of Christ washes us whiter than snow, look at Isaiah 1:18, “’Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.’”

Holy: the Greek word used here actually means equity, justification, and righteousness. In Christ, we are righteous, we are justified, and we are Holy, set apart. John 17:17 says, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.” The word of Christ makes us holy.

Free: This word is used for a ransom that is paid in full, it also means deliverance and redemption. In Christ, our ransom has been paid in full. We are no longer a slave to sin…we are free! 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Also, in John 8:36 it says, “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” Christ has truly set us free from the bondage of sin, but, as with all freedom, this freedom came with a price, the shed blood of Jesus. Because of this great price we can’t take our freedom lightly, we are indebted to Christ and must live the rest of our lives as such. But we can never use our freedom as an excuse to sin, “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.” 1 Peter 2:16.

Paul ends this chapter by saying, “Therefore, as the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31. Paul drives this point home through this chapter. The entire introduction of his letter comes down to this point, God is God, and we are not! We can’t brag about anything, because everything we have comes from God, through Christ!

Who Do You Follow?

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Who Do You Follow?

1 Corinthians 1:11-13

A few years ago, there was a Christian worship band who made a public statement that they believed in creational evolution, just another belief system that can be corrected by taking the Bible literally but keeping it in the context of the whole Bible. But what I want to focus on is not that comment, but the comment he made to defend himself in response to the outrage of the Christian community. In one of his statements defending his point of view, he stated that there is no difference if you say you follow John Calvin and I follow C.S. Lewis. That is wherein the problem lies. Let’s look at today’s text, 1 Corinthians 1:11-13 says, 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” You could take this passage and change the names. Verse 12 could say, “What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow John Calvin’; another, ‘I follow C. H. Spurgeon’; another, ‘I follow Christ’.” Friends we need to stop following men and women and take the mindset of Paul when he said, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2.

I get it, it is easier to let some pastor or theologian tell you what to think, but that is not what God has told us to do. He told us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15. Please don’t get me wrong; I am not saying to stop listening to your pastor, there are several pastors I listen to regularly. What I am saying is, when you listen to a pastor, you need to keep in mind that he is just a man and as such could be wrong. It is your responsibility to go home and study what he just said. In the end, God will hold pastors accountable for what they teach, but He will hold you accountable for what you do with it.

So, what exactly is the pastor’s job? What does the Bible tell us we are supposed to be doing? In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul is talking about unity of the Body of Christ. Starting in verse 11 he says, 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 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.” In my book, Cathedral Made of People, I dedicated an entire chapter to this one passage, but to sum it up, if you are a pastor, you are the trainer for a bodybuilder. You have the best equipment available, so you need to train your bodybuilders to use the equipment for themselves. If you use it for them, what benefit will they get out of it? Years ago, I attended a family member’s church where the pastor told them that they couldn’t understand the Bible for themselves, so he would tell them what it is saying. This is exactly what the Catholic church did in the middle ages. The Bible was only available in Latin, so they would tell the church what they wanted them to believe. Not to worry, this family member is no longer in that church and, not surprisingly, that “pastor” now has a compound where he lives with his 10 or 12 remaining members.

So, if we pastors are doing our job and teaching our local gathering how to be that “workman who does not need to be ashamed” and how to “accurately handle the word of truth,” then our people can do the work themselves of studying the Bible literally and in the context of the entire Bible. But, a note to pastors, keep it literal. Your people don’t need to hear what you believe it is saying; they need to know what it says. I used to enjoy listening to this one Christian speaker. She was a good speaker and was usually on track with the Bible. Then one day as I was listening to her, she read a passage of scripture and said, “what I think this is saying,” then went about taking it completely out of context to prove a point. To me, it didn’t matter if her point was valid or not, I said out loud, “I don’t care what you think it says,” and changed the channel. I’m sure the other people in the gym thought I was crazy, but it infuriated me that she would manipulate scripture simply to prove a point.

What it comes down to is that we need to stop saying, “I’m of John Calvin” and “I’m of C. H. Spurgeon” and “I’m of C. S. Lewis.” Again, listen to your pastor, then do the work. If you think something he said doesn’t align with Scripture, then go to him, no one else, and talk to him about it. And, pastors, that means, when they come to you, you need to take it seriously, one person in this scenario is wrong, and it could be you. So, when this happens, pastors should set aside time to sit down with this person and study the Bible together to see what it is truly saying. Then, if you were wrong, you need to take that to the church and let them know. As I said earlier, God does hold us pastors accountable for what we preach, so we must make sure we got it right.

