Sunday, July 22, 2018

"Divided Body, Darkened Culture"

Jesus is not insecure about who He is, but many within His body seem to be. He isn't worried about His people being "led astray", but many within His body seem to be. They are more interested in sniffing out “heretics”, charlatans, and those with whom they disagree, instead of reflecting the Light of His truth, love, grace, & power. He doesn't shame those who wrestle with Him or question Him with sincerity of heart in their quest to find and know His heart, but many within His body certainly try to. He isn't swayed by terminology, controversy, argument, semantics, doctrinal quibbles, or the like, but many within His body certainly are. He sees the heart of every matter, while many in His body seem content to pass judgment based on surface, temporal, and symptomatic grounds. The varying processes of time and revelation that His people embark on, in order to become conformed to His image, do not intimidate Him, but many within His body are self-professed “fruit inspectors”, and staunch defenders of preferential “truths”, holding others to their pious and self-imposed standards and timelines. He trusts His Spirit within each believer to "lead and guide into all truth", while many within His body are insistent on assisting in, or even filling the role of the Holy Spirit by manipulating, condemning, or coercing some sort of pseudo behavior modification through doctrinal and scriptural distortion or out-of-context twisting. He is not concerned about many of the differences within His body, which many in His body make such big deals about, even to the point of dividing over, or unfairly labeling one another as heretics, not having the "whole truth", or unbelievers. He is into the unity of His body, and unity of the spirit between His followers. There are a number of “straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel” issues that we emphasize and set in the place of litmus tests of fellowship and community, that actually matter very little to Him, and many remain stubbornly clueless to this reality. And yet, the body of Christ has become splintered, polarized, and overwhelmingly contentious as a result of those things that have little to no eternal significance. The sad thing is, that many within His body often minimize and even miss the things that He does value and consider of Kingdom significance and eternal worth. Just like the religion-defending pharisees of old, their offspring can be clearly identified in our current day culture. Religion always focuses on and puts preeminence on matters of appearance, image, doctrine, tradition, and law; Jesus places focus and preeminence on matters of the heart, a renewed mind, and a transformed life. The Pharisees were obsessed with the law, ancient traditions, and rituals. Modern day Pharisees are often obsessed with theology, appearance, and doctrinal conformity--much of which is based on interpretation and personal perspective instead of Spirit-revealed revelation. Both versions of the pharisaical expressions fixate on some substitutionary spirituality to give them a sense of self-righteousness, performance piety, and even connection to God. Both fail to understand the simplicity and power of the Gospel, the actual “plan” of salvation--which is indeed a free gift, not a progressive “recipe” of 3 ingredients, or something earned through merit systems of personal “right-ness”--,the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Grace and faith life, and the all sufficiency of Christ alone. They insist on adding to Jesus Christ and Him crucified, with performance, principle–following, and shame-based living. They ultimately substitute religion for relationship, and a form of godliness for His transforming power. Jesus said that the Spirit of truth would lead and guide us into all truth. The Holy Spirit, and not a mastery of apologetics, theology, homiletics, or doctrinal “I-dotting and T-crossing”, will lead us and guide us into all Truth. The Holy Spirit corrects, aligns, and harmonizes the hearts & minds of the followers of Christ with the very Christ they are following. Many Christians and Christian leaders evidently don't really trust the Holy Spirit's leading in the lives of others, so they depend on "substitutionary" methods of “truth-guiding”. The fact is, the Holy Spirit does a wonderful job of leading people--including exposing error. There is no need for fear or shame-based manipulation, in order to prompt people into alignment with our perspective of truth, or our preferences for their behavior. The purpose of five-fold ministry should be to encourage people in their gifts, their growth in grace and love, and their intimacy with Christ under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, instead of “strong arming” them into conformity to a religious set of doctrines or personal perspectives and ideals. Let the Holy Spirit do His job. Any thing less than that produces a divided body, misplaced allegiance, an atmosphere of cultural cynicism, and an ever-worsening darkness in a world in need of a Savior reflected in His body, in earth, as in Heaven. (Mark 9:38-41, Luke 9:49-50, John 17:11, Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16)