In Spirit and In Truth

The Setting of the Sun Over Cedar Key
Photo by Michelle Pearson

In Spirit and In Truth

John 4:23-24

 

My whole life, I have heard people talk about this passage. Pastors telling us we need to worship God in spirit and in truth, but what does that mean? How do I worship God in spirit and in truth? I will start by saying that I don’t know if what I came up with is right or not. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I always try to research the verses we’re talking about by taking the Bible literally, while keeping it in the context of the entire Bible. This has been a tough one, but I will tell you what I have found. At the same time, I would welcome your thoughts on the matter, feel free to post them in the comment section.

If we look at John chapter 4, we see that the first 42 verses are telling the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. We have all heard this story our entire lives, but I want to look at a few points in it. First, let’s look at the book of John as a whole. Notice John, Jesus’ best friend, doesn’t waste any time. He starts by proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ, the Word, and was in the beginning with God the Father. Then, John goes right into the ministry of Christ.

In chapter 3 we see that John the Baptizer is baptizing in one town and Jesus is baptizing in another. John’s disciples come to him and ask him about this because everyone is going to Jesus instead of John. Here is where John says, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30.

So, chapter 4 starts by saying that, because the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making more disciples than John the Baptizer, He decided to leave Judea and go to Galilee. But I want to point out verse 4 of John chapter 4, it says, “He had to go through Samaria on the way.” You see, it’s not that Jesus had to pass through Samaria because it was the quickest way to Galilee, it was actually out of the way. Plus, as a Jew, He would have been expected to go around Samaria even if it was on the way. So, what it comes down to is that Jesus needed to see this woman.

In this conversation, the woman asked Jesus in John 4:19-20, 19 ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?’” Let’s look at Jesus’ response to this question. He said in verses 21-24, 21 Jesus replied, ‘Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.’”

Let’s look at this phrase. Jesus said that at that time some worship God in one holy place and others worship Him in another holy place. Then He says that the day is coming, and it’s already here when true worshipers…let’s stop and look at that phrase. He says, true worshipers. The best definition of the Greek word, ἀληθινός alēthinós, (al-ay-thee-nos’) is “that which has not only the name and semblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name” (Tittmann, p. 155). So, He is talking about people whose very nature is worship. These people will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

These people, these true worshipers won’t need a place to go and worship God, they can worship Him in spirit wherever they are. So many churches, even to this day, keep the doors to their buildings open so their parishioners can have a place to come and worship. But why? We don’t need a building to go to and worship God! Look at the Church of the new testament. There is never any mention of a church building. They met in homes, in the street, the church at Philippi met by the river. In Acts chapter 2 it does say that they met in the Temple, but that was the Hebrew temple. Picture this for a minute. The Jewish leaders had just crucified Jesus, days earlier. Then His followers begin holding services in the courtyard of their temple, worshiping the one they just crucified…that took guts! So, them worshiping in the temple was a statement, not a religious act.

If you have never studied the book of John, I would highly recommend it. In fact, if you haven’t, stop now and do it…it’s that important. After studying it you may want to watch Mark Driscoll’s series on it, it’s very good. When you get to chapter 14 you will see that Jesus is telling us that He is the only way to the father, then in the second half of the chapter, He is introducing us to the Holy Spirit. In John 14:17 Jesus said, “He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” Do you see that? The Holy Spirit leads into ALL TRUTH! Then Jesus goes on to say that the world can’t see Him because they aren’t looking for Him.

In the last two verses of chapter 15, John says, 26 “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. 27 And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.” John 15:26-27. Here Jesus calls the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit of Truth.” He then tells us what the Holy Spirit will do in us. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will testify about Him and then we must testify about Him. You see, the Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus to us so that we can testify about Jesus to the world.

What I believe it comes down to is that first of all, we can worship God anywhere, it doesn’t have to be on a mountain or in a church building. We have the Holy Spirit living in us and must worship God in the Spirit. Secondly, we must come to God truthfully, with no pretenses. Worship Him in the council of the Bible; His word is truth (John 17:17). We must allow the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to speak through us in worship (Phil 3:3, Rev 1:10).

So, as you go into your day, ask the Holy Spirit to testify to you about Jesus and then tell others what He told you. Always remember that prayer is a dialog, not a monologue. When you pray, always listen, He’s trying to speak to you.

